Monday, March 27, 2017

Everybody Hates Beijing, Episode 32,761

Voter dissatisfaction can be expressed many ways, even in a sham election.
Also, It Gets Worse

China doesn't hold the economic leverage over Australia that most people think
Rory Metcalf in the Australian Financial Review 270300MAR17

...the perception that China could deliberately wreak major economic harm can have an outsized effect on domestic interests, creating pressures for rapid political compromise. 
The risk is that Australia will over-react to possible future Chinese economic threats and self-censor on issues perceived to be problematic for Beijing. Succumbing to pressure won't protect Australia from further pressure, as it will signal that such pressure works. 
These are vulnerabilities Australia can do more to address. One way is to strengthen transparency around the channels China – and other countries – use to build influence in Australia. Public awareness also needs to be improved about the true diversity and depth of Australia's economic relationships and the prospect that our prosperity will not depend comprehensively on China.

Very cheap, shameful China
Park Moojong in the Korea Times 231650MAR17

Not only South Koreans but many people around the world must have been lost for words when about 4,000 Chinese tourists on board a cruise ship "refused" to disembark at the harbor of Busan of their "own free will" to protest Seoul's refusal to give into Chinese pressure to give up THAAD. 
What ridiculous behavior! Why did their cruise ship call at the South Korean port. As a result, about 80 Busan tour buses waiting for the "patriotic" Chinese tourists helplessly left the pier... 
These are examples of Chinese retaliatory measures, which absolutely show that China is not big, but small, compared to such countries as the Netherlands and Singapore, which are small, but big ...

Why are Chinese moving to Malaysia by the thousands?
Tashny Sukumaran and Coco Liu in the SCMP 250000MAR17

Malaysia is experiencing a “third wave” of Chinese migration – after a 15th century influx and a tin mining boom in the 19th century – these days that isn’t at all limited to just MM2H participants, but also includes foreign workers, some of whom are undocumented. A fair number of these migrant workers are usually employed in low-skilled sectors such as construction or factory lines. Recently, 127 Chinese nationals were rounded up by the Sarawak Immigration Department and 16 of them lacked valid travel documents. 
This influx of Chinese migration comes at a time when Malaysia’s often fraught race relations are more complicated than ever, with a general election – always a good time for race to be made a political football – looming. In 2015, a pro-Malay protest with anti-Chinese sentiments drew the ire of Ambassador Huang Huikang, who said China would not ignore “infringement on China’s national interests or violations of legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses”, reported the media.

A Sea in Peril
Dan Southerland in Asia Times 251353MAR17

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing. 
Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

New Delhi's CPEC Conundrum
Harsh Pant in Eurasia Review 240000MAR17

The advantages of joining China’s multi-billion dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative are quite apparent and the economic logic is very compelling. But it remains far from evident how India can join the project without challenging the very foundations of its foreign policy. China’s objective in promoting the $46 billion CPEC, which links China’s Muslim dominated Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep sea port in Pakistan, is clear and the rationale behind Beijing’s desire to pump in huge sums into a highly volatile Pakistani territory is also understandable. Beijing is not doing this from the goodness of its heart to promote regional economic cooperation. The challenges to the project are huge as underscored by its militarisation. Even as Pakistan has deployed more than 15,000 troops to protect the CPEC, and is raising a naval contingent for the protection of Gwadar, China will also be stationing part of its growing marine forces at Gwadar.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Should We Be Relieved That Everyone Is Asking Questions?

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Manila, delivers speech on "challenges and opportunities" for Australia and the Philippines

How Did Myanmar’s Reforms Change Its Relations With China?
Xie Tao in The Diplomat 140000MAR 17

What do we make of the past and future of Myanmar-China relations? An analysis of the Myitsone project by a Chinese government affiliated social media outlet (侠客岛) offers some important insights. First, under the so-called “Than Shwe Model,” Chinese companies were used to dealing with the central government instead of local governments. Such a mode of operation ignores the complicated relations between central leaders and local leaders. Second, Chinese investors had strong preferences for mega-projects. Third, due to Western sanctions, many Chinese companies became de facto monopolies in their respective industries; as such they had few incentives to accommodate the interests of local governments and local people, or to pay attention to corporate social responsibility.

