Regional Roundup for Week of 9.14.15

EXSE FOCUS

China Is Recreating the American ‘Hub-and-Spoke’ System in Asia – The Diplomat Participants discussed topics including Asia’s financial future, development and security, the postwar international order, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, energy security, counter-terrorism, and the role of NGOs in developing Asia’s identity, as well as the role of the media in building trust.

Related: Is the Czech Republic China’s New ‘Bridge to Europe’? – The Diplomat

Related: Understanding China’s Eurasian Pivot – The Diplomat

Related: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ looks to take construction binge offshore – Thanh Nien Daily 

Setback for Sino-Thai Rail Projects – Bangkok Post The Sino-Thai railway project with routes from the Northeast to Bangkok and the East will be delayed for about nine months because of questions about construction costs and unfinished surveys. Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith conceded that hurdles remained after a meeting on the project with Chinese authorities at a Bangkok hotel on Friday.//Evidence that the “sign first, ask questions later” approach is alive and well in the Xi Jinping era. There are fewer nuts harder to crack in Southeast Asia than the rivalries among Thailand’s ministries. China underestimated the difficulty level of this task. Insight into the flavor of One Belt One Road projects.

Suspected mastermind of Bangkok bombing believed to be in China – The Guardian Abu Dustar Abdulrahman, known as Izan, travelled to Bangladesh the day before attack and later left for Beijing, police say.//Look for exclusive analysis from Will Feinberg on the unraveling Erawan case and connections to China. We can imagine rail project delays above being linked to Sino-Thai tensions evolving out of Erawan case.

Related: India, Thailand Pledge to Deepen Defense Ties – The Diplomat

Related: Bangkok bomb linked to East Turkestan Islamic Movement, as Chinese media stops downplaying issue due to sensitivities over Uygurs – SCMP

Related: Somyot orders strengthening of immigration rules – The Nation

Related: Bomb plotters’ money trail detailed.

Lao National Assembly Approves Don Sahong Dam – East by Southeast Regional media and NGOs in Southeast Asia are calling the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Mekong River a “time bomb,” and the project’s recent approval by the Lao PDR government has initiated a ticking countdown.//Dams on the Mekong’s main stem are not a good idea.  Wait wait wait, until research shows this is an effective project for Laos.

Related: NGOs, Cambodia Voice Alarm at Lao Decision to Proceed with Don Sahong Dam – Radio Free Asia

Related: Laos Dam a Black Eye for Mekong Cooperation

Chinese Citizen Held by ISIS Poses Test for Beijing – NYT Some foreign policy experts hope Fan Jinghui’s capture will prompt Beijing to consider sending military resources to the Middle East to help reclaim territory held by Islamic militants.//China needs to step up participation in collective security efforts and cut its teeth abroad in conflicts like this especially if it wants to defend the Middle East/Strait of Hormuz in the future as the US considers military scaledown in the region. Time for China’s foreign policy to evolve.

Related: ISIS Says It Has Foreign Hostages – NYT

Related: Islamic State Threatens Chinese Hostage – The Diplomat

Myanmar: Shan Villagers and the Salween Dam Fight – The Diplomat The increasing army presence to defend the construction of a controversial Salween river dam in southeastern Myanmar’s Shan state has sparked heightened concerns among rural villagers, who are determined to fight the development that threatens their livelihoods.

Related: What is it about No that SMEC doesn’t understand? – East by Southeast

ASEAN’s Dirtiest Challenge Makes an Unwanted Return – The Diplomat Can the region successfully tackle its haze problem?//No.

Related: Hazing rituals – The Economist: Asia

Related: Air quality at ‘unhealthy’ levels in Singapore and Malaysia as haze from Indonesia forest fires blankets the region – SCMP

Related: Airport in Riau paralyzed as haze grows thicker – The Jakarta Post

REGIONAL RELATIONS

China to hold live-fire drills in Taiwan Strait – The Guardian Chinese military will carry out three days of exercises close to disputed territory, as Taiwan practises its own response to submarine attack.

Related: Taiwan Practices Repelling PLA Invasion as China Conducts Firing Drills in Taiwan Strait – The Diplomat

Explaining China’s New ‘Commitments’ on the South China Sea – The Diplomat Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, made the biggest impression on August 3, just before the meetings proper. He called a press conference to announce that China would keep five commitments on the South China Sea issue.

