Regional Roundup for Week of 4.19.18

EXSE FOCUS

Solar Projects Increase in the Mekong River Area–VOA Solar and wind power projects are increasing in the area around the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. Brian Eyler is Director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia Program. He spoke about the increase in solar power development at the third Mekong River Commission Summit in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province. In January 2017, my team visited with Cambodia’s energy planners making the suggestion of incorporating more solar and wind into the power development plan. That was basically off the table in January 2017.” Eyler said.

Southeast Asia Looks Beyond China to Fund Massive Project Needs–Bloomberg Southeast Asia’s economies will need to spend about $2.8 trillion on projects like roads, bridges, ports and railways from 2016 to 2030 in order to maintain economic growth and reduce poverty, the Asian Development Bank reckons. While Southeast Asian governments are finding home-grown solutions to attract investors as they assess the risks of relying too heavily on the world’s No. 2 economic power.

What the US-China Struggle for Regional Dominance Means for Southeast Asia–The Diplomat Competition between the United States and China for dominance in the region is indeed intensifying.  Faced with this burgeoning soft and thinly veiled hard power struggle for their political hearts and minds, Southeast Asian countries are doing what they can and must to maintain their relative independence and security in this roiling political cauldron.

Another China-Japan battle expected over ‘world’s dirtiest’ river in Indonesia–The Jakarta Post The multiyear rehabilitation project of the Citarum River in West Java is set to become another arena for Japan and China to flex their financial muscle, as the two global powerhouses eye a stake in what has been labelled as Indonesia’s most ambitious environmental project to date.// Google the pictures of Citarum river to find how dirty the river is.

Environmental Damage, Corruption as Poorer Southeast Asian States Ship Sand to Singapore–Radio Free Asia Sand has become a hot commodity needed to support construction work in Southeast Asia. The demand for sand has sharply driven up prices for sand in recent years, drawing the attention of unscrupulous local officials, businessmen, and sand-dredging companies. Unfortunately, the sand dredging has damaged the environment in several countries by disrupting sediment flows and fishing grounds.

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

 How Can Japan-UK Cybersecurity Cooperation Help ASEAN Build Cybersecurity–CFR Japan and the UK have been strengthening their cybersecurity collaboration over the last six years. Last month, they held their fourth bilateral dialogue on cyberspace in London to discuss their cooperation on the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, the development of international cyber norms, the security of internet of things devices, and capacity building. Southeast Asia is a lucrative market for tech investment, and the United Kingdom wants access to it. Japan can help. //With growing numbers of mobile and internet users in the region, Southeast Asia should not overlook this threat.

Trump’s trade war pushes Singapore to China–Asia Times Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent five-day trip to China signaled strongly rebounding ties with Beijing and the trade-reliant city-state’s unease with America’s moves to instigate a potentially destabilizing trade war.

Related: Singapore PM says China, U.S. should not increase trade tensions-Reuters 

ASEAN-Italy partnership continues to grow–The ASEAN Post From ubiquitous palm oil and rubber estates in Malaysia to long beaches and pristine waters in Indonesia, Southeast Asia is home to a wide array of resources and locations of interest. Italy, a European giant in its own right, is observant of this matter and has realised the tremendous financial potential that the region has to offer.// Apart from Asian countries and the US, we cannot overlook the influence of European countries in the region.

ASEAN-India ties to strengthen with development of technology data bank–The ASEAN Post Earlier this month, the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) in India was tasked by the Indian government to build a technology data bank. This project will be overlooked by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and will be a part of the ASEAN-India Innovation Platform. The proposed data bank will link existing data banks of available technologies in the ASEAN region.

Philippines verifying photos of China military aircraft on reef–Channel NewsAsia The Philippines may lodge a protest with China against the reported presence of two military aircraft on a Chinese-built island in the South China Sea, the top Philippine diplomat said, amid concern that China is militarising the waterway.

Japan’s Multi-Layered, Multilateral Strategy–The Diplomat Japan finds itself in an extremely difficult position as it strives to maintain a regional order that is favorable to its own interests. In specific policy terms, the most obvious measure is promoting integration of the Asia-Pacific region based on TPP-11. On top of that, the ASEAN economic community has already been established, and only four of the ASEAN nations working towards regional integration are TPP members.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Kenya Could Show Thailand How To Tackle Its Plastic Trash Problem–Investvine The East African nation of Kenya has the potential to become a role model for Thailand when it comes to curb the exorbitant use of plastic bag across the country and the unavoidable serious pollution and other trouble it creates.

Young fishing families on Cambodia’s Mekong struggle to survive–Mekong Eye Sami (16) and Luc (25) have both grown up both on the water. Their families can trace an oral history of fishing and seafaring that dates back 4000 years – migrating across South East Asia and even surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide of 1975-1979 to make it to the modern day. But Sami and Luc are also part of a new generation of teenage parents experiencing more difficulties than ever to survive on the river.

