Regional Roundup for Week of 11.2.2014

The EXSE weekly news digest is back after a long hiatus – and we have a new look!  Our revamped digest is more concise and follows the general format of the website focusing on what we do best: regional relations, sustainability and resource management, Yunnan province, and book reviews.  Below you’ll see that we’ve also maintained focus on domestic issues in China and Southeast Asia.  Enjoy! Look forward to more posts this coming week on corruption in Yunnan and the engineering the Southern Silk Road.

EXSE FOCUS

What Should Obama and Xi Say to Each Other at APEC? ChinaFile Next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing (November 5-11) between Presidents Xi Jinping, Barack Obama, and other leaders from around the world, is billed as the Chinese capital’s highest-profile international event since the 2008 Olympics. Local law enforcement have warned people they face arrest for wearing Halloween costumes on the subway as it may cause crowds to gather and create “trouble.” Hopes are high that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies won’t scare each other off

 Related: What Beijing Wants From APEC The Diplomat

Related: What Beijing Wants From APEC Asia Unbound

 The Guardian view on the Asian Infrastructure Bank: the US should work with it, not oppose it | Editorial the Guardian It’s no surprise that China is promoting a solution to the shortage of infrastructure capital in Asia. It is an exaggeration to talk of the pace of reform at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for there has been almost none to these, the so-called Washington institutions that, together with the US Treasury, have both sustained and constrained the global economy since 1945. How to reflect the changing balance of economic power has been endlessly discussed but rarely implemented.

 Related: Australia won’t join Asian infrastructure bank ‘until rules change’ Guardian  

 Obama Prepares to Travel to Myanmar at a Critical Time Asia Unbound In November, President Obama will travel to Myanmar to attend the East Asia Summit, which brings together a broad range of nations from across the Pacific Rim. It will be the president’s second trip to Myanmar, following his landmark 2012 trip, which was the first by a sitting U.S. president to Myanmar since the country gained independence six decades ago. During the East Asia Summit, Obama almost surely will hold bilateral meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and other senior Myanmar leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Related: Listening Post: On Visit, Obama to Face a Backsliding Myanmar NYT

 Mapping the flow SEA Globe An interactive map released by campaign group Global Financial Integrity (GFI) reveals the staggering speed illicit financial outflows – illegal movements of money or capital from one country to another – are leaving developing world countries. The information is compiled from a December 2013 report “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011”

 

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Banyan: The city on the hill Economist WHEN Barack Obama ducked out of two summits in Indonesia and Brunei a year ago, the credibility of the “pivot to Asia” he had proclaimed, giving the region greater importance in American foreign policy, took a big knock. This month he is due to show up at back-to-back gatherings in Beijing, Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, and Brisbane in Australia, giving him a chance to hammer out the dent. It will be a struggle. The centrepiece of the economic aspect of the pivot, a regional free-trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is still not a done deal.

The U.S. Should Not Fear Competing With China The Diplomat With the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the U.S. should not be afraid of a little healthy competition.

Not U.S. Isolationism, But a Rebalancing of Priorities and Means Asia Unbound  The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2014 survey released last month entitled “Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment” reports that over 40 percent of Americans believe that the United States should “stay out” rather than take an active part in global affairs. But the survey also shows that over four-fifths of Americans believe that the United States should continue to show strong leadership in world affairs. Possibly the strongest counter-arguments for smart American leadership versus isolationism and retrenchment are expressed in poll results regarding American attitudes toward its alliances in Asia. This is an important finding because it shows growing American understanding of the importance of Asia and growing support for the strategic value of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

US-Philippines Defense Ties Under Fire The Diplomat A U.S. Marine accused of murder has called broader U.S.-Philippines cooperation into question.

Can China and Vietnam Overcome Their Territorial Disputes? The Diplomat Yang Jiechi’s visit to Vietnam was full of optimism, but the China-Vietnam relationship remains fragile.

