Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

China’s New Security Law: From Slowdown to Crackdown


A distressing move by Beijing reflects anxiety over foreign and domestic failures

You won’t read much about it within China’s borders, but a lot of the peripheral media, including the South China Morning Post, are talking about China’s sweeping new security law:

“William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International,  said international practice was for national security laws to be drawn ‘narrowly’ and ‘with precision’, referring to specific threats. But this draft would cement many problematic concepts that had little to do with national security, such as maintaining ‘internet sovereignty’ through censorship, promoting socialist core values, defending against ‘unhealthy’ culture, and limiting freedom of religion.

'Over the past 30 years or more, the Chinese government has gradually given more freedom to people in areas of life deemed to be non-sensitive. However, this law seems to be seeking to aggressively reassert control over many aspects of Chinese life in the name of national security,’ he said.

While the draft said ‘socialist rule of law’ principles, human rights, citizen’s rights and freedom should be respected, it lacked checks and balances to safeguard human rights, he said.”

On last Friday’s Monocle Daily podcast, John Everard, former British ambassador to North Korea and regular contributor to the program, has characterized the law as an attempt to extend the legal remit of China’s security apparatus to “interfere in pretty much anything.”

He went on further, describing the new law in part as a reaction to growing restiveness among populations in Tibet, Xinjiang, as well as Han provinces closer to home over issues like corruption and land seizures.

He also said that the government is “really, really nervous that they are starting to lose the confidence of the populace” not only because of recent unrest, but because “the economy is slowing badly, and they are concerned about a rising feeling that they are not keeping their side of the bargain.”

That bargain, an informal one between China’s Communist Party and her people, is loyalty to the party in exchange for continued economic growth. As reported earlier, China has tried to manage people’s expectations in this area, by reporting an incremental decrease which is still around the “magic number” of 7%. That number has been regarded as indicative of the ability to continue creating jobs at the rate the population demands. The problem is that if you look at the three real indicators of Chinese economic growth – rail transport, energy consumption, and bank lending – many argue that the growth rate is really less than 5%, indicating a coming real decline in living standards and jobs availability beyond what could be expected from a “new normal”.

Everard also pointed out that government attempts to assert itself against diplomatic antagonists, such as other aggrieved parties in the South China Sea dispute, plus Japan and the United States, have not turned out as expected. As such, they can’t be counted upon to rally support for the government in the face of economic hardship.

The growth of China in the 21st century on balance is been a good thing, raising millions of people out of poverty, and helping to create a new global middle class which will instinctively demand responsive, democratic government. Given these expectations, one can look forward to a China that becomes a major force for peace over the course of the century. The problem is what happens on the way to getting there. It’s unfortunately quite possible that we are about to enter one of those problem periods.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Japan’s Shinzo Abe Is Talking in Washington — but He Needs to Talk to Asia | TIME


Hubris and Hypocrisy


How the Bali Nine Affair exposes Australia's arrogant and abusive regional policies

While Australian media raise hue and cry over the deaths of two heroin dealers, they fail to recognize what the Bali Nine Affair is really about: the conflict between Australia's paranoid regional policies and her neighbors’ reflexive need to assert their sovereignty.

Australians have been executed by neighboring countries before, though not by Indonesia. Indeed, when Singapore executed Australian drug dealer Nguyen Tuong Van, Australia’s official response was considerably more sober:

"It's obviously very tragic for his family. In my view, in this case, the punishment certainly did not fit the crime. But people do need to understand that drug trafficking is a very serious offence and it has heavy penalties in Australia and it has even more drastic penalties overseas as we have been reminded today." 
– Tony Abbott, Australian Health Minister, December 2005

Much has been made of Chan and Sukumaran’s supposed redemption. The problem is that personal redemption does not guarantee clemency in any judicial system. There are lots of "saved souls" on death row in the United States, and probably one or more serving life or no-parole terms in Australia.

