Building Silk Roads for the 21st century

View of an elevated highway among mountains at sunrise in Chongqing, China, 19 July 2014. From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Pradumna B. Rana, RSIS

China’s emergence as the ‘factory of the world’, based on its focus on exporting labour-intensive manufactures, is well-known. Less well-known is the role that infrastructure played in this strategy.

From 1992 to 2011 China spent 8.5 per cent of GDP on infrastructure, much more than the developing country average of 2–4 per cent, according to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute report. And, from 1992 to 2007, China spent US$120 billion on building 35,000 kilometres of highways. Read more…

BRICS lay a foundation but will there be concrete action?

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at Itamaraty Palace on 17 July 2014 in Brasilia. At a summit in Brazil the BRICS group of emerging economic powers created the New Development Bank to finance infrastructure projects. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Maria Theresa Anna Robles, RSIS

Unsurprisingly, the BRICS countries sixth annual summit in Brazil once again polarised public opinion. When the proposal for a BRICS development bank and currency swap arrangement was put forward in March 2012, the reaction was already divided. Some believed — including ‘rival’ international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — that there is room for such an institution to help meet developing countries’ massive investment needs. Others felt that, given the considerable economic and political differences, the feasibility of concerted action from the BRICS is limited. Read more…

China is a big winner from Thailand’s coup

Thai people are allowed to pose with riot and special forces soldiers at a 'Bring Back Happiness to Thai People' event in the central Lumpini Park once occupied by protesters, in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Patrick Jory, University of Queensland

While the recent military coup in Thailand has drawn much of the world’s attention to the military junta’s suppression of democracy and human rights, it also has far-reaching geopolitical implications for the whole of Southeast Asia.

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Asia’s economic strategy beyond free trade agreements

This photo shows a bustling Singapore port. The 5th RCEP negotiation round will be held on 23-27 June 2014 in Singapore. RCEP, unlike the TPP, involves all Asia's major economies. (Photo: Jake/Flickr).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The launch of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (in APEC’s backyard led by the United States) and (later) the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) (under the umbrella of ASEAN) is dominating thinking about regional integration. These agreements are designed in part to leverage value out of the plethora of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) negotiated over the past 15 years. Read more…

RCEP will help get Asian integration back on track

Leaders from ASEAN pose for a photo during the opening of the two-day World Economic Forum on Asia Thursday, May 22, 2014 at the financial district of Makati, east of Manila, Philippines. (Photo AAP)

Author: Andrew Elek, ANU

Asian interest in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) process is rising. It is now perceived to be far better suited to Asia than the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is dominated by the interests of the United States. After recent failures to conclude United States–Japan market access negotiations, the proposed TPP is no longer expected to lead to comprehensive trade liberalisation. And, on closer inspection, so-called ‘platinum standards’ are seen to suit rich economies while limiting the ability of emerging economies to compete. Read more…

Cambodia’s betwixt and between foreign policy

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, left, and Chinese president Xi Jinping shake hands before the opening ceremony at the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on Wednesday 21 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Leng Thearith, UNSW Canberra

Following the 2012 ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, the chair, Cambodia, was largely blamed for the ASEAN foreign ministers’ failure to produce a joint communiqué over the South China Sea dispute.

The sticking point was that the ASEAN claimant states — particularly the Philippines and Vietnam — insisted on using strong language to criticise China’s growing assertiveness. Read more…

Vietnam’s strategic outlook after Haiyang 981

Chinese citizens evacuated from Vietnam arrive at Xiuying port in Haikou, southern China's Hainan province on 20 May 2014. More than 3,500 Chinese citizens were evacuated from riot-hit Vietnam by sea, as Hanoi stifled fresh protests over a territorial dispute. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Thuy T Do, ANU

The sudden deployment of China’s oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 — and about 80 naval and surveillance ships to protect it — into Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone in early May sent shockwaves through Vietnam. Images of Chinese vessels ramming and firing water cannons at Vietnamese boats flooded Vietnamese media, triggering a wave of unprecedented anti-China protests across the country and overseas.

Read more…

Rigged relations in the South China Sea

Anti-China protesters march while shouting slogans during a rally in downtown Ho Chi Minh city on 11 May 2014.  Protesters staged one of Vietnam's largest ever anti-China demonstrations decrying Beijing's deployment of a deep-water drilling rig in contested waters as territorial tensions soar.    (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tung Nguyen, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam

On 1 May 2014, a China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) deep-water oil-drilling rig was moved to and installed 80 miles inside Vietnam’s claimed Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The rig is escorted by more than 80 armed and military vessels that have engaged in firing high-power water cannons and ramming Vietnam’s civilian ships.

Read more…

Economic community key to ASEAN’s centrality

ASEAN leaders pose for the group photo after the opening ceremony of the 24th ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, 11 May 2014. ASEAN has become a central feature of Asian regional architecture, but tensions over the South China Sea are threatening to cause geopolitical upheaval (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Over the past few days ASEAN leaders met in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, for the first time ever at their 24th summit. Against what were once considered long odds, ASEAN has become a central feature of Asian regional architecture. It is a bulwark of regional stability and increasing prosperity in Southeast Asia and a pivotal element in the geopolitics of the whole Asian region. Read more…

ASEAN to face a summit of challenges

People sell goods at a street market in downtown Yangon. Myanmar is to hold 24th ASEAN Summit in the capital Naypyidaw over May 10-11.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: K. Kesavapany, National University of Singapore

The ASEAN summit in Yangon is taking place at a time of global and regional uncertainties. The drums of war are beginning to sound in Europe, with the possibility of the conflict in Ukraine spilling over and derailing the existing geopolitical order. In the East, tensions over the South China Sea are threatening to cause geopolitical upheaval and damage aspirations to found an East Asian Community. Read more…

Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

Mongolian foreign policy: a small state with big aspirations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold after they signed agreements at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, 16 January, 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, Blue Banner, UN

Mongolia is a relative newcomer in contemporary world politics.

The end of the cold war, the normalisation of Sino–Russian and Sino–Mongolian relations, as well as fundamental changes in Mongolia itself, have changed the country’s geopolitical environment and paved the way for Mongolia to enter international politics. Read more…

Steady as she goes for Indonesian foreign policy, even with a new president

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Photo: AAP).

Author: Awidya Santikajaya, ANU

During his two terms in office, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been lauded for reviving activism in Indonesia’s foreign policy after years of difficulty following the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the fall of President Suharto. But will the upcoming leadership transition result in a drastic change in Indonesia’s foreign policy? Read more…

China debates the TPP

Chinese Chief Delegate Wang Shouwen, Assistant Minister of Commerce of China, speaks during the 4th Round of Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement among China, Japan and South Korea in Seoul on 4 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia

A host of issues continue to plague Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Constant reminders of how difficult these issues are to conclude come from actors as diverse as Japanese rice farmers, health care advocates in Canada and Australia, and Chilean officials concerned about intellectual property rights and capital controls. Read more…

Trade policy in swing: Indonesia’s attitude to liberalisation and the TPP

Indonesian dock workers unload  sugar imported from Mexico at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yose Rizal Damuri, CSIS

When Indonesian officials are asked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Indonesia’s involvement in the proposed trade agreement, they normally answer that the country is paying attention to the process and the possible results of the negotiation, but has no interest in joining agreement at this time.

Doubt over Indonesia’s capacity to carry out proposed commitments in the trade deal as well as uncertainty regarding the potential for any significant benefits to the economy are cited as the main reasons for this position. Read more…