Regional Roundup for Week of 3.7.16

EXSE FOCUS

 China’s National People’s Congress: Key PointsNYT A look at the nation’s priorities for this year, and for the rest of the decade, shows an emphasis on economic pain and environmental troubles.

Related: Advisory Body’s Delegates Offer Glimpse Into China’s WorriesNYT // This includes the public dancing groups favored by many older Chinese women.

Related: Voices from the Great Hall: what China’s movers and shakers are saying as the country’s biggest political festival plays out in BeijingSCMP

Related: Black suits, grey skies: China’s national legislators are back in Beijing … and so is the smogSCMP

U.N. Toughens Sanctions on North Korea in Response to Its Nuclear ProgramNYT The Council adopted a draft resolution calling for stricter measures to curb the North’s nuclear program, but much depends on whether China will enforce it. // China is the only country that has real ability to impact N. Korea, providing immense resources to the struggling country.  In order for the new sanctions to be effective, China needs to abandon its equidistance policy between N. and S. Korea, along with other attempts to maintain stability.  Xi Jinping has proven less tolerant of N. Korea’s actions, having denounced destabilization of the region for “selfish gains” and physically distanced himself since assuming leadership.

Related: North Korea fires missile volley into sea after UN ratchets up sanctionsThe Guardian

Related: South Korea’s Nuclear TemptationThe Diplomat

Related: China Warns THAAD Deployment Could Destroy South Korea Ties ‘in an Instant’The Diplomat

Related: Philippines impounds North Korean ship, deporting crew under new UN sanctionsSCMP

As Economy Slows, Experts Call on China to Drop Growth TargetNYT A growing number of analysts say China’s practice of setting an annual target for growth actually hurts the economy and encourages officials to falsify data.

Related: China cuts 2016 growth target amid continued economy concernsThe Guardian

Related: China’s Excess Production Has Intensified Slowdown, Business Group SaysNYT

Related: HSBC Posts 4th-Quarter Loss and Comes Under S.E.C. ScrutinyNYT

In New Economic Plan, China Bets That Hard Choices Can Be AvoidedNYT China’s leaders are wagering that they can spur growth while deferring the pain of restructuring the economy.

Related: Xi Jinping’s Remedy for China’s Economic Gloom Has Echoes of ReaganomicsNYT

Related: How Not to Analyze the State of Chinese Outward FDIThe Diplomat

Related: China’s Currency Turbulence: Evidence China Lacks A Committed Economic Direction?The Diplomat

 Thai communities vow to appeal against Laos damThe Third Pole Even after losing a battle in the Thailand Administrative Court, a group of Thai villagers are not giving up. They have filed appeal after losing the first community-led lawsuit in the region to challenge a large dam on the Mekong river.

 Cambodians Raise Questions About Angkor Beer’s Involvement in Don Sahong DamRadio Free Asia An attempt by about 100 Cambodian protesters to force the Angkor Beer company to divest its stake in the Don Sahong hydropower plant in Laos fell flat on Friday when company representatives said the brewer has no involvement in the project.//The first news I’ve heard of this. Would be a shame too, if you had to give up Angkor Beer for Cambodia Breweries on ethical reasons. For reasons of taste, among others, I hope that they’re not involved in Don Sahong. 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

U.S. Proposes Reviving Naval Coalition to Balance China’s ExpansionNYT The proposal is the latest overture to India to become part of an informal network of naval powers seeking to balance China’s maritime growth. //China is becoming a greater maritime power and there are many in US and foreign policy circles that advocate for containing China. 

Related: Possible Radar Suggests Beijing Wants ‘Effective Control’ in South China SeaNYT

Related: Can Singapore Smooth China-ASEAN Relations?The Diplomat

Related: ASEAN ‘Seriously Concerned’ By China’s South China Sea BehaviorThe Diplomat

Related: Chinese Warships Visit Thailand, Cambodia on Goodwill TourThe Diplomat

Related: China, Vietnam share ‘common destiny’, says Xi Jinping in bid to calm waters amid heightened tensions over rival claims in South China SeaSCMP

US tech firms bypassing Pentagon to protect deals with China, strategist saysThe Guardian The US government has an increasingly tense relationship with Silicon Valley… yet needs its help to battle the ‘new cold war’ with China.//Resolving ‘issues of national security’ with massive profit incentives is going to be a common story in the coming years. Apple/FBI is just an opening blow. 

Related: Apple, the FBI, and the US Soft Power EdgeThe Diplomat

Related: Chinese Deals Feel the Chill From WashingtonNYT

 Why the U.S. Should Embrace the AIIBThe Diplomat There are compelling reasons for the U.S. to join China’s new development bank.//The least of which is providing assistance and counsel on maintaining responsible lending practices. Some would argue that countries like UK do a similar job. 