Related: Watch Out China: Vietnam’s Coast Guard Will Fight Back – The Diplomat

Related: A New Indonesia Military Boost Near the South China Sea? – The Diplomat

Related: South China Sea: Satellite Imagery Makes Clear China’s Runway Work at Subi Reef – The Diplomat

Related: Philippines, Australia to Hold Joint Military Exercises – The Diplomat

China Flexes Tech Muscles Before a State Visit – NYT As President Xi Jinping of China prepares for his first state visit to the United States this month, Washington has warned that it could hit Chinese companies with sanctions over digital attacks for trade secrets.

Related: Cyberattacks are ‘not acceptable’, Obama warns ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit – SCMP

Related: US prosecutors drop fraud charges against professor accused of offering secret technology to China – SCMP

Related: Obama cancels traditional Waldorf Astoria hotel stay after Chinese takeover – The Guardian

Deportation dilemma: Is Beijing deliberately hindering expulsion of 39,000 Chinese from the US? – SCMP In early June, in cities across America, US immigration agents arrested more than two dozen Chinese nationals with unfulfilled deportation orders, telling them that after years of delay, China was finally taking steps to provide the paperwork needed to expel them…//Once again, a double standard defines the US-China relationship. 

Malaysia Likely to Pass TPP Despite Najib Troubles: Expert – The Diplomat Support deemed sufficient for country to get mammoth free trade pact through.//Evidence needed on how the US is backing Malaysia and Najib to help pass TPP there.  Anyone looking into this past the TIP upgrade?

Confirmed: Indonesia to Rejoin OPEC in December – The Diplomat Jakarta is set to return to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries later this year.

        Related: Is Jokowi Turning His Back on ASEAN? – The Diplomat

3 Men Laundered Over $5 Billion for Drug Cartels, U.S. Says – NYT Using the Chinese counterfeit market, a group of Colombians “provided the lifeline for drug cartels to operate and push illegal drugs into the United States,” the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Australia’s treaty-making process is broken. The China free trade deal is a case in point | Peter Whish-Wilson – The Guardian Australia’s treaty-making process is so flawed it is hard to have any confidence in the claimed benefits of deals like the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Chafta).

Related: China free trade agreement should be renegotiated or blocked, say unions – The Guardian

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Satellites to show the way forward for Mekong region – The Nation EFFICIENT NATURAL resource management, disaster warning and a reduction in the effects of climate change on the Lower Mekong region will be enhanced thanks to the SERVIR – Mekong project.//Effective programs outcomes from the US-led Lower Mekong Initiative are slowly trickling out. The US could and should increase its touch on the LMI. 

Related: Climate Change and Migration Across the Bay of Bengal – The Diplomat

Related: Tun Lwin: ‘Each Year There is Drought in the Dry Zone, Flooding in the Delta’ – The Irrawaddy

President ‘did not discuss’ Myitsone dam in China, says Ye Htut – DVB President Thein Sein did not engage in discussion about the Myitsone dam project when he met with China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) during his visit to China, says Information Minister and Presidential Spokesman Ye Htut.

Tianjin blasts: plans to turn site into ‘eco park’ mocked on Chinese social media – The Guardian Netizens describe proposal to rehabilitate explosion crater into lake as ‘disgusting’ with many concerned the blast site will remain a toxic mess for years.//See article below from China Dialogue on how China needs to take its time with soil pollution cleanup.

Related: Mainland Chinese authorities end search for missing from massive Tianjin warehouse explosion – SCMP

Related: China issues guidelines on handling dangerous industrial dust in wake of fatal explosion – SCMP

Related: Explosion at chemical plant in China’s eastern Zhejiang province; no casualties reported – SCMP

Related: Report on Toll From Shandong Blast Is Called ‘Coldblooded’ – NYT

China: Quantitative Easing and the Pollution Problem – The Diplomat Beijing could give new life to market-oriented reforms with a decisive program of cleaning up the environment as a quantitative easing measure, accompanied by efforts to steer consumer businesses to some of the cleaned sites, as a flagship program of the new five-year plan.

