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

Back to the brink in Pakistan

Author: S. Mahmud Ali, LSE

Pakistanis marked their 67th independence anniversary atypically. While tens of thousands ‘marched’ (in two motorised convoys) from Lahore to Islamabad to protest Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s leadership, millions of others worried about the outcome of this unusual outpouring of frustration. Led by two charismatic critics of Sharif, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and ‘moderate’ cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, the marchers vowed to besiege Islamabad until Sharif resigned. Read more…

Pakistan’s political quandary: on the edge yet again

Author: Sajjad Ashraf, NUS

The two separate sit-ins in front of Pakistan’s parliament house are into their second week. The first is led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The second is led by Tahirul Qadri of political party Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). Both are seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab — Pakistan’s most populous and disproportionately powerful province.

The sit-ins have rattled the Sharif-led government. Read more…

Khmer Rouge tribunal delivers judgment but not justice

Authors: Kevin Boreham, ANU and Harry Hobbs, NYU

On 7 August, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found the two most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge — Khieu Samphan, aged 83, and Nuon Chea, 88 — guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced both to life imprisonment. They will probably be the last Khmer Rouge defendants tried by the ECCC. Read more…

Uncomfortable compromises in Russia­–Japan territory dispute

Author: Owen Lindsay, University of South Australia

On 12 August, Russia held military manoeuvres on two of the four disputed islands that lie north-east of Hokkaido. The island chain, known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has been the major sticking point in Japan–Russia relations during the post-war period.

The Soviet Union, and then Russia, has exercised de facto administration over the entire island chain since 1945 — Russian citizens and soldiers currently live on all four of the disputed islands. Read more…

Banking integration in ASEAN gathers pace

Author: Thiam Hee Ng, ADB

The ASEAN Economic Community, planned to come into effect in 2015, is expected to liberalise goods, capital and skilled labour flows in the ASEAN region. While there has been considerable progress in the area of trade integration, financial integration still lags behind. The ASEAN Banking Integration Framework, which aims to liberalise the banking market by 2020, could help pave the way for further integration and the entry of ASEAN banks into regional banking markets. Read more…

Can North Korea abduction issue progress improve Abe’s approval rating?

Author: Takao Toshikawa, Oriental Economist Report

Public backlash to the Abe government’s cabinet decision to recognise the right to collective self-defence, as well as the decision to restart nuclear power, has seen the cabinet’s approval rating to drop below 50 per cent. According to one Democratic Party of Japan Diet member, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) loss at the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial election in early July ‘turns the November Okinawa gubernatorial election into a decisive battle. If the LDP candidate loses, the politics of “Abe always wins” will be at an end’. Read more…

Blowing the lid off food safety in China

Author: Sacha Cody, ANU

In July, Shanghai’s Dragon TV exposed illegal food handling practices by Shanghai Husi Food Co., a major meat supplier to multinational corporations such as McDonald’s and KFC. The story, which was the result of months of undercover investigative journalism and concealed video recording, showed footage of numerous violations including mixing expired meat with usable product as well as deliberately deceiving a regular inspection group from McDonald’s. Six Husi staff members were swiftly arrested. It is believed that such behaviour had been going on for years, though Husi’s senior management claimed this was an isolated incident. Read more…

Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

Thai coup’s short-term gains mask long-term pains

Author: Pavida Pananond, Thammasat University

In the aftermath of Thailand’s 22 May military coup, business and politics appear to have converged. Domestic and foreign businesses of all stripes heaved a collective sigh of relief when the military seized power, halting six months of debilitating and intractable anti-government street protests. But despite initial post-coup business optimism, and the impression that commerce is booming, Thailand’s latest putsch may bring long-term pain. Read more…

China’s recipe for higher consumption and steady economic growth

Authors: Wang Xiaolu, NERI, and Zhou Yixiao, ANU

The slowdown of economic growth in China, since the global financial crisis, is obvious. The average growth rate dropped from above 10 per centto 9.3 per cent between 2008–2011, and then to 7.7 per cent in both 2012 and 2013, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. In the first half of 2014, the growth rate was 7.4 per cent. Read more…

Families of Sewol victims want to know why their children died

Author: Eun Jeong Soh, ANU

It has been over 100 days since the Sewol ferry sank, taking the lives 304 passengers including 250 high school students on a field trip. Families of the victims and the South Korean public are still dumbfounded that the passengers were told to remain on-board as the Coast Guard rescued crew members. The government’s sluggish and limited rescue effort is another source of the families’ anger. Read more…

Cacophonous beginnings to a new Asian epoch

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

On 26 October 1909 a young Korean nationalist, Ahn Jung-Geun, assassinated Japanese statesman and four-time prime minister Itō Hirobumi on the platform of Harbin railway station. This triggered a number of developments in East Asia. Specifically, it gave Tokyo a pretext for the formal colonisation of Korea the following year and extended Japan’s imperialist reach over the continent. Although Japan had already made its impact as a rising global power — notably in forging an alliance with Great Britain in 1902 and defeating Russia in war in 1905 — beyond East Asia the incident was hardly noticed. Read more…

Chinese state-owned enterprise investment in Australia

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

As the negotiation of the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) moves into what is hopefully its final phase, there is intense focus on how the investment chapter of the FTA will treat the access of Chinese state-owned enterprises to the Australian investment market.

Currently all investment proposals by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are subject to screening by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), no matter what their scale or country of origin. Read more…

Chinese SOEs: some are more equal than others

Authors: Paul Hubbard and Patrick Williams, ANU

Last year’s Third Plenum decision was remarkable not only for promoting the ‘decisive role of the market in allocating resources but also for seeing this as being consistent with ‘the dominant position of public ownership’ and ‘the leading role of the state-owned sector’.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain ubiquitous in the Chinese economy despite three decades of market reform, although now they account for only 30 per cent of industrial output. Read more…

Supreme Court of Japan rules against welfare for foreigners

Author: Trevor Ryan, University of Canberra

Last month, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that persons without Japanese nationality (that is foreigners) have no legal claim to benefits under the Public Assistance Act. The case is an affront to the second and third generations of ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan who have chosen for practical and identity reasons not to renounce their nationality and naturalise as Japanese. For these and other tax-paying permanent residents, the case simply affirms the legality of a discriminatory statute.

But, while it is a ‘stunning’ decision for some, a few points about the decision should be clarified. Read more…