The big news this week came out of Kunming, Yunnan with the anti-PX plant protest. Following a successful, small-scale protest earlier in the month, over 2000 Kunmingers protested. East by Southeast had riveting on-the-scene coverage that was picked up by CFR’s Asia Unbound blog, Sinocism, China Digital Times and the Shanghaiist, among other news sources. Check out the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal and Voice of America for more coverage.
Following the non-violent, 5 hour-long protest that shut down much of central Kunming, the city’s mayor, Li Wenrong, opened a Weibo account for public discussion of the chemical refinery’s construction and Kunming’s environmental issues as a whole. The movement is definitely picking up steam, it will be fascinating to see what direction it goes in the coming weeks. Our blog will be bringing you continuing coverage of the protests next week.
The Taiwan/Philippines row looks to be heating up, even after an apology from Philippines over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in the South China Sea. Interesting to see how Taiwan, often overlooked in the island disputes, has responded to the situation, also how folks on the mainland view the situation.
Also, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang goes on his first foreign tour this week, visiting India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany. Should make for an interesting trip to India following the recent flare-up at the border.
These past two weeks have seen ExSE reach new heights in terms of readership and coverage, a big thank you to our readers for showing your support, make sure to check out the comment sections and let us know what you think about these issues!
CHINA IN THE REGION/WORLD
Taiwan has imposed more sanctions on the Philippines, despite an apology from the Philippine president for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters. Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah called the apology unacceptable.
Zhang Xiaodong, a scholar at the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in an article published last week that Beijing was in fact following a strategy of grabbing opportunities to expand its range of control across the region. He applauded the strategy but said China was ill-advised to open a new front with India in this game at the same time disputes were flaring with Japan and in the South China Sea because this raised the risk of its neighbours teaming up against Beijing.
India, China to order 100 naval ships each by 2032 – Economic Times
India and China will order 100 new naval ships and submarines each by 2032 due to changing global security environment and increasing reliance on the sea for trade in the strategic region, according to a US-based naval consultancy.The new orders would include nuclear and conventional submarines and new aircraft carriers, a balanced mix of destroyers, frigates, smaller units, amphibious and logistics vessels, Coast Guard and maritime patrol forces, said Bob Nugent, the vice-president of AMI International.
Australia’s China Challenge – The Diplomat
“Australia welcomes China’s rise,” it states, “not just because of the social and economic benefits it has brought China’s people, but also in recognition of the benefits that it has delivered to states around the globe.”How can one account for the journey from the first 2009 statement and the second a few years later? What has changed? In many ways, evidence of Chinese assertiveness is greater now than it was back then. Not only has China continued to press its case strongly on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, but Chinese academics, have started to even express interests in sovereignty concerning Okinawa. In view of this, why the positive note of the latest paper? Will the Gillard government’s positivity be the start of a trend?
The official said operations were likely to be delayed due to recent clashes between government forces and ethnic militia fighters in Shan state, as well as “fierce fighting” with the Kachin Independence Army in Kachin, a northern state that borders China. The pipeline will be a conduit for gas from the Shwe fields off the coast of Rakhine, a western state bordering Bangladesh, to China’s Yunnan province. Not a huge surprise here, always dangerous doing business with a country that’s still fighting a 50 year-long civil war.
Arctic States Open Council to China, India and South Korea – The Irrawaddy
Arctic states agreed Wednesday to let nations that are located nowhere near the Earth’s north to become observers to their diplomatic council, boosting rising economic powers China, India and South Korea, which are seeking to mine the region for its untapped energy and other natural resources. Not exactly your traditional Arctic powers. North China Sea island dispute in the coming decades?
Every two years, the Arctic Council, the group of eight countries with Arctic territory, convenes to set regional policy. China really wants to be a part of this, and has twice before been turned down for observer status, which would let it sit in on meetings without voting. The group, which meets in Sweden tomorrow (May 15), will soon determine whether the third time’s a charm.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to pay official visits to India, Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany next week, his first foreign trip as China’s new head of government..
Li Keqiang visits Europe and India, Australia’s consumers get a mood check, and key data on Japan’s recovery is released: Reuters’ Wayne Arnold runs down the main events in Asia next week.
