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

Cambodia’s foreign policy post-COVID-19

A woman walks outside the Royal Palace which has being closed for visitors as precaution against the coronavirus outbreak in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 19 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Cindy Liu).

Author: Kimkong Heng, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the global economy, affecting the lives of millions, and increasing uncertainty of a new Cold War between the United States and China. Cambodia, like a few other countries in Southeast Asia, appears to have been fortunate in succeeding to contain the spread of the virus. But its economy is faltering, if not failing. Read more…

China’s PAFMM grey zone maritime challenge to the Philippines

Hand out file photo dated 27 October, 2019 of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Akizuki-class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki (DD 118) are underway in formation while conducting a bilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea. An unknown number of sailors onboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which forward-deployed in Japan and presently pier-side there, have tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. This comes just a day after the U.S. Navy announced it had quarantined the entire crew of another aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on their ship in port in Guam after a number of sailors contracted the virus (Photo: Reuters/Codie L. Soule).

Author: Christian Vicedo, Manila

China’s People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) is key to understanding Beijing’s grey-zone operations in the South China Sea (SCS). The PAFMM is organised and linked to the People’s Liberation Army chain of command through the People’s Armed Forces Districts. PAFMM members are trained in maritime claims enforcement, logistics support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and sabotage. Operating about 84 large vessels with reinforced hulls and water cannons, the PAFMM serves as China’s third force in the SCS.

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Demystifying Australia’s South China Sea stance

An F18 fighter takes off from the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt while transiting the South China Sea, 10 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Karen Lema).

Author: Sam Bateman, University of Wollongong

On 23 July, Australia lodged a note verbale to the UN Secretary-General setting out its position on China’s claims in the South China Sea. This was part of a series of notes verbale from countries bordering the South China Sea that was triggered by a December 2019 Malaysian submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) claiming a partial outer continental shelf in the South China Sea. Read more…

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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The return of sovereignty to Australia’s defence strategy

An Australian Navy officer from Australian Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ship, HMAS Canberra stands next to a helicopter after arriving at the main harbour in Colombo, Sri Lanka 23 March, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Richard Brabin-Smith, ANU

The Australian Department of Defence’s three recent update documents — the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, the 2020 Force Structure Plan and the Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2030 — all recognise the country’s demanding new strategic environment. This is reflected in the prioritising of operations in Australia’s immediate region, planning for force structure and preparedness, and the greater attention given to sovereignty and self-reliance. Read more…

5G in Singapore: Is the tide turning against Huawei?

A Huawei employee showcases their facial recognition technology at their booth at Interpol World in Singapore, 2 July 2019 (Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Amalina Anuar, RSIS

Amid the ongoing US–China technological and geopolitical rivalry, decisions to award 5G contracts to Huawei — or to their competitors Nokia and Ericsson — continue to garner much press. In Singapore, Huawei was edged out after Singtel and the Starhub–M1 joint venture decided to partner with Ericsson and Nokia respectively to build the city-state’s standalone 5G network. Along with other countries also opting for non-Chinese 5G equipment, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared this as evidence of Washington’s anti-Huawei campaign bearing fruit. Read more…

Indonesia’s garment industry in crisis

Workers produce protective suits at a textile factory which usually produces jeans trousers before amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Malang, Indonesia, 6 April 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Antara Foto/Ari Bowo Sucipto).

Authors: Deasy Pane, Bappenas and Donny Pasaribu, ANU

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a slowdown in all parts of the world, but its impacts on exporters of textiles and textile products are hitting developing countries hard. The sector is one of the main exporters for many developing countries because its production process is generally labour-intensive and requires little formal training. The effects of the pandemic on the textile industry are especially concerning because the sector is a large source of employment in developing countries, including in Indonesia.

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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…

Why a ‘Nixon moment’ in India–China relations is unlikely

China's President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for a signing ceremony during Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, 10 June, 2018 (Reuters/Aly Song).

Author: Raj Verma, Huaqiao University

India–China relations have hit a nadir after the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley. Although disengagement and de-escalation is underway, tensions remain high. Some argue that there has been a Chinese and Indian leadership failure in ensuring amicable ties, pointing to ‘a historical failure on both countries’ parts to initiate a Nixonian moment in their relationship’, a reference to the former US president’s promoting pragmatic coexistence with China. 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…

Lifting the veil on Thailand’s COVID-19 success story

A promoter wears a face shield during the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show, after the Thai government eased measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 July, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Silva).

Author: Wannaphong Durongkaveroj, ANU

Thailand has been internationally praised for avoiding a COVID-19 disaster. Despite recording the first case of the virus outside of China on 13 January 2020, Thailand managed to avoid its first death until almost seven weeks later. Its peak of new daily COVID-19 cases was 188 in late March — a low figure compared to many Western countries.

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The COVID-19 squeeze on South Korea’s labour market

South Korean medical staff members wearing facemasks and protective clothing while on duty at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, South Korea, 19 March 2020 during the coronavirus outbreak (Photo: Reuters/Lee Young-ho).

Author: Vladimir Hlasny, Ewha Womans University

In the densely populated South Korea, just a hop away from China, COVID-19 hit early and strongly. By mid-February, South Korea had the second highest number of infections in the world. Since then the number of cases has been slowed down to a trickle — but clusters keep resurfacing in blind spots such as church congregations, fitness classes, night clubs and warehouses.

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IA-CEPA will not solve Indonesia’s FDI problem

Stacks of containers are seen at Tanjung Priok port amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, 3 August 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana).

Authors: Krisna Gupta and Andree Surianta, ANU

The Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) came into effect on 5 July 2020. It is intended to facilitate less restrictive movement of goods, services and investment between the two countries. As attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is a top priority for Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, a freer flow of investment from Australia is certainly welcomed. But while IA-CEPA holds promise for trade, there are issues that will undermine its effectiveness in helping Indonesia attract increased FDI. Read more…