Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Improving policy performance

Author: Shiro Armstrong

Why is it that the best policies often don’t get implemented? As Ross Garnaut explained at an EABER conference a while back, it’s because:

  1. governments don’t know what the best policy is;
  2. of vested interest groups;
  3. the government itself is a vested interest.

add a 4th option common in developing countries of lack of capacity to implement policies. Countries in different stages of development face a different combination of the above obstacles.

How do we overcome each of these obstacles? Read more…

China running out of coal?

Author: Dominic Meagher

Some of you may have seen this alarming report (thanks to All Roads Lead to China for the link) about Chinese power plants running out of coal. Apparently as of 10 days ago there were only 3 days of reserves in some regions and “32 power plants have shut down due to lack of fuel”. So what’s going on? Read more…

China’s higher education revolution

Author: Shiro Armstrong

The number of undergraduate and graduate students in China has been grown at approximately 30% per year since 1999, and the number of graduates at all levels of higher education in China has approximately quadrupled in the last 6 years. The size of entering classes of new students and total student enrollments have risen even faster, and have approximately quintupled…Much of the increased spending is focused on elite universities, and new academic contracts differ sharply from earlier ones with no tenure and annual publication quotas often used.

That is from an NBER paper by Yao Li, John Whalley, Shunming Zhang and Xiliang Zhaoon on the Higher Educational Transformation of China and its Global Implications.

Read more…

Insights from a former Deputy Foreign Minister

Author: Peter Drysdale

Hitoshi Tanaka, former Japanese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and now a Senior Fellow at the Japan Centre for International Exchange, argues today that recent developments in Japan-China relations, in particular President Hu Jintao’s visit to Tokyo, suggest that leaders in both countries have finally come to realize that confrontation serves neither country’s interests and that both have much to gain from enhanced cooperation.

However, he warns, it is important not to forget that it was only three years ago that relations between Japan and China reached a postwar low. While the warming of bilateral ties since the autumn of 2006 has been remarkable, relations between the two nations remain in a fragile state. Only time will tell whether the two nations have truly put the past behind them and are capable of working together to tackle the substantial regional and global problems that both countries will continue to face in the years ahead. See his argument in full @ East Asia Insights.

Mr Tanaka was a participant in the East Asia Forum Dialogue in Sydney last March.


Author: Shiro Armstrong

-Big news is coming out of China fast. Following yesterday’s Japan-China news, now China and Taiwan have held a summit. The year of the Olympics is proving to be quite a year. Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist Party Chairman Wu: “We can ensure…that war will never break out across the Taiwan Strait” and both sides pledged peace.

-Bill Easterly is having a go at the Growth Commission (link thanks to the Trade Diversion blog). True to form, Easterly says “My students at New York University would have been happy to supply statements like these [Commission statements] to the World Bank for a lot less than $4m”.

Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute had an op ed in the New York Sun last week on why the US should sign an FTA with Taiwan. This is worth a read given Barfield’s standing and his past stance on trade. This will require a full post sometime. . .

Japan Self-Defense Forces in China?

Author: Shiro Armstrong

This headline says it all: Japan military to provide China quake aid. . . as Observing Japan says, these are indeed strange days.

*update: unfortunately both sides saw too many obstacles (historical and emotional) and as of Friday had to scrap the plan. Instead the Japanese government is chartering commercial aircraft to do the job.

Seeing Indonesia as a normal country

Author: Shiro Armstrong

Yesterday Foreign Minister Stephen Smith launched Andrew MacIntyre and Doug Ramage’s Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) study on Indonesia. The study examines Australia’s strategic positioning on Indonesia and makes the point that we are not where we ought to be – Australian policy makers need to update their thinking and approach. Getting it right is of mutual interest to both countries and the region more broadly.

Andrew MacIntyre and Doug Ramage do a better job at summarising the significance of the study in an op ed for The Age. Excerpts:

Read more…

East Asia Forum dialogue

Author: Peter Drysdale

The East Asia Forum hosted a dialogue at the end of March with high level policy speakers from around the Asia Pacific region. The group included ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, Professors Kim Beazley, Richard Cooper, and Ross Garnaut, Justin Yifu Lin (soon to be Vice President of the World Bank) and many others. Kevin Rudd gave his first foreign policy speech at the official dinner on the eve of his trip to America, Europe and China.

