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

Japan’s 2013 defence white paper stirs tensions with China

Author: Toshiya Takahashi, ANU

Japan’s new defence white paper was released by the Abe government in July 2013.

The key security concerns, China and North Korea, appear again as they did in the 2012 paper that was drafted under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government. Abe’s ‘neo-conservative’ colour is still modest at this stage, but his non-concessional posture to China is clear. Read more…

With US–Taliban talks in stalemate, uncertainty looms in Afghanistan

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

As the Taliban makes its presence felt even inside Kabul’s Red Zone, Afghanistan’s political structures are creaking.

‘Once American troops are withdrawn, the existing government will collapse’, says William Polk, the veteran US foreign policy commentator. Tino Weibezahl, the head of Kabul office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, says people associated with the current regime are attempting to get their families out. Read more…

India–ASEAN FTA in services: good for the region, very good for India

Authors: Geethanjali Nataraj and Rohit Sinha, Observer Research Foundation

With limited progress in the Doha Round of negotiations, countries are speeding up bilateral negotiations in the hope of consolidating their trade positions amid slowing growth forecasts.

India is currently set to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) on services and investment with ASEAN in August this year. Read more…

Rhetoric and reality of the US rebalance

Author: Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS

A week of meetings in Taipei recently revealed real confusion and marked disagreements about the meaning and content of the US ‘rebalance’ to Asia. Significantly, the divisions were most evident among the Americans visiting Taiwan, not the Taiwanese. Parsing the differences reveals a critical feature of US thinking about Asia that will bedevil American representatives no matter what they say: most observers, American or not, see Asia as a cockpit of competition, a struggle for supremacy, between the United States and China.  Read more…

Prospects for Japan as a middle power

Author: Yoshihide Soeya, Keio University

After World War II Japan virtually stepped down from the stage of power politics and accepted that two documents would be the pillars of its foreign policy: its post-war Constitution (particularly the ‘pacifist clause’, Article 9) and the US-Japan security treaty. Read more…

Cooling it in the South China Sea

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

There are times when taking an important international dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is either necessary or able to resolve a difference in a way that will leave both parties appeased no matter whether the outcome favours them or not. Read more…

The whole nine dashes and why the Philippines’ arbitration case against China is a bad idea

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

On 22 January 2013, the Philippines filed a Notification and Statement of Claim at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), seeking to invalidate China’s nine-dash line which encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea. Read more…

Economic informality: the case of North Korea

Author: John Conroy, ANU

In recent years numerous observers of North Korea, including Haggard and Noland and Lankov and Kim, have drawn attention to the emergence of an informal economy in the DPRK, and have offered explanations based on circumstances specific to that country.

Beyond the specifics of the North Korean case, however, informal economic activity should be seen as a systematically observable phenomenon, for ‘informality’ is found in a diversity of economic systems. Read more…

Trade not aid behind Japan’s policy to Africa

Author: Howard P. Lehman, University of Utah

Most of us could be forgiven for not knowing that one of the most important and unique meetings on African development was completed in Japan recently.

This was the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), held last month. Read more…

Emerging hate groups in Japan

Author: Daiki Shibuichi, Centennial College, Hong Kong

What does a high-school graduate who has only known part-time work have in common with an elite researcher educated at the prestigious University of Tokyo?

How are they connected to the owner of a beauty parlor, a bank employee, a truck driver, a bar owner, an electrician, a bar hostess, and the son of a landowner family? Read more…

What to expect from Cambodia’s 2013 election

Author: Kheang Un, Northern Illinois University

Cambodia will hold its fifth general election on 28 July, 20 years since its first UN-sponsored election in 1993. It is anticipated that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will win the elections. But since the two main opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, merged to become the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), there has been anxiety within the CPP over their likely margin of victory.  Read more…

Japan: After electoral success, now comes the hard part for Abe

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

On 21 July the Japanese House of Councillors election delivered a stable majority to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and coalition partner Komeito. In this triennial election only half of the 242 seats were up for grabs, but the LDP–Komeito alliance managed to increase its overall tally to 135 seats, far exceeding the 122 required for a simple majority.  Read more…

Toward elections in Cambodia: Current debates and prospects

Author: Vannarith Chheang, CICP

It has been 20 years since Cambodia held its first general elections back in 1993 with the support of the international community.


While democracy has been one of the key drivers of Cambodia’s social, economic and political development, many challenges remain, such as the lack of people’s understanding of — and participation in — democratic society, weak state institutions, nepotism, and a culture of patronage system. Read more…

China’s mother bank spoils her children rotten

Author: He Fan, CASS

Children in kindergarten always expect plenty of candy.

The teacher thinks it’s a better idea to distribute the candy directly herself, but some enterprising kids trade candies among themselves. Some children have a theory that when they run out of candy, the kindergarten will dole out more. So when their stockpile begins to run out they sit in the front row, with open hands. Read more…

China should lead restart of Six-Party Talks

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

As North Korea’s closest ally, China should convince Pyongyang to share responsibility for the Six-Party Talks with Seoul.

North Korea’s fierce campaign of belligerent posturing since late 2012 — which included a third nuclear test and another missile test — for the first time in a very long time yielded absolutely nothing in return: no economic gifts, no calming exchange of diplomatic envoys. The United States and South Korea responded with some pointed reminders of their countervailing power but, on the whole, Pyongyang was confronted with the fact that one of its favourite tactics no longer yielded the economic and political returns it had come to expect.  Read more…