Regional Roundup for Week of 6.7.13

This is has been a big week for the region, especially for China. President Xi Jinping is now at the tail end of his America’s visit, and today begin’s his much-anticipated Sunnylands Conference with US President Barack Obama. It’s being billed as the first chance for the two leaders to know each other on a personal level, and seeing the informal nature of the visit, it should give them plenty of time to talk. Hopefully some good can come out of the meetings, the Sino-US relationship could certainly use a friendly interlude.

Within China, the First Annual China-South Asia Expo began on Thursday in Kunming. ExSE’s own Brian Eyler has coverage of that event and what it means to China here.

Elsewhere, the World Economic Forum is taking place in Myanmar (Burma) this week. The developing nation will be hoping to use the hosting of this meeting of international business leaders as a showcase of their development thus far and attract investors for the future.


Can Obama, Xi Break Summit Stalemate? from Asia – Council on Foreign Relations by Council on Foreign Relations

Elizabeth Economy identifies addressing the trust deficit as the top priority for this week’s summit between President Obama and President Xi. I’m not convinced on the trust deficit line of thinking. The two countries’ Pacific policies seem diametrically opposed, and no amount of trust can change the relationship if regional strategies don’t change. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s Remarks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue), June 2013 from Asia – Council on Foreign Relations by Council on Foreign Relations

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered these remarks at the First Plenary Session (Saturday, June 1, 2013) of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit (Shangri-la Dialogue) in Singapore.

Obama heads for US-China summit with high hopes for progress from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Dan Roberts, Tania Branigan

From cybersecurity to the economy and North Korea, what key issues will the president discuss with Xi Jinping in California?

The last time the presidents of China and the US met in such informal circumstances, it was for a barbecue lunch and a tour of George W Bush’s ranch in Texas, lasting just four hours and to mark the retirement of Jiang Zemin in 2002.

Moving Beyond the Script at the U.S.-China Summit from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Genuine personal diplomacy can lay the groundwork for the new type of great-power relationship that Xi wants, but success depends on Obama and Xi moving beyond scripted talking points. | 中文

Obama Meets Xi: A Chance To Make History from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping have the chance to make history when they meet for an informal meeting near Palm Springs, California. The meeting offers a rare chance to make progress on issues ranging from the economy to cybersecurity.

This week Barack Obama must avoid the start of a cold war with China | Martin Jacques from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Martin Jacques

In his first meeting with the new president, Xi Jinping, it is vital that the two powers rebuild their relationship

On Friday the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and the United States president, Barack Obama, will meet for two days of talks at Sunnylands, a private estate near Los Angeles. It will be their first meeting since Xi assumed the presidency. The future fortunes of the world are bound up with the two countries finding a new kind of modus vivendi. It will not be easy. Sunnylands is crucial for the relationship, but I don’t think we’re on the precipice of a Cold War, maybe a trade war. Jacques isn’t a stranger to big claims, however. 

The Sunnylands Summit: Power for Purpose from Peterson Institute: RealTime Economic Issues Watch by Arvind Subramanian

When Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping meet for a historic private summit this week, the California desert air will be rife with the rhetoric of cooperation and partnership. The reality is  that the two countries are engaged in indirect economic skirmishing that could slowly corrode the rules-based multilateral economic system, embodied in the International Monetary […]

The U.S. Drops the Ball on First Lady Diplomacy from The Diplomat by Zachary Keck

Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama will begin two informal days of talks at Sunnylands in California later today, which both sides have been framing as a way to recalibrate an increasingly tense bilateral relationship and build a new type of great power relationship largely through strengthening personal ties between their leaders.

In other words, the goals of the summit and the intended ways to achieve them are tailor made for first lady diplomacy. And what a dynamic duo Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama make, both of whom made Forbes list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Similarly, Peng and Obama are both beloved (and fashion icons) in their countries, and stars everywhere they go. By launching a new joint initiative, or merely appearing together, they could be the face of a more positive U.S.-China relationship. Agreed. Especially seeing how this is an ‘informal conference’ nothing could be more fitting than some time for the First Ladies to get to know each other. A good rapport between Obama and Peng could do a lot for the Obama-Xi relationship. 

