Asia in Review Archive

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5 May 2020

Covid-19 responses across ASEAN

(ls) The corona crisis continues to dominate Southeast Asian news. An overview of measures, successes and failures from across the region with commentary from political and security experts can be found in the [Bangkok Post].

28 April 2020

Military Expenditure 2019 in Asia 

(dql) According to the latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) global military expenditure accounted in 2019 for estimated 1917 billion USD, an increase by 3.6% compared to 2018.

Among the top five countries, the USA takes to top spot with military spending at 732 billion USD, followed by China (est. 261 billion USD), India (71.1 billion USD), Russia (65.1 billion USD) and Saudi-Arabia (est. 61.9 billion USD).

Further Asian countries among the top 40 which make up 92% of the total global expenditure include Japan (47.6 billion USD) and South Korea (43.9 billion USD) ranking at 9th and 10th position, Iran (12.6 billion USD, 18th), Singapore (11.2 billion USD, 21th), Taiwan (10.4 billion, 22nd), Pakistan (10.3 billion USD, 24th), Kuwait (7.7 billion USD, 26th), Indonesia (7.7 billion USD, 27th), Iraq (7.6 billion USD, 28th), Thailand (7.3 billion USD, 29th) and Oman (6.7 billion USD, 31st). [SIPRI]

28 April 2020

What is going on with the US air force’s forward deterrent in the Pacific?

(hg/dql) On 17 April, the US Air Force announced to no longer base strategic bombers outside of the continental United States, marking an end to its 16-year Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Since its inception in 2004, the CBP on Guam has been considered a key piece of force projection and deterrence to potential adversaries and reassurance to allies in Asia and the Western Pacific. Around 2,500 miles from Beijing, Guam provided a unique location to provide the US heavy bomber fleet considerable scope and breadth for its operations. [CNN] [Asia Times] [Military Com]

Controversially discussed in military circles, the withdrawal of the B-52s, B-1s and B-2 stealth bombers raise the question about the motives for the move. An obvious argument to ponder is the possibility that the scope of the Chinese military build-up has reached a point where the strategically highly important bomber fleet should not be exposed. After all, one of the Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the DF-26 missile, is also referred to as the “Guam Killer.”

Some observers see the move, however, as more than just an adaption to a changing strategic environment. For them, by ending the CBP, the US signals that it is decreasing its Pacific presence vis-à-vis a more and more assertive China in the Indo-Pacific. [CNN] [Asia Times]

Such conclusions are far away from being compelling though. To adapt to the changing capabilities of an adversary – be it by switching to the unpredictability of random deployments or other means – is neither a weakness per se nor a signal of a changing grand strategy or lack of determination.

This seems to resonate also with the prevailing view from China where the move is not consistently understood as a sign of strategic withdrawal at all. The Chinese issue of the pro-CPC Global Times underlines rather the challenges for China’s early warning systems [Global Times, in Chinese], while some jarring voices of overseas Chinese even talk about a possible preparation for a military assault on China. [Sound of HopeAboluowang in Chinese]

While the end of the CBP is most probably no more and no less than an adaption to new strategic realities, not only a more assertive China is part of these realities but also a more capable Chinese military with which the US is reckoning with. 

As much as US Secretary of State Esper just acknowledged that “Our adversaries are not standing down,” [Military Com] as much do some US military experts even warn of a “bomber crisis”. This, they see exposed by the sheer numbers. While the U.S. Air Force possessed around 400 bombers at the end of the Cold War, it has just 157 today, – among which further 17 are cut in the fiscal 2021 budget submission. [Defense News]

21 April 2020

Sudden oil price plunges hit Asian stock markets

(hg) The oil market just saw further turbulences hitting Asia as well. The May futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI, a grade of crude oil used as a benchmark in oil pricing), which expires on this Tuesday, dropped more than 100% overnight, crashed through zero to settle at an unprecedented negative $37.63 per barrel. Largely as a reaction, today afternoon of Asian trading hours, Asian stocks dropped significantly, in particular in China, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. [CNBC]

This latest plunge is ugly but less dramatic as such. In any case, it points at a general trend that looks quite bad. Although OPEC+ did agree to historic production cuts, these will hardly be able to cope with the ongoing decline in demand. Taken together, the now-settled Saudi-Russian price war on the supply side and the COVId-19 induced demand destruction created a historic menace that will stay some time.
But what is the reason for the even extremer plunge just now? With the general situation remaining bad and the OPEC+ production cuts being not effective immediately, traders desperately tried to abandon the futures contract for May, which expires this week. The reason is that “nobody wants physical delivery of WTI for May”, […] with storage options dwindling in some places, traders liquidated their positions, selling contracts at crazy discounts” as Nick Cunningham explains. [Oil Price].

How bad the underlying general market situation develops is reflected by the fact that even a particularly oil depended country as India with huge demand, in general, might not benefit much from the extremely low oil prices as it also keeps its entire society under lockdown. With low demand and tanks being already full, India is likely to refrain from buying any oil. [India Today]

Even the world’s largest oil storage firm, Vopak, which operates three main facilities in Singapore, Rotterdam, and Fujairah – one of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates – is at the end of its capacity.

More interesting is news from Indonesia whose state-owned PT Pertamina seems to hire tankers from the end of April and early May for a minimum of six months to store refined fuels at sea in a bid to take advantage of the plunging oil price. [The Star]

Besides these current developments, the relative improvement expected for the June WTI contract, which is trading at $20 per barrel will still have grave consequences, especially for oil-exporting countries, especially for producing the barrel rather costly which also includes the US. [Oil Price 2]

The broader outlook is bleak with the second quarter looking to be the most uncertain and disruptive quarter that the industry has ever seen and with the market probably remaining depressed through year-end as he Halliburton CEO just stated in a thorough assessment of the market on Monday. [Halliburton]

On a longer-term, an article in the FT raises the question if 2019 could even mark the all-time peak in global oil demand. The author argues this could well be one possible outcome of the crisis due to permanent changes in consumer behavior adding to the expectable effects of efficiency improvements that have already been induced before the crisis took off. [FT]


21 April 2020

2020 World Press Freedom Index

(dql) Reporters Without Borders has released it 2020 World Press Freedom Index according to which the world is “[e]ntering a decisive decade for journalism, exacerbated by coronavirus” as the pandemic reveals “the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information,” including “a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies); a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media); and an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism).”

The highest ranked Asian country is South Korea at 42nd position, followed by Taiwan at 43rd position, while North Korea takes the last position (180th). Japan is at 66th, Hong Kong at 80th, and China at 177th position.

