By Fraser Cameron
10 May 2013
Think of a Chinese Communist Party re-education training school and the mind conjures a Mao-suited party official haranguing Party members sitting with blank faces. Wrong. On a recent lecture tour of China, I was invited to observe the closing session of a week-long training course for Party members who had been living and working overseas.
I had thought the meeting might be in an austere location in keeping with socialist traditions. To my surprise, it was held in a five star hotel in downtown Shanghai. The cuisine was worthy of a Michelin star.
The next surprise was the delegates. All in their 30s or 40s, they were smartly dressed in the latest fashions and would have slotted into a top New York or Paris restaurant without anyone batting an eyelid.
By Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit
26 April 2013
The recent communal rioting in Meiktila has led critics to doubt the Myanmar government’s ability to cope with its ethnic issue. Although outside efforts have failed to pressure Myanmar to institute improvements, the government will be able to curb its ethnic tensions and prevent them from spiralling out of control, making regional instability unlikely while continuing the relationship of an unhappy marriage.
The recent ethnic conflict in Meiktila, central Myanmar, is different from previous conflicts. It occurred in the inner Myanmar, not in the country’s border towns as before. This might have led some critics to doubt the government’s ability to deal with the ethnic problem since the conflicts have spread to the heartland.
By Abdul Basit
7 April 2013
The May 2013 election is going to be a milestone in Pakistan’s political and constitutional history. It will decide the direction of Pakistan’s political system – whether towards enduring democracy or continued instability.
THE RETURN of Pervez Musharraf to Pakistan at the risk to his own life has brought attention to the upcoming national elections, which the former president is determined to contest as saviour of the nation despite his unpopularity. Indeed, the 11 May 2013 elections will be a milestone in Pakistan’s constitutional history after having passed an important political moment on 16 March 2013 when both the civilian government and parliament completed a full five-year term in office (2008-13).
By John Farnell
4 April 2013
Despite regular reports about trade disputes, the EU and China today enjoy a closer and more diverse economic relationship than ever before and the trend is upwards.
China is the EU’s second biggest export market and likely to remain one of the fastest growing. China has so far avoided a “hard landing”, there has been no property crash, no widespread social unrest despite a downturn in exports and domestic demand is picking up. And the EU and China are committing to cooperation in areas that matter economically: on investment, research and innovation, environment and energy policy.
Since the March National People’s Congress there may be additional grounds for optimism. If the early signals from the new Chinese leadership about economic reform are carried through, despite the formidable obstacles, then there is hope for positive change in the framework conditions for EU-China relations.
But action on the EU side is also necessary for that to happen.
By Anja Jetschke and Clara Portela
1 April 2013
The Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held their annual summit from 17 to 18 November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
European Union (EU) decision-makers have paid relatively little attention to the ASEAN region despite entering into a series of important agreements with ASEAN as a whole and with individual ASEAN member states: In July 2012 the EU entered into the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), an important regulatory framework for the region. In October 2012, it finished negotiating a partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) with Vietnam, and in December of the same year, it signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with Singapore. But despite these milestones, the EU generally has played a minor role in the region.
By Pradumna B Rana and Chia Wai Mun
25 March 2013
“Look East” policies implemented by South Asian countries in the early 1990s have had positive impacts on their economies. These countries now need to move on to the second phase of their “Look East” policies.
SOUTH ASIAN countries initiated their “Look East” policies to promote closer relations with East Asia as part of their economic reform programme of the 1990s. India announced its “Look East” policy in 1991 and subsequently other countries followed suit. Although a lot more needs to done, significant steps were taken by these countries to deregulate their industrial sectors and to reduce tariffs. These policies have had significant positive impacts on their economies.
International trade between South Asia and East Asia has surged, albeit from low bases, and China has become the largest trading partner of India.
By C. Raja Mohan
18 March 2013
A series of recent statements from Washington and Beijing suggest the US and China may be preparing for an important dialogue on cyber security. Focused on the economic implications of cyber espionage, the incipient Sino-US dialogue could define the terms of the global debate on developing cyber norms.
THE US national security adviser Tom Donilon this month pointed to the unacceptable frequency and intensity of Chinese cyber attacks on American corporations and called for a comprehensive dialogue with Beijing. Until now the global debate on cyber security has been centered on the challenges of controlling Internet crime, coping with hostile attacks on critical infrastructure like electricity grids, and developing legal norms to limit cyber conflicts among nations.
By Prashanth Parameswaran
11 March 2013
While Europe’s recent pivot to Asia is welcome, the European Union (EU) and ASEAN need to capitalise on this momentum and take bold steps to advance their relationship.
DURING his visit to Singapore recently German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle made a convincing case for deeper European Union engagement in Asia and more specifically with ASEAN. Germany is hardly alone in recognising this. Indeed, 2012 seemed to be the year of Europe’s pivot to Asia. Leading officials attended key Asian summits, and the EU made advances in its relationship with ASEAN by suspending sanctions on Myanmar, acceding to the ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and completing a successful ministerial meeting in April.
But while ASEAN-EU ties have certainly warmed recently due to Europe’s increasing interest in the region, “upgrading” the relationship between the world’s two major regional integration initiatives will require sustained and significant progress by both sides across several areas in the coming years.
By Justyna Szczudlik-Tatar
1 March 2013
The new South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s foreign policy focuses on pursuing a more balanced approach towards North Korea compared to the hard-line policy presented by her predecessor, fortifying the alliance with the U.S., and heightening relations with China and Japan. Nevertheless, recent provocations from Pyongyang pose a challenge for the moderate policy to the North she presented in the campaign. Park’s efforts to ameliorate regional security concerns are in the EU’s interest. They provide a foothold from which the EU can expand its visibility in the region, secure its economic interests and actively support the reconciliation in Asia by sharing experience.
By Fraser Cameron
8 February 2013
Visiting Vietnam recently I was struck by the amount of time given to the C word – corruption. Foreign diplomats, NGOs, most ordinary Vietnamese, and even a growing number of communist party officials agree that the situation regarding corruption has significantly deteriorated in the past couple of years. As the shine wears off the tiger economy, corruption is now a dominant theme at the highest echelons of the communist party of Vietnam (CPV). There is growing resentment in the country that so many senior party officials have become very rich. Many believe that if the CPV fails to tackle corruption and deal with the problems facing ordinary citizens its iron grip on the state could be threatened.
When the Vietnamese tiger economy was growing fast there was a tendency to turn a blind eye to corruption. But as the economy began to falter (reduced growth, rising inflation, mounting public debts) more and more questions began to be raised.