China’s Stealth Wars from Project Syndicate by Brahma Chellaney

Throughout China’s rise from a poor country to a global economic powerhouse, the fundamentals of its statecraft and strategic doctrine have remained largely unchanged. Indeed, now its leaders are subverting the regional status quo by provoking territorial, maritime, and riparian disputes with its neighbors.

Ghana arrests 168 Chinese nationals in illegal mining crackdown from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Jonathan Kaiman, Afua Hirsch

Arrests follow series of pit collapses in which dozens have died, and highlight social and environmental challenges of China’s presence in Africa

Ghanaian authorities have arrested 168 Chinese citizens for illegal goldmining, highlighting the social and environmental challenges posed by China’s growing presence on the continent.

Nicaragua gives Chinese firm contract to build alternative to Panama Canal from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Jonathan Watts

Project will reinforce China’s growing influence on global trade and weaken US dominance over a key shipping route

Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications.

EU to impose anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Ian Traynor, Jennifer Rankin

EU’s executive arm accuses China of selling panels below-cost and threatening 25,000 jobs in the European solar industry

The European commission is imposing anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar panels, in a move that could spark tit-for-tat retaliation from the world’s second largest economy. This trade dispute doesn’t seem to stop heating up. The Chinese response will be interesting to watch. 

How to destroy the future | Noam Chomsky from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Noam Chomsky

From the Cuban missile crisis to a fossil fuels frenzy, the US is intent on winning the race to disaster

What is the future likely to bring? A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside. So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now – assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious – and you’re looking back at what’s happening today. You’d see something quite remarkable.

Virginia town that pork built digests company’s sale to Chinese from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Michael Laris

Local citizens divided over the possible impact of US-based Smithfield Ham’s owners being an ocean away in China

The pig is many things in Smithfield, in south-east Virginia. Happy porcine images are everywhere: there’s a pig in a chef’s hat holding a beer outside a neighbourhood grill. Down the road, a cartoon pig is serving pie and another is hawking children’s clothes. A blue-and-pink pig statue is painted with a platter of ham and biscuits.

Call for Proposals: China, UK, Low-Income Countries and Agriculture/Food Security from China in Africa: The Real Story by Deborah Brautigam


AgriTT launched a Research Challenge Fund on 17th May, inviting teams of researchers from China, UK and low income countries in Africa and Asia to apply for funding to carry out research on agricultural technology transfer and innovation for food security. Researchers from international organisations or other countries can apply, but there must be a UK, China and LIC research partner in the team. More details are available at

The Right Stuff in Foreign Policy from Project Syndicate by Joseph S. Nye

Crisis conditions can liberate a gifted leader from the accumulated constraints of vested interests and bureaucratic inertia that normally inhibit action. But, while turbulent times may set the stage for transformational leaders, bold and risk-loving leaders are not always best suited to address the crises that define such periods.

East Asia’s Lessons for Africa from Project Syndicate by Joseph E. Stiglitz

On June 1-3, Japan is hosting the fifth meeting of TICAD, the Tokyo International Cooperation on African Development. Japan’s engagement is particularly important not only in terms of money and moral support, but also because Africa may learn something from East Asia’s development experience.

China’s Flawed Balance-of-Payments Position from Project Syndicate by Yu Yongding

The balance-of-payments figures that Chinese authorities released in April should have caused widespread alarm. The data adjusted China’s 2011 investment-income deficit from $26.8 billion to $85.3 billion – a massive revision that casts doubt on the reliability of official statistics and exposes the economy’s flawed growth path.


China’s mega water diversion project begins testing | Jennifer Duggan from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Jennifer Duggan

South-north diversion project aimed at preventing water shortages has had no shortage of problems and criticism.

