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…

Shinzo Abe’s Australia visit and stability in Asia 

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on 11 June 2014. Abe will soon embark on an historic visit to Australia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address both houses of the Australian parliament tomorrow in an historic visit, the first bilateral visit in 12 years by a Japanese leader. This is an occasion that will provide an excruciating test not only of the measure of Abe but also of measured-ness in Japanese and Australian thinking about their joint and collective responsibilities towards stability in the Asian region.

Read more…

Is Thailand Southeast Asia’s weak link?

Protesters vent their anger in Bangkok on 25 May, after the junta placed all law-making authority in the hand of Thailand's army chief. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy and has been one of its economic success stories over the past decade. The coup after the recent political standoff threatens not only to slash its recent 6.5 per cent growth rate but also trash the fragile foundations of its democracy.

While Indonesia is the region’s largest economy and the epicentre of the ASEAN polity and Singapore is its anchor in trade and financial intermediation with the global economy Read more…

Can the G20 deliver new direction?

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey looks back to US Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen center, while delegates pose for an official photo at the Opera House during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Sydney in February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The G20 summit in Brisbane in November this year will be held, almost to the day, on the sixth anniversary of the first summit in Washington in 2008. The leaders’ level meeting was born in a time of crisis and panic, with the world economy facing the danger of a total collapse of the financial sector in the United States and its inevitable spread to the rest of the world. While there are still deep problems in the industrial economies of Europe — with massive unemployment levels, especially among the young, and most economies barely on the mend — the United States is steadily moving out of recession and global economic confidence is on the mend. Read more…

China’s labour shortage and the pace and structure of growth

Chinese workers on power lines. The relatively low growth rate in April power consumption underscores the pressure on economic growth. China is nearing the turning point in development where unlimited supply of labour dries up and the pace of economic growth slows. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

In 2010, China’s 6th National Population Census led to estimates that, on average, Chinese women give birth 1.8 times in their lifetime. Most people believe that these estimates of total fertility rate are excessively high and that the actual fertility rate is probably as low as 1.4. This would put China among countries with the lowest fertility in the world, including that of mature industrial countries. Read more…

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…

Some lessons from Mongolian diplomacy

Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia, addresses the UN General Assembly. The Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security and Mongolia's increasingly prominent involvement in UN peacekeeping operations have given Mongolia a far greater international presence than might be expected. (Photo: Flickr/UN).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Mongolia might seem like an odd vantage point from which to view the travails associated with China’s rise. But the history, from Genghis Khan to the present day, and circumstance of Mongolian relations with its giant neighbour is replete with experience that might sensibly inform the conduct of relations between China and its neighbours around the South China Sea and to the east. Read more…

Re-visiting Japan’s constitution

Protesters hold placards during a protest against the Japanese government's plans to reinterpret the constitution to allow for a broad-scoped exercise of the right to collective self-defence, Tokyo, Japan, 15 May 2014.  (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The debate on the reinterpretation of the Japanese constitution is looming to be the single most consequential security-related debate in Tokyo since the US-Japan Security Treaty debate in 1960.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe has compounded matters by choosing a hand-picked ‘panel of experts’ (the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security — or the Security Advisory Committee) Read more…

Modi: from tea shop to India’s top spot

An Indian boy wears a cap in support of Narendra Modi on 16 May 2014. As a boy, Modi helped his father sell tea—he is now prime minister of India, successfully winning a huge mandate from a wide cross section of the Indian electorate. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Last Friday, Narendra Modi scored a remarkable, historic victory over the Congress party dynasty that has dominated the Indian political scene for decades to become his country’s next prime minister. His rise from lower caste origins, the son of a tea-stall vendor, to the top job is the stuff of Indian soap opera. His success in winning such a huge mandate from a wide cross section of the Indian electorate, whatever baggage he carries from the Hindu nationalist right, is a heart-warming story of the triumph of a social underdog over the political establishment. 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…

A China–US alliance

US First Lady Michelle Obama greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on a visit aimed at boosting diplomatic goodwill, 21 March, 2014. The Obama–Xi meeting in California last June took the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. (Official White House Photo/Amanda Lucidon).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The idea that the United States and China could entertain an alliance relationship might today seem preposterous. It hasn’t always been thus. And the big step by the new leadership in Beijing last year was to elevate the relationship with Washington to a new level of strategic importance, with the Obama–Xi meeting in California last June taking the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. Read more…

The principles for governing international trade

US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak at a joint conference after holding their summit meeting in Tokyo on 24 April 2014. Obama failed to reach a conclusion or agreement with Abe on the TPP. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The success of President Obama’s swing through Japan on his Asia trip last week, he is supposed to have told Prime Minister Abe in The Hague recently, would be measured by whether it delivered a satisfactory conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between Washington and Tokyo. On that metric, the trip was an abject failure. There was no conclusion or agreement. Read more…

India’s long month of political choice

An Indian man sells cut-outs of Indian Prime Ministerial Candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party Narendra Modi, Congress party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi party leader Arvind Kejriwal on 10 April 2014. This election appears to provide Indians with a real choice. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The world’s largest national poll is now well under way across India to elect a new parliament and ultimately a new government and prime minister. The poll began on 7 April, and runs through nine stages until 12 May, with the results due out four days later, on 16 May. Read more…

Indonesia’s poll and presidency on a coalition course…and the Thais that bind

Popular presidential candidate of major opposition party PDI-P and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo walks with his supporters in Jakarta following the 9 April 2014 legislative election. He came out ahead in the polls but a worse-than-expected election performance by the party means that Indonesia is staring at a coalition government. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The election for Indonesia’s legislature last Wednesday represents another remarkable achievement in the country’s democratic transition. Indonesians proudly went to the polls and delivered a result that was without major incident and has not yet been disputed (though that may change when the official results are declared in a few weeks). Read more…