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

Singapore’s history wars

Author: Geoff Wade, ANU

As we move towards 2015, a year that will mark Singapore’s 50th anniversary as a nation, a battle over the past of that country is slowly gaining steam.

The increasingly frail health of Lee Kuan Yew, the man depicted in the establishment histories as the ‘father of Singapore’, is making this battle more important for both sides. Read more…

Foreign policy challenges for Narendra Modi

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

There has been much speculation over the likely foreign policy of Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP and current frontrunner for prime minister.

Modi’s approach during his time as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat has been purely dictated by the cultivation of economic and commercial interests. Read more…

Myanmar: making the next Asian miracle

Author: Anders Engvall, Stockholm School of Economics

Myanmar’s reforms are lifting the economic outlook for one of Asia’s economic laggards as indicators show prospects for an economic boom.

For decades, Myanmar was the regional basket case as irrational policies, isolationism and domestic conflict wrought havoc on the economy and society. Read more…

Brave steps needed to end DPRK isolation

Author: Emma Campbell, ANU

The UN report on human rights in North Korea received huge coverage when it was released in February this year. The report recounts the testimonies of many North Koreans who have escaped from the DPRK — detailing frequent human rights abuses. Most of the details were already known to Korea watchers as a result of South Korean and international human rights organisations’ diligent work. Read more…

China’s currency conundrum

Author: Ronald McKinnon, Stanford

It seems the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) cannot win. In late February, the gradual appreciation of the renminbi was interrupted by a 1 per cent depreciation (to $1:¥6.12). Though insignificant in overall trade terms, especially when compared with the volatility of floating exchange-rate regimes, the renminbi’s unexpected weakening sparked a global furor. Read more…

The principles for governing international trade

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The success of President Obama’s swing through Japan on his Asia trip last week, he is supposed to have told Prime Minister Abe in The Hague recently, would be measured by whether it delivered a satisfactory conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between Washington and Tokyo. On that metric, the trip was an abject failure. There was no conclusion or agreement. Read more…

China’s WTO loss a win for Asian access to US energy market

Author: John VerWey, AEI

In late March, a World Trade Organization ruling found that China’s restrictions on the export of rare earth elements (REEs) violate international law.

Apart from being a legal victory for the co-complainants — the United States, Japan and the EU — the decision, which echoes a WTO verdict from 2011, also bodes well for energy-hungry countries in the Asia Pacific eager to gain access to US domestic gas and crude oil exports Read more…

US dreams of energy independence

Author: Ned Manning, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

When Americans talk about ‘energy independence’ they are talking about oil and the Middle East. Forecasts that the US may become close to energy self-sufficient in net terms by 2035 have once again made this verbal icon of US energy policy a popular ‘sound bite’. But its use is both inaccurate and misleading, and without a seismic shift in American’s attitude towards transport, it is fundamentally unachievable. Read more…

Checking the influence of money in Indian elections

Author: Vikas Kumar, Azim Premji University

Over the years, the importance of money in elections has grown in India. Elections are increasingly shaped by the involvement of corporate business.

There are a number of reasons for this. One of the reasons is that the size of constituencies (in terms of voters) has increased almost four times since independence. Another is the abundance of black money in the country arising from poor tax collection practices. The growing use of technology has also added to election expenses. Read more…

Dalai Lama troubled over Shugden worship

Author: Johannes Nugroho, Indonesia

During his US visit this year, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso — and the media — could not fail to notice the presence of protesters. The protestors’ ire stemmed from the Dalai Lama’s alleged support for the suppression of Dorje Shugden devotees within Tibetan Buddhism. When confronted by a Buddhist nun about the issue, an agitated Dalai Lama said the issue was not about ‘religious freedom’ and that Shugden was ‘spirit worship’ and therefore ‘wrong’. Read more…

Can Islamic finance bridge Asia’s infrastructure deficit?

Author: Thiam Hee Ng, ADB

The global Islamic debt securities (sukuk) market has grown rapidly, from just US$15 billion in 2001 to US$281 billion in 2013. This increase has been led by Malaysia, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of total outstanding sukuk. Meanwhile, Middle Eastern countries account for about 30 per cent. Sukuk bonds still only represent a small portion of Asia’s overall bond market, but there is great potential for the sukuk market to grow and play a key role in helping to finance the region’s large infrastructure requirements. Read more…

A way out of the slums in India

Author: Anirudh Krishna, Duke University

Social mobility is low in India compared to other countries: income and wealth inequalities are high and rising; the chances that a child, not born to privilege, will become wealthy remain low. Slum-born millionaires are the stuff of myths and movies. Read more…

Can Indonesia be a model for Myanmar’s political future?

Author: Richard Robison, Murdoch University

Myanmar has only just begun its transition from more than half a century of military rule and isolation from the rest of the world. A critical question is what political and economic systems it will eventually adopt. Read more…

The unknowns in China’s great urban change

Author: Kam Wing Chan, University of Washington

After more than a decade of mostly empty talk, China has finally announced a bold move to grant urban residential registration — known as hukou — status to 100 million people by 2020.

The target is a major component of China’s new urbanisation plan, which represents a significant commitment towards achieving genuine urbanisation. Read more…

Obama visits a troubled East Asia

Author: Tobias Harris, Teneo Intelligence

President Barack Obama’s state visit to Japan on 23–25 April comes at a fraught moment for the US–Japan relationship.

The cautious US response first to China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in November and then to Russia’s annexation of Crimea have Japanese elites concerned about what the US would do if China were to seize the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Read more…