How Vietnam Woos China and India Simultaneously The Diplomat In managing relations with India and China, Vietnamese diplomacy has grown dynamic and creative.

 

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Tibetan Plateau Faces Massive ‘Ecosystem Shift’ China File Large areas of grasslands, alpine meadows, wetlands, and permafrost will disappear on the Tibetan plateau by 2050, with serious implications for environmental security in China and South Asia, a research paper published by scientists at the Kunming Institute of Botany has warned.

Beijing Zeroes In on Energy Potential of South China Sea NYT Much of the muscle-flexing over disputed waters in the region is political. But China is also interested in the oil and natural gas that might lie below the waters.

 Dam could sound death knell for dolphins Phnom Penh Post Ahead of crucial discussions about the future of Cambodia’s wetlands this month, residents of a globally significant area of the Mekong River fear an environmental catastrophe if hydropower plans go ahead.

 China’s obsession with vertical cities Guardian By the end of next year one-in-three of the worlds 100m+ skyscrapers will be in China, as its state-orchestrated urbanisation drive prompts a megacity building bonanza

Tuna firm’s bungled IPO exposes China’s flouting of global fishing rules Guardian  Draft IPO sends a reporter down a rabbit hole to find shell companies and shady dealings in the world-wide fishing industry. Reporting on international fishing can often feel like investigating organized crime. Everyone knows how things are run, but the truth is obscured by shell companies, back-door dealings, and plausible deniability.

Growth in the New Climate Economy Project Syndicate Action to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change has long been viewed as fundamentally opposed to economic growth. But a recently released report concludes that efforts to combat climate change could boost growth considerably – and soon.

 

CHINA

China upholds death penalty for three who led mass stabbing in Kunming AFP  A Chinese appeal court has upheld death sentences for three people convicted over a mass stabbing this year in which 31 people were killed, say state media. The higher peoples court of Yunnan province rejected Hasayn Muhammads appeal and upheld the penalty meted out by the Kunming municipal intermediate peoples court last month, Xinhua said in a dispatch from Kunming.

Taiwan Leader Stresses Support for Hong Kong Protests NYT President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan said that he supported Hong Kong protesters’ democratic ideals, but would still pursue trade agreements with China.

Corruption in the housing market: To those that have The Economist OFTEN the trickiest part of being a corrupt bureaucrat is not how to find new ways to extort money or accept bribes, but how to hide the ill-gotten gains. No one wants to end up like “Uncle House”, as a district official in the southern province of Guangdong was dubbed by internet users. He was outed two years ago by online anti-corruption activists after acquiring 22 properties that on his salary he clearly could not afford.However, research by Hanming Fang of the University of Pennsylvania, and Li-An Zhou and Quanlin Gu of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University suggests that the housing market is a source of illicit riches, as well as a place to park them

China’s 4th Plenum: Rule of Law Under the Party The Diplomat U.S. editors Ankit Panda and Zachary Keck are joined by Shannon Tiezzi to discuss China’s fourth plenum.

China to put decorated general on trial over corruption Reuters A once-powerful retired Chinese military officer has confessed to taking vast amounts in bribes and will be prosecuted in court, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.General Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the powerful central military commission, was court martialled in June. He has been stripped of his title and expelled from the military, Xinhua said, citing army lawyers.

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA 

UN Rapporteur: ‘Backtracking’ could undermine Burma’s reforms DVB UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee has expressed concern about “possible signs of backtracking” that could undermine Burma’s reform process, according to a UN press statement released yesterday which highlighted some key points of Ms. Lee’s speech to the UN General Assembly about Burma’s human rights situation.

Burma considers altering law that bars Aung San Suu Kyi from being president AFP Burmas parliament will consider amending the countrys constitution which currently bars the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from becoming president before crucial elections next year, an official said on Friday. Suu Kyi is trying to change key sections of Burmas charter ahead of 2015 polls that are widely expected to be won by her National League for Democracy (NLD), if they are free and fair, after decades of military rule.