When it is completed, it will be one of the world’s biggest feats of engineering. China’s South-North Water Diversion Project, initially a vision of Mao’s, will take water from the south of the country to the arid northern region, including the capital Beijing, which suffers from water shortages. If successful, this would be the largest engineering project in history. The North certainly needs the water, though it’s hard to forget Yunnan’s 4 year-long drought.

China’s cities: push for ‘green’ centres creates suburban ‘cancer villages’ from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian by Jonathan Kaiman

Cities shunt polluting plants to areas where damage is less visible as proof linking cancer rates to pollution remains elusive

In most Chinese cities, the environmental cost of rapid development is obvious: unbreathable air and undrinkable water. Less obvious is the cost of cleaning them up.

Press prize for campaigner who dared China officials to swim in pollution from Asia Pacific | World news | The Guardian

Wu Zhu named best citizen journalist after calling for environmental protection officials to swim in local waterway. A social media campaigner who challenged government officials to swim in their polluted local rivers was among the winners of this year’s China environmental press awards

Timely passing from Analects | The Economist by T.P. | BEIJING

IT IS somehow fitting that news of the death of Chen Xitong, a disgraced former leader, trickled out two days after the fact, on June 4th, the anniversary of the violent 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations that had paralysed the Chinese capital for weeks. It is a date that continues to roil Chinese politics.

Coping with Public Health Hazards in Post-SARS China from Asia – Council on Foreign Relations by Council on Foreign Relations

In his testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Yanzhong Huang discusses China’s recent public health crises. He focused on two areas: encouraging further government transparency and emboldening civil society to help enact policy changes.


Emerging East Asia’s Local Bond Markets Grow 12.1% on High Corporate Sales from News Releases

Emerging East Asia’s local currency bond markets expanded 12.1% year-on-year to $6.7 trillion at the end of March 2013, driven by double-digit growth in corporate bonds, according to the latest edition of ADB’s Asia Bond Monitor.

Southeast Asian Companies Hope to Score Big in Soccer Deals from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by WSJ Staff

More and more Southeast Asian companies are signing sponsorship deals with some of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, signaling how important the growing region has become to the lucrative sporting industry. Read more about ASEAN soccer here.

Will the United States set up a NATO-like Pacific Treaty Organization in Asia? If so, how? from Asia – Council on Foreign Relations by Council on Foreign Relations

Despite its strategic “rebalancing” toward Asia, the United States is unlikely to sponsor a collective defense organization for the Asia-Pacific, for at least three reasons: insufficient solidarity among diverse regional partners, fear of alienating China, and the perceived advantages of bilateral and ad-hoc security arrangements. Probably won’t happen. Any kind of US-led Pacific security organization would destroy the argument for a peaceful ‘Pivot to Asia’ and create a real break in China relations. The establishment of such an organization would throw the region into chaos.

Southeast Asian Capitals Boast High-End Bargains, Report Says from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by Martin Vaughan

Certain high-end goods and services can be had on the cheap in cities like Jakarta, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur, compared to the prices demanded in some other cities in Asia, according to a new report out Tuesday from Bank Julius Baer.

Emerging Markets Are Not The Answer To Our Growth Problem from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Developing economies have performed strongly, while their advanced-country counterparts have struggled to sustain comparable economic growth. Emerging markets can help the advanced economies, but they are still too small and vulnerable to do the job on their own.

Myanmar urgently needs investment in energy, development bank says from – Breakingnews

Yangon – Reforming Myanmar “urgently” needs to attract investments to its energy sector, which has left three-quarters of the population in the dark, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Thursday.

New pathways to food security for Southeast Asia and the World – The Nation

East Asia’s agriculture sector is already serving as a breadbasket for the region and the world. However as regional and global demand grows, it will be called to provide even more. Meeting that demand will require new levels of collaboration, innovation and investment from both public and private sectors. Success will mean a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for East Asia and the world.

