Regional Roundup for Week of 10.31.2013

October 28 Tiananmen Square Incident

China blames East Turkestan Islamic Movement for Beijing attack | The Guardian – China’s top security official has blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement for organising the suicidal vehicle attack that killed five people in the heart of Beijing this week.

Meng Jianzhu, chief of the commission for political and legal affairs of the ruling Communist party, named the group in an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television when he was in the capital of Uzbekistan attending a regional security summit and seeking co-operation on counter-terrorism.

“The violent terrorist incident that happened in Beijing is an organised and plotted act. Behind the instigation is the terrorist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement entrenched in central and west Asian regions,” Meng said, in video footage aired on Thursday by Phoenix.

Meng gave no further detail, and the alleged terrorist group has not claimed responsibility.

Q. & A.: Philip Potter on the Growing Risk of Terrorism in China |NYTimes – In a forthcoming paper for Strategic Studies Quarterly, Philip Potter, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, writes that the dichotomy between China’s tough security posture in Xinjiang and the comparatively open society of the country’s east has created an incentive for attacks in cities like Beijing. In an email interview, he analyzed the history of separatist violence, the divide between the “two Chinas” and the likelihood that further crackdowns would exacerbate resentment in Xinjiang.

Seeing a Turning Point for China’s Thinking on Terrorism | Sinosphere – One of China’s leading experts on counterterrorism and foreign policy predicted on Thursday that the fiery crash of a vehicle three days earlier near the Chinese leadership’s compound at the edge of Tiananmen Square would lead to a broad reassessment of domestic security and China’s diplomacy.

Yang Jiemian, the president emeritus of the prestigious, government-financed Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the attack was an important moment for Chinese domestic and foreign policy.

“It will be quite a big impact on China — China will rethink its actual institutions and measures against terrorism,” he said Thursday in brief remarks after delivering a speech and taking questions in Hong Kong. “Tiananmen is symbolic, so this incident is symbolic.”

The Strangers | ChinaFile – If Xinjiang’s troubles seemed remote to residents of Beijing, the October 28 attack brought them much closer to home. “This is the first time that I’ve ever felt so close to a terrorist attack,” remarked one user of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. Another tweeted, “My God, they can do this in front of Tiananmen? I’m very worried all of the sudden, how do they prevent this type of attacks in the future? Vehicle inspections?”

Uighurs, mostly Turkic-speaking Muslims living in Northwest China, are one of the country’s fifty-five officially recognized ethnic minorities. Anestimated 10 million Uighurs live in Xinjiang, making up approximately forty percent of its population, and bristle under heavy-handed restrictionsplaced on their language, religion, and way of life. Han officials there often fail to learn functional Uighur, and traditional Uighur male gatherings calledmeshrep are often banned as “illicit” or dispersed by police. // Excellent longform profile on Uighur/Han tension with nuanced explanations of historical conflicts and cultural differences.

ExSE FOCUS

Kunming Environmental Court toiling in obscurity|GoKunming  – A Kunming court established to try cases exclusively regarding the environment is still struggling to make a name for itself five years after being founded. In a story originally published by newspaper City Times, the Kunming Environmental Court is characterized as understaffed and largely unknown to the general public.

The idea to create the Kunming Environmental Court was originally proposed in September 2008 as news of heavy arsenic contamination in Yangzonghai (阳宗海) was breaking. The court is now subsidiary to the Kunming Intermediate People’s Court.

At the time of the Yangzonghai scandal, legal experts bemoaned the fact that Yunnan had no institutional body to deal with crimes against the environment. The China Environmental Law Blog characterized the Yangzonghai case as symptomatic of an enforcement problem:

[quote]…this wasn’t a case of turning a blind eye to polluters, it was a failure of the regulatory system to provide sufficient disincentives to pollution. In other words, the lake is polluted with arsenic because even maximum penalty amounts are so “trivial” that it makes economic sense to “pay to pollute.”[/quote]

Report: Yunnan drug war “extremely dangerous”|GoKunming – Yunnan has long had trouble policing its 966-kilometer border with Myanmar. Stemming the flow of drugs out of the Golden Triangle into the province is costly, time-consuming and has, in the past, been confused by a tangle of legal issues.