Malaysia jumped 22 places to be the top in South-East Asia and 101st in the world. Indonesia (119th), Philippines (136th), Myanmar (139th), Thailand (140th), Cambodia (144th), Brunei (152nd), Singapore (158th), Laos (172nd) and Vietnam (175th).

India (142nd) ranked better than its neighbours Pakistan (145th) and Bangladesh (151st), but worse than Sri Lanka (127th) and Nepal (112th).

Norway is ranked on the top of the index followed by Finland and Denmark. [RSF]


21 April 2020

The Southeast Asian war on “fake news” in times of Covid-19

(ls) Last week’s edition of Asia in Review pointed to the limitations of free speech in Asia by the increasingly strict enforcement of anti-falsehood legislation during the Covid-10 crisis. [Asia in Review, No. 15, April/2020, 2] The fight against “fake news” is particularly pronounced in Southeast Asia. [NPR]

CPG’s Lasse Schuldt writes that the corona crisis has put previously created laws to practice and sparked additional legislative activity. Though the professed goal is to prevent public panic, he argues that recent enforcement actions reveal the complete irrelevance of any panic indicators; a falsehood’s panic potential is simply assumed. As a result, an abstract panic threat is fought with concrete measures: Arrests and criminal prosecutions. [CPG Website]

14 April 2020

Asia: Cracking down on coronavirus ‘fake news’

(hg) According to Agence France-Presse, hundreds of people have been arrested across Asia for posting purported false information on the coronavirus situation with governments targeting “fake news” and silencing dissenting opinions and the report of inconvenient facts. [AFP

Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director Phil Robertson is quoted as saying that “Governments are using the ‘fake news’ label to dress up their rights-abusing efforts to censor views and statements that are at odds with whatever strategy they have taken to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.” [Straits Times

In ten Asian countries, from Thailand to India and Mongolia, at least 266 people have been arrested and others punished with fines for posting coronavirus-related information. This includes a local politician in India for a Facebook claim that the government was downplaying virus fatalities and who is only one among nearly one hundred more people in India; a Malaysian TV personality who was ordered to a several thousand US dollar fine for a YouTube post criticizing a hospital’s handling of the pandemic; a Sri Lankan woman locked three days in custody after posting a prank message on Facebook about the president’s health; the case of a journalist in Cambodia (see in this issue) in which four opposition politicians and a dozen more people have been arrested as well, and more than 80 arrests made in Indonesia. [AFP

Restrictions of the free expression of opinion are particularly problematic in times in which the rights to the freedom of assembly and association can virtually not be exercised and during which surveillance is about to be enhanced by a variety of measures. 

31 March 2020

Major Defence events in Southeast Asia cancelled over Covid-19

(jk) Amid countless cancellations of events, meetings, military exercises etc, it was announced last week that the Shangri La Dialogue – easily among the most important annual defence and security fora in Southeast Asia – originally scheduled for early June – will be cancelled this year. [IISS]

Another major security event that fell prey to cancellations over the Covid crisis, is the major US-Philippines military exercise “Balikatan”, which were to take place from May 4-15 in the Philippines but has now been cancelled by the US. [Benar News]

Although this year’s cancellation is not related, these significant exercises would have set a symbolic counterpoint to the recent cancellation of the visiting forces agreement with the US by President Duterte which was made official back in February. While the President has since reinforced his decision to cancel the VFA, the cancellation is currently subject of a Supreme Court challenge brought forward by opposing Senators [Asia in Review No. 10, March/2020, 2]. If the termination is to go ahead and no alternative is found, Balitakan 2020 would have been the last installation of the decades-old exercise between the two countries as the VFA forms the basis of such exercises even though the Mutual Defence Treaty remains in place. [CNN Philippines]

24 March 2020

On the future of the ‘Quad’ 

(jk) The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has released a policy brief and survey on the future of the re-emerged quadrilateral security dialogue between the United States, India, Australia and Japan widely seen as a China-containment strategy. While being open to a role for the Quad in coordinating regional economic and development assistance strategic elites of the Quad nations were mixed about proposals for a standing military task force and Quad secretariat. Anyway, the CSIS brief suggests that the Quad has returned to new prominence and makes four concrete policy proposals to take it further. [CSIS] At current, senior foreign ministry officials from the Quad nations meet bi-monthly, the grouping convenes at the ministerial level and forms the basis for a tabletop exercise.


17 March 2020

OCHA’s Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot 

(hg) The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released its weekly (10 -16 March 2020) regional humanitarian snapshot highlighting the Philippines – referring to those affected by a series of earthquakes in late 2019 –, Indonesia – referring to the victims of the West Java earthquake this month ­–, Myanmar – referring to still increasing civilian casualties and displacements due to intensifying clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army –, and Afghanistan – referring to displacement due to ongoing conflict and natural disasters. [Relief Web]


17 March 2020

Asian data privacy laws through the lens of legal practitioners

(hg) Asia Business Law Journal provides a comparative overview of some of Asia’s data privacy laws analyzed by legal practitioners and covering India, The Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. [Vantage Asia]

10 March 2020

Listen: ANU Professor Rory Medcalf about the future of the Indo-Pacific region

(jk) In this podcast, ANU Professor Rory Medcalf talks about his new book “Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China won’t map the Future” and the future of the Indo-Pacific region. He argues that the Indo-Pacific can avoid the cataclysm of war if constructed on ‘multipolarity, solidarity and a confident kind of strategic patience’. In the podcast – and the book – Medcalf calls for greater roles for countries such as Japan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia and explains why he thinks that there are good reasons to think Chinese power has already peaked and why China’s ability to map the future is limited. His keys to balance China are development, deterrence and diplomacy. [Policy Forum]


10 March 2020

Transformations of matriarchal societies in Asia

(ls) An in-depth article in the South China Morning Post describes how matriarchal and matrilineal societies in China, India and Indonesia are struggling to survive, amid threats posed by the modern world such as mass tourism, technology and the infiltration of ideas from mainstream patriarchal society. The world’s largest known matrilineal society today, with about 8 million members, is believed to be the Minangkabau in Indonesia, also known as Minang. [South China Morning Post]


3 March 2020

Interview: Singapore’s Fake News Law Shows How Not to Address Disinformation Online

(jk) Singapore’s Protection of Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) gave the government significant leverage over social media platforms and users to issue corrections or remove posts it finds to contain falsehoods. This interview digs deeper into the issue with Cherian George, a Singaporean academic and Professor of media studies at Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Communication who works on media freedom, censorship and hate speech. [World Politics Review]


