Regional Roundup for Week of 1.3.2016

Happy 2016 from East by Southeast! We’ve been on holiday for the past month, but have a full slate of posts starting this week. Tomorrow we will release our predictions for what is sure to be dynamic year in China-Southeast Asia-US relations. We want to take a moment to thank our news digest mafia comprised of Brooke Rose, Julia Zielinski, Rachel Tritsch, John Juenemann, and Becca Slotkin for  their diligence and insight in putting together weekly digest. And a big thanks to you, our loyal reader for caring about what’s happening on East by Southeast.~Brian and Will, the editors.

EXSE FOCUS

A ‘Special’ US-ASEAN Summit in Sunnylands in 2016? – The Diplomat A look at the significance of an upcoming meeting between the two sides next year.//no need for a question mark here, the summit is on for February 15-16, so who will show up for Myanmar? Remember the last time Obama hosted a head of state at Sunnylands? This says the US-ASEAN relationship is as important as the US-China relationship.

Nu River Saved, Jack Ma Buys Preservation Land – ChinaFile A great piece of news came from China on the night of December 16, that the Yunnan provincial government in southwest China has announced its decision to not develop hydro-electric projects on the Nu River, also known as the Salween (link in Chinese).//this has been spoken about for nearly a year, but hearing the news in official statement brings elation. Shout out to a key NGO for their work in proving the Nu River valley is actually a fault line between the Hengduan mountains and a Himalayan plate. No informed government would approve building dams on a fault line, not even China’s. 

Mekong residents to fight dam ruling – The Nation THE Administrative Court yesterday dismissed complaints over the Xayaburi Dam against five state agencies. However, the 37 plaintiffs, from eight Mekong provinces, say they will appeal further.//This could be the green light for construction of the Don Sahong Dam which was supposed to break ground in November. 

China’s Economy Starts 2016 at Slowest Pace in Years – NYT China, the world’s second-largest economy, looked set for a weak start to 2016 after activity in the manufacturing sector contracted for a fifth straight month in December.

Related: Deutsche Bank Joins Retreat From China – NYT 

Related: Opinion is divided on state of Chinese economy, but not on its importance – The Guardian 

Related: China Unveils Economic Strategy for 2016 – The Diplomat 

Related: China’s Planning Addiction – Project Syndicate

Shenzhen Landslide Casts Shadow Over China’s Success Story – NYT The frenzy in the southern city highlights the difficulties that Beijing faces as it tries to manage real estate and construction, crucial engines of the economy.

Related: Migrant Workers in Shenzhen Bear Brunt of Landslide – NYT 

Related: China Detains 12 People Over Shenzhen Landslide, Police Say – NYT 

Related: Shenzhen official who rubber-stamped waste dump that triggered massive landslide takes his own life – SCMP 

Related: Is the Shenzhen landslide the first of many more? – The Guardian

China Passes Antiterrorism Law That Critics Fear May Overreach – NYT Opponents who had seen a draft version said it grants broad new powers that could be abused to monitor peaceful citizens and steal commercial secrets.

   Related: China’s New Anti-Terrorism Law – The Diplomat

Microsoft to Notify Users of Government Hackings – NYT The company joins Google, Facebook and others in disclosing when users of email and other services have probably been targeted by hackers working on behalf of governments.

Related: Microsoft to start notifying victims of ‘state sponsored’ hacking – The Guardian 

Related: China’s Cyber Turn: Recognizing Change for the Better – The Diplomat

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Enters Into Force: What Next? – The Diplomat The AIIB’s Articles of Agreement entered into force, taking the China-led development bank one step closer to operational status.

Related: Philippines to (Finally) Join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – The Diplomat

China says countries will follow Britain’s lead to become best friends with Beijing – The Guardian More western countries will follow Britain in improving ties with China, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has said, describing relations with London over the past year as a “bright spot” in China’s diplomacy.

Related: Justin Trudeau and Canada-China Relations – The Diplomat

The DPP’s Agenda for Contributing to Regional Stability – The Diplomat Claims that the DPP lacks clarity on sovereignty issues are disingenuous.

Related: China, the U.S. and the Coming Taiwan Transition – The Diplomat 

Related: Taiwan’s opposition leader highlights risk of close ties with China as election looms – SCMP

 Philippine ‘Freedom Voyage’ Lands on Disputed Island in South China Sea – The Diplomat Defying China and the Philippine government, an activist group lands 47 people on Thitu Island.

Related: Vietnam Reveals New Drone for Patrolling the South China Sea – The Diplomat 

Related: Who Is Militarizing the South China Sea? – The Diplomat

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China and Climate Change: Three Things to Watch After Paris – The Diplomat China has made its promises. Will it now deliver?

Related: China Pipelines Sold Far Below Cost – Radio Free Asia

Related: China’s Nuclear Power Debate – The Diplomat 

Related: Ex-premier Li Peng’s daughter Li Xiaolin quits top power job – SCMP 

Related: China’s west tries to harness more of its wind power – Chinadialogue

In the Dirtiest Cities, Air Pollution Forces Life Changes – NYT Residents of some of the world’s most heavily polluted cities shared their experiences dealing with the daily challenges and consequences.

