Category Archives: NEWS DIGEST

Regional Roundup for Week of 9.14.15

EXSE FOCUS

China Is Recreating the American ‘Hub-and-Spoke’ System in Asia – The Diplomat Participants discussed topics including Asia’s financial future, development and security, the postwar international order, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, energy security, counter-terrorism, and the role of NGOs in developing Asia’s identity, as well as the role of the media in building trust.

Related: Is the Czech Republic China’s New ‘Bridge to Europe’? – The Diplomat

Related: Understanding China’s Eurasian Pivot – The Diplomat

Related: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ looks to take construction binge offshore – Thanh Nien Daily 

Setback for Sino-Thai Rail Projects – Bangkok Post The Sino-Thai railway project with routes from the Northeast to Bangkok and the East will be delayed for about nine months because of questions about construction costs and unfinished surveys. Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith conceded that hurdles remained after a meeting on the project with Chinese authorities at a Bangkok hotel on Friday.//Evidence that the “sign first, ask questions later” approach is alive and well in the Xi Jinping era. There are fewer nuts harder to crack in Southeast Asia than the rivalries among Thailand’s ministries. China underestimated the difficulty level of this task. Insight into the flavor of One Belt One Road projects.

Suspected mastermind of Bangkok bombing believed to be in China – The Guardian Abu Dustar Abdulrahman, known as Izan, travelled to Bangladesh the day before attack and later left for Beijing, police say.//Look for exclusive analysis from Will Feinberg on the unraveling Erawan case and connections to China. We can imagine rail project delays above being linked to Sino-Thai tensions evolving out of Erawan case.

Related: India, Thailand Pledge to Deepen Defense Ties – The Diplomat

Related: Bangkok bomb linked to East Turkestan Islamic Movement, as Chinese media stops downplaying issue due to sensitivities over Uygurs – SCMP

Related: Somyot orders strengthening of immigration rules – The Nation

Related: Bomb plotters’ money trail detailed.

Lao National Assembly Approves Don Sahong Dam – East by Southeast Regional media and NGOs in Southeast Asia are calling the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River a “time bomb,” and the project’s recent approval by the Lao PDR government has initiated a ticking countdown.//Dams on the Mekong’s main stem are not a good idea.  Wait wait wait, until research shows this is an effective project for Laos.

Related: NGOs, Cambodia Voice Alarm at Lao Decision to Proceed with Don Sahong Dam – Radio Free Asia

Related: Laos Dam a Black Eye for Mekong Cooperation

Chinese Citizen Held by ISIS Poses Test for Beijing – NYT Some foreign policy experts hope Fan Jinghui’s capture will prompt Beijing to consider sending military resources to the Middle East to help reclaim territory held by Islamic militants.//China needs to step up participation in collective security efforts and cut its teeth abroad in conflicts like this especially if it wants to defend the Middle East/Strait of Hormuz in the future as the US considers military scaledown in the region. Time for China’s foreign policy to evolve.

Related: ISIS Says It Has Foreign Hostages – NYT

Related: Islamic State Threatens Chinese Hostage – The Diplomat

Myanmar: Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight – The Diplomat The increasing army presence to defend the construction of a controversial Salween river dam in southeastern Myanmar’s Shan state has sparked heightened concerns among rural villagers, who are determined to fight the development that threatens their livelihoods.

Related: What is it about No that SMEC doesn’t understand? – East by Southeast

ASEAN’s Dirtiest Challenge Makes an Unwanted Return – The Diplomat Can the region successfully tackle its haze problem?//No.

Related: Hazing rituals – The Economist: Asia

Related: Air quality at ‘unhealthy’ levels in Singapore and Malaysia as haze from Indonesia forest fires blankets the region – SCMP

Related: Airport in Riau paralyzed as haze grows thicker – The Jakarta Post

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China to hold live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait – The Guardian Chinese military will carry out three days of exercises close to disputed territory, as Taiwan practises its own response to submarine attack.

Related: Taiwan Practices Repelling PLA Invasion as China Conducts Firing Drills in Taiwan Strait – The Diplomat

Explaining China’s New ‘Commitments’ on the South China Sea – The Diplomat Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, made the biggest impression on August 3, just before the meetings proper. He called a press conference to announce that China would keep five commitments on the South China Sea issue.

Related: Watch Out China: Vietnam’s Coast Guard Will Fight Back – The Diplomat

Related: A New Indonesia Military Boost Near the South China Sea? – The Diplomat

Related: South China Sea: Satellite Imagery Makes Clear China’s Runway Work at Subi Reef – The Diplomat

Related: Philippines, Australia to Hold Joint Military Exercises – The Diplomat

China Flexes Tech Muscles Before a State Visit – NYT As President Xi Jinping of China prepares for his first state visit to the United States this month, Washington has warned that it could hit Chinese companies with sanctions over digital attacks for trade secrets.

Related: Cyberattacks are ‘not acceptable’, Obama warns ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit – SCMP

Related: US prosecutors drop fraud charges against professor accused of offering secret technology to China – SCMP

Related: Obama cancels traditional Waldorf Astoria hotel stay after Chinese takeover – The Guardian

Deportation dilemma: Is Beijing deliberately hindering expulsion of 39,000 Chinese from the US? – SCMP In early June, in cities across America, US immigration agents arrested more than two dozen Chinese nationals with unfulfilled deportation orders, telling them that after years of delay, China was finally taking steps to provide the paperwork needed to expel them…//Once again, a double standard defines the US-China relationship. 

Malaysia Likely to Pass TPP Despite Najib Troubles: Expert – The Diplomat Support deemed sufficient for country to get mammoth free trade pact through.//Evidence needed on how the US is backing Malaysia and Najib to help pass TPP there.  Anyone looking into this past the TIP upgrade?

Confirmed: Indonesia to Rejoin OPEC in December – The Diplomat Jakarta is set to return to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries later this year.

        Related: Is Jokowi Turning His Back on ASEAN? – The Diplomat

3 Men Laundered Over $5 Billion for Drug Cartels, U.S. Says – NYT Using the Chinese counterfeit market, a group of Colombians “provided the lifeline for drug cartels to operate and push illegal drugs into the United States,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Australia’s treaty-making process is broken. The China free trade deal is a case in point | Peter Whish-Wilson – The Guardian Australia’s treaty-making process is so flawed it is hard to have any confidence in the claimed benefits of deals like the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Chafta).

Related: China free trade agreement should be renegotiated or blocked, say unions – The Guardian

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Satellites to show the way forward for Mekong region – The Nation EFFICIENT NATURAL resource management, disaster warning and a reduction in the effects of climate change on the Lower Mekong region will be enhanced thanks to the SERVIR – Mekong project.//Effective programs outcomes from the US-led Lower Mekong Initiative are slowly trickling out. The US could and should increase its touch on the LMI. 

Related: Climate Change and Migration Across the Bay of Bengal – The Diplomat

Related: Tun Lwin: ‘Each Year There is Drought in the Dry Zone, Flooding in the Delta’ – The Irrawaddy

President ‘did not discuss’ Myitsone dam in China, says Ye Htut – DVB President Thein Sein did not engage in discussion about the Myitsone dam project when he met with China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) during his visit to China, says Information Minister and Presidential Spokesman Ye Htut.

Tianjin blasts: plans to turn site into ‘eco park’ mocked on Chinese social media – The Guardian Netizens describe proposal to rehabilitate explosion crater into lake as ‘disgusting’ with many concerned the blast site will remain a toxic mess for years.//See article below from China Dialogue on how China needs to take its time with soil pollution cleanup.

Related: Mainland Chinese authorities end search for missing from massive Tianjin warehouse explosion – SCMP

Related: China issues guidelines on handling dangerous industrial dust in wake of fatal explosion – SCMP

Related: Explosion at chemical plant in China’s eastern Zhejiang province; no casualties reported – SCMP

Related: Report on Toll From Shandong Blast Is Called ‘Coldblooded’ – NYT

China: Quantitative Easing and the Pollution Problem – The Diplomat Beijing could give new life to market-oriented reforms with a decisive program of cleaning up the environment as a quantitative easing measure, accompanied by efforts to steer consumer businesses to some of the cleaned sites, as a flagship program of the new five-year plan.

Related: Beijing approves masterplan to protect environment after decades of breakneck economic development – SCMP

Related: Something in the air: mysterious black belt of filth appears over Chinese city – SCMP

Related: Beijing Slams Henan Capital for Using Scarce Fresh Water to Combat Smog – ChinaFile

Related: China ‘should avoid rush job’ on cleaning up soil pollution – Chinadialogue

Mongolia’s Mega Coal Mine Deal Likely to Stall, Again – The Diplomat The Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in southern Mongolia is one of the world’s largest undeveloped coal deposits…Mongolia is being dug up and sold to China.

Related: China’s Energy Security Achilles Heel: Middle Eastern Oil – The Diplomat

Related: International Energy Agency’s new chief calls for China ‘partnership’ during first official trip – SCMP

Related: China helps Pakistan build world’s largest solar farm – The Third Pole

The ugly truth about Vietnam’s floating markets – Thanh Nien Daily While inhabitants of a market on the Mekong dump rubbish and relieve themselves in the waters, authorities still ponder what needs to be done.//Another example of a good thing growing too fast, lacking regulation, and ultimately facing prohibition. These markets would likely be labeled as “dirty, messy, substandard” in China and wiped from the waters despite important cultural and social networks created (not considering tourism dollars). Taxing and regulating the waters will be challenge for vein of market, traditionally known for avoiding state control.

Related: Pollution forces thousands of fish to surface for air on Saigon canal – Thanh Nien Daily

NCPO orders removal of fishing traps – The Nation FISHERMEN LAMENT LOSS OF TRADITIONAL LIVELIHOOD AS ALL EQUIPMENT REMOVED.

Related: Cambodian NGOs, Provincial Officials Applaud Interior Minister’s Warning Against Illegal Fishing – Radio Free Asia

Related: Rights body to hear SEZ land seizure concerns – The Nation

 

 

CHINA

China’s Response to Stock Plunge Rattles Traders – NYT In addition to imposing extraordinary restrictions on the sale of stocks, the authorities have harnessed a security apparatus usually more focused on political dissent.

Related: Global recession in next two years is ‘most likely’ scenario, says economist – The Guardian

Related: China’s Controversial Circuit Breaker Proposal – The Diplomat

Related: South Africa’s Inexplicable Love Affair with China – ChinaFile

Related: Modi asks billionaires if China’s pain can be India’s gain – Thanh Nien Daily 

China’s central bank governor says yuan has stabilised against the dollar – The Guardian Zhou Xiaochuan tells G20 meeting in Turkey the exchange rate ‘tends to be stable’ in the wake of the yuan’s devaluation and stock market chaos.

Related: London property developers eye Chinese buyers disillusioned with stock markets and devalued yuan – SCMP

Related: China’s Forex Follies – Project Syndicate

Overhaul of Chinese state-owned firms splits them into commercial and not-for-profit operations – SCMP Beijing has issued new guidelines for state-owned enterprises, splitting them into two main groups – those that are commercially orientated, and others that are focused on not-for-profit operations, sources said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister to Visit China – The Diplomat China and Iran will discuss their relationship under the “new circumstances” of the nuclear deal.

Related: China or Iran: Who Is the Bigger Threat to U.S. Airpower? – The Diplomat

Related: How China and India’s Noisy Nuclear Subs Contribute to Instability in Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Russia and China in the Arctic: Is the US Facing an Icebreaker Gap? – The Diplomat

China’s Military Cutbacks – NYT China announced that it would cut 300,000 troops, its largest reduction in nearly two decades.

Related: Foreign Investors and China’s Naval Buildup – The Diplomat

Related: Amnesty As a Stepping Stone to Rule of Law – ChinaFile

How Foreign Analysis of China’s Military Parade Missed the Point – The Diplomat Most outside analysis of China’s parade was surprisingly sensationalized, superficial, and over-interpreted.

Related: China, Egypt Consolidate Ties After Sisi’s Attendance at Military Parade – The Diplomat

Related: Remembering Yunnan’s Role in World War Two – GoKunming

Ex-chairman of state-owned China Resources to face bribery, embezzlement, adultery charges – SCMP Song Lin’s expulsion from Communist Party paves way for former head of conglomerate with five Hong Kong listed subsidiaries to be charged, China’s graft watchdog says.

Related: Two Chinese state firm officials face bribery charges in Kenya – SCMP

Related: China’s anti-graft watchdog again warns against dark side of the mooncakes – The Guardian

China Vows to ‘Intensify’ Fight Against Tibetan Separatists – The Diplomat Plus, new railways, military reform, and China in Southeast Asia.

Related: China marks 50th anniversary of Tibetan government with huge rally in Lhasa – SCMP

Related: Two More Tibetans Are Detained Following Solo Protests in Ngaba – Radio Free Asia

Related: I’m with the banned: China blocks Bon Jovi gigs – The Guardian

Will China’s growing box office dominance change Hollywood forever? – The Guardian China will overtake North America within three years to become the world’s largest film audience – which is great news for fans of Transformers and endless Terminator sequels.

Related: China accused of fraud over patriotic epic which shot down Terminator – The Guardian 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

In Myanmar, a Soft Coup Ahead of an Election – NYT The army is manipulating the political scene again to ensure that it remains in charge, election or not.

Related: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi calls for free and fair elections as campaign starts – SCMP

Related: Election 2015: Soe Thein spends big in campaign bid – DVB

KIA, govt troops clash as peace talks proceed – DVB Burmese government forces have clashed with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma, as President Thein Sein meets with leaders of the five major ethnic armed groups (EAOs) in Naypyidaw today to negotiate and finalise a date for the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

ADB, Myanmar Sign Framework Agreement to Expand Trade Finance – ADB The Government of Myanmar and ADB signed a framework agreement today that will allow ADB to expand its Trade Finance Program into Myanmar.

Related: GMS Ministers to Meet in Myanmar on Infrastructure Development – ADB

DNA on weapon does not match men accused of killing British tourists in Thailand – The Guardian Forensic expert says DNA found on bloodied garden hoe does not belong to two men standing trial for deaths of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Related: Thailand frees UK academic Wyn Ellis – The Guardian

Related: British academic detained at Bangkok airport for four days – The Guardian

Thailand’s Military Junta Rejects Draft Constitution – NYT Thailand’s military junta extended its rule by at least seven months when its reform council voted against a constitution written by its own drafting committee.

Related: Curiouser and curiouser – The Economist: Asia

Related: How to Save the Thai Economy – NYT

Related: ‘Don’t oppose me’: Thai Junta leader warns critics will be prosecuted – SCMP

Related: No peace soon in Thailand’s Deep South – New Mandala

Peter Dutton holds ‘productive’ talks in Cambodia over refugee resettlement – The Guardian Immigration minister’s visit comes after Cambodian government official said there were ‘no plans’ for the country to accept any more refugees from Nauru.

Related: Cambodia’s Montagnard Problem – The Diplomat

Related: Australian refugee deal with Cambodia dealt another blow after Rohingya man requests to go home – SCMP

Related: For China, Migrant Crisis Is Someone Else’s Fault, and Responsibility – NYT

Related: Police smash people-smuggling ring which brought more than 200 illegal Vietnamese workers to Hong Kong – SCMP

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Orders Arrest of Map Detractors Amid Vietnam Border Dispute – Radio Free Asia Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered police to arrest anyone who accuses the government of using “fake” maps and ceding national territory amid an ongoing political dispute over the demarcation of the Southeast Asian nation’s border with neighboring Vietnam.

The Challenge of Sustaining Asia’s Progress – ADB The launch of the SDGs later this month and the possibility of a global climate change deal by the end of the year will be two crucial pieces in the framework needed to drive continued economic success in Asia, says Independent Evaluation.

Related: Urbanization and Migration in Developing Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Asean bid to draw tourists from India – The Jakarta Post

Related: Proposed Lao Curbs on NGOs Seen as Choking Development Projects – Radio Free Asia

Singapore votes in snap election as opposition seeks end of one-party dominance – SCMP Singaporeans began casting their votes today in a snap parliamentary election after a heated campaign that boosted opposition hopes of further eroding half a century of dominance by the ruling party.

Related: What to Expect From the Next Government in Singapore – Asia Unbound

Related: Malay Pride Rally Stokes Race Politics in Malaysia – The Diplomat

This week’s new digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with comments by Brian Eyler.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 9.5.15

Apologies for the late posting as team ExSE snoozed through the Labor Day weekend in the US. Biggest news this week coming through our lens was the deepening investigation and arrests related to the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok.  It is apparent that Uyghur nationals, likely to have fled from China, were involved in the bombing and evidence suggests the yellow shirted bomber whose image was flung on media posts worldwide, is also Uyghur. Some analysts are saying that the Uyghur connection will only tighten the Sino-Thai bilateral relationship and further deepen China’s claims that Uyghur refugees are a destabilizing force in China and Southeast Asia, while others analysts suggest that Thailand will not again make the “mistake” of kowtowing to China (by repatriating scores of male Uyhgur nationals to China) when such actions lead to domestic and regional acts of terror with the potential to cripple Thailand’s tourism economy and threaten Prayuth Chan-ocha’s fragile military government.

EXSE FOCUS

 Dams, Climate Change Lead to Fish Decline in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap: FishermenRadio Free Asia The fish population in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake has declined significantly from a year ago, fishermen in the country’s Kampong Chhnang province said Friday, citing the construction of dams in the area and climate change, among other factors. Shortages have led to an increased price for fish in the region, making it harder for residents to put food on the table or make prahok, the fermented fish paste that is a staple of the Cambodian diet. //Although it’s cited as a contributing factor, fishing is something these families are highly dependent on – when securing food for the week is a challenge, (forget the prospect of sending your children to school), what options do they have?

 No Recourse: Upper Mekong Dam Spells End for Tibetan VillageEast by Southeast Dual influences of economic uncertainty in China and Southeast Asia and the unavoidable effects of climate change in addition to grassroots efforts are challenging the popular notion of a “domino effect” of inevitable hydropower development on the Mekong. While the domino effect on the Lower Mekong may be under question, it has prevailed in China’s stretch of the Mekong, silencing activism and subjecting affected communities and local ecologies to the vagaries of unchecked development. The 990MW Wunonglong dam, scheduled for completion in 2019, and the impacts of its reservoir on thousands of households serves as a case in point.