3 March 2020

An analysis of India’s and China’s Eurasian strategies

(ls) A paper published by the Observer Research Foundation analyzes the trajectory of India’s and China’s Eurasian aspirations. In recent years, both India and China have developed different strategies to strengthen their respective ties with the resource-rich economies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, collectively called the Central Asian Republics. The paper argues that India’s “Connect Central Asia” approach is constructivist, while China’s Belt and Road Initiative is hegemonic. It also outlines recommendations for India’s Connect Central Asia policy. [Observer Research Foundation]


3 March 2020

U.S. postpones Las Vegas summit with ASEAN leaders over coronavirus

(jk) The United States has decided to postpone a meeting with ASEAN leaders initially planned for March 14 in Las Vegas over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. [CNBC]

25 February 2020

South Korea’s “New Southern Policy” towards ASEAN countries

(ls) A “Perspective” published by ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute assess South Korea’s New Southern Policy towards ASEAN countries. It argues that South Korea needs to develop more broad-based economic engagement across ASEAN member states to overcome its over-concentration on Vietnam, foster two-way exchanges that improve ASEAN’s market access, and articulate a coherent idea of regional cooperation that supports ASEAN-led mechanisms and the open, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture. [ISEAS]

18 February 2020

Thailand: The Future Forward Party: A future amid legal troubles? 

(jk) Thailand’s Future Forward Party (FFP) is awaiting a crucial Constitutional Court ruling this week (21 February) in a case regarding alleged misconduct in receiving money in form of a donation in violation of Thailand’s Political Parties Act. [Asia in Review, No. 51, December/2019, 3] The case may well end the party’s existence altogether and lead to a politics ban for the party executives. 

41-year-old party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit talks about the case, the party’s and his future, and why in his view, the ongoing proceedings should be considered “lawfare” rather than due process.  [Southeast Asia Globe]

11 February 2020

Thailand: Southern Thailand’s Peace Dialogue: Giving Substance to Form

(jk) Over six years ago, a peace dialogue process between the Thai government and an umbrella organisation of Malay-Muslim separatist from southern Thailand – MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council)- has begun. To date, the process has not been much of a success. With the government appointing a new leader for its side of the discussion back in October 2019, many are hoping for some movement and fresh approaches. A detailed in-depths report on the issue and possible ways ahead were collated and written by the International Crisis Group earlier this year. [International Crisis Group]  

4 February 2020

Human rights in Asia-Pacific in 2019: Repression & resistance, Amnesty International says

(dql) According to Amnesty International’s review of 25 countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific, 2019 was a year of repression with governments across the region attempting “to uproot fundamental freedoms”. But it was also a year of resistance as “people are fighting back” manifest for example in the Hong Kong protests, mass demonstrations in India against Modi, demonstrations in West Papua against racist and discriminatory treatment of Papuans, or marches in support of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. [Amnesty International] [The Guardian]

4 February 2020

China passes Russia as second largest arms producer and dealer in new study 

(jk) China has overtaken Russia to become the world’s second-largest arms producer, according to revised research for the year 2017 published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) last week. Additionally, China’s four listed defence industry companies exceeded sales of the top ten Russian companies in 2017, making China also the second largest seller of arms. 

The research includes four Chinese companies for which credible financial information is available and with that reveals a new scale of the Chinese arms industry. [SIPRI]

SIPRI had previously excluded Chinese arms companies from its annual ranking over a lack of transparency and arms sales and production figures it did provide used to rank significantly lower. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project for instance, Chinese weapons exports  – based on older SIPRI data – pale in comparison to both the US and Russia. [CSIS, China Power Project

Conversely, the new report holds that “overall, the estimates in this paper provide quantitative evidence that the Chinese arms industry is among the largest national arms industries in the world. Based on arms sales, all four companies profiled would be ranked among the 20 largest arms companies globally, with three—AVIC, NORINCO and CETC—in the top 10. The arms sales of just these four Chinese companies indicate that China is the second-largest arms producer in the world, behind the USA and ahead of Russia. However, there remains a need for more detailed research on the remaining six Chinese arms companies to offer a complete estimate of the Chinese arms industry.” [Estimating The Arms Sales Of Chinese Companies]

4 February 2020

Is “insurgent constitutionalism” the new form of Indian constitutionalism?

(ls) In an interesting opinion piece published by The Wire, the author argues that, for the first time in the history of the Indian republic, it is not jurists and lawyers who are interpreting the constitution, but street protests. He argues that popular struggle on the streets, campuses, squares, towns and cities, tea shops, clubs and assemblies has found novel ways to bring back the question of justice. The author terms this form of constitutionalism “insurgent constitutionalism”. [The Wire]

28 January 2020

On the importance of female workers for India’s future economic growth

(dql) Against the background of a lowest growth rate of India’s economy for 11 years expected for 2020 and unprecedented unemployment levels, Ankita Shree underscores the need for an increase in the female workforce as a pre-condition of an economic recovery in India, where women currently contribute to 17% of the national GDP, compared with the global average of 40%. [Asia Dilaogue]

21 January 2020

ISEAS State of the Region Survey 2020

(jk) The ASEAN Studies Center at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore has published its second survey of SEA focussing on the region’s perceptions and opinions on political and economic issues. 

Its results show that deteriorating views of the U.S. under the Trump presidency continue by and large, but at the same time, the region is increasingly anxious about Chinese engagement and influence. Most survey respondents see China as the most influential economic and strategic power, but were they forced to choose, “a majority of the total respondents (53.6%) will cast their lot with the US. However, when the respondents are broken down into their nationality, the majority of respondents from seven ASEAN member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand) favour China over the US.”

While the region’s confidence in the US as a strategic partner and provider of security is low overall, Japan continues to be most trusted and preferred as a strategic partner (~30%). [ISEAS

14 January 2020

Was Majapahit really an empire?

