Regional Roundup for Week of 4.18.2013

Just the news this week.

Nationalist Monk U Wirathu Denies Role in Anti-Muslim Unrest – The Irrawaddy  U Wirathu is a 45-year-old Buddhist monk from Mandalay’s Masoeyein Monastery who has acquired notoriety for spreading anti-Muslim sentiments under his nationalist “969” campaign. It encourages Burmese Buddhists to shun Muslim businesses and communities.

Surge in Loans Puts Beijing in a Quandary – Wall Street Journal  A surge in lending that defied Beijing’s efforts to mop up liquidity presents China’s new leaders with the tough prospect of risking a budding growth revival by cracking down too hard to head off a bad-loan crisis.China has been on a credit binge since the global financial crisis of 2008, initially a deliberate strategy by leaders to finance investment and support economic growth. But the growing level of debt—domestic debt has topped 200% of gross domestic product, by some estimates—has prompted concerns that China faces a banking bust in the coming years.

Chinese Ambassador Calls for New Great Power Relationship – Caixin The Chinese ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, said China and the United States must embark on a new great power relationship which should first be enacted in the Asia-Pacific region.”China and the U.S are two great powers situated on the two sides of the Pacific, and as such, have many intertwined interests which the countries must turn into opportunities for cooperation,” said Cui during an interview with Caixin in Washington, D.C. on April 15.The same day, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Cui and formally received his letter of credence as the newly-appointed, 10th Chinese ambassador to the U.S.

Laos’ Mammoth Train Project a Fast Track to Debt and Despair – Time Change is coming to sleepy Laos in the form of a $7.2 billion railway, set to carve its way through this war-ravaged nation. The costs are to be borne by the Laotian government, courtesy of a Chinese loan amounting to a staggering 86% of Laos’ annual $8.3 billion GDP. The level of indebtedness has led some to condemn the scheme as the latest example of Beijing’s inexorable expansion into Southeast Asia. Aghast economists fear that such exorbitant spending could saddle an already impoverished nation with an insurmountable deficit. Moreover, in Laos’ shadowy police state, where even household-name dissidents are “disappeared” without a murmur of explanation, there are serious doubts on whether ordinary Lao could influence the course of a deal inked by their communist government, however unfavorable it may prove.

Never mind the growth data, look at China’s debt pile – Reuters Video The latest GDP figures out of Beijing came in weaker than expected, but soaring debt levels may be the bigger worry for investors.

Global Insight: Debt threat to China’s financial system – Financial Times Thanks partly to a lack of transparency by the Chinese authorities and partly to ignorance from the rest of the world, economic headlines emanating from Beijing tend to cause panic and euphoria in equal measure and rapid succession.So a slowdown in Chinese growth in the first quarter and the increasing realisation that China has entered a new period of slower economic expansion have shaken global markets in everything from commodities to currencies over the past two days.In the wake of the first-quarter dip, fears of an imminent financial crash have proliferated. But a cursory examination of how China works should help put those fears to rest for now.

‘Spring’ in the air for NGOs? – China Daily In some ways, Zheng Xiaojie is the best storyteller in China. During the past decade, hernarration and descriptions of on-screen events have helped thousands of blind and visuallyimpaired people gain a better real time appreciation of movies.However, this talkative woman always has a hard time explaining the organization she runs Beijing Hongdandan Educational and Cultural Exchange Center. Established in 2003 by Zhengand her husband, Wang Weili, the organization is an NGO in all but name. It aims to improvethe quality of life for the visually impaired and receives most of its funding through foundationsand private donations. But, despite being a nonprofit organization, Beijing Hongdandan is not an NGO; instead, it’s registered as a business.