Increased international cooperation began in 2011 between the drug enforcement agencies of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand following the murders of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River. Cross-border police collaboration has been credited with multiple high-profile seizures. Despite such successes, drugs continue to flow across Yunnan’s border, and by the size of recent busts, appear to be arriving in record quantities.

Drug-resistant malaria spreading through SE Asia | GoKunming – The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a drug-resistant disease has the potential to imperil millions unless immediate international action is taken. Although not new to science, the virulence of the strain has surprised health officials, who now say hundreds of millions of dollars are necessary to contain and combat further spread of the disease.

Malaria prevention efforts in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have made significant strides in the past 15 years. The area, which is made up of Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China’s Yunnan province, have seen the incidence rate of malaria decline by 80 percent since 1998. This is due largely to increased cooperation between the seven countries, as well as an influx of money from international donors.

The WHO is now warning a strain of malaria resistant to artemisinin-based drugs — the standard prophylaxis used worldwide in the treatment of the disease — has developed in Thailand and Cambodia. If the spread of such a strain is left uncontained it could endanger the lives of millions in the GMS, Micronesia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Gearing Up for an Ultramarathon in Southwest China | Sinosphere – Long-distance running is increasingly popular in China, and 42-kilometer marathons in the big cities draw many participants. On Saturday, runners of the Dali 100, an ultramarathon of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, would pass through the lush heart of the Cangshan. More than 60 runners had signed up to run 100 kilometers and more than 80 to run 50 kilometers, [on a course] up to 4,092 meters, more than 13,400 feet, above sea level, equal to the heights of some of the highest peaks in the continental United States.

China

Chinese Communism and the 70-Year Itch |The Atlantic – China’s government is approaching an age that has often proven fatal for other single-party regimes. Will Xi Jinping make the necessary reforms to avoid a crisis?

The Seven Year Itch fashioned a classic American romantic comedy around the notion that after seven years of marriage, a spouse’s interest in a monogamous relationship starts to wane. There is an interesting parallel in politics; specifically, the life span of one-party regimes, though in this case we might call it the “70-year itch.” When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Communist Party had been in power for a little more than 70 years. Similarly, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled in Mexico from its founding in 1929 until its defeat in the 2000 elections—71 years.  Several of today’s remaining one-party authoritarian regimes have been in power 50 to 65 years, and there is good reason to think that they, too, are now facing the “70 year itch.” Part of the problem is that revolutionary one-party regimes like those in China, Vietnam, and Cuba cannot survive forever on the personal charisma of their founding leaders.

China’s Clean-Air Drive Likely to Take a Long Time | NYTimes – China’s pollution, while extremely severe, is not unique, and efforts by other countries, like Britain and the United States, to conquer dirty air may hold lessons for China’s future.

The Chinese government is working on the problem and recently announced new limits on pollutants along with a promise of increased monitoring. Public awareness has spiked, a necessary step toward ending the crisis. But the overriding message from other nations is a discouraging one: Serious change can take decades, especially when pollution is a byproduct of economic growth.

Another Look at the Empress Dowager Cixi, This Time as the Great Modernizer | Sinosphere  – Jung Chang presents the subject of her biography as neither the cruel despot nor the easily manipulated ruler that the Chinese Communist Party and other critics have long portrayed.

Changing the economy: The long weekend |The Economist – Running the world’s biggest country requires sacrifice. For the Communist Party’s top 376 officials on its central committee, the sacrifice includes the occasional weekend. From Saturday November 9th until the following Tuesday, they will gather in Beijing for the third time since Xi Jinping became head of the party nearly a year ago. The “third plenum”, as this meeting will be called, is the new leadership’s chance to lay out its stall on economic reform. In the past similar gatherings have shaken the world. The third plenum in 1978, for example, sealed Deng Xiaoping’s authority over the party, allowing his vision of “reform and opening up” to prevail. Another third plenum, in 1993, set the stage for a ruthless shake-out of loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Hopes of Market Reforms in China Tempered by Political Realities | Sinosphere – China’s leaders head toward a major policy-setting conference next month bearing heady expectations that they have encouraged, and a proposal from a prominent government research organization has magnified speculation that they will embrace bold pro-market overhauls. The grinding realities of politics, however, are likely to force proponents of such overhauls to settle for more modest changes, experts said.