 Beijing: Taiwan’s president elect must recognise island is part of ‘One China’The Guardian Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen must respect the island’s own constitution that states Taiwan and the mainland are both part of one China, China’s foreign minister has said during a visit to Washington.

Taiwan’s TPP OdysseyThe Diplomat Domestic issues (like pork imports) pose just as much of a challenge to Taiwan’s TPP dreams as Beijing does.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Statistics From China Say Coal Consumption Continues to DropNYT The data lends further support to the view that the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide may be reaching a peak in coal consumption. // While the decrease of coal consumption is much needed news for the environment, the alternatives should be closely investigated, as well.  Hydropower is one of China’s go-to sources, and its environmental and human rights record isn’t as clean as it appears.

Related: Beijing to Raise Threshold on Red Alerts for Smog NYT

Related: China to cut 1.8m jobs in coal and steel sectorsThe Guardian // Maybe the United States should be looking towards the Chinese strategy for reducing coal.

Related: China’s pollution problem gets hairy with ‘nose-tache’ to filter smogThe Guardian // To shed a little humor on the situation…

Related: China to build ventilation ‘corridors’ in Beijing to help tackle air pollutionThe Guardian

Related: China will face pressure to do more if climate goals ‘too easy’: US official SCMP // The United States has little room to talk as it has been having trouble passing measures that would allow it to begin tackling its own recent climate pledge.

 China’s 13th Five-Year Plan emphasises ‘environmental shortcomings’ – The Third Pole ‘Environmental shortfall’ is the latest rubric to emerge from central government, by which it will deliver an economic manifesto that places environmental action at the centre.

Related: China Declares ‘People’s War’ on Pollution As Smog Envelops BeijingRadio Free Asia

A nomadic woman’s story of environmental protection on the Tibetan PlateauMekong Commons The Chinese government has sought strategies for grassland protection since 2000 until now, including various environmental conservation projects. However, there has been less attention on local people’s knowledge and their way of life and unique traditional livelihood.

 Cambodia: Smugglers Warned NYT Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that he had authorized the military to fire rockets from helicopters at smugglers of illegally cut timber.

The Tonle Sap: Cambodia’s Beating HeartThe Diplomat The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest lake and Cambodia’s main source of protein, but all is not well on the Great Lake.//I’ve personally heard many stories of decreasing fish stocks and receding shorelines when interviewing locals on the northern shore. The lake, whose fish provides more than 60% of Cambodia’s protein, is indeed in trouble and dams upriver on the Mekong don’t help.  

No Songkran water wars, govt urgesThe Nation PM wants cooperation from public amid fears about severe drought and low water levels in country’s dams.

 Illegal wildlife trade thriving in Asia thanks to explosion of activity on social media platformsSCMP Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly being used in Asia as platforms for the illegal trade in a range of threatened species such as orangutan and sun bears…

 How will Indonesia cope with slump in demand for palm oil? SEA Globe Indonesia’s top export is palm oil. With demand for the environmentally destructive crop falling, the future of Indonesia’s key commodity, palm oil, is under scrutiny.

 CHINA

 China Military Budget to Rise Less Than 8%, Slower Than UsualNYT The People’s Liberation Army’s budget will increase by 7.6 percent this year, the smallest rise in six years.

Related: China’s Never-Ending Military ReformsThe Diplomat

Related: Confirmed: Construction Begins on China’s First Overseas Military Base in DjiboutiThe Diplomat

Related: China’s future: academic says nation ‘at turning point that will see it stall or continue to prosper’SCMP

China Moves to Bolster Lending by Easing Banks’ Reserve RatioNYT The country’s top financial policy makers are trying to reassure the rest of the world that their handling of the economy remains on track.

Related: China cuts reserve rates for fifth time in a year – The Guardian

Xi Jinping’s News Alert: Chinese Media Must Serve the Party – NYT In visits to state news organizations on Friday, the president reiterated his policy, and he wants to curb the presence of foreign media companies.//The latest development in a worrying string of crackdowns on speech and press freedoms. The question is: what kind of criticism needs to be muzzled? What plans are in the works (or economic collapses on the horizon) that Zhongnanhai fears will lead to editorial or social unrest?

Related: China Deletes Microblog of Critic of President Xi JinpingNYT

Related: ‘Love the party, protect the party’: How Xi Jinping is bringing China’s media to heelThe Guardian

Related: Tibetan blogger jailed for ‘endangering social stability’The Guardian

Chinese Court Upholds Life Sentence for Top Aide to Bo XilaiNYT The court rejected an appeal by the aide, Wu Wenkang, who had been given a life sentence by a lower court…

In rare address, China’s president calls for new ties between officials and private firmsSCMP Chinese President Xi Jinping made a call on Friday for “new ties ­between politics and business”, encouraging officials to reach out to the private sector while keeping corruption at bay.