(ls) The New Mandala has published a piece on the old Javanese state, which is often called the ‘Majapahit Empire’ and which flourished throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. The article inquires whether it was really an empire, and what the notion ‘empire’ meant in premodern Southeast Asia. It refers to government inscriptions from east Java, Bali and Sumatra, Javanese chronicles, official records of the Ming court, and other sources. [New Mandala]

14 January 2020

Environmental and strategic importance of the Mekong river in the spotlight

(ls) Along the Mekong river, the impacts of dams and climate change are becoming increasingly visible. In recent months, the river has changed its color from ochre to blue as sediments, which are important for the fauna and soils, have been significantly reduced. As hydropower dam projects in Laos have begun operating, the Mekong’s even flow through and along neighboring countries has been disrupted. River levels are fast changing as water is stored and released. Dry and wet seasons have become confused. Fish breeding is irregular, and passage has become problematic as water levels drop to record lows. [Channel News Asia]

As China is testing equipment at one of its 11 dams in the upper Mekong, sudden water fluctuation has destroyed crops along the river in Thailand. The Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental body made up of representatives from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, said that China would be testing its equipment, warning of a potential 50 percent drop in water outflows. The water level in the Golden Triangle has been reduced by approximately 40 percent from three meters to less than one. [Al Jazeera]

Moreover, China has plans to dredge the riverbed in northern Thailand from rocks to open passage for cargo ships and potentially military vessels. Ultimately, a link could be carved from Yunnan province thousands of kilometers south through the Mekong countries Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. There, the river emerges into the South China Sea. However, activists in Northern Thailand resist. The Bangkok Post has published an interesting AFP piece on the topic. [Bangkok Post]

7 January 2020

A closer look at Vietnam’s defence white paper of 2019 

(jk) In November 2019, for the first time in ten years, Vietnam released its Defence White Paper amid increasing tension with China in the South China Sea and an overall changing security environment. [Radio Free Asia] This article looks at the White Paper in more depth from an American perspective and interprets it as a clear message to China that it’s continued coercion may lead to closer defence relations with the US. While Vietnam does try to continue to balance its defence relationships, the authors claim that “Vietnam’s latest defense white paper is full of warnings to China and opportunities for the United States.” [War on the rocks]

31 December 2019

Charting Convergence – Exploring the Intersection of the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy

(jk) “The United States has advanced its vision for the region through the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy, which is founded on – and aims to protect – common principles that have benefitted all countries in the region. Taiwan upholds the same principles and has a similar vision for the Indo-Pacific. To this end, Taipei is implementing the New Southbound Policy (NSP), which seeks to leverage its cultural, educational, technological, agricultural, and economic assets to strengthen Taiwan’s relations across the Indo-Pacific.”[CSIS]

24 December 2019

India’s strategy in the China-Russia-USA triangle

(jk) India wants to be a Eurasian power, it has close military ties with Moscow and important economic ones with Beijing. The US, at the same time, is a strategic counterweight. Balancing it all is a difficult task. [Limes Online]


24 December 2019

Duterte’s Coast Guard diplomacy

(ls) In a piece for the Diplomat, Jay Tristan Tarriela argues that the reappointment of Admiral Joel Garcia to lead the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) indicates how President Rodrigo Duterte wants the PCG to engage countries, not just for the purpose of strengthening the capability of the PCG but as a diplomatic instrument in managing the tension in the South China Sea. He analyzes the PCG’s role and potential in engaging with China, the United States, Japan, the EU and fellow Southeast Asian countries. [The Diplomat]

17 December 2019

Thailand – Asia’s strong new data protection law

(jk) Graham Greenleaf and Arthit Suriyawongkul have written a piece back in September clarifying some of the complexities underlying Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act and conclude that the act could become one of Asia’s strongest laws on data protection. It is the first in Asia that is strongly “GDPR” based and sets a high standard for data protection generally. However, they caution that administration of the law is key and that many sub-regulations and exemptions are not yet clear. [SSRN Papers]


17 December 2019

Papua New Guinea: Bougainville votes overwhelmingly for independence

(jk) As reported back in October, Bougainville, belonging to Papua New Guinea, has now held a referendum over a two-week period on the question of independence from PNG. While the vote is non-binding and the final say on independence will remain with the Government of Papua New Guinea, it was widely expected that the people of Bougainville will overwhelmingly vote for independence. [Asia in Review No. 43, October/2019, 4]

Now, with voting ending last week, the results are in and over 97% have cast their vote in favor of independence. The autonomous region of Bougainville will now start negotiations with the PNG government which has to approve of independence, making this particular outcome – at least for the foreseeable future – unlikely. [Sydney Morning Herald]

17 December 2019

SIPRI report 2019: Global arms sales increased by nearly 5%, with US companies dominating the market

(dql) According to data released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), sales of arms and military services by companies listed in the top 100 grew by 4.6% worldwide in 2018, with a turnover of 420 billion USD, mostly due to US arm companies that dominate the top 5 spots: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics accounted for 148 billion USD and 35% of total top 100 arms sales in 2018, while total arms sales of US companies amounted to 246 billion USD, equivalent to 59%. [SIPRI]

11 March 2018

The genocide the US didn’t see coming

(jk) This article provides a very well-written and detailed look into the Obama years, when it looked like the strategy to engage Myanmar and lift sanctions would result in a liberalisation of their political system and the materialisation of the ideals Aung San Suu Kyi once stood for. The author asks whether todays catastrophic situation with regards to the Rohingya could have been avoided. [Politico]

11 March 2018

India: The challenges ahead

(ls) While India is a country of huge potentials and with vast opportunities for economic growth, the South Asian nation also faces major challenges such as wide-spread poverty and inequality, deficient infrastructure and climate change vulnerabilities. Paul Laudicina points to the particular importance of inclusive growth and the necessary involvement of public and private stakeholders in this regard. [Forbes]

25 February 2018

Indonesia´s Education Market

(hg) Indonesia’s high-volume education market is marked by low-quality standards hampering the country´s competitiveness. After having increased access to education, the quality deficit lingers on with inadequate funding, human resource deficits, perverse incentive structures, and poor management as main problems. The situation and potential strategies of improvement are thoroughly analyzed by the Lowy Institute. [Lowy Institute]

25 February 2018

Myanmar: Nationalist media voices on the rise

(ls) In an extensive background piece, John Reed describes the current media situation in Myanmar as a time when many of the democratic forces that successfully challenged military rule in Myanmar are closing ranks around a nationalist and apologist script that increasingly puts them at odds with the Western world. He argues that a uniquely unsettling moment in the country’s history is currently playing out in the press and social media, where new internet freedoms have enabled both incisive journalism and the spread of hate speech and false reports. Against the background that some journalists have been arrested or received death threats while others are preparing to leave, Reed examines how Myanmar’s determination to tell its own story on its own terms is becoming more and more visible. [Financial Times]

18 February 2018

Southeast Asian economies: Is there anything in common?

