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…

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…