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

How do conservative Muslims see Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls

Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after the second debate between presidential candidates ahead of the next general election in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 February 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan).

Author: Andar Nubowo, RSIS

Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election is a face-off between two old rivals: incumbent President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and his challenger Prabowo Subianto. While some electoral issues are identical to the 2014 election when they first clashed, such as the economy and nationalism, others are new. The so-called ‘conservative turn’ heralded by a massive peaceful Islamist protest in December 2016, dubbed the 212 movement, could be a game changer. Read more…

Sri Lanka’s debt problem isn’t made in China

A general view of Colombo Port City construction site, which is backed by Chinese investment, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 16 January 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Authors: Dushni Weerakoon, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka and Sisira Jayasuriya, Monash University

Global media and numerous ‘experts’ routinely assert that Sri Lanka was forced to cede a strategically important port to China after being lured into a debt trap by easy Chinese loans. This story has now become part of the wider narrative of how China is using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to achieve its diplomatic and strategic aims through debt diplomacy. But it is a story based more on fiction than fact. Read more…

Credibility is Beijing’s fragile defence against financial crisis

A worker repairs a light on an inner city highway as he stands in the basket of a boom lift in a business district in Beijing, China, 12 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Logan Wright, Rhodium Group

One of the most important factors driving the rapid growth of China’s economy over the previous decade has been the unprecedented expansion of the country’s financial system. Since the global financial crisis, bank assets have quadrupled to an astonishing US$39.5 trillion in 2018, roughly three times the size of China’s economy. This amounts to the largest single-country credit expansion in the last century. Read more…

Is China playing the North Korea card?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on 10 January 2019 (Photo: Reuters/KCNA).

Author: Lee Seong-hyon, Sejong Institute

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in March 2018, the mainstream view in China’s strategic community has evolved. China has gradually come to embrace the notion that Kim’s denuclearisation diplomacy is a genuine strategic shift, not a tactical manoeuvre. Read more…

Progress on the Korean Peninsula hinges on the second Trump–Kim summit

A man walks past a banner depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump ahead of the North Korea-US summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 25 February 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Author: Charles K Armstrong, Columbia University

At the end of 2017, the Korean Peninsula appeared to be on the brink of a major confrontation — possibly even nuclear war — between the United States and North Korea. Read more…

Canada caught in the vortex of US–China techno-nationalism

A man holds a sign calling for China to release Wang Bingzhang and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was arrested in China on Tuesday, at the BC Supreme Court bail hearing of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 11 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lindsey Wasson).

Author: Paul Evans, University of British Columbia

The 1 December 2018 arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a US extradition request has triggered the biggest shock wave in Canada–China relations since the events at Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Read more…

China’s behind-the-scenes role in Trump–Kim talks

People watch a TV broadcasting of a news report on a meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Seoul, South Korea, 28 March 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-ji).

Author: Mack Williams, Sydney

Media speculation continues about the outcome of the upcoming second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, swirling from Trump’s encouraging predictions to the deep scepticism of many long-term observers. After playing a key role in getting the United States and North Korea to the negotiating table, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal involvement with both leaders continues to be crucial.

Read more…

China coal trade too big for Beijing to meddle with … or Australia to get alarmed about

Cranes unload coal from a cargo ship at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China, 8 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Authors: Shiro Armstrong and Peter Drysdale, ANU

Delays in clearing Australian coal imports through Dalian and northern Chinese ports over the past week set off alarms in Australia about risks to the massive thermal coal and resource trade relationship with China. The Australian dollar took a hit. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Australian officials tried to quell precipitate speculation that connected these events to Australian actions that have recently touched on Chinese economic and political interests.

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Can the centre hold in Asian affairs?

ASEAN representatives gather for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore, 13 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is at the centre of regional affairs, acting as a buffer in a theatre of major power interactions in Asia and as a platform for their cooperation. It has played that role almost by default for close to 30 years since APEC was established. Its role was entrenched during the Asian financial crisis as Japan, China and South Korea coalesced around ASEAN, realising they couldn’t depend too heavily on Washington and had to work together across a range of economic and political issues.

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Time for bolder steps from ASEAN

Representatives gather for a group photo at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting in Singapore, 14 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Ponciano Intal Jr, ERIA

ASEAN is now facing circumstances that are fundamentally different from anything it has dealt with before. They require a much more proactive approach on international and regional integration strategies. ASEAN is unlikely to maintain its centrality unless its leaders are prepared to take bold steps, beyond ‘business as usual’.

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Sub-regionalism is superseding a stagnant SAARC

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shakes hands with Nepal's Defense Minister Ishwor Pokhrel upon her arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport to attend the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, 30 August 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Authors: Garima Sahdev, New Delhi and Geethanjali Nataraj, Indian Institute of Public Administration

Despite being founded with the lofty ideal of promoting regional development and integration over 30 years ago, regional unity continues to elude the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Momentous opportunities for cooperation are repeatedly squandered. Read more…

Indonesia must look beyond peacekeeping to impress at the UN

Indonesian soldiers carry rifles as they walk towards a helicopter to fly to Nduga district in Wamena, Papua Province, Indonesia, 5 December 2018 (Photo: Antara Foto/Iwan Adisaputra via Reuters).

Author: Nicole Jenne, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

As Indonesia enters the first year of its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the Jokowi government is highlighting peacekeeping as a major plank of its role in promoting global peace and security. But a focus on peacekeeping alone is unlikely to make for a successful two-year term on the Security Council. Read more…

China and South Korea’s simmering THAAD dispute may return to the boil

Author: Jina Kim, Korea Institute for Defense Analyses

The US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system is a hot diplomatic issue between South Korea and China. South Korea decided to deploy THAAD in July 2016 amid growing threats from North Korea, but Beijing is worried that the system’s radar can penetrate its territory and undermines the regional security balance. With a second meeting of the US and North Korean leaders fast approaching, the issue may soon resurface. Read more…

What Modi teaches us about populist foreign policy

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is garlanded by supporters during a public rally at Bhaat village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, 16 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave).

Authors: Johannes Plagemann, GIGA and Sandra Destradi, Helmut Schmidt University and GIGA

From US President Donald Trump to the pan-populist ruling coalition in Italy, populist politicians are making an imprint on foreign policy around the world. But rather than ushering in something altogether new, populist approaches to foreign policy in the Global South reflect larger trends already underway in the transition to a multipolar and post-Western era. Indian foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a case in point. Read more…

Global ambitions fuel China’s nuclear power strategy

A dome is installed over a Hualong One nuclear power unit at Fangchenggang nuclear power plant in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, 23 May 2018 (Photo: China Daily via Reuters).

Author: Tristan Kenderdine, Future Risk

Over the past several years, there has been a monumental shift in China’s energy policy towards nuclear power. And Beijing’s nuclear ambitions aren’t limited to its own borders. Its ‘Made in China 2025’ blueprint envisages vastly expanding China’s role in nuclear power generation in developing economies worldwide. Read more…