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

Economic wins and lives lost during Duterte’s first year

A man, whose wife was arrested during an anti-drug operation and was found dead a day later, stands near fishing boats in Navotas, Metro Manila, Philippines, 5 December 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao).

Author: Cesar E A Virata, Manila

The first year of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration was marked by sustained GDP growth of 6.7 per cent — above average for ASEAN countries. This growth was supported by higher government spending in economic and social fields as well as by an increase in infrastructure spending to 5.6 per cent of GDP, as compared with less than 3 per cent under the previous administration. Read more…

New rhetoric but old policy for New Zealand

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern waves to student dancers upon her arrival to attend the ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Clark, Pampanga, northern Philippines, 12 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro).

Author: Gary Hawke, Victoria University of Wellington

New Zealand’s scheduled election in 2017 was expected to confirm the first four-term government since 1960–72. It instead resulted in a change of government. But the change of most importance to New Zealand occurred at the end of 2016: the election of US President Donald Trump. New Zealand and its neighbours are all considering how they relate to an Asia Pacific in which the United States is not a leader. Read more…

Lese majeste remained the Thai state’s mailed fist in 2017

Sulak Sivaraksa arrives for a court hearing where Thailand's military prosecutor will decide whether to proceed with a lese majeste case against him, in Bangkok, Thailand 17 January 17 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Tyrell Haberkorn, University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Thai dictatorship has methodically entrenched itself in the nearly four years since the 22 May 2014 coup ended Thailand’s tenuous democracy.

The expression of dissent remains forbidden and people face prosecution for protests and demonstrations that involve five or more persons. Any and all criticism of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is cast as sedition and is punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. Read more…

The end of Cambodia’s ersatz democracy

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends the celebration marking the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 9 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

In 2017, the world’s attention turned to Cambodia for all the wrong reasons.

When Cambodians went to the polls to elect municipal councils in July, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) saw a substantial boost in its support, particularly in the rural areas long considered a stronghold of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).  Read more…

Is Sri Lanka on course for a lost decade?

An Army soldier looks on from a tank, as Sri Lanka's national flag is seen in the background, at the parade during a rehearsal for Sri Lanka's 70th Independence day celebrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1 February 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Janeen Fernando, Verité

19 May 2019 will mark 10 years since the civil war in Sri Lanka ended with the complete annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Read more…

Cambodia’s path toward sustaining long-term growth

A Buddhist monk holds a riel banknote with the image of Buddha at a store in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 22 August 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Pheakdey Heng, Enrich Institute

After it graduated from Least Developed Country status in July 2016, Cambodia’s economy has remained healthy with a GDP growth rate of 6.9 per cent in 2017. This was driven by the recovering tourism sector, the ongoing construction boom and the gradual emergence of non-textile exports. Read more…

Duterte delivers a disquieting year

Government soldiers stand guard in front of damaged building and houses in Sultan Omar Dianalan boulevard at Mapandi district in Marawi city, southern Philippines, 13 September 2017 (Picture: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco).

Author: Ronnie Holmes, ANU

Though Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys high approval ratings (a feat that is unremarkable given his predecessor enjoyed the same public appreciation for almost the entire first half of his term), he continues to cause apprehension among organised groups that have criticised his pronouncements and actions. Read more…

Shine wearing off Taiwan’s Tsai

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has make up applied during an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan 27 April 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Kwei-Bo Huang, National Chengchi University

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has dominated both the executive and legislature since 20 May 2016. Despite this, Taiwan has not experienced stability under the government of President Tsai Ing-wen. Taiwan has instead experienced the rudeness, uneasiness and nonchalance associated with mediocre governance. Read more…

Thailand’s deepening authoritarian rule

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn takes part in a procession to transfer the royal relics and ashes of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from the crematorium to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, 27 October 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Eugenie Mérieau, University of Göttingen

With the help of Thailand’s military government, King Vajiralongkorn revised and then promulgated the country’s 20th constitution on 6 April 2017. The constitution is part of a roadmap towards the return of civilian rule (which is currently planned for 2019). Planned elections promise to be a masquerade: the junta has disseminated a legal and constitutional framework that will shield both the monarchy and the military’s power from the government in the event of a return to civilian rule. Read more…

China has unprecedented opportunities but bigger shoes to fill

A sculpture of shoes is displayed at Li Ning Center in Beijing, China, 20 June 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Kerry Brown, King’s College London

2017 was a very good year for China. There were no major domestic crises or disasters, and the leaders in Zhongnanhai had the rare pleasure of seeing their own politics seem tame by comparison to a United States that was beset by challenges and a spate of internal divisions around the Trump presidency. Read more…

Malaysia’s economy is back on the ball but must benefit all

A vendor arranges bananas at a wet market in Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research

How did the Malaysian economy perform during 2017?

Net exports surged from a negative growth rate of –14.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 to 1.4 per cent. These figures are higher than expected due to two key factors. Malaysian exports became more competitive because of the depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit against the US dollar. Read more…

The Empire Strikes Back: Hong Kong edition

Pro-democracy activists take part in a protest on China's National Day in Hong Kong, China, 1 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip).

Author: Ray Yep, City University of Hong Kong

2017 was a year of disillusion and anxiety for Hong Kong’s people.

It started with a false dawn. The unexpected decision of the hugely unpopular Leung Chun-ying not to seek a second term as chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region offered a glimpse of hope for the local community. Many see Leung as a divisive and manipulative visionary; by contrast, his successor Carrie Lam is a civil servant-turned-politician and has a reputation as a competent and fair-minded administrator. Read more…

Can the Trump administration survive 2018?

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks regarding the Administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC, US 18 December, 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts).

Author: Sheila A Smith, CFR

On 18 December 2017, Trump’s National Security Strategy offered the first glimpse of his translation of ‘America First’ rhetoric into policy priorities. The central role given to US economic priorities is striking, with an emphasis on renegotiating trade agreements and on reducing the country’s trade deficit. But the actual practice of Trump’s approach to Asia — while differing in rhetoric from the previous administration — suggests the possibility of continuity rather than change. Read more…

China and global economic risks

Customers look at Gate Towers of Zhengyang and Qianmen (part of Forbidden City) that were made with Lego bricks at a Lego store in Beijing, China, 13 January 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

On the surface of it, the global economic recovery looks stronger day by day. The International Monetary Fund has upped its forecasts and the underlying real growth trend in major industrialised country markets seems at last to validate the continuing exuberance of stock markets around the world. Read more…

China’s economy enters a new season of stability

A China Railway High-speed bullet train runs past Beijing's central business area, Beijing, China 13 December 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Author: Yu Yongding, CASS

Most Chinese economists believe that China’s growth has stabilised around 6.5 per cent (in line with its growth potential). The IMF echoes this view and expects the Chinese economy to grow by 6.8 per cent in 2018 and 6.5 per cent in 2019.

But other views on China’s growth in 2018 are less sanguine. Read more…