(ls) Against the background of Southeast Asia’s diversity in terms of political systems, religions and cultures, Krislert Samphantharak argues that there is an important feature regarding economic development that virtually all the economies in Southeast Asia share: all of them have moved away from the economic system with active government involvement towards the more market-based system and from inward-looking import substitution towards outward-looking export orientation. This strategy convergence, he holds, in turn has been helping to facilitate economic cooperation within the region. [Kyoto Review]

18 February 2018

South Asian Nuclear Politics

(hg) The article provides an overview of the development of South Asian nuclear politics from 1948 until present. [The Modern Diplomat]

18 February 2018

In remembrance of a human rights icon: Asma Jilani Jahangir

(hg) Internationally revered social activist, democracy advocate and human right defender Asma Jilani Jahangir from Pakistan has died at the age of 66 due to a cardiac arrest.

Praised as “a ray of hope for the people who could not afford to fight a legal battle for their own rights” [Aadil Rehman/Kashmir Reader], she tirelessly provided the downtrodden with free legal aid, supported political prisoners, fought for democracy. Asma Jahangir was instrumental to set up the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in 1986 which presently has voice and reach. Having served the HRCP as Secretary-General and Chairperson, Asma Jahangir was also first woman to serve as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, the United Nations Special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, investigating violence against Muslims in India and the UN’s Special rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran.

She will be remembered as a fearless lady who never compromised with her principles or discharged her duties, struggling with utmost honesty and faithfulness for the betterment of the people. [Kashmir Reader]

11 February 2018

Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

An illuminating piece by Ian Johnson on Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward 1958-1962 which explains how Mao’s plan to catch up with the Soviet Union’s launch of the Sputnik satellite and regain the no. 1 position within the communist world would end up in the worst famine in history with more than 40 million deaths. [The New York Review of Books]

11 February 2018

Is liberal democracy a threat to itself?

(ls) In the light of current global anti-democratic trends, Sheri Berman examines whether there is any merit to Fareed Zakaria’s twenty-years-old but still influential claim that democracy itself is to blame for its own decline. She argues that, while concerns about illiberalism, populism, and majoritarianism were certainly well-founded, blaming such phenomena on an “excess” of democracy was not. She holds that such arguments rest on a fundamental misunderstanding of how liberal democracy has historically developed and how liberalism and democracy actually interact. [Dissent]

4 February 2018

For Myanmar’s army, ethnic bloodletting is key to power and riches

(ls) Richard Paddock for the New York Times describes how constant fighting with ethnic minorities is a necessary element for Myanmar’s military to maintain its economic and political power. Paddock traces back how the Tatmadaw has displaced millions of people while taking billions of dollars in profit from jade mines, teak forests and other natural resources. He argues that its strategy has been to fight ethnic rebels to a standstill, manage the conflicts through cease-fires and enrich its officers. [New York Times]

26 January 2018

An arms race in Southeast Asia?

(ls) Southeast Asia is arming massively. In the past decade, military spending by the region’s states has risen by 57 percent on average. Felix Heiduk of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) argues in his research paper that domestic and foreign-policy factors other than the often cited ‘China factor’ have also been decisive for the increase: lasting territorial conflicts, domestic militant revolutionary movements and the powerful political influence of the military. [Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik]

26 January 2018

US-Pakistan: The doctor who helped to find bin Laden

(hg) The Japan Times features an interesting reflection on the doctor who helped the US to track Usama Bin Laden only to end up in a Paksitani jail.

In 2011 it was Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani medical doctor, who used a fake hepatitis vaccination program to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family as a means of pinpointing his location. By this, he aided the U.S. Navy Seals who killed America’s enemy of the state in a move that Pakistanis perceived as a violation of their sovereignty. Accused under tribal law alleging he aided and facilitated militants Afridi is jailed since 2011. Despite President Trump had pledged to free Afridi in April 2016, telling he would get him out of prison in “two minutes. … Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan”, Afridi has not even seen his lawyer since 2012. His story is not only one about denied due process but also the worsening US – Pakistani relations and the misperceptions accompanying them. [The Japan Times]

26 January 2018

India/China: Education, higher education/professional training, and research

(hg) With all its success and ambitions, India has yet a lot of unfulfilled potential in terms of education and research if compared to China.

A first issue concerning India is the class divide that dominates the education system with a vast gap especially also between education in rural and urban areas. While the top 10% will be able to get good jobs and compete with the best in the world, the most will have a precarious living in the informal sector. According to recently published Annual Status of Education Report after eight years of schooling, only 43% of 14-18-year-olds could do simple division; more than 40% couldn’t tell hours and minutes from a clock; and 46% didn’t know which was Indian capital. [Livemint]

An interesting, currently debated strategy to improve the (higher) education status in India is an increase in online education and training. A recent deal between Indian IT major Tech Mahindra and edX, an online learning destination founded in 2012 by Harvard University and the MIT, reflects the potential of e-learning with edX reskilling 117,000 of Tech Mahindra employees. Coursera a venture capital backed, education focused tech firm founded by two Stanford professors has already attracted 2 million learners in India alone taking on 60,000 new learners every month. [ZDNet]

Meanwhile, China’s research and development (R&D) policy figures impressively according to the biennial science and engineering indicators recently published by the US’s National Science Foundation and National Science Board. As the world’s 2nd largest spender in R&D after the US, accounting for 21% of the world total of $2 trillion, China, focusing on becoming a world leader in artificial intelligence, quantum communications and computing, biotechnology and electrical vehicles, is, in fact, becoming a scientific and technical superpower. Contributing to this development is the ‘Thousands Talents Plan” and the ‘Thousands Youth Talents Plan’ that targets scientists below the age of 40 with a PhDs from prestigious foreign universities whom the government offers 500,000 RMB ($80,000) lump sum and research grants ranging from one to three million RMB ($150,000-$300,000). Both plans are complemented by the ‘Recruitment Program for Innovative Talents’, which is targeting foreign academics [1000 Plan] By it, more than 6000 high-level oversea workers have already been recruited [China Daily].

For a comparison between the Chinese and the Indian policies to reach out to both countries’ highly skilled professional diaspora see [The Diplomat].

19 January 2018

Watch online: The earliest film ever made in China

Recently, the probably earliest film ever made in China, was discovered in a shop basement in the north of England. In the film, young men in Qing Dynasty mandarin attire laugh and joke as they glance at the camera. Since the film was recorded on celluloid, China has experienced nearly 120 years of momentous change. [Channel News Asia]

12 January 2018

Are we really living in a post-truth age?

In an interesting and thorough article, Daniel Engber, tackles the post-truth and “alternative facts” debate. Against the background of older theories and experiments which claimed to prove that truth was being vanquished from democracy, that the internet divided societies, that facts make people more stupid, and that debunking does not work, Engber introduces more recent studies and findings which might actually indicate that not all is that bad. The end of facts may not be a fact, after all [Slate].