How indigenous people are turned off their lands from Thailand | World news | The Guardian by Kate Hodal

Hundreds of thousands in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are said to have been displaced. A big issue that is consistently under-reported. 

Let the People Talk: ASEAN, China Seek to Increase Human Ties from The Diplomat by Luke Hunt

“If governments can’t do it then perhaps the people should.” That seemed to be the message out of China this week from a conference that offered a refreshing insight into the thinking of regional leaders and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Saving the Buddhas of Mes Aynak from The Diplomat

Outside the village of Mes Aynak, in eastern Afghanistan’s mountainous Logar province, a burgeoning Buddhist center once flourished. In its heyday, this Silk Road hub thrived on trade between the Middle East and Asia, and hosted Buddhist pilgrims who helped spread the faith. Very interesting. Current geo-politics make it easy to forget how much China was connected with Central and South Asia in the past.


Malaysia Fears Spillover From Myanmar Violence After 4 Killed from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by Celine Fernandez

Malaysian authorities worry that ethnic and racial tensions in nearby Myanmar are spilling over into their country after a series of clashes between Myanmar nationals near Kuala Lumpur left at least four people dead.

Malaysian Prime Minister Eyes Election Commission Change from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by WSJ Staff

Prime Minister Najib Raza said Saturday he is retooling the Malaysian Election Commission to try to boost public confidence in the integrity of the nation’s electoral system following charges that last month’s elections were tainted by fraud.


Energy Sector Critical to Myanmar’s Transformation – Report from News Releases

The New Energy Architecture: Myanmar report released today is the first ever to analyze the challenges currently facing Myanmar’s energy sector and provides insights to support energy reforms crucial to the country’s future. Agreed, energy looks to be the engine for growth in Burma. Is there an environmentallly-friendly way of energy-centric, high-speed economic growth?

Myanmar Unveils $500 Million Tourism Plan from News Releases

The Government of Myanmar, alongside ADB and the Government of Norway, today unveiled a Tourism Master Plan which outlines 38 development projects valued at nearly a half billion dollars that will help increase Myanmar’s tourism competitiveness, protect environmentally important areas, and safeguard ethnic communities.

Singapore Pitches In to Help Myanmar Build Skilled Workforce from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by Natasha Brereton-Fukui

Singapore’s government is setting up a vocational training institute in Myanmar in an effort to prepare that country’s workforce for an expected surge in demand for local talent.

Global Leaders Meet in Shadow of Sectarian Conflict in Myanmar from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by Shibani Mahtani

Though some 900 of the world’s business and political leaders are gathered this week in Myanmar with an outpouring of goodwill, reminders of what is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest problems – sectarian conflict between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims – accompanied them to their hotels at the Asian edition of the World Economic Forum.  

Economic Forum Opening in a Much-Changed Myanmar from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by WSJ Staff

At the World Economic Forum, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Soe Thein will discuss the future of Myanmar, which will mark the first time she will have debated the path of political reforms in public with a member of the president’s office and of the former military regime.

What it means to host the World Economic Forum from Burma | Democratic Voice of Burma by DVB

Union Minister for Economic Affairs Soe Thane spoke to DVB about the benefits of hosting the World Economic Forum in Burma.

War, displacement fueling trafficking scourge in Kachin state from Burma | Democratic Voice of Burma by DVB

After two years of war and displacement in northern Burma’s Kachin state, more people are being trafficked along the Sino-Burmese border, according to a report published by the Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand (KWAT) on Wednesday.

Will there be genuine peace in Kachin state? from Burma | Democratic Voice of Burma by GOON TAWNG

Politicians and analysts hailing the recent seven-point agreement between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) as a major breakthrough have demonstrated their lack of understanding of Burma’s affairs and the root causes that led to the conflict.

Suu Kyi lays out presidential ambitions at economic forum from Burma | Democratic Voice of Burma by AFP

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday declared her intention to run for president, calling for all of the country’s people to share the fruits of its dramatic reforms.