This was a high powered dialogue and the issues all generated intense debate and a measure of consensus. There was a buzz and many commented that this was one of the most interesting and important such events they had experienced.

My summary of the main points is below.

Read more…

Thoughts on Japan-China

Author: Shiro Armstrong

Ryan Manuel (China specialist in the MPhil program in Oxford) writes to me in response to my Japan-China op ed I referred to earlier :

. . . you are arguing that economic incentives are driving political reconciliation. However, what makes this argument relevant in the piece is that you are arguing that there is a chronological element to this. I think this chronological window of opportunity may be worth calling out early in the piece? The short-term expediency (Olympics, Fukuda, LTTA and BIT anniversary) is meeting some long-term shifts that are increasing economic incentives (namely, climate change and trade desires) with the possibility of allowing the hot economic relations to thaw the cold political ties.

Read more…

Which advice? Improving technical assistance in the Pacific

Author: Aaron Batten

One of the biggest questions facing the Australian Government which hasn’t received much discussion in the blog world is how technical assistance is being delivered in PNG and the Solomon Islands and perhaps more importantly who delivers it.

Take the PNG example. The technical assistance program is based around two sorts of staff. Those transplanted from Australian Government agencies in Canberra (originally under the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) but now renamed) and a more general Advisory Support Facility (ASF), which sources contractors from across the country and internationally.

Read more…

The IMF and East Asia

Author: Shiro Armstrong

Last month’s EABER newsletter by Professor Shinji Takagi is on the IMF and East Asia. It draws from his chapter titled ‘Why did the IMF become Irrelevant in East Asia?’ in the upcoming PAFTAD book. Nice read and he tells it how it is.

Takagi is well placed to write on the IMF since he was Senior Economist at the Fund from 1983-90 and is currently an Adviser of its Independent Evaluation Office.

Past newsletters are here.

AusAID technical assistance: Not sexy but still attractive

Author: Aaron Batten

The Blogoshpere has made a number of insightful comments about AusAIDs first Annual Review of Development Effectiveness Report (ARDE) report. On the whole commentators appear to be happy with the frankness of the report providing quite an honest assessment of the constraints facing the aid program. (See Andrew Leigh (ANU) and Jenny Hayward-Jones (Lowy)).

Amongst some of the more interesting findings of the report was that at approximately 50 per cent of its expenditure Australia gives more aid in the form of technical assistance than any other donor – the majority of which goes to the Pacific. This is hardly ground breaking news but it does raise some interesting questions.

Read more…

Chinese leadership and Tibet

Author: Shiro Armstrong

John Garnaut writes an excellent column in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about a Chinese government official with a sophisticated understanding of the current situation in Tibet. What’s more he reports that the official shared his views with Australian diplomats.

The column draws largely from Ben Hillman’s Far Eastern Economic Review piece written in April titled Money can’t buy Tibetans’ love. This is a great piece and if what John Garnaut says is true, Hillman’s piece is being read high up in the Chinese bureaucracy and hitting home.

ANU’s China program gets some positive publicity in the piece. . .

Blossoming from the wreckage

Japanese rescue members pay respects to the bodies of the female victim Song Aimei and her 70-day old baby

Author: Shiro Armstrong

I’ve been following Japan-China relations pretty closely for a while now and hearing some murmurs from Chinese officials that this year could bring a big new agreement. I blogged on this in the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter blog during Hu Jintao’s visit to Tokyo. Hu Jintao’s visit did a lot to bring the countries closer but probably not as much as the picture below.

The earthquake disaster in Chengdu has arguably done more to bring the international community together than the Olympics will. How about for Japan-China? Apparently this photo below is having a huge positive effect in China, as one would imagine . . .

Japanese rescue members pay respects to the bodies of the female victim Song Aimei and her 70-day old baby after 16 hours of searching through the debris in Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province.

The full article is from the Xinhua news agency. There are other articles praising Japanese and other rescue efforts but I don’t think any would speak as loud as the picture above.

Update: here is another powerful image