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

Duterte delivers a disquieting year

Government soldiers stand guard in front of damaged building and houses in Sultan Omar Dianalan boulevard at Mapandi district in Marawi city, southern Philippines, 13 September 2017 (Picture: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco).

Author: Ronnie Holmes, ANU

Though Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys high approval ratings (a feat that is unremarkable given his predecessor enjoyed the same public appreciation for almost the entire first half of his term), he continues to cause apprehension among organised groups that have criticised his pronouncements and actions. Read more…

Winter is coming for Pakistan’s military as US aid freeze sets in

People burn a sign depicting a US flag and a picture of US President Donald Trump as they take part in an anti-US rally in Peshawar, Pakistan, 5 January 2018 (Picture: Reuters/Fayaz Aziz).

Author: Michael Kugelman, Wilson Center

In early January 2018, the Trump administration announced a suspension of security assistance to Pakistan. Nearly US$2 billion in assistance could be affected. The administration has left open the possibility of releasing the funds if Pakistan cracks down more robustly against Pakistan-based terrorists who target US troops in Afghanistan. Read more…

Shine wearing off Taiwan’s Tsai

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has make up applied during an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan 27 April 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Kwei-Bo Huang, National Chengchi University

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has dominated both the executive and legislature since 20 May 2016. Despite this, Taiwan has not experienced stability under the government of President Tsai Ing-wen. Taiwan has instead experienced the rudeness, uneasiness and nonchalance associated with mediocre governance. Read more…

Thailand’s deepening authoritarian rule

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn takes part in a procession to transfer the royal relics and ashes of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from the crematorium to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 27 October 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Eugenie Mérieau, University of Göttingen

With the help of Thailand’s military government, King Vajiralongkorn revised and then promulgated the country’s 20th constitution on 6 April 2017. The constitution is part of a roadmap towards the return of civilian rule (which is currently planned for 2019). Planned elections promise to be a masquerade: the junta has disseminated a legal and constitutional framework that will shield both the monarchy and the military’s power from the government in the event of a return to civilian rule. Read more…

China has unprecedented opportunities but bigger shoes to fill

A sculpture of shoes is displayed at Li Ning Center in Beijing, China, 20 June 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Kerry Brown, King’s College London

2017 was a very good year for China. There were no major domestic crises or disasters, and the leaders in Zhongnanhai had the rare pleasure of seeing their own politics seem tame by comparison to a United States that was beset by challenges and a spate of internal divisions around the Trump presidency. Read more…

Sorting out strategic confusion in the Indo-Pacific

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of a Bushmaster military vehicle at Camp Narashino, Japan, 18 January 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

The Indo-Pacific idea appears to be on a roll. On his Asian trip last year, US President Donald Trump called for a new Indo-Pacific security strategy of strengthening partnerships (among the democracies) in the region. Read more…

All shot and no powder in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Kurama, which is carrying Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sails in smoke during its fleet review at Sagami Bay south of Tokyo, 18 October 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

Author: James Curran, University of Sydney

Australian advocates of the so called ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ (which brings together the United States, Japan, India and Australia) must now feel as if the wind is well and truly in their sails.

Late last year, the Turnbull government’s Foreign Policy White Paper signalled that Australia is open to working more within ‘plurilateral arrangements’ (though it did not directly name the ‘Quad’). Read more…

Indonesia’s e-ID scandal looks set to take another scalp

PK senior investigator Novel Baswedan is seen during the trial for the electronic ID case at the district court in Jakarta, Indonesia, 27 March 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Sigid Kurniawan).

Author: Matthew Woolgar, Oxford University

There have been many subplots in the saga of Setya Novanto, formerly both speaker of the People’s Representative Council (Indonesia’s house of representatives) and head of the Golkar party. Novanto dodged previous corruption allegations before being named a suspect in connection with the ‘e-ID’ graft scandal — in which several high-ranking Indonesian politicians have been recently accused of embezzling millions of dollars from a national electronic identity card scheme. Read more…

Malaysia’s economy is back on the ball but must benefit all

A vendor arranges bananas at a wet market in Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research

How did the Malaysian economy perform during 2017?

Net exports surged from a negative growth rate of –14.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 to 1.4 per cent. These figures are higher than expected due to two key factors. Malaysian exports became more competitive because of the depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit against the US dollar. Read more…

Reining in red entrepreneurs

Chairman and chief executive of Alibaba Group Jack Ma and other Chinese and French entrepreneurs wait for an economic speech by French President Emmanuel Macron at SOHO 3Q in Beijing, China, 9 January 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: David Kelly, China Policy

Although China undertook market reforms nearly 40 years ago, it has retained a state-dominated economy. Its own descriptor has for nearly three decades been a ‘socialist market economy’. While private enterprises have emerged, ‘private’ is a formal category of ownership that can be summed up as ‘less state’. In a political sense, there is almost no private sector. Read more…

The Empire Strikes Back: Hong Kong edition

Pro-democracy activists take part in a protest on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China, 1 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip).

Author: Ray Yep, City University of Hong Kong

2017 was a year of disillusion and anxiety for Hong Kong’s people.

It started with a false dawn. The unexpected decision of the hugely unpopular Leung Chun-ying not to seek a second term as chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region offered a glimpse of hope for the local community. Many see Leung as a divisive and manipulative visionary; by contrast, his successor Carrie Lam is a civil servant-turned-politician and has a reputation as a competent and fair-minded administrator. Read more…

Beijing gone from foe to friend in Manila

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte returns the salute of a Chinese naval officer aboard a Chinese vessel visiting Davao City in the southern Phillipines in May 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Lean Daval Jr).

Author: Renato Cruz De Castro, De La Salle University

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III adopted a balancing policy to respond to Chinese pressure over the two countries’ territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This balancing policy culminated in the signing of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in April 2014, which provides for the United States to rotate forward-deployed forces in Philippine territory and for extensive access to Philippine military facilities. Read more…

China’s vision for a new world order

Students use red scarves to make a flag of the Communist Party of China, ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, at a primary school in Linyi, Shandong province, China, 13 September 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Yong Wang, Peking University

Against the backdrop of Brexit, Trump and the resurgence of protectionism, Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed China to a new type of globalisation.

At the 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping called for a ‘community of shared human destiny’. This proposal recognises that human beings have only one earth and proposes that all nations must coexist in this shared space. Read more…

Thailand’s constitution capitulates to Buddhist domineering

A Buddhist monk prays at Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple) in Bangkok, Thailand, 24 August 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, University of Bristol

Under Thailand’s 2017 constitution, the government’s approach towards religion has taken a radical turn. In the previous 1997 and 2007 constitutions, the state’s primary objectives were to protect and promote Buddhism and other religions, to promote religious harmony and to encourage the application of religious teaching to enhance quality of life. Read more…

Bangladesh prepares for graduation

Brick factory workers load carts with bricks to take them into warehouse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 19 April 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Ponir Hossain).

Author: Fahmida Khatun, CPD

While Bangladesh’s macroeconomic indicators have shown positive trends in the 2016–17 fiscal year, its economy appears to be facing a number of challenges. This is of particular concern as Bangladesh prepares to leave the ‘least developed country’ category in 2018. Read more…