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

China’s prospects for diminishing regional disparities

Author: Jane Golley, ANU

In the three decades since Deng Xiaoping declared that China’s economic development would necessarily involve some people becoming rich before others, inequalities have risen steadily across (and within) China’s provinces and regions.

To some extent, this outcome has been the natural consequence of market forces in a large developing economy; the historical and geographical advantages of the east ensured industrialisation would occur there first. Deng’s Open Door Policy and Coastal Development Strategy compounded these advantages with a range of preferential policies explicitly promoting the development of the eastern region. Read more…

China’s Soft Power v America’s Smart Power

Author: Carlyle A. Thayer, UNSW@ADFA

If China has made the running in Southeast Asia on the basis of soft power over the last decade, the tide now seems to be turning and the United States is re-engaging with smart power. The United States has signed the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation; President Obama has attended the first ASEAN-United States leadership summit (and will host the second meeting in the US this year); Secretary Clinton has not only attended two ASEAN Regional Forum meetings in a row, but offered US good offices to help settle diplomatically one of the pressing security issues in Southeast Asia, the South China Sea dispute. In sum, Secretary Clinton has turned the multilateral table on China. The United States is back and engaged in Southeast Asia working with the support of regional states.

Continued Chinese bellicosity and diplomatic pique runs the risk of isolating China diplomatically and eroding the soft power gains of recent years. Read more…

US-India relations: Problems posed by Afghanistan and Iran

Author: David Karl, Asia Strategy Initiative

After much criticism for appearing to neglect New Delhi while courting Beijing, the Obama administration is now moving to inject a sense of urgency and momentum into US-India relations. But just as bilateral affairs seem to have acquired new dynamism, differences over Afghanistan and Iran threaten to undermine positive developments.

There are several factors that explain India’s drop from Washington’s foreign policy priorities. Read more…

Ageing populations in Asia: Issues and myths

Author: Bill Durodié, Nanyang Technological University

Much of the discussion in the West about ageing populations also occurs in Asia. Yves Guerard, the Secretary-General of the International Actuarial Association, has compared these discussions to ‘climate change’; he sees the issue of an ageing population as a ‘big, immediate urgent problem’ that is largely ignored ‘because it’s inconvenient’.

But a recent report challenges this framing. Read more…

Pakistan’s disastrous floods – Weekly editorial

Author: Peter Drysdale

The enormity of the human tragedy visited upon the people of Pakistan by the massive flooding that has affected a huge part of the country is only now beginning to sink in to the international community. The stories coming out of the disaster zone provide daily witness to the scale of the human crisis that Pakistan confronts. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, was among the first to send out a plea for international help. Perhaps it has taken longer to comprehend the scale and impact of what has taken place in Pakistan than it did after the Indonesian tsunami or the Haiti earthquake, but the wellsprings of human compassion and generosity seem to have responded more slowly than in the case of these earlier disasters. That is bound to change as people around the world begin to understand.

Certainly in Australia there is at last a huge elevation in public awareness, sympathy and response to what has happened. Read more…

Assessing the tragedy of the Pakistan floods

Authors: Mohsin Khan, PIIE and Shuja Nawaz, Atlantic Council, Washington

The floods in Pakistan have affected one-fifth of the country (an area roughly the size of England) and engulfed large parts of all four provinces—Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North West Frontier Province). The vast scope of the damage makes this a truly national disaster with long-term economic and political consequences. With waters still rising, it is far too early to assess the economic costs; a proper assessment will be made in time by the Government of Pakistan, assisted by the UN and the World Bank. But on the basis of early indicators, a preliminary and admittedly impressionistic view of the damage can be formed.

The immediate impact on the population is truly staggering—20 million people affected with 8 million in need of water, food and shelter; 1500-2000 killed; 4 million left homeless; and 15 million displaced. Read more…

Pakistan’s flood crisis and the battle of hearts

Authors: Adil Khan Miankhel and Shahbaz Nasir, ANU

Pakistan is experiencing its worst natural disaster.  While the human toll of the disaster is bad enough, the collateral economic damage is catastrophic. Flooding is spread over all four provinces of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people, a population equal to Australia’s, and inundating a geographical area the size of England.

