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

The long-term sustainability of the South Korean National Pension Service fund

People walk past a branch office of the National Pension Service (NPS) in Seoul, South Korea, 4 November 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji).

Author: Sunghwan Shin, Korea Money & Finance Association and Hongik University

One of big headaches of the South Korean National Pension Service (NPS) is how to invest its reserve fund — the third largest of its kind in the world. The NPS fund is currently worth US$700 billion. It is projected to grow to US$1.5 trillion by 2040. After that, due to the number of retirees receiving benefits far exceeding the number of pension participants paying contributions, the fund may, on its current path, diminish to zero by 2057.

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Smarter strategies for sharing South Asia’s rivers

A fisherman stands as he checks his fishing net along the Indus River, Hyderabad, Pakistan, 11 June 2017 (Photo:Reuters/Akhtar Soomro).

Author: Ashok Swain, Uppsala University

South Asia is facing severe water scarcity. As the region’s population grows and its economies develop, a lack of sustainable water development strategy is leading to increasingly acute water shortages.

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Xinjiang casts uncertainty over the Belt and Road Initiative

Local students drum dance at the opening ceremony of the 14th Xinjiang Winter Tourism Trade Fair and the skiing carnival at a skiing field on Jiangjun Mountain in Altay, northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, 27 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Imagine China/Zhang Xiuke).

Author: Wei Shan, NUS East Asia Institute

Xinjiang is China’s bridge to Central Asian, Middle Eastern and European markets, placing it at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is the largest logistical centre among the BRI countries. Of the six planned BRI economic corridors, three will pass through Xinjiang, including the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor linking Kashgar in Xinjiang to Port Gwadar in Pakistan. A distribution hub is also being developed in Khorgos on the Xinjiang–Kazakhstan border.

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The ACCTS could be a catalyst for transitioning to a circular economy

Author: Giridharan Ramasubramanian, ANU

On 25 September 2019, five countries — Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway — announced a new initiative, the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) that provides a fresh opportunity to use trade agreements to tackle the challenges of climate change and sustainable development. Read more…

Vietnam’s agricultural sector at a crossroads

A farmer harvests rice by a paddy field outside Hanoi, Vietnam 10 June, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Kham).

Author: Nguyen Van Giap, University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City

In 2018, Vietnam’s agriculture sector witnessed its highest growth rate in recent years — 3.76 per cent. Export revenue from the sector was US$40 billion, with a trade surplus of US$8.72 billion. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc expressed expectations for the sector to fulfil the aspirations of the nation, and suggested that Vietnam should strive to join the group of 15 largest agricultural nations in the world.

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Damage control required for ASEAN–US relations

Laos' Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith shakes hands with U.S. National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha at the 7th ASEAN-United States Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, 4 November 2019 (Photo:Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun).

Author: Kavi Chongkittavorn, Chulalongkorn University

The 35th ASEAN Summit and its related meetings ended on 5 November 2019 with stronger ASEAN solidarity and centrality. This was in part due to US President Donald Trump’s decision not to partake in the summitry and his high-handed manner in responding to the Southeast Asian diplomatic process.

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The proliferation of free trade disagreements

Wang Zhaoxing, Vice Chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), speaks during the 11th Lujiazui Forum 2019, saying the last four decades of the country's economic reforms have shown that ‘openness brings progress, shutting off brings backwardness’ in Shanghai, China, 13 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Imagine China/Bai Kelin).

Author: Jayant Menon, ADB

It was not that long ago that trade economists were concerned about the effect that the proliferation of bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) were having on the multilateral trading system. The number of bilateral FTAs in effect involving at least one country from the Asia-Pacific — the epicentre of FTA proliferation — increased four-fold from 39 in 2000 to 159 in 2019. The pace of proliferation has since slowed dramatically with only three such agreements going into effect in the last two years.

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The Sri Lankan election and authoritarian populism

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother and former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed as the new Prime Minister, are seen during the swearing in ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka 21 November, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Liyanawatte).

Author: Kanishka Jayasuriya, Murdoch University

The election on 16 November 2019 of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa — ushers in an authoritarian populist regime that upholds a form of ethno-religious nationalism. The foundation of such a regime is in the new bourgeoisie that has emerged over the last two decades.

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Can Vietnam break the authoritarian glass ceiling?

Author: Paul Schuler, University of Arizona

No woman has led a non-democratic regime that was not a monarchy. Vietnam will make history in 2021 if it selects current National Assembly Chair, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, as the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) General Secretary at the next Party Congress. Read more…

A divided Europe’s China challenge

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visit the container terminal of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) in Piraeus, Greece, 11 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Orestis Panagiotou).

Author: Philippe Le Corre, Harvard University and Carnegie Endowment

China’s complex relationship with the European Union is symbolised through the events of November 2019. Chinese President Xi Jinping flew to Greece almost as soon as French President Emmanuel Macron concluded his 3-day state visit to China on 6 November. China boasts a successful investment here — the Piraeus harbour of Athens.

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The identity politics driving the Japan–South Korea trade war

South Korea deputy trade minister Kim Seung-ho arrives for the General Council meeting where the worsening trade and diplomatic dispute between South Korea and Japan will be raised at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24 July 2019 (Photo:Reuters/Denis Balibouse).

Authors: Wrenn Yennie Lindgren, NUPI, Eun Hee Woo, Freie Universität Berlin, Ulv Hanssen, Soka University, and Petter Y. Lindgren, OGEAR

While the world is engrossed in the US–China trade war, Japan and South Korea are engulfed in a trade dispute of their own. Japan and South Korea exhibit political and economic traits that should foster good relations. Both countries are capitalist democracies and closely allied with the United States. They share a number of geopolitical concerns such as dwindling trust in the US security guarantee, a rising China with power ambitions and an unpredictable North Korea with nuclear weapons.  Read more…

The enigma of Shinzo Abe’s legacy

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The question of Shinzo Abe’s legacy has been thrust into the spotlight by recent milestones. Abe overtook his great-uncle Eisaku Sato to become the longest serving post-war Japanese prime minister on 23 August this year. And on 20 November, Abe overtook Taro Katsura to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister since the inception of parliamentary politics in Japan in 1889.

Beyond his longevity, what will Abe be most remembered for?

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Shinzo Abe: A legacy of his own

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the conference Communication Connecting Europe and Asia, in Brussels, Belgium, 27 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir).

Author: Sheila A Smith, CFR

Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest serving prime minister on 20 November 2019. Staying atop a parliamentary democracy seems a herculean task these days, but it is especially hard in Japan where prime ministers have come and gone with alacrity. But more than time served, Abe will be remembered for what he did while in power: He has returned his party to centre stage, reasserted Japan’s standing on the world stage and reinforced the foundations of Japan’s strategy in a turbulent Asia.

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Abe’s lasting legacy?

Author: Hugo Dobson, University of Sheffield

On 20 November 2019, Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister — surpassing the 2886 days that Taro Katsura served across 3 non-continuous terms at the beginning of the 20th century. Abe’s current term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) runs until September 2021 and there was speculation (and predictable denial) of changing party rules again to allow him to serve a further fourth term. When he eventually steps down, Abe will set a record unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

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Using the NRC as a Hindu nationalist tool

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, gestures as she attends a protest march against the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam, Kolkata, India, 12 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri).

Author: Ajay Gudavarthy, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India’s Assam state is being used to mark non-documented citizens as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ and thus ineligible for registration. Such a system has been a long-standing demand of the local Assamese in order to protect their language, land and culture from ‘outsiders’ — primarily referring to the Bengali speaking population. This system is now being promoted by Hindu nationalists aiming to spread their ideology through India.

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