Regional roundup for week of 7.19.15

 EXSE FOCUS

China begins construction of ‘world’s tallest’ damThanh Nien News China has begun building a 314-metre (1,030-ft) high dam which will be among the world’s tallest, officials said, as the country massively expands hydropower. The Shuangjiankou dam on a tributary of China’s mighty Yangtze river will be completed in 2022, the environmental ministry said on its website Tuesday. The facility, costing 36 billion yuan ($5.8 billion), will be higher than the world’s current tallest dam, the 305-metre Jinping-1, also in China. //Hydroelectric energy sources can help decrease carbon emissions, but the environmental hazards, as well as social impacts, of these mega dams aren’t negligible.

Related: Burma, Thailand, China sign MoU for Salween damDVB

Related: Is China’s hydroelectric revolution as green as it sounds? International Rivers

Chinese police kill three ‘Xinjiang terrorists’ in north-east, authorities sayThe Guardian Police in north-eastern China on Monday killed three knife-wielding “terrorists” from Xinjiang, the mainly Muslim region in the far west, who attacked officers, local authorities said. One other assailant, described as a 28-year-old woman, was injured in Liaoning, said a notice posted on a verified provincial government social media account. Shenyang, the Liaoning capital where the incident happened, is almost 3,000km (1,900 miles) from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which has seen sporadic violence in recent years blamed by authorities on Islamist terrorists.

Related: Behind the veil: China’s policies in restive Xinjiang hurt traditional minority businessesThe South China Morning Post

ASEAN Seen As Future Labour Powerhouse, Succeeding ChinaInvestVine The structural change in the East Asian labour market and rising wages in China – which used to be the cheap manufacturing hub of the world – will shift a lot of labour towards Southeast Asian countries, especially the ones which still have low labour costs and/or minimum wages, experts say. Southeast Asia will eventually displace China for the title of “world’s factory”, another study released in April by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, or ANZ, said. This would happen over the next 10 to 15 years, “as companies move to take advantage of cheap and abundant labour in areas such as the Mekong [delta],” ANZ said in the report.

Developing Asia To Grow At A Slower Pace: ADBInvestVine The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on July 16 cut its economic-growth forecast for developing Asia amid slower-than-expected growth in the US and China. The Manila-based bank said the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to grow by only 6.1 per cent from the original forecast of 6.3 per cent in its annual Asian Development Outlook published in March this year. It added that the growth outlook for Southeast Asia was trimmed to 4.6 per cent because Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore’s economies disappointed in the first half, while subregional growth will likely accelerate next year to 5.1 per cent.

An HA/DR Solution to South China Sea TensionsThe Diplomat Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief could offer innovative approach to territorial conflict. China’s extensive land reclamation in the South China Sea poses a challenge to the security environment of the Asia-Pacific. Territorial conflicts are difficult to resolve given complex and deeply rooted sovereignty and historical interpretation issues. However, the essence of the issue is not the Chinese land reclamation itself (many other countries in the region have engaged in land reclamation), but rather the legal and political consequences that could escalate into a security issue, which in turn could destabilize a region that has the potential to drive the world economic growth.//Get ready for the annual CSIS South China Sea Conference.  It’s kinda like DC’s version of Shark Week.  Also watch this week for critical ruling re the Philippines arbitration case vs. China.

Related: Naval Buildups in the South China SeaThe Diplomat

Related: How China Views the South China Sea Arbitration CaseThe Diplomat

Myanmar Faces Daunting Post-Election Challenges, Experts WarnThe Diplomat Myanmar faces significant challenges following historic elections to be held later this year, experts warned Tuesday. Last week, Myanmar confirmed that it would hold its election on November 8, setting the stage for polls following a historic opening in 2011 after half a century of military rule.

Related: Myanmar Reveals Date for Historic 2015 ElectionsThe Diplomat

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Forecasting the Future of US-China CompetitionThe Diplomat China figured prominently in this year’s annual conference conducted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which held the massive, all-day event at the end of last month in Washington, D.C.  While the event focused on global challenges from Russia and the Islamic State to technology and energy, one of four breakout sessions focused exclusively on “The Future of China.”

Obama official sees momentum to conclude Asia-Pacific trade pactThanh Nien News The 12 nations negotiating a Pacific trade pact are “keenly focused” on reaching an agreement as ministers prepare to meet in Hawaii this month, according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Froman acknowledged sticking points remain to the Trans-Pacific Partnership on issues including market access. He wouldn’t be drawn on a specific time line after five years of negotiations, but said he’s optimistic ahead of the next discussions.//Waiting for details of this deal whose negotiations are conducted in secret is unnerving.