Taiwan’s Military Flexes its Muscles – The Diplomat
The Taiwanese military recently held the 29th edition of its Han Kuang series of exercises with a display of force unseen since President Ma Ying-jeou came into office in 2008. A total of 7,682 soldiers from the Air Force, Navy and Army took part in the counter-assault exercise on the outlying island of Penghu that simulated an amphibious attack by the People’s Liberation Army. Any relation between the Philippines-fisherman incident and the ‘show of force’?
The Trust Deficit – Foreign Policy
Obama’s “pivot” to — or “rebalancing” toward — Asia and the Pacific, in both words and deeds, has aroused a great deal of suspicion in China. These suspicions deepen when the United States gets itself entangled in China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands and in the debates over maritime issues in the South China Sea. Should this ill-thought-out policy of rebalancing continue and the security environment worsen, an arms race would be inevitable.
Just how bad are U.S.-Chinese relations these days, and who’s to blame for the downturn? China’s former Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei has published an essay in Foreign Policy today on the worrying state of the world’s most important relationship. The Obama administration’s pivor to Asia, he writes, has “aroused a great deal of suspicion in China.”
With Chinese Premier Li Keqiang telling Indian officials on Friday that his decision to make India the destination of his first overseas visit was “carefully thought out,” both countries, officials say, are facing an increasingly difficult challenge to ensure that the visit, in nine days’ time, will meet expectations amid lingering boundary tensions.
Tropical trouble – The Economist
ON MAY 1st, the Coconut Fragrance Princess, a former cargo vessel refitted as a cruise ship, docked at Haikou on the southern island of Hainan after a three-day cruise to the Paracel islands, the first of many expected Chinese excursions to the islands. The Paracels have been occupied by China since a brief war with South Vietnam in 1974, but are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Thanh Nien News, a state-run Vietnamese newspaper called the trip “the latest in a series of unilaterally provocative actions in the area”.
The sixth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation was held in Beijing on Saturday, with the two sides agreeing to further advance bilateral ties.The meeting was co-chaired by Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi and Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Thien Nhan.
Before Netanyahu and Abbas arrived in the country, China offered to host a meeting between them to break a stalemate in peace negotiations deadlocked since 2010. Though the two didn’t take up the idea, the suggestion marked a new assertiveness in a region where Xi may also be trying to ease a standoff between Israel and Iran, a source of Chinese oil.
CHINA AT HOME
China is drawing up a blueprint for sweeping reforms aimed at averting an economic crisis, sources with close ties to the leadership say. The reforms are aimed at revitalising the world’s second-largest economy amid deepening fears about a trend of rising corruption, wasteful investment and local government debt.
The Chinese yuan has limited room to appreciate further and may be depreciated to foster the country’s struggling exports and the broader economy, according to experts and insiders Sunday.
China tries to rein in microbloggers – The Guardian
China has launched a new drive to tame its boisterous microblogging culture by closing influential accounts belonging to writers and intellectuals who have used them to highlight social injustice. The strict censorship of mainstream media in China has made social media an essential forum for public debate, but authorities have shown increasing determination to control it. Previous campaigns have warned the public against spreading rumours – a theme that has recurred in this crackdown – and ordered users to register with their real names.
China’s Urban Dream Denied – The Diplomat
China is in the midst of an urban revolution, with hundreds of millions of migrants moving into cities every year. Since 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens (690 million people) are living in cities. Another 300-400 million are expected to be added to China’s cities in the next 15-20 years. New Premier Li Keqiang recently proposed accelerating urbanization in China, and said urbanization is a “huge engine” of China’s future economic growth.With its unprecedented speed and scale, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has called urbanization in China one of the two main forces (the other being technological development in the U.S.) shaping the world in the 21st century.
Asia’s rise is increasingly considered a foregone conclusion, yet the extent to which the region will prosper hinges on its ability to feed its voracious, ever-increasing appetite for energy. To complicate matters further, Asia faces a seemingly irreconcilable paradox: if it can somehow secure sufficient energy resources to maintain robust growth, it will decisively boost rising global CO2 levels in the process, with enormous economic and social costs.
Over the next decade, the largest capital investment in Asean integration will be made since the bloc’s inception in 1967. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), no less than $600 billion will be required to address Asean nations’ infrastructure problems – a staggering $60 billion a year.
