Regional Roundup for Week of 1.31.16

EXSE FOCUS

China G.D.P. Growth at Slowest Pace Since 2009, Data ShowsNYT The economy grew at a 6.8 percent pace in the fourth quarter, official data released Tuesday showed — the slowest expansion since March 2009.

Related: Alibaba Searching for New Revenue SourcesNYT

Related: China’s National Bureau of Statistics Chief Falls Under Corruption ProbeThe Diplomat

Related: Yunnan chasing Beijing GDP targetsGoKunming

Related: China’s Fading Factories Weigh on an Already Slowing EconomyNYT // Growth of China’s manufacturing sector instigated mass migration from rural farming to city factories.  The lowering of the national GDP announced last August has the potential to force a second migration for those not competitive enough to make it through the bumpy transition.  Will this cause China’s economy to be dominated by a few or enable more intense ‘capitalistic’ measures amidst those who remain?

Asia Pivot: Does the US Need to ‘Rebalance Harder’?The Diplomat The Obama White House is realistically out of time to articulate a newly integrated vision for the Asia-Pacific region.

Related: Obama’s Asia Engagement Architecture: A Framework on Which to BuildThe Diplomat

Related: EU Eyes Strategic Partnership With ASEAN as New Mission Officially OpensThe Diplomat

Related: US Begins 2016 Asia Outreach With LaosThe Diplomat

Selection of New National Leaders in Laos Indicates Tilt to VietnamRadio Free Asia With the selection of new national leaders and the arrests of some old ones, Laos appears to be cementing its ties to Vietnam as it is attempting to blunt Beijing’s push to exert more influence…. // This leadership change brings the potential for a move away from massive dam construction on the Mekong to alternative energy sources.

Related: Laos’s leadership transition raises questions over regional alliancesEast by Southeast

Related: Forty years of Lao PDR: what’s next?New Mandala

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Why the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Is More Important Than TPPThe Diplomat TTIP will be the West’s last, best opportunity to set global rules as the emerging markets continue to gain ground.

What Does 2016 Hold for China-US Relations in Cyberspace?The Diplomat Sino-U.S. relations in cyberspace in 2016 will be defined by three key policies.

Related: China and Indonesia: Joint Cyber War SimulationsThe Diplomat

Related: China Finally Centralizes Its Space, Cyber, Information ForcesThe Diplomat

John Kerry Urges China to Curb North Korea’s Nuclear PursuitsNYT The secretary of state, in Beijing, warned that if necessary, the United States would take security steps China’s leaders have strongly opposed.

Related: Ahead of Kerry Visit, China Doubles Down on North Korea PositionThe Diplomat

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Is Open for Business: What Now?The Diplomat The China-led bank has opened its doors. Is the AIIB an institution of great consequence in the Asia-Pacific?//In short, yes. The question is what consequences will it have? This article focuses on the US and Japan. Their lack of participation in the bank was to be expected and the country whose actions will have the biggest consequences is that with the most money in the pot – China. What effect will the AIIB have on investment in Southeast Asia? Will the quality of economic aid change because it is coming from a multinational development bank?  

Related: China’s New Development Bank Needs Better Human Rights ProtectionsChinaFile

Related: Upholding the Asian OrderProject Syndicate

Vietnam Objects to Chinese Oil Rig in Disputed WatersNYT While the dispute raised tensions between the neighbors, it did not approach levels seen in 2014, when anti-China demonstrations turned into deadly riots.

Related: US warship sails near island claimed by China in South China SeaThe Guardian

Related: From South China Sea Island, Taiwan’s President Presents ‘Roadmap’ for PeaceThe Diplomat

Taiwan’s New Leader Faces a Weak Economy and China’s MightNYT Tsai Ing-wen, elected Saturday as Taiwan’s first female president, brings what some call a more calm and rational approach to the island’s turbulent politics.

Related: China Largely Shrugs at Shake-Up After Taiwan Elections NYT

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

A Conspiracy to Steal Secrets of U.S. CornNYT A Chinese national crawled in Iowa fields to get seed corn for a Beijing company.//For those who have read Paolo Bacigalupi’s ‘The Windup Girl’ this story will sound very familiar. 

China’s coal-burning in significant decline, figures showThe Guardian Official data shows coal use fell in 2015 across a wide range of measures as world’s largest polluter continues its transition to clean energy.

Related: China Has Done More About Pollution Than You Think (But It Must Do More)The Diplomat

Related: China is ‘Rational’ Leader on Climate Change, Says Retired NASA Scientist James HansenChinaFile

Kunming’s Stinky Lake, Beijing’s Saving WindsChinaFile Lake Dian in Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province, suffered greatly when, in the 1950s, Chairman Mao Zedong called on the Chinese people to “conquer nature” and reclaim land by filling lakes with soil.//Unfortunately the 1950’s isn’t the only time that Dianchi has suffered the policies of both the central and local governments. The current plans to build illegal housing developments on the shores of the lake is another example of man-made damage to the lake. 