Ultimately, the Bali Nine Affair is not about the relative superiority or inferiority of neighboring cultures or justice systems. It's really about Australia's willful blindness with regard to regional policy. Yes, Australia has a civil society, which should be an exemplar for the region. Yes, Australia has made real sacrifices in the Global War on Terror. But her regional policies seem informed more by one too many episodes of Sea Patrol than by the realities of modern diplomacy.

There has also been a failure to understand the precarious position of Joko Widodo. Once celebrated as the Obama of Southeast Asia, recent events have increasingly made Indonesia's president take on the appearance of a figurehead for interests within that country's establishment who wish to create little more than the appearance of incremental reform. As such, it should’ve come as no surprise that Australia's pointedly vocal disapprobation would cause Jokowi to simply dig his heels in.

Then there is the very related question of Australia's asylum seeker policies. Quite possibly the most draconian in the Western influenced world, they not only expose Australia's relative selfishness when it comes to dealing with refugees, but also the humiliating and illegal burdens the policy places upon neighboring nations – Indonesia chiefly among them.

Australia's prime minister, Tony Abbott, seems to relish in defending the mindset behind these policies. It's almost as if Abbott sees Australia as some sort of Rhodesia of the South Pacific, that must prop up images of bogeymen and barbarians to their North in order to legitimize actions which only serve to increase unrest, resentment, and inequality in the region. Perhaps some reflection is in order.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and the TPP: what you need to know - FT.com

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China's North Korea Policy: Rethink or Recharge? (2014) [PDF] ow.ly/LuQ0H via @SSInow

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In this (hilarious and sad) NYT video, "Face Jobs" for foreigners in China have gone downmarket

Wang Jianlin, a Billionaire at the Intersection of Business and Power in China - NYTimes.com

South Korea ruling party's popularity hits new low

[Editorial] Calls for Independent Counsel in ROK Scandal Premature

Park seeks to turn tide in graft probe

Park puts focus on pardons in payoff scandal-INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

South Korea’s prime minister resigns after his name appears on a tycoon’s suicide note – Quartz


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Why can't #Japan & #SouthKorea resolve their disputes? @SteveMillerANW's new podcast has answers from @EWInstitute: goo.gl/qQxvYC

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#SF Sheriff demotes former opponent, some call it politically motivated sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/s…

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San Francisco voter-approved pension reform reversed by court ow.ly/MczNE

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S.F. grapples with adding uncredentialed teachers amid shortage. sfchronicle.com/education/arti… via @sfchronicle @jilltucker

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In Japan, "planning and construction of super high-rise apt bldgs [20+ stories] began to increase in the late 1990s" japanpropertycentral.com/2015/04/high-r…

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Cities and counties in the Bay Area got a huge tax windfall from this office deal. We're talkin' millions - bizj.us/1h4sin

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Moffett Field mega-project shows signs of life after long hibernation bizj.us/1h7rw7 pic.twitter.com/GDXDoLIm6L

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In Hong Kong the top 15 families control assets worth 84% of GDP. In business, family matters econ.st/1dnc09K pic.twitter.com/GFpd8VywFw

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Supervisor plans task force to prepare #SF for marijuana legalization statewide sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/s…

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Beijing now bans private sources from releasing weather forecasts, newspaper.jfdaily.com/xwcb/html/2015… cc @hancocktom pic.twitter.com/YIX3o967OQ

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#China Los Angeles top pick for wealthy Chinese buying homes abroad, survey suggests:
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Thai Parties Banned From Debating Draft Constitution


North Korea accused of upping 'material support' for terrorism | World news | The Guardian


Academics warn China will dominate region without US | South China Morning Post


The case for a US-China military balance


Report: US, Philippines Agree on Base Rotations Along South China Sea | Military.com


China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit | Reuters


Air Passenger Fleets serving Australia South Pacific to almost double by 2033


Malaysia's ISIS dilemma


Australia: Ideas needed for next economic growth phase | afr.com


Malaysian politician gives cold shoulder to refugee seekers


Japan to dispatch SDF to Nepal, part of multifaceted aid effort | The Japan Times