Why aren’t Australia and Vietnam strategic partners?
Carlyle Thayer in the Lowy Interpreter 162241MAY17

Australia has longstanding defence and security ties with Vietnam that stretch back nearly two decades. In 1998, Vietnam hosted its first strategic dialogue with Australia. The following year Australia opened a Defence Attaché's Office in Hanoi and in 2000 Vietnam reciprocated. 
A decade later Vietnam pressed Australia to raise bilateral relations to the level of 'strategic partnership'. This was rejected by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Vietnam was disappointed and in 2009 begrudgingly accepted Australia’s proposal that bilateral relations be raised to a comprehensive partnership.

Why is Japan’s public diplomacy so utterly inept?
Jeff Kingston in the Japan Times 180000MAR17

In a surreal news conference following the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that the government in Seoul and Park’s successor abide by the 2015 comfort women agreement. Curiously, getting the statues sorted trumped responding to North Korean missile tests and preserving the 2016 bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact. 
I wouldn’t be writing about the comfort women statues around the world if Japan’s revisionist pundits, activists and officials didn’t keep drawing attention to them. But under Prime Minister Abe, the recrudescence of a sanctimonious nationalism has ignited culture wars at home and memory wars overseas. The bronze statues make an indelible statement that complicates the task of erasing the memory of what was inflicted on and endured by these women.

What's Driving Malaysian Support For Islamic Penal Code?
Danny Lim in the SCMP 180000MAR17

Abdul Hadi’s bill alarms many of the country’s non-Malay minorities who see such efforts as part of a creeping Islamisation of the multi-ethnic country and claim it would dissuade investors and strain social harmony. About 23 per cent of Malaysians are ethnic Chinese and seven per cent Indian. The direst warnings see it as contributing to a climate of religious conservatism that could leave the country a fertile ground for the Islamic State terrorist group. 
That leaves all eyes on Najib, who leads the United Malays National Organisation, the main party in the ruling coalition, and who is in need of a popularity boost.

Is China prepared for a new mantle in Central Asia amid the roll-out of OBOR?
Raffaello Pantucci in the SCMP 190637MAR17

China and Russia have a cordial relationship in the region, but the local dynamics are shifting. China is slowly displacing Russia, and this will have consequences for China’s responsibilities and on how the region looks to Beijing as it goes from passive trade partner to major security and foreign policy partner.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Seeing The Elephant

A new chapter in Thailand’s plagued politics?
Elliot Brennan in the Lowy Interpreter 100917MAR17

Thailand is likely to see jockeying for power between political parties ahead of the elections, expected (‘maybe’) in February 2018. Crucial during this period will be the relationship between the military and the new sovereign. If they can maintain a working relationship, it may usher in a period of stability. If they don’t, any dispute could quickly lead to divisions emerging across the country.

Can Hong Kong get fully behind the idea of a southern China megalopolis?
Ken Chu in the SCMP 121736MAR17

Because of their size, port facilities, human resources and strong economic prowess, bay area economies around the world lead the pack in innovation. The five often-cited bay economic clusters in the world – New York, London, Tokyo, San Francisco and Sydney – together account for nearly 60 per cent of global gross domestic product. If the southern China bay area can evolve, as Li envisions, through deeper integration between Hong Kong and its neighbours, we will find a new impetus to further our growth and prosperity. 
Nevertheless, there are challenges to overcome. What would Hong Kong’s place be in this emerging bay area? No doubt each city in this economic cluster should make best use of their respective strengths to achieve complementarity.

The elephant in the room in Saudi king’s visit
Ary Hermawan in The Jakarta Post 120841MAR17

Given his authority as leader of a major Sunni Islam kingdom, King Salman legitimizing Jokowi’s pro-pluralism campaign at a time when his administration is struggling to contain the rise of right-wing, populist opposition is surely a win for Jokowi. 
But, sadly, all this is mere politics and diplomacy. Both countries may have scored political and diplomatic points, but the reality of religious life in both countries is grimmer than what you would believe from listening to the platitudes Saudi and Indonesian diplomats regularly deliver.

Park's downfall muddles Japan's options on comfort women, N Korea
Kyodo News Service 120600MAR17

A show of resilience toward Japan over historical and territorial grievances may be a safe issue to unite a divided voting base.
But over time, the need to keep relations with Japan intact for strategic reasons could see Moon or another successor change his tune on the issue, Okonogi said.
“Right now, those expected to be put up as candidates from the opposition parties are expressing negativity about the (comfort women agreement), but if elected, they must persuade the public to keep the promise made with Japan,” he said. 
A source close to Moon said it will not be easy to overturn the agreement between governments, hinting that Moon may alter his stance to take a more pragmatic path on the agreement if he becomes president. 
For Japan’s part, Nagamne “had better return to his post soon in anticipation of dialogue with the new administration,” Okonogi said.

