Regional Roundup for Week of 6.28.2015

This week, China and the US met during their Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The two global powers’ relationship has been strained as of late and issues like intellectual property, espionage, human rights and the South China Sea loomed over the talks. In truth, they were a prelude for Xi Jinping’s much anticipated state visit to the US this September. In the US, the TPA was signed which means the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) could come online soon. This agreement would have massive economic repercussions for the Asia Pacific. The AIIB and TPP look to be competitors of sorts, with China and the US each leading one. Many states will benefit from both, however.

EXSE FOCUS

US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue: Putting on a Brave Face The Diplomat The U.S. and China tried their best to steer clear of controversy at their premier dialogue platform.

China proceeds with building artificial islands on reefs claimed by Philippines The Guardian China is pressing ahead with the construction of artificial islands on at least two reefs also claimed by the Philippines in an increasingly tense territorial dispute, Filipino officials said, despite Beijing’s pronouncement that some work would end soon.

Related: Let’s Be Real: The South China Sea Is a US-China IssueThe Diplomat

Related: Serenity in the South China SeaProject Syndicate

What Will the TPP Mean for Southeast Asia?Asia Unbound Four Southeast Asian nations—Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia—currently are negotiating to be part of the TPP. (The Philippines has expressed interest in joining the negotiations.) Singapore and Brunei were two of the founders of the predecessor to the TPP, long before the agreement was enlarged and the United States decided to join negotiations, and Vietnam decided to participate in TPP negotiations very early on. These four countries’ economies are extremely varied. Unlike a potential free trade deal involving the United States and countries in Europe, the TPP contains both developed and developing nations, including Vietnam, which has a GDP per capita of less than US$2,000.

Related: Would a U.S. Failure on TPP be a Strategic Disaster?Asia Unbound

Burma rejects proposal to let Aung San Suu Kyi seek presidencyThe Guardian Burma’s parliament has voted against proposed constitutional amendments, ensuring that the military’s veto power remains intact and that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president in an election this year. Unsurprising. November 2015 elections will still prove to be interesting, to say the least. These elections are more important than 2011 for Myanmar’s democratization. Second elections are always critical.

It’s Official: AIIB Constitution to Be Signed on June 29The Diplomat The China-backed development bank will be inaugurated this Monday.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

When Vietnam and China Bicker, Traders on the Border Feel the BlusterNYT Political ups and downs between Hanoi and Beijing have profound effects on the small-scale traders who live near the shared 800-mile boundary.

Related: China brings oil rig back to waters near Vietnam’s ParacelsThanh Nien News

How Did China Just Win Thailand’s New Submarine Bid?The Diplomat The country has chosen Beijing to help realize its long-deferred submarine quest. As China and US duke it out over Asia Pacific, smaller countries like Thailand will look to benefit from both. 

Thailand blocks human rights group’s launch of Vietnam reportThe Guardian Thailand’s military government has forced a human rights group to cancel the launch of its report on the Vietnamese government’s persecution of an ethnic minority, saying it could affect national security and bilateral relations.

ASEAN’s Connectivity ChallengeThe Diplomat The organization’s quest for greater cohesiveness is central to its regional role.

CNRP Demands New Border Committee, Treaty’s CancellationThe Cambodia Daily Following weeks of trips to disputed sites along the country’s border with Vietnam, the opposition CNRP issued an official statement on Thursday demanding that the government overhaul its border commission, cancel a 2005 border treaty and bring a case against Vietnam to international court.

Indian vessels dock at Sattahip to boost bilateral defence tiesThe Nation TWO Indian navy vessels – stealth frigate INS Satpura and fleet tanker and support ship INS Shakti – berthed at Sattahip Port last week on a debut goodwill visit that was in line with the country’s Act East policy and part of the deployment of the Indian Eastern Fleet between May and July.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

US Gives Indonesia’s Climate Change Efforts a BoostThe Diplomat Washington looks to assist Jakarta in a critical field.

Green bonds: Financing renewable energy in Asia — by Thiam Hee NgADB Asia’s share of world energy consumption could rise from around a third in 2010 to more than half by 2035, and raw energy consumption in the region will more than double. Meeting these needs in a sustainable way requires a shift in investment away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources.