 Laos Officially Approves Controversial Dam ProjectThe Diplomat Laos’ parliament has approved the concession agreement for a controversial dam project, with construction expected to begin before the end of 2015, media sources reported earlier this week. The proposed 260-megawatt Don Sahong hydropower project is critical part of the Lao government’s hopes to transform the country into “the battery of Southeast Asia,” with revenues generated from exporting power to neighboring countries.//The Don Sahong dam is not a critical part of Laos’ plans to transform the country into the battery of Southeast Asia.  It’s a relatively small dam and the power will be distributed to the local area. However, the dam’s impacts will likely cut off a majority of seasonal migratory fish flows having a profound and devastating effect on fish biodiversity and food security for downstream countries of Cambodia and Vietnam.

China’s new Air Pollution Law omits key measures in war on smogChina Dialogue China’s revised Air Pollution Law has made changes almost every major article, after passing through three separate hearings and doubling in length from its original version. Several new elements have been added in the revised law, including articles about regional prevention and control of pollution, an alert system that gives warnings on weather conditions that worsen smog, and limits on particular levels of polluting compounds, particularly in vehicle fuels. Yet, for many, the revamped law is disappointing. The code fails to enshrine a basic right for China’s public to have clean air, and lacks a system for environmental public interest litigation. //With nearly half of China’s coal burning coming from industry, many are (rightfully) still waiting to see caps on coal usage for these major contributors.

Cambodia’s Political Truce Breaks DownCFR Now the longest-serving nonroyal ruler in Asia and the seventh-longest serving nonroyal ruler in the world, Hun Sen remains the ultimate survivor. For three decades, according to human rights groups, Hun Sen has used a combination of populist charm, control of the media through relations with media tycoons, outright intimidation, and relatively effective management of the economy to stay in power. Cambodia holds elections, but the deck tends to be stacked heavily against the opposition.

Related: It’s good to talk Southeast Asia Globe

Vietnam’s Boat People Mark Anniversary With Return to Refugee CampsRadio Free Asia A group of former “boat people” who fled persecution by the communist government in Hanoi at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 recently toured resettlement camps in Southeast Asia to mark their journey to sanctuary 40 years earlier, and to honor those who were not so lucky. The group set off from Australia on Aug. 20 as part of a “Back to Freedom” boat tour organized by the Archive of Vietnamese Boat People to sites in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand—four key destinations for refugees seeking asylum after the conflict.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Adrift in ASEAN: Tackling Southeast Asia’s Migration ChallengeThe Diplomat The ad hoc and variable nature of state responses to irregular migration flows in Southeast Asia reflects the absence of regional frameworks for addressing displacement and migration challenges.//Will Europe provide best practices for a coordinated ASEAN refugee policy?

Civil groups urge end to forced disappearance in ASEANThe Jakarta Post As ASEAN moves toward a single economic community, civil society groups have urged regional governments not to tolerate human rights violations and to address past abuses, including cases of forced disappearance.

Philippines, Vietnam to sign partnership deal by year-endThanh Nien News The Philippines and Vietnam will sign a “strategic partnership” agreement by the end of the year to bolster defence, political and economic ties, officials have said. “As strategic partners, we aim to deliver results… a cooperation at the highest possible level,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters late Wednesday. The deal would make Vietnam the Philippines’ second “strategic partner” after Japan, with which the Philippines is also bolstering military ties.

Related: Philippines, Vietnam to Ink Strategic Partnership by End of 2015The Diplomat

Chinese ships headed home after Bering Sea sighting: U.S. NavyThanh Nien News Five Chinese Navy ships sighted in the Bering Sea off Alaska during a visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama have begun their “return transit,” the U.S. Navy’s top uniformed officer told Reuters on Thursday. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said he did not view the incident, an apparent first for China’s military, as unexpected or alarming.//The Bering strait is a critical chokepoint for China’s ever-growing Arctic trade. The Chinese, Russian, and US navy will see increased activity in this region into the future.  Will naval crowding in the arctic lead to tension or provide an arena for joint cooperation? The US should push for the latter option.

Related: In a First, Chinese Navy Sails Off AlaskaNYT

What To Expect From Xi Jinping’s Visit to the US – The Diplomat With Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled to visit the United States late this month, U.S. commentators and presidential hopefuls are debating whether Xi’s planned state visit should be downgraded or even cancelled. Organizers of the visit settled on the September timing knowing full well the presidential campaign would likely produce a toxic media environment. To understand Xi’s coming U.S. visit, one must look beyond the Beltway—at least as far as Manhattan.

Related: Rethinking the Obama-Xi SummitThe Diplomat

Australia alarmed by strategic rivalry in South China Sea – Thanh Nien News Australia expressed alarm on Wednesday at escalating strategic rivalry in the South China Sea, saying it puts Asia at the risk of a military blunder with potentially serious consequences. China’s recent assertiveness in the South China Sea has increased military and diplomatic tensions between it and rival claimants, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Large dams are not the answer to climate change in the Mekong RegionEast by Southeast The Mekong River basin is home to over 65 million people. The ecological diversity within the basin sustains the region’s food security. The Mekong River is second to none when it comes to the amount and diversity of fish species which provide both food and income sources in Southeast Asia. But climate change is affecting many people now and it is not stopping. If high emitters of greenhouse gases are serious about addressing climate change, it is time that they started learning about climate justice. They need to learn about the myriad impacts of dams on people and the environment, which are already well known to millions of dam affected people globally.

Why Did China Opt Out of the Arctic Climate Change Statement?The Diplomat On Sunday and Monday, foreign ministers and other international leaders met in Anchorage, Alaska to attend the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience (GLACIER). After the conference, the representatives of the Arctic Council members signed a joint statement affirming “our commitment to take urgent action to slow the pace of warming in the Arctic.” The Arctic states were joined by 10 of the 12 Arctic Council permanent observers – with China and India as the holdouts.

 TNB’s power in 11,000 treesThe Star Online In an effort to conserve the environment, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has set a goal of planting 11,000 trees in 11 selected locations in the peninsula. TNB chairman Tan Sri Leo Moggie said the Tree for a Tree programme was an expression of the power company’s concern and commitment towards the sustainability of the environment in line with the country’s development.

Pelni, ASDP told to begin energy-conversion programThe Jakarta Post State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno has called on state-owned shipping firm Pelni and state-owned ferry operator PT ASDP Indonesia Ferry to immediately start their oil-to-gas energy conversion programs.

 

CHINA

Xi says China no threat, announces military cuts at paradeThanh Nien News As fighter jets streaked through the skies of Beijing and tanks rolled through Tiananmen Square to commemorate the end of World War II, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the world that the nation was committed to peace and announced the biggest cuts to the army in almost two decades. Xi said that army personnel would be reduced by 300,000, the largest reduction to the 2.3 million-strong military since 1997. The announcement foreshadows the most sweeping overhaul of the military in at least three decades, moving it closer to a U.S.-style joint command structure, people familiar with the matter said. //Not exactly in agreement with China’s display at the parade. Also, see article below about China’s unveiling of largest killer drone yet.

Related: China’s second world war commemorations – in pictures The Guardian

            Related: China’s leaner army may pose a bigger challenge to U.S.Thanh Nien News

China Unveils Its Largest Killer Drone To Date – The Diplomat China’s heaviest attack and reconnaissance drone to date, the Caihong 5 (CH-5), or Rainbow 5 recently made its maiden flight at an undisclosed airfield in Gansu province, according to China Military Online. According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese state television announced that the debut of the Rainbow 5 will “change the game in airstrikes.”

Weeks After Tianjin Blasts, Many Residents Await Compensation for Damaged HomesNYT The chemical blasts that rocked the northeastern port city of Tianjin last month damaged an estimated 17,000 homes, shattering windows, overturning furniture and knocking down walls. But more than three weeks after the explosions, many Tianjin residents have yet to receive compensation for their losses, and some say they have been pressured into dropping their claims. //Over 100 fatalities and many more injured, still waiting to be compensated. The consequences of corruption and official negligence at its worst.

Related: Behind Deadly Tianjin Blast, Shortcuts and Lax RulesNYT

IMF: Impact of China slowdown larger than expectedThe Jakarta Post China’s economic slowdown is having a broader impact on the global economy than originally expected, especially on emerging markets, the International Monetary Fund said late Wednesday. In a report for Group of 20 finance chiefs meeting this week in Ankara, the IMF said the turmoil in China and other factors like capital flow reversals were increasing the risks to economic growth around the world.

China-led AIIB to offer loans with fewer strings attached: sourcesThe South China Morning Post The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will require projects to be legally transparent and protect social and environmental interests, but will not ask borrowers to privatise or deregulate businesses for loans.

The China Economy: What Lessons for Africa? – Jakarta As the Chinese stock market falters, the economy slows and China’s economic footing doesn’t seem quite as secure as it did even just a few months ago, doubts are beginning to surface in Africa over whether it might be time to look beyond the China model.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Post-bomb Bangkok Moves on, But With New Sense of InsecurityThe Irrawaddy One Bangkok resident says he can’t shake the horrid sight of what he saw, or the smell of death. Another says the initial shock is gone and he’s returned to his old routine—work, happy hour and taking selfies. Two weeks have now passed since the bombing at a central Bangkok shrine, giving residents of the Thai capital time to digest what authorities call the deadliest attack the country has ever experienced.

Related: Bangkok bomb: police say man arrested unlikely to be main suspectThe Guardian

Vietnam needs over $3.86 billion to upgrade north-south railway: reportThanh Nien News Vietnam will possibly need nearly VND88.2 trillion (US$3.86 billion) to upgrade its north-south railway and increase the speed to 80-90 kilometers per hour from 50 kph at the moment, news website Dau Tu recently reported. The 1,726-kilometer railway will be able to transport 16 million passengers and 6 million tons of goods a year by 2020, it quoted the Vietnam Railway Authority as saying.

Garment Factories Downsize in Response to Minimum WageThe Irrawaddy At least one factory has shut down, and several others have reduced their workforces and cut allowances, following the government’s adoption of a minimum wage. Ahead of the introduction of a 3,600 kyats (US$2.80) minimum wage, which took effect on Sept. 1, the Sabel Pwint Garment Factory in Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone closed its doors. It is believed the company provided termination payments to all of its 237 employees.

Myanmar’s Election Chief Vows Free and Fair ElectionsRadio Free Asia Myanmar’s election chief gave a verbal assurance on Wednesday that the country’s general elections in November will be free and fair, while one ethnic minority party called on the government to delay the vote because of damage caused by heavy flooding. “It will be free and fair; otherwise, I wouldn’t hold the elections,” said Tin Aye, chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC), the body responsible for the polls in the country’s upcoming Nov. 8 general elections.

Related: Myanmar Election Body Rejects Muslim Parliamentary CandidatesRadio Free Asia

ADB, Myanmar Sign $3 Million Grant Flood ReliefADB The Government of Myanmar and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a $3 million grant agreement to finance relief efforts for communities affected by recent flooding and landslides. The agreement was signed by U Maung Maung Win, Permanent Secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Finance, and Winfried Wicklein, ADB’s Myanmar Country Director.

Rice Fields at Risk in Western Cambodia With Lack of RainfallRadio Free Asia
A delay to the beginning of the rainy season, which typically lasts from the end of May through the first half of October, has devastated provinces that are home to the country’s largest area of rice fields and plantations, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management Nhim Vanda told RFA’s Khmer Service. “In my experience, if there is no rain in September, the rice in Pursat and Battambang provinces will be destroyed,” he said. According to Nhim Vanda, several thousand hectares (one hectare = 2.5 acres) of rice fields across Pursat and Battambang—as well as in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Takeo, Kampot, Kampong Speu and Siem Reap—are at risk of failure if the rains do not come.

At least 13 dead after migrant boat sinks off Malaysia: officialThe Jakarta Post At least 13 people have drowned after a small wooden boat, believed to have been carrying about 70 Indonesian migrants, sank in the Malacca Strait early Thursday, Malaysian officials said.

 

YUNNAN

Remembering Yunnan’s role in World War TwoGoKunming While the capital celebrates and hundreds of millions watch the Beijing parade on television, Yunnan residents quietly reflect on their province’s stand in what is officially called the ‘Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression’. Although no parades will be held this year in Kunming commemorating those who fought and died, Yunnan’s stature as one of China’s last bastions of hope remains undiminished, if often a bit misunderstood.

Anning refinery fined for violation of national environmental lawsGoKunming Yunnan Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, was fined 200,000 yuan (US$31,000) for violating articles 19 and 24 of the national Environmental Protection Act. Specific details were not disclosed beyond mention of “significant changes and unauthorized construction” without the company filing required environmental impact assessment (EIA) documents.

This week’s digest was compiled by Rachel Tritsch with analysis by Rachel Tritsch and Brian Eyler.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 8.30.2015

A huge week for Asia. An epic stock market tumble in China had repercussions for markets globally and has raised questions over China’s economic strength, while a 3% devaluation of the yuan has stoked fears of a possible trade war. Much for Xi and Obama to talk about next month. In Thailand, a key suspect, thought to be a foreigner,  in the Erawan shrine bombing has been arrested. In the apartment he was found in, Thai authorities recovered bomb making materials and a stack of fake Turkish passports. Theories linking the bombing to the repatriation of scores of Uyghur refugees ealrier this summer seem to be correct. Stay with ExSE as the investigation digs further. 

EXSE FOCUS

Wall St. Slips Lower After a Wild WeekNYT Investors were calmed by strong growth figures from the United States, while China continued to take measures to shore up stocks and the renminbi. // The government announced earlier this year its plan to freeze annual GDP growth at 7%.  Recent stock slips could cause problems with this carefully calculated maneuver.

Related: Zombie Factories Stalk the Sputtering Chinese EconomyNYT

Related: Political Risks May Foil Economic Reform in ChinaNYT

Related: Press freedom watchdog calls for release of Chinese business reporterThe Guardian

Related: The US Still Runs the World – Project Syndicate

How to Solve China’s Currency Parity Puzzle?ChinaFile The yuan lost about 3 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar between August 11 and 13, roiling global equity markets and stoking fears that China had pushed a trade war button.

Related: What does China’s Shock Yuan Devaluation mean for Africa?China in Africa: The Real Story

Chinese Media Jumps on Tragic Virginia ShootingChinaFile Within China, the high rate of gun violence in the United States is widely known and often seen as a flaw in the U.S. political system, a criticism repeated after the Virginia shooting.

Thai Police Announce Arrest in Bangkok Shrine BombingNYT The Thai police on Saturday arrested a foreign man who they said was likely to have been involved in the Aug. 17 blast, which killed 20 people.//Look for ExSE’s analysis of the Erawan bombing, the search for the culprit and its connection to Uyghur and Pan-Turkic nationalism in SE Asia this week. 

Related: Bangkok Bombing Spotlights Uyghur Woes in Southeast AsiaThe Diplomat

Related: Hongkongers allowed to cancel Bangkok trips dated up to September 10 after shrine blastSCMP

National Security Adviser Meets With Chinese President Before His U.S. VisitNYT Susan E. Rice met with President Xi Jinping and other officials and discussed a number of issues that included areas of tension between the two nations.

Related: China’s Vulnerability Is a Test for U.S. Presidential CandidatesNYT

Related: Can President Xi’s September Visit Save US-China Relations?The Diplomat

Related: US-China Strategic Rivalry: Balancing the RebalanceThe Diplomat

Sit-In Leaders Are Charged in Hong KongNYT Three students who led last year’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong were charged over their roles in setting off the massive rallies and sit-ins.

Related: Hong Kong Christian Groups Feel New Scrutiny From Mainland NYT

Related: ‘Secret’ meeting between Democratic Party members and Beijing official a step on the right pathSCMP

REGIONAL RELATIONS 

A Military Game of Chicken in the South China Sea? The Diplomat Amid criticisms of China’s island-reclamation activities, the U.S. and China continued to trade accusations that the other is militarizing the South China Sea.

Related: Taiwan and Its South China Sea Peace InitiativeThe Diplomat

Related: Philippine Nationalism and the South China SeaThe Diplomat

Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’The Guardian Laws affecting funding, requiring registration and prohibiting protest are among controls that are making it difficult for NGOs and other campaign groups.

Related: British rights activist charged with defamation in ThailandThe Guardian

Related: Lao Migrants To Be Witnesses in Thai Human Trafficking CaseRadio Free Asia

China, Japan battle to build Indonesia’s first bullet trainThe Jakarta Post China and Japan are locked in an increasingly heated contest to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway, with the Asian giants sweetening deals and turning up the charm as time runs out to woo Jakarta.//Add high-speed rail to the growing list of projects where the Japanese and Chinese. Look for an ExSE report on Chinese, Thai and Japanese cooperation and competition on Myanmar’s Dawei Deep Sea Port project coming soon. 

Chinese oil rig to continue drilling near Vietnamese coastSCMP A Chinese oil rig at the centre of last year’s standoff between China and Vietnam will continue drilling not far from Vietnam’s coast, China’s maritime safety authorities said on Tuesday.

US visa programme popular with Chinese derided as ‘immigration reform for 1pc’SCMP With immigration a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, unions and immigrant advocates are targeting a federal visa programme popular with Chinese that they deride as “immigration reform for the 1 per cent.”//Tied up in this are discussions about job creation and China pursuing corruption and graft suspects abroad. 

Related: US regulator freezes assets of immigration consultant accused of defrauding 250 Chinese investorsSCMP

US Admiral: China ‘Very Interested’ in RIMPAC 2016The Diplomat China was invited to participate in RIMPAC for the first time in 2014, but some have already argued that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) should not be invited back in 2016.

