The puzzle of Chinese political power

Chinese President Xi Jinping gives a toast during the National Day reception in a banquet hall at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 30 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Peter Drysdale, EAF, and Ryan Manuel, ANU

When Xi Jinping ascended to the Chinese presidency, he, Premier Li Keqiang and their streamlined seven-person Politburo Standing Committee faced serious economic challenges at home as well as increasingly complex issues to manage abroad.

Domestically, the Bo Xilai affair hovered over the leadership transition ominously, underlining the need to deal with disquiet among the Chinese public over corruption and the relationship between the state and economic power. 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…

When the carnival is over: Australia’s surprising G20 legacy

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses representatives of G20 Leaders and Finance Deputies and Central Bank Deputies at the half way point of Australia’s presidency. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia / Australia 2014 G20 website).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

The genesis of the G20 is a tale of two crises. The first — the Asian financial crisis — led to the creation of the G20 as a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 of the world’s largest economies plus the EU. The second — the global financial crisis — led then-US president George W. Bush to elevate the G20 to a leaders’ level meeting. Read more…

Modi connects with the American dream

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India speaks to supporters during a community reception on 28 September 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

Before his election to India’s prime ministership, Narendra Modi was persona non grata in the United States because of his alleged complicity in the ethnic violence in Gujarat of 2002 in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died, 2500 people were injured, and 223 more were reported missing. Though a subsequent Indian Supreme Court investigation in 2012 cleared him of complicity in the violence, Modi was still banned from entering the United States Read more…

Put up or shut up on China’s infrastructure bank

Chinese president Xi Jinping and Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa shake hands at the inauguration of the proposed Harbour City construction in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 17 September 2014. China will try to meet the need for infrastructure through the activities of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

This year’s G20 summit has rightly given infrastructure investment top priority in engineering long-term recovery of the global economy. Despite continuing signs of recovery in the United States, growth in much of the industrial world remains stagnant and slower growth in emerging economies is yet to bottom out. Lifting global growth towards its long-term potential and avoiding a new normal of low growth will be greatly assisted by filling the US$50 trillion infrastructure gap that the OECD estimates worldwide with productive investment. Read more…

China and India’s growing strategic weight

An Indian national flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem. China and India will be at the core of the Asian powerhouse over the coming decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India this week, so early in the term of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, underlines the growing strategic weight of the relationship between the two countries. Modi’s prime ministership, with its ambition to re-invigorate India’s stalled economic reform and growth, more than any other single factor, promises to accelerate its potential growth radically. Modi has runs on the board with China in bringing Chinese investors to his home state, Gujarat — as of last year about 20 Chinese companies had set up shop — and through his personal engagement. Read more…

Can Modi move India?

Indian revellers wave national flags during a ceremony to celebrate India’s 68th Independence Day on 15 August 2014. The honeymoon seems be over for the Modi government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

A hundred days into the Modi prime ministership of India, the signals are mixed. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have taken a hiding in a series of state polls and by-elections. And supporters and critics alike are already baying about a massive electoral mandate that has been squandered.

The ‘honeymoon’ seems be over for the Modi government, but is this a sign of its prospects for the long term? Read more…

Securing Pakistan’s democracy?

Pakistan's army chief General Raheel Sharif. He is positioned to mediate the stand-off between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition demonstrators on the streets of Islamabad. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The two-week-old political crisis in Pakistan took a sharp new turn over the past few days as the military leader, General Raheel Sharif, positioned to mediate the stand-off between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition demonstrators on the streets of Islamabad, led by cleric Mohammed Tahir-ul-Qadri and his ally cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Whether Prime Minister Sharif or Tahir-ul-Qadri and Khan initiated the move to military mediation and how the military has played into the development of the crisis itself are questions that are at this stage difficult to determine. Read more…

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…

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…

China’s slower growth trajectory

A worker cleans the promenade in Lujiazui Financial District, Shanghai on 24 July 2014. Chinese growth accelerated in the second quarter, but long-term growth cannot occur via fiscal stimulus. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

 China’s growth outlook is the focus of analysts and economic policymakers all around the world. Nobody can afford now to ignore the scale of the economy and its impact on the global growth outlook. China already accounts for more than 12 per cent of world output in nominal terms and that share continues to grow steadily. Read more…

Rethinking the global trade regime

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 August 2014. Both leaders have clearly stated their positions after India refused to sign the Trade Facilitation Protocol. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

India’s dropping a bombshell on the conclusion of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation negotiated in Bali last December — which promised to streamline customs and other procedures that impose heavy costs on doing business across national borders — is the latest symptom of a sick multilateral trade regime. Reducing the costs of international transactions in this way would seem like a no-brainer to the thoughtful citizen of any country. Read more…

Japan’s search for a new regional vision

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech in Tokyo on 20 July 2014. Clearly articulating his economic agenda was a decisive factor in the electoral success of Abe and appears to be a critical element in his continuing popularity. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

To many inside and outside Japan, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe brings both hope and a breath of fresh air to an economy and society that has been in relative retreat in recent times. Abenomics, with its enthusiastic adoption of unconventional monetary policy under the skilful leadership of Haruhiko Kuroda at the Bank of Japan, its commitment to continuing fiscal stimulus and its promise, as yet not fulsomely delivered, of deep structural reform — is just the mix of tonics that the Japanese economy needs. Read more…

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…

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…