Related: Xi Jinping’s Virtual Political Reality – The Diplomat

Related: Xi Jinping: A Cult of Personality? – ChinaFile

 

China Labels Protesters ‘Radical Separatists,’ and They AgreeNYT Violence in the bustling Mong Kok district was the most startling sign yet of the rise of a confrontational local movement and the unlikely goal of Hong Kong independence.

Related: Politically charged Chinese art show opens in Hong KongThe Guardian

China Moves to Halt ‘Weird’ ArchitectureNYT A directive issued by the State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee says buildings should be “pleasing to the eye.’’ // What does a ‘weird’ architecture ban, intensified media constriction, strengthening religious regulation, cut-throat corruption crackdowns, resumed political and business alliances, and Xi’s cult of personality have in common?  The current president of China may more up his sleeve than we originally thought.  Drawing on his revolution experiences under Chairman Mao, he seems to be reverting China’s political system back to the age of intense unification under the Party, just this time with enough cash in the bank and international investment to prevent economic catastrophe or ruin.

China’s Two-Child Policy: What Next?The Diplomat There is no guarantee that the new policy will arrest China’s demographic trends.

China to build second railway line into TibetNYT China announces five-year development plan, including plan to link Lhasa with Chengdu in China’s south-west.

China’s ISIS WoesThe Diplomat With its rising overseas presence, can China sustain its policy of non-interference?

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Laos kicks off ASEAN chair – security, integration on top of agendaInvestvine Laos this week kicked off its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, with an agenda-setting meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in the capital Vientiane.

 Reporting on Life, Death and Corruption in Southeast AsiaNYT Thomas Fuller, a New York Times correspondent who is leaving the region after a decade, says one theme there keeps recurring: impunity.//A poignant retrospective from one of the top journalists and writers in the region. His reporting will be missed. 

 Vietnam’s 12th Party CongressThe Diplomat A tale of two goals: maintaining a monopoly of power and sustaining economic growth.

 With Presidential Vote Looming, Myanmar Stares at Uncharted WatersThe Diplomat While many issues remain unresolved between the military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, further democratization is possible in the Southeast Asian country.//The next president of Myanmar will be picked this week. 

Related: Is Myanmar’s Military Behind Shadowy Cyber Attacks?The Diplomat

Related: Like South Africa After Mandela, Myanmar Needs Many Real Leaders–Not Just OneThe Diplomat

 Dozens of Burmese troops killed in Arakan, rebels claimDVB Ethnic rebel group the Arakan Army said it killed over 30 government troops in a clash in Burma’s west on Thursday evening. The Burmese army has not reported the fight or confirmed any loss of life.

Related: Burmese army extends role in Shan State conflictDVB

Related: Shan Coalition Meeting Cut Short Under Military PressureThe Irrawaddy Magazine

 The Truth About Myanmar’s Rohingya IssueThe Diplomat It is much more complex than is often portrayed by some.

Related: UN says Myanmar’s Rohingya have been left behind by election gainsSCMP

Ousted Thai PM says junta’s draft constitution is a charade – The Guardian Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called a draft constitution presented by junta leaders a charade that will keep generals in power indefinitely.//Despite Thaksin having ulterior motives in this statement, it’s likely an accurate analysis of the constitution. 

Related: Why Thailand’s Next Election May Not MatterThe Diplomat

Related: Thai junta feeling the pressure? Rights group claims increased persecution of academics reveals deepening insecuritySCMP

 Obama revives anti-slavery law to target Thailand’s seafood exportsThe Guardian Seafood produced by slaves in Thailand will be among goods banned from sale in the US as Barack Obama revives laws targeting industries that use forced and child labour.//It’s about time – if your tuna comes from Thailand, it’s quite likely that it was produced using slave labor. 

Cambodia Wants China Warships: Navy CommanderThe Diplomat The Southeast Asian state is eyeing the purchase of two Chinese vessels.

Cambodia leaders step up rivalry over social media as election campaigning begins earlySCMP Cambodia’s long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen and exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy have gotten an early start to campaigning for elections in 2018, vying for “likes” on Facebook as the political role of social media grows among the country’s youthful electorate.

Malaysia Broadens Media Crackdown As Political Scandal WorsensThe Diplomat Internet freedom suffers as Najib’s embattled government tries to fight off the deepening 1MDB scandal.

Related: Is Malaysia Sliding Toward Dictatorship?The Diplomat

This week’s news digest was compiled and analyzed by Julia Zielinski, with added analysis by William Feinberg. 

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