Related: Should the Pentagon Fear China’s Newest Weapon? – The Diplomat

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China, US to cooperate in developing ‘clean coal’ technologies to help combat climate changeSCMP Officials from China and the United States have taken a major step towards an agreement to advance “clean coal” technologies that claim to reduce the fuel’s contribution to climate change.//Climate change mitigation continues to be a great point of cooperation between the US and China. Good to see that stress in other areas of the bilateral relationship haven’t prevented building upon past achievements in climate change research. 

Dams ‘destroying Mekong fish stock’The Nation Fishermen in delta and Northeast Thailand say dams in China and Laos have hit breeding and yields, forcing many to quit.//ExSE has been personally observing fish stock depletion in Chiang Rai province for the past three years. There is little doubt in our minds that hydro projects on the upper Mekong are indeed causing fish population decline.  

Related: Large dams are not the answer to climate change in the Mekong RegionMekong Commons

Related: Black Markets in China Still Driving World’s Tiniest Porpoise to ExtinctionNYT

Adapting to air pollution with clean air stands in China – The Guardian To adapt or mitigate? As with climate change, both mitigation and adaptation are needed to tackle air pollution in China.

Related: Air quality rule changes put heat on local authorities SCMP

Related: A Small Chinese Experiment With Large Environmental ImplicationsThe Diplomat

Thai Locals Incensed over Krabi Coal Power PlanThe Irrawaddy Many residents of Krabi, a popular tourism province in southern Thailand, are opposing the government’s plan to build a coal plant close to their homes.

Work starts on Vietnam’s first solar power plantThanh Nien News Potential is huge as Vietnam records around 2,000-2,500 hours of sunlight annually.

Edinburgh zoo says giant panda Tian Tian lost cub during pregnancyThe Guardian Giant panda had been expected to give birth last week, but experts now suspect she absorbed the foetus into the womb.

Thailand destroys 2-tonne ivory stockpile amid junta crackdownSCMP Thailand destroyed more than two tonnes of ivory Wednesday – a victory for animal rights groups fighting against the trade in a country renowned for being a hub for illegal tusks.

Related: US praises Thailand for crushing 2.1 tonnes of illegal ivoryThe Nation

Related: Vietnam seizes elephant tusks, pangolin scales in large shipment from MalaysiaThanh Nien News

CHINA

China Holds 23 Linked to Fatal Blasts in TianjinNYT Chinese leaders have moved vigorously in recent days to quell outrage over the blasts, which rattled top leaders and raised questions about the safety of China’s industrial zones.// It was never in doubt that officials’ heads would roll over the Tianjin blast – of course many of them are being investigated for corrutpion.

Related: China’s Disaster ManagementNYT

Related: Plans submitted to move, upgrade about 1,000 chemical plants in China after Tianjin explosions disaster SCMP

Explosion at China chemical plant leaves one dead and nine injuredThe Guardian One person has been killed and nine injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China, state media has said.

A Fake Goldman Sachs Underlines a Real Chinese StrengthNYT The investment bank joins a long list of counterfeits that includes Apple stores and British villages.

Related: Fake iWatches, salt, marijuana and Starbucks: A look at China’s counterfeitsSCMP

China arrests Christians who opposed removals of crossesThe Guardian Human rights lawyer and church activists understood to be among people detained after Communist party campaign to take down religious symbols.

Human Rights Lawyer Prevented From Flying Out of BeijingNYT Liang Xiaojun is part of a large circle of rights lawyers in China, hundreds of whom have been questioned or detained since early July in a crackdown.

Related: The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed – The Guardian

Top bosses at website of Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily detained for suspected graftSCMP The president and a vice-president of People.cn – the website of People’s Daily – have been taken away by Henan prosecutors for alleged bribery, state media reported yesterday.//It appears that with the arrests of journalists for reporting ‘fake information’ on China’s stock market crash, and now this, that Xi’s anti-corruption drive has switched gears. As an acquaintance said, “We always knew you couldn’t talk about politics, but now it seems you can’t talk about anything.”

Related: China’s Communist Party silences former critic, the liberal Nanfang news groupSCMP

 

China Denies Sending Additional Troops to North Korean BorderThe Diplomat China’s state media stayed away from the story – in fact it appeared that censors were actively deleting the relevant social media posts – and on Thursday, China’s Defense Ministry officially denied the reports.

Related: Assessing North Korea’s ‘Ground Game’ with ChinaThe Diplomat

The leading power: China to take charge in Iran’s nuclear plant revampSCMP Iranian Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation, on Friday said China would play “a leading role” in redesigning the Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output.//With the world watching Iran’s post-deal nuclear program, this is a good opportunity for China to positively involve itself in a very significant project. Good to see China taking Great Power responsibility.

Related: China to the rescue? Mugabe banks on Beijing for Zimbabwe’s revival, as opponents jeerSCMP

Related: Chinese Investment in Africa: Surprisingly Small, but Growing FastChinaFile

Chinese military on charm offensive as it announces joint drills with Malaysia, US and AustraliaSCMP The military will hold joint drills with Malaysian forces in the strategic Strait of Malacca next month, the defence ministry said yesterday, as a training exercise launched featuring Chinese, Australian and American troops.

Related: A Swift proposal: US wants coastguard agreement with China to help keep peace at seaSCMP

Related: Russia and China Kick Off Naval Exercise in Sea of Japan – The Diplomat

Related: Philippines, Malaysia Hold Joint Naval Exercises Amid Security Concerns – The Diplomat // Although the listed reasons for     cooperation do not include protection against China’s militarization in the South China Sea, could this be some early signs of Southeast Asian military alliance against China’s efforts to dominate the territory?

SOUTHEAST ASIA

ASEAN members discuss effective border security – The Jakarta Post Representatives of ASEAN member countries highlighted the importance of effective border security amid rapidly increasing connectivity in Asia during a regional meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday.//With the ASEAN Economic Community’s implementation happening sometime in the next century, border security will be a priority for ASEAN members. 

UN warns of fresh wave of boatpeople in Asia as monsoon season endsSCMP A fresh surge of refugees and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh is expected to set out in smugglers’ rickety boats for southeast Asia when the monsoon season ends in about a month, the United Nations said.//After a disastrous spring, all eyes should be on the Andaman Sea and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia’s handling of the refugee crisis.

Related: A break for the border: Mae SotSoutheast Asia Globe Magazine

Related: Koh Kong zone ‘will reduce illegal migrants’ NationMultimedia.com

Myanmar Democracy Icon Finds Herself Assailed as AuthoritarianNYT As landmark elections approach, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, is being openly criticized by activists, commentators and intellectuals.//ASSK should be a more outspoken proponent of minority rights in Myanmar. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily win you votes with the people who forms her party’s base.

Related: 2 More Opposition Candidates Disqualified by Election CommissionThe Irrawaddy Magazine

The Truth About Myanmar’s New Discriminatory LawsThe Diplomat The euphemistically-termed “Protection of Race and Religion” bills raise serious questions about the country’s future.

Related: Rohingya IDPs Detained in Rangoon: PoliceThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Related: Myanmar Striking Rohingya From Voter Rolls, Activists SayNYT

Ceasefire date will follow next meeting: govtDVB Multimedia Group A date will be announced for the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) after next month’s meeting between ethnic leaders and President Thein Sein, according to the Burmese government’s chief negotiator at the peace talks, Union Minister Aung Min.

Related: Arakan Army Calls for Calm After Bangladesh Border Clash – The Irrawaddy Magazine

Thai soldiers helping Myanmar flood victimsNationMultimedia.com The Royal Thai Armed Forces yesterday dispatched 51 soldiers on a C130 aircraft to help flood victims in Myanmar.

Related: Chin Govt Requests $15.5m Flood Rehabilitation GrantThe Irrawaddy Magzine

Related: ADB to Provide $3 Million For Myanmar Flood ReliefADB.org News Release

Disputes Continue Over Cambodian Government’s Official MapRadio Free Asia A Cambodian official in charge of the country’s borders denounced an opposition lawmaker who accused him of lying about a map of the Southeast Asian nation he found in the U.S. Library of Congress, amid ongoing debate over the charts that the government uses to demarcate its border with Vietnam.

That’s a lot of dope: Cambodia seizes US$7 million worth of marijuana hidden in coffee bags SCMP Cambodian police on Tuesday showed off a seizure of nearly 1.5 tonnes of marijuana worth more than $7 million packed into coffee bags, part of an ongoing drug crackdown in the country.

‘First Lady’ of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge dies at 83Thanh Nien Daily “Her body will be cremated on Monday evening,” her son Ieng Vuth told AFP by telephone from Pailin.

Vietnam to free 18,200 prisoners in amnesty, but no political activistsThe Guardian Country’s second biggest-ever amnesty to mark independence celebrations includes release of 34 foreigners.

Related: Hanoi to close 40 streets for National Day paradeThanh Nien Daily

Malaysia finds mass graves of 24 suspected human trafficking victimsThe Guardian Malaysian authorities have found mass graves containing the remains of more than 20 people believed to be human trafficking victims near the border with Thailand, police said on Sunday.

No more Mr Nice GuyThe Economist: Asia DOWN a quiet lane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, campaigners at trestle tables are doing a roaring trade in yellow T-shirts. The volunteers have already flogged more than 30,000 of the garments, which are becoming de rigueur for Malaysians planning to attend protests on August 29th-30th to demand the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak.//Protests ongoing, former PM of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad has called for Najib’s resignation as well. 

Related: Malaysia blocks website calling for anti-Najib protest over 1MDB scandalSCMP

Singapore Gears Up for its September 11 ElectionThe Diplomat The city-state’s next general election will be a key test for its ruling party.

YUNNAN

Yunnan poverty rate drops dramaticallyGoKunming Recently released statistics from the Yunnan Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development show Yunnan’s poorest are significantly better off than they were four years ago. While millions continue to live at bare minimum levels, a dramatic decrease in what is termed ‘absolute poverty’ over the past four years is sign for optimism.

Yunnan’s Dulong minority, isolated no moreGoKunming The survey team from Yunnan University found state-funded housing and road projects are transforming the culture of the Dulong people (独龙族), who have for centuries inhabited the Dulong River area largely undisturbed. Now, with the opening of a tunnel and road in 2014, their traditional way of life has been changed and sometimes disrupted by a permanent link to the outside world. // Does the end of isolation in a globalizing world mean the end of zomia?

This week’s news digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with analysis by Will Feinberg.

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Regional roundup for week of 8.23.15

EXSE FOCUS

Bangkok Bomb Attack at Popular Shrine Kills at Least 20-NYT A bomb placed inside a Bangkok religious shrine frequented by tourists exploded Monday evening, killing at least 20 people, hurling body parts onto the pavement, shattering windows and creating panic in one of the city’s most popular districts. At least 123 people were reported wounded in what Thailand’s top police official and others called a vicious act meant to target civilians. The explosion came at a particularly busy time of day at the Erawan Shrine, an important tourist attraction in Bangkok’s main shopping area.//Although suspects related to the case have been apprehended, police fear bomber has left the country. Watching CCTV clips of the bomber getting away reminds us of the high levels of video surveillance on every corner in developing Southeast Asia.  

Related: Thai Police Seek ‘Foreign Man’ in Bombing of Bangkok Shrine-NYT

Related: Bangkok Bombing Not Likely to Be Tied to Foreign Terrorism, Thailand Says-NYT

Related: China fears its tourists were target for Bangkok bombers-The Guardian 

Related: Bangkok bomb: Thai capital reeling after deadliest attack in years-The Guardian

Game of thrones: The Economist RESIDENTS of Bangkok, which has seen more than its share of political unrest, sometimes seem hard to shock. But the bomb which exploded at the Erawan shrine in Thailand’s capital on August 17th, killing more than 20 people and injuring about 100, has unnerved and bewildered in equal measure. It was timed to explode at a packed intersection during the evening rush hour. Grainy video footage just before the blast shows a young man slipping off a rucksack near the site. Some blame Muslim separatists in Thailand’s deep south. Others say it is “red-shirt” supporters of the populist government driven out in a coup last year.

Obama Administration Warns Beijing about Covert Agents Operating in U.S.-NYT The Obama administration has warned Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents operating secretly in the United States to pressure prominent expatriates to return home immediately, according to American officials. The American officials said that Chinese law enforcement agents covertly in this country are part of Beijing’s global campaign to hunt down and repatriate Chinese fugitives and, in some cases, recover allegedly ill-gotten gains. The Chinese government has officially named the effort Operation Fox Hunt.//The Sino-US relationship is a game of tennis where the balls grow spikes with every volley.  

Related: China lashes out at US after claims Beijing is deploying ‘covert agents’-The Guardian

Pentagon to Increase Drone Flights Over South China Sea-The Diplomat The U.S. Department of Defense is planning to step up the number of drone surveillance flights by 50 percent over the next four years the Wall Street Journal reports. A senior defense official told the Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon in particular seeks to improve its intelligence collection capabilities in places such as Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, North Africa, and the South China Sea.

Related: Diplomacy and the South China Sea-The Diplomat

Vietnam Warns of Coming Economic Bombshell for Mainland Southeast Asia-The Diplomat Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar are the poorest, least well-run countries within ASEAN. They are also notoriously publicity-shy. Anything negative that needs to be shared is usually served-up amid a flurry of bureaucratic dogma that tends to bury the bad news. The messages are still there, but one needs to pay attention.

Will China Take Over US Military Facility in Djibouti?-The Diplomat Citing Global Times and Counter Punch, Want China Times says that “Djibouti reportedly ordered the U.S. to vacate the Obock military base so that it can be turned over the People’s Liberation Army.” The United States’ actual permanent base in Djibouti is at Camp Lemonnier; Obock is a port city with an existing airport and naval pier. Washington is reportedly deeply concerned about the move, which would give China its first-ever overseas base — one that incorporates U.S.-built facilities.//China has been monitoring pirates off the north-east African coast in joint missions with the US for nearly a decade. This port if realized fits nicely into China’s plan to defend the 21st Century Maritime trade route with its navy. As mentioned would be a big step in a new direction for the principles of China’s foreign policy – although Xi signaled this step when he took power.   

Vietnamese plea to Thailand: Don’t divert the Mekong-The Nation PEOPLE in Vietnam hope Thailand will reconsider its plan to divert water from the Mekong – because it would seriously affect their ability to produce food. The Mekong Delta is Vietnam’s most important agricultural area. Each year, the area produces the most rice and fruit in the country. This region also nurtures many freshwater fish species, which are an important source of protein for local people. However, this key food production could be jeopardised by large water management projects upriver, Vietnamese experts have warned.//Future dam operators to future everyone else in Southeast Asia: Don’t divert the Mekong. How can a watershed that’s being used for so many other purposes handle/manage/coordinate a cascade of large dams? 

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Towards A Real Solution to Southeast Asia’s Refugee Crisis-The Diplomat It took the foreign ministers of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand more than ten days to sign a joint agreement that would allow the rescue of thousands of dehydrated and starving Rohingya and Bangladeshis who had been drifting in the Andaman Sea for weeks. Under enormous international pressure, these three countries offered to help 7,000 people at sea. In fact, their gesture is far less meaningful than it seems.

The Strategic Costs of TPP Failure-The Diplomat The Trans-Pacific Partnership is in trouble. Trade ministers failed last month to conclude the massive 12-nation trade deal by their hoped-for summer deadline, putting negotiations in danger of collapse. This is a problem. Trade advocates argue that letting the TPP die would be a significant lost opportunity for the global economy. But there’s a potentially bigger problem here – one that may have serious consequences for both U.S. national security and regional stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Everybody needs good neighbours-SEA Globe Magazine Australia has been accused of bribing human traffickers, paying off the Cambodian government to take in refugees and spying on East Timorese officials. With geopolitical tensions at boiling point, Australia’s actions could have damaging repercussions for its relationship with Southeast Asia

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions May Have Been Overstated by More Than 10%-NYT Scientists may have been overestimating China’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving global warming, by more than 10 percent, because of inaccurate assumptions about the country’s coal-burning, according to a study published on Wednesday. //Study calls into question studies conducted on U.S. (and other big emitters) carbon emissions. Do these estimates overstate or understate the carbon emitted by other countries? Highlights the importance of continual questioning where scientific predictions/estimation are concerned 

Related: China’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels may be 14% lower than thought-The Guardian

 Red Pandas Are Adorable and in Trouble-NYT The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which assesses the status of wild populations of animals (red pandas), estimates that about 10,000 live in the wild, in two subspecies, all on mountain slopes in a narrow band running from western China to Nepal. Deforestation and disease threaten them now, and climate change looms. //Part of China’s larger decline in total biodiversity, a trend often made known through the publicized decline of an exceptionally well-known, charismatic species, such as the red panda.

 Chinese mock claims Beijing is most liveable city despite smog lifting-The Guardian Social media users express incredulity that the capital was ranked the country’s best city to live in while disaster-hit Tianjin was ranked the second best. Chinese internet users have mocked a report claiming that Beijing is the country’s most liveable city even as they enjoy unusually blue skies in the lead-up to a major military parade. China’s capital city ranked 69th out of the world’s 140 most liveable cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) semi-annual survey, released this week.

What Made Chinese Mayors Step Up Pollution Fight?-The Diplomat With demands for swift and decisive action ringing in their ears, municipal leaders have responded by ordering drastic measures, such as tough curbs on sectors including vehicle use, construction, and the burning of coal, all of which produce tiny particulate matter deemed extremely harmful to human health. The Henan city of Zhengzhou saw a miraculous improvement in July, after suffering awful air quality for the first half of the year. More than three weeks ago, air quality reached a “good” level, and almost vaulted the city into the “excellent” category.

Floods cause clean water shortages across Burma-DVB Multimedia Group Flooding has affected 12 out of 14 states and regions since early this month, with western and central Burma suffering the most severe inundation. According to the United Nations, by 11 August about 1.1 million people were affected and 240,000 displaced, while about 700,000 acres of farmland were destroyed, raising fears of food security problems and rising food prices.

Lao Loggers Backed by Corrupt Officials Pillaged Champassak Forests in July-Radio Free Asia Illegal logging in southern Laos’ Champassak province was particularly devastating on forests in July, according to a local police officer, who said businessmen working in tandem with high-ranking officials raced to cut timber in the region ahead of the start of the rainy season.