Beijing waits for Canberra to make ‘the China choice’
Rowan Callick in the Australian Financial Review 130000MAR17

Australia’s devotion to the US alliance was once mostly viewed in China as a need for stability and predictability. But after the rapid changes of the past year, some Chinese analysts view Australia’s persistence in the alliance as a sign of recalcitrance when it should make “the China choice”.

Putin tours Central Asia, glossing over Russian influence
Sergei Blagov in Asia Times 120549MAR17

Russia envisions Greater Eurasia as global power. It would also serve the purpose of keeping Central Asia well within the Russian sphere of influence. The idea has had a lukewarm reception among Russia’s Central Asian allies.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Speaking Of Missiles: Indo-Russian supersonic missile threatens China’s security - Asia Times

How to think clearly about North Korea's WMDs - The Conversation

#THAAD Blowback: "Patriotic Spicy Sticks" boost Lotte Boycott - What's on Weibo

India: Demonetization Indian-Style and What It Says About All Our Futures - The Brooklyn Rail

(#auspol) How you could vote for Pauline Hanson - Sydney Morning Herald

Cambodia’s democracy is still salient - Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

In Japan, a scandal over a school threatens to entangle PM Abe, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

"We don't know whether Abe was directly involved but even if he wasn't, this will still hurt him."

It all started with a local story about hate speech.

The South China Sea and the Times Square squad car | Asia Times

Here begins the South China Sea as New York's Times Square analogy.

US officials and military officers have declared that the US can and will go anywhere and anytime it wants in the South China Sea. The New York police department had the same policy toward Times Square when it was the fiefdom of criminals and illegal activities, before Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cleaned it up in the mid-1990s.

The police would send a squad car through Times Square anytime they wanted and the criminal flotsam would part as it went through, only to flow back in and carry on illegal antics once the police cruiser was gone.

The muzzling of the Myanmar Times | Frontier Myanmar

Myanmar's English newspaper of record has outlasted the jailing of one of its founders for contrived offences, a suffocating censorship regime not lifted until 2012 and a controversial early connection with the junta. It may not outlast its current management.

Taiwan urges reconciliation as China butts in on memorial - World | The Star Online

Communist China, which had nothing to do with the 1947 incident, has been marking the anniversary too, with seminars and state media commentaries.

The Chinese government last week called the protests part of China's liberation struggle Taiwan independence forces were trying to hijack.

India, China seek common ground on Afghanistan - The Hindu

> This indicates a shifting global calculus due to the recent surprise foreign and trade policy moves by the new U.S. administration under Donald Trump.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In Indo-Pacific strategic flux, where is Indonesia? - The Jakarta Post

What Central Asia Gets (Or Doesn't Get) Out Of Putin's Eurasian Economic Union

North Korea spy agency runs arms operation out of Malaysia, U.N. says | Reuters

Emperor's Vietnam visit sign of growing ties since war | The Japan Times

27 Days of Hell: When China and Vietnam Went to War | The National Interest Blog

Russia's new game in Afghanistan | Al Jazeera

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It's Like Bad TV

Kim Jong Un, Assassination, North Korea, DPRK

Some of the more interesting headlines from the ongoing drama of the KJU killing, which increasingly looks like a remake of a "24" episode:

Theories abound over motive for Kim Jong Nam killing
HIROSHI MINEGISHI and CK TAN, Nikkei Asian Review

Later, Kim Jong Nam became an outspoken critic of his family's dynasty and once told a Japanese TV station that he was opposed to a third generation of Kims ruling North Korea. 
Other experts on North Korea argue the older Kim's attempts to seek political asylum triggered the hit. Recent reports in the South Korean media said Kim Jong Nam sought asylum in 2012. 
"Kim Jong Nam attempted to defect to South Korea or another country and ignored Kim Jong Un's orders to come home, which is why he was assassinated," said Jeong Seong-jang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute in Seoul.

