Regional Roundup for Week of 8.30.2015

A huge week for Asia. An epic stock market tumble in China had repercussions for markets globally and has raised questions over China’s economic strength, while a 3% devaluation of the yuan has stoked fears of a possible trade war. Much for Xi and Obama to talk about next month. In Thailand, a key suspect, thought to be a foreigner,  in the Erawan shrine bombing has been arrested. In the apartment he was found in, Thai authorities recovered bomb making materials and a stack of fake Turkish passports. Theories linking the bombing to the repatriation of scores of Uyghur refugees ealrier this summer seem to be correct. Stay with ExSE as the investigation digs further. 

EXSE FOCUS

Wall St. Slips Lower After a Wild WeekNYT Investors were calmed by strong growth figures from the United States, while China continued to take measures to shore up stocks and the renminbi. // The government announced earlier this year its plan to freeze annual GDP growth at 7%.  Recent stock slips could cause problems with this carefully calculated maneuver.

Related: Zombie Factories Stalk the Sputtering Chinese EconomyNYT

Related: Political Risks May Foil Economic Reform in ChinaNYT

Related: Press freedom watchdog calls for release of Chinese business reporterThe Guardian

Related: The US Still Runs the World – Project Syndicate

How to Solve China’s Currency Parity Puzzle?ChinaFile The yuan lost about 3 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar between August 11 and 13, roiling global equity markets and stoking fears that China had pushed a trade war button.

Related: What does China’s Shock Yuan Devaluation mean for Africa?China in Africa: The Real Story

Chinese Media Jumps on Tragic Virginia ShootingChinaFile Within China, the high rate of gun violence in the United States is widely known and often seen as a flaw in the U.S. political system, a criticism repeated after the Virginia shooting.

Thai Police Announce Arrest in Bangkok Shrine BombingNYT The Thai police on Saturday arrested a foreign man who they said was likely to have been involved in the Aug. 17 blast, which killed 20 people.//Look for ExSE’s analysis of the Erawan bombing, the search for the culprit and its connection to Uyghur and Pan-Turkic nationalism in SE Asia this week. 

Related: Bangkok Bombing Spotlights Uyghur Woes in Southeast AsiaThe Diplomat

Related: Hongkongers allowed to cancel Bangkok trips dated up to September 10 after shrine blastSCMP

National Security Adviser Meets With Chinese President Before His U.S. VisitNYT Susan E. Rice met with President Xi Jinping and other officials and discussed a number of issues that included areas of tension between the two nations.

Related: China’s Vulnerability Is a Test for U.S. Presidential CandidatesNYT

Related: Can President Xi’s September Visit Save US-China Relations?The Diplomat

Related: US-China Strategic Rivalry: Balancing the RebalanceThe Diplomat

Sit-In Leaders Are Charged in Hong KongNYT Three students who led last year’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong were charged over their roles in setting off the massive rallies and sit-ins.

Related: Hong Kong Christian Groups Feel New Scrutiny From Mainland NYT

Related: ‘Secret’ meeting between Democratic Party members and Beijing official a step on the right pathSCMP

REGIONAL RELATIONS 

A Military Game of Chicken in the South China Sea? The Diplomat Amid criticisms of China’s island-reclamation activities, the U.S. and China continued to trade accusations that the other is militarizing the South China Sea.

Related: Taiwan and Its South China Sea Peace InitiativeThe Diplomat

Related: Philippine Nationalism and the South China SeaThe Diplomat

Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’The Guardian Laws affecting funding, requiring registration and prohibiting protest are among controls that are making it difficult for NGOs and other campaign groups.

Related: British rights activist charged with defamation in ThailandThe Guardian

Related: Lao Migrants To Be Witnesses in Thai Human Trafficking CaseRadio Free Asia

China, Japan battle to build Indonesia’s first bullet trainThe Jakarta Post China and Japan are locked in an increasingly heated contest to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway, with the Asian giants sweetening deals and turning up the charm as time runs out to woo Jakarta.//Add high-speed rail to the growing list of projects where the Japanese and Chinese. Look for an ExSE report on Chinese, Thai and Japanese cooperation and competition on Myanmar’s Dawei Deep Sea Port project coming soon. 