Related: Beijing approves masterplan to protect environment after decades of breakneck economic development – SCMP

Related: Something in the air: mysterious black belt of filth appears over Chinese city – SCMP

Related: Beijing Slams Henan Capital for Using Scarce Fresh Water to Combat Smog – ChinaFile

Related: China ‘should avoid rush job’ on cleaning up soil pollution – Chinadialogue

Mongolia’s Mega Coal Mine Deal Likely to Stall, Again – The Diplomat The Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in southern Mongolia is one of the world’s largest undeveloped coal deposits…Mongolia is being dug up and sold to China.

Related: China’s Energy Security Achilles Heel: Middle Eastern Oil – The Diplomat

Related: International Energy Agency’s new chief calls for China ‘partnership’ during first official trip – SCMP

Related: China helps Pakistan build world’s largest solar farm – The Third Pole

The ugly truth about Vietnam’s floating markets – Thanh Nien Daily While inhabitants of a market on the Mekong dump rubbish and relieve themselves in the waters, authorities still ponder what needs to be done.//Another example of a good thing growing too fast, lacking regulation, and ultimately facing prohibition. These markets would likely be labeled as “dirty, messy, substandard” in China and wiped from the waters despite important cultural and social networks created (not considering tourism dollars). Taxing and regulating the waters will be challenge for vein of market, traditionally known for avoiding state control.

Related: Pollution forces thousands of fish to surface for air on Saigon canal – Thanh Nien Daily

NCPO orders removal of fishing traps – The Nation FISHERMEN LAMENT LOSS OF TRADITIONAL LIVELIHOOD AS ALL EQUIPMENT REMOVED.

Related: Cambodian NGOs, Provincial Officials Applaud Interior Minister’s Warning Against Illegal Fishing – Radio Free Asia

Related: Rights body to hear SEZ land seizure concerns – The Nation

 

 

CHINA

China’s Response to Stock Plunge Rattles Traders – NYT In addition to imposing extraordinary restrictions on the sale of stocks, the authorities have harnessed a security apparatus usually more focused on political dissent.

Related: Global recession in next two years is ‘most likely’ scenario, says economist – The Guardian

Related: China’s Controversial Circuit Breaker Proposal – The Diplomat

Related: South Africa’s Inexplicable Love Affair with China – ChinaFile

Related: Modi asks billionaires if China’s pain can be India’s gain – Thanh Nien Daily 

China’s central bank governor says yuan has stabilised against the dollar – The Guardian Zhou Xiaochuan tells G20 meeting in Turkey the exchange rate ‘tends to be stable’ in the wake of the yuan’s devaluation and stock market chaos.

Related: London property developers eye Chinese buyers disillusioned with stock markets and devalued yuan – SCMP

Related: China’s Forex Follies – Project Syndicate

Overhaul of Chinese state-owned firms splits them into commercial and not-for-profit operations – SCMP Beijing has issued new guidelines for state-owned enterprises, splitting them into two main groups – those that are commercially orientated, and others that are focused on not-for-profit operations, sources said.

Iran’s Foreign Minister to Visit China – The Diplomat China and Iran will discuss their relationship under the “new circumstances” of the nuclear deal.

Related: China or Iran: Who Is the Bigger Threat to U.S. Airpower? – The Diplomat

Related: How China and India’s Noisy Nuclear Subs Contribute to Instability in Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Russia and China in the Arctic: Is the US Facing an Icebreaker Gap? – The Diplomat

China’s Military Cutbacks – NYT China announced that it would cut 300,000 troops, its largest reduction in nearly two decades.

Related: Foreign Investors and China’s Naval Buildup – The Diplomat

Related: Amnesty As a Stepping Stone to Rule of Law – ChinaFile

How Foreign Analysis of China’s Military Parade Missed the Point – The Diplomat Most outside analysis of China’s parade was surprisingly sensationalized, superficial, and over-interpreted.

Related: China, Egypt Consolidate Ties After Sisi’s Attendance at Military Parade – The Diplomat

Related: Remembering Yunnan’s Role in World War Two – GoKunming

Ex-chairman of state-owned China Resources to face bribery, embezzlement, adultery charges – SCMP Song Lin’s expulsion from Communist Party paves way for former head of conglomerate with five Hong Kong listed subsidiaries to be charged, China’s graft watchdog says.