The Mekong region’s urban future: Why learning from a rural lifestyle could build sustainable cities-Mekong Commons Urbanization in the Mekong Region is transforming societies that were once dependent upon agricultural production, as they become predominantly industrialized and market-based. As this urban expansion unfolds, it is bringing new challenges to urban and rural communities who are changing their lifestyle and livelihoods in order to adapt. Some inhabitants in the Mekong’s emerging cities haven’t fully let go of their rural traditions and habits, raising the question is it bringing a more sustainable lifestyle to established urban communities?

 

CHINA

Tianjin and China’s Industrial Calamities-NYT The lax enforcement of safety regulations and endemic corruption make for a dysfunctional government.  Tianjin is an important industrial port in northern China, about a half-hour ride from Beijing on the new high-speed rail line. Tianjin is seen as the shape of things to come in the new China. Then on the night of Aug. 12, a series of huge blasts at a hazardous-materials warehouse owned by Rui Hai International Logistics killed more than 100 people and shattered that dream. The explosions reduced the surrounding area to ruins, displacing thousands of local residents, many of whom remain angry at the government’s poor handling of the disaster.

Related: New Concerns in Tianjin Blast After Dead Fish Are Found-NYT

Related: Chinese Report Details Role of Political Connections in Tianjin Blasts-NYT 

Related: Fear of Toxic Air and Distrust of Government Follow Tianjin Blasts-NYT 

Related: Tianjin explosions: sodium cyanide on site may have been 70 times allowed amount-The Guardian

Related: Tianjin blasts: Communist party insists there will be no cover-up as anger grows-The Guardian

China Woes Send Stocks Into Tailspin-NYT Plummeting stock markets worldwide signal that investors have not gotten over the shock of China’s devaluation last week. The selling began in Asia, punishing Chinese stocks once again. It then moved to Europe, walloping markets in Germany and Italy, and ended with a rush for the exits in the United States. Along the way, the price of oil traded near six-year lows and currencies of developing countries suffered further pain. Astonishingly, the currency of Kazakhstan lost a fourth of its value against the dollar after the country’s government let it trade freely in the markets.

Related: Stocks Plunge Sharply for a Second Day on Wall Street-NYT

Related: New China stock market plunge prompts global jitters-The Guardian

 China’s Currency Again Left Out of I.M.F. Basket-NYT China must wait until at least next year for the renminbi to join an exclusive club of the world’s top currencies, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday. The fund’s board voted to leave unchanged until Sept. 30, 2016, a basket of currencies used in its operations. China, the world’s second-biggest economy, had wanted the I.M.F. to include the renminbi in the basket along with the United States dollar, the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen starting Jan. 1.

Chinese police arrest 15,000 for cybercrimes-The Guardian Public security ministry says police have investigated 66,000 websites and 7,400 cases of cybercrime over unspecified period Police in China say they have arrested about 15,000 people for crimes that “jeopardised internet security”, as the government moves to tighten controls on the internet.

China Tests New Missile Capable of Hitting Entire United States-The Diplomat On August 6, China has tested its newest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with two guided simulated nuclear warheads, according to information obtained by The Washington Free Beacon. The August 6 flight test was the fourth time a DF-41 (CSS-X-20) long-range missile has been tested in the last three years and allegedly confirmed that the ICBM is capable of carrying multiple warheads.

A Chinese Rights Revolution Reversed?-The Diplomat The recent roundup of over 200 rights lawyers in China was greeted with shock in the U.S. But to us, it is not surprising. For all its exhortations for citizens to “use the law as your weapon,” our research indicates that the Communist Party never meant to foster a bona fide rights movement. For years many China watchers saw signs that China was moving in the direction of political liberalization, if slowly. While political reforms have been less dramatic than the better-known story of economic reform, these changes raised hopes that China would pursue a path of gradual political reform that would soften its autocracy and perhaps lead to real democracy.

Tibetan Youth is Detained After Staging Solo Protest in Lithang-Radio Free Asia Police in southwestern China’s Sichuan province detained a young Tibetan man this week after he launched a brief protest in a public square, calling out for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said. The protest by the still-unidentified youth took place at about 9:40 a.m. on Aug. 18 in Lithang (in Chinese, Litang) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan monk now living in India and originally from Lithang told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

           

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Conservatives in Myanmar Force Out Leader of Ruling Party-NYT The party’s leadership did not explain the underlying reasons for the change, but the ouster appeared to be part of a struggle for power. The head of Myanmar’s governing party has been removed from his post in what one aide described as a “coup,” the most visible sign yet of splintering within the country’s military elite and the resurgence of conservative forces that dominated under decades of military rule. //Ongoing  implications of Shwe Mann’s ousting.  Check out ExSE’s analysis here.  

Related: Aung San Suu Kyi Calls Ex-Leader of Myanmar Governing Party an ‘Ally’-NYT

Related: Turmoil in Burma’s military-backed ruling party as leaders are deposed-The Guardian

Related: Burma’s parliament resumes as tensions simmer in military-backed ruling party-The Guardian

 Myanmar’s Best Hope for Peace-NYT Myanmar is one step away from a historic deal that could end seven decades of internal armed conflict. On Aug. 6-7 representatives of the Myanmar government, including from the armed forces, met with leaders of the country’s ethnic armed groups and finalized the text of the Nationwide Cease-Fire Agreement. An adviser to the Myanmar government argues that the nationwide cease-fire agreement is a major step toward ending one of the most intractable conflicts in Asia.

Myanmar’s Elections: Jostling for Power-The Diplomat Myanmar is soon to hold elections for regional/state assemblies, the national parliament, and the president. Voting for the first two, scheduled for November 8, will influence the third – the election of the president, which may take place in February 2016. Much is at stake, not only for political forces within the country but also for powers elsewhere in the region. The process of conducting free and fair elections and their eventual outcome will very likely influence regional politics.

Related: 6,000 candidates registered for November election-DVB Multimedia Group

 Cambodian court jails 11 opposition activists for ‘insurrection’-The Guardian Draconian penalties include 20-year sentences for three of the activists convicted over 2014 protests in Phnom Penh. Eleven Cambodian opposition members and activists have been jailed on insurrection charges, including three who received 20-year sentences, a defence lawyer has said. Rights groups said the draconian penalties, for taking part in clashes in July 2014 over the closure of a key protest site in the capital, were imposed as leader Hun Sen intensifies efforts to smother dissent in a kingdom he has led for more than three decades.

Ruling Party Official Writes Off Sam Rainsy’s Commitment to Cambodia’s ‘Culture of Dialogue’A senior official with Cambodia’s ruling party on Wednesday dismissed opposition leader Sam Rainsy as insincere after he pledged his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) would scale back criticism of the government for its handling of a border dispute with neighboring Vietnam.

Vietnam jails Australian man for trying to send drug precursor chemicals home-The Guardian Nguyen Ly Toan, 39, gets 20 years after customs agents found contraband disguised as cooking ingredients in a package bound for his wife in Australia. Vietnamese authorities have sentenced an Australian man to 20 years in jail for trying to send drug precursor chemicals through the post. Nguyen Ly Toan, 39, was arrested in July 2013 after Vietnamese customs agents discovered the chemicals in a package bound for Australia.

Why Vietnam is the most investor-friendly country in Southeast Asia-Thanh Nien Daily Vietnam is the most investment worthy place in ASEAN – this is a common response of many foreign investors when being asked about their investment plan in the upcoming years. This is not an exaggeration about Vietnam’s current investment environment as well as its potentiality but is in fact based on valid and practical grounds, where improved economic diversification, international integration, reformed investment legislation and good economic policy must be counted.

This week’s news digest was compiled by Brooke Rose with analysis by Brooke Rose and Brian Eyler.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 8.16.2015

EXSE FOCUS

China Moves to Devalue the Yuan – WSJ China’s central bank devalued its tightly controlled currency, causing its biggest one-day loss in two decades, as the world’s second-largest economy continues to sputter. Chinese authorities said the change would help drive the currency toward more market-driven movements. The move also signaled the government’s growing worry about slow growth. A shift toward a weaker currency could help flagging exports at a time when many other efforts to boost the economy haven’t proven very effective. // Malaysian ringgit and Indonesian rupiah are also falling on this news. Besides showing Chinese weakness, falling Asian currencies might spur US Fed to delay rate hike this fall.

Tianjin, a Port in China, Is Rocked by Explosions That Killed DozensNYT At least 44 died and hundreds were reported injured in the blasts, which caused a huge fireball in the city, about 90 miles east of Beijing. Thunderous, fiery explosions at a warehouse containing hazardous goods traumatized this northeast port city late Wednesday, killing at least 44 people, injuring at least 400, shattering glasss on scores of high-rise buildings and causing other extensive damage. The force of the blasts registered on earthquake scales and was felt miles away.

Related: SCMP: Survivor pulled from shipping container 62 hours after blasts rock Chinese city of Tianjin, as death toll rises to 104

Shwe Mann Removed as Ruling Party Chairman Amid Midnight Reshuffle – The Irrawaddy Burma’s ruling party leadership was reshuffled amid confusion and high tension in Naypyidaw on Wednesday night, with the party’s chairman Shwe Mann removed from his post and replaced with party vice chairman Htay Oo, according to sources close to the matter. Security was tight outside the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) headquarters in the nation’s capital and outside the residences of several top party officials as the political maneuverings took shape late into the night and early morning.//Look for ExSE analysis on this news tomorrow. 

Related: CogitASIA: Shwe Mann’s Fall from Power a Mixed Blessing for Myanmar
Related: RFA: Myanmar Ruling Party Reshuffle Smacks of Junta-Era Purge: Analysts

Japan’s leader stops short of WWII apology  – The Washington Post Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his remorse for all those who died as a result of Japan’s World War II actions on Friday — the eve of the 70th anniversary of his country’s surrender — but avoided explicitly repeating the apologies of his predecessors. In a carefully phrased statement that Abe read to reporters and that was broadcast live on television, the prime minister talked about Japan’s past repentance for its actions but determinedly tried to look to the “peace and prosperity” of Japan’s future. // The multiple opinion pieces in Asian papers on how Abe’s apology wasn’t enough show there’s still anger towards Japan.

Recent Arrests Highlight Laos Drug ProblemsRadio Free Asia Seizures of large quantities of synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals by Lao police in recent months point to renewed efforts by authorities to slow growing rates of addiction in the impoverished, one-party state, sources say. In a major haul on July 23 at a warehouse near the border with Vietnam, police in central Laos’ Bolikhamxay province seized over 5 metric tons of chemicals used in the production of amphetamines, a senior police official told RFA’s Lao Service this week. Assisted by police from neighboring Vietnam, authorities also took into custody 10 Lao citizens and a Thai national, identified as the leader of the gang, Lt. Col. Bouakheua Ratthanavongsa, the province’s deputy commander of police, said.

Related: TuoiTre News: Southeast Asia’s biggest-ever drug warehouse raided by Vietnamese, Laotian detectives

REGIONAL RELATIONS

From Yunnan, China reaches out to flood-ravaged MyanmarGoKunming Battered by monsoon rains and devastated by floods, Myanmar is looking to the international community for aid. China was one of the first countries to respond, with Yunnan province initially providing modest supplies before becoming the gateway for much larger relief packages, including cash. Myanmar’s western and central regions have been afflicted by torrential rains since June, a situation further exacerbated by Cyclone Komen, which lashed the country with strong storms beginning July 30. Destruction of homes and farmland, especially in the country’s rice belt, is widespread and has sparked fears of future food shortages.

China to buy 1m tonnes surplus rice – Bangkok Post China will buy a million tonnes from the country’s huge stockpile accumulated under the previous government’s subsidy scheme, authorities said Monday. Commerce Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya told reporters that China had agreed during his visit to Beijing last week to purchase the rice. China would buy the rice “at market price” the minister said, adding that there would be further negotiations for another million tonnes in September. // Thai FM’s comment that he “would fall in love with his excellency [China’s FM] if he were a woman” at last week’s AMM follows recent pattern of China and Thailand getting closer under Prayuth, especially as US has given Thailand colder shoulder.

Viet Nam, China meet to create strategic trust Vietnam News Viet Nam and China held their fifth strategic defence dialogue in Ha Noi yesterday, aiming to narrow differences and create strategic trust between their armies and peoples. Deputy Defence Minister, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, Sun Jianguo, co-chaired the event. Both discussed developments in their countries, the region and the world, especially issues related to national defence and security. // VN continues to maintain the delicate balance between USA and China.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Myanmar’s Puts Flood Death Toll at 103, With Nearly 1.3 Million Affected – RFA Flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains and the tail end of Cyclone Komen since last month killed 103 people and affected nearly 1.3 million people in Myanmar, a senior government official said on Thursday. The flooding caused deaths and dislocation in ten of Myanmar’s divisions and states, said officials from the Ministry of Social Welfare Relief and Resettlement. People in Magwe and Sitgaing Divisions are still unable to return to their homes. Those two divisions in Western Myanmar as well adjacent Chin and Rakhine States, have been under a state of emergency since July 16, the officials said. // The good news from these floods is that Myanmar is accepting international aid to deal with them, which it didn’t for 2008 Cyclone Nargis that killed more than 130k.

Pollution Fears Grow in China’s Tianjin in Wake of Massive ExplosionsRFA Pollution fears were growing among the residents of the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on Friday, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party kept a stranglehold on information on suspected dangerous chemicals involved in Wednesday night’s massive explosions. Up to 1,000 firefighters were still struggling to extinguish blazes at the site on Friday, with smoke billowing from three areas, sparking fears over whether more toxic fumes would contaminate the city’s air, official media and local residents said. Environmental officials certified the facility—where the fires, then twin blasts, originated—in 2014 for the storage of dangerous and toxic chemicals including butanone, an explosive industrial solvent, sodium cyanide and compressed natural gas.

CHINA

Woman Dies After Stabbing Near Uniqlo in BeijingNYT A man holding what appeared to be a three-foot-long sword stabbed a Chinese woman and her French husband outside a Uniqlo clothing store in Beijing’s upscale shopping and entertainment district of Sanlitun on Thursday, the police said. Both were taken to a hospital, where the woman died, the police said on their official Weibo account.

Obama Is Set to Discuss Rights Issues With ChinaNYT A top State Department official said Thursday that there was a “growing sense of alarm in the United States about human rights developments in China,” vowing that the issue would feature prominently in summit talks between President Xi Jinping of China and President Obama in Washington next month. The official, Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, cited concerns about a proposed law in China that would severely restrict civil society and nongovernmnetnal organizations, as well as recent roundups of lawyers and activists.

China bans Fart and 119 other ‘immoral’ songs with ‘severe punishment’ threatThe Guardian Ministry of culture says songs ‘trumpet obscenity, violence, crime or harm social morality’, and administrators ordered to remove them from websites. China has banned 120 “immoral” songs and ordered website administrators to remove them from their sites amid a broadening crackdown on the country’s internet content. The announcement by the ministry of culture on Monday said the list of 120 songs “trumpeted obscenity, violence, crime or harmed social morality” and those responsible for website content would be face “severe punishment” if they were not taken down.//Some ExSE karaoke favorites were in this list, unfortunately.

Chinese hack of US national security details revealed days after Russian hackThe Guardian Government sources tell NBC News that Chinese attack targeted personal emails of ‘all top national security’ officials just days after Pentagon hack. The ongoing saga of successful foreign hack attacks on government databases continued Monday with news of another break-in allegedly perpetrated by China. Just days after the reported spear-phishing attack on the Pentagon’s joint staff email system, which exposed some 4,000 civilian and military employees and is believed to have been sponsored by Russia, anonymous government sources told NBC News that a separate set of Chinese hack attacks targeted the personal emails of “all top national security and trade officials”.

Typhoon Soudelor hits China with deaths, floods and mudslides The Guardian The death toll rises as wind and rain wreak havoc across the Chinese provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, with damage bills exceeding $1bn. The number of people killed by typhoon Soudelor in China rose to 17, state media reported on Monday, with five more missing. Three people were killed by a mudslide and one was missing after being swept away by floods in Ningde, in the eastern province of Fujian, the Fujian Daily reported.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Indonesia’s president reshuffles economy team as growth sags  – Reuters Indonesian President Joko Widodo put two experienced technocrats into economic management posts on Wednesday in a cabinet reshuffle designed to reassure investors worried about a policy drift that has allowed growth to slip to a six-year low. Widodo’s move defied expectations that his own party would compel him to make more political appointments, a move that may surprise critics who say he has not been the robust leader they had hoped for when he took office last year. // Reshuffle is expected, and allows Indo gov to continue to push growth-killing self-sufficiency. ISI didn’t work in Latin America and it won’t work for Indonesia.

Related: ABC AU: Indonesian Cabinet reshuffle does not change self-sufficiency push: Indonesia observer

Cambodian Opposition Senator Held After PM Accuses Him of TreasonRFA Authorities in Cambodia on Saturday arrested an opposition senator after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of treason for posting a disputed diplomatic document online relating to the country’s border with neighboring Vietnam. Police arrested Hong Sok Hour of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) early Saturday from the residence of a lawmaker belonging to the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a CNRP leader told RFA’s Khmer Service. // CNRP thinks that the CPP’s crackdown is to intimidate and hollow-out party in order to reduce CNRP morale and effectiveness.

King of Cambodia signs law on NGOs  – Phnom Penh Post The much-disputed Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations (LANGO) has passed its final, and almost entirely ceremonial hurdle, as King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday signed a Royal Proclamation passing the legislation into law. The signing came a day after the law was approved by the Constitutional Council, which rejected a challenge by the opposition that the legislation breached the Kingdom’s charter. // Next up: labor law that will stifle unions.

Malaysia’s Ringgit in a Tailspin  – WSJ Malaysia’s ringgit suffered its largest one-day loss in almost two decades, with investors pulling cash out of stocks and bonds, as the nation’s list of challenges appears to be getting longer. The ringgit shed more than 3% against the U.S. dollar Friday, leading the losses in global currency markets and falling to a fresh 17-year low. // While Malaysia gov has said that the $700 mil in PM Najib’s account is legitimate, confidence in Malaysia will remain low due to this huge scandal.