RMB Internationalization and US Economic Leadership: Reforms and RebalanceThe Diplomat The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is currently considering whether or not to recognize the Chinese currency – yuan or renminbi (RMB) – as an official reserve currency to be included in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) along with the dollar, euro, yen and sterling. Eswar Prasad, the former head of the IMF’s China division recently stated, “The IMF’s imprimatur is nice to have but ultimately it is market forces that will drive the renminbi’s adoption as a reserve currency.”//with Saudi Arabia and oil not meaning so much to the US anymore, RMB internationalization and position as a potential reserve currency is probably one of the top five international developments with long-term, game changing implications to watch.

Can Myanmar benefit from China plan?New Mandala China’s leaders are looking to convince us that their dreams of “one belt, one road” can lead to a new wave of global prosperity. These initiatives are designed to enmesh partners from near and far in a Chinese-led network of investment and economic growth. The Chinese government inevitably has firm ideas about how Myanmar fits into its bold plans for 21st-century economic development. It sees the country as a key site for large-scale Chinese projects, including the dams, bridges, roads and ports that will be the concrete-and-steel manifestation of the “one belt, one road” idea.//The answer is Yes.  Would Myanmar benefit by being left out of the Belt and Road project?  No.  But the devil is in the details – who gets the projects, what are environmental implications, and how can the projects be implemented with efficiency and on a predictable schedule with ethnic conflict looming and raging in Myanmar?

Related: The Belt and Road: China’s Economic Lifeline?The Diplomat

Connectivity with China a priority – The Star BEIJING: Malaysia is ready to work with China on developing connectivity, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. Among others, ports in Malaysia will be upgraded and more free trade zones and industrial parks will be built near the ports.

China’s slowdown may widen Vietnam trade gap, official saysThanh Nien News China’s economic slowdown may widen Vietnam’s trade deficit as the Southeast Asian nation counts on its largest trading partner to buy commodities, according to a government official. China has been Vietnam’s biggest trade partner since at least 2007. The recent stock plunge and the slowdown in China’s growth has triggered concerns in regional governments including Indonesia and Philippines.//Enter opportunity for US purchases of more Vietnamese goods – maybe not commodities, but purchasing fewer commodities from Vietnam may help the country implement higher environmental standards.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

To sustain its forests, Asia needs to invest in local people: expertsThanh Nien News Asia has a unique opportunity to fight climate change and lift many more people out of poverty if it invests more in the communities living in its forests, experts said. The Asia-Pacific region’s forests, which account for almost 20 percent of the world’s forested area, play a big role in fighting climate change because of trees’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).

Silence of the dammedMekong Commons In the ongoing controversy over the costs and benefits of hydropower in the Mekong River basin, there is much debate among governments, private business and civil society especially in Thailand and internationally. But one voice seems to be always silent in this debate: that of the local communities of Laos in whose country at least two mainstream Mekong dams are being built or planned and who will face the brunt of the projects’ impacts.//More needs to be done to bring local stakeholders to the discussion table.  NGOs can serve as a bridge, representing and passing on the voices of local community stakeholders.  NGOs, contrary to popular opinion, the Laos government wants to hear from you.  Laos government, to get more NGOs to talk to you, stop detaining and kidnapping development activists and whistle blowers.

 18,000 trees to be felled for new tourist road through Vietnam mangrove forestThanh Nien News Ho Chi Minh City has approved a plan to build a new road through Can Gio Mangrove Forest, a biosphere reserve recognized by UNESCO, in a bid to attract more tourists. Here’s the catch: the road will be 17 meters wide and run 3.5 kilometers, which means 18,600 trees will have to be cut down to make space for it. Can Gio District conceded that the construction will destroy 6.4 hectares of forest and force creatures living in that area to move.

Long-term overuse of fertilisers saps China’s farmlandsSouth China Morning Post

 

CHINA

UncivilThe Economist Some were taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Others had their offices raided, or were summoned to “take tea” at the local police station—a euphemism for being interrogated. According to Amnesty International, around 120 lawyers, as well as more than 50 support staff, family members and activists, have been rounded up across the country since the pre-dawn hours of July 9th. Many have been released, but as The Economist went to press at least 31 were still missing or were believed to remain in custody. //Is this the rule of law that Xi promoted in at his 3rd plenum?

Related: China’s ‘Rule by Law’ Takes an Ugly TurnChinaFile

Remaining Uighurs in detention may go to TurkeyThe Nation The last group of 52 Uighur migrants detained in Thailand will likely be going to Turkey because China has already been given those it wants for alleged crimes and violence in its territory. Beijing has got those who are suspected of involvement in crimes in China, so the remaining Uighur migrants are not wanted by China. It seems that the remaining migrants have no criminal record in China so they may go to the country of their choice or Turkey,” a high-ranking security official said yesterday.//To further understand this case, in general it would be helpful for the Chinese government to release the names of the 70 refugees repatriated to China two weeks ago as well as the charges surrounding their cases. Transparency.

