Regional Roundup for the Week of 4.11.13

This is EBSE’s first go at a weekly news digest on top stories for the region.  Your comments are always welcome, and let us know if we’ve missed a good story.  The digest is inspired by Sinocism China Newsletter.  Be informed about China at

Writing Yunnan a Rubber Check – China File  Former editor of, Chris Horton makes his ChinaFile debut. Rubber is drastically altering Xishuangbanna’s landscape. For residents of an inland area largely left behind as much of coastal China got rich as the result of the reform and opening-up policies of late 1970s, the change to the land is a sacrifice many have been willing to make. Small-hold rubber farms now cover more of Xishuangbanna than do state farms.

Nestle grows China investment (in Yunnan) –  South China Morning Post The Nestle buying station in Pu’er buys directly from the grower at world prices cutting out middle man.  The staff provides free technical assistance to all growers.  100% Nestle coffee consumed in China comes from Pu’er.  Coffee lovers in China will be excited to hear about a major new initiative by Nestle (Zurich: NESN) to grow coffee beans in southwestern Yunnan province, in the latest challenge to the nation’s traditional tea-drinking culture. Nestle’s choice of the area known as Pu’er for its latest move is highly symbolic in the brewing battle between these two popular beverages, since that particular region is already famous in Chinese for its namesake tea leaves.

China’s fishy data exposed – Sydney Morning Herald Huge increased demand for protein sources and “safe” fish in China Chinese fishing vessels are taking a huge unreported global catch, fisheries  researchers have found. Instead of an average 368,000 tonnes a year that China  reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, its fleets hauled in as  much as 4.6 million tonnes, the scientists estimate.

Authorities cancel indy film festival (in Yunnan) China Media Project Cui Weiping (崔卫平), a well-known social critic and professor at the Beijing Film Academy, wrote on Sina Weibo today that the Yunnan Multi-Cultural Festival, one of the country’s most important platforms for independent documentary film, has been shuttered by authorities. The forum, known as “YunFest,” was founded in 2003 by the BAMA Mountain Culture Research Institute, an NGO supervised by the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences. The idea of the forum was to “become a platform of discussion” between visual documentary filmmakers and artists from China and the Mekong region.

Details emerge in Yunnan’s largest gutter oil case – GoKunming Fourteen executives of Qujing-based Yunnan Fengrui Oil Company (云南丰瑞粮油有限公司) stand accused of knowingly manufacturing and distributing toxic food products. Over a ten-year period the company allegedly sold 32,000 tons of ‘cooking oil’ in Yunnan — much of it consisting of industrial and commercial waste, CCTV is reporting.

Domestic Health Challenges and Global Health Governance: The Cases of China and India – Asia Unbound Combined, China and India account for 33 percent of the global disease burden, measured by disability-adjusted life year. Both face acute problems in combating infectious disease and confronting the looming threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These challenges highlight a fundamental lack of capacity in both countries to provide adequate care for their populations and control potential disease outbreaks.

Truth behind frequent U.S. military exercises in the Asia Pacific – China Daily In geostrategic sense, containing China in the Asia-Pacific region is the basic content of the U.S. policy toward China. There are three major means for the U.S. to conduct deep involvement in the Asia-Pacific region: first, wide alliance to win over various countries in the Asia-Pacific region; second, military forward deployment to realize strategic “re-balancing”; and third, occupy a “leading” position in the region to play “pro-active role”.

Economic Interdependence = Less Conflict – The Diplomat Will economic logic come to govern international politics, driving out the competitive impulse? Sure, when men become angels and lambs lie down with lions. Until then, I’ll keep company with the fire-eaters who put their trust in a strong navy.

The State of US-China Competition – The Diplomat Few took China’s military buildup seriously until recent years. Few wanted to even think about competition against Asia’s traditional central power. Even today, it’s far from uncommon for scholars and practitioners to hold forth grandly, proclaiming that it will be decades before China can seize Taiwan.