Related: Malaysia PM Najib says politics caused ringgit to fall

Indonesia detains ‘IS-linked’ militants planning attacks  AsiaOne Indonesian police have arrested three militants with links to the Islamic State group who were planning to launch bomb attacks during independence day celebrations next week, police and sources said Friday. The men were plotting to attack churches and a police station on Monday in the city of Solo, on the main island of Java, when the country celebrates the 70th anniversary of its declaration of independence, police said. // IS is growing concern in Indonesia, esp as Jokowi’s decentralization drive might allow IS-friendly regional governments more autonomy. Indo, Malaysian, and Singapore govs are committing to fighting ISIS but can do more to cooperate among themselves and other governments (USA).

YUNNAN

Five minutes with US Ambassador to China, Max BaucusGoKunming The United States Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, paid a visit South of the Clouds this week. He found time to explore some of Yunnan’s history and culture while also attending to diplomatic duties. Chief among those was honoring the men and women, both American and Chinese, who built the Burma Road and established theHump Airlift during World War II. Ambassador Baucus and his wife Melodee first spent time in northwest Yunnan as tourists. They hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge and then cycled around Baisha (白沙). Upon arriving in the Spring City, they attended a screening of the 1942 John Wayne film Flying Tigers at TCG Nordica, explored the Yunnan Nationalities Museum and met with famed choreographer Yang Liping.

Wenshan inks 500 million yuan city management dealGoKunming The small prefectural level city of Wenshan has signed an enormous deal with a Beijing-based tech company specializing in the emerging e-government sector. In what may be a Yunnan first, municipal authorities appear to be turning much of the day-to-day work of actual governance over to their new business partner. The agreement was signed earlier this month between Wenshan City and Beijing Zhengtong Digital Technologies (eGOVA), a publicly traded software and consultancy firm.

This week’s regional rroundup was compiled and analyzed by John Juenemann.

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Regional roundup for week of 8.9.2015

EXSE FOCUS

What’s Next for the TPP?The Diplomat Next steps for the TPP and implications for the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Related: Kerry says “confident” about TPP trade pactThanh Nien News

John Kerry’s 2015 ASEAN Summit Speech 8.6.15East By Southeast Transcript of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech and Q&A at 2015 ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

ASEAN ‘Essential’ to Upholding Asia’s Rules, Says US Secretary of StateThe Diplomat The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is essential to upholding Asia’s rules-based system, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech delivered in Malaysia on Wednesday. Kerry, who is on a trip to Southeast Asia covering Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, stressed that ASEAN was critical to addressing shared challenges during his stop in Kuala Lumpur to attend a series of multilateral meetings.

Related: ASEAN Impact: Ideas, Identities and IntegrationThe Diplomat

China says has stopped reclamation work in South China SeaThanh Nien News Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday that Beijing had halted land reclamation in the South China Sea, and called on countries in the region to speed up talks on how claimant states should conduct themselves in the disputed waters. In June, China said it would soon complete some of its reclamation in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, while adding it would continue to build facilities on the man-made islands. //Hard to know whether or not this announcement will hold. The proof will be in the pudding, especially after the Philippines’ case is heard at the Hague. 

Related: ASEAN is ‘seriously concerned’ about South China Sea reclamation – Thanh Nien News

Related: Kerry Urges Beijing to Halt ‘Problematic Actions’ in South China Sea – The New York Times

Related: Regaining the Initiative in the South China SeaThe Diplomat

How China Is Winning Southeast AsiaProject Syndicate With preparations for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September visit to Washington, DC, underway, officials in both countries are predictably playing down their differences over China’s outsize territorial claims, backed by the construction of military facilities on previously uninhabited islands and atolls, in the South China Sea. And this diplomatic de-escalation, following months of recriminations and veiled threats, suits Southeast Asian leaders just fine.//There are many, including some ExSE team members who would dispute this. The real question is “Which part of Southeast Asia is China winning?” The average citizen in SE Asia has a dimmer view of China than their elected (or un-elected) politicians.  

Maritime Silk Road can bridge China-ASEAN cooperationThe Jakarta Post ASEAN has been a priority in China’s neighborhood diplomacy, and is considered a key starting point for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, China, together with ASEAN, will provide a new platform and opportunity for forging a closer community and shared future between China and ASEAN. //2015 declared “the Year of China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation” – what does this mean for the South China Sea conflict?

Related: China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Seeking Alpha in Silk RoadThe Diplomat

U.S. Not Concerned About Chinese Competition in Africa … But It Probably Should BeChinaFile The difference between U.S. and Chinese foreign policies in Africa was on stark display in July when president Barack Obama made his landmark visits to Kenya and Ethiopia. The president brought along with him a vast agenda that transcended trade, democracy, human rights, gay rights, women’s issues, and on and on and on. Compare that to similar visits to both of these countries by either Chinese president Xi Jinping or Prime Minister Li Keqiang who focus their attention largely on trade and development. //Consider, for example, China’s efforts in developing seaports and the Maritime Silk Road’s planned stop at Nairobi.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Yes, the US Does Want to Contain China (Sort Of)The Diplomat In July 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reassured his Chinese hosts that “the U.S. is not, as we have said many times, in a rivalry competition with China in terms of trying to contain it or otherwise.” In November 2014, during Obama’s second visit to China, he sought to “debunk the notion… that our pivot to Asia is about containing China.” On one level, this is absolutely true. But at the same time, it’s false. It all depends on how we define the term “containment” and what that actually implies about the United States’ goals vis-à-vis China.

US Public Opinion on China: A New Low?The Diplomat The U.S.-China relationship is arguably one of the most important—if not the most important—bilateral relationships in the world. But in spite of this professed interdependence, a recent spate of publications by U.S. think tanks on the bilateral relationship have all been negative in nature, calling for a toughening of U.S. policy towards China. //Negative media attention highly impacts the public’s view of China, as well as of any other country. It’s important to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of why a country is the way it is.

Vietnam Commissions Two New Subs Capable of Attacking ChinaThe Diplomat On August 1, the Vietnamese Navy commissioned two new Russian-made Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, according to Thanh Nien News. The 184-Hai Phong and 185-Khanh Hoa were both commissioned during a ceremony held at Cam Ranh Naval in Khanh Hoa province, south of Hanoi. The commander of the Vietnam People’s Navy, Rear Admiral Hoai Nam noted that this constituted “a major step of modernizing the Navy, and the People’s Army of Vietnam in general.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s China Trip and the Future of Sino-Myanmar RelationsThe Diplomat In June 2015, Burmese parliamentarian and opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi led a delegation of National League for Democracy (NLD) party members to China. Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), the general secretary of the NLD, met with President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials. The high-level discussions reflected the importance of ASSK’s trip for both sides.//A significant meeting, no doubt. Another example of ASSK’s pragmatism. Will her party follow her lead should they win big in the 2015 parliamentary elections?

Why Thailand Returned the UyghursThe Diplomat The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recently challenged Thailand’s repatriations of Uyghurs to China. This act, under international law could be termed refoulement, the return of a victim to their persecutor. Why would Thailand do this? The answer reflects both a long-term reality and a new political commonality.

Related: China asks US for help in fighting Islamist militants in Xinjiang regionThe South China Morning Post

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Asia takes leadership on renewables, but only out of necessityThe Guardian As the Paris climate conference draws ever nearer, and with it the prospect of a global agreement that all countries will cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Europe can look on its contribution to the fight against climate change with pride. But having fostered the fledgling renewable energy sectors of wind and solar power, and created the world’s first emissions trading scheme (ETS), it now looks as if Europe is ceding its leadership on environmental matters to Asia.

Related: Sieren’s China: Winds of changeDW

Dark days for coal in Asia, where Obama’s clean energy plan will reverberateThe South China Morning Post The Obama administration’s plan to curb US coal use will ripple across the globe to Asia, where the world’s biggest consumer and miners are balancing demands for cleaner air against cheaper energy.

Related: The limits of King Coal’s reign in South AsiaThe Third Pole

The Salween River is Not for SaleEast by Southeast It is billed to become the biggest dam in SE Asia. The Mong Ton dam project on the Salween River will flood a vast area, with a reservoir extending 380 km upstream over an area home to thousands of Shan and other ethnic groups in a region of important biodiversity. Thousands of villagers supported by civil society in the Shan state are angry that their Salween –the last undammed river of size and importance in the region- is being dragged into the nexus of ever expanding hydro-power and big business.

IEA signs deal for largest Asean wind farm in south LaosThe Nation THAI renewable company Impact Energy Asia (IEA) plans to build the largest wind farm in Asean – and generate 600 megawatts on 400,000 rai in southern Laos – under an agreement signed by the Lao government and the company on Friday.//1 rai=6.25 hectares. The windfarm will take up 640 sq. km. in Laos. Wind power would have a decidedly smaller environmental impact than the Mekong cascade of dams being planned. 600MW is not insignificant, bu it pales in comparison to mega-projects like the Xayaburi Dam. 

Ho Chi Minh City to take lead in green fuel, ban common gasoline gradeThanh Nien News Ho Chi Minh City, in probably one of its boldest moves to boost the use of greener fuel, will completely ban the most common gasoline grade 92 RON. All 514 gas stations in the city will have to switch to the 5-percent ethanol blend E5 on November 30. Le Ngoc Dao, deputy director of the municipal Department of Industry and Trade, said the move was part of a plan to promote the locally-produced bio-fuel in seven cities and provinces.

Climate Change Puts Water Planning into Uncharted TerritoryADB Asia may be the world’s most dynamic region with the fastest economic growth, but also leads the world in other less desirable ways—such as being the most insecure when it comes to water resources.

CHINA

The Dangers of ‘China-Phobia’The Diplomat Glimpses of a growing “China-phobia” in the international community limit opportunities for real dialogue.

China to issue 300 billion yuan in bonds to fund huge infrastructure pushThe South China Morning Post China will soon offer 300 billion yuan (HK$374 billion) in bonds to pay for infrastructure work across the nation, a fresh sign the leadership plans to speed up asset investment to buoy slowing growth.

Here’s What’s Wrong With Most Commentary on the Beijing 2022 OlympicsChinaFile All in all, the Chinese government probably has good reason to believe that the 2022 Games will strengthen, rather than weaken, its domestic standing. In other words, Beijing may have been able to bid for the Games not because of its autocratic nature, but rather because it enjoys, at least on this issue, substantial popular support. //Although feedback seems to be mostly positive, let’s not forget those (Chinese) who are worried about govt. spending on the games rather than nationwide benefits, i.e., improving the health insurance system.

Related: Beijing’s Winter DoldrumsChinaFile

Chinese Relatives Demand to be Flown to Site of Presumed MH370 Crash DebrisRFA As France said it would step up the search for debris from the doomed Malaysian flight MH370, angry relatives of the large contingent of Chinese passengers on board gathered near the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, demanding to be flown out to the presumed crash site near Reunion Island in the French Indian Ocean.

China’s crackdown on liberal academics: ‘It’s like a minor cultural revolution’The Guardian When Xi came to power in November 2012, some Chinese liberals hoped he might bring some measure of political reform. Foreign observers noted his father was believed to have opposed the 1989 military crackdown in Tiananmen Square and that his daughter was studying at Harvard University. Yet those hopes have proved spectacularly misplaced. Xi has instead presided over one of the most severe crackdowns on opponents of the Communist party in decades.//A worrying off-shoot of Xi’s reforms has been his repression of academics. 

Beijing Extends Detention of Top Rights Lawyer Amid Ongoing CrackdownRadio Free Asia Authorities in the Chinese capital have once more extended the criminal detention of a top rights lawyer, his attorney said, amid an ongoing crackdown on the country’s legal profession. Pu Zhiqiang, 50, was indicted on May 15 for “incitement to racial hatred” and “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” after being held in criminal detention for more than a year. While the move should mean his case now moves to trial, his lawyers have hit out at repeated delays and extensions to his stay in Beijing’s police-run No. 3 Detention Center.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

‘Drug Free’ ASEAN by 2015?The Diplomat They called it “Drug-Free ASEAN by 2015.” It was proclaimed many times by ASEAN leaders: We would be ushered into a miraculous new era of the only region in the world where the scourge of narcotics had been banished.//Much like the AEC, ‘Drug Free’ ASEAN is still a work in progress. 

Death toll reaches 27 as northern Vietnam braces for more devastating flooding, landslidesThanh Nien News Heavy rains triggering floods and landslides have killed at least 27 people, displaced thousands people and isolated more than 10,000 others over the past days in northern Vietnam. Ten people were killed from August 1-3 to flashfloods and landslides, including 2 in Lai Chau, 2 in Lang Son, 3 in Cao Bang and one in each of Son La, Bac Giang and Yen Bai. Earlier, 17 people were killed in Quang Ninh, the province suffering the hardest hit so far, after a low pressure area triggered heavy rains since July 26. The province has got a record of 1,500 mm of rain in 9 days.

International Aid Filters in for Flood-Ravaged BurmaThe Irrawaddy Pledges of international aid have ramped up as Burma’s government struggles to respond to widespread flooding that authorities say has affected more than 250,000 people nationwide. On Tuesday, Burma’s Information Minister Ye Htut said the country was appealing for international assistance to meet the crisis which has so far claimed the lives of 69 people, according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. //Compare this with 2008, when Burma initially refused foreign aid during Cyclone Nargis.

Related: World leaders respond to Burma’s call for helpDVB

            Related: Rice Merchant: ‘The Situation Requires Govt Intervention’The Irrawaddy

All-Inclusive Pact Proves Elusive as Latest Peace Talks CloseThe Irrawaddy Senior leaders of five ethnic armed groups will soon reconvene with government negotiators, representatives said, following the lackluster close of the latest round of peace talks on Friday. The ninth round of discussions, which have unfolded over more than 18 months and aim to secure a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), ended without agreement on inclusion for armed groups that are not recognized by the government.

Related: Three Armed Groups Make Peace Offer As Talks Continue in RangoonThe Irrawaddy

YUNNAN

Yunnan invests in highways to alleviate Zhaotong povertyGoKunming The Yunnan Road Investment Company this week announced it had signed several contracts with the governments of Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou to construct or upgrade five highway networks. These are planned to further link cities — especially those in Zhaotong — not only to Kunming, but also to more prosperous metropolises including Chengdu, Chongqing and Bijie.

“Asia’s longest suspension bridge” rises in YunnanGoKunming An enormous bridge being built in the western reaches of the Yunnan is perhaps lost among all of the other enormous infrastructure projects under construction across the province. Workers on the Longjiang Bridge in Baoshan Prefecture secured the first giant section of roadway last week, marking a major milestone in what will become a 2,470-meter suspension bridge.

REVIEWS

Notes from Underground: Delphine Schrank’s ‘The Rebel of Rangoon’The Irrawaddy Delphine Schrank’s stunning book “The Rebel of Rangoon” takes the reader into the clandestine world of the urban political operators that kept Burma’s struggle for democracy alive when many of their elders and contemporaries where imprisoned, exiled, or intimidated to avoid any activity that could be deemed as threatening to the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

How to Make Compromise Compelling: Christensen and Goldstein on U.S.-China RelationsCFR Sitting on the beach—or less fortuitously in an office—with nothing better to do in the last weeks of summer than read a few books on U.S.-China relations? You might want to pick up the new books by Thomas Christensen and Lyle Goldstein, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power and Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry, respectively. They are not light reading, but they will situate you well for the barrage of media attention sure to accompany the late September summit between Presidents Xi and Obama.

This week’s new digest was compiled by Rachel Tritsch, with analysis added by Rachel Tritsch and William Feinberg. 

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Regional roundup for week of 8.3.2015

The same week that the US and Vietnam celebrated its 20th year of bilateral normalization, China conducts massive live fire drills in the South China Sea.  None of this orchestration is coincidental and the moves of this grand chess game are becoming more apparent.  But where is it leading us and should we trust the chess masters to steer us all in the right direction.  Next month’s visit of Xi Jinping to Washington will be a test and further revealing of intentions – at least we hope.  

EXSE FOCUS 

 

 China Blames U.S. Military Actions for Tensions in the South China Sea – NYT The dispute over one of the world’s busiest trade routes has emerged as a serious point of contention between the two countries ahead of several crucial meetings.//History will show clearly that China started the new normal of one-upsmanship here.  While China’s capabilities manifest in front of our eyes via satellite image and new combat drills, the important issue to focus on is China’s intent and searching for an answer to why China is willing to risk its relationship with smaller neighbors over upsetting the status quo – and bringing the US more deeply into the dispute.  The fall conclusion to the Philippine arbitration case at the Hague will be a true litmus test for China’s adherence to the UNCLOS treaty of which it is a signatory and Xi’s promotion of rule of law.  

Related: Beijing Strikes Back: U.S. ‘Militarizing’ South China Sea – The Diplomat

 China conducts South China Sea live drill ‘to improve at-sea combat ability’ – The Guardian Xinhua news agency says dozens of missiles and torpedoes, as well as thousands of shells and jamming bombs, were fired during the drill.  China’s navy has carried out a “live firing drill” in the South China Sea to improve its maritime combat ability, state media has reported as tensions flare over the disputed waters.

Related: China’s Navy Tests ‘Maritime Combat Ability’ in the South China Sea – The Diplomat

Related: China Is Building a New South China Sea Fleet for its Maritime Militia – The Diplomat

Related: Vietnam Slams Chinese Naval Drill in South China Sea – The Diplomat

Related: For the ASEAN-China South China Sea Code of Conduct, Ninth Time Isn’t the Charm – The Diplomat

Related: Cambodia: A New South China Sea Mediator Between China and ASEAN? – The Diplomat

Related: The Philippines-China Arbitration: What Next? – The Diplomat

 Myanmar Frees Loggers From China Amid a Broader Amnesty – NYT After a strong pushback from Beijing, more than 150 citizens who were sentenced to life in prison were suddenly released.//Hidden inside a general amnesty of more than 6000 prisoners, the illegal loggers get out of jail free.  This happened on the first day of work for China’s new ambassador to Myanmar.  Not a coincidence.  The amnesty plays nicely to show the central government’s benevolence prior to November elections.  