Related: Toxic smog brings nightmare ‘white Christmas’ to Beijing – Thanh Nien Daily 

Related: Hiding in Plain Sight as Beijing Disappears Into Blanket of Smog – NYT 

Related: Companies in South China See Opportunity in Beijing’s Smog – NYT // The difficulty China has had landing its economic struggles of the past several months is not aided by the country’s past ‘development at all costs’ strategy and disregard for its environment.  As banks and other companies begin to second-guess their investments in the once growing power house, China’s financial ministers have the crucial role of determining how they will use the seven percent yearly GDP goal as a means of stabilization and not stagnation resulting in backwards progress. 

Related: Forecasting China’s smog seen as business opportunity for IBM and Microsoft – The Guardian // Of course, every situation offers the opportunity for exploitation via entrepreneurship…

Cambodia PM Stands by Hydropower, Dismisses Critics as ‘Extremists’ – The Irrawaddy Magazine Cambodia’s prime minister defended his government’s energy policy on Wednesday and hit back at environmentalists opposed to hydropower plants by suggesting their electricity be cut off and they should use resin torches instead.//I’d pay to see Hun Sen and Gen Prayuth throw down in a shouting match focused toward NGOs and journalists. 

Locals in deep South fight plan for coal-power plant – The Nation People in Pattani province and neighbouring areas yesterday have set up a network to take action against the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Songkhlaâs Thepha district.

Related: Pollution fears: Malaysia may suspend bauxite mining, threatening supplies to China – SCMP

Related: Smog, drought, litter bugs and unpopular coal-fired plants take centre stage – The Nation

 Myanmar told to embark on wind energy – Investvine Myanmar in its quest to increase power production could adapt renewable energies such as wind energy and at the same time enticing investors in the green energy sector to the country…

Convoy of Lao Trucks Transports Logs to Vietnam, Despite Ban on Timber Exports – RFA Laos has continued to transport logs from its forests to Vietnam, despite a government ban on timber exports that took effect in August…

CHINA

China: Trapped Miners Found – NYT Rescuers on Wednesday found eight surviving miners who were trapped for five days after a mine collapsed in eastern China.

Related: Dozens Are Feared Dead After a Landslide in Myanmar – NYT

China Plans a New Silk Road, but Trade Partners Are Wary – NYT Beijing’s effort to revive ancient trade routes is causing geopolitical strains, with countries like Turkey increasingly worried about becoming too dependent on China.

Related: Between Bullying and Flattery: A Theory on Chinese Politics – The Diplomat 

Related: China’s Xi vows to push reforms while expanding global role – Thanh Nien Daily

China Says It Is Building Its Second Aircraft Carrier – NYT This vessel, unlike the first, will be produced entirely using the country’s own designs and technology, the Defense Ministry said.

Related: Investigators Blame Violent Weather for Yangtze Cruise Ship Disaster – NYT 

Related: China’s Economic Miracle, As Seen Through Its Trains – The Diplomat

Related: Chinese Company Wins Contract for Deep Sea Port in Myanmar – The Diplomat 

Related: 12 Things to Know about the Impact of Infrastructure in Asia – ADB

China’s new two-child policy legislation formally comes into force – SCMP Married couples in China will from Friday be allowed to have two children, after concerns over an ageing population and shrinking workforce ushered in an end to the country’s controversial one-child policy.

Related: China passes first domestic violence law – The Guardian 

 China appoints new military top brass in overhaul aimed at boosting professionalism – SCMP China has appointed three new commanders to head the land forces of the People’s Liberation Army and the new Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force, as part of the military overhaul to promote talented officers.

Related: China’s sweeping military reforms to strengthen grip of Communist Party, says army newspaper – SCMP

China Telecom boss Chang Xiaobing quits amid corruption crackdown – The Guardian Head of one of biggest state-owned companies steps down days after being detained for ‘severe disciplinary violations’.

Related: Xi Jinping tells Chinese leadership that families must set example on corruption – The Guardian 

Related: Feng shui-loving government official thrown out of the Communist Party in China – SCMP 

Related: Beleaguered Kunming metals tycoon missing – GoKunming

 Conviction of Pu Zhiqiang Affirms China’s Resolve to Muzzle Rights Lawyers – NYT Mr. Pu is one of the leading figures in an independent legal movement that has managed to blossom over more than a decade despite numerous obstacles.

Related: Friends fear for Chinese Christian lawyer spending Christmas behind bars – The Guardian

Related: China’s Christians Told To Keep a Low Profile This Christmas – Radio Free Asia

Fifth man working for publishers critical of Chinese government goes missing – The Guardian Lee Bo, the chief editor of a Hong Kong firm known for producing books on Chinese politics has become the company’s fifth employee to go missing.

Related: China Frees 2 Brothers of U.S. Reporter for Radio Free Asia – NYT 

Related: ‘Rule the party strictly!’: Chinese president ‘Big Daddy Xi’ makes rap debut – The Guardian 

Related: Weibo warriors – The Economist: China  

Related: French journalist accuses China of intimidating foreign press – The Guardian

 Zimbabwe to make Chinese yuan legal currency after Beijing cancels debts – The Guardian Zimbabwe has announced that it will make the Chinese yuan legal tender after Beijing confirmed it would cancel $40m in debts.