Red star over the Indian Ocean – The Diplomat Attack submarines from the Chinese navy are becoming increasingly active in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and could pose a “grave threat” to Indian interests there, a report by the Indian defense ministry said last week.

China’s Internet: A Giant Cage – The Economist For those of you living outside of China, this is a revealing introduction to life behind the Great Firewall The party has achieved something few had thought possible: the construction of a distinct national internet. The Chinese internet resembles a fenced-off playground with paternalistic guards. Like the internet that much of the rest of the world enjoys, it is messy and unruly, offering diversions such as games, shopping and much more. Allowing a distinctly Chinese internet to flourish has been an important part of building a better cage. But it is constantly watched over and manipulated.

China’s former railways minister is charged with corruption – NYT Mr. Liu was removed from his position in February 2011, five months before the crash, after reports that he had embezzled $152 million over the years. His dismissal fanned emerging worries that the quality and safety of the country’s vast high-speed rail program had been compromised by haste and corruption during construction.  See Evan Osnos’s “Boss Rail”

Mekong countries seek greater cooperation on green agriculture – GMS Environment Operations Center Agriculture remains the backbone of economies in the GMS and directly supports the livelihoods of nearly 200 million people. However, agriculture gains have come at the expense of the environment, causing forest and biodiversity loss, water pollution and shortages, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mekong hit by climate change – Vietnam News A new study on Climate Change Impact and Adaptation in the Lower Mekong Basin released on March 29 has revealed that the effects of climate change in the basin is worse than the global average. Final results of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded study, that were released at a regional workshop in Bangkok, indicate that changes in climate will likely trigger decreases in yields and in the suitability of key commercial and staple crops of the region.

Developing Asia’s growth to pick up despite US, Europe’s weakness – The Nation The Manila-based bank (ADB) said the region’s gross domestic product was projected to expand 6.6 per cent in 2013 and 6.7 per cent in 2014, from last year’s softer performance of 6.1 per cent.  “Developing Asia is bouncing back from the slowdown in the previous year,” said the bank’s annual Asian Development Outlook report, which covers 45 economies in Asia and the Pacific.

Landmines still blight Southeast Asia – The Diplomat The reality for today’s generation is that land mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance) are an enormous problem in ASEAN countries. Of the 10 members of ASEAN, UXO remain a major issue for Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Asia’s unsung morning markets Why are the offerings at morning markets better? Simply because they have to be. Morning market vendors cater to locals, a demanding crowd of housewives and home cooks in their early twenties to eighties, male retirees for whom breakfast figures as a highlight of the day, and fellow vendors of fresh ingredients.

In the refugee camp, art was a children’s game A firm believer in the emancipating power of art, Cambodian artist Srey Bandaul co-founded Phare Ponleu Selpak, an art school that aims to offer disadvantaged youth a way out of poverty. In his upcoming exhibition, entitled Digestion, at Phnom Penh’s Romeet Gallery, he reflects on independence and the dynamics between the outside world and the inside, portraying the body as a metaphorical arena of tension.

Wary of China, companies head to Cambodia – NYT It’s a choice that both global MNCs and domestic Chinese manufacturers face, move to the inland provinces or move out.  The populations, economies and even electricity output of most Southeast Asian countries are smaller than in many Chinese provinces, and sometimes smaller than a single Chinese city. As companies shift south, they quickly use up local labor supplies and push wages up sharply.

Laos high-speed rail: China’s ticket to southeast Asia and beyond – Beyond BRICS Laos experience with a railroad is 2km long sitting in the middle of a waterfall/reader, you may be old and grey when the project is completed.

Hongsa folk to relocate to make way for power plant – Vientiane Times The 2,036 people in Hongsa district, Xayaboury province, who had to leave their homes to make way for the construction of a lignite-fired power plant, are now settled in two new villages. The new communities of 452 houses, which will house the more than 420 relocated families, are 12km away from the project site. Construction of the two villages has been funded by the project developer, Hongsa Power Company Limited, at a cost of over US$20 million.

