Regional Roundup for the Week of 6.28.14

Not a good week to be a top official in China — three more high-ranking officials have come under investigation for corruption, including: Liu Tienan, former head of the National Energy Administration; Wan Qingliang, the Communist Party chief for Guangzhou; and Su Rong, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) joint naval drills began this week in Hawaii, with China taking part for the first time. Easing tensions and enhancing cooperation between navies is one of the major objectives of RIMPAC, however China’s recently updated map of the South China Sea and continued scuffles with both Vietnam and the Philippines may undermine these goals.


China Unveils New Map of South China Sea | NYT — A vertical map representing China’s claims in the South China Sea shows two disputed clusters of islands entirely within Chinese territory.

China-Philippines Duel Over a South China Sea Code of Conduct | Diplomat — Both countries are developing their South China Sea strategies, neither of which has much to do with ASEAN.

Naval gazing: Sea change | Economist — China has sent ships to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military drills for the first time. RIMPAC, which began on June 26th, is the largest naval exercise in the world, with 25,000 personnel from 23 countries, including America, Australia, India, Indonesia and South Korea.

Champion of Chinese farmers’ rights jailed for forging official documents | Guardian — Villagers pack the court to applaud woman given two years in prison for trying to prevent land grabs and illegal demolition.

Hekou’s 600 million yuan “boondoggle” | GoKunming — The media in Yunnan, and around the country, is often overly fond of splashy headlines containing enormous investment figures. The articles that follow are generally paeans to a modernizing society and the wonders of Chinese-style capitalism. Failure is rarely chronicled. That is far from the case in Hekou (河口), which is currently receiving plenty of negative journalistic buzz due to a development project provincial officials have deemed an embarrassing and costly “boondoggle”.

Chinese minister makes first visit to Taiwan | Guardian — China has sent a ministerial-level official to Taiwan for the first time, for four days of meetings to rebuild ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

Uighur Scholar Will Fight Charges of Separatism in China, Lawyer Says | NYT — Ilham Tohti, a critic of Beijing’s policies in the ethnically divided region of Xinjiang, said through his lawyer that he was innocent.

New Signs That China Is Scrutinizing Foreign NGOs | NYT — A notice that briefly appeared on a local government website describes a “penetrating” security review of foreign nongovernmental organizations in China.

Chile Scraps Dam Project in ‘Greatest Triumph of the Nation’s Environmental Movement’ | Common Dreams — The rejection of the project follows an 8-year campaign led by the Patagonia Defense Council (PDC) coalition, which includes International Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and local citizens and community groups and had highlighted the risks of the project and need for Chile to choose a truly sustainable energy future. Incredible story out of Chile. Many environmental advocates in SE Asia might look to the PDC as an example of how international NGOs and local stakeholders can cooperate for a sustainable energy policy. 


China’s Anticorruption Campaign Moves to a Powerful Party Seat | NYT — The Communist Party chief of Guangzhou, who wields considerable influence, has been held for investigation by the disciplinary commission.

Former Top Official in China to Face Graft Trial | NYT — Liu Tienan, who headed the country’s energy administration, is the latest target of President Xi Jinping’s moves against corruption.

Top Political Advisor Investigated for Graft | ChinaFile — A vice chairman of the country’s top political advisory body is being investigated for “serious violations of discipline,” the Communist Party’s anti-graft fighter says. The Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC) did not provide details of Su Rong’s alleged crimes, but the phrase usually means graft.

Antarctica via France, and Other Tales of Official Expense-Padding | NYT — An Antarctica tour that somehow included visits to Chile and France was among the infractions described in reports on 37 Chinese government departments and agencies released this week by the National Audit Office.

Official suicides: Unnatural deaths | Economist — On June 24th Wei Jianghong, chairman of a large state-owned copper smelter and a delegate to the national legislature, jumped to his death from a building in Anhui province. It was at least the 62nd publicly known “unnatural” death of an official or employee of a state-run entity since the beginning of 2013, according to Chinese media reports, and at least the 32nd suicide among those deaths.

China sends dissidents on free holidays | Guardian — As top Communist leaders gathered in Beijing the veteran Chinese political activist He Depu was obliged to leave town on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the tropical island of Hainan, complete with police escorts. It is an unusual method of muzzling dissent, but He is one of dozens of campaigners who rights groups say have been forced to take vacations sometimes featuring luxurious hotels beside sun-drenched beaches, trips to tourist sites and lavish dinners courtesy of the authorities.

32 Terrorist Groups Smashed in Xinjiang, China Says | NYT — A crackdown that began in May in the far western region of China has resulted in hundreds of terrorism suspects being sentenced, state media reported.

Chinese Involvement in Global Jihad | Diplomat — Interactions between Uyghur militant groups and other terrorist networks pose a growing concern for China.

Hong Kong’s Democracy Supporters Chafe at Inequality and Beijing’s Sway | NYT — An informal vote on how to select Hong Kong’s leader reflects resentment that the Beijing-oriented political-business machine is rigged against the people.

China’s Growing Hegemonic Bent | Diplomat — More and more, China is engaging in the same kind of hegemonic actions it has always denounced in others.

