Modi and manifesto set sky-high expectations

Crowds show their support for Narendra Modi, the current favorite to win the Indian elections in Vadodara, India on 9 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Centre for Policy Research

The manifestos that have been made in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections are trying to please everyone. One has to read between the lines to truly appreciate the nuances and identify the differences.

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Peering into Thailand’s turbulent future

A Thai pro-government Red Shirt protester holds a placard showing a picture of caretaker Thai Premier Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, 6 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, and Chris Baker, Bangkok

The courts may shortly remove Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

This would mean that in the past eight years, four prime ministers have been felled and four election results voided — surely a world record. Read more…

Can China win the war on air pollution?

Chinese tourists wear facemasks during a visit to Tiananmen Square as heavy air pollution shrouds Beijing.(Photo: AAP)

Author: Daniel K. Gardner, Smith College

China’s polluted air — so much in the news these days — has been 30 years in the making.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in the late 1970s, the country started its steady rise from the economic doldrums, largely through investment in heavy industrialisation. Since then, its GDP has grown about 10 per cent annually, and its economy has displaced Japan’s as the world’s second largest.  Read more…

Singapore’s impotent immigration policy

A foreign construction worker from Bangladesh walks past the city hall construction site with the Singapore skyline in the background in Singapore. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Michael D. Barr, Flinders University

It appears counter-intuitive to suggest that a cosmopolitan hub like Singapore might have a problem with xenophobia.

Yet xenophobia has emerged as a major political concern in the city-state. Read more…

Road to constitutional amendment in Myanmar going nowhere

Workers carry salt in Maekaye village, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Melissa Crouch, NUS

Since Myanmar’s Joint Parliamentary Constitution Review Committee submitted its report to the Union Parliament on 31 January 2014, the constitutional amendment saga has taken another twist.

The Committee was given the task of reviewing the 2008 Constitution, which had been drafted by the previous military junta. It was required to make recommendations to the parliament, yet it ultimately avoided this responsibility. Read more…

China, Taiwan stuck in the ‘friend zone’ on Pingtan

A man reacts as a wave hits a sea wall at a beach on Pingtan island, Fujian province. Located off the east coast of China's Fujian province, Pingtan island is the country's 5th largest and relies heavily on a tourism-driven economy, although an 'experimental zone' aims to draw in foreign investment from neighboring Taiwan.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sheryn Lee, ANU, CSIS

In January, China appointed a Taiwanese citizen, Liang Qianlong, as deputy chief of an experimental ‘common homeland’ for both nations on Pingtan Island.

Beijing aims to transform Pingtan into a special economic zone of industrial cooperation between China and Taiwan. Read more…

Malaysia media reforms take one step forward, two steps back

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak prays with senior party members during a celebration after winning the 13th general elections 6 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Eric Loo, UOW

Malaysians are evidently freer today to openly criticise their government than they were prior to 1998.

But fundamental reforms that civil societies had hoped for during the internet-driven Reformasi movement in 1998 and Bersih rallies (in 2007, 2011 and 2012) are wanting.

Instead, Malaysians have a government focused on achieving a high-income developed-nation status by 2020 while eschewing the cultural prerequisites of a normative democracy — freedom of access to public information, free and fair elections, vigilant media and press freedom. Read more…

Beijing redoubles counter-terrorism efforts in Xinjiang

Paramilitary policemen train in a snow in Kashgar, in Northwestern China's Xinjiang region on 7 January 2014. China's restive Xinjiang region is doubling its budget for fighting terrorism following an unusually bloody year of anti-government attacks. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Michael Clarke, Griffith University

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is taking an increasingly hard line on Xinjiang. But long-term Chinese policy itself is contributing to Xinjiang’s unrest.

On 15 January, authorities in Beijing arrested the outspoken critic of government policies in Xinjiang, Ilham Tohti. Tohti, an Uyghur scholar, has called into question the dominant government narratives on aggressive economic development for the Uyghur and the extent of Uyghur ‘terrorism’. Read more…

Time for Indonesia to regain confidence in economic integration

Indonesian workers at Astra Daihatsu Motor manufacturing company in Jakarta. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sjamsu Rahardja, World Bank

Integrating with the global market place was once Indonesia’s offensive strategic choice to accelerate economic reform and development.

Indonesia has benefited significantly from opening up to trade and investment. It responded without hesitation to plummeting revenues from oil exports in the early 1980s with sweeping reforms to reduce tariffs, non-tariff barriers, red tape in customs clearance and procedures for obtaining business permits. Read more…

A louder, more independent European voice in Asian affairs

The Chinese National Flag and the Flag of Europe are seen during an exhibition in Beijing, China, 13 April 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Maaike Okano-Heijmans and Frans-Paul van der Putten, Clingendael Institute

The times when Europe can be accused of being a ‘free rider’ in Asia may be ending.

For decades, Europeans have benefited economically from diplomatic and military efforts made by the United States and East Asian countries, while doing nothing to contribute to peace and stability in the region — or so the argument went. Read more…

Balancing reform and justice in Myanmar

People attend a National League for Democracy public consultation led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on amending the 2008 Constitution in Yangon, Myanmar, 10 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

The reform agenda enacted by President Sein has been impressive on many fronts. The last three years signal he has a real desire to change major aspects of the state and society.

But these reforms have not reached the security portfolios and institutional independence of the military. Read more…

Jang Song-taek purge further undermines North Korea’s foreign relations

Jang Song-thaek, the second most powerful man in North Korea and uncle of leader Kim Jong-un, stands trial before a special military tribunal in Pyongyang, North Korea, on 12 December 2013.  (Photo: AAP)

Authors: Gi-Wook Shin and David Straub, Stanford University

In eliminating his uncle Jang Song-taek, North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un acted like a character out of a Shakespearian drama with Stalinist characteristics. Whether Jang’s show trial and summary execution will help to consolidate or undermine Kim’s power remains to be seen. But the statement on Jang’s indictment confirms — apparently unwittingly — the enormous economic, political, and social problems facing his regime. Read more…

Time out for democracy in Bangladesh

Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, talks to BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a public meeting in Dhaka on 20 January, 2014. The BNP had boycotted the violence-marred 5 January election that was won by the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League party. Zia says the election was illegal and seeks reelection with in the shortest possible time. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

More often than not, the news out of Bangladesh is about natural disasters or the tragic costs of ill-disciplined early industrialisation. Now it’s the political system that’s collapsed. But in many ways, Bangladesh gets a worse press wrap than it deserves.

The Bangladesh economy has been a bright spot in South Asia, and among the best performers right across the Asian region. Read more…