Situation Report: Real talk about drones; U.S. and Japan talk defense, Generals talk about space; Iran doing lots of talking; and more | Foreign Policy


Indonesian President Widodo under corrupt thumb of Megawati


Under President Jokowi, Political Development Gets Better and Economy Deteriorates, Survey Reveals | GIVnews.com - Indonesian Perspective to Global Audience


Johannes Nugroho: In Writing Off Western-Led Institutions, Has Jokowi Jumped the Gun? - The Jakarta Globe


Jokowi to talk with Aquino on Veloso’s execution | The Jakarta Post


China’s Myanmar Conundrum | The Diplomat


No Surprises in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan | The Diplomat


China’s rise will drive defence policy: Kevin Andrews | The Australian


Question of the Week

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Who Landed a Radioactive Drone on Shinzo Abe's Roof? | The Diplomat thediplomat.com/2015/04/who-la…

Monday, April 27, 2015

Despite Politics, Thailand remains attractive for property investors


Seoul sends $1 mil. quake relief


South Korea’s Weak Hand in Pressing Japan on the War



Azmin Ali under fire



Malaysia police say militants arrested, plot foiled ahead of ASEAN summit



Anwar’s Wife Stands by Her Man in Fight for Malaysia Seat



Guam's voice left out of sea turtle status



Four Nauru refugees who agreed to go to Cambodia wait to fly out



Fears over fate of Vietnamese asylum seekers turned back home



Japan's war history will shadow PM's U.S. visit next week



Japanese war apologies lost in translation | East Asia Forum



Civilian control over the SDF | The Japan Times


Aquino calls for consensus amid ASEAN silence on sea row | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com


China is moving towards de facto control of South China Sea: Philippines - East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times


Chinese island-building in South China Sea 'may undermine peace', says Asean | World news | The Guardian



Chinese actions push PH, Vietnam closer together | ABS-CBN News



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PM Abe discusses history, U.S. relations, and China with WSJ's @gerardtbaker @JMSchles
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Aquino, Widodo side-by-side in photo as Asean summit opens | Inquirer Global Nation


Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea - The Washington Post


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Limited Good is Killing Bay Area Housing

Why David Campos’ narrative on market-rate housing isn’t helping anyone in the Mission — least of all those who need the most help

A lot of politicians, activists and lobbyists are playing on public fear of displacement with what may seem to some like an easy answer: don’t build any more new housing. In reaction to the growth spurt, a number of Bay Area cities have proposed moratoria on housing construction. Two such plans, in Emeryville and Walnut Creek, have failed, but efforts remain on the table in Foster City and in San Francisco.

Read the rest at our Medium page:


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A Different Kind of Blue Economy in the Indo-Pacific


Here, the Focus is Not So Much on Sustainability as Security

The Indian Ocean island states are themselves taking a more coordinated view of the ocean resources under the “blue economy” concept that has been spearheaded by Seychelles prime minister James Michel. Seychelles has emerged as the leading voice of the small island developing states (SIDS) for the blue economy’s concept of developing oceanic resources in a sustainable manner for economic growth and development of the region. The blue economy proposes cooperation in ocean resource management that includes areas like fisheries, climate change, hydrocarbons, maritime lanes and other ocean resources. The concept has been adopted by the African union while Seychelles and Mauritius have moved ahead to sign an agreement to jointly manage an extended continental shelf in the Mascareignes plateau region. 
India has the capacity to work with these countries in these fields of ocean development with its expertise in earth sciences, conducting hydrographic surveys and deep sea and seabed activities. India has conducted hydrographic surveys in Mauritius and has signed a similar agreement with Seychelles as well. Both Seychelles and Mauritius are part of India’s pan African e-network for health and education. Capacity building is an important element in bilateral cooperation as about 1 per cent of Seychelles population has trained under India’s ITEC programme. 
India has differing levels of security cooperation with Mauritius and Seychelles but hopes to include them on a regular basis in its trilateral naval cooperation with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India has assisted Seychelles in combating piracy in 2009 when pirates from Somalia moved their operations close to Seychelles. It has gifted two naval ships to Seychelles in 2006 and 2014 and a maritime reconnaissance aircraft for patrolling its EEZ of 1.3 million square miles. It is in the processing of building a coastal radar surveillance system (CRSS) for Seychelles