Louis-George Arsenault, director of emergency services for UNICEF, says the flood crisis in Pakistan is the biggest humanitarian crisis in decades. Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says the flood is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake. Read more…

The US, ASEAN and China: Emergence of new alignment

Author: Joel Rathus, Adelaide University and Meiji University

In November of last year, President Barack Obama pledged that he would be a ‘Pacific president.’ While the audience in Suntory Hall may have wondered about what exactly that statement meant, few in attendance doubted the sincerity or conviction of the president. As relationships between the US, ASEAN and China have been re-drawn, especially since the latest series of ASEAN-hosted diplomatic meetings in Hanoi, the meaning of a Pacific president is starting to become clearer. Three sites of change in particular warrant special mention; the East Asia Summit, the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula. In all three cases, the United States and ASEAN states are becoming closer, while China is finding itself distanced from the decision-making process.

The early 21st century phenomena of China-ASEAN relations being closer than the US-ASEAN partnership appears to be reversing itself. Read more…

High Noon for Japan’s DPJ

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW@ADFA

Japanese politics is heading for a showdown on 14th September when the ruling Democratic Party of Japan decides its next leader and prime minister. The contenders are the present incumbent, Prime Minister Kan Naoto, and the secretary-general in the previous Hatoyama administration, Ozawa Ichirō. If Ozawa is successful, Japan will have had three prime ministers in a little over three months.

The media have been waiting breathlessly for Ozawa’s decision on whether or not he would run for the DPJ leadership. Read more…

Japanese politics: Ozawa’s last stand?

Author: Tobias Harris, MIT

‘All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.’ — Enoch Powell

Returning to his familiar role as Ozawa Ichirō’s trusty factotum, former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio announced Thursday that he will be supporting Ozawa in a bid to unseat Prime Minister Kan Naoto in next month’s DPJ party leadership election. Read more…

Gradualism: An explanation of some Chinese political contradictions

Author: Mi Luo, Peking University

Internet usage is on the rise in China, especially amongst the younger generation. Faced with the problem of extensive online censorship, this generation has designed software packages to ‘scale the Great Firewall’ which blocks content deemed sensitive by the Ministry of Public Security.

What does this internet usage say about a burgeoning Chinese demand for democracy? A defining feature of a functioning democracy is the active involvement of ordinary people in discourse about the nation. Read more…

Russia in Asia and the Pacific

Author: Georgy Toloraya, CSCAP, Russia

The Asia Pacific is a global region of primary significance. It is imperative that Russia grasps this fact, and lays out a comprehensive vision for its role in the region.  If Russia can do this, it can greatly advance the cause of developing effective arrangements in the region.

What are the key elements of the economic, political and security situation in the Asia-Pacific region? Read more…

Avoiding economic crashes on China’s road to prosperity

Author: Wing Thye Woo, University of California at Davis

China’s economy during the past three decades can be likened to a speeding car. The CCP leadership in 2006 saw that the car could crash in the future because there were several high-probability failures that might occur and cause economic collapse. There are three classes of failures that could occur: hardware failure, software failure and power supply failure.

A hardware failure refers to the breakdown of an economic mechanism—a development that is analogous to the collapse of the chassis of a car. Read more…

China’s involvement in Central Asia: Beyond the borderlands

Author: Louise Merrington, ANU

When thinking about China’s role in Asia, the relationships that are most obvious are those  with its East and Southeast Asian neighbours, from Japan, Korea and Taiwan down to the ASEAN countries. But looking west across China’s hinterland we can see a new set of relationships developing in one of the most strategically important areas of the world: the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

In contemporary terms, Central Asia officially consists of the five former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Read more…

Asia and the United States: A changing relationship

Author: Simon Tay, SIIA

Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh has written a comment which addresses several points in my book Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America.

Questions of leadership and engagement in Asia are live issues. New frameworks for cooperation are taking shape, with the US announcing it will join the East Asia Summit as well as host the second US-ASEAN Summit. Australian and Japanese proposals for a new community have been shelved. Read more…