Chinese oil rig to continue drilling near Vietnamese coastSCMP A Chinese oil rig at the centre of last year’s standoff between China and Vietnam will continue drilling not far from Vietnam’s coast, China’s maritime safety authorities said on Tuesday.

US visa programme popular with Chinese derided as ‘immigration reform for 1pc’SCMP With immigration a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, unions and immigrant advocates are targeting a federal visa programme popular with Chinese that they deride as “immigration reform for the 1 per cent.”//Tied up in this are discussions about job creation and China pursuing corruption and graft suspects abroad. 

Related: US regulator freezes assets of immigration consultant accused of defrauding 250 Chinese investorsSCMP

US Admiral: China ‘Very Interested’ in RIMPAC 2016The Diplomat China was invited to participate in RIMPAC for the first time in 2014, but some have already argued that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) should not be invited back in 2016.

Related: Should the Pentagon Fear China’s Newest Weapon? – The Diplomat

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China, US to cooperate in developing ‘clean coal’ technologies to help combat climate changeSCMP Officials from China and the United States have taken a major step towards an agreement to advance “clean coal” technologies that claim to reduce the fuel’s contribution to climate change.//Climate change mitigation continues to be a great point of cooperation between the US and China. Good to see that stress in other areas of the bilateral relationship haven’t prevented building upon past achievements in climate change research. 

Dams ‘destroying Mekong fish stock’The Nation Fishermen in delta and Northeast Thailand say dams in China and Laos have hit breeding and yields, forcing many to quit.//ExSE has been personally observing fish stock depletion in Chiang Rai province for the past three years. There is little doubt in our minds that hydro projects on the upper Mekong are indeed causing fish population decline.  

Related: Large dams are not the answer to climate change in the Mekong RegionMekong Commons

Related: Black Markets in China Still Driving World’s Tiniest Porpoise to ExtinctionNYT

Adapting to air pollution with clean air stands in China – The Guardian To adapt or mitigate? As with climate change, both mitigation and adaptation are needed to tackle air pollution in China.

Related: Air quality rule changes put heat on local authorities SCMP

Related: A Small Chinese Experiment With Large Environmental ImplicationsThe Diplomat

Thai Locals Incensed over Krabi Coal Power PlanThe Irrawaddy Many residents of Krabi, a popular tourism province in southern Thailand, are opposing the government’s plan to build a coal plant close to their homes.

Work starts on Vietnam’s first solar power plantThanh Nien News Potential is huge as Vietnam records around 2,000-2,500 hours of sunlight annually.

Edinburgh zoo says giant panda Tian Tian lost cub during pregnancyThe Guardian Giant panda had been expected to give birth last week, but experts now suspect she absorbed the foetus into the womb.

Thailand destroys 2-tonne ivory stockpile amid junta crackdownSCMP Thailand destroyed more than two tonnes of ivory Wednesday – a victory for animal rights groups fighting against the trade in a country renowned for being a hub for illegal tusks.

Related: US praises Thailand for crushing 2.1 tonnes of illegal ivoryThe Nation

Related: Vietnam seizes elephant tusks, pangolin scales in large shipment from MalaysiaThanh Nien News

CHINA

China Holds 23 Linked to Fatal Blasts in TianjinNYT Chinese leaders have moved vigorously in recent days to quell outrage over the blasts, which rattled top leaders and raised questions about the safety of China’s industrial zones.// It was never in doubt that officials’ heads would roll over the Tianjin blast – of course many of them are being investigated for corrutpion.

Related: China’s Disaster ManagementNYT

Related: Plans submitted to move, upgrade about 1,000 chemical plants in China after Tianjin explosions disaster SCMP

Explosion at China chemical plant leaves one dead and nine injuredThe Guardian One person has been killed and nine injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China, state media has said.