Modi, in his recent visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, urged for cooperation in blue economy, which is a multi-disciplinary approach for the exploitation of hydrocarbons and other marine resources; deep-sea fishing, preservation of marine ecology, mitigating climate change by addressing environmental issues and disaster management. 
With its advancement in science and technology, India is in a position to lend expertise in deep sea bed activities, hydrographic surveys and weather predictions. India has a long record of hydrographic surveys of Seychelles and Mauritius.

The agenda for combating climate change and the stress on renewable sources of energy are likely to gain support from many small island economies and littoral states.
The Indian Ocean region is strategically important as a vital sea lane of communication passes through it — from the Hormuz Strait to the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Malacca Strait and South China Sea.

These critical trade routes support almost two-thirds of the global energy trade, half of the world’s containerized cargo and a third of global bulk cargo.
Security is, therefore, an important aspect. Maritime piracy, threats of terrorist attacks, possible attacks by private mercenaries and money laundering are the issues that need to be dealt within cooperation.

Launching of the coastal surveillance radar project, assurances for providing another Dornier aircraft, agreements on hydrographic survey and development of infrastructure on Assumption Island and other development assistance are the recent initiation of hydro-politics with Seychelles.

Modi, in his recent visit to Mauritius, gave similar gestures through the joint commissioning of an offshore patrol vessel (a Barracuda built with Indian assistance) an agreement to develop Agalega Island and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ocean economy, along with other development assistance. He invited both Seychelles and Mauritius to join the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka trilateral naval exercise.

Addressing the media after his visit to State House in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, located on the main island of Mahé, Modi announced that a joint working group would be established between the two countries to expand their cooperation on the blue economy. 
“This cooperation will increase our understanding of marine ecology and resources. We will improve our ability to harness new possibilities of the ocean in a sustainable and balanced manner,” said the Prime Minister, who hailed the agreement as a “major step” in advancing scientific and economic cooperation between India and Seychelles. 
Commenting on the announcement, the Seychelles President, James Michel, said the willingness of the government and people of India to work with Seychelles in the development of the blue economy concept was very encouraging. 
"This is an area that holds great promise for our nations," he said. "The blue economy is all about ownership by regional states of the resources in our oceans around our islands and our coasts."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chúng tôi là Lorax! Chúng tôi nói cho các cây! Với Facebook!


Arboreal Angst in Hanoi spurs use of Social Media for civil society protest

Finger-pointing is the order of the day. Authorities insisted that only problematic trees have been targeted for replacement, and that proper procedures have been followed. But tens of thousands of Hanoians don’t seem to trust them. There’s a Facebook group that, translated from Vietnamese, is called “6,700 People for 6,700 Trees,” which has me imagining an army of people chaining themselves to trunks. But actually, more than 56,000 people have tapped the “like” button. As it happens, I first learned about the imbroglio through another Facebook group, Hanoi Massive, a site popular with expats and Vietnamese who are comfortable conversing in English. 
All things considered, it’s heartening to see how the Hanoi Chainsaw Massacre has brought out Vietnam’s tree huggers. The trees that have already been executed did not die in vain, for their peers have been granted a reprieve because Hanoians have raised their voices. Vietnam is a land of great natural beauty and people working to protect both the rural and urban environments. What with the rampant littering and public urination, it’s great to see Hanoians rally around the greenery that is much too sparse in a gritty city now becoming more crowded and polluted. 
Speaking of fingers, consider the ones that tapped that “like” button. Consider the fingers that tapped out the blog postings and the comments. This is also heartening. The public outcry wasn’t just a victory for the trees, but for the rising influence of social media in Vietnam.