Trial By TV: What Does a Reporter’s Arrest and Confession Tell Us About Chinese Media? | ChinaFile – The latest ChinaFile Conversation focuses on the case of Chen Yongzhou, the Guangzhou New Express journalist whose series of investigative reports exposed fraud at the Changsha, Hunan-based heavy machinery maker Zoomlion. Chen later was arrested and then, last weekend, exposed himself (and his newspaper) in a nationally televised confession as a recipient of bribes from unidentified third parties paying him for his reports on Zoomlion. Ever since Chen admitted his wrongdoing, Chinese netizens’ discussion of Chen’s case has included speculation [Chinese link] that Chen was targeted by the company he exposed. But who was paying him? Was it Zoomlion’s chief competitor, Sany? What do we make of confessions given on state television rather than in a court of law?

Bo Xilai May Have Gotten Off Easy |ChinaFile – Given the patterns of sentencing of other officials convicted of taking similarly large sums of money through bribes and graft, Bo Xilai’s sentence was comparatively light. Hu Jintao removed more officials from office for corruption—both in absolute numbers and on a yearly basis—than did his predecessor, Jiang Zemin. The officials who fell during Hu’s era were subject to stiffer penalties than their Jiang-era counterparts.

Innovation in China |ChinaFile – In China, innovation has become one of those political buzzwords which—like harmony—seems to mean anything and everything to the Central Propaganda Department. So much so that we find it difficult to walk down the streets in Beijing now without getting accosted by giant character banners encouraging us to economic feats of creative daring. But how much of what passes for innovation in China is actually the least bit innovative?

Gaming China’s Art Market With Expert Forgeries | Sinosphere – All over China, hundreds, if not thousands, of workshops are producing replicas of ancient relics and artifacts, in bronze, ceramics, jade and silver. Some workshops specialize in paintings made in the style of an ancient master, using old paper, inks and seals. While many objects are marketed for what they are — high-quality replicas, or imitations of old works — experts say the most sophisticated pieces are good enough to fool connoisseurs and often sell at Chinese auction houses, helping fuel this country’s booming art market.

Popular pastimes: Dancing queens | The Economist – A man in Changping, on the edge of the capital, had allegedly fired a shotgun into the air and set loose three Tibetan mastiffs to scare away a group of women whose public dancing annoyed him. The man was arrested, but received much sympathy online. Groups of people, often older women, dancing in public, are an increasingly common sight in Chinese cities. In the early morning and evening they set up loudspeakers in parks or squares to exercise, gossip and show off a little. They call it guangchangwu, or “square dancing”, after the venues where they meet. Many people grumble about the grannies and their throbbing music. Altercations often break out.

Don’t Expect Golf to Catch On in China | Asia Life – Both Chinese and Western entrepreneurs have spent at least a decade now trying to give golf some momentum in the world’s most populous nation. There are more major golf events held in China than ever before. The biggest stars are dropping by to play exhibitions annually, and a handful of Chinese golfers are making appearances in the sport’s biggest tournaments.  But despite the brilliance of Liang Wen-Chong, Guan Tianlang and a few other up-and-coming stars, golf is not catching on as either a spectator sport or, especially, a participatory sport in China.

Region

Australia Said to Play Part in N.S.A. Effort | NYTimes – Australia, a close ally of the United States, has used its embassies in Asia to collect intelligence as part of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance efforts, according to a document leaked by the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden and published this week in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily on Thursday to the assertions in the document, which also said that the American Embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and Chengdu operated special intelligence gathering facilities, and it demanded an explanation from the United States.

A Game of Shark and Minnow |NYTimes Multimedia – Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world. // Excellent multimedia presentation highlighting the complexities of South China Sea dispute.