Related: Release of Chinese loggers a welcome step in right direction by Myanmar – South China Morning Post

Related: Myanmar jails scores of Chinese loggers, Beijing incensed – GoKunming

Related: Trial of Chinese loggers in Myanmar raises questions about bilateral relations – East by Southeast

At the 2022 Winter Olympics, No Snow Is No Problem for the I.O.C. – NYT It’s a sad day when the International Olympic Committee cannot even meet one of the lowest bars for a potential Winter Games host city: snow.//If the Chinese government can shoot silver nitrate into the sky to make it rain, it can also produce snow. Foreign tourism to China has plummeted more than 70% at key tourist areas since the airpocalypse newsfest began a few years ago.  I think some good news coming out of China and news that focuses on hard working athletes is useful.  Now if I go to cover the Olympics in 2022, will I still need a VPN to get me onto my @aikunming Twitter account?  

Related: The Observer view on the future of the Olympics | Observer editorial – The Guardian

Related: Beijing promises to overcome lack of snow for 2022 Winter Olympics – The Guardian

Related: 2022 Olympics Leave China Beaming From Its Growing Clout – NYT

Related: Rights Advocates, and a Monk, Oppose Beijing’s Winter Olympics Bid – NYT

How the International Community Changed China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – The Diplomat The AIIB today is very different from the AIIB China envisioned before March 2015.  This is reflected in a series of issues including the membership, capital contribution, veto power, and the linkage between AIIB and China’s own economic agenda, as well as its governance and standard issues.//Keep watching – too early to tell.  (aren’t we getting tired of saying this about Xi’s China? 

  

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Issues Mount as Negotiators Gather to Wrap Up Trans-Pacific Trade Pact – NYT The challenges make the prospect of closing a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of the week highly uncertain.//Vietnam at this point is in full support of the TPP.  Just a matter of timing.  

Related: US Upgrades Malaysia in Trafficking Report: Boost for TPP, Blow to Rights? – The Diplomat

Related: How the TPP Will Protect the United States’ ‘Third Offset’ Strategy – The Diplomat

Related: What the Trans-Pacific Partnership Means for Southeast Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Final push for Pacific trade pact – Thanh Nien Daily

 Burmese Consulate Opens in Chiang Mai – The Irawaddy The new Burmese consulate in Chiang Mai officially opened on Wednesday, with Burma’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin and ambassador to Thailand Win Maung in attendance.//Good move.  Passing through Mae Sot will be much easier now and after AEC begins at the end of the year the consulate will help to facilitate increases in people flows.  Remember most of traffic coming through Kachin State and Shan State pass through Chiang Mai. 

Thailand, Myanmar agree on mutual visa-free travel – Investvine Thailand and Myanmar signed an agreement on July 28 to allow citizens with ordinary passports to make visa-free visits of up to 14 days, provided they arrive on an international flight. // Another step on the path towards increased economic opportunity and freedom of travel for Southeast Asia, another step for ASEAN.

 John Kerry to visit Vietnam next month – Thanh Nien Daily He will meet with senior Vietnamese officials to discuss bilateral and regional issues, a release said.//The US State department is working much harder on the US-Vietnam relationship and other regional bilateral relationships (Indonesia and Philippines to be exact) than it is on the US-China relationship. 

 Thai boats caught smuggling oil in Vietnam waters – Thanh Nien Daily They said they had sold diesel oil illegally to Vietnamese boats many times.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

 Climate change threatens China’s booming coastal cities, says expert – The Guardian With an ageing society and more people living by the coast, China faces a challenge coping with climate change, reports China Daily.  A recent study led by Georgina Mace, ecosystem professor at University College London, indicated that governments across the world have failed to grasp the risk that population booms in coastal cities pose as climate change continues to cause rises in sea levels and extreme weather events. // Glad to see the importance of sustainable development and infrastructure is making the news, but this study’s conclusion shouldn’t come as a surprise…  Other news states China’s continued struggle with smog in many cities, especially on the east coast.  This alone affects the health of millions annually.

Related: Climate change threatens major building projects, says Chinese expert – The Guardian

Related: China’s climate migrants – Chinadialogue

Related: Financing for resilient development: how to deal with the rising costs of climate change – Chinadialogue

 The Hidden Costs of China’s Shift to Hydropower – The Diplomat Beijing hopes hydropower can wean China off dirty fossil fuels, but new dams will mean a big environmental toll.//Especially since anecdotal evidence suggest for every dam built in Southwest China a back-up coal thermal plant is built to help with peak demand.  

Related: China’s shift from coal to hydro comes at a heavy price – The Third Pole

Need a weatherman – The Economist ROW after giant row of wind turbines marches towards the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan range, harvesting energy from the air.  If it can integrate large-scale wind generation into its electricity network, China will be an example for other countries.

Related: China’s Green Leap Forward – The Diplomat

Former deputy environmental protection minister accused of corruption in China – South China Morning Post A former deputy environmental protection minister in China is under investigation for alleged corruption.

 Talks stall on gas line between China and Russia – South China Morning Post Talks on a new deal to supply natural gas from Russia to China have stalled due to differences on pricing and disagreements over the construction of a pipeline, according to Russian media.

 ADB, Experts Discuss Ways to Protect Groundwater Resources in PRC – ADB  – The Asian Development Bank sponsored a 2-day forum in Beijing to discuss various innovative measures and technologies to protect groundwater resources in the country.

 Vietnam’s rush to develop risks damaging its natural attractions – The Guardian New resorts, cable cars and casinos threaten unspoiled landscapes as tourism sector struggles to balance modernisation and development with conservation.  Worst of all is the destruction of the thing that makes Vietnam’s towns and cities interesting to many foreign visitors.

 Vietnam Floods Kill 17 and Threaten to Pollute Ha Long Bay – NYT Environmental groups said that waste from coal mines could damage the northern bay, a Unesco World Heritage site famous for its steep limestone islands.//Are Vietnam’s EIAs considering seasonal changes in weather patterns and how strong rains/flooding impact a site and surrounding area?

Related: Deadly rains deluge Vietnam mines, spark contamination fears – Thanh Nien Daily

PM tells officials to keep saving water despite easing drought – The Nation PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed officials working on solving the water shortage to keep sticking with water-saving measures, even though more water has been flowing into major dams, Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday.

 

CHINA

Ethnic Tensions in Xinjiang Complicate China-Turkey Ties – NYT Bilateral trade is growing between Beijing and Ankara, but anti-Chinese sentiment in Turkey appears to be growing as well.//This is the sleeper movie of the year folks. Keep watching. 

Related: Can China-Turkey Relations Move On? – The Diplomat

Tibetan Who Called for Dalai Lama’s Return Is Said to Be Freed From Chinese Prison – NYT Runggye Adak was jailed for eight years after calling for the spiritual leader’s return to Tibet in a speech at a major festival.

Related: China Releases Tibetan Nomad Jailed For Eight Years For Lithang Protest – Radio Free Asia

 U.S. Decides to Retaliate Against China’s Hacking – NYT The Obama administration decided a response was needed after the Chinese stole data on 20 million Americans from the Office of Personnel Management.//What’s the response?   

Related: United Airlines hacked by China-linked group believed to responsible for previous US attacks – South China Morning Post

Related: Spying claims denied by China – The Jakarta Post

 China vs. Its Human Rights Lawyers – NYT The current crackdown shows how the Communist Party fears its legitimacy to rule could crumble.

Related: How the US Outplayed China in the South China Sea – The Diplomat

Related: Pro-Beijing lawyer Kennedy Wong faces ICAC bribery charges – South China Morning Post

Shares in Mainland China End Worst Month in 6 Years – NYT The main indexes in Shanghai and Shenzhen finished July with declines of 14.3 percent each, despite government intervention in the markets.

Related: Chinese shares are falling, but the real fear is that the economy itself is slowing – The Guardian

Related: China’s large manufacturers stall as demand weakens at home and abroad – The Guardian

Related: Can Xi Jinping Turn China’s Economy Around? – ChinaFile

 Letting China’s Bubble Burst – Project Syndicate As China’s capital markets expand, they are outstripping policymakers’ capacity to manage prices and valuations. The only practical way forward is for the authorities to focus on regulatory and institutional development, while following through on their commitment to permit markets to self-correct.

Related: Xi Jinping’s Greatest Challenge – The Diplomat

Related: Q. and A.: Christopher K. Johnson on the Heavy Thumb of Xi Jinping – NYT

Ex-Military Leader in China Is Subject of Graft Inquiry – NYT Gen. Guo Boxiong was placed under investigation, becoming the most senior military official brought down in President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption.

Related: With Latest Ouster, China Steps Up Fight Against Military Corruption – The Diplomat

Related: China’s President Xi Jinping promotes 10 senior military officials to full general – South China Morning Post

 ‘The China Challenge,’ by Thomas J. Christensen – NYT A former State Department official urges Americans to accept China’s rise to power.

Related: Debating China Policy: High Stakes, Hard Choices – The Diplomat

 Will China Have a Mini US Navy By 2020? – The Diplomat Much has been written about China’s ongoing efforts to become what President Xi Jinping called a “great maritime power” and how the United States should respond. In light of this, it is useful to think about the future trajectory of the of the increasingly modern and powerful People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which has been charged with both defending China’s sovereignty in ‘near seas’ (eg. Taiwan) and protecting Chinese interests in the ‘far seas’.//The rhetoric on this is shaky.  In DC, it’s often said that by 2020 or 2030 China could have a military that qualitatively could compete or outshine the US.  And those comments are said by congressmen who have big navy yards in their bailiwicks.  

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

 Thailand Charges 72 With Human Trafficking Crimes Ahead of U.S. Report – NYT The indictments come days before the State Department is expected to release an analysis of international efforts to fight such smuggling networks.

Related: Thailand dismisses US criticism over human trafficking and slavery – The Guardian

The Trouble with Thailand’s Economy – The Diplomat Anemic performance is denting confidence in the ruling junta.  When Thailand’s coup-makers quickly disbursed over $3 billion owed to farmers from the ousted government’s politically hamstrung rice price subsidy scheme, it appeared that the country’s new military rulers had the will and means to break the bureaucratic inertia that had stalled fiscal spending under successive elected administrations.

More than 26m stimulant pills seized in Burma, police say – The Guardian Counter-narcotics officers said amphetamine hydrochloride tablets worth £68m have been found in 89 bags in a vehicle in Rangoon.  Myint Aung, a counter-narcotics officer, said police discovered 26.7m stimulant tablets on Sunday after inspecting a parked vehicle in the northern suburbs of Burma’s largest city.

The Future of Democracy and Human Rights in Myanmar – The Diplomat The Diplomat talks with Delphine Schrank about Myanmar’s trajectory. She recently spoke with The Diplomat’s associate editor Prashanth Parameswaran about the future of democracy and human rights in Myanmar ahead of upcoming historic elections expected this November. // Would democracy be enough and effective in improving Burma’s ethnic conflicts?  With the state’s shaky election history, it will be interesting to see whether power is passed according to the vote or if corruption or incumbent interruption will pollute results.

Related: Myanmar Ruling Party Expects Tough Fight in Coming Elections – Radio Free Asia

Related: Human Rights Defenders Continue to Suffer in Burma – The Irawaddy

Related: Visions of Myanmar, old and new – New Mandala

Related: The Dangerous Rise of Buddhist Chauvinism – Project Syndicate

 Ethnic Leaders Renew Push for All-Inclusive Ceasefire Ahead of Early August Talks – The Irawaddy Ethnic leaders will not sign on to a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) if it excludes certain armed groups, senior ethnic representatives reiterated Wednesday after four days of talks on the draft text in northern Thailand.

 Kuala Lumpur’s budget passenger terminal is sinking, airline says – South China Morning Post Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s new budget passenger terminal is sinking, with cracks appearing in the taxiway and water forming pools that planes must drive through.

 Cambodian Authorities Assist 14 Montagnards Who Requested Return to Vietnam – Radio Free Asia Officials in northeastern Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province on Friday assisted 14 ethnic Montagnards who asked to be repatriated across the border to Vietnam after they left Thailand, citing financial hardship because they were unable to find work.

 Cambodia’s Armed Forces ‘Belong’ to The Ruling Party: Four-Star General – Radio Free Asia Cambodia’s armed forces belong to the country’s ruling party and must prevent a “color revolution” from overtaking the Southeast Asian nation, a four-star general said Wednesday, drawing criticism from an opposition official who called his understanding of the military’s role “limited.”

This week’s news digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with analysis by Julia Zielinski and Brian Eyler.

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Regional Roundup for Week of 7.26.2015

The big news this week came from Myanmar, where 153 Chinese nationals were sentenced to life imprisonment as punishment for illegal logging in the country’s Kachin state. ExSE will delve into the story and its implications for Sino-Burmese relations later this week. In other news, Cambodia’s senate passed a strict NGO law that threatens to change the way more than 5,000 organizations operate. The law will allow the government to de-register NGO’s if they’re not ‘politically neutral’. 

EXSE FOCUS

Burma sentences 153 Chinese workers to life imprisonment for illegal loggingThe Guardian China has lodged a diplomatic protest with Burma after a court sentenced 153 Chinese nationals to life imprisonment for illegal logging. China’s voracious demand for raw materials has fuelled resentment in Burma towards its giant northern neighbour. Regions along Burma’s porous border with China have long been hotbeds for an illegal trade in timber to feed Chinese demand. A court in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state in the north of Myanmar, handed down sentences to 155 Chinese citizens on Wednesday. Two of those convicted got 10-year prison terms, the rest life sentences. Rule of law suddenly making its way to Myanmar?Another jab at China as Myanmar moves further away from its old patron? Look for ExSE to explore the implications of this case later this week. 

Related: The Dangers of Chinese Interference in Illegal Logging Case-The Irrawaddy Magazine

 Cambodia’s Senate Passes NGO Law, Despite Ongoing Protests Against ItRadio Free Asia Ruling-party Senators in Cambodia’s parliament on Friday predictably approved a controversial law that lets the government regulate the roughly 5,000 nongovernmental organizations that operate in the developing country. A majority of Senators — 44 from the Cambodian people’s party (CPP) — passed the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), while 11 from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party boycotted the session in protest against the bill that places restrictions on NGOs and associations. The law requires all NGO’s to register activities and finances with government. Government can ‘de-register’ an NGO if it is not ‘politically neutral’. This is a strong move by the the Hun Sen government against those who most often oppose him – activists are right to worry about their future in the country. 

Reopening of US naval base in Philippines could fuel South China Sea rowInvestvine The Philippine government on July 16 announced that it will revive a US-built deep-water naval base in Subic Bay, marking the return of military presence there for the first time since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. China’s expansionist ambition in Southeast Asian waters is seen as the main instigator to the military base’s rebirth. Increasingly discordant exchanges between China and the Philippines have, according to security analysts, demanded action beyond the tub-thumping of President Aquino’s anti-China speech making. Another escalation of tensions in the SCS with no end in sight. Quite possible that US troops could be stationed at new Subic Bay base. It would be prudent for the US to avoid a military presence so close to Scarborough Shoal, situation is combustible enough. 

Daniel Russel: Remarks at the 5th Annual South China Sea ConferenceEast by Southeast On July 21, 2015 at the 5th Annual South China Sea Conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Daniel R. Russel, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the US State Department delivered a keynote speech clearly outlining the US position on China’s recent land reclamation action in the South China Sea and its implications for US-China relations.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Obama to Push U.S. Trade in Kenya as China’s Role GrowsNYTimes Central agreements may help shape a major deal for private investment in Kenya’s infrastructure, while also helping mend relations between governments. Trade between China and Africa, valued at $222 billion in 2014, has been rising swiftly and is now about three times the amount of trade between the United States and the African continent, according to figures from the World Bank and the American government.

U.S. Fears Data Stolen by Chinese Hacker Could Identify SpiesNYTimes The potential exposure of the American intelligence officers could prevent a large number of them from being posted abroad again. American officials are concerned that the Chinese government could use the stolen records of millions of federal workers and contractors to piece together the identities of intelligence officers secretly posted in China over the years.

 Laos and China to Build Bridge to Thailand as Part of Railway ProjectRadio Free Asia Laos and China will jointly build a bridge linking the Southeast Asian nation with northeastern Thailand as part of a U.S. $7.2 billion high-speed railway project that has been delayed by numerous setbacks for more than four years, a Lao government official said. Officials from both sides agreed to construct the bridge over the Mekong River to link Laos with Thailand’s Nong Khai province during a meeting in which they resolved to build the much-delayed rail line from Kunming in south China’s Yunnan province to the Lao capital Vientiane, a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport told RFA’s Lao Service. The cost of this rail line is about equal to Lao PDR’s annual GDP. Laos badly needs infrastructure improvements but vanity projects like this are not the way to go. 

Chinese ship accused of attacking Vietnamese fishing boats off central coastThanh Nien News Fisherfolk in Binh Dinh Province have said their boats were attacked by a Chinese ship while they were fishing in Vietnamese waters this week.Nguyen Nhat Ngoc, a 53-year-old captain, told local coast guards on Friday that his boat with three people aboard was at more than 15 nautical miles from the Spratly Islands on Tuesday when an armored Chinese ship chased after them.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Locals worried about plans to divert water from MekongThe Nation A NETWORK of Thais living along the Mekong River yesterday voiced their concern about a plan to divert water from the river to special economic zones. Beung Kan is one of the provinces on the banks of the Mekong River, which also runs through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Jintana pointed out that local farmers and fishermen were already suffering from dams built upstream of the river, and hence they have a reason to worry about impacts from other big projects.

Thai Court Holds Hope for Transboundary Justice in the MekongInternational Rivers The closely-watched lawsuit filed by Thai Mekong communities against the Xayaburi Dam’s power purchase agreement (PPA) reaches a critical juncture Friday, as it is the final day that the Administrative Court will accept evidence into the case. Should the court overturn the agreement, construction on the dam would likely be suspended. 