A Fake Goldman Sachs Underlines a Real Chinese StrengthNYT The investment bank joins a long list of counterfeits that includes Apple stores and British villages.

Related: Fake iWatches, salt, marijuana and Starbucks: A look at China’s counterfeitsSCMP

China arrests Christians who opposed removals of crossesThe Guardian Human rights lawyer and church activists understood to be among people detained after Communist party campaign to take down religious symbols.

Human Rights Lawyer Prevented From Flying Out of BeijingNYT Liang Xiaojun is part of a large circle of rights lawyers in China, hundreds of whom have been questioned or detained since early July in a crackdown.

Related: The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed – The Guardian

Top bosses at website of Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily detained for suspected graftSCMP The president and a vice-president of People.cn – the website of People’s Daily – have been taken away by Henan prosecutors for alleged bribery, state media reported yesterday.//It appears that with the arrests of journalists for reporting ‘fake information’ on China’s stock market crash, and now this, that Xi’s anti-corruption drive has switched gears. As an acquaintance said, “We always knew you couldn’t talk about politics, but now it seems you can’t talk about anything.”

Related: China’s Communist Party silences former critic, the liberal Nanfang news groupSCMP

 

China Denies Sending Additional Troops to North Korean BorderThe Diplomat China’s state media stayed away from the story – in fact it appeared that censors were actively deleting the relevant social media posts – and on Thursday, China’s Defense Ministry officially denied the reports.

Related: Assessing North Korea’s ‘Ground Game’ with ChinaThe Diplomat

The leading power: China to take charge in Iran’s nuclear plant revampSCMP Iranian Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation, on Friday said China would play “a leading role” in redesigning the Arak heavy-water reactor to significantly reduce its plutonium output.//With the world watching Iran’s post-deal nuclear program, this is a good opportunity for China to positively involve itself in a very significant project. Good to see China taking Great Power responsibility.

Related: China to the rescue? Mugabe banks on Beijing for Zimbabwe’s revival, as opponents jeerSCMP

Related: Chinese Investment in Africa: Surprisingly Small, but Growing FastChinaFile

Chinese military on charm offensive as it announces joint drills with Malaysia, US and AustraliaSCMP The military will hold joint drills with Malaysian forces in the strategic Strait of Malacca next month, the defence ministry said yesterday, as a training exercise launched featuring Chinese, Australian and American troops.

Related: A Swift proposal: US wants coastguard agreement with China to help keep peace at seaSCMP

Related: Russia and China Kick Off Naval Exercise in Sea of Japan – The Diplomat

Related: Philippines, Malaysia Hold Joint Naval Exercises Amid Security Concerns – The Diplomat // Although the listed reasons for     cooperation do not include protection against China’s militarization in the South China Sea, could this be some early signs of Southeast Asian military alliance against China’s efforts to dominate the territory?

SOUTHEAST ASIA

ASEAN members discuss effective border security – The Jakarta Post Representatives of ASEAN member countries highlighted the importance of effective border security amid rapidly increasing connectivity in Asia during a regional meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday.//With the ASEAN Economic Community’s implementation happening sometime in the next century, border security will be a priority for ASEAN members. 

UN warns of fresh wave of boatpeople in Asia as monsoon season endsSCMP A fresh surge of refugees and migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh is expected to set out in smugglers’ rickety boats for southeast Asia when the monsoon season ends in about a month, the United Nations said.//After a disastrous spring, all eyes should be on the Andaman Sea and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia’s handling of the refugee crisis.

Related: A break for the border: Mae SotSoutheast Asia Globe Magazine

Related: Koh Kong zone ‘will reduce illegal migrants’ NationMultimedia.com

Myanmar Democracy Icon Finds Herself Assailed as AuthoritarianNYT As landmark elections approach, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, is being openly criticized by activists, commentators and intellectuals.//ASSK should be a more outspoken proponent of minority rights in Myanmar. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily win you votes with the people who forms her party’s base.

