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

China looking under the sea for opportunities in the Pacific

Employees of Soil Machine Dynamics work on a subsea mining machine being built for Nautilus Minerals at Wallsend, northern England, 14 April 2014 (Photo: Reuters/ Nigel Roddis).

Author: Denghua Zhang, ANU

China has hunted globally for land-based mineral deposits to fuel its economic development since the 1990s. Now, Beijing is devoting growing attention to seabed mining. As China’s Five-Year Plan on Mineral Resources (2016–2020) states, ‘China will actively participate in international surveys on deep sea mining and accelerate the exploration and development of ocean minerals’. Read more…

China’s agriculture trade policy full of beans

A man displays imported soybeans at a port in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China, 9 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Tristan Kenderdine, Future Risk

Trade policy may be easy to change quickly, but trade practice is institutionally sticky. The reality of bilateral trade is not the simple fungibility of share or futures markets but the deep structural issues: port logistics, shipping and transport, commodities contracts and productive capacity lagging supply and demand factors. Despite Beijing’s intent to impose tariffs on a range of agricultural products including soy and sorghum from early July 2018, institutional reform in China’s trade policy is opening China’s market to more agricultural commodity imports. Read more…

The world is pushing back in the South China Sea

A Philippine Navy personnel stands in front of an Agusta Westland AW109 helicopter before it takes off during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Philippines 2014, a US-Philippines military exercise, aboard Philippine Navy vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the South China Sea near waters claimed by China 28 June 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Noel Celis/Pool).

Author: Tuan N Pham, Yokosuka

In recent weeks, there have been several commentaries reporting a temporary new norm in the South China Sea (SCS) — realpolitik’s triumph over moralpolitik and the rapid decline of regional US soft power. But current developments suggest otherwise. Years of ill-advised US acquiescence and accommodation (strategic patience and wishful thinking) in the SCS appear to be over for now. Read more…

The invisible entrepreneurs of Phnom Penh

A man prepares lanterns and decorations for sale at a market ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 13 February 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Authors: Richa Sekhani, ICRIER and Deepanshu Mohan, OP Jindal Global University

Southeast Asia is experiencing rapid urbanisation, and with it comes more and more people who are absorbed into the unregulated, informal sectors of the economy. In Cambodia, more than 95 per cent of the aggregate labour force is employed in unregulated, informal activities such as street vending, construction and transport. Read more…

China’s water wars

Paramilitary policemen sweep a flooded street in Guilin, Guangxi province, China, 3 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Scott Moore, University of Pennsylvania

China is often thought of as a country that suppresses internal conflicts, usually to great effect. But there are a number of notable exceptions and, of these, conflicts over water are perhaps the most intriguing. While China is by some definitions water-scarce, its domestic and international water conflicts are driven not by scarcity per se but by the impact of China’s rampant economic growth. Read more…

Data must drive preventive diplomacy in ASEAN

A policeman stands guard outside a church, one of the three hit by suicide bombers in Surabaya, Indonesia, 13 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta).

Authors: Hana Hanifah and Askabea Fadhilla, The Habibie Center

ASEAN countries are no strangers to conflict and violence. As a region comprising diverse nation-states, Southeast Asia has experienced a number of inter- and intra-state conflicts. Political stability in the region has improved over the last decade, especially due to a decline in inter-state disputes. But intra-state disputes in the form of ethnic conflicts, violence against minorities and violent extremism — including terrorism — are gaining ground. Read more…

China’s Djibouti military base the first of many

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) stand on a ship sailing off from a military port in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, 11 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Authors: Jeffrey Becker and Erica Downs, CNA

In late May 2018, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is constructing additional pier facilities at its military base in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti. Chinese defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said that the new facilities would enable Beijing to ‘better fulfil China’s international responsibilities including anti-piracy work and to maintain the peace and stability of Africa and the world’. Read more…

Illusions of progress towards Thai democracy

An anti-government protester stands in front of riot police officers during a protest to demand that the military government hold a general election by November, in Bangkok, Thailand, 22 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: James L Taylor, University of Adelaide