Beijing Flaunts Cross-border clout in search for drug lord – New York Times China’s answer to Zero Dark Thirty or a projection of security forces across borders  The capture shows how China’s law enforcement tentacles reach far beyond its borders into a region now drawn by investment and trade into China’s orbit, and where the United States’ influence is being challenged.  It took six months for China to catch Mr. Naw Kham, a citizen of Myanmar in his 40s, a man of many aliases who was at the center of the booming synthetic drug business in the Golden Triangle, once known for its opium.  What came next was quick: the authorities flew the drug lord from Laos to China, tried him in a provincial court and executed him last month in a highly publicized live television broadcast that captured the proceedings until just moments before he received a lethal injection.

2 killed, 22mn drug tablets found as police seize boat on Mekong – The Nation Laotian officials said that acting on information from Myanmar authorities, they tracked the boat until it arrived at a location near jointly controlled waters off Chiang Saen district in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, Laos’ Bor Kaew area and Myanmar’s Pong area, 10 kilometres north of the Golden Triangle.

Burmese snap up first private newspapers in 50 years – Guardian Is this a lasting change?  Privately owned daily newspapers have hit newsstands for the first time in 50 years in Burma, where a state monopoly on the daily press once kept news to a strict minimum, generally by threat of censorship, imprisonment or torture – or all three. Covering topics from sim card prices to recent religious violence, four dailies went on sale on 1 April – also the first anniversary of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s election to parliament. Twelve more publications will follow suit in the coming months as they work out printing and distribution logistics.

Myanmar’s alarming civil unrest – CFR brief Anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which last year had seemed confined to the western state of Rakhine, has exploded across the country. Mobs of Buddhists, some with ties to the militant 969 Movement, have attacked Muslims in the towns of Meiktila, Naypyidaw, Bago, and most recently, in Yangon, the largest city. Many Muslims in Yangon, Bago, and other large towns are afraid to go to the mosque, enter shops catering to Muslims, or show displays of their faith outside their homes or stores. At least 100,000 Muslims have been made homeless in the past two years, and hundreds have been killed.

Thai central bank official sees ASEAN unity – WSJ Thailand’s central bank Deputy Governor Krirk Vanikkul says Southeast Asian countries are eager to integrate their financial systems into what will be known as the Asian Economic Community but face challenges as they aim for closer economic ties by end of 2015.

PetroVietnam CEO: Territorial disputes not affecting exploration – WSJ Vietnam has promising reserves of oil and gas, but much of it is located in territory that is disputed by China. State-owned Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, or PetroVietnam, has seen its output level off over the past few years, so what to do about expanding production?

Doan Van Vuon Vietnamese farmer gets 5 years sentence for resisting arrest with guns, landmines – Huffington Post  A court sentenced a family of four Vietnamese fish farmers to between two and five years in prison on Friday after finding them guilty of attempted murder for fighting back against a state eviction squad with homemade guns and land mines. The men have been lauded on the Internet for defending their land in such spectacular fashion. Land grabs by corrupt officials are the leading source of public anger toward the one-party government in this autocratic Southeast Asian nation. The sentences were less severe than they could have been given the seriousness of the charges.

Vietnam officals convicted in land grab – Bangkok Post The other end of the post above The trial of five officials involved in a high-profile land seizure in northern Vietnam ended Wednesday, with one receiving jail time.

Agent Orange still provokes fears in Vietnam’s pregnant women – Guardian Gammeltoft says that, on average, a woman in Hanoi will have 6.7 scans during pregnancy – and some have more than 30. The motivations of service providers play a part, but fear of birth defects is deeply rooted in the country’s recent history. For 10 years during the Vietnam war, US troops sprayed over 11m tonnes of the herbicide Agent Orange on central and southern Vietnam to clear foliage that was providing cover for enemy soldiers.

This week’s regional roundup was compiled by Brian Eyler.

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