Chinese state-owned enterprise investment in Australia

Chinese president Xi Jinping greets Australian prime minister Tony Abbott in Beijing on 11 April 2014. There is intense focus on how the investment chapter of the Australia-China FTA will treat the access of Chinese state-owned enterprises to the Australian investment market. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

As the negotiation of the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) moves into what is hopefully its final phase, there is intense focus on how the investment chapter of the FTA will treat the access of Chinese state-owned enterprises to the Australian investment market.

Currently all investment proposals by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are subject to screening by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), no matter what their scale or country of origin. Read more…

Chinese SOEs: some are more equal than others

A local resident sits outside the office buildings of SOE Baosteel Group Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, China, 29 May 2014. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain ubiquitous in the Chinese economy despite three decades of market reform. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Paul Hubbard and Patrick Williams, ANU

Last year’s Third Plenum decision was remarkable not only for promoting the ‘decisive role of the market in allocating resources but also for seeing this as being consistent with ‘the dominant position of public ownership’ and ‘the leading role of the state-owned sector’.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain ubiquitous in the Chinese economy despite three decades of market reform, although now they account for only 30 per cent of industrial output. Read more…

Supreme Court of Japan rules against welfare for foreigners

A young man sits alone on a sofa in Tokyo, 29 July 2014. Tough economic conditions have presented serious problems for both Japanese nationals and foreign residents in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Trevor Ryan, University of Canberra

Last month, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that persons without Japanese nationality (that is foreigners) have no legal claim to benefits under the Public Assistance Act. The case is an affront to the second and third generations of ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan who have chosen for practical and identity reasons not to renounce their nationality and naturalise as Japanese. For these and other tax-paying permanent residents, the case simply affirms the legality of a discriminatory statute.

But, while it is a ‘stunning’ decision for some, a few points about the decision should be clarified. 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…

Rivers run through Modi’s regional agenda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to unseen wellwishers as he arrives to meet with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala following a meeting at the prime minister's office in Kathmandu on 3 August  2014. Modi arrived in Nepal to try to speed up progress on power agreements while also aiming to counter rival giant China's influence in the region.

Author: Robert G. Wirsing, Georgetown University

Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Kathmandu in early August, the first visit to Nepal by an Indian premier in 17 years, was his third trip abroad since his inauguration on 26 May. In mid-June, only weeks after taking charge in New Delhi, he had made his first official foreign excursion — a two-day visit to nearby Bhutan. These upfront state visits to the two Himalayan countries were a clear indication that Modi was determined to put flesh on his campaign pledge to give priority in his foreign policy to bolstering relations with India’s South Asian neighbours. Read more…

Indonesia’s cash for health program

A woman cleans outside an informal dentist shop in Jakarta, Indonesia, 18 October 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Margaret Triyana, Stanford University

Indonesia’s conditional cash transfer program, Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH), provides cash to poor households in exchange for meeting specified health targets. It aims to reduce poverty and improve maternal and child health. But does it work? Read more…

Obama mustn’t underestimate Modi

US Secretary of State John Kerry greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 1 August, 2014.

Author: Harshita Kohli, RSIS

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to India for the India–US Strategic Dialogue, in which he described India as an ‘indispensable partner for the 21st century’, is a clear effort by the American government to jumpstart the flagging bilateral partnership.

During his stay in India, Kerry met with senior politicians and leading Indian businessmen. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel also visited New Delhi last week to further the US–India defence partnership. The increase in senior-level interactions between officials from both countries is designed to set the stage for the bilateral summit to be held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama in Washington in late September 2014. Read more…

Collective self-defence: What Japan’s new defence policy means for international cooperation on cyber security

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Maj. Nishikawa Hajime analyses data transmissions on a computer at the Camp Naha gymnasium, Okinawa, 23 July 2014. (Photo: US Marin Corps/ Lance Cpl. Pete Sanders).

Author: Mihoko Matsubara, Pacific Forum CSIS

In July 2014, the Shinzo Abe cabinet took an epoch-making decision to change its interpretation of the Japanese constitution to recognise the right to collective self-defence. The Japanese government’s traditional interpretation of the constitution prohibited Japan from exercising the right to help the US, or Japan’s defence partners, in the case of an armed attack, even though Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorises this. Read more…

Increase in coal tax will scale up Indian renewables

Locals on a boat pass by panels at a solar energy farm at Gunthawada in Gujarat state, about 175 kilometres north of Ahmadabad, India. There are growing calls for increased use of renewable energy resources in India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pallav Purohit, IIASA

India needs economic growth for sustainable development, which in turn requires access to clean, convenient and reliable energy. An estimated 400 million people still lack access to electricity, and blackouts are still common across the country. A combination of rapidly increasing energy demand and fuel imports plus growing concern about economic and environmental consequences is generating growing calls for innovative policies and mechanisms to promote increased use of abundant, sustainable, renewable resources. 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…

Back to the drawing board on US–India relations?

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel inspects a Guard of Honor before a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Arun Jaitley, in New Delhi, India, 8 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

The US–India strategic partnership is either the most underperforming bilateral relationship in the world or its most overrated. As a new chapter in this relationship is opened with the formation of a new centre-right government in New Delhi and the back-to-back visits by John Kerry and Chuck Hagel in late July and early August, it is imperative that the path that is charted ahead is informed by the lessons of the past decade and a half. Read more…

Abe finding it hard to get his way on defence

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yoshisuke Iinuma, Oriental Economist Report

On 1 July, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision to broaden the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defence. But to what extent will the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) actually be able to expand their range of collective action? Read more…

Moving Modi beyond Gujarat

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation in his first Independence Day speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

With the Modi government less than 3 months old, it is surely too early to make any assessments. But high expectations and his track record have generated an impatience for results even among Modi’s supporters. News trickles out mentioning an indefatigable prime minister driving from the front, changing the tenor and temper of the entire bureaucracy.
Read more…

The promise of a Jokowi presidency in Indonesia

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo gestures after delivering his victory address in Jakarta on 22 July 2014 as the General Elections Commission declared Widodo the winner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Most would concede that the contest that saw the election of Joko Widodo (Jokowi) as Indonesia’s next president was a tough test for democratic transition in Indonesia. The election campaign was certainly one with an edge to it — ‘one of the dirtiest election campaigns in Indonesian history’, as Marcus Mietzner has called it. There are still legal appeals to be heard, but the size of Jokowi’s victory and the very public evidence on the count, make anything but confirmation of the result a most unlikely outcome. Read more…

Can Jokowi transform Indonesia’s economy?

Jokowi inspects an urban development project of his administration in Jakarta shortly before the General Elections Commission declared him of winner of the presidential race. He now faces the daunting task of taking the third-biggest democracy forward as resistance to reform lingers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who takes up the position in October, has declared he aims to push the growth rate of the economy above 7 per cent a year. The growth rate has been running below 6 per cent a year, and the World Bank and IMF predict that it will continue at 5.6 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively, in 2015. Read more…