Sharp drop in rubber price forces students out of college in SouthNationMultimedia MORE than a hundred students in Trang province were forced to halt their studies as a direct result… // Rubber demand and prices continue to fall, making the large-scale investments of the early 2000s a sore spot for farmers who converted all their land to the once booming industry.

Irrigation Efficiency Key to Meeting Asia’s Growing Food DemandsADB Across Asia and the Pacific, farmers every day wrestle with a huge challenge—how to meet the growing demand for food in the face of tightening land, water and environmental constraints.

Related: China’s bottled water industry poses new threat to precious resourcesThe Third Pole

Related: El Niño parches Asia Pacific, destroying crops and drying up water sourcesThanh Nien Daily

Thais turn on Mekong River pumps without consulting regional partnersSoutheast Asia Globe  Thailand has begun pumping water from the Mekong River into drought-affected areas in the northeast of the country in a move that could have severe impacts downstream.

Xayaburi Dam Opponents Appeal Against Administrative Court Ruling | The Nation – International Rivers Residents affected by the Xayaburi Dam living in eight provinces along the Mekong River appealed to the Administrative Court Monday against five Thai government agencies that backed the building of the dam.

Mekong River Commission Faces Radical ChangeThe Diplomat Donors have dropped their funding, forcing a radical restructuring.//A sad turn of events for the moribund organization. It has been hamstrung by its own regulations in the past decade that has left it on the sideline of hydropower debate. Lao meddling in the MRC may be a factor, but more than anything, the MRC failed its own member states by not finding sustainable solutions to development issues in the basin. Many experts in the region have long dismissed the MRC’s potential as a regional broker That being said, a severe loss of funding will affect its ability to produce significant research on the river and its tributaries, something that it’s still quite good at, despite everything else. 

Related: Waking the Green TigerChinaFile

Related: Shifting Sands in the Mekong RiverThe Diplomat

Cambodia Lags Behind 2020 Power TargetThe Diplomat The country is reportedly struggling to achieve its goal of nationwide electrification.//The cost of electricity in Cambodia is among the highest in the world. The country needs cheaper electricity as much as it needs nationwide electrification. 

Related: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh ordered to switch completely to biofuelThanh Nien Daily

Loggers Accused of Destroying Evidence in CambodiaRadio Free Asia Heaps of lumber were put to the torch this week in Mondulkiri province as logging outfits allegedly attempted to destroy evidence of illegal activity in fear of impending Cambodian government raids…

Related: Hun Sen Creates Committee to Tackle Illegal Timber Trade in CambodiaRadio Free Asia

CHINA

Chinese-Made Cars Arrive in U.S. Showrooms NYT There were snickers in 2007 when the Chinese said they would soon be making cars for the United States. It wasn’t soon, but the vehicles have begun to arrive.

Related: So What Would It Mean to ‘Beat China’ on Trade?NYT

China to Try Canadian on Spying ChargesNYT Kevin Garratt, who ran a cafe near China’s border with North Korea, will be tried on charges of spying and stealing state secrets nearly a year and a half after he and his wife were detained.

Miners in China Are Rescued After 36 Days UndergroundNYT The four men were among 29 miners caught when a cavernous gypsum mine in Pingyi County, Shandong Province, collapsed on Dec. 25. Thirteen are still missing.

Is China’s Silk Road Coming to Europe? Not So FastThe Diplomat China’s attempts to extend the New Silk Road westward have encountered problems.

Related: The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ Is Not ‘China’s Marshall Plan’. Why Not?The Diplomat

Related: Xi’s Visit Cements Egypt’s Place on the ‘Belt and Road’The Diplomat

3 Rights Advocates Are Sentenced to Prison in ChinaNYT The advocates were sentenced to terms ranging from two and a half to five years after they were convicted of inciting subversion in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Related: China to Expel Peter Dahlin, Swedish Human Rights AdvocateNYT

Database Tracks ‘Tigers and Flies’ Caught in Xi Jinping’s Corruption CrackdownNYT ChinaFile has compiled an online visual database of all the corruption cases that have ensnared senior and low-ranking officials since Mr. Xi took power.//A comprehensive and incredibly interesting project. Kudos to ChinaFile. 

Related: China Vows to Keep up Anti-Corruption Efforts in 2016The Diplomat

China Considers Larger Role in Afghanistan Peace ProcessNYT One reason for China’s engagement is that a stable Afghanistan could become a critical transportation hub and market for Chinese goods.//Interesting. It is probable that as the One Belt, One Road is implemented more deeply, China’s abandonment of its non-interference policy will quicken (in practice, not in rhetoric). As the US knows well, trade routes don’t protect themselves. 

Related: China’s New Era of Diplomacy: Engaging in SyriaThe Diplomat

China Deepens Its Footprint in Iran After Lifting of SanctionsNYT The countries’ strategic pact gives China a western gateway to Middle East markets, and has saved Iran from international isolation and economic ruin.

Related: China’s Balancing Act in IranThe Diplomat

African Economies, and Hopes for New Era, Are Shaken by ChinaNYT Plunging prices are revealing how much nations, hailed in recent years as perhaps having outgrown their roots in raw materials, still depend on those commodities.