The Debate Over Confucius Institutes | ChinaFile — Last week, the American Association of University Professors joined a growing chorus of voices calling on North American universities to rethink their relationship with Confucius Institutes, the state-sponsored Chinese-language programs whose policies critics say are anathema to academic freedom. We asked contributors to discuss the debate.

Meet the Chinese women standing up to inequality | Guardian — In the past couple of years, performance-art style actions often cheeky or humorous, always eye-catching have raised awareness of the challenges facing women in China. Twenty-somethings staged Occupy the Men’s Toilets to challenge the lack of female facilities, shaved their heads to highlight higher college admission requirements for female applicants, and donned wedding dresses daubed with red to focus attention on domestic violence.

Chinese dog-eating festival backlash grows | Guardian — Number of animal rights activists descending on Yulin may be small, but opposition against eating dog meat has broadened.

World Cup Scores Big in China | Diplomat — Despite an awkward time difference and the absence of a Chinese team, the World Cup is drawing a huge audience in China.

Obituary: Yang Qinglong, China’s original oil baron | GoKunming — Although perhaps little known to the public, Yang Qinglong (杨庆龙) was a giant in the world of Chinese energy. His outsized reputation as an indefatigable international power broker and eccentric bureaucrat has been described by those he worked with as “legendary”. Reuters China has reported Yang passed away on June 22, following a fight with cancer. He was 62 years-old. A member of the Bai nationality, Yang was born in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in 1951. He graduated from Yunnan University with a degree in Chinese Language at the age of 23. Rising steadily through the ranks of the provincial bureaucracy, Yang was named Shenzhen section chief of the government-controlled firm Yunnan Electronics in 1988.


Mapping the Risk of Bird Flu’s Spread | NYT — The H7N9 strain of avian influenza poses a threat to several other parts of Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India, according to a new study.

Changing Dynamics in Myanmar Impact Bangladesh’s Geopolitics | Diplomat — Myanmar’s opening to democracy and investment are changing Bangladesh’s economic and security strategy.

U.S. Catfish Program Could Stymie Pacific Trade Agreement | NYT — Ten Asian and Pacific nations have complained that the Agriculture Department’s catfish inspection program, which was added to the 2008 farm bill, violates international law.

U.S. Chided for Delays Over Treaty on Weapons | NYT — Though the United States is the biggest contributor in helping to rid land mines from old conflict zones, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said it still has not signed an international treaty.

China and the US: Destined to Cooperate? | Diploamt — Geography, economics, and energy will all push America and China closer together.


Jump right in: Ratanakiri | SEA Globe — The cool night air of Ban Lung, Ratanakiri’s provincial capital, provides a pleasant reprieve from Cambodia’s balmier climes. Sandwiched between borders with Vietnam and Laos, the Kingdom’s northeastern frontier is home to some of its most untamed countryside, and its sparsely populated villages are a far cry from the crowded streets of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.


Malaysian Jet Was in Controlled Flight After Contact Was Lost, Officials Suspect | NYT — Investigators now believe that altitude data that guided earlier searches was unreliable and that the plane was likely not seriously damaged before its final descent.

Arrests at Malaysian Rare Earths Refinery Protests | Diplomat — Locals and activists fear the refinery, operated by an Australian company, will generate radioactive waste.

Ann Osman: Goddess of War | SEA Globe — Three years ago, 27-year-old Ann “Athena” Osman, a Muslim from Malaysia’s Sabah state, started training in mixed martial arts (MMA). Since then, she has joined the roster of ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s largest MMA organisation, and is fast becoming an inspiration in her home country


In the Darkness of Myanmar’s Camps, Lighter Moments of Life | NYT — Adam B. Ellick, a senior video journalist at The Times who made a documentary with the columnist Nicholas Kristof about Myanmar’s oppressed Muslim minority, found a few uplifting moments.

Religious Extremists Target Myanmar Film Festival | Diplomat — Organizers withdraw a documentary about a friendship between a Buddhist and a Muslim following threats.

Burma to Purchase Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Fighter Jets | Diplomat — According to local media, Myanmar will become the first foreign purchaser of the Sino-Pakistan jointly produced fighter.


U.S. Phasing Out Its Counterterrorism Unit in Philippines | NYT — American Special Forces will continue to help Philippine security forces counter a smaller, lingering Islamist threat, but the size of the mission will drop to a dozen or so advisers from its current 320 service members.

Corruption in the Philippines: Over a barrel | Economist — The Philippine police had clapped two senators in jail by June 26th and had two secure hospital rooms ready for a third as they began rounding up politicians accused of stealing public funds. The round-up is rocking the political establishment. It appears to reinvigorate President Benigno Aquino’s campaign against corruption.


Prison threat from Thai junta for Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun | SEA Globe — Along with other prominent Thais who live outside the country and are critical of the military junta who took over the government of Thailand in a coup d’état on 22 May, Dr Pavin is wanted by the regime and has been threatened with two years in prison if he does not surrender.

Is the Thai Junta Targeting Cambodian Migrants? | Diplomat — The military could be cracking down on illegal migrants as part of a wider program.

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