Related: 2 More Opposition Candidates Disqualified by Election CommissionThe Irrawaddy Magazine

The Truth About Myanmar’s New Discriminatory LawsThe Diplomat The euphemistically-termed “Protection of Race and Religion” bills raise serious questions about the country’s future.

Related: Rohingya IDPs Detained in Rangoon: PoliceThe Irrawaddy Magazine

Related: Myanmar Striking Rohingya From Voter Rolls, Activists SayNYT

Ceasefire date will follow next meeting: govtDVB Multimedia Group A date will be announced for the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) after next month’s meeting between ethnic leaders and President Thein Sein, according to the Burmese government’s chief negotiator at the peace talks, Union Minister Aung Min.

Related: Arakan Army Calls for Calm After Bangladesh Border Clash – The Irrawaddy Magazine

Thai soldiers helping Myanmar flood victimsNationMultimedia.com The Royal Thai Armed Forces yesterday dispatched 51 soldiers on a C130 aircraft to help flood victims in Myanmar.

Related: Chin Govt Requests $15.5m Flood Rehabilitation GrantThe Irrawaddy Magzine

Related: ADB to Provide $3 Million For Myanmar Flood ReliefADB.org News Release

Disputes Continue Over Cambodian Government’s Official MapRadio Free Asia A Cambodian official in charge of the country’s borders denounced an opposition lawmaker who accused him of lying about a map of the Southeast Asian nation he found in the U.S. Library of Congress, amid ongoing debate over the charts that the government uses to demarcate its border with Vietnam.

That’s a lot of dope: Cambodia seizes US$7 million worth of marijuana hidden in coffee bags SCMP Cambodian police on Tuesday showed off a seizure of nearly 1.5 tonnes of marijuana worth more than $7 million packed into coffee bags, part of an ongoing drug crackdown in the country.

‘First Lady’ of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge dies at 83Thanh Nien Daily “Her body will be cremated on Monday evening,” her son Ieng Vuth told AFP by telephone from Pailin.

Vietnam to free 18,200 prisoners in amnesty, but no political activistsThe Guardian Country’s second biggest-ever amnesty to mark independence celebrations includes release of 34 foreigners.

Related: Hanoi to close 40 streets for National Day paradeThanh Nien Daily

Malaysia finds mass graves of 24 suspected human trafficking victimsThe Guardian Malaysian authorities have found mass graves containing the remains of more than 20 people believed to be human trafficking victims near the border with Thailand, police said on Sunday.

No more Mr Nice GuyThe Economist: Asia DOWN a quiet lane in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, campaigners at trestle tables are doing a roaring trade in yellow T-shirts. The volunteers have already flogged more than 30,000 of the garments, which are becoming de rigueur for Malaysians planning to attend protests on August 29th-30th to demand the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak.//Protests ongoing, former PM of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad has called for Najib’s resignation as well. 

Related: Malaysia blocks website calling for anti-Najib protest over 1MDB scandalSCMP

Singapore Gears Up for its September 11 ElectionThe Diplomat The city-state’s next general election will be a key test for its ruling party.

YUNNAN

Yunnan poverty rate drops dramaticallyGoKunming Recently released statistics from the Yunnan Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development show Yunnan’s poorest are significantly better off than they were four years ago. While millions continue to live at bare minimum levels, a dramatic decrease in what is termed ‘absolute poverty’ over the past four years is sign for optimism.

Yunnan’s Dulong minority, isolated no moreGoKunming The survey team from Yunnan University found state-funded housing and road projects are transforming the culture of the Dulong people (独龙族), who have for centuries inhabited the Dulong River area largely undisturbed. Now, with the opening of a tunnel and road in 2014, their traditional way of life has been changed and sometimes disrupted by a permanent link to the outside world. // Does the end of isolation in a globalizing world mean the end of zomia?

This week’s news digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with analysis by Will Feinberg.

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