Silence of the DammedMekong Commons In the ongoing controversy over the costs and benefits of hydropower in the Mekong River basin, there is much debate among governments, private business and civil society especially in Thailand and internationally. But one voice seems to be always silent in this debate: that of the local communities of Laos in whose country at least two mainstream Mekong dams are being built or planned and who will face the brunt of the projects’ impacts.

Cash-strapped farmers forced to watch crops wither awayThe Nation AS THE Chao Phraya River Basin runs out of water for farmland, rice farmers are running out of cash. Without water, farmers can do nothing but leave their plants to wither. Without crops, they have no source of certain income. As a result, many farmers have turned to loan sharks to get money to fill their family members’ hungry stomachs. This means the longer the drought crisis, the deeper they will plunge into debt. Based on the grim weather forecasts, there is a risk the drought may drag on for years.

Government water projects set in motionThe Nation THE GOVERNMENT will revive 12 water resource management projects worth more than Bt30 |billion for implementation in 2015-16 to ensure that the country will not face another water shortage over the next decade. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said these projects include construction of more water reservoirs and irrigation systems using the annual investment budget plus some state borrowing. In the longer term, he said, the government needs to conduct a feasibility study on water usage resources in neighbouring countries.

Dawei’s coastal calm disrupted by Thailand’s industrial plansMekong Commons The Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) in the Dawei district of Tanintharyi Region is a planned massive multi-billion-dollar project that includes a deep-sea port, heavy industries and extensive transport links. The project has met resistance due to its right violations, land grabbing and potentially enormous ecological impacts on coastal livelihoods. Hundreds of farmers have already lost land to the project, but tens of thousands more would be required to give up farmland if the project continues.

Will China ‘export’ GHG emissions through overseas investment?China Dialogue Climate change is now firmly at the top of the agenda, especially in China. The world’s largest polluter wants to become an example of a less carbon-intensive economy, one which embraces renewable energy, makes the transition away from coal and has the capacity to capture carbon instead of emit it. But can China ‘decarbonise’ its economy, and what does cutting carbon domestically mean for the rest of the world? Besides being the world’s leading carbon emitter, China is also responsible for major emissions outside its own borders, many of which result from infrastructure projects in Latin America.

Pollution From Copper Mining in Northern Laos Destroying Local LivelihoodsRadio Free Asia A company operating a copper mine in northern Laos’ Oudomxay province is polluting the local environment and destroying the livelihoods of residents, according to villagers, who have called for officials to investigate the firm. A resident of Sawang village, in Oudomxay’s Namo district, told RFA’s Lao Service that domestic firm CNP Exploration Mining and Import-Exports Company had been digging for copper in the area, ruining the local water.

CHINA

Top Chinese Official Is Ousted From Communist PartyNYTimes Ling Jihua, a top aide to China’s former president, was also removed from public office and will be prosecuted on corruption charges. The charges against the official, Ling Jihua, 58, are the result of an internal investigation begun last December by the party’s Politburo, which found evidence that he took bribes, committed adultery and improperly hoarded a large amount of state and party “core secrets,” according to a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency. Ling first entered the hot seat when his son was notoriously killed in a car crash racing Ferraris around Beijing in 2012. Ling reportedly denied his son was invovled and tried to cover up the incident, paying off two women who were involved in the crash to keep silent. The downfall of Ling Jihua, former top aide to Hu Jintao, further proves that no one is safe from Xi’s anti-graft force. Prosecution of such high officials only causing the Chinese rumour mill to churn more – is Xi aiming for a higher target like Ling’s old boss? 

China’s Global Ambitions, With Loans and Strings AttachedNYTimes The country has invested billions in Ecuador and elsewhere, using its economic clout to win diplomatic allies and secure natural resources around the world. Where the Andean foothills dip into the Amazon jungle, nearly 1,000 Chinese engineers and workers have been pouring concrete for a dam and a 15-mile underground tunnel. The $2.2 billion project will feed river water to eight giant Chinese turbines designed to produce enough electricity to light more than a third of Ecuador.

 Trial of Chinese Rights Campaigners on Subversion Charges ContinuesNYTimes The proceedings in the southern city of Guangzhou against the three defendants, who have been held for over a year, resumed after a monthlong halt. The trial of three prominent rights campaigners, including a lawyer, on charges of inciting subversion continued on Friday in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, amid a sweeping crackdown on human rights lawyers that has drawn international condemnation.

Asia stocks down as China manufacturing weakensThe Associated Press Asian stock markets were rattled Friday by cautious earnings outlooks from U.S. companies and a further deterioration in Chinese manufacturing.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

 Thai officials among more than 100 charged with human traffickingThe Guardian Army general, politicians and police among those charged after dozens of bodies, believed to be of migrants, exhumed from abandoned camps. Thailand’s state prosecutors are pressing charges against more than 100 people, including an army general, in a multinational human trafficking scandal that came to light after dozens of bodies were discovered in the south of the country earlier this year. The sweeping investigation, in which 15 Thai state officials were implicated, began after 36 bodies, believed to be those of migrants from Burma and Bangladesh, were exhumed from abandoned jungle camps near the Thai-Malay border in May. The Thai army has long been rumored to be involved in human trafficking related to sex and fishing trades. 

Related: Thailand Charges 72 With Human Trafficking Crimes Ahead of U.S. ReportNYTimes

Thailand’s Junta Pushes Back Election Date AgainThe Diplomat Despite protestations, the coup leader appears to be settling into power. Since taking power in a coup in May 2014, the junta has repeatedly delayed planned elections, claiming that the country needs greater stability before a poll will be held or that the new constitution is not yet finished. After vowing elections in 2016, the deputy chairman of the junta-created legislature now reportedly has declared that elections will not be possible until 2017, since it will take so long to print the new charter and deliver written copies of it across Thailand.

A Thai House DividedNYTimes Tensions within the military-royalist establishment will complicate the royal succession in Thailand. A rift is growing within Thailand’s military-royalist establishment, threatening the country’s stability and undermining prospects that the upcoming royal succession will unfold smoothly. On one side is an old guard of senior officers who gradually consolidated power during the long reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. On the other is a new guard from a semi-autonomous elite military unit at the service of Queen Sirikit, which includes the leaders of last year’s coup against the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Many believe that the 2014 coup was carried out for the express reason of keeping order during the transition period following the King’s death. That Gen. Prayuth’s junta government is causing instability is neither ideal nor surprising. 

Political implications of Thailand’s royal successionNew Mandala The imminent passing of the 87-year Thai monarch, Bhumibol Adulyadej, will send tectonic shock waves through Thailand’s body politic. Bhumibol, the world’s longest-serving monarch, is a pillar of Thai politics. During his reign Thailand emerged as a $390 billion economy, a middle income state. If nothing else, his passing creates an enormous vacuum in Thai politics and there is palpable fear about Thailand’s future without him. The uncertainty is real because the succession has the potential to upend Thai politics.

The ‘boat people’ crisis won’t end until Burma stops persecuting the RohingyaThe Guardian Boat departures have slowed for now, but are expected to resume as the regime steps up its relentless ethnic cleansing. Ebadullah can barely stand. Twenty-six years old and from Burma, he’s weak and weathered, but wants to talk. “If someone tried to move in the boat, they would beat us,” he said. “Those who didn’t move were beaten, too.” Armed gangs have promised jobs and lump-sum payments to families left behind, and have crammed approximately 150,000 men, women, and children — mostly Rohingya Muslims like Ebadullah — into modern-day slave ships. Where is the international pressure against Myanmar for the Rohingya crisis? Nowhere to be found as long as there’s money to be made. 

Related: 155 boatpeople returned to BangladeshDVB

Cambodian court jails 11 opposition activists for ‘insurrection’The Guardian Eleven Cambodian opposition members and activists have been jailed on insurrection charges, including three who received 20-year sentences, a defence lawyer has said. Rights groups said the draconian penalties, for taking part in clashes in July 2014 over the closure of a key protest site in the capital, were imposed as leader Hun Sen intensifies efforts to smother dissent in a kingdom he has led for more than three decades.

YUNNAN

World’s largest solar maker invests in YunnanGoKunming Solar power is shining a renewed spotlight on Yunnan. Last week, Trina Solar announced an agreement with Yunnan Electric Power Design Institute to supply solar cells capable of producing 51 megawatts of electricity. These panels will be the first installment of a larger plan to populate some tea-growing areas in Xishuangbanna with photovoltaic generators.The proposed solar farm will eventually reach a capacity of 100 megawatts (MW), enough to power roughly 36,000 homes annually. Despite its tremendous size, all of the electricity has been reserved exclusively for large tea plantations within the prefecture. The power will be utilized to run well-water pumps and irrigation systems already in place within the farms.

Extreme summer weather wreaks havoc around YunnanGoKunming Walking through Kunming on a warm sunny day, a casual observer would find little trace of the drought that parched much of the province for half a decade. Running water and frequent rains stand in stark contrast to the water shortages once a constant nuisance for residents of the Spring City. Other parts of Yunnan, however, are not so lucky, experiencing wildly juxtaposed weather, including flash floods and scorching droughts.

This week’s news digest was compiled by Brooke Rose with commentary by William Feinberg. 

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Regional roundup for week of 7.19.15

 EXSE FOCUS

China begins construction of ‘world’s tallest’ damThanh Nien News China has begun building a 314-metre (1,030-ft) high dam which will be among the world’s tallest, officials said, as the country massively expands hydropower. The Shuangjiankou dam on a tributary of China’s mighty Yangtze river will be completed in 2022, the environmental ministry said on its website Tuesday. The facility, costing 36 billion yuan ($5.8 billion), will be higher than the world’s current tallest dam, the 305-metre Jinping-1, also in China. //Hydroelectric energy sources can help decrease carbon emissions, but the environmental hazards, as well as social impacts, of these mega dams aren’t negligible.

Related: Burma, Thailand, China sign MoU for Salween damDVB

Related: Is China’s hydroelectric revolution as green as it sounds? International Rivers

Chinese police kill three ‘Xinjiang terrorists’ in north-east, authorities sayThe Guardian Police in north-eastern China on Monday killed three knife-wielding “terrorists” from Xinjiang, the mainly Muslim region in the far west, who attacked officers, local authorities said. One other assailant, described as a 28-year-old woman, was injured in Liaoning, said a notice posted on a verified provincial government social media account. Shenyang, the Liaoning capital where the incident happened, is almost 3,000km (1,900 miles) from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which has seen sporadic violence in recent years blamed by authorities on Islamist terrorists.

Related: Behind the veil: China’s policies in restive Xinjiang hurt traditional minority businessesThe South China Morning Post

ASEAN Seen As Future Labour Powerhouse, Succeeding ChinaInvestVine The structural change in the East Asian labour market and rising wages in China – which used to be the cheap manufacturing hub of the world – will shift a lot of labour towards Southeast Asian countries, especially the ones which still have low labour costs and/or minimum wages, experts say. Southeast Asia will eventually displace China for the title of “world’s factory”, another study released in April by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, or ANZ, said. This would happen over the next 10 to 15 years, “as companies move to take advantage of cheap and abundant labour in areas such as the Mekong [delta],” ANZ said in the report.

Developing Asia To Grow At A Slower Pace: ADBInvestVine The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on July 16 cut its economic-growth forecast for developing Asia amid slower-than-expected growth in the US and China. The Manila-based bank said the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to grow by only 6.1 per cent from the original forecast of 6.3 per cent in its annual Asian Development Outlook published in March this year. It added that the growth outlook for Southeast Asia was trimmed to 4.6 per cent because Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore’s economies disappointed in the first half, while subregional growth will likely accelerate next year to 5.1 per cent.

An HA/DR Solution to South China Sea TensionsThe Diplomat Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief could offer innovative approach to territorial conflict. China’s extensive land reclamation in the South China Sea poses a challenge to the security environment of the Asia-Pacific. Territorial conflicts are difficult to resolve given complex and deeply rooted sovereignty and historical interpretation issues. However, the essence of the issue is not the Chinese land reclamation itself (many other countries in the region have engaged in land reclamation), but rather the legal and political consequences that could escalate into a security issue, which in turn could destabilize a region that has the potential to drive the world economic growth.//Get ready for the annual CSIS South China Sea Conference.  It’s kinda like DC’s version of Shark Week.  Also watch this week for critical ruling re the Philippines arbitration case vs. China.

Related: Naval Buildups in the South China SeaThe Diplomat

Related: How China Views the South China Sea Arbitration CaseThe Diplomat

Myanmar Faces Daunting Post-Election Challenges, Experts WarnThe Diplomat Myanmar faces significant challenges following historic elections to be held later this year, experts warned Tuesday. Last week, Myanmar confirmed that it would hold its election on November 8, setting the stage for polls following a historic opening in 2011 after half a century of military rule.

Related: Myanmar Reveals Date for Historic 2015 ElectionsThe Diplomat

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Forecasting the Future of US-China CompetitionThe Diplomat China figured prominently in this year’s annual conference conducted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which held the massive, all-day event at the end of last month in Washington, D.C.  While the event focused on global challenges from Russia and the Islamic State to technology and energy, one of four breakout sessions focused exclusively on “The Future of China.”

Obama official sees momentum to conclude Asia-Pacific trade pactThanh Nien News The 12 nations negotiating a Pacific trade pact are “keenly focused” on reaching an agreement as ministers prepare to meet in Hawaii this month, according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Froman acknowledged sticking points remain to the Trans-Pacific Partnership on issues including market access. He wouldn’t be drawn on a specific time line after five years of negotiations, but said he’s optimistic ahead of the next discussions.//Waiting for details of this deal whose negotiations are conducted in secret is unnerving.

RMB Internationalization and US Economic Leadership: Reforms and RebalanceThe Diplomat The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is currently considering whether or not to recognize the Chinese currency – yuan or renminbi (RMB) – as an official reserve currency to be included in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) along with the dollar, euro, yen and sterling. Eswar Prasad, the former head of the IMF’s China division recently stated, “The IMF’s imprimatur is nice to have but ultimately it is market forces that will drive the renminbi’s adoption as a reserve currency.”//with Saudi Arabia and oil not meaning so much to the US anymore, RMB internationalization and position as a potential reserve currency is probably one of the top five international developments with long-term, game changing implications to watch.

Can Myanmar benefit from China plan?New Mandala China’s leaders are looking to convince us that their dreams of “one belt, one road” can lead to a new wave of global prosperity. These initiatives are designed to enmesh partners from near and far in a Chinese-led network of investment and economic growth. The Chinese government inevitably has firm ideas about how Myanmar fits into its bold plans for 21st-century economic development. It sees the country as a key site for large-scale Chinese projects, including the dams, bridges, roads and ports that will be the concrete-and-steel manifestation of the “one belt, one road” idea.//The answer is Yes.  Would Myanmar benefit by being left out of the Belt and Road project?  No.  But the devil is in the details – who gets the projects, what are environmental implications, and how can the projects be implemented with efficiency and on a predictable schedule with ethnic conflict looming and raging in Myanmar?

Related: The Belt and Road: China’s Economic Lifeline?The Diplomat

Connectivity with China a priority – The Star BEIJING: Malaysia is ready to work with China on developing connectivity, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. Among others, ports in Malaysia will be upgraded and more free trade zones and industrial parks will be built near the ports.

China’s slowdown may widen Vietnam trade gap, official saysThanh Nien News China’s economic slowdown may widen Vietnam’s trade deficit as the Southeast Asian nation counts on its largest trading partner to buy commodities, according to a government official. China has been Vietnam’s biggest trade partner since at least 2007. The recent stock plunge and the slowdown in China’s growth has triggered concerns in regional governments including Indonesia and Philippines.//Enter opportunity for US purchases of more Vietnamese goods – maybe not commodities, but purchasing fewer commodities from Vietnam may help the country implement higher environmental standards.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

To sustain its forests, Asia needs to invest in local people: expertsThanh Nien News Asia has a unique opportunity to fight climate change and lift many more people out of poverty if it invests more in the communities living in its forests, experts said. The Asia-Pacific region’s forests, which account for almost 20 percent of the world’s forested area, play a big role in fighting climate change because of trees’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).

Silence of the dammedMekong Commons In the ongoing controversy over the costs and benefits of hydropower in the Mekong River basin, there is much debate among governments, private business and civil society especially in Thailand and internationally. But one voice seems to be always silent in this debate: that of the local communities of Laos in whose country at least two mainstream Mekong dams are being built or planned and who will face the brunt of the projects’ impacts.//More needs to be done to bring local stakeholders to the discussion table.  NGOs can serve as a bridge, representing and passing on the voices of local community stakeholders.  NGOs, contrary to popular opinion, the Laos government wants to hear from you.  Laos government, to get more NGOs to talk to you, stop detaining and kidnapping development activists and whistle blowers.

 18,000 trees to be felled for new tourist road through Vietnam mangrove forestThanh Nien News Ho Chi Minh City has approved a plan to build a new road through Can Gio Mangrove Forest, a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO, in a bid to attract more tourists. Here’s the catch: the road will be 17 meters wide and run 3.5 kilometers, which means 18,600 trees will have to be cut down to make space for it. Can Gio District conceded that the construction will destroy 6.4 hectares of forest and force creatures living in that area to move.

Long-term overuse of fertilisers saps China’s farmlandsSouth China Morning Post

 

CHINA

UncivilThe Economist Some were taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Others had their offices raided, or were summoned to “take tea” at the local police station—a euphemism for being interrogated. According to Amnesty International, around 120 lawyers, as well as more than 50 support staff, family members and activists, have been rounded up across the country since the pre-dawn hours of July 9th. Many have been released, but as The Economist went to press at least 31 were still missing or were believed to remain in custody. //Is this the rule of law that Xi promoted in at his 3rd plenum?

Related: China’s ‘Rule by Law’ Takes an Ugly TurnChinaFile

Remaining Uighurs in detention may go to TurkeyThe Nation The last group of 52 Uighur migrants detained in Thailand will likely be going to Turkey because China has already been given those it wants for alleged crimes and violence in its territory. Beijing has got those who are suspected of involvement in crimes in China, so the remaining Uighur migrants are not wanted by China. It seems that the remaining migrants have no criminal record in China so they may go to the country of their choice or Turkey,” a high-ranking security official said yesterday.//To further understand this case, in general it would be helpful for the Chinese government to release the names of the 70 refugees repatriated to China two weeks ago as well as the charges surrounding their cases. Transparency.

