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

Mongolia’s success and challenges against COVID-19

People ride horses near the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, east of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Photo: Reuters/B Rentsendorj).

Author: Ariun-Erdene Bayarjargal, ANU

The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history because of the extraordinary impact it has had on health, the economy and people’s lives across the world. Mongolia is no exception and sound government policy is essential to steer it through the next phase of the crisis.

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A chance for Chinese economic leadership

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 25 October, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Lee).

Authors: Peter A Petri, Brandeis University and Michael G Plummer, Johns Hopkins University

In late June 2020, 15 East Asian countries — representing nearly 30 per cent of the world’s economic output and population — committed to signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November. This will be the largest free trade agreement ever and complements the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

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Populists in a pandemic

US President Donald Trump speaks with President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Philippines, 13 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

When the former mayor of the southern city of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, surged ahead of his establishment rivals in the 2016 presidential elections, some western media fell back on labelling him the ‘Trump of the East’. Read more…

Rodrigo Duterte’s war on many fronts

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during his State of the Nation Address at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, 27 July 2020 (Photo: Presidential Photos via Reuters).

Author: Julio C Teehankee, De La Salle University

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address as the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic continues. Instead of providing a concrete plan to address the rise and spread of the virus, he used the opportunity to attack his political enemies and reiterate his declaration of a war on many fronts. The populist president vowed to ‘fight this pandemic with the same fervour as our campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, insurgency, and corruption in high places and entrenched parochial interests’. Read more…

Vietnam rejects Chinese aggression in the South China Sea

Vessels from the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea, in this recent taken handout photo released by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on 9 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Nguyen Khac Giang, Victoria University of Wellington

As countries in the region are busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, China is stirring the pot in the South China Sea. This includes harassing other claimants’ normal economic activities, conducting large-scale drills, consolidating military bases on artificial islands, and sending research ships into other countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Vietnam — as one of the claimants and perhaps the most stubborn — has become the chief target.

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India’s statistical system just doesn’t add up

Migrant workers crowd up outside a bus station as they wait to board buses to return to their villages during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, 28 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis).

Author: Vikas Kumar, Azim Premji University

A series of economic shocks — including the demonetisation of high denomination currency notes in 2016, the introduction of Goods and Services Tax in 2017 and the COVID-19 lockdown — have exposed the growing incapacity of India’s official statistical system to meet the requirements of policymaking. Read more…

COVID-19 undermines South Korean diplomacy

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, wearing a face mask, arrives at a briefing for foreign diplomats on the situation of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea 6 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Jung Yeon-je).

Author: Jeffrey Robertson, Yonsei University

South Korea attracted global attention from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the BBC reported that Seoul’s ‘trace, test and treat‘ approach was saving lives while hospitals in Europe and the United States were overwhelmed. In April, the New York Times reported on South Korea’s capacity to hold democratic elections despite COVID-19, and by June, CNN reported on the lessons to be learned from South Korea’s public health success story. Read more…

US–China scientific cooperation faces an uncertain future

Chinese and US flags flutter near The Bund, Shanghai, China, 30 July 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song).

Authors: John P Haupt and Jenny J Lee, University of Arizona

Geopolitical tensions between the two largest scientific knowledge producers in the world are intensifying, and the Trump administration is now scrutinising scientific collaboration with China as a potential threat to US national security and economic prosperity. Chinese researchers and graduate students are being portrayed as potential spies who may steal intellectual property, while China’s ‘Thousand Talents’ program is characterised as a scheme allowing China to acquire US technology, intellectual property and know-how.

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No end to Malaysia’s political games after Najib’s courtroom downfall

Police officers stand guard outside Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The rule of law isn’t so much about the absence of abuse of power — it’s about the absence of impunity. That’s why Malaysians can be gratified with the guilty verdict handed down against their former prime minister Najib Razak, who on 28 July was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million on charges relating to his role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. Read more…

Najib verdict complicates Malaysia’s game of thrones

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak leaves a courtroom for a break at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Francis E Hutchinson, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

On 28 July, Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak made history when he became the country’s highest-ranking official to be convicted in court. Najib was found guilty of seven criminal charges relating to his role in the 1MDB investment fund corruption scandal. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million. Najib remains on bail pending appeal, but more charges are on the table regarding misappropriation of funds. Read more…

A new beginning for Singapore?

Opposition Workers' Party supporters celebrate the results of the general election in Singapore on 11 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Ying-kit Chan, Leiden University

The 2020 Singapore General Election confirmed the Workers’ Party (WP) as the strongest alternative to the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP). The WP strengthened its hold over its existing six seats in a single-member constituency (SMC) and a group-representation constituency (GRC). It also won four more seats in a newly-created GRC. But what does this mean for Singapore’s political landscape?

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When rising powers clash: face-off versus face-saving in China–India relations

Demonstrators stand next to an effigy depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping before burning it during a protest against China, in Kolkata, India, 18 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri).

Author: Deepa M Ollapally, George Washington University

The border clash in the Galwan Valley between Asia’s two rising powers on 15 June has tested some key assumptions about their bilateral relationship. India and China both thought that they could contain any border disagreement without casualties. They were confident in their ability to rapidly de-escalate, as well as insulate their economic ties from a skirmish. There was also a prevalent assumption that it would take a lot more than border brawls to change India’s strategic preference for hedging and decisively move toward a US coalition.

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How COVID-19 is changing Indian federalism

A volunteer distributes masks to people in Jammu, the winter capital of India-controlled Kashmir, 16 March, 2020 (Photo: Retuers).

Author: Anirudh Burman, Carnegie India

India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the balance of its federal structure. The pandemic has enabled the central government to implement far-reaching reforms in areas, such as agriculture, traditionally considered to be the domain of states. This exercise by the central government is indicative of its willingness to take advantage of a global crisis and use the levers of federal power to implement significant reforms. Read more…

Nepal’s geopolitical dilemma

Activists affiliated with 'Human Rights and Peace Society Nepal' protest near the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu against the alleged encroachment of the Nepal border by India, 12 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Author: Gaurab Shumsher Thapa, Nepal Forum of International Relations Studies

Nepal is situated in a geostrategic location between two big and powerful states. Historically, Nepal’s foreign policy has focussed on maintaining a balanced relationship with its neighbours. Modern Nepal’s founder, the late King Prithvi Narayan Shah, once remarked that Nepal was a ‘yam between two boulders’.

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Aegis Ashore and Japan’s constitutional debate

Japan's Defense Minister Taro Kono attends a press conference to speak about stopping the deployment procedure of the ground-based interception system 'Aegis Ashore' at Defence Ministry in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo on 25 June 25 2020 (The Yomiuri Shimbun).

Author: Tom Corben, Pacific Forum

Last month, Japan’s Defence Minister Taro Kono made the sudden announcement that Tokyo was abandoning plans to deploy two Aegis Ashore missile defence batteries to sites in northern and southern Honshu. Kono cited significant cost overruns and technical difficulties associated with the trajectory of debris from the system’s booster phase as the core rationales behind the decision.

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