China’s Marines Conduct First Military Exercises in the Gobi DesertThe Diplomat China’s marines held live-fire drills, including a counterterrorism exercise, in Xinjiang.//The Gobi is certainly an interesting place for marines to conduct exercises. Then again, the Iraq War proved that marines can be called on to operate in deserts for years at a time. 

Related: China’s Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism LawThe Diplomat

China Is Said to Force Closing of Women’s Legal Aid CenterNYT The center opened after Beijing hosted a landmark women’s conference in 1995, and its loss represents another blow to civil society groups in China.//The situation for rights groups in China, both domestic and foreign, is getting worse by the day. 

Related: Couple’s Lawsuit Is First Test for Same-Sex Marriage in ChinaNYT

China Shutters Uyghur Websites For ‘Harming Ethnic Unity’Radio Free Asia Chinese authorities have shut down two websites aimed at the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group in recent weeks, placing their management under investigation for “harming ethnic unity”…

One ChildChinaFile Now, as China closes the book on the policy after more than three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.

China Embraces Craft Beers, and Brewing Giants Take NoticeNYT Chinese consumers are swapping mass-produced local beers for a bevy of imports and locally brewed brands, and a merged Anheuser-Busch InBev-SABMiller aims to capitalize.//A number of ExSE friends are involved in the craft brew industry and is business has indeed been booming. When wealthy Chinese are shouting “干杯” with 45 RMB  IPAs instead of cheap 雪花啤酒, your revenue is going to jump. 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Asean set for tourism pushJakarta Post In order to build a real sense of community, Asean will for the first time launch a regional tourism campaign to promote 600 destinations to boost arrivals and income when the regional grouping turns 50 next year. // This move has the potential to greatly benefit Southeast Asia’s economies and could lead to further regional collaboration going forward.

Related: China to support Indonesia as ASEAN hubJakarta Post

Vietnam’s Communist Party Gives Old-Guard Leader a New 5-Year TermNYT The reappointment of Nguyen Phu Trong is unlikely to alter the country’s strategic balance in relations with China and the United States.

Related: Vietnam Faces Last-Minute Maneuvering for Communist Party LeadershipNYT

Kaw Thoo Lei: ‘A Peaceful Land’The Diplomat Myanmar’s Karen minority continue to fight for sovereignty over their territory.

Related: Can Suu Kyi Break Myanmar’s Ceasefire Deadlock?The Diplomat

Related: Myanmar president hails ‘triumph’ of democratic transition in final speechSCMP

Myanmar police force hundreds from factory area slums as land-grabbing grows rampant SCMP Hundreds of Myanmar families were left destitute on Tuesday after government workers used mechanical diggers to flatten swathes of Yangon slum housing as the bitter competition for land intensifies in the fast-industrialising city.//Yes, Myanmar now appears to be a democracy. But this political classification will mean nothing if the rights of its most desperate citizens are not respected. Good governance isn’t something that happens once every few years. 

Cambodia’s Hun Many Calls for Stronger US TiesThe Diplomat The son of the country’s premier urges both sides to boost relations in spite of lingering differences.

Related: John Kerry praises Cambodian revival but insists concerns over human rights and democratic process remainSCMP

Related: Southeast Asian Nations Still Fall Short on Ensuring Basic Freedoms: NGO Reports Radio Free Asia

An Art Powerhouse From North KoreaNYT The Angkor Panorama Museum is the most ambitious foreign project by the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, which employs hundreds of North Korean artists. // This is an interesting relationship in spite of the international nuclear focus.  Maybe North Korea just needs to feel a little included in the world…

Wreckage found off Thailand coast is not from missing MH370 planeThe Guardian Malaysian transport ministry says metal panel does not match Boeing 777 and cannot be part of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in 2014.

Thailand unveils draft of new constitution but authors offer little hope that it will resolve deeply ingrained divisions SCMP Thailand published a draft constitution on Friday but the official in charge of drawing it up said he feared it would not resolve long-running troubles and critics said it would produce weak civilian government under the sway of the military.//’weak civilian government under the sway of the military’ is likely what it was designed to produce. Grim days ahead for the Kingdom if this constitution is passed.

Violence Flares in LaosThe Diplomat Hmong-government violence…picked up again.

Related: Talking democracy with a Laotian dissidentSoutheast Asia Globe Magazine

7 Things to Know About the 2016 Philippine Elections The Diplomat As the Southeast Asian state prepares to go to the polls later this year, here’s a closer look at what’s at stake.

Singapore’s New Political Reforms: What You Need to KnowThe Diplomat The city-state premier has proposed key changes to the electoral system.

Democracy falters in south-east Asia as Malaysia’s PM cleared of corruption The Guardian The extraordinary decision to drop corruption investigations into Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, highlights growing concern about lack of democratic accountability in Malaysia and across south-east Asia as a whole.//How does that old adage go again…”Corruption begets corruption”

This week’s new digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with added analysis by the Julia and William Feinberg. 

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