Regional Roundup for Week of 1.18.2016

EXSE FOCUS

Dammed if they don’t: Mekong countries face crucial choice today – Thanh Nien News This region is among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Fish harvests, for instance, are already declining due partly to drought in Cambodia’s Tonlé Sap Lake, which supplies the country’s 15 million people with more than a third of their protein. The Mekong Delta and its rich agricultural lands are also under grave threat from rising sea levels, storm inundation and their vulnerability to extreme weather.

The Source of China’s Coal Dependency – NYT As far back as 2000, in an attempt to reduce coal pollution, the government unveiled a plan to replace coal-fired boilers and cooking stoves with electric heating by subsidizing the conversion to electric appliances and electricity rates. Yet 16 years on, only some 310,000 homes in central Beijing have clean heat. This is a small number considering the central district covers an area that’s less than 5 percent of Beijing’s total area and accounts for just a tenth of Beijing’s total population. //China intends to cut coal’s portion of the nation’s energy consumption by almost 2 percent in 2017 – how feasible is this, and will it affect the country’s dependency on other energy sources (e.g., hydropower)?

Southeast Asia burns up the ranks of global polluters – Thanh Nien News As Southeast Asian economies boomed last decade, so did their pollution. The region’s emissions of carbon dioxide grew more rapidly between 1990 and 2010 than any other part of the world, with the Asian Development Bank warning the associated global warming could trigger floods, water shortages and economic losses.

It’s Official: DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen Is Taiwan’s Next President – The Diplomat Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party is the opposition no more – the DPP won the presidency in Saturday’s elections in a landslide victory that resets Taiwan’s political landscape.

Related: Taiwan elects first female president – The Guardian

China’s Africa Strategy: Going Global With Infrastructure Investment – The Diplomat The Rebalance authors Mercy Kuo and Angie Tang regularly engage subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. rebalance to Asia.  This conversation with Dr. Lucy Corkin – Adviser at RMB Westport, Research Associate of the Africa-Asia Centre at School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London, and author of Uncovering African Agency: Angola’s Management of China’s Credit Lines (Ashgate 2013) – is the 27th in “The Rebalance Insight Series.”

Related: Zimbabwe: China’s ‘All-Weather’ Friend in Africa – The Diplomat

In 2016, let’s hope for better trade agreements – and the death of TPP – The Guardian The US concluded secret negotiations on what may turn out to be the worst trade agreement in decades, the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and now faces an uphill battle for ratification, as all the leading Democratic presidential candidates and many of the Republicans have weighed in against it. The problem is not so much with the agreement’s trade provisions, but with the “investment” chapter, which severely constrains environmental, health, and safety regulation, and even financial regulations with significant macroeconomic impacts.

Eight Predictions for Southeast Asia for 2016: Part 2The Diplomat What can we expect for the region in 2016?

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

The ASEAN Economic Community: The Force Awakens? – The Diplomat The agreement on the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community signed on November 22 in Kuala Lumpur by the leading nations of Southeast Asia finally entered into force with much fanfare on December 31, heralding the “awakening” of what could be defined as a new Asian power bloc. Almost echoing the European Union’s Common Market of the 1950s, ASEAN seeks to allow for the free movement of goods, services and skilled labor, a major departure from what has been considered since the earliest days of its existence as a political project for peaceful regional integration.

Related: Making ASEAN businesses happenInvestvine

The Storm Beneath the Calm: China’s Regional Relations in 2016 – ChinaFile On the surface, 2015 came to a close in a moment of relative tranquility after a turbulent year for China’s neighborhood. But the calm is misleading: the optics of regional diplomacy have become increasingly detached from the reality of the underlying tensions; this risks obscuring deepening fault lines.

Podcast: China and the West: Hope and Fear in the Age of Asia – CFR Three years into Xi Jinping’s tenure as president of China, the world is still grasping for an understanding of who he is and where he is leading the country. Dutch journalist Fokke Obbema takes us inside China in his terrific new book, China and the West: Hope and Fear in the Age of Asia, to help us consider the often competing and contradictory trends in China’s development and the challenge that the West appears to have in managing its relations with this dynamic—and often unpredictable—power.