US Blacklists Burma Ruling Party Lawmaker DVB  The U.S. Treasury on Friday blacklisted a hard-line lawmaker of Burma’s ruling party, accusing him of undermining political and economic reforms.

The Rise of Public Opinion in Cambodia’s Politics The Diplomat The ruling elite can no longer simply ignore the opinions of the Cambodian public.

After Budget Released, Cambodia’s Opposition Blasts Process Cambodia Daily With the release of the government’s 2015 draft national budget Thursday, the opposition CNRP, whose 55 lawmakers joined the National Assembly in August, called Cambodia’s budget-drafting process “disgusting and unbelievable” on Friday.

Malaysia: A lousy sequel Economist FOR 16 years Anwar Ibrahim, leader of Malaysia’s opposition, has battled dodgy charges of sodomy and corruption designed to keep him from power. One way or another, a court hearing which began on October 28th looks like the end of the road. As The Economist went to press Mr Anwar (pictured above, with his wife) was reaching the conclusion of his final appeal against a five-year prison sentence, imposed in March, for allegedly having sex with a male aide (sodomy is illegal in Malaysia).

 

YUNNAN PROVINCE

Official: Yunnan will have two bullet trains by 2016 Go Kunming Announcing specific completion timetables for infrastructure endeavors is a dicey business in China. If a project suffers setbacks and deadlines pass without completion, officials can lose their jobs. This reality makes it maddeningly difficult to guess with any accuracy when work on a given venture might actually conclude.

A quick glimpse of Yunnan’s ancient salt towns GoKunming  Exploring Yunnan is not fully completed unless one visits at least one of the three ancient and historically important salt towns in southwest China. Heijing (黑井), Nuodeng (诺邓) and Shiyang (石羊) are three often undiscovered pearls of the province, and can provide travelers with a rare view of China from another time.

Online rumor spurs closure of ‘wild animal bazaar’ GoKunming Here at GoKunming there are several not-yet-dead horses that we routinely beat. Among these, news stories regarding the environment, wild animals, officials behaving badly and bizarre, often vague, trending internet tropes tend to receive the most user feedback. Rarely, however, has one news item rolled all of these themes into a nice compact ball exemplifying many of the challenges facing Yunnan. That is, of course, until this week.

Related: Seafood banquets put tropical reef fish at risk The Third Pole

 

REVIEWS

Hun Sen’s Cambodia: A Review Asia Unbound A new book by Cambodia-based journalist Sebastian StrangioHun Sen’s Cambodia has set the standard for compelling and accessible histories of modern-day Cambodia. In particular, the book is the first to offer an accessible but thorough biographical portrait of longtime Cambodian prime minister—and strongman—Hun Sen. Strangio details in compelling form how Hun Sen rose from a skinny, totally uneducated and unworldly senior official in the Vietnam-installed post-Khmer Rouge regime into a smooth autocrat who has dominated the country for decades. Over time, Hun Sen also has become fabulously rich and has become an increasingly powerful player in Southeast Asia, due to Cambodia’s membership in ASEAN, Hun Sen’s longevity, and Hun Sen’s ability to play his patrons Vietnam and China off of each other.

From the Ruins of Empire…arise the nation-state Jottings from the Granite Studio One of the best books on empire, colonialism, and de-colonization I have read in the past few years is Pankaj Mishra’s brilliant From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. It’s a sprawling story told through the biographical sketches of major Asian intellectuals such as Liang Qichao, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim, near contemporaries who witnessed the crumbling of empire and worried about what might come next in a world still dominated by North Atlantic states and Western value systems.

What China’s Reading: ‘Broken Dreams, USA’ China File As a kid, I couldn’t understand why Chinese people flocked to the United States when the policemen there were so cruel, the crime rate was so high, and the food was so unpalatable. Later I realized that it’s because in America there are cars, concrete jungles and skyscrapers, and color televisions. How we used to admire and worship such a country, America. But now it seems the old “American dream” is too plain for Chinese people’s desires…

 

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