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

Chinese military parades

Author: Geremie Barme

Why does China still conduct military parades?

On Thursday, October 1st, Beijing hosted the sixtieth-anniversary celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic. The Communist Party leadership has elevated the event into a state-religious holiday, of sorts, centered on a massive military parade –including five thousand soldiers arranged partly by height – followed by a civilians’ parade involving a hundred thousand citizens. Read more…

Lee Kuan Yew on Asia Pacific arrangements

Author: Peter Drysdale, ANU.

Yesterday in Washington, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the US-ASEAN Business Council. It was an occasion dignified by tributes from two former US Presidents and presentations from former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.

Lee’s speech traversed the implications of the shifts in world power and the institutional changes that are under way or in contemplation, and deserves close study, especially for those who are students of how thinking in Singapore might develop towards the Rudd and Hatoyama proposals for renovating regional architecture. Read more…

Japan: Hatoyama remains popular

Author: Joel Rathus

Last week the Mainichi reported on results of public polling. It found that the Japanese public still overwhelming support (72 per cent) Hatoyama’s government. While dipping somewhat from his highest approval rating (77 per cent) immediately after forming government one month ago, this is still surprisingly good. The previous three prime ministers each lost 10 per cent in their first month, as did the more historically similar Hosokawa Administration of the mid-nineties.

The honeymoon is clearly still on, but there are some reasons to think that it will last awhile yet. Firstly, Japanese expectations are not very high. Secondly, Hatoyama is proving himself more media savvy than expected. Thirdly, the administration is actually pushing ahead with policy. Read more…

Competing Asian Communities: What the Australian and Japanese ideas mean for Asia’s regional architecture

Author: Amitav Acharya, American University

The just concluded Fourth East Asia Summit (EAS) in Thailand will long be remembered as the venue for seemingly competing ideas from Australia and Japan for reorganizing regional cooperation in Asia. But will it also be known for having altered the course of Asian multilateralism?

At one level, the two proposals, Australia’s Asia-Pacific Community, and Japan’s East Asian Community, are timely. Read more…

Japan: Hatoyama restates his government’s mission

Author: Tobias Harris

The 2009 extraordinary Diet session, the first under the leadership of Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s cabinet, opened Monday with a speech by Hatoyama to a Diet populated by an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians from his Democratic Party of Japan. He declared Monday the first day of a ‘bloodless Heisei Restoration,’ a transformation without black ships and without war and occupation.

The substance of the speech was familiar enough. He opened by reiterating what I’ve previously described as the twin themes of the DPJ’s campaign narrative: ‘regime change’ (Hatoyama used the phrase ‘major cleanup’ in this speech) and ‘livelihoods first.’ Read more…

Global imbalances demand global fiscal system

Author: Andrew Sheng, China Banking Regulatory Commission and Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has shattered conventional wisdom about global governance.

Governor of the Bank of England Meryvn King’s dictum that global banking is global in life, but national in death, characterizes complex financial institutions that are larger than sovereign nations, are ineffectively regulated at national levels, and lack global laws. Their demise means that national governments have to pay for the global banks’ mistakes, but ultimately the whole world pays in the form of higher inflation, taxation and lost jobs. Read more…

Japan’s National Strategy Office: Delays, ambiguity and the real agenda

Author: Joel Rathus, Adelaide

Just three days after coming to power, Hatoyama and Kan Naoto (Vice-PM) opened the National Strategy Office (NSO). One of the DPJ’s policy pledges had been the creation of such an Office, to provide an overarching ‘vision for Japan’ and policy coordination across departments.

Although the terms of reference have since changed, and will likely change again, the NSO is potentially a major innovation in how Japanese politics is conducted. Read more…

Asian regional community building: Don’t kill the messenger

Author: William Tow, ANU & ASI

The newly elected government of Japan has already released its vision of how a regional community-building process could be pursued.

Yet Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been vigorously promoting his own vision of a regional architecture for the past eighteen months. The Australian leader could caution the Hatoyama government on the dangers of going too far, too fast in promoting any one grand vision for regional order-building. Read more…

Indian education system: Crying out for speedy reforms

Author: Rajiv Kumar, ICRIER

At a recent India-China book launch, where human resource development minister Kapil Sibal was present, I made it a point to highlight the comparative picture between India and China in the education sector. This is a crucial sector for emerging economies attempting to achieve inclusive and rapid growth. Moreover, as several recent studies have brought out, returns on skill formation and higher education, which are already substantial, continue to rise as the world increasingly takes on the attributes of a knowledge economy. By the way, the book by Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh titled Chasing the Dragon is well worth a read for all those interested in finding out the distance we have to cover to catch up with China. Read more…

Measuring the progress of Indonesia’s democracy – Weekly editorial

Author: Peter Drysdale

With last Tuesday’s inauguration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), this week we celebrate the achievements of Indonesian democracy with an assessment of its progress by Larry Diamond from the Centre on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University and an analysis of SBY’s new cabinet line-up by Sunny Tanuwidjaja of CSIS, Jakarta. The Australian Prime Minister joined ASEAN and other regional leaders in Jakarta for the celebrations last week. This is one of many symbols of the strength and depth of the relationship that has developed between Indonesia and Australia as Indonesia’s democracy has become entrenched, especially under the leadership of SBY. Read more…

How is Indonesia’s democracy doing?

Author: Larry Diamond, Stanford

Since the mid 1990s, the proportion of countries in the world that are democracies – countries that meet the standard of at least electoral democracies in the sense that they can choose their leaders and replace them in free and fair elections – has stagnated, at around 60 and 62.5 per cent.

The world is experiencing a democratic recession. There are three dimensions of this. Read more…

Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s second term cabinet

Author: Sunny Tanuwidjaja, CSIS, Jakarta

The newly formed cabinet under the leadership of the popularly elected Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has been dubbed a ‘return the favour’ cabinet (kabinet balas budi), a cabinet of political mates (kabinet perkoncoan), a rainbow cabinet (kabinet pelangi), and a power/cake sharing cabinet (kabinet bagi-bagi kekuasaan atau kue).

The idioms used to describe the new cabinet convey the three big concerns about the structure of the cabinet. Read more…

Gates rules out renegotiation of Okinawa deal with Japan

Author: Tobias Harris

The DPJ has pushed on Futenma – and the Obama administration, in the guise of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, has pushed back.

Gates, visiting Japan on a tour through Asia, delivered an unambiguous message to the Hatoyama government that the US government is not interested in renegotiating the bilateral agreement on the realignment of US forces in Japan. Read more…

Thailand’s military: perpetually political, forever factionalized, again ascendant

Guest Author: New Mandala

The Thai armed forces have been major players in Thai politics since the 1932 coup which ended the absolute monarchy.

During the 1990s, some suggested that Thai soldiers were increasingly being by-passed by new societal forces, thus making the armed forces less relevant political players. Read more…

Bloody conflict looms in Afghan north

Author: Amin Saikal, ANU

One of the byproducts of the rigged presidential election in Afghanistan is a looming confrontation in the north of the country. If not defused urgently, it could cause greater security problems for the US and its allies than they have experienced so far.

The confrontation is shaping up rapidly between the governor of the Balkh province, General Atta Mohammad Nur, and supporters of President Hamid Karzai. It essentially stems from Atta breaking ranks with Karzai to support his leading opponent in the election, Abdullah Abdullah, his long-standing rivalry with General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek leader and ally of Karzai, and the Karzai leadership’s resolve to rein in and subordinate Atta to its authority. Read more…