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

Myanmar’s economy confronts tough policy challenges

Author: Lex Rieffel, Brookings Institution

The global policy community has focused on the political challenges facing the government of President Thein Sein in Myanmar and paid little attention to the economic challenges.


Yet without economic improvements at the grass roots, political progress may founder. Urgent policy challenges confront almost every aspect of the Myanmar economy. Read more…

Blurred borders: ‘offshoring’ Australian business

Authors: Christopher Findlay and Dean Parham, University of Adelaide

There is now fierce pressure for all Australian businesses outside the resources sector to adjust to the resources boom.

One of Australia’s top policy makers, Ken Henry, has called on Australian business to look at itself differently, saying that ‘productivity and participation-enhancing initiatives’ are promising first steps on the road to a structural adjustment of the Australian non-mining industries. Read more…

Southeast Asia: will markets and geography trump the TPP?

Author: Vikram Nehru, Carnegie Endowment

There hasn’t been much to cheer about in global trade these last few years.

The Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations is comatose, if not dead. So the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a recent initiative to deepen trade relations among the countries bordering the Pacific, has been greeted with much applause and welcome relief as a step in the right direction. Read more…

ASEAN and the South China Sea

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

There has been much ado about the nothing-joint communiqué from the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ summit in Phnom Penh the week before last and what it means for the future of ASEAN and relations between China, ASEAN and the United States.

For the first time in its 45-year history, ASEAN foreign ministers failed to issue a joint statement. Read more…

China’s South China Sea jurisdictional claims: when politics and law collide

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

A running thread through the tensions at various Southeast Asian regional forums over the past four summers has been the uncertainty and insecurity generated by China’s jurisdictional claims in the South China Sea.

Legally, China claims sovereignty over the disputed islands and adjacent waters in the Sea and sovereign rights over relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof — a claim in accordance with Law of the Seas (LOS) norms.

Read more…

Beyond the six points: how far will Indonesia go?

Author: Donald K Emmerson, Stanford University

On 20 July ASEAN finally replaced an embarrassing silence with a six-point consensus. Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong announced the six points in Phnom Penh after he had failed to convey the usual joint statement summarising the deliberations of an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting earlier in the week.

The communiqué was delayed over disagreements on whether and how to mention the recent stand-off between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Read more…

China reveals its hand on ASEAN in Phnom Penh

Author: Ernest Z. Bower, CSIS, Washington

For the first time in its 45-year history, ASEAN’s foreign ministers failed to issue a joint communiqué following their annual meeting in Phnom Penh, which ended 13 July.

What happened? And what does it mean for ASEAN and others with strong interests in the Asia Pacific? Read more…

Bangladesh–Myanmar relations: smooth sailing

Author: Pranab Kumar Panday, Cornell University and Rajshahi University

Though Myanmar is a close neighbour, the government of Bangladesh has refrained from establishing close bilateral relations due to the long-term military rule in Myanmar.

Of course, Bangladesh is not alone in shunning the junta. Most democratic countries around the world have tried to maintain their distance from the regime, particularly after Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to form government after a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections. Read more…

Time to reinterpret ASEAN’s consensus principle

Author: Hai Hong Nguyen, UQ

ASEAN will be celebrating 45 years of operations next month, yet the event has been overshadowed by the organisation’s recent failure to pass a joint communiqué after its Phnom Penh Ministerial Meeting.

This political and diplomatic incident revealed a deep crack in ASEAN, and the challenge now is how to reconcile the interests of particular member states and those of the whole bloc. Read more…

Is Hong Kong’s new chief executive in dire straits?

Author: Wai-man Lam, HKU

The annual 1 July marches in Hong Kong have become a symbol and platform for greater democratisation and resistance to the infringement of civil liberties.

While previous marches have often represented diverse demands and political views, the sceptical and defiant sentiment of the 400 000 demonstrators that participated in this year’s march showed that the people of Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about the direction of democracy in their government. Read more…

Korean Peninsula: distinguishing rhetoric from reality

Author: Roger Cavazos, Nautilus Institute

North Korea occasionally threatens to ‘turn Seoul into a Sea of Fire’. But can North Korea really do this? The short answer is no — but they can kill tens of thousands of people, start a larger war and cause a tremendous amount of damage before ultimately losing their regime.

Read more…

The poverty of Japanese politics

Author: Michael Cucek, Shisaku, Tokyo

The morning talk show lineup on Sunday 22 July provided a stark demonstration of the depleted state of Japanese politics.

The preceding week was a heady one for domestic politics: four more members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defected, which prompted two new parliamentary caucuses in the Diet and even more in the local assemblies. Read more…

South China Sea disputes: why ASEAN must unite

Author: Aileen S. P. Baviera, University of the Philippines

After teetering on the edge all through the month, the ASEAN Humpty Dumpty abruptly fell off its wall on 13 July and broke into pieces. The grouping failed to issue a joint communiqué following the meeting in Phnom Penh due to differences on how to reflect discussions on the South China Sea disputes.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had to fly to ASEAN capitals to try to put Humpty together again Read more…

East Asian fingerprints on the G20

Authors: Alan S. Alexandroff, University of Toronto, and Yves Tiberghien, UBC

G20 Summits often capture the headlines for the wrong reasons: a currency war declaration at the Seoul Summit in 2010; a euro crisis at Cannes in 2011 and again at Los Cabos in June.

While these clashes are important, they hide the real changes taking place in the global governance system. Read more…

North Korea’s top soldier: a diplomatic illness?

Author: Aidan Foster-Carter, Leeds University

North Korea has suddenly announced that Ri Yong-ho — chief of the general staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and for the past three years the politically most powerful of Pyongyang’s top brass — has been relieved of all his posts ‘for his illness’.

Ri is only 69, younger than most of North Korea’s gerontocracy. In May he led a delegation to Laos, and was out and about in June, so his illness seems sudden. Read more…