By International Crisis Group
3 December 2014
On 22 May, for the twelfth time in Thailand’s history, the army seized power after months of political turbulence. This is not simply more of the same. The past decade has seen an intensifying cycle of election, protest and government downfall, whether at the hands of the courts or military, revealing deepening societal cleavages and elite rivalries, highlighting competing notions of legitimate authority. A looming royal succession, prohibited by law from being openly discussed, adds to the urgency. A failure to fix this dysfunction risks greater turmoil. The military’s apparent prescription – gelding elected leaders in favour of unelected institutions – is more likely to bring conflict than cohesion, given a recent history of a newly empowered electorate. For the army, buyer’s remorse is not an option, nor is open-ended autocracy; rather its legacy, and Thailand’s stability, depend on its success in forging a path – thus far elusive – both respectful of majoritarian politics and in which all Thais can see their concerns acknowledged.
please refer to the full report here.
By Fraser Cameron, Director
24 November 2014
Few Japanese understand why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election for 14 December when he still had a clear majority in the Lower House and two years before he had to go to the polls. The reason given, that he wanted a fresh mandate for his economic policies, seems strange and unconvincing to most Japanese.
Abenomics, as the PM’s policies have become known, promised to move Japan out of its decade-long stagnation. But so far the results have been mixed. This year Japan fell back into recession with GDP shrinking 1.6% in the third quarter. It had fallen 7.3% in the second, but that followed the April sales tax hike from 6 to 8%. The surprise was that there was no third-quarter bounce-back. The news was so grim that Prime Minister Abe said he would delay by 18 months the final tax hike (to 10%) set for next October, and promised to increase government spending.
By International Crisis Group
22 October 2014
The International Crisis Group’s latest report, Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State, looks at how the legacy of colonial history, decades of authoritarian rule and state-society conflict have laid the foundation for today’s complex mix of intercommunal and inter-religious tensions. Rakhine State, whose majority ethnic Rakhine population perceive themselves to be – with some justification – victims of discrimination by the political centre, has experienced a violent surge of Buddhist nationalism against minority Muslim communities, themselves also victims of discrimination. The government has taken steps to respond: by restoring security, starting a pilot citizenship verification process and developing a comprehensive action plan. However, parts of this plan are highly problematic, and risk deepening segregation and fuelling tensions further, particularly in the lead-up to the 2015 elections.
By Yanyi YANG
18 September 2014
In spring this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid state visits to the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium and the EU headquarters all for the first time in his presidency. The historic visits aimed to chart the course for China’s relations with Europe, step up cooperation and upgrade our strategic partnership. Leaders of the two sides not only reviewed and assessed progress of bilateral relations so far, but also planned for the future to ensure our relations take on greater global, strategic and exemplary relevance in the new era.
The China-EU relationship is one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, with strategic significance for regional and global peace and development. China and the European Economic Community established diplomatic relations in 1975, opening a new chapter in bilateral exchanges. Since the late 20th Century, our relations have progressed, in line with the long-term vision and trend of our times, from constructive partnership to comprehensive partnership and further to comprehensive strategic partnership.
By International Crisis Group
24 July 2014
The deterioration in relations between China and Japan has spiraled beyond an island sovereignty dispute and risks an armed conflict neither wants. A November regional summit is a fence-mending opportunity – if the two countries’ leaders rise above nationalism and manage multiple flashpoints.
Politically viable options to bridge the wide gap on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute remain elusive. New frictions have arisen: China’s declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) above the East China Sea deepened Tokyo’s anxiety that it desires both territory and a new regional order; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and statements that suggest a retreat from past apologies for the Second World War atrocities reopened old wounds. Asia’s two most powerful countries increasingly prioritise defence build-up over diplomacy.
By Shada Islam
22 July 2014
Asia remains high on the European Union’s foreign and security policy agenda as foreign ministers from the EU and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meet in Brussels on July 23, their first such gathering since talks in Brunei over two years ago.
Next month, security discussions will dominate EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s participation in the influential ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. And mid-October, European and Asian leaders will gather in Milan for summit talks on injecting new life and momentum into their 18-year old ASEM (Asia Europe Meetings) partnership. (read more)
Asia and Europe have worked hard to maintain momentum in their relations despite pressing - and difficult - domestic and regional concerns. Such endeavours are to their credit. However, the challenge facing participants at both the upcoming ASEAN and ASEM meetings is to build more trust and understanding - and take their relationship to a higher, more strategic level.
By Dylan Loh Ming Hui
2 July 2014
An unofficial referendum conducted in Hong Kong, sponsored by the ‘Occupy Central’ movement, drew a surprising 800,000 votes cast – drawing fire from China. What are the implications of the vote for Beijing?
ALMOST 800,000 ballots were cast online and physically at polling stations in Hong Kong, in an unofficial referendum on Hong Kong’s electoral reform. The turnout is a sizeable proportion of the 3.5 million registered voters in the 2012 elections –representing about one in five registered voters.
The poll gave voters three options all of which would allow voters to directly nominate and elect their Chief Executive, although there is an option to abstain.
By Emirza Adi Syailendra
16 June 2014
Indonesia’s foreign policy under President Yudhoyono has led to a higher profile and more favourable global image for the country. What trajectory will Indonesia’s foreign policy take after the 9 July presidential election?
INDONESIA’S FOREIGN policy-making is now highly personalised. Indonesia’s greater global diplomatic involvement has been associated with the growth of the economy and President Yudhoyono’s vision. As his term comes to an end, uncertainty is emerging over whether the global-mindedness of Indonesia foreign policy under him can be sustained.
For the upcoming presidential election, both Joko Widodo (“Jokowi’) and his rival Prabowo Subianto have been taking inspiration from the nationalist outlook of Sukarno. Jokowi has placed his own imprint on Sukarno’s Trisakti principle centred on national pride that places importance on three basic propositions: freedom to proactively assert the right of self-determination in the international scene; economic self-sufficiency; and building a strong national identity. Coupled with Prabowo’s posture as a strong leader in the image of Sukarno, the question arises as to the overall impact of a Sukarnoist influence on the future trajectory of Indonesia’s foreign policy.
By Tom Roe, Senior Vice President
21 May 2014
As Hong Kong approaches the 17th year of ‘one country – two systems’ it is timely to reflect on the state of play in the former British colony and the challenges it faces in preserving its democratic structures in the face of a more assertive China. This paper considers the role of ‘Perfidious Albion’ pointing to British arrogance and inconsistency towards Hong Kong and China. It considers the possible options for Beijing faced by the sensitive ‘democracy issue,’ suggesting it is likely to opt for some flexibility within a rigid framework. The paper also examines Hong Kong peoples’ fears and desires before concluding with an analysis of the prospects for Hong Kong, especially its future autonomy, freedoms and suffrage in light of the proposal currently under discussion for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017.
By Fraser Cameron, Director
1 May 2014
Taiwan politics have been transformed by the democracy (sunflower) movement protesting about the lack of transparency in Cross-Straits relations. The government did not foresee the speed and strength of the recent students protest that paralysed government buildings in Taipei, nor its broad popular support, and underestimated the role of social media in mobilising the demonstrators. Some supporters of President Ma (KMT) believe that the sunflower movement was and is still being manipulated by the opposition DPP. They argue that the opposition is also opposing a new (fourth) nuclear reactor which is 90% built and has cost over $100bn so far to embarrass the government.