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.
By Derek Tonkin
29 March 2014
After three years of remarkable progress, commentators are wondering whether the reform process in Myanmar might be running out of steam. Some Western politicians undoubtedly cherished unreasonable expectations about the pace of the transition to democracy. More generally, the outcome of the Arab 'Spring' has shattered many illusions. Transitions are seen to be fraught with difficulties.
There has been a concerted, possibly inspired campaign against the National Census which is due to start on 30 March 2014, counting the population as at midnight tonight. In some cases, I suspect an intention to destabilise, as there is never likely to be a good time for a Census in any nation in transition. It is on balance better that the deed were done now, rather than wait until later.
By Julia Marie Ewert
7 March 2014
In the next few weeks Indonesia will elect a new People’s Consultative Assembly and a new president. The legislative elections are scheduled for 9 April and presidential elections will take place on 9 July. With incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono being barred from a third term by the constitution, the Indonesian political scene will be fundamentally reshaped. The change of leadership in the largest Muslim-majority country in the world and the world’s fourth most populous country will have an impact beyond South East Asia.
The Indonesian legislature, the People’s Consultative Assembly, consists of the People’s Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) and the Regional Representative Council. Of the 692 seats, 560 are in the People’s Representative Council and 132 in the Regional Representative Council.
By James Clad and Robert A. Manning
3 March 2014
For some time now, it has been fashionable to say that we have begun what will be a "Pacific Century." We have seen a flood of books of late, variations on the theme of When China Rules the World, as one put it. Certainly, in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession, this has been the conventional wisdom, a view shaped to a large extent by linear thinking. One of the most celebrated proponents of such views is the prolific former Singapore diplomat Kishore Mahbubani in a series of well received books on Asia's rise such as The New Asian Hemisphere.
In a recent article, Mahbubani has taken this linear logic to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective) with the premise that America's slide to number two economic status is "inevitable by 2019." His premise appears to be that the prospect of yielding the top spot to China appears horrible and unnatural in the collective U.S. psyche:
By Fraser Cameron, Director
11 February 2014
This week John Kerry embarks on another visit to Asia seeking to remind everyone that the US pivot is still on track. In late April Barack Obama will visit Asia - Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. China is not on the list as Obama will pay a separate visit there later in the year.
Kerry will discuss political, security and economic issues in his trip. He will no doubt face questions about TPP. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for later this month but there are increasing doubts as to whether TPP can be completed in a reasonable timeframe given the inability of the Obama administration to secure fast track authority from Congress. If the President cannot secure the necessary support in Washington it is unlikely that Prime Minister Abe will risk political capital in trying to push for internal reforms in Japan.