China-led Asian infrastructure bank opens for business – The Jakarta Post China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank officially opened for business on Saturday in Beijing after a formal ceremony led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Representatives from 57 member countries attended the opening ceremony, where China announced it would pledge $50 million to a special fund to prepare less developed countries for infrastructure projects.

Related: Xi Jinping says AIIB to boost Asia infrastructure investment – Thanh Nien News

            Related: President Xi Jinping pledges during opening ceremony for AIIB that China will devote itself to operation of new development bank – The South China Morning Post

 Philippines Pushes for Joint Naval Patrols With US in South China Sea – The Diplomat The Philippines proposed joint naval patrols with the United States in the South China Sea amidst ongoing territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing, The Philippine Star reports. During the U.S.-Philippine 2+2 ministerial consultations (See: “US, Philippines Boost Ties In Ministerial Meeting”), held in Washington D.C. on January 12, the United States committed to maintaining a military presence in the contested sea, according to the Philippine’s Department of National Defense spokesman, Peter Paul Galvez.

Thailand seeks closer Asean intel-sharingThe Nation THAILAND called yesterday for greater cooperation on exchange of intelligence among Asean countries following Thursday’s deadly terrorist attack in Jakarta. Indonesia has identified so-called Islamic State (IS) suicide bombers and gunmen as being behind the siege near a busy shopping district in the Indonesian capital that left seven dead including five attackers. Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said more intelligence cooperation was urgently needed now that the IS brand of terrorism had entered the Asean region.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Reinvigorating Domestic Demand for Growth and Sustainable Development – The Diplomat Economic and financial stability in Asia is critical as we embark on the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a universal and ambitious blueprint that expands the horizons of policymaking to implement the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, reduce the region’s collective environmental footprint and secure the resources necessary to build the future we want.

Footage of elephants in Cambodia raises hopes for Asian species in the wild – The Guardian Rare footage of an elephant herd roaming through Cambodia’s biggest forest sanctuary has signalled the success of a 14-year conservation programme and raised hopes for the endangered species’ survival. The camera trap footage, taken in the spectacular and remote Cardamom mountains, shows 12 elephants, including young, grazing and lumbering through the forest.

China’s Multipronged Green Development Target – The Diplomat China is a major player in the renewable energy market, especially in the solar power sector. It has committed to generating 150 to 200 GW of electricity from solar power and 250 GW from wind energy by 2020. Renewable energy projects will be funded in part by an increased surcharge on electricity bills of 0.019 yuan per kilowatt-hour. Clean energy producers are to be given priority over coal-fired generators in selling power to distributers and large users, in a change of policy from guaranteeing operating hours for coal fired plants.

Related: No new projects: China’s degraded Yangtze River needs protection, not construction, President Xi Jinping says – The South China Morning Post

China puts green finance high up G20 agenda – China Dialogue China as leader of the G20 this year is being tasked with delivering faster progress on green finance to steer the world towards an environmentally friendly path. China, the UN, G20 and global financial institutions will this year aim to expand a system of green bonds to pay for the US$50 trillion of investment required to meet a 2C climate goal agreed at the Paris climate summit in December. Green bonds will also be needed to fund a huge environmental clean-up following decades of rapid economic growth, particularly in large developing countries.

Roundtable: What are the benefits of China’s ban on new coal mines? – China Dialogue On the final day of 2015, China’s central government said it would suspend the approval of new mines, with the ban starting in 2016, cutting coal’s share of national energy consumption to 62.6% in 2017, down from 64.4% currently. We asked experts on China’s energy and climate polices the following question: How will this ban help China meet its CO2 and renewable energy targets, and reduce other types of pollution from the mining, transportation and use of coal?

 

CHINA

Navigating China’s New Silk Road – Project Syndicate BEIJING – Since its introduction by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the “one belt, one road” initiative – an ambitious plan to revitalize the ancient Silk Road overland and maritime trade routes linking East and West – has attracted considerable attention. And for good reason: The project, which involves more than 60 countries and quite a few international organizations, implies unprecedented opportunities – and challenges.

President Xi Jinping pledges to revamp China’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign – The South China Morning Post President Xi Jinping called yesterday for a revamp of the Communist Party’s approach to fighting corruption, while vowing to continue with the highly-publicised campaign. Addressing the annual meeting of the graft-busting agency the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Xi said supervision inside the party had to be strengthened, and that cadres needed to look at things from a “political perspective” and be loyal to the party. “We should revamp the structure and institutions and supervision mechanism [for fighting corruption],” CCTV quoted Xi as saying as he outlined the CCDI’s agenda for 2016.