22 May 2018 marked four years since Thailand’s last coup — the 12th successful one (out of 19) in Thailand since 1932. The motives behind the most recent coup were complex and depend on who you ask. But one thing is clear: throughout its history and in the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s fascistic tendencies have emerged through the crevices of an imaginary democratic state. Read more…

Populist leaders, not populist parties, are driving Asian politics

Women show Rakhis or sacred threads with a picture of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on them, as they wait to tie Rakhis to Hindu saints to celebrate Raksha Bandhan festival at a temple in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, India on 17 August 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Jitendra Prakash.)

Author: Paul D Kenny, ANU

For the 20 years after British colonial rule in India ended, the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress party engineered a remarkable state of democratic stability through the distribution of patronage to its political supporters. But within a few years of Nehru’s death in 1964, India’s party system descended into crisis. Read more…

China’s Belt and Road Initiative paved with risk and red herrings

Men work at the China-backed Colombo Port City construction site in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 25 October 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatt.)

Authors: Alvin A Camba, John Hopkins University and Kuek Jia Yao, Harvard University

There is no shortage of sceptics of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Indeed, stories about the BRI often include the evocation of debt ‘traps’ and ‘vassal states’. While some concerns merit consideration, popular criticisms of the BRI tend to be built upon incomplete and distorted stereotypes, which only draws attention away from the actual shortcomings of the BRI that need to be addressed. Read more…

Global economic uncertainty and Japan’s leadership in the Asia Pacific

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech at their trilateral summit with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not in picture) at Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo, Japan on 9 May 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

Japan has found itself assuming new and unusual leadership responsibilities in the Asia Pacific as it deals with the rise of protectionism in the United States and parts of Europe. Japan has led the way in holding the line on the global economic rules-based order, through pressing conclusion of the Asia Pacific’s first mega-regional trade agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and initiating the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

Read more…

Asia and Trump’s trade war threat

Chairman, CEO and president of Nucor John Ferriola and US Steel CEO Dave Burritt flank US President Donald Trump as he announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, United States on 1 March 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The world’s two largest economies are skirmishing around the brink of a global trade war. This dangerous development puts at risk the international trading system that underpins prosperity in the global economy.

Read more…

Implementing the global trade rules

Delegates arrives for a special meeting of the General Council Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation at the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva, 27 November 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse).

Author: Roberto Azevêdo, WTO

The rising trade tensions of recent months have grabbed the headlines — and rightly so. But what you don’t often hear about is how well the global trading system has performed over the years. You could argue that global trade governance has actually been the quietest success story of the post-war era. It’s important to remember what we could stand to lose if the current tensions lead to an unmanageable escalation of tit-for-tat trade policy actions. Read more…

Regional leadership needed to save trade regime

US President Donald Trump is seen speaking on a screen during the US–ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines, 13 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Authors: Mari Pangestu, University of Indonesia, and Christopher Findlay, University of Adelaide

The world in which Asia Pacific economies operate is changing. Two main forces are driving this change — one ‘top-down’, the other ‘bottom-up’.

The top-down force is the emergence of a world with a larger number of key economies. Read more…

Vietnam tottering over Chinese t-shirts and tourists

A protester holds a tee-shirt bearing the yellow star of the Vietnamese national flag during an anti-China demonstration near the Chinese embassy in Hanoi 3 July 2011. Protesters took to the street in Hanoi for a fifth consecutive Sunday to rally against China's activities in the South China Sea. Relations between China and Vietnam have been strained over the past month because of a flare-up in a long-standing dispute over sovereignty in the South China Sea. The two sides each conducted naval exercises in a show of force but analysts say neither has an interest in pushing the dispute to the point where military conflict is a serious risk (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Gary Sands, Wikistrat

A humble t-shirt typically goes unnoticed, except when it displays an inflammatory statement or draws attention to a social cause its wearer chooses to advertise. Recent weeks have seen a few such t-shirts — featuring maps of China — draw significant outrage on social media. Read more…