12 January 2018

Pakistan-US relations: Up and downs since the 1950s

As reported in the last issue of AiR, Pakistan is facing strong criticism and a cut of financial aid after US President Trump has accused Islamabad of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough to combat Islamic terrorist. While the measure seems drastic, the ups and downs of US-Pakistan relations are in fact part of a long-established pattern of the relationship since US military aid to Pakistan first started in the 1950s. Pakistan is and has been crucial for the wars in Afghanistan, but terrorism, nuclear ambitions and its fraught relation with India have always been a problem [The Hill].

12 January 2018

Book: Pan-Islamic Connections: Transnational Networks Between South Asia and the Gulf

This new volume explores the increasing connections and ties between Islam in the region inhabiting the largest number of Muslims, South Asia, and Islam in the Gulf [Carnegie].

5 January 2018

Across Indonesia’s capital, a legacy of soviet-inspired design

In Jakarta, a number of Communist-influenced monuments are sprinkled throughout the city, part of the legacy of Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno, who served from 1945 to 1967 and led the country’s move for independence. The New York Times portraits them as a interesting and ironic counterpoints to warnings from hard-line Islamists of a Communist resurgence [New York Times].

5 January 2018

Japan’s endless search for modernity

With the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan embarked on its unique journey to become a modern nation-state. Since then Japan has been struggling to find answers to questions such as the degree of instilling Western concepts of individualism into Japanese society, capitalist disruption of tradition, and the threat posed by hostile foreign countries. The search for the country’s identity is still ongoing 150 years later under Prime Minister Abe’s efforts for economic reforms, constitutional change, and assertive foreign policy [The Atlantic].

5 January 2018

The CIA’s secret war in Laos

A radio producer and son of a former US spy who was active in a covert operation in Laos in the 1960s explores what he felt when his father eventually told him about his secret past and what he came to discover about an operation code-named Pig-Pen (BBC Radio I).

29 December 2017

Che, Stalin, Mussolini and the thinkers who loved them

Aram Bakshian Jr. reviews Paul Hollander’s book “From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship” (Cambridge University Press, 2016). In the book, Hollander examines the impact and origins of the twentieth- and twenty-first-century love affair between many members of the Western intelligentsia and some of the most ruthless, bloody dictators and political systems of the age. In his review, Bakshian describes how this is only a small, chronologically compressed part of a larger picture that goes back to the dawn of Western civilization as embodied in ancient Greece [The National Interest].

29 December 2017

Interview with Lieutenant General (Ret.) Widjojo on Military Reform and the 1965 Tragedy

In this interview, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Widjojo talks of the need to reform both police and military in Indonesia but points to difficulties such as the move away from the idea that the TNI should be the sole guardian of the nation and its focus on domestic threats. TNI needs to be under complete control of the civilian government. In order to finally move on from the 1965 tragedy, an apology by all sides is needs first of all [ISEAS Part I] [ISEAS Part II].

29 December 2017

On Sino-Vietnamese Relations

With ties between China and Vietnam improving of late, this article identifies both push and pull factors that will ensure both countries remain on this path despite each focusing on their own strategic calculations. The degree of scepticism will, however, remain large [ISEAS].

22 December 2017

US bombing of Cambodia in the Vietnam War and its legal justification

The article reveals how the USA legally justified the bombing of Cambodia as a third party in the Vietnam War by an extension of the term self-defense which would become increasingly important in justifying US American intervention abroad afterward [New York Times].

15 December 2017

Yang Jiechi: Xi Jinping’s Top Diplomat Back in His Element

Elected to the Politburo Standing Committee at the recent Party Congress, former top diplomat and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has become the arbiter of China’s foreign affairs. Yi Wang informs in this article about his background and career path [China Brief: The Jamestown Foundation].

8 December 2017

Thailand’s Computer Crime Act 2017 in a Thai-English synopsis

Elected to the Politburo Standing Committee at the recent Party Congress, former top diplomat and Foreign The Thai Netizen Network provides a Thai-English version of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, highlighting the changes made in its last revision 2017. A valuable source for the comparative study of computer crimes in Southeast Asia [Thai Netizen Network].

1 December 2017

A photo trip along the ancient Silk Road

As China is poised to revive the Silk Road as an economic and geopolitical connection between East Asia and Europe, this visual trip winds its way through parts of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It features the Gobi Desert, the Flaming Mountains, the Singing Sands, the City of Screams, and other ancient and modern artifacts along the ancient Silk Road [The Atlantic].

24 November 2017

China’s Rise and Dominance in the South China Sea

Two articles dealing with the rise and development of China under communist rule since 1949 and her dominant position in the South China Sea by Jan Kliem and Grant Newsham are available in the latest issue of CPG’s Online Magazine [CPG COM].

24 November 2017

Electoral Process in Malaysia

With the general elections coming up before August next year, this ISEAS piece provides some interesting background information on the electoral process in Malaysia and its effect on the political system. One major finding of the paper refers to the institutionally entrenched advantages of the incumbent party in the electoral contest which has facilitated the dominance of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) [ISEAS].

17 November 2017

Capitalists and climate

Though oil companies and other vested interests have invested a lot in climate change denial, Glenda Sluga argues in this piece that there was a time – the 1970s – in which businesses and banks actually wanted to do something against environmental degradation, and started certain initiatives. According to her analysis, what might seem counterintuitive from today’s perspective, ‘following the money’ at that moment in environmental history allowed to see bankers and businessmen standing up for the environment as well as for principles of social justice in determining economic policy [Humanity Journal].

17 November 2017

Western philosophy: Is it racist?

Bryan Van Norden illustrates in this article how the Western study of philosophy is still strongly influenced by orientalist thinking, generally disparaging the philosophical insights and achievements in China, India and Africa. With a particular focus on China, he illustrates the richness of far-Eastern philosophy, and presents various examples of Western thinkers (including Kant, Heidegger and Derrida) who self-confidently proclaimed that philosophy is a Western invention [Aeon].

17 November 2017

5 maps that explain China (and its strategy)

This article features an interesting approach, looking at geostrategic realities and statistical maps to infer Chinese National and Foreign Policy Strategy. Recommended reading! [Business Insider]

10 November 2017

Chinese foreign investments in Southeast Asia

These two very good ISEAS essays tackle the issue of Chinese investment into Southeast Asia and stake out the controversial aspects of a heavily unbalanced relationship. Whereas the first essay deals with Southeast Asia in general, the second piece looks at Cambodia in particular. Both pieces question the common wisdom of “no strings attached loans”, citing growing political influence with a larger economic clout. Chinese FDI into ASEAN looks modest, but is increasing substantially and more significant when Chinese FDI re-routed through Hong Kong is taken into consideration. Chinese FDI into Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar is much greater than into other ASEAN countries.