The female factor – SEA Globe
Any attempt to resist the female tidal force – women represent half of the region’s population and 32% of Southeast Asia’s workforce – will likely result in Asean nations falling behind in economic indicators. The United Nations estimates that the Asia-Pacific economy would earn an additional $89 billion every year if women were able to achieve their full economic potential.
Isobel Coleman hosts Joshua Kurlantzick, Fellow for Southeast Asia, Council on Foreign Relations, for a discussion about the political and economic transition of Thailand and Indonesia as part of a Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative series on Realizing Democracy: Lessons from Transitioning Countries.
An environmental group has accused two Vietnamese rubber firms of involvement in massive land grabs in Cambodia and Laos. In its report, Global Witness said HAGL and Vietnam Rubber Group had been allocated over 280,000 hectares for rubber plantations in the countries.
Rubber barons – The Economist Global
Witnesses says that local and foreign companies have amassed more than 3.7m hectares of land in Cambodia and Laos since 2000, as governments have handed out huge land concessions, many in opaque circumstances. Two-fifths of this was for rubber plantations, dominated by state companies from Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rubber producer.
Cambodia’s Small Businesses Serve as Backbone of Sustainable Economy – Asia Foundation
Historically, however, Cambodia has relied on the role of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the backbone of a sustainable economy. Generally in Cambodia when we talk about SME economic activities, we are in fact talking about micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), as out of the more than 500,000 economic establishments or enterprises counted in the 2011 Cambodia Economic Census, some 493,000 of them employ only one to 10 employees.
Asian Development Bank plans US$60 million loan for Laos – Vientiane Times
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is planning to provide a US$60 million low-interest loan to Laos at the end of the year to help reduce rural poverty and improve food security. The loan will be used to build roads in rural areas which will connect to the main transport routes. This will increase infrastructural capacity and help in the export of crops to neighbouring countries, especially Vietnam and Thailand.
The rebel United Wa State Army (UWSA) has reportedly purchased an engineless helicopter and Fokker aircraft from Thailand, with the armed group planning to place the military hardware in a Shan State national park to “raise general knowledge among local people.” Burma’s state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said on Tuesday that the UWSA revealed the acquisition, which also included an unspecified “water craft,” during a trip by a government peace delegation. The report comes in the wake of allegations last month that Chinese-supplied helicopters had made it into UWSA hands.
Renewed clashes between ethnic armed groups and Burmese government forces in Shan State, reportedly killed nine Burmese troops on Thursday, leading more than 1,000 villagers to flee the fighting to the border with China. Burmese government troops launched an attack on a Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) base in Nam Kham Township, a mountainous region of Burma that juts out in-between China and Laos, in the early hours of Thursday morning. About 1,000 villagers fled to Nam Kham town, while more fled across the China border to the Chinese town of Rulli. With increased hostilities, the Burmese border is becoming more a problem for Chinese authorities.
Foreign investment in Myanmar was almost five times higher in the last fiscal year than the previous year, figures published on Monday showed, and a senior investment official said much of it went into garment manufacturing.
President Thein Sein’s surprise suspension of the Chinese-led hydroelectric dam on the Irrawaddy River at Myitsone in northwestern Burma secured him widespread praise at home and abroad and seemingly dismayed China. This was a project that would help solve power shortages in China’s Yunnan Province by generating up to 6,000 megawatts of electricity to pump north across the border. But away from the mass media spotlight, environmentally questionable large hydro dams further east in Burma on the Salween River are quietly going ahead with the approval of the Thein Sein government.
Joseph Estrada, the former Philippine president who was overthrown 12 years ago in a popular uprising, has been elected mayor of the capital, Manila.
In the lead up to the Philippine midterm elections on May 13, the Philippine National Police (PNP) identified 15 provinces as priority areas where there was a risk of election violence. These areas have a history of intense political contestations and recorded election-related violent incidents, which are further exacerbated by the presence of private armed groups, loose firearms, organized crime, and other threat groups. During the campaign period until the day of the elections, recorded incidents of election violence totaled 81, which involved shootings (67 of the 81 cases), explosions, ambush, grenade throwing, strafing, and harassment.
What’s driving highly organized crime rings that buy and sell rhino horns? If you guessed “China,” you were wrong. The answer is Vietnam. The country’s appetite for rhino horn is so great that it now fetches up to $100,000/kg, making it worth more than its weight in gold. (Horns average around 1-3 kg each, depending on the species.)