Claws and fire | Southeast Asia Globe Magazine – With the global shift of power continuing its easterly migration, India is attaching greater importance to its historical relations with Vietnam, a gateway to one of the world’s most promising trading blocs: ASEAN.

The Curious Case of India and China | India Ink – During his recent visit to China, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India said that when the two Asian giants shake hands, the world takes notice. Although the statement stands true, the real question to ask is whether the media and the security and diplomatic community in the two countries make much of this handshake. It can be argued India-China relations comprise a slew of missed opportunities, and these two have added yet another chapter to this narrative.

Wikipedia China Becomes Front Line for Views on Language and Culture | NYTimes – Even innocuous topics have become controversial for Wikipedia editors from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and compounding the issue are language differences. Wikipedia editors, all volunteers, present opposing views on politics, history and traditional Chinese culture — in essence, different versions of China. Compounding the issue are language differences: Mandarin is the official language in mainland China and Taiwan, while the majority in Hong Kong speak Cantonese. But mainland China uses simplified characters, while Taiwan and Hong Kong use traditional script.That has led to articles on otherwise innocuous topics becoming flash points, and has caused controversial entries to be restricted.

Brunei

Brunei Becomes First East Asian State to Adopt Sharia Law |ASEAN Beat – This week, Brunei made waves across Southeast Asia when Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced that he would move his nation towards implementing Islamic Sharia law into its national penal code. The Sultan has ruled Brunei since 1967 and possesses absolute executive authority as head of state. While Sharia had previously existed in Brunei in the form of an Islamic court, its role was mainly restricted to dealing with family law and disputes. Notably, the new penal code will only be applicable to Muslims–about two-thirds of Brunei’s 420,000 residents. Under the new penal code, violators will be subject to brutal capital punishment including having their limbs severed for theft and stoning for adulterers.

Cambodia

Cambodian Protests Continue, Hun Sen Open to Talks | ASEAN Beat – Cambodia’s political opposition has wrapped-up three days of peaceful protests and marches on foreign embassies, demanding international support for its push to have an independent inquiry conducted into the controversial results of the July 28 elections. The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) insists the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen cheated at the poll, which gave opposition leader Sam Rainsy 55 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, still a sharp improvement over its previous standing.

Last Words From the Khmer Rouge as Tribunal End Nears | ASEAN Beat – Ever since Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the United Nations for help in constructing a legal process capable of putting surviving leaders of the dreaded Khmer Rouge in the dock, Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal has never been far from controversy. In closing arguments on the final day of the current Khmer Rouge trial, former Brother Number Two and the communist party chief ideologue Nuon Chea, 87, blamed the government in Hanoi, as well as Vietnamese and American infiltrators, for atrocities committed here during their 1975-79 rule and the period that followed, when the country was occupied by Vietnamese troops. Nuon Chea said that he and the Khmer Rouge were not responsible for the killings, nor deaths attributed to starvation and forced labor.

Indonesia

In Indonesia, a Push for Prohibition Strikes Fear | NYTimes – A draft bill submitted to Indonesia’s Parliament earlier this year that called for a ban on alcohol in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country has stirred unease among the country’s predominantly moderate Muslims and fear among those who make their living in tourism, from upscale hotels in the capital, Jakarta, to beach bars and theme restaurants on the resort island of Bali.

Indonesia Accused of Using Australian Helicopters in West Papua ‘genocide’ | The Guardian – Helicopters supplied by Australia were used by Indonesia in a “genocidal” crackdown on civilians in West Papua in the 1970s, a new report has claimed. The report, conducted by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, says two Iroquois helicopters from Australia were among the aircraft deployed by the Indonesian military in the central highlands of Papua in 1977 and 1978.

Laos

Letter from Laos: river reverie | The Guardian – A brief moment during a journey on the Mekong river brings together women from two different worlds.

