China’s control over the South China Sea

A Vietnamese protester during a protest rally against China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea. China recently announced that it would remove the rig. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Last week China announced that it was towing away a giant oil rig from waters disputed with Vietnam, ahead of the onset of the typhoon season and after finding signs of oil and gas, at the same time insisting it stood firm on maritime claims that have sparked disputes with its neighbours — and warned it could return.

China deployed the US$1 billion rig in early May in waters close to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea Read more…

Murky waters surround the rule of law in the South China Sea

A Chinese coast guard vessel fires water cannon at a Vietnamese vessel off the coast of Vietnam. The rule of law in the contested semi-enclosed seas of Asia needs to be constructed on a foundation that is objective, fair and equitable. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The air is thick with calls for the rule of law to be observed in the East and South China Seas. ‘Japan for the rule of law, Asia for the rule of law, and the rule of law for all of us’, Shinzo Abe said at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this year. Nations, he observed — and by which he meant China — must make claims that are faithful in light of international law and resolve them peacefully. Read more…

China’s growing assertiveness transforms Japan’s security policy

People demonstrate against the defence policy change by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo in Tokyo, Japan, 5 July 2014. The Japanese cabinet decided on 1 July that Japan should be allowed to use military force abroad in special circumstances. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jennifer Lind, Dartmouth College

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on 1 July a decision to reinterpret the Japanese constitution, allowing Tokyo to militarily support partners that are under attack. Former prime minister Zenko Suzuki would approve. In 1981, Suzuki became the first Japanese leader to use the word ‘alliance’ to describe Japan’s relationship with the United States. The seemingly innocuous word sounded alarmingly militaristic to many Japanese who, since their country’s defeat in World War II, have been skittish of rearmament and involvement in overseas military operations. 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…

BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade

A vender weights corn for a customer at a market in Yingjiang, near the Myanmar border, Yunnan Province, China, 26 May 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, Institute of Economic Growth

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. Read more…

Behind North Korea’s hospital curtain

A North Korean nurse comforts a baby at a nursery inside Pyongyang Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, North Korea, 20 February 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Eun Jeong Soh, ANU

Health care has been a successful area of international cooperation for North Korea. Yet, there has been little discussion of daily health care practices, which remain largely hidden outside of the formal health care system. How much is known, for instance, about what people in North Korea do when their children fall ill? Read more…

Chinese financial assistance to boost intra-regional trade in South Asia

A Chinese clerk shows RMB (renminbi) yuan banknotes at a bank in Ganyu county, Lianyungang city, 4 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Saman Kelegama, IPS

Since the mid-2000s, the South Asian region has witnessed an incoming wave of Chinese financial assistance. In some South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, China has overtaken traditional donors by highly engaging in post-war infrastructure development activities. So China’s engagement in South Asia creates both opportunity and uncertainty for India and its neighbours. The question remains: will intra-regional trade increase, if so, at what cost to the region? Read more…

G20 must shape a new world trade regime

The G20 meeting at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 11 April 2014 at the IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Mari Pangestu and David Nellor, Indonesia

Over the past decade global trade and investment discussions have moved far away from the formal global trade regime. The multilateral system has been mired in the Doha Development Round — defined by a single undertaking and a fixed agenda that is increasingly out-of-date. In the meantime, most countries have devoted their energies to regional trade and investment discussions. Read more…

Japan and the art of un-apologising

A regular rally of former so-called comfort women call for an apology from Japan in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 22 January 2014. Japan forcibly took tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, to battlefields to provide sexual services for the Japanese army during World War II. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, ANU

The Japanese government has long had difficulties coming up with effective apologies for the wartime misdeeds of the country’s military. For decades, while many ordinary Japanese grassroots groups worked tirelessly to right the wrongs of the past, the silence from the corridors of power in Tokyo was deafening. Read more…

China gingerly taking the capital account liberalisation path

A Chinese clerk counts renminbi banknotes at a bank in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu province, 4 June 2014. Renminbi internationalisation is one non-price measure of Chinese capital account openness. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Guonan Ma, Bruegel

The Chinese government recently pledged to substantially liberalise its still heavily regulated capital account. Since China is the number one trading nation, the second largest economy and a large net creditor, the world has a huge stake in how China manages its tricky transition from a state of binding capital controls to one of closer integration with the global financial market and system. Read more…

Japan needs to rethink its Asian ‘diplomacy’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows a Shinto priest to pay his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, 26 December 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

There were many reasons behind Meiji Japan’s (1868–1912) astonishing rise from a feudal backwater to the only non-Western industrial and imperial power within the space of a few short decades. One indisputable reason was the quality of Japanese diplomacy.

After a relatively short period of heated debate as Western gunships threatened, Japan decided to abandon its two-century-old ‘closed country’ policy of isolation and to learn from and join the West. Read more…

TPPing over?

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari listens during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jayant Menon, ADB

Why is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) taking so long to conclude? It has already missed three deadlines, the latest being October 2013. And President Barack Obama’s recent Asia visit did not produce the widely anticipated push towards the finish line. And what will the TPP will look like when finally concluded? Despite WikiLeaks’ best efforts, the negotiations are walled by secrecy. Will the TPP be the comprehensive twenty-first century agreement proponents tout? Or will it wallow as a watered-down compromise, riddled with exemptions, as detractors predict? Read more…

Onus falls on G20 to manage political tensions

Ukrainian army soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint on the road near the eastern city of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, on May 16, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Bruce Jones, Brookings

Five years have passed since the peak of the global financial crisis and the elevation of the G20 from a meeting of finance ministers to a meeting of leaders. The organisation has helped states to make substantial progress towards financial recovery, although there is still more work to be done on preventing the next financial crisis. Read more…

Indonesia’s democratic strength

Two Indonesian women show their fingers marked with ink after they voted at a polling station in Banda Aceh, 9 July 2014. Although uncertainties will remain until the last vote is counted, this election is a great victory for the people of Indonesia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Democracy has taken a battering in Southeast Asia in recent times, as Thailand, the region’s second-largest economy and one of its economic success stories over the past few decades, has fallen prey to yet another military coup. So it is with a mixture of pride and relief that Indonesia — the region’s largest economy, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s largest Muslim country and the epicentre of the ASEAN polity — is on the cusp of successful completion of the election of its new president Read more…

Indonesian democracy stronger, but not yet out of the danger zone

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto applauds after addressing a rally on 11 July 2014. Both sides claimed victory on 9 July 2014 in the tightest and most divisive Indonesian presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Edward Aspinall, ANU

Last week’s presidential election will be remembered as one of the most significant events in Indonesia’s modern history. The all-but-certain defeat of ex-general Prabowo Subianto, and the election of Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi), represents not only the victory of one candidate over another but also the preservation of Indonesia’s post-Suharto democratic system — if only by the skin of its teeth. Read more…