Public protests are still not common in Vietnam but online protests and organizing have become more common in recent years. Facebook, now used by a quarter of the country’s 93 million citizens, is one of the most common venues. In fact it was most likely organizing against bauxite mining projects in the country’s Central Highlands that led to the social media site’s ongoing block in 2009. The government has since revised its stance (though it never stated it in the first place) and earlier this year Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung spoke of the need to harness Facebook’s power. At the same time environmental concerns have come to the foreground in Vietnam. Last year there were online protests and petitions to stop the building of a cable car in Hang Son Doong cave, the largest in the world. Some protesting that were also at Sunday’s protest, according to VOA.

"To be precise it's not only this tree chopping but virtually every policy of the government is being complained about," said one Facebook user. "Many things are short-termish and unreasonable that are not to the people's liking and people have lost trust [in the government]." 
Hung Nguyen of BBC Vietnamese says the nature of the campaign - or rather, the fact it was a nature campaign - allowed Hanoians to question their government. 
"This is a rare example of civil society in Vietnam," Nguyen says. "Challenging the government or party is still something rare in Vietnam and can land people in jail quite easily. But this issue appears to be non-political which is why it got momentum on Facebook."

Friday, March 27, 2015

San Francisco: Voter Approved Waterfront Development Ban May Be Illegal

 The 8 Washington condo development plan which inspired Proposition B http://8washington.com/resources/111511_S200_ViewFromSoutheast_2011-11-11.jpg

State Court at least partially backs State Agency in fight against measure requiring public vote for zoning changes

A lawsuit by the State Lands Commission challenging whether voters can weigh in on waterfront height-limit increases in The City will proceed, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

In response to a motion by the City Attorney’s Office for the court to dismiss the lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Proposition B, a measure that puts height-limit increases along San Francisco’s waterfront before voters, Judge Suzanne Bolanos opted to give the State Lands Commission an opportunity to disclose the potential economic harm of Prop. B.

“The State Lands Commission properly pleads a cause of action for violation of public resources,” Bolanos said.

Prop. B requires voter approval for projects that exceed current height limits, which range from 40 to 90 feet. Prop. B passed with 59 percent of the vote. Former San Francisco Mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a member of the commission.
Both sides took the ruling as a partial victory. Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, which supports the nullification of Prop. B, said the “ruling gives us optimism that Prop. B might not withstand legal scrutiny and may no longer be a barrier to building thousands of homes at all levels of affordability on San Francisco’s Port property.”

Jon Golinger, the Telegraph Hill resident who led the Prop. B campaign, called the ruling “a mixed bag.” He said the judge clearly stated that “voters do have a say in what happens on the waterfront, and that is pretty significant.”

“The case goes on and Prop B remains in effect,” he said.

On Wednesday, Judge Bolanos denied some of the state’s motions, but ruled it could present evidence of the law’s economic impact. The litigants could start arguing that part of the case in May.

Herrara lauded Bolanos’ ruling, which he said underscores that the city’s law doesn’t conflict with the Burton Act. The state has argued the 1969 act gives it controls of the port land.

“This ruling upholds the power of San Francisco and its voters over building heights on the City’s waterfront, and is in keeping with over 45 years of land use regulation in San Francisco,” Herrera said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the opposition said the ruling “left the door open” Prop. B may be invalid.

“Today’s ruling gives us optimism that Prop. B might not withstand legal scrutiny and may no longer be a barrier to building thousands of homes at all levels of affordability on San Francisco’s Port property,” said Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.

The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition is participating in the litigation.

Meanwhile, Prop. B has already begun to have a ripple effect on San Francisco development. After Prop. B passed, Forest City took it’s major office-housing-public park development on Pier 70 to voters. It was approved in November.

Another development site that will likely go to the ballot box over Prop. B is Seawall Lot 337 where the San Francisco Giants want to build a mixed-use development. Giants officials say they haven't decided when they will bring the initiative to the ballot.