Malaysia

Malaysian University Lauds North Korean Economic Policy | ASEAN Beat – A Malaysian university has doffed its cap to North Korea and awarded its latest dear leader, Kim Jong-un an honorary doctorate in economics. A simple ceremony was held earlier this month to confer the title, which raised more than a few eyebrows in academia and on the diplomatic circuit. Privately-run HELP University made the conferment. It’s President, Paul Chan, said the decision was all about building a bridge to reach the North Korean people with “a soft constructive approach” when dealing with leaders of the hermit kingdom. Predictably, the government’s mouth piece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) lauded the PhD while ignoring the plight of its own people and the economic policies that saddled them among the poorest in world – earning less than $1,300 a year each.

Public enemies | SEA Globe Editorial – Gang warfare has gripped Malaysia, and while authorities have upped their game against organised crime, little is being done to address the roots of the problem. Statistics released by the police show that there were 15,098 murders and robberies in the first half of this year, fanning the flames of public fear over organised crime.“A large portion of violence is related to organised groups,” said Teoh El Sen, a Malaysia-based journalist at Astro Awani television news channel, who has been following the gang issue for years. “Gang fights occur on a daily basis. The objectives of unorganised groups are simple and their capabilities are limited compared to gangs.”

Myanmar/Burma

Military MP Says Army Chief Could Become Candidate for President |Irrawaddy News Magazine – The leader of Burma’s military lawmakers has said the group wants to nominate current Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing for president following the 2015 elections. The plan is possible because the country’s president is elected by Parliament, where military officers hold a quarter of the seats.

Burma’s Ethnic Groups Split Over Constitutional Reform | Irrawaddy News Magazine – The question of what to do about the nation’s military-drafted Constitution is dividing Burma’s ethnic minority groups, with some in favor of completely scrapping the charter and drafting a new one from scratch, while others would like to see the existing Constitution amended.

Burma’s Treasure Hunt: $10M Expedition to Recover World’s Largest Bell | ASEAN Beat – A Burmese businessman and politician has announced that he will pay $10 million for an expedition to recover the Dhammazedi Bell – a legendary bell that has been missing for more than 400 years, thought to be at the bottom of the Yangon (Rangoon) River. Khin Shwe, the owner of one of Burma’s largest construction and real estate firms – as well as a member of the Upper House of parliament – follows a long line of “treasure hunters” who have failed to locate the 270-ton bell, said to be the largest in the world.

Singapore

Why Singapore Doesn’t Count the Poor | ASEAN Beat – Singapore, one of the richest countries in the world, has 20 billionaires and 188,000 millionaires. But curiously, the government doesn’t know the exact number of its poor households. Maybe Kishore Mahbubani, a former diplomat, was correct when he wrote in 2001 that poverty has already been eradicated and that there were no longer “homeless, destitute or starving people” in Singapore. But this seems a bold claim to make in light of the recently documented hardships faced by many ordinary Singaporeans. Perhaps it’s more accurate to mention that the lack of poverty data is related to the government’s refusal to define the country’s poverty line.

Thailand

Thai Amnesty Paves Way for Thaksin’s Return | ASEAN Beat – Controversial legislation that will grant an amnesty for thugs, politicians, protesters and military personnel caught up in the anti-government demonstrations of recent years has been passed by the Thai parliament. The bill will also allow for the return home of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand Tops Foreign Worker Satisfaction Survey | ASEAN Beat – Expats have heaped praise on Thailand, ranking the country number one in a survey of the overall “experience” for foreign workers. The survey, conducted by HSBC, contains feedback from more than 7000 expatriates living in nearly 100 countries. Thailand was said to be the easiest country for a foreign worker to set up, integrate and make friends.Thailand was also named as the most cost-effective country, due to the low cost of living but generally higher earning potential. About 60 percent of respondents added that Thai food and culture contributed to a healthier lifestyle.

Wanted: wealthy tourists | SEA Globe –  Thailand’s tourism authority is now eager to attract credit card-toting tourists, rather than the guidebook-bearing travellers who have frequented the Kingdom for the past two decades. The tourism and services sector currently represents 50.3% of national GDP and 44.5% of total employment, according to the finance ministry, although Thailand’s appeal has varied little in the past 20 years.

 

 

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