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

Sri Lanka’s quest for a rules-based Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka's navy fires a gun salute during the Sri Lanka's 70th Independence day celebrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 4February 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Authors: Ganeshan Wignaraja and Dinusha Panditaratne, LKI

The evolution of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy since the election of a unity government on 8 January 2015 merits interest. Changes include the country’s engagement with a wider range of international partners, as well as a commitment to address the country’s post-conflict concerns. Read more…

Mixed outcomes and missed opportunities for PNG’s economy

Locals walk along a small beach where a Liquefied Natural Gas carrier called Kumul is docked at the marine facility of the ExxonMobil PNG Limited operated LNG plant at Caution Bay, located on the outskirts of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, 19 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Paul Flanagan, ANU

The last year should have seen Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) economic fortunes improve significantly. Higher oil prices should have contributed to a major decline in budget deficits. The November 2018 APEC meeting provided an opportunity to showcase what PNG has to offer. But an earthquake, lax budget policy and a build-up of protectionist and anti-market policies meant that the year ended as a mixed bag. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment indicates 0 per cent growth in 2018. Read more…

Singapore–Malaysia relations in troubled waters

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana in Singapore, 12 November 2018 (Photo; Reuters/Feline Lim).

Authors: Abdul Rahman Yaacob and Stewart Nixon, ANU

Having returned to the Malaysian prime ministership, Mahathir Mohamad is implementing a much-welcomed reform agenda and correcting governance ills introduced during his earlier reign. But relations with Singapore are reverting to the pestilent hostilities synonymous with Mahathir’s first turn in power, most recently escalating into a maritime territorial dispute that threatens to destabilise the Straits of Malacca. Read more…

New Zealand policymakers need runs on the board

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US, 27 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Caitlin Ochs).

Author: Gary Hawke, Victoria University of Wellington

The soft diplomacy of New Zealand’s new government — exemplified by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who smiled and exuded friendship and compassion throughout 2018, her first full year in power — has so far not been used to implement strategic changes. The year was one of preparations rather than initiatives. Read more…

War on drugs calls for bold new strategies, not bilateral blame games

A policeman burns seized drugs at an oath-taking rally before the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Fuyang, Anhui province, China, 23 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Emile Dirks, University of Toronto

On the sidelines of the December 2018 G20 meeting in Argentina, United States President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attempted to pressure China into cracking down on fentanyl production. But if the White House is banking on China resolving the United States’ opioid crisis, it will be disappointed.
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Thailand’s elections in 2019 will test Prayuth’s political strategy

People protest against Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun).

 Author: James Ockey, University of Canterbury

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) continues to extend its term as Thailand’s longest coup regime since the 1960s. Whether junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha will succeed in perpetuating his power will be determined through elections expected in March 2019. Accordingly, Prayuth has sought a balance between power and popular support. The General spent much of 2018 campaigning for the promised election, even as political parties faced a ban on political activities. Read more…

Sri Lanka’s political problems imperil a fragile economy

A dock worker is seen on top of shipping containers in a ship at the main port in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 21 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Dushni Weerakoon, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka plunged into a political crisis in October 2018 when President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly and unexpectedly sacked the sitting prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his former partner in the National Unity Government formed in January 2015. It could not have come at a worse time for the Sri Lankan economy.

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What’s really wrong with the Chinese economy and why it matters

A Chinese flag flutters in front of a residential building under construction in Huai’an, Jiangsu Province, China, 12 July 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The downturn in Chinese economic growth is top news around the world. That’s for good reason. China is the second largest economy in the world. Its much higher than the average world growth rate has been a major factor propping up global growth over the past few decades although the US recovery has done its bit to help in recent years.

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China’s economy is certainly slowing but growth is still robust

Employees work on a production line manufacturing light trucks at a JAC Motors plant in Weifang, Shandong Province, China, 30 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Yiping Huang, Peking University

China’s economy had an unexpected downturn in 2018. Industrial upgrading, economic policy battles and trade friction with the United States all contributed to the slowdown. The government is implementing policy measures aimed at stabilising economic momentum, but downward pressure on the economy will likely continue in 2019.

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Nepal shifts rightwards after the revolution

Protesters take part in a rally organised by the Sister organisations of Nepali Congress Party, the main opposition party to the government, in support of a doctor who is staging a hunger strike to press for better medical education in the country and government decision to ban public protest in some areas in Kathmandu, Nepal, 21 July 2018 (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Author: Rumela Sen, Columbia University

Ten years ago Nepal became a federal democratic republic when the Maoists gave up armed struggle and signed a comprehensive peace agreement. The subsequent overthrow of the monarch was hailed worldwide as an exemplary case of successful democratic transition. Read more…

ASEAN and China struggle to buckle the belt and road

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Wang Xiaotao, a representative of the Chinese Government, take part in the ground breaking ceremony of the cooperation between Thailand and China on the Bangkok–Nong Khai high-speed rail development in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand, 21 December 2017 (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Phidel Vineles, RSIS

China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to draw criticism and disapproval. Its sceptics brand it as China’s Marshall Plan or as a ‘neo-imperial project’. To ensure the initiative’s success, China should heed some of these concerns and take steps to improve the implementation of BRI-related projects. Doing so is particularly important in ASEAN — a region that stands to greatly benefit from BRI investment, if done right. Read more…

Putting the brakes on China’s slowdown

A woman walks past the headquarters of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, in Beijing, China, 28 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Yu Yongding, CASS

China’s economic performance in 2018 was rather disappointing. According to official statistics, the country’s growth rate during the year was 6.6 per cent, the lowest since 1991. The real situation was probably even worse. Read more…

Buoying Malaysia’s debt-heavy economy

A supporter of Malaysia's opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), waves the party flag a day after general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 10 May 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, Malaysia Institute of Economic Research

The victory of Pakatan Harapan in Malaysia’s May 2018 general election led to the shock discontinuation of 61 years of Barisan Nasional rule. It set the country on course for an exciting year. Read more…

India and China, two peas in a pod

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj before the start of their meeting in New Delhi, India, 21 December 2018 (Photo Reuters/Adnan Abidi).

Author: Chris Ogden, University of St Andrews

Analysts frequently describe India–China relations as experiencing periodic bouts of insecurity that threaten the development of closer ties between the two Asian giants. Major sources of insecurity include an entrenched China–Pakistan alliance that may subsume Indian influence in South Asia; mounting maritime, trade and naval competition in the Indian Ocean region; engrained border disputes; and New Delhi’s apprehension about Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.  Read more…

Keeping China–Japan relations afloat

China's aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, 18 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Ren Xiao, Fudan University

The Japanese government lodged a protest with China in December 2018 over Chinese test drilling activities in a gas field near the Japan-claimed median line in the East China Sea. The protest touches on a longstanding controversy over maritime boundary delimitation between China and Japan. Read more…