10 November 2017

War time intelligence and the production of good Indians: On Kipling´s enlistment by British intelligence during the Great War

Surrounding the Great War, the business of intelligence – itself as old as politics – was still far away from the huge intelligence apparatuses that emerged after WWII. While intelligence became particular visible in the great espionage and counter-intelligence cases of Captain Dreyfuss, Colonel Alfred Redl and Mata Hari or covert operation like those of T.E. Lawrence on the Arab Peninsula, it was especially the business of information control and disinformation that grew, however, into larger bureaucratic routine operations during the War. At the Munich Deputy Military General Command in Bavaria, the young Carl Schmitt, soon to become a leading constitutional scholar who would support the Nazis, suffered as an intelligence officer from his duty to read and censor the letters of front soldiers to their families. At the same time, the less subtle War operations involved huge masses of soldiers from the colonies especially on the French and British side impressively described in some of the best of William Faulkner´s novels. In WW II this number should even reach a critical mark with African troops forming the very backbone of the Free French Armed Forces whose manpower derived to 23% from Algeria alone until General de Gaulle ordered the ‘blanchissement’ of his force. Returning from War to the French and British colonies these troops contributed to the emerging independence movements that recurred to the human right and self-determination promises the Allied Powers gave during the War.
Against this background, the featured article provides a fascinating picture of “How Kipling helped quell an Indian mutiny in first world war trenches” reporting on GAjendra Singh´s findings on the famous author´s enlistment by British intelligence to counter German propaganda by rewriting soldiers’ letters home. During the early years of the war returning Indian troops were in fact responsible for a near insurrection in India and the French war theater saw growing collusion between Irish and Indian revolutionaries, fostered by German intelligence. The interesting pattern revealed by Singh was to use the ‘fake letters’ to construct the image of “the good Indian against the bad” with Britain attempting to show that the majority of Indian opinion was her side and that the defiant Indians were not representative.

3 November 2017

Cyber Warfare and the Status of Anonymous under International Humanitarian Law

In this academic article, Russell Buchan evaluates the status of online groups under international humanitarian law when they become embroiled in armed conflict and in particular under what circumstances members of these groups can be made the object of attack under the laws of targeting.

28 October 2017

And the U.S. stood by: The 1965 Indonesian mass murder and its legacy

Newly released documents reveal details of America’s role as a benevolent bystander of Indonesia’s murderous 1965 anti-communist rampage that was killing half a million Indonesians at least. The NYT piece refers to newly declassified State Department files showing that diplomats meticulously documented the purge in 1965-66 watching the massacre they were well informed of with some sympathy. According to the sources, US officials definitely welcomed the end of socialist leaning dictator Sukarno by General Suharto as a “fantastic switch” they had pressured for. While Suharto’s New Order generals still play a dominant role in democratic Indonesia, the legacy of the massacre remains a sensitive issue. After a noteworthy documentary of the killers by filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer from 2012 named “The Act of Killing” turned out to be highly divisive a public screening of Oppenheimer’s second documentary, “The Look of Silence,” was restricted by a military directive while a mob gathered around a building where a talk on the violence has been planned.

28 October 2017

ARF – The ASEAN Regional Forum

This article explores the history, institutional development and ongoing challenges of one of the major ASEAN fora – the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) which today includes 17 members in addition to the ten ASEAN states.

28 October 2017

Rakhine State Crisis

Visiting ISEAS Senior Fellow and former Information Minister of Myanmar shares some historic background on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, arguing that a lack of military intelligence has worsened the crisis.

28 October 2017

Rakhine State Crisis

Visiting ISEAS Senior Fellow and former Information Minister of Myanmar shares some historic background on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, arguing that a lack of military intelligence has worsened the crisis.

20 October 2017

Asia’s Ambivalence about International Law and Institutions: Past, Present and Futures

Visiting ISEAS Senior Fellow and former Information Minister of Myanmar shares some historic background on the In this academic article, Simon Chesterman explores the reasons for Asia’s under-participation and under-representation in international treaties and organizations. It traces the history of Asia’s engagement with international law and assesses Asia’s current engagement with international law and institutions, examining whether its under-participation and under-representation is in fact significant and how it might be explained. Finally, it considers possible future developments based on three different scenarios, referred to as status quo, divergence and convergence.

20 October 2017

Files reveal details of US support for Indonesian massacre

Declassified files have revealed new details of U.S. government knowledge and support of an Indonesian army extermination campaign that killed several hundred thousand civilians during anti-communist hysteria in the mid-1960s. The thousands of files from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta covering 1963-66 were made public Tuesday after a declassification review that began under the Obama administration.

6 October 2017

National and international human rights law: The case for discordant parity

The academic article by Eyal Benvenisti and Alon Harel explores the coexistence of constitutional and international human rights norms. It argues that the conviction that one system is superior to the other is false. Instead, the authors embrace competition between constitutional and international norms, what they call the “discordant parity hypothesis” (International Journal of Constitutional Law). CPG will arrange the “CPG Academy on Human Rights and Development 2017” from 15 to 20 October 2017 (CPG website).

29 September 2017

Pakistan, polio and the CIA

The CIA is supposedly using vaccination programmes and surveys to gather intelligence on terrorists in areas of Pakistan ahead of drone strikes. The suspicion has led militants in some areas to refuse vaccinators access, which brought back a disease in some areas of Pakistan and further afield that was once nearly eradicated. With less drone strikes being carried out, the number of polio infections dropped again.

29 September 2017

Special report: The breakup of Pakistan 1969-1971

This special report dives into the bloody history of Pakistan in the late 1960s and early 70s and describes the background against which the Bangladesh Liberation War took place and resulted in the independence of People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971. It examines both domestic as well as international attitudes and provides a detailed and astute historical perspective.

22 September 2017

Cyberspace, terrorism and international law

The academic article by David Fidler analyzes international law in connection with potential terrorist cyberattacks and terrorist use of cyber technologies for other purposes. It argues that international law is not well positioned to support responses to terrorist cyberattacks (Journal of Conflict and Security Law). CPG will arrange the international conference “The Global Commons and the Governance of Unappropriated Spaces” from 20 to 22 October 2017, at which the governance of the cyberspace will be one topic.

