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

The rules based economic disorder after Osaka G20

US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the start the G20 Summit in Osaka 28 June 2019 (Photo: Kimimasa Mayama/Reuters).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

The Osaka G20 summit may yet be remembered in history as the moment the global rules based order was lost. There was no mention of the rules-based order in the communique, signaling an edge towards rule by might rather than rules among the major powers. The uncertainty that has clouded the global economy over the past few years is child’s play compared with what could come now without a major effort by middle powers to avert catastrophe.

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Trump’s gamble with Kim yet to yield results

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervises a 'strike drill' for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea, 4 May 2019 (Photo: KCNA/Reuters).

Author: Alexandra Bell, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

‘Fortune favours the bold’, ‘no guts, no glory’, and ‘go big or go home’. All these cliches were likely going through US President Donald Trump’s head as he threw caution into the wind and broke a decades-old red line against direct meetings with North Korean leaders. Being ‘the first’ or ‘the only’ US leader to do something appeals to the President, but whether that should dictate major national security policy is another matter.

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Modi is not making India a world power

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the session on women's workforce participation, future of work, and ageing societies at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, 29 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kazuhiro Nogi).

Author: Salil Tripathi, London

When Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister of India in May 2014, the then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was a guest. But after Modi’s re-election in May 2019, Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Imran Khan was conspicuously absent from the ceremony. India may assert itself as an emerging global power, but so long as its relations with Pakistan are tense — and other domestic issues persist — it will remain only a regional power. Read more…

Why Central Asia chooses Chinese investment

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries and observer members attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 14 June 2019 (Photo: Sputnik/Konstantin Zavrazhin/Pool via Reuters).

Author: Adil Miankhel, ANU

The post-Soviet states of Central Asia are surprising many by accepting vast sums of Chinese investment. By April 2017, China had invested in US$304.9 billion worth of contracts with its partners in the region, in sectors including transport, communication, energy infrastructure, financial linkages, technology transfer and trade facilitation. Why is Chinese investment edging out traditional sources of lending, namely development institutions and banks? As with many external policy choices, domestic factors are key.

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Royalty and religion scupper Malaysia’s ascendency to the ICC

Malaysia's Attorney General Tommy Thomas speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Prashant Waikar, Nanyang Technological University

On 5 April 2019, the Malaysian government announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). This followed Kuala Lumpur’s accession to the Rome Statute — the treaty which established and governs the ICC — only a month earlier. The withdrawal marks the second time that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has abruptly revoked a pledged commitment regarding an international agreement.

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Voters want India to be recognised as a global force

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Kansai International Airport ahead of the start of the G20 leaders' summit in Izumisano, Osaka prefecture, Japan, 27 June 2019 (Photo: G20 Osaka Summit Photo/Handout via Reuters).

Author: Aseema Sinha, Claremont McKenna College 

India’s 2019 elections concluded with the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many observers noted that after the Balakot attacks, foreign policy entered the campaign discourse in an unprecedented way. Modi took credit for the strikes in many of his speeches. References were made to the idea that Modi’s government struck Pakistan ‘in their house’. He specifically asked first-time voters to vote on the basis of these strikes.

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‘One Country, Two Systems’ — and deep division

Protesters protest outside police headquarters, demanding Hong Kong’s leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition bill, in Hong Kong, China 21 June 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Author: Peter TY Cheung, University of Hong Kong

The massive demonstrations in early and mid-June 2019 against the amendment of an extradition bill initiated by the Hong Kong authorities epitomises the predicament of governance under ’One Country, Two Systems’. Read more…

China’s ‘social+’ approach to soft power

Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma: leading ‘massive markets in social media and social commerce’ (Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters).

Author: Haiqing Yu, RMIT

The term ‘soft power’ — a benign concept used to measure a country’s attractiveness or its ability to influence other countries’ public audiences — has been taken up by Chinese cultural and political elites since the mid-2000s. The term ‘strong cultural power’ gained currency in the 2010s as an alternative characterisation of China’s cultural soft power. Read more…

Japan should mediate in the Persian Gulf

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, 12 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Mari Nukii, Japan Institute of International Affairs

Tensions between Iran and the United States are escalating rapidly. Japan has good relations with all countries at odds with each other in the Middle East, putting it in a favourable position to mediate efforts for avoiding war in the Persian Gulf. Read more…

Southeast Asia’s plastic waste problem

Fishermens’ boats are seen at a beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam, 4 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Danny Marks, City University of Hong Kong

Seventy-five per cent of globally exported waste ends up in Asia. But since July 2017 — when China began to ban imports of plastic waste — Southeast Asia in particular has become a dumping ground for wealthier countries’ waste. After China’s ban, the amount of plastic waste imported to countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia more than doubled. Read more…

The history of securitisation in Xinjiang

Security guards stand at the gates of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng County in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, 3 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Hasan H Karrar, Lahore University of Management Sciences

Two developments in Xinjiang are being felt across Central Asia. The first is the internment of around one million Xinjiang Muslims — mostly Uyghurs and Kazakhs — in what can only be understood as forced cultural assimilation. The second is the outbound flow of capital and technology from China through Xinjiang by way of so-called continental bridges and economic corridors. Read more…

Identity politics aren’t going anywhere in Indonesia

A woman stands in front of a police's barricade after a riot outside Indonesia's Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) headquarters following the announcement of election results in Jakarta, Indonesia, 24 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan).

Authors: Adri Wanto and Leonard C. Sebastian, RSIS

During his first term, President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo was repeatedly accused of being anti-Islam. To counter the accusations, Jokowi chose traditionalist Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate. Ma’ruf Amin’s main contribution has been to negate the use of identity politics based on religion against Jokowi. Read more…

Whither ‘one country, two systems’?

Protesters protest outside police headquarters, demanding Hong Kong’s leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition bill, in Hong Kong, China, 21 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Kerry Brown, King’s College London

If reportedly a quarter of the population of the country or city where you live go out on the streets to demonstrate, there is a serious problem. We can quibble about whether it was indeed two million that demonstrated in Hong Kong on Sunday 16 June, or a half of that or less. But for once the eyes could not lie: the whole of the central area was crammed with people, many of whom had already been demonstrating only a few days before. Read more…

The world has a simple request for Japan: don’t drop the ball at the Osaka G20 summit

Headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva, Switzerland (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Japan will host the G20 summit over 28–29 June at the most challenging time in the G20’s history. This may seem like a bold statement. After all, the G20 faced the prospect of another great depression back in 2008 and we are certainly not in the middle of a great recession today. Although today’s economic risks and challenges are substantial — a trading system in crisis, slowing global growth, rising financial risks, growing geopolitical tensions, the probability of a US recession, to name a few — they are not at 2008 levels. At least not yet.

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Japan’s strategic choice at the Osaka G20

Angel Gurria (L), Secretary-General of the OECD shows reports about the G20 to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) in Tokyo, Japan, 15 April 2019 (Photo: Kimimasa Mayama/Pool via REUTERS).

Author: Shiro Armstrong, ANU

The world will be watching Osaka next week for what is shaping up to be the most important G20 summit since the leaders convened to coordinate a response to the global financial crisis. The G20 has been less effective during ‘peace’ times but make no mistake, the global trading system is now in crisis.

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