New rules for NGOs to improve operations – China Daily China is set to issue revised administrative regulations by the end of 2013 that will remove what is arguably the biggest obstacle to launch an NGO on the mainland, a senior official from theMinistry of Civil Affairs told China Daily in an exclusive interview. The legislative amendment is expected to assist the registration of hundreds of thousands of NGOs.The amendment will also articulate rules for overseas NGOs to set up branches, and for expats to launch NGOs on the Chinese mainland, Wang Jianjun, director of the Bureau of Administration of NGOs under the ministry, told China Daily.

What Happens When Asia’s Water Tower Dries Up? – Scientific American After photographing Black Dragon Lake here for eight years, He Jiaxin knows of more places where he can get the lake to mirror the majesty of its surrounding mountains than anyone else. But this year, he has a problem: The lake has disappeared. Since its springs dried up last year, no water has flowed into Black Dragon Lake for more than 400 days. At the same time, hot weather caused a high evaporation rate, turning a large part of the lake into a play yard for children.

Myanmar cleans house – China’s worst nightmare? – Financial Times It’s hardly a move to please China. Myanmar, up to recently a loyal neighbour with seemingly endless willingness to open up its abundant natural resources to Chinese companies, is preparing to sign the awkwardly-named Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Norway-based EITI, which comprises governments, civil society, international organisations and resources companies, oversees a voluntary regime for the natural resources industry that has struck fear in the boardrooms of multinationals around the world.

China, India, Singapore could join new Arctic Circle forum – Reuters China, India, Singapore and other countries far from the Arctic Circle could be part of a new global forum to widen the discussion about the fate of the planet’s Far North, Iceland President Olafur Grimsson said on Monday.The non-profit forum, Arctic Circle, will hold its first meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, in October.Such a gathering is needed, Grimsson said, because, while most countries have a stake in the melting of Arctic ice, only eight – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States – are members of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental group set up in 1996.

Sources: Executive at China Development Bank to Join BRIC Development Bank – Caijing

A high-ranking executive at China Development Bank (CDB), is ready to leave office and join the fledging BRICs Development Bank plan announced in March designed to fund infrastructure in countries of the emerging bloc, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.  Chen Yuan, who has served the bank for 15 years as the Chairman of the Board of Directors since 1998, is renowned as the pioneer of China’s development finance. More than one source at the CDB have confirmed Chen is leaving for a position at the BRICs Development Bank, taking his practices in development finance onto a bigger stage.

Truth behind frequent U.S. military exercises in Asia-Pacific region–China Daily Ever since U.S. President Barack Obama proposed the high-keyed “return to the Asia-Pacific” at the end of 2011, the U.S. has begun to frequently organize joint militaryexercises in the Asia-Pacific region. For those exercises conducted in 2012 by the U.S.in the Western Pacific region alone, there were as many as 17 code names. Why is theU.S. so interested in Asia-Pacific region? Why does it frequently conduct such exercises? In geostrategic sense, containing China in the Asia-Pacific region is the basic contentof the U.S. policy toward China.

China to spend 1 bln yuan to preserve major riverhead – Xinhuanet The government will spend 1 billion yuan (about 161.5 million U.S. dollars) in 2013 to protect Sanjiangyuan, a region that serves as the source of China’s three biggest rivers.The money will be spent on afforestation, wetland protection and the recovery of degraded grassland, said Li Xiaonan, vice director of the Qinghai Sanjiangyuan Office.2013 will mark the final year of a nine-year project intended to improve environmental protection in Sanjiangyuan, which is the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers.The Lancang River, also known as the Mekong River in other countries, originates from China and flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

A dam too far in Laos – Asia Times It was once referred to by US magazine Newsweek as a “kinder, gentler” type of dam. Since the Nam Theun 2 hydropower dam commenced commercial operations in 2010, the World Bank and other proponents of the multi-billion dollar power project have trumpeted it as an economic and social development success story for host country Laos. But with the negative publicity and diplomatic tussles now focused on the proposed US$3.5 billion Xayaboury dam, which if built promises to hurt downstream communities and the environment in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Nam Theun 2’s emerging failures have largely escaped critical scrutiny.

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