Nationalism, nuclear power and Japans fragile media opposition

Asahi Shimbun CEO and President Tadakazu Kimura bows in apology during a press conference at its head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, 11 September 2014. The newspaper admitted that its May article on the so-called Yoshida file concerning the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was incorrect and retracted the article. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Weiss, Zurich University

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, public support for the Democratic Party of Japan vanished. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won a majority in both houses of the Diet. In the absence of an effective political opposition, the liberal media have sought to fulfil this function.

Japan’s big media companies were criticised after the Fukushima incident for underreporting the risks associated with nuclear power. This triggered a surge in investigative journalism. Read more…

Aquino’s reformism hits a dead end

An effigy of Filipino president Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is displayed as thousands of anti-corruption protesters march on the first year anniversary of an anti-graft street protest at a park in Manila, 25 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong

Unlike his scandal-plagued predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who left office as the most unpopular post-Marcos president — it has long seemed that Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, could do no wrong. Aquino promised to take the ‘straight path’ (matuwid na daan) to clean up corruption. This, he said, would also eradicate poverty. Read more…

The ghost of historical revisionism in contemporary Japan

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II, Tokyo, 15 August 2014. At least two Japanese Cabinet ministers paid respects at the Tokyo shrine that honours the war dead including convicted criminals, a move that may outrage China and South Korea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Koichi Nakano, Sophia University

The politics of historical memory is a key factor shaping the international relations of East Asia today. Controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine and the ‘comfort women’ (sex slaves) issue has had far-reaching foreign policy implications for Japan’s relations with its East Asian neighbours. Read more…

Seeking accountability and failing to find it

Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan wave flags during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament in Islamabad, 14 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Rosita Armytage, ANU

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Read more…

Narendra Modi’s foreign policy — too early to judge?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe shake hands after a joint press conference at the in Tokyo on 1 September 2014. The two leaders reached to an agreement that both countries would promote security and economic relations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, Jindal School of International Affairs

The Narendra Modi government turned 100 days old on 3 September, and while it is too early to judge its performance on both the domestic and foreign policy front, its first few months have revealed some important features of the government’s foreign policy — both positive and negative. Read more…

Is Modi’s honeymoon over?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets the audience before delivering a speech during a business event in Tokyo, 2 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mahendra Ved, New Delhi

It has been just over 100 days since Narendra Modi took office amid global euphoria, but the ‘honeymoon’ period seems over for the Indian prime minister’s government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As the media were dishing out the new administration’s ‘report card’, the party lost several state by-elections across the country. It raised the question of whether the ‘Modi wave’ is on the wane so soon. Read more…

Pakistan’s political quandary: on the edge yet again

Supporters of Pakistani Muslim cleric Tahirul Qadri praise their leader during a sit-in protest near the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, 27 August 2014. Thousands of supporters for Pakistani former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Qadri are besieging parliament in the capital to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

The two separate sit-ins in front of Pakistan’s parliament house are into their second week. The first is led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The second is led by Tahirul Qadri of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). Both are seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab — Pakistan’s most populous and disproportionately powerful province.

The sit-ins have rattled the Sharif-led government. Read more…

Can North Korea abduction issue progress improve Abe’s approval rating?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, 9 December 2013. The approval rating for the Abe cabinet has fallen 10 points to 47 per cent, according to a poll released 9 December by the Kyodo News agency. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takao Toshikawa, Oriental Economist Report

Public backlash to the Abe government’s cabinet decision to recognise the right to collective self-defence, as well as the decision to restart nuclear power, has seen the cabinet’s approval rating to drop below 50 per cent. According to one Democratic Party of Japan Diet member, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) loss at the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial election in early July ‘turns the November Okinawa gubernatorial election into a decisive battle. If the LDP candidate loses, the politics of “Abe always wins” will be at an end’. Read more…

Thai coup’s short-term gains mask long-term pains

Head of the Thai military junta, army chief and now prime minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha adjusts his cap during a military ceremony at the 21st Infantry Regiment in Chonburi province, Thailand, 21 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Pavida Pananond, Thammasat University