Related: Two Chinese state firm officials face bribery charges in Kenya – SCMP

Related: China’s anti-graft watchdog again warns against dark side of the mooncakes – The Guardian

China Vows to ‘Intensify’ Fight Against Tibetan Separatists – The Diplomat Plus, new railways, military reform, and China in Southeast Asia.

Related: China marks 50th anniversary of Tibetan government with huge rally in Lhasa – SCMP

Related: Two More Tibetans Are Detained Following Solo Protests in Ngaba – Radio Free Asia

Related: I’m with the banned: China blocks Bon Jovi gigs – The Guardian

Will China’s growing box office dominance change Hollywood forever? – The Guardian China will overtake North America within three years to become the world’s largest film audience – which is great news for fans of Transformers and endless Terminator sequels.

Related: China accused of fraud over patriotic epic which shot down Terminator – The Guardian 

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

In Myanmar, a Soft Coup Ahead of an Election – NYT The army is manipulating the political scene again to ensure that it remains in charge, election or not.

Related: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi calls for free and fair elections as campaign starts – SCMP

Related: Election 2015: Soe Thein spends big in campaign bid – DVB

KIA, govt troops clash as peace talks proceed – DVB Burmese government forces have clashed with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma, as President Thein Sein meets with leaders of the five major ethnic armed groups (EAOs) in Naypyidaw today to negotiate and finalise a date for the signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

ADB, Myanmar Sign Framework Agreement to Expand Trade Finance – ADB The Government of Myanmar and ADB signed a framework agreement today that will allow ADB to expand its Trade Finance Program into Myanmar.

Related: GMS Ministers to Meet in Myanmar on Infrastructure Development – ADB

DNA on weapon does not match men accused of killing British tourists in Thailand – The Guardian Forensic expert says DNA found on bloodied garden hoe does not belong to two men standing trial for deaths of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Related: Thailand frees UK academic Wyn Ellis – The Guardian

Related: British academic detained at Bangkok airport for four days – The Guardian

Thailand’s Military Junta Rejects Draft Constitution – NYT Thailand’s military junta extended its rule by at least seven months when its reform council voted against a constitution written by its own drafting committee.

Related: Curiouser and curiouser – The Economist: Asia

Related: How to Save the Thai Economy – NYT

Related: ‘Don’t oppose me’: Thai Junta leader warns critics will be prosecuted – SCMP

Related: No peace soon in Thailand’s Deep South – New Mandala

Peter Dutton holds ‘productive’ talks in Cambodia over refugee resettlement – The Guardian Immigration minister’s visit comes after Cambodian government official said there were ‘no plans’ for the country to accept any more refugees from Nauru.

Related: Cambodia’s Montagnard Problem – The Diplomat

Related: Australian refugee deal with Cambodia dealt another blow after Rohingya man requests to go home – SCMP

Related: For China, Migrant Crisis Is Someone Else’s Fault, and Responsibility – NYT

Related: Police smash people-smuggling ring which brought more than 200 illegal Vietnamese workers to Hong Kong – SCMP

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Orders Arrest of Map Detractors Amid Vietnam Border Dispute – Radio Free Asia Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday ordered police to arrest anyone who accuses the government of using “fake” maps and ceding national territory amid an ongoing political dispute over the demarcation of the Southeast Asian nation’s border with neighboring Vietnam.

The Challenge of Sustaining Asia’s Progress – ADB The launch of the SDGs later this month and the possibility of a global climate change deal by the end of the year will be two crucial pieces in the framework needed to drive continued economic success in Asia, says Independent Evaluation.

Related: Urbanization and Migration in Developing Asia – The Diplomat

Related: Asean bid to draw tourists from India – The Jakarta Post

Related: Proposed Lao Curbs on NGOs Seen as Choking Development Projects – Radio Free Asia

Singapore votes in snap election as opposition seeks end of one-party dominance – SCMP Singaporeans began casting their votes today in a snap parliamentary election after a heated campaign that boosted opposition hopes of further eroding half a century of dominance by the ruling party.

Related: What to Expect From the Next Government in Singapore – Asia Unbound

Related: Malay Pride Rally Stokes Race Politics in Malaysia – The Diplomat

This week’s new digest was compiled by Julia Zielinski with comments by Brian Eyler.

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