With five hours of power, industrial zones continue to struggle from Burma | Democratic Voice of Burma by SU SU HLAING

Days after major industrial zones in Mandalay and Rangoon began receiving five hours of electricity a day, factories continue to struggle to stay afloat after a month of operating off the grid.

Burma’s Rohingya people: a story of segregation and desperation | Rushanara Ali

The international community must put pressure on Burma to protect Rohingya Muslims and end segregation in Rakhine state

How desperate and distrustful of your government do you have to be to refuse an offer of relocation when a cyclone is about to hit your home? That many of the displaced Rohingya people in Burma’s Rakhine state took this decision demonstrates how difficult their lives have become.

Vodafone drops out of Burma bidding race from Burma | World news | The Guardian by Juliette Garside

Vodafone and partner China Mobile withdraw ahead of deadline for submissions to run the country’s first mobile phone network

Vodafone has withdrawn from the race to become the first foreign mobile phone network in Burma, citing commercial reasons.

We are the Middle East” from Southeast Asia Globe Magazine | Views on Regional Affairs … by Sea Globe Editorial

By Daniel Otis

Sittwe, Myanmar – Sinewy, stern and draped in a saffron robe, U Sa King Da sits at the foot of a towering white and gold Buddha. The icon’s head is illuminated in a technicolour LED halo. U Sa King Da’s face is obscured by the darkness enveloping the monastery.

A long, loud silence from Southeast Asia Globe Magazine | Views on Regional Affairs … by Sea Globe Editorial

By Daniel Otis

Myanmar’s voice of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been decidedly silent about human rights abuses since winning a seat in parliament last year.  She was criticised in March for backing the expansion of a Chinese-financed copper mine that would lead to the forced eviction of 50 families. Earlier, when asked if the Rohingya are citizens of Myanmar, she reluctantly replied that she did not know and that the issue should be decided by the law. “I want to work toward reconciliation between these two communities,” the Nobel laureate was quoted as saying in November. “I am not going to be able to do that if I take sides.” In such an imbalanced conflict, however, silence can be incredibly partisan. The violence against Burma’s Muslims and the response has been disturbing. Interesting to see the difference between Aung San Suu Kyi the imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate and Aung San Suu Kyi the politician.


Mass media must exercise press freedom responsibly: PM from – Breakingnews

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told the World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok Tuesday the mass media must exercise press freedom responsibly.

Rice scheme’s losses negative for Thailand: Moody’s from – Breakingnews

Recent losses and any future losses from the unmodified rice buying scheme will increase the difficulty of the Thai government’s task of reaching its goal of a balanced budget by 2017, and are credit negative for the Thai sovereign, warned Moody’s Investors Service.

Cambodian military men block border from – Breakingnews

Two Cambodian military men, allegedly involved in smuggling of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Thailand into Cambodia, Saturday blocked the road during a one-hour protest at the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bridge opposite Klong Luek checkpoint in Aranyaprathet against stricter border pass checking by Thailand.


Vietnamese Prime Minister Welcomes Larger Role for U.S. from Asian Development Bank – Southeast Asia Real Time – WSJ by Chun Han Wong

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Friday he would welcome the U.S. playing a larger role in tempering regional tensions, as China and some of its Southeast Asian neighbors remain deadlocked over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnam’s Angry Feet from Vietnam News – Breaking World Vietnam News – The New York Times by By TUONG LAI

If Vietnam’s leaders continue to cling to an outdated anti-democratic ideology and permit rampant Chinese expansionism, their demise is inevitable.

Rare Protest in Vietnam Raises a Call to Curb China from Vietnam News – Breaking World Vietnam News – The New York Times by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Some members of the ruling Communist Party fear that popular anger over territorial claims could bleed into a broader protest movement. The development of anti-Chinese sentiment in SE Asian has been fascinating. Always an underlying sentiment, but the territorial disputes, Chinese FDI in the region has definitely caused an upsurge in tensions. How will this play out with more Chinese-owned projects in the region?

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