In the aftermath of Thailand’s 22 May military coup, business and politics appear to have converged. Domestic and foreign businesses of all stripes heaved a collective sigh of relief when the military seized power, halting six months of debilitating and intractable anti-government street protests. But despite initial post-coup business optimism, and the impression that commerce is booming, Thailand’s latest putsch may bring long-term pain. Read more…

Cambodia breaks political deadlock, at last

Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, registers before a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 8 August 2014. Lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party attended the meeting of the National Assembly for the first time, ending their ten month boycott of parliament over claims that results of the July 2013 general election were rigged. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Vannarith Chheang, CICP

After a year of political deadlock the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have agreed to settle their differences. The CNRP, established in July 2012 by merging the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, challenged the predominant role of the ruling CPP in the July 2013 election. On 22 July, both parties reached a historical agreement and on 8 August, 55 CNRP members of parliament took their seats at the National Assembly to bring to an end a year-long boycott over alleged CPP vote-rigging. Read more…

Thailand’s interim constitution: paving the way for a return to authoritarianism?

Pornpetch Wichitcholchai pays his respects in front of a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej during a royal command ceremony to swear him in as president of the army-appointed National Legislative Assembly at Parliament in Bangkok, 18 August 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sarah Bishop, ANU

Thailand, for the 19th time in 82 years, has a new written constitution. The King promulgated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand (Interim) B.E 2557 (2014) on 22 July 2014, finally bringing an end to the nation’s fourth longest period since 1932 without a written constitution. However, although there are some small gains, there are very few positive signs for democracy or rule of law. Read more…

Modi’s operandi: a few steps forward but where’s India’s budget going?

Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime minister Narendra Modi flashes the victory sign as he arrives at a public rally after his victory in Vadodara on 16 May 2014. The triumphant Hindu nationalists declared a new era after hardline leader Narendra Modi propelled them to the biggest win in 30 years on promises to revitalise the economy. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ashima Goyal, IGIDR

The election win of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi earlier this year brought hopes of an economic revival for the country. Yet, while the new government’s first budget, handed down in early July, aims for higher growth, employment, better amenities, infrastructure and governance, how the new budget measures are expected to achieve these aims is unclear. There is some alignment between the overall strategy and the rhetoric, but the various measures are not integrated well enough to tell a coherent story, and the changes announced are not quantitatively significant. Read more…

Cementing the BRICS together

The heads of BRICS member states pose for a picture during the 6th BRICS summit in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, 15 July 2014. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member states discuss political coordination issues and global governance problems. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Garima Sahdev and Geethanjali Nataraj, Observer Research Foundation

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Brazil for his first major international summit, the sixth annual BRICS summit. Before his departure, the leader put forward his vision that the vitality of the BRICS group would cut across the geographical and ideological divides of not only the five countries of the group but also of the global economy. Read more…

Will Myanmar’s military exit the political stage?

Myanmar lawmakers and senior military officials attend a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Myanmar's slain Independence hero and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar Saturday, 19 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax, Canada

Over three million Burmese have signed a petition by Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), urging immediate constitutional revision. A significant cause for protest has been the political powers afforded to the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, by the constitution.

Although the petition demonstrates the direction in which many want the country to go, such actions are unlikely to force the generals’ hand. Read more…

An immovable object and an unstoppable force: the Uyghurs and Beijing

Armed police patrol an area where blasts occurred in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, on 22 May 2014. The blasts killed 31 people and injured 94 others, according to local authorities. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mubashar Hasan, Griffith University

China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region is experiencing, yet again, deep unrest and unease. News headlines have been dominated by violent clashes between Chinese police and some sections of the Uyghur population — recently a police building in Xinjiang province was bombed and 13 Uyghur activists shot dead in the aftermath. To comprehend the persistent tensions between the Chinese administration, managed by the dominant Han ethnic group, and Uyghur Muslims, one must consider historical tensions and both the strategic and economic significance of Xinjiang. Read more…