Surge of sedition charges in Malaysia arrests Najib’s reform agenda

A Malaysian student holds a placard during a protest in solidarity for Malaysian law professor Azmi Sharom, at Malaya University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 09 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Nigel Cory, CSIS Washington DC

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was charged with sedition on 24 September for statements he made at a political rally three years earlier. Shortly before, on 19 September, a Malaysian court sentenced a student activist to a year in jail for comments he made after the 2013 general election. These cases are the latest in a surge of sedition charges that is terrorising opposition politicians, social activists, journalists and academics in Malaysia. Read more…

Where are all the women in China’s political system?

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Author: Jude Howell, LSE

In September 2014 the Inter-Parliamentary Union released its latest figures on the number of women in national parliaments. Rwanda topped the league with women accounting for 63.8 per cent of parliamentarians in the lower house (or its equivalent). China, however, ranked 62nd out of 189 countries, with women accounting for 23.4 per cent of representatives to the National People’s Congress (NPC) — China’s nearest equivalent to a parliament. Given that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long espoused the idea of equality between men and women and has a well-established, dedicated institution for protecting women’s rights and interests — the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) — it is curious that the figures are so unimpressive. Read more…

Can South Korea and Japan resolve the ‘comfort women’ issue?

A former South Korean ‘comfort woman’, Lee Sun-duk, weeps during a press conference welcoming the passage of a resolution by the US House of Representatives calling on Japan to formally apologise to the victims and accept historical responsibility in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, 31 July 2007. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

Japan’s relations with South Korea have reached a new low. Six issues continue to plague bilateral relations, exacerbating the divide on historical memory: a lack of trust between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ROK president Park Geun-hye, the ‘comfort women’ issue, the Takeshima/Dokdo dispute, ROK judicial decisions on forced labour, Japanese politicians’ Yasukuni visits and Japan’s moves toward collective self-defence. The ‘comfort women’ issue may be the most serious bilateral friction point, but it also presents the greatest opportunity for a breakthrough. Read more…

Moving too slowly towards an ASEAN Economic Community

Container cargo ships unload containers at the Manila International Container Port in Manila, Philippines, 7 October 2014. Slow progress on the ASEAN Economic Community means it is unlikely to be established by the end of 2015. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jayant Menon, Asian Development Bank

Launched as a political bloc and security pact in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, ASEAN has evolved to embrace an ambitious economic agenda. Its latest project is to establish the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 31 December 2015. But is this likely? The blueprint for achieving the goal envisages the AEC standing on four pillars and meeting the deadline depends on progress on each of them. Read more…

Red and White coalition spells trouble for Jokowi

Indonesian activists and students chant during a protest against a new bill on local elections outside the parliament building in Jakarta on 25 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adelle Neary, CSIS

Many commentators assumed following Indonesia’s 9 July presidential election that members of defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto’s six-party ‘Red and White’ coalition would not want to be locked out of government and would seek to realign themselves with president-elect Joko Widodo (‘Jokowi’). Read more…

Myanmar (partially) opens the door to foreign banks

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was allowed to open its branch for financial services in Myanmar for the first time among foreign banks licensed by the Central Bank of Myanmar on 1 October 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sean Turnell, Macquarie University

On 30 September the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) announced the names of the nine foreign banks that are to be awarded licences to operate in the country. It was a keenly awaited decision that, as with the telecommunications licences last year, was conducted via a generally well-regarded selection process presided over by a German consultancy firm, Roland Berger. Read more…

Abenomics: The good, the bad and the unfinished

Japan's Minister of Finance Taro Aso speaks with Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda as finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations gather for a photo at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington, 10 October 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, East Asia Forum

After two decades of stagnant growth and the Fukushima triple disaster, Japan appears more confident both domestically and internationally. The economy has been inflated, much-needed social change is being discussed with some progress being made, and international diplomacy is once again active. Read more…

What can we learn from Abenomics?

The sweet taste of success: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second from right) and members of Japan’s delegation show their jubilation at the announcement that Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Adam S. Posen, Peterson Institute of International Economics

One of the striking things about the past few decades of Japan’s economic history has been the fact that textbook macroeconomics could have predicted most of it. Back in the late 1990s, this was a controversial point of view. Many people spoke about the ‘specialness’ of the Japanese economy, just as they have about the ‘specialness’ of recent monetary policy. Read more…

India’s misguided schools policy shutting out the poor

Indian school students stand with letters of the English alphabet. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ken Schoolland, Hawaii Pacific University

Millions of children are being shut out of India’s schools by legislation that predated the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the message of a petition by the Centre for Civil Society, which states: ‘Today, 3,494,520 children are out of school, due to the fact that 19,414 private schools across 17 states have been closed’. But few in India are hopeful that this recent shift in power will bring about a liberalisation of education policy in the near term. Read more…

Are free trade agreements a dead end for India?

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Author: Biswajit Dhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University

When India began negotiations with ASEAN in 2004 for a free trade agreement (FTA) covering the goods sector, it marked a major step in the evolution of the country’s engagement with the global economy.

The agreement signalled a departure from India’s previous position regarding bilateral and regional agreements. Until its deepened engagement with ASEAN in 2003, India was almost unequivocally wedded to the multilateral trading system. Read more…

Hong Kong protests about economics as much as democracy

Pro-democracy protesters continue a sit-in demonstration under a banner calling for the resignation of Chief Executive CY Leung and genuine elections in downtown Hong Kong, 6 October 2014. The protests are about economics as much as democracy, argues Peter Cai. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Peter Cai, Business Spectator

For years, Beijing has feared colour revolutions. Now, it has one on Chinese soil. The Occupy Central movement has morphed into the Umbrella Revolution. Tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens, including students as young as 13, have taken to the streets to protest against the Chinese central government’s electoral reform package. Read more…

Australia’s false China choice over Taiwan

Students protesters pass around sunflowers outside the parliament building after they ended an occupy protest over a contentious trade pact with China, in Taipei on 10 April 2014. Protestors are concerned that increasing economic influence from China will undermine Taiwanese democracy. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Paul Dibb, ANU

Arguments currently raging in Australia about the so-called China choice have not addressed the crucial issue about what specific concessions must be made to accommodate a rising China. Instead, debate consists of generalised statements that the US needs to provide China with strategic space by acknowledging its legitimate strategic interests.

China has identified Taiwan, Tibet and, more recently, the South China Sea as core national interests. Read more…

Why abolishing direct local elections undermines Indonesia’s democracy

Members of Indonesian parliament speak to Priyo Budi Santoso, the head of the assembly meeting on the local elections bill during a vote in Jakarta on 26 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Jonathan Chen and Adhi Priamarizki, RSIS

A bill that will transfer the election of local leaders in Indonesia from the people to the Regional Legislative Councils is currently being contested. The Indonesian parliament passed the bill to end direct local elections on 26 September. But outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced on 30 September that he is preparing an emergency presidential decree to overturn the decision and restore elections. Direct elections at the local level — or Pilkada — have been in place since June 2005. Read more…

Why Singapore will not replicate Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests

Pro-democracy protesters wait for the arrival of Letitia Lee See-yin, leader of the anti-occupy 'Blue Ribbon' group, in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on 7 October 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Dylan Loh Ming Hui, RSIS

On 27 September, hundreds of people staged a ‘Return Our Central Provident Fund’ (CPF) protest rally at Hong Lim Park, Singapore. Simultaneously in Hong Kong, the Occupy Central movement, combined with student-led classroom boycotts, morphed into a bigger and broader pro-democracy protest — paralysing key financial and administrative locations such as Admiralty, Civic Square and Harcourt Road. Read more…