The Environmental Problem China Can No Longer OverlookThe Diplomat China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection is taking steps to clean up soil contamination. Will it be enough? China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is on a roll, pushing out action plans, regulations, and laws to address a number of its most pressing environmental challenges. Most recently, in mid-July it announced that it had submitted an action plan to the State Council to tackle one of the country’s least visible but most serious problems: soil contamination. Plans are also in the works for a new soil pollution prevention law in 2017.

China must make use of minority cultures to develop poorer border areas, says senior officialThe South China Morning Post China must utilise the linguistic and cultural links of its ethnic minorities with neighbouring countries to help develop its poor border areas, but also guard against an infiltration of extremists, a senior official wrote in an influential journal.

China’s Rapidly Changing Views on Wildlife Conservation in AfricaChinaFile A dramatic shift in Chinese public opinion about animal welfare and global wildlife conservation appears to be underway. Supported by high-profile celebrity campaigns by NBA legend Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, there is growing awareness in China over the country’s role in the illicit African wildlife trade.//Glad to see the mass PSA campaigns working as well as bar raised on punishment for offenders on this issue. 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Clock ticks on rice harvestThe Phnom Penh Post As el niño continues to buffet Cambodia, the next two weeks could be crucial in determining whether the Kingdom will suffer from a smaller-than-usual rice harvest and potential food shortages, experts said yesterday. The bulk of the rice harvested in Cambodia is normally planted between May and July, but amid unusually high temperatures and reduced precipitation, concerns are mounting regarding the hardships farmers might face and how it could affect their crops, according to a report released late last week by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). //With such a huge portion of the kingdom’s population in the agriculture sector, lower precipitation and high temps would mean trouble for Cambodia.

Everyone must save water till rains come mid-Aug: PMThe Nation It is now absolutely necessary for everybody – be they farmers or not – to save fresh water for consumption and daily use, at least until mid-August, when more rain is expected, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday. The government ordered a big cut yesterday in the amount of water released from four key dams – Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwai Noi and Pasak Jolasid – from 28 million cubic metres to 18 million cubic metres per day, so there is more left until the rains come.//This year’s drought seems to be the #1 conversation topic and concern among mainland Southeast Asians.

NGO alert: Cambodia legislation gives government new powers to monitor, fine or disbandThe Guardian The government has just passed a Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) which will impose mandatory registration on all domestic and international associations and NGOs, in order to have legal standing. They must also file annual reports on their activities and finances to the government. This bill will give the government powers to monitor activity and to fine or take legal action against NGOs. The government will also have the power to disband NGOs if their activities “jeopardise peace, stability and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture, and traditions of Cambodian society”.//Call this THE CHINA EFFECT.

Related: Does Cambodia Really Need a New NGO Law?The Diplomat

Shelling Sends Civilians Fleeing in Shan StateThe Irrawaddy More than 100 people from Kaung Kha village in Muse Township have fled their homes after artillery shells were fired into the settlement on Monday, reportedly leaving one person dead and two others injured. The displaced villagers told The Irrawaddy that the artillery bombardment began at about 10 am on Monday and stopped sometime in the afternoon. The villagers have sought shelter at nearby Namtaw village and say they dare not return to their homes amid reports that the Burma Army is occupying the village.

 

YUNNAN

Kunming to invest in public electric car fleetGoKunming The Kunming municipal government is moving toward the acquisition of all-electric cars that will be made publicly available by year’s end. Once delivered, the vehicles would become the centerpiece of a public transportation initiative designed to reduce general traffic congestion and cut down on overall tailpipe emissions in the Spring City. //Kunming is following suit in finding ways to alleviate traffic and reduce carbon emissions. Kudos to the municipal government for working to improve a city whose air conditions are already above standards for larger cities in China.

Video: Hip-hop grannies in Kunming’s Green Lake ParkGoKunming For anyone who has spent time in China, witnessing nocturnal dances by groups of women is not a new occurrence. Every evening across the country, in rural hamlets and huge metropolises alike, ladies gather in public squares and shake it to all different types of music. The nightly gatherings are simply a way to connect with like-minded people who want to step out, get some fun exercise and indulge in a bit of good-natured exhibitionism. //One of the exciting bits of Kunming’s urban personality that makes you fall in love with it!

 

REVIEWS

The Dog by Jack Livings review – a risky debut collection of extraordinary powerThe Guardian The Dog is, among other things, a forceful argument for the role of imagination in fiction and in life. These short stories successfully put us into other people’s shoes, extending a gift of empathy. Livings has spent time studying and teaching in China, but it is still a gutsy move for an American writer to build his first work of fiction around the imagined lives of people in a foreign land. Like his characters, he seems to find something productive in being an outsider.

This week’s analysis was compiled by Rachel Tritsch with analysis by Rachel Tritsch and Brian Eyler.

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