Related: Former top Chinese police official and Zhou Yongkang ally jailed on corruption chargesThe South China Morning Post

Xi’s new model army – The Economist CHINA’S biggest military shake-up in a generation began with a deliberate echo of Mao Zedong. Late in 2014 President Xi Jinping went to Gutian, a small town in the south where, 85 years before, Mao had first laid down the doctrine that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed force not of the government or the country but of the Communist Party. Mr Xi stressed the same law to the assembled brass: the PLA is still the party’s army; it must uphold its “revolutionary traditions” and maintain absolute loyalty to its political masters. His words were a prelude to sweeping reforms in the PLA that have unfolded in the past month, touching almost every military institution.

Beijing Builds ‘Monster’ Ship for Patrolling the South China SeaThe Diplomat China has finished construction on a second 10,000-ton China Coast Guard (CCG) cutter destined for patrols in the South China Sea, Chinese state media reports. The ship, designated CCG 3901, “has been completed recently and is ready to start protecting China’s maritime rights,” The Global Times announced. A sister ship, the CCG2901, already deployed to the East China Sea in 2015.

Young Chinese feeling on edge about environmental decline – The South China Morning Post A group of university students from southwest China showed how far they were willing to go to raise awareness on environmental protection by taking photos of themselves hanging dangerously from the edge of a building, the West China City Daily reports on Tuesday. The group of 10, all third year students studying Visual Communication Design at the Sichuan University of Science and Engineering in Zigong, took the photos in December last year.

 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Islamic State Attack in Indonesia? A Look at the 2016 Jakarta Bombings – The Diplomat On the morning of January 14, a series of explosions and gunfire rocked the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, leaving at least seven dead and more than 20 injured. While it is still early days, the evidence so far suggests that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is responsible. Though it is important not to exaggerate the significance of a single event, the attack highlights the growing reach of terrorists into Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – as well as the rising threat of militancy in Southeast Asia.

Related: Jakarta Attacks Hit Vulnerable TargetThe Diplomat

 The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (Jan 16, 2016)The Irrawaddy The administration of President Thein Sein has given concessions to operate two dry ports to a regional logistics giant, the latest contract to be awarded after the election defeat of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in November. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, leaders of the National League for Democracy are concerned that projects are being rushed through before power is handed over in the coming months. The opposition party won an overwhelming majority at the polls and is set to lead the next government, which will inherit projects approved by the outgoing administration.

Shan State battles rage in tandem with peace talks – DVB As the second stage in Burma’s lurching peace process began with the Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, the absent Ta’ang National Liberation Army marked its 53rd Revolutionary Day with skirmishes against Burmese troops. Fighting in the Kutkai area of northern Shan State broke out on the afternoon of 12 January between the group’s 447/335 Regiment and the Burmese army’s 99th Light Infantry Division, according to a spokesperson for the TNLA.

Haunted by Close Call, Cambodia’s Long-Ruling PM Gears Up for Distant Election – The Irrawaddy PHNOM PENH — Cambodia won’t hold a general election for another two years. But look at Prime Minister Hun Sen, its long-ruling and mercurial strongman, and you’d think one was imminent. Hun Sen’s party narrowly won the last election in 2013 after losing seats to a resurgent opposition that shook his decades-long grip on power. Now, with a familiar mix of guile and ruthlessness, Hun Sen is stepping up attempts to boost his popularity, blunt the opposition and avert a potential disaster in 2018, say analysts.

Who Will Lead Vietnam?The Diplomat Between January 20 and 28, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party is scheduled to convene its 12th national congress. The Party congress is to Vietnam in some sense what the presidential election is to the United States: It decides who the country’s next leaders will be.

2 massive Vietnam War bombs found in southern province – Thanh Nien News Military officers in the southern province of Binh Duong on Wednesday successfully moved two general-purpose bombs weighing 226 and 360 kilograms found by locals to a safer place. One bomb, which is an M81, used commonly during the Vietnam War, was found near the bank of the Dong Nai River and the other, an M83, at a construction site.

Rachel Tristch compiled and provided commentary on this week’s news digest.

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