15 September 2017

On the legal profession in Asia: Entrance barriers in India, professional strain in Singapore

Increasing demands on time and performance of young lawyers as well as stiffer competition lead many to leave the profession after a few years an issue raised by Singapore´s Chief Justice for the second consecutive year [Straits Times]. Differently, in India, it is access to the legal profession which is one of the major problems for young lawyers. Here, the law field continues to be a bastion of a few privileged and powerful families in particular those whose members are in the legal profession since generations. Also, low payment for junior lawyers makes it more challenging for people with a less financially fortunate background [The Times of India].

15 September 2017

China and the fear of organised religion

This article explores where Chinese Islamophobia comes from and whether it is organically grown or merely an “import” from the West. Turns out many factors, such as Han chauvinism, the CCP and the “guided” public discourse all play a role.

7 September 2017

Global Commons

The academic article by Surabhi Ranganathan traces the legal discourse on governing global commons, including spaces beyond national jurisdictions, essential resources and concerns such as biodiversity conservation and climate change (European Journal of International Law). CPG will arrange the international conference “The Global Commons and the Governance of Unappropriated Spaces” from 20 to 22 October 2017.

31 August 2017

Arctic ambitions: Could the opening up of the Arctic become the next South China Sea?

In the wake of the Arctic becoming more and more accessible, it has increasingly become contested by a number of countries with vested interested in the exploration of the natural resources of the region. Related to this topic, CPG will arrange the international conference “The Global Commons and the Governance of Unappropriated Spaces” in October.

24 August 2017

Political Conservatism Today: State and market in the post-industrial economy

This essay introduces the main tenets of the ideologies of conservatism and neoliberalism and argues that political conservatism – in order to remain a useful approach to politics – needs to liberate itself from its merge with the neoliberal ideology of the free market and put issues of welfare-state on the political agenda.

18 August 2017

The Global Garment Industry and the Women that make it Possible

The garment manufacturing industry is still harboring notorious human rights risks like sexual abuse, physical dangers, inconsistent pay and slavery is shifting geographically from China to Southeast Asia and South America. The article explores the links between first world brands and their supply chains to the local labor hell.

18 August 2017

America’s Darwinian Nationalism

In order to prevail in the struggle for global dominance, the USA must to get back to her civilizational and founding basics: the aspiration to universal norms and the might which stems from there, argues Robert D. Kaplan in this article.

4 August 2017

Limits of Human Rights by Chris Stone

An obituary of Wiktor Osiatyński, a professor of constitutional law and human rights who served for many years on the Global Board of the Open Society Foundations, and who died this month in his native Poland. Christ Stone expects that particularly his final book, “Human Rights and Their Limits”, will leave a long-lasting impression.

4 August 2017

A Story of Public Interest Litigation in India – Anuj Bhuwania´s “Courting the People: Public Interest Litigation in Post-Emergency India”

The new book “Courting the People: Public Interest Litigation in Post-Emergency India” by Anuj Bhuwaniabreaks, retells the story of public interest litigation (PIL) in India. The “slim, sleek, fast-paced and hard-hitting book” (Goutham Shivshankar) has received much attention in academia already.

4 August 2017

Is Political corruption in India intractable? – On N Ram´s Why Scams Are Here to Stay: Understanding Political Corruption in India

In a new book, “Why Scams Are Here to Stay: Understanding Political Corruption in India”, eminent journalist N. Ram breaks new ground by presenting an original and devastating analysis of political corruption in contemporary India and its near intractability.

4 August 2017

Malaysia: Once We Were There – Debut novel breaks every taboo in the book for Malaysians

Race, religion, politics, corruption, sex – nothing is off limits for Bernice Chauly in Once We Were There, a daring page-turner, framed by events of Reformasi movement, about a mother in Kuala Lumpur caught up in rapid social change.

27 July 2017

Demonic possession in Laos – is it real, or a pretext for village chiefs to banish troublemakers and nonconformists?

In Laos, the evil animist spirit Phi Pob is believed to possess individual Laotians. Those accused of possession face banishment or worse, but the motivation of the accusers has more to do with influence, money, and status than spiritual purity.

27 July 2017

China is helping redevelop what was once the US’s largest overseas military base

Clark Air Base was once the largest overseas American base. Today the site is being transformed into a new business district that will one day rival Manila. And it is China, not the US, whose presence is increasingly felt in the area.

27 July 2017

Dodging Chinese Police in Kashgar, a Silk Road Oasis Town

This colourful article elaborates on the tight security in Xinjian’s city of Kashgar – despite being one of the westernmost cities in China, it is not out of Beijing’s reach.

16 July 2017

UN abandons democracy in Asia

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has redefined the term ‘governance’ in the conceptual framework of its engagement for the promotion of development. In favor of an apolitical developmental notion of governance ‘political’ criteria for the assessment of governance has been dropped.

7 July 2017

A Year of Bangladesh’s War on Terror

July 1st marked the one-year anniversary of Bangladesh’s “9/11”: the massacre at Dhaka’s ritzy Holey Artisan Bakery. The subsequent twelve months represent the beginning of Bangladesh’s version of the “War on Terror”, and all that war entails for democratic politics. The Diplomat’s Siddharthya Roy examines the events and implications.

7 July 2017

Integrated Asia

Global power structures and globalization are creating an integrated Asian system with China at its centre. Cooperation among the great powers in the region will become more difficult as this process continues. At the same time, countries that develop stronger economies due to this integration will grow more confident and wary of its neighbours, creating a potentially unstable environment based around hard, nationalist interests.

7 July 2017

Death Knell for democracy. Attacks on lawmakers and the threat to Cambodia’s Institutions

Opposition to Cambodia’s largest political party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has become increasingly harassed in recent years. Harassment comes in various forms and has arguably increased in more recent times with former opposition leader Sam Rainsy being the most well-known case abroad – Rainsy however, is only the tip of the iceberg.

30 June 2017

THE CROSS-BORDER DATA FLOWS SECURITY ASSESSMENT: An important part of protecting China’s basic strategic resources

This short essay provides some insights into how the Chinese government will look to operationalize its new cybersecurity law that has come into effect at the beginning of this month. It is of particular importance for businesses who are still trying to make sense of what exactly the new legislation will mean as it thus far provides little clarity and plenty of murky language.

3 June 2017

Showdown Ahead? Border Conflicts in the South China Sea and the Struggle to Shape Asia’s Destiny

A good overview of the current state of affairs in the SCS focusing on three major recent developments: The PCA ruling, Duterte’s election in the Philippines and Donald Trump’s in the US and how all three could influence the status quo.