Government urged to curb illegal logging –Khmer Times Eight environmental organisations yesterday asked the government to take immediate action against loggers and land speculators in a wildlife sanctuary in Preah Vihear province, worrying that more land will be encroached upon. The statement said the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary was experiencing encroachment through land speculation, illegal logging and poaching by some perpetrators and that authorities had to enforce the law to curb it or risk the loss of natural resources.// Since 2005, Cambodia has had one of the highest deforestation rates globally.

CHINA 

A Stronger Xi Jinping Uses The Boao Forum For Asia To Relaunch His Economic Agenda For China–Forbes The 17th annual Boao Forum for Asia just concluded on China’s southeastern resort island of Hainan, and opened a window onto Xi Jinping’s economic plans for the next five years.

Related: Boao and Beyond: Pay Attention to Singapore, Too-The Diplomat 

China provides 1.7 mln USD fund to Thailand to boost cross-border trade, e-commerce– Xinhua China offered 1.7 million U.S. dollars from the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Special Fund to Thailand on Wednesday to boost cross-border economy and trade, business exchange and e-commerce. China initiated the LMC Special Fund during the first LMC Leaders’ meeting in Sanya of China’s southern Hainan province in March 2016 with the aim of supporting the small and medium-sized cooperation projects put forward by the six Lancang-Mekong countries.

Shake-up for China’s ocean management–China Dialogue China is changing the structure of its ministries, with huge implications for its management of marine environments. The roles of the former State Oceanic Administration (SOA) have been divvied up across different bodies.The bulk of its work goes to the newly-formed Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Environmental protection responsibilities are now part of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), while coastguard duties have been taken over by the People’s Armed Police.

China to pump billions into Indonesia under New Silk Road initiative–Investvine Indonesia and China on April 13 in Beijing signed five cooperation contracts worth $23.3 billion under the latter’s Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives. The cooperation covers the construction of a $2-billion hydropower plant in Kayan in North Kalimantan, the development of a $700-million facility for converting coal into gas there, as well as the construction of a $17.8-billion hydropower plant on Kayan River.

Huawei, Called a Security Threat by the U.S., to Focus on Other Markets–WSJ Huawei Technologies Co. said it plans to refocus on existing markets, following a series of setbacks in the U.S. and as the technology industry gets caught up in the spiraling trade spat between Washington and Beijing.

Climate change and shifting alliances–The interpreter The proxy battle between India and China for influence in the Maldives is a worrying example of the way in which climate adaptation support, delivered through infrastructure development and land reclamation, could in future be manipulated for political leverage.

SOUTHEAST ASIA 

Infrastructure Drive, Strong Domestic Demand to Sustain Philippines Growth–Modern Diplomacy ADB projects Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 6.8% this year and 6.9% in 2019, up from 6.7% in 2017. Rising domestic demand, remittances, and employment, in addition to infrastructure spending, will drive growth. ADO is ADB’s flagship annual economic publication.

    Related: Invest In The Philippines–Investvine

 Laos Set to Graduate From Least Developed Country Status by 2024–Radio Free Asia For the first time since it was identified by the United Nations as one of the world’s Least Developing Countries (LDC), Laos has fulfilled the eligibility criteria to be removed from the list, and could see its status upgraded as early as 2024, according to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Diagnosing causes of inequality crucial for ASEAN–The Jakarta Post One startling figure about recent global growth is that 82 percent of all the wealth created last year went to the top 1 percent. After focusing on economic growth for a number of decades, developed and developing countries alike have been increasingly concerned with equality.

Indonesia-Vietnam Strategic Partnership: The Maritime Domain–The Diplomat This week, Indonesia and Vietnam held the third round of their bilateral cooperation committee meeting in Hanoi. Though the meeting saw both sides discuss a range of issues, the headlines were centered around the security domain in general and the maritime realm in particular.

Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship: What’s on the Security Agenda?–The Diplomat On April 16, Singapore’s defense minister addressed a security forum in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Though his remarks touched on Asian security issues more broadly, they also included references to key items that the city-state is looking to advance during its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that bear careful watching.

Japan, Malaysia ink defense equipment deal–NHK World Japan and Malaysia have concluded an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and cooperation in defense technology. This comes as Japan has been signing similar deals with the United States, European and Asian countries to transfer patrol planes, radars and other defense hardware and technology.
TAIWAN

New Southbound Policy helps transformation of Taiwan’s businesses: NDC–Taiwan News Since the current government came to power in May 2016, Taiwan has been promoting a New Southbound Policy which pushes closer ties with the nations of South and Southeast Asia, as well as with Australia and New Zealand. NDC Deputy Minister Chiou Jiunn-rong said that Taiwan needed internal structural reform, which could be triggered by its problems in approaching Southeast Asian markets.// Innovation will be a critical task for Taiwan if it wants to export its products to Southeast Asia.

This week’s new digest was curated by Chen-Sheng Hong.

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