The Environmental Problem China Can No Longer OverlookThe Diplomat China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is taking steps to clean up soil contamination. Will it be enough? China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is on a roll, pushing out action plans, regulations, and laws to address a number of its most pressing environmental challenges. Most recently, in mid-July it announced that it had submitted an action plan to the State Council to tackle one of the country’s least visible but most serious problems: soil contamination. Plans are also in the works for a new soil pollution prevention law in 2017.

China must make use of minority cultures to develop poorer border areas, says senior officialThe South China Morning Post China must utilise the linguistic and cultural links of its ethnic minorities with neighbouring countries to help develop its poor border areas, but also guard against an infiltration of extremists, a senior official wrote in an influential journal.

China’s Rapidly Changing Views on Wildlife Conservation in AfricaChinaFile A dramatic shift in Chinese public opinion about animal welfare and global wildlife conservation appears to be underway. Supported by high-profile celebrity campaigns by NBA legend Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, there is growing awareness in China over the country’s role in the illicit African wildlife trade.//Glad to see the mass PSA campaigns working as well as bar raised on punishment for offenders on this issue. 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Clock ticks on rice harvestThe Phnom Penh Post As el niño continues to buffet Cambodia, the next two weeks could be crucial in determining whether the Kingdom will suffer from a smaller-than-usual rice harvest and potential food shortages, experts said yesterday. The bulk of the rice harvested in Cambodia is normally planted between May and July, but amid unusually high temperatures and reduced precipitation, concerns are mounting regarding the hardships farmers might face and how it could affect their crops, according to a report released late last week by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). //With such a huge portion of the kingdom’s population in the agriculture sector, lower precipitation and high temps would mean trouble for Cambodia.

Everyone must save water till rains come mid-Aug: PMThe Nation It is now absolutely necessary for everybody – be they farmers or not – to save fresh water for consumption and daily use, at least until mid-August, when more rain is expected, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday. The government ordered a big cut yesterday in the amount of water released from four key dams – Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwai Noi and Pasak Jolasid – from 28 million cubic metres to 18 million cubic metres per day, so there is more left until the rains come.//This year’s drought seems to be the #1 conversation topic and concern among mainland Southeast Asians.

NGO alert: Cambodia legislation gives government new powers to monitor, fine or disbandThe Guardian The government has just passed a Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) which will impose mandatory registration on all domestic and international associations and NGOs, in order to have legal standing. They must also file annual reports on their activities and finances to the government. This bill will give the government powers to monitor activity and to fine or take legal action against NGOs. The government will also have the power to disband NGOs if their activities “jeopardise peace, stability and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture, and traditions of Cambodian society”.//Call this THE CHINA EFFECT.

Related: Does Cambodia Really Need a New NGO Law?The Diplomat

Shelling Sends Civilians Fleeing in Shan StateThe Irrawaddy More than 100 people from Kaung Kha village in Muse Township have fled their homes after artillery shells were fired into the settlement on Monday, reportedly leaving one person dead and two others injured. The displaced villagers told The Irrawaddy that the artillery bombardment began at about 10 am on Monday and stopped sometime in the afternoon. The villagers have sought shelter at nearby Namtaw village and say they dare not return to their homes amid reports that the Burma Army is occupying the village.

 

YUNNAN

Kunming to invest in public electric car fleetGoKunming The Kunming municipal government is moving toward the acquisition of all-electric cars that will be made publicly available by year’s end. Once delivered, the vehicles would become the centerpiece of a public transportation initiative designed to reduce general traffic congestion and cut down on overall tailpipe emissions in the Spring City. //Kunming is following suit in finding ways to alleviate traffic and reduce carbon emissions. Kudos to the municipal government for working to improve a city whose air conditions are already above standards for larger cities in China.

Video: Hip-hop grannies in Kunming’s Green Lake ParkGoKunming For anyone who has spent time in China, witnessing nocturnal dances by groups of women is not a new occurrence. Every evening across the country, in rural hamlets and huge metropolises alike, ladies gather in public squares and shake it to all different types of music. The nightly gatherings are simply a way to connect with like-minded people who want to step out, get some fun exercise and indulge in a bit of good-natured exhibitionism. //One of the exciting bits of Kunming’s urban personality that makes you fall in love with it!

 

REVIEWS

The Dog by Jack Livings review – a risky debut collection of extraordinary powerThe Guardian The Dog is, among other things, a forceful argument for the role of imagination in fiction and in life. These short stories successfully put us into other people’s shoes, extending a gift of empathy. Livings has spent time studying and teaching in China, but it is still a gutsy move for an American writer to build his first work of fiction around the imagined lives of people in a foreign land. Like his characters, he seems to find something productive in being an outsider.

This week’s analysis was compiled by Rachel Tritsch with analysis by Rachel Tritsch and Brian Eyler.

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Regional round-up for week of 7.12.15

Giant steps for the future of US-Vietnam relations this week, as Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong paid a historic visit to Washington and discussed Agent Orange cleanup, the TPP, and military relations with President Obama.  It was the first time that a standing party General Secretary visited the US – Ho Chi Minh lived in the US before he became founder of Vietnam’s Communist Party.  The Chinese stock market roller coaster threatened to unravel much of the goodwill promised in Xi Jinping’s Silk Road infrastructure development projects and the AIIB – let’s keep our eye on this.  Finally Thai usurper PM Prayuth continued to prove his reputation as Southeast Asia’s biggest asshole by separating more than 50 Uighur families for life – he sent 170 women and children refugees to Turkey while dispatching their husbands back to China for likely life imprisonment.  These stories and more below.

EXSE FOCUS

After Week of Turmoil, Chinese Stocks Post Further Gains – NYTimes A week of volatility in China’s stock markets ended on a better note than many investors expected, as government policies to prop up shares seemed to have muted some of the panic among sellers. China’s Shanghai composite index jumped 4.5 percent Friday, after a similar rise on Thursday. Responding to the restored confidence and a new proposal from the Greek government for a bailout plan, regional markets followed suit. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose over 2.1 percent.//Recovery in China’s stock market is critical for Xi Jinping’s political aspirations both domestically and abroad.  A major crash could bankrupt his policy reform plans and reduce much capital earmarked for infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia.  This week the Indonesian media ran a headline of China poses a bigger threat to Indonesia than Greece with logic in the aforementioned vein, but the headline could read the same in each of Southeast Asia’s countries.

Related: The Problem With China’s Efforts to Prop Up Its Stock Market

Ignoring Protests, Thailand Deports About 100 Uighurs Back to China – NYTimes Thailand has sent about 100 ethnic Uighurs back to China, the country they fled, a Thai government spokesman said on Thursday. Thailand acted despite international warnings that the Uighurs could face harsh treatment in China and pleas that they be allowed to resettle elsewhere. // Point for China in Thai relations, adds to Thai gov announcement of Chinese sub deal a few weeks ago. 

ExSE analysis by Will Feinberg here.

Southeast Asia Drought Forces Farmers to Leave Fields Unplanted – Radio Free Asia A severe lack of rain and higher-than-normal temperatures in parts of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have caused some farmers to leave their fields and rice paddies unplanted, sources inside the developing Southeast Asian countries said.//Finally the rains came this week.  Overnight the Mekong rose by one meter in Vientiane – droughts and sudden rises in river levels disables the opportunity for flood retreat agriculture, a long relied on form of planting in Southeast Asia.  

Malaysian prime minister faces corruption allegations – CFR Asia Unbound Prime Minister Najib Razak is facing calls to resign after a Wall Street Journal report traced nearly $700 million of deposits into his personal bank account from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB), the country’s strategic development fund. Investigators have frozen bank accounts associated with the case and have raided the offices of 1MDB, while both 1MDB and Najib have denied wrongdoing. The fund, which is owned by Malaysia’s Finance Ministry, has financed itself by issuing more than $11 billion in debt. Though the fractured political opposition poses little threat to the prime minister,criticism from within his own governing party, and from political heavyweight and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, could threaten Najib’s continued leadership.

Related: self-explanatory.  

Sesan families report illness – Phnom Penh Post Villagers living downstream from the controversial Lower Sesan II hydropower project have claimed that they contracted unusual skin ailments causing large black spots on their bodies after the firm building the dam drained industrial waste into a river they use for bathing. Locals in Plok village, only a few kilometres downstream from the $800-million project in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district, have said they saw workers at the dam site using explosives near the river bank and piping industrial waste into the water earlier this year.//The costs of hydropower projects in Southeast Asia continue to rise along with unforeseen risks.

All aboard: Kunming-Vientiane Railway inches forward – East by Southeast Although a bit trite with repetition, no saying better encapsulates the major obstacle facing Laos than “geography is destiny”. The only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos is wedged between the vast rivers and expansive mountain ranges that demarcate its natural borders with China, VietnamCambodiaMyanmar and Thailand. Because of its lack of access to maritime trade routes, the small country has historically relied heavily on domestic subsistence agriculture with little opportunity for much international commerce. // Kunming – Singapore (really South Malaysia) rail would be HUGE win for China, and Laos must be a part of that. Beijing’s progress on this will reflect robustness of government and economy.

Myanmar: General Election Is Scheduled for Nov. 8 – AP via NYTimes The military, which had ruled the country since 1964, scheduled the last general election in 2010 under rules widely seen as rigging the outcome. // These elections will be test of Burma’s commitment to democracy reforms. Suu Kyi’s absence will hurt but not crush NLD’s chances, watch to see which candidate they field.

President Obama, Vietnam Party chief talk deepening of partnership at White House — Tuoi Tre News U.S. President Barrack Obama and Vietnam’s Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong have agreed to the principle of resolving disputes in the East Sea via peaceful means based on international law. The agreement was reached during a meeting held at the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 7 (local time) between the U.S. president and his guest, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. // VN wants to be new US darling, almost all citizens want to be in TPP (June Pew poll). Not just hedge against China, VN wants development it can’t get from China.

              Related: Vietnam Party Chief’s Historic Visit to Washington: Establishing Strategic Trust   

Thailand’s electricity utility may be complicit in human rights violations in Myanmar’s Salween dams – Mekong Commons The building of the 241 meter high Mong Ton (also known as Tasang dam) is well underway in the Upper Salween River in the southern Shan state of Myanmar. The largest dam planned on the Upper Salween River, the US$10 billion Mong Ton dam’s reservoir  will flood at least 640 square km stretching across two-thirds of Shan State. It will produce 7,000 MW of power, 90% of which will be exported to Thailand and China. the reservoir. // 🙁

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

UN tribunal to begin South China Sea deliberation – BBC A United Nations tribunal is to begin deliberations on whether it can hear a legal challenge over territorial claims in the South China Sea. In 2013, the Philippines asked the Permanent Court of Arbitration to declare invalid most of China’s maritime claims in the disputed area. China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea angering several Asian neighbors. It says the tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge. If the tribunal decides it can rule on the case, the legal hearings will get under way.  // The likely mixed ruling (expected in August or September) will be an ultimate Phils win, but probably won’t stop China from doing anything as the court has no jurisdiction.

              Related: China on talks with PH: No need to drop case

              Related: 3 out of 5 Filipinos have ‘little trust’ in China – SWS poll

A Tipping Point in the US-China-Vietnam Triangle – The Diplomat The significance of Trong’s visit lies more in what it means than in what it says. For the United States, it means that the strategic gains from a close and strong relationship with Vietnam have outweighed the strategic costs of provoking China and the political costs of befriending a communist regime. For Vietnam, the trip will boost the communist regime’s legitimacy, but at the same time, the friendship with America will have political and strategic ramifications. It will affect the balance of power among the country’s elites in favor of the reformers at the expense of the conservatives, and it will irritate China. Trong’s trip means that the reformers are on the rise and the conservatives in decline. It also means that Hanoi has reached the limits of its engagement with Beijing and is now trying to reach out to Washington to broaden its options.

Cambodia’s Strategic China Alignment – The Diplomat Cambodia’s provisional alignment with China will depend on the foreign policy behaviors of Thailand and Vietnam toward Cambodia, ASEAN’s relevance in meeting the security need of its members, its capability to withstand perceived threats from neighboring countries, and the availability of sufficient support from the international community to ensure the small kingdom’s survival, sovereignty, and pursuit of prosperity. // Cambodia gets infrastructure development, an army training school, and support for neglecting human rights from China. In return China got support in the SCS during Cambodia’s 2012 ASEAN chair. 

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

New dams could drown hopes of returning home for refugees – Bangkok Post In mid-June, the Thai military government and its Myanmar counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding on energy, with an eye to expanding Thailand’s import of electricity from Myanmar, by up to 10,000 megawatts. The initial agreement also promotes overseas investment by Thai state-owned and public companies in numerous coal and hydropower projects in Myanmar, including the Hat Gyu, Ywathit, and Mong Ton dams on the Salween River. Significantly, these projects are all situated in ethnic states, namely the Shan, Kayah, Karen, and the Tanessserim divisions, which make up some of the country’s most vulnerable areas and populations.

Italian-Thai set to sign 50-year Dawei contract – Bangkok Post Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) through its subsidiary Dawei Development Co (DDC) will sign a contract with the Myanmar government by July 24 to develop and run the Dawei economic development zone for at least 50 years.

As Blockade Against Sarawak Dam Continues, OECD Complaint Results in Unprecedented Agreement – International Rivers The blockade to stop the Baram Hydroelectric Dam in Sarawak, Malaysia from being built is now entering into its 21st month, standing as a testament to the strength, determination and hope of thousands of women and men, prepared to go up against all odds. Up to 20,000 indigenous people, known collectively as the Orang Ulu, or upriver people, would be displaced if the proposed 1,200 megawatt (MW) dam moves ahead. Much of the land to be inundated is considered the customary territory of the Orang Ulu. The blockade effort began in October 2013 and consists of two separate sites set up at road access points in the area of the proposed dam.

 

CHINA

Chinese Authorities Detain and Denounce Rights Lawyers – NYTimes At least five lawyers from a firm that specialized in rights cases have been detained and accused of running a criminal syndicate to smear the Communist Party and “create social turmoil” through their litigation, state-run media said on Saturday.

Mass Evacuation in China as Typhoon Chan-Hom Hits Coast – NYTimes A typhoon swept along the coast of eastern China on Saturday, whipping up high waves, intense winds, and rain that forced the crowded commercial region to suspend flights and evacuate hundreds of thousands of residents.

The Big Story Behind China’s New Military Strategy – The Diplomat As China reemerges as one of the globe’s leading powers, just what type of actor it will be on the world stage has become a subject of intense debate among China watchers and the broader public. With tensions rising to what one eminent China scholar has called a “tipping point” in U.S.-China relations, the Chinese government released its first-ever white paper on military strategy just before the fourteenth annual Shangri-La Dialogue was held in Singapore this past weekend. Since 2012, Beijing has indeed become more assertive in proximate waters, and the paper underscores determination to strengthen Chinese “strategic management of the sea.”

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Outcry as Malaysia’s human trafficking record brings praise from US — Reuters Country could now sign up to Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but advocates say Malaysia continues to face human trafficking issues. The United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centres, US sources said on Wednesday, a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious US-led free-trade deal with the south-east Asian nation and 11 other countries. The upgrade to so-called “tier two watch list” status removes a potential barrier to President Barack Obama’s signature global trade deal. // U.S. reps have said they’ll introduce bills to stop this if it isn’t changed. How will Obama get around it for TPP?

Seven dead and dozens injured in attacks in Thailand’s south Agence France-Presse More than 6,300 people have been killed in the conflict pitting troops and police against rebels seeking greater autonomy for three Muslim-majority provinces. Three people were killed and a dozen injured in four separate bomb blasts in Thailand’s war-torn deep south, police said on Saturday, while another four died from shooting and arson attacks. More than 6,300 people have been killed in near-daily conflict pitting troops and police against rebels seeking greater autonomy for the three Muslim-majority provinces bordering Malaysia since 2004.

Vietnam After 2016: Who Will Lead? – The Diplomat Every five years, the Vietnamese Communist Party holds its National Congress. Among other important policy issues, the party congress chooses the central leadership teams, to govern both the party and the country. If the 11th party congress (2011) is any guide, the new Central Committee, which will be elected by all delegates at the coming 12th party congress (to be held in 2016), will select a new general secretary (Tng Bí Thư), a new Politburo (B Chính Tr), a new Secretariat (Ban Bí Thư), and a new Central Commission of Inspection (U Ban Kim Tra Trung Ương).

Why people don’t buy insurance in Asia – ADB Blog Insurance is often viewed as a product of the sophisticated, capitalistic system of the West, and those who are outside this cultural group are less likely to value insurance protection. Asians, who rely on informal insurance such as a family network, are thus typically less focused on buying insurance

Kokang conflict reveals ethnic strife unlikely to end after cease fire – East by Southeast Many things in Myanmar are changing – the economy, the government, infrastructure. Others, like violent ethnic conflict, seem destined to stay the same. For the past three months, the government of Myanmar has been fighting the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an ethnic rebel army based on the country’s border with China. The MNDAA are predominantly made up of ethnic Kokang fighters. The Kokang are ethnically Han Chinese and the live in Kokang region, in Myanmar’s Shan state.

 

YUNNAN

New Research: Rubber Expansion Threatens Biodiversity and Livelihoods – East by Southeast  Xishuangbanna prefecture in China’s Yunnan province has seen an explosion of rubber cultivation in the past 15 years. Increasing amounts of environmentally valuable and protected land are being cleared for rubber plantations that are economically unsustainable, new research suggests. More widespread monitoring is vital to design policy that protects livelihoods and environments. The research was recently published in Global Environmental Change and constitutes a joint effort by scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) East and Central Asia office, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the University of Singapore and the East-West Center.

This week’s news digest was compiled by John Jeunemann with analysis by John Jeunemann and Brian Eyler.  

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