Regional Roundup for Week of 11.16.2014

The APEC meeting in Beijing has come and gone and the world is a better place for it.  No one can deny (well Mitch McConnell can) that both China, the US, and the Sino-US relationship are better off than 10 days ago.  While Obama and Xi Jinping (and Putin’s coat on Peng Liyuan’s shoulders) stole the show in Beijing, we need to keep watching for pronouncements and agreements signed between China and Southeast Asian states as well as between the US and Southeast Asia in an effort to strengthen the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

EXSE FOCUS

Obama Offers Assurances of U.S. Shift Toward Asia NYT Visiting Australia, President Obama said the United States could be a force for order as Asia faced threats like a nuclear-armed North Korea and disputes between China and its neighbors.

The Beijing APEC Summit in Review The Diplomat David Shambaugh on China’s ultimate goals in the region and how the APEC summit outlined this ‘Asia-Pacific dream.’

U.S., China announce deal to break climate gridlock Politico President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly pledged Wednesday to slash or limit carbon emissions over the next two decades in a bid by the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters to kick-start global talks to combat climate change.// Biggest headline this week by far.  This is a big step in the right direction, but for China to meet these carbon reduction requirements, more hydropower projects must be built.  Goodbye carbon footprint, and so long to the ecology of China’s rivers.  

Related: The Domestic Politics of the U.S.-China Climate Change Announcement China File

Related:  Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think Asia Unbound

Related: Reaction: US-China climate pledge The Third Pole

 

 REGIONAL RELATIONS

China Offers $20 Billion in Loans to ASEAN The Diplomat China offers increased economic incentives for its Southeast Asian neighbors to overlook territorial disputes.//Let’s see ‘the old throw money at the problem’ solution.  Hmm, what’s the track record on that one?  One thing to watch as well is the rise of joint investment vehicles between China and Southeast Asia funded by private investment – not state sponsored money.  

Related: Bangkok supports China’s Asian infrastructure investment bank The Nation

The New Silk Road: Hardly an oasis The Economist  Now the Russians are gone and the Kazakhs, flush with oil money, have plans almost as vast as their country. Hitching their future to the wagon of the new regional superpower, Kazakhstan is building a dry port and rail yard at Khorgos, in the desert on its eastern border with China, that will help to realise China’s multibillion-dollar plans for a “New Silk Road”

India’s north-east: Missing link The Economist FOR the past quarter of a century Indian policymakers have talked of a “Look East” policy. This involves boosting trade, investment and incomes in the landlocked north-east by engaging with nearby countries. The state of Manipur, on the border with Myanmar, hopes to be India’s gateway to South-East Asia.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

China commits to continue and enhance cooperation with the MRC Mekong River Commission China’s Vice Minister of Water Resources, H.E. Mr. JIAO Yong, yesterday expressed the goodwill of his country to continue and enhance the cooperation between China and the Mekong River Commission (MRC)//This is absolutely necessary.  However, China’s strengthened observer status will not help the MRC find its teeth.

China Reforms National Parks to Improve Environmental Protection ChinaFile China’s central government is reforming the way major tourist attractions are run. It plans to create a unified national parks management system in a bid to halt environmental damage within its protected areas. The new, unified system will cut across the local and departmental interests of existing operators in an attempt to ensure that these parks are run for the public benefit.

Tibetan plateau faces massive “ecosystem shift” China Dialogue Tibetan plateau will experience significant “ecosystem shift” due to climate change and human activities, reducing future water supply to China and South Asia//Kudos to ExSE’s good friend Ed Grumbine for revealing these significant findings.    

Landmark Meeting Calls for Trans-Boundary Salween Collaboration The Irrawaddy  Environmental experts have urged the governments of Burma, China and Thailand to lead the formation of a Transboundary River Management Committee to handle environmental and social issues along the Salween River, East Asia’s second longest waterway.//This would be a step in the right direction.  Perhaps a way to bolster this would be to allow transboundary resource management classes to be taught in China’s universities.  Currently college courses with the word “transboundary” in its title are not permitted in PRC. 

 

CHINA

Hong Kong protest leaders prevented from travelling to Beijing The Guardian Cathay Pacific airline staff at Hong Kong’s airport told Nathan Law, Eason Chung and Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students that the Chinese government had cancelled their travel permits and refused to issue them with boarding passes for their flight to Beijing.

Related: Appeal court denies hearing, clearing way to end Occupy Central protests SCMP

Related: Hard lessons of the Occupy protests SCMP

 China and Japan: Out of the deep freeze The Economist A “four-point agreement” comes as a welcome signal that tensions between Asia’s two biggest powers might, at least for now, begin to ease.The thorn in the side of relations is Japan’s Senkaku islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus. Chinese aircraft and coastguard vessels have greatly raised tensions from 2012 onwards, by making incursions around the Senkakus. So it is progress that Japan and China now acknowledge “the emergence of tense situations” there.

US, China to extend visas for short-term business travelers, tourists, and students GoKunming Starting November 12, the United States and the People’s Republic of China will reciprocally increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas issued to each other’s citizens.//Applause. Overseas Chinese and frequently returning businessmen will benefit most from the extended visa durations.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi Meet Again, With Battle Scars NYT President Obama met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a show of support for Myanmar’s reform process, despite evidence of the nation’s backsliding.//They kiss with their eyes open.

As Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej ails, thoughts turn to what will happen after his death SEA Globe After spending almost five weeks hospitalised for stomach inflammation in September, Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej was readmitted early last month in order to receive an operation to remove his gall bladder.

Related :‘A Kingdom in Crisis’ book banned in Thailand The Nation

UN sec-gen urges Rohingya rights DVB UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out in support of Rohingya rights to self-identification and dignified treatment on Wednesday, advising “the leaders of Myanmar [Burma] to uphold human rights, take a strong stance against incitement, and ensure humanitarian access to Rohingya [who] are living in vulnerable conditions.”

Missing: nine million people SEA Globe When Myanmar’s controversial census – its first in 30 years – revealed its population is 51 million and not the previously cited 60 million, it engendered widespread amazement: How could a nation fail to notice that nine million people did not, in fact, exist?

Grading Jokowi’s First Month Asia Unbound Slightly less than a month into Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office, a few aspects of how Jokowi will govern are coming into focus. And since he promised major change in the first hundred days of his presidency, it is fair to analyze how he has done to this (short) point in time. Let’s run down how the former Jakarta mayor, who never held national office before, is doing in several key areas.

Laos Plans to Allow Foreigners to Purchase Land in Controversial Move RFA The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is drafting an amendment to a land law allowing foreigners to purchase land for investments of at least U.S. $500,000 in the country, a high-ranking ministry official told RFA’s Lao Service.//When you read ‘foreigners’ in this title, don’t think Western expats, think of the Lao PDR’s best friends, the Chinese and the Vietnamese.

 

YUNNAN PROVINCE

Growth slowing in Yunnan and Kunming, economy still deemed healthy GoKunming Quarterly provincial financial reports used to be cause for celebration across China — a way to tout the wonders of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The days of double-digit growth have seemingly passed, but much of the country still lays claim to some economic indicators that would make other nations jealous. Among these places is Yunnan, which this year is on track to post strong, yet simultaneously disappointing, year-on-year (YoY) gross domestic product growth. So far in 2014, the province’s economy is valued at 821 billion yuan, which puts it on track to increase by roughly eight percent over the first three quarters of 2013. //Sadly most of this economic growth is coming from the 100 or so real estate projects that have destroyed the view of the sun setting over the mountains in Kunming.   

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