Fish and Hydropower – MRC Workshop 16–17 June 2015MRC

Growing Pains for China’s New Environmental CourtsChina File In recent years, China has set up hundreds of new environmental courts as part of institutional reforms that aim to encourage greener growth and curb pollution, but the country will have to speed up training and recruitment to ensure judges have the necessary expertise. Like many things in China, the idea sounds great but the implementation is less than stellar. Hopefully courts can get their act together. 

Climate change goals could cost China 41 trillion yuanGoKunming In the run-up to United Nations climate negotiations scheduled for the end of 2015, China’s policymakers are busy authoring a plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal, which has yet to be made public, is expected to carry a price tag of more than 41 trillion yuan (US$6.6 trillion) — equivalent to more than half the country’s gross domestic product in 2014 — according to a report by Reuters.

Mekong Delta is losing thousands of acres of land to erosionThanh Nien News Vietnam’s rice basket is in grave danger

Why are China’s anti-pollution lawsuits stalling?China Dialogue Currently the legal framework is there, but the necessary mechanisms aren’t yet in place.

CHINA

China Cuts Interest Rates After Market Plunge – NYT Action by the bank was viewed as a sign that the government is not eager to see an end to a rally that has more than doubled prices in the last 12 months.

After Zhou, who? –  The Economist By jailing him, Mr Xi has displayed extraordinary political muscle. But he has also rewritten the rules of Chinese politics, making it harder to predict what his next move might be. Views diverge to an unusual degree. Some believe that the anti-corruption campaign may now lose momentum; others that Mr Xi is getting into his stride. These next 6 months will be interesting for anti-corruption drive. Some say that corrupt businessmen are next in line on the chopping block. 

Deadly Clash Between Police and Ethnic Uighurs Reported in Xinjiang Region of ChinaNYT More than a dozen people were killed in the violence Monday, according to a Radio Free Asia report that was largely corroborated by local residents.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, Battles Perceptions and Beijing in 2022 Olympic BidNYT The executives trying to bring the 2022 Winter Olympics to Almaty say their bid is better than Beijing’s, but winning July’s I.O.C. vote will be another matter

Can China Beat Deflation?Project Syndicate After 39 consecutive months of declining producer prices, deflation is becoming a serious concern among Chinese economists and policymakers. Given slowing economic growth and massive corporate debts, China’s authorities should learn from the recent past to avoid a deflationary spiral.

An Insider’s Guide to Better Eating in Chinese Detention CentersNYT Zheng Churan, one of the “Feminist Five” detained in March, offers a rare glimpse of the culinary offerings at China’s pretrial detention centers.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Myanmar’s Military Uses Political Force to Block Constitutional Changes NYT The military, which controls a quarter of the seats, voted against a bill rescinding its veto power and refused to ease a rule that helps prevent the opposition leader from becoming president. Like many democratizing countries, getting the military out of the way is the biggest step. Not always successful – see Egypt for a classic example. 

It’s Time for the Obama Administration to Get Tough on Human Rights in VietnamThe Diplomat Nguyen Dang Minh Man’s story reminds us that Vietnam’s record on human rights remains deeply troubling.

Tara bandu: homegrown justiceSEA Globe A centuries-old form of community law and order known as tara bandu could hold the key to overcoming many of the difficulties in modern-day Timor-Leste.

Lao Villagers Must Accept Land Compensation or Face DetentionRFA Authorities in the Lao capital Vientiane have threatened to detain a group of villagers if they do not accept compensation to vacate their land, which the local government has granted as a concession to a development firm owned by the former mayor’s daughter and son-in-law.

The end of exileNew Mandala Since Myanmar opened up under the semi-civilian government in 2011, the diaspora have been encouraged to return. As persecution on the basis of political activity or ethnicity is often the reason they left, many are reluctant to return permanently to what is an unclear political situation. As a result, brief stays are common. After so many years away from home, family and friends, it is difficult to image the experience of returning.

Malacca buccaneersThe Economist Step aside, Somalia: South-East Asia is the new piracy capital of the world.

This is MalaysiaSEA Globe Meet the Malaysian skinheads who are fighting off the subculture’s fascist stereotypes and striving to laud the 1960s scene’s original anti-racist ideals.

YUNNAN 

China’s national meat scandal hits YunnanGoKunming This week news broke that dozens, if not hundreds, of police seizures had been carried out across the country in an ever-broadening meat scandal. The crackdown covers at least 14 Chinese provinces including Yunnan, where much of the spoiled food apparently entered the mainland.

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