 China’s Navy takes part in joint exercise off Australian coast – Thanh Nien Daily Australia walks a diplomatic tightrope between the U.S. and China.

Related: The Emerging China-Kazakhstan Defense Relationship – The Diplomat

Related: Mystery Cloaks a North Korean Pop Band’s Canceled Beijing Dates – NYT

 The Politics of Tibet’s Poisonous Religious Divide – The Irrawaddy Magazine The doctrinal schism that the Chinese Communist Party is using to hound the Dalai Lama arose long ago in the internecine politics of his own school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Related: How China’s Communist Party Waged Class Struggle in Tibet – Radio Free Asia

 China to provide subsidies to replace government housing – Jakarta Post China’s housing minister said on Monday that governments will stop building rental housing units to accommodate migrant workers and people displaced by demolitions or renovations of urban residences or shantytowns.

Related: Related: China’s president warns that economic stimulus is ‘not the answer to nation’s challenges’ – SCMP

SOUTHEAST ASIA

 Asean launches EU-style economic bloc – but will it work? – SCMP Southeast Asian nations officially launched an EU-inspired economic bloc Thursday aimed at boosting the region’s trading clout and attracting more investment, but analysts said a true single market was still a long way off.//No.

Related: An ASEAN devoid of its community – New Mandala 

Related: SE Asia stocks: most markets set for losses in 2015, Vietnam outperforms – Thanh Nien Daily

After Victory in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi Quietly Shapes a Transition – NYT Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has kept the country guessing on details of the transfer of power to her democracy movement from the military establishment.

Anti-Smuggling Teams Abolished: Commerce Ministry – The Irrawaddy Magazine The government’s mobile task force teams, which aimed to clamp down on the country’s thriving illegal border trade, have been abolished, the Ministry of Commerce announced on Wednesday.

Kachin IDPs Endure Bitter Cold Snap on Sino-Burma Border – The Irrawaddy Magazine About 1,800 Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs), living in makeshift shelters along the Sino-Burma border, are enduring freezing conditions with minimal supplies, aid workers said.

Thailand: 2 Sentenced to Death for Murders of British Tourists – NYT The verdict follows an investigation and trial that were mired in controversy, including allegations of police incompetence, mishandling of evidence and torture of the suspects.

Related: Thailand defends investigation into Britons’ murder after Myanmar protests – The Guardian

Thai junta tightens grip on justice system with ‘black site’ for civilian suspects – The Guardian The Thai junta has set up a “black site” at a Bangkok army base to hold people deemed threats to national security in what lawyers and rights groups say is an unprecedented expansion of the military’s control over the criminal justice system.

Related: Thailand’s junta releases poll showing 99.3% of citizens happy with its performance – The Guardian

Suspected Muslim rebels in southern Thailand attack government office and shoots official in head – SCMP Suspected Muslim insurgents attacked police and a government office in Thailand’s deep south on Tuesday, killing one official as they seized hostages, police said.

King’s dog Tongdaeng dies of old age – The Nation Tongdaeng (Copper) died peacefully while sleeping…//no longer will people have to humiliate themselves by bowing to a dog. Unless the thing had pups.

Related: Madness and loyalty in Thailand – New Mandala

Cambodia textile factory offers new model to improve workers’ lives – The Guardian South-east Asia’s garment industry has a bad name but decent wages, childcare and labour rights are high priorities for one company breaking the mould…peppered with references to sustainability, empowerment, development and opportunity.

Lawyer of Two Cambodian MPs Files Second Complaint Against Their Attackers – Radio Free Asia The lawyer of two Cambodian opposition lawmakers who were brutally attacked by a group of protesters outside the National Assembly in late October filed a second complaint with the Phnom Penh municipal court on Monday against the masterminds of the assaults.

Hun Sen’s Son Sets Sights on Cambodia’s Top Office – Radio Free Asia Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s youngest son said Wednesday that he intends to succeed his father in the authoritarian Southeast Asian country’s top office, although he did not specifically mention his plans for the next general elections in July 2018.//Kind of like Rand Paul, but not kind of like Rand Paul. The Cambodian People’s Party continues to remind us that it’s a communist party at heart. Princelings abound in Asian politics – and blood matters – think Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos, among others…

Bangladeshi fisherman testifies in human trafficking case hearing – The Nation PUBLIC prosecutors yesterday brought a 23-year-old Bangladeshi fisherman to testify in the first session of the advance hearing into the human-trafficking case involving Rohingya and other migrants at Bangkokâs Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court.

Malaysia Passes Controversial National Security Law – The Diplomat On December 22, the Malaysian Senate passed a controversial national security bill that the government says will strengthen its ability to counter rising threats and critics have slammed as a blow to democracy and human rights.

This week’s digest was composed by Julia Zielinski with analysis and bad humor from Julia Zielinski and Brian Eyler.

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