N. Korea's biotechnology institute behind Malaysia killing: source
Unsigned article in the Korea Herald

We got a tip that Kim Jong-un issued an order in December 2014 to remove Kim Jong-nam," said Choi Sung-young, who represents a group of South Koreans whose families were abducted to North Korea decades ago. 
Choi said North Korea's military unit 810, which is also known as a biotechnology institute in charge of developing agricultural chemicals, was behind the killing of Kim Jong-nam. 
He also claimed that the institute appears to have carried out a mock test on some 20 political offenders weighing 80-90 kilograms in preparation for killing Kim Jong-nam.

Suspects coated hands with poison, wiped it on Kim Jong Nam’s face: Malaysia
AP item in the Deccan Chronicle

Khalid said the women knew they were handling poisonous materials and that they had been instructed to wash their hands. He said surveillance video footage showed both walking away from Kim with their hands away from their bodies. 
He said the women had practised the attack at two Kuala Lumpur malls. 
"We strongly believe it is a planned thing and that they have been trained to do that," he told reporters.

Has hermit state North Korea become even more isolated after assassination in Malaysia?
AFP article in the SCMP

Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur have enjoyed relatively warm economic ties, with some bilateral trade and citizens from both countries entitled to travel to the other under a unique reciprocal visa-free deal. 
Malaysia has also provided a channel between Pyongyang officials and the wider world, with Kuala Lumpur in recent years serving as a discreet meeting place for talks between the regime and the US. 
But all that could come to an end following a war of words over Malaysia’s probe into the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, which has seen Pyongyang’s envoy to Kuala Lumpur savage local police, and Malaysia recall its ambassador to the North.

There is good news from Pyongyang
Junheng Li in the Australian Financial Review

China has wanted economic changes in North Korea along the lines of the market reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1979. It considers such reforms necessary to prevent an economic collapse. Kim Jong-nam was a proponent of such an evolution. He lived, under Chinese protection, in Macao.

China also fears a reunification of the two Koreas that would take the form of an effective takeover of the north by the south. Strategically and politically China does not want South Korean and US troops on its border. Having the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, an anti-ballistic missile defense offered by the US to South Korea, deployed at its border with a newly unified Korea would be interpreted as a public slap in the face by China's rulers.

There is some hope, however, that the steady progress toward nuclear warfare capability achieved by North Korea and the abandonment of any hope for the economic reforms necessary to prevent an economic collapse could create strategic common ground between China and the US...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Navigating in Fog

Malaysian police have closed their investigation into the Kim Jong Nam assassination,
but not before the NST puts the body on the cover of their Saturday edition. Brunch, anyone?
Also: (Some Say) KJN may have been killed due to reports he entertained offers to defect
Is the Japanese media crapping the bed on DPRK coverage?

Beyond unilateralism in South China Sea FONOPs
Jeffrey Ordaniel in East Asia Forum
While unilateral US Navy freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) should continue, including in waters surrounding Chinese-built artificial islands, Washington should establish another mechanism that engages its treaty allies and partners in the Pacific on freedom of navigation issues: bilateral and multilateral freedom of navigation patrols. In essence, Washington should institute another instrument that involves allies and regional partners that not only challenges excessive maritime entitlement claims, but also reinforces the rule of law in other areas that could be subject to new and illegal restrictions by any state in the future. 
Australia and the Philippines are ideal partners for bilateral or trilateral FON patrols. Canberra has been conducting overflight exercises in the South China Sea since the 1970s and its involvement should not be too surprising to the Chinese. Manila is a direct claimant and a US treaty ally. In early 2016, a joint patrol was integrated as one manifestation of the long overdue US–Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement forged in 2014. But the Duterte government decided to end this cooperation. 
A clearer US commitment to defend Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, as per Article 5 of the 1951 US–Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, could encourage an increasingly unpredictable Manila to begin to trust Washington again. The transition from the Obama to the Trump administration provides an opportunity to reset relations between the two allies.

Realistically assessing Australia's national ambitions
Geoff Miller, Lowy Interpreter
It’s important to note that that is not getting easier. For years after the end of World War II we had a significant technological advantage over our neighbours, but they have caught up and other factors — like their larger populations and the international mobility of capital — have come into play. One obvious example is the auto industry. Very soon we will not have one, while Indonesia and Thailand will. 
For a country with a small population like Australia of course there will always be questions as to what we pay attention to, both economically, politically and in terms of supra-national issues like climate change. For example, for decades Australians with an interest have complained that neither our government nor our business people have paid sufficient attention to Indonesia; large, on the march and full of potential despite the difficulties of doing business there. But in those same decades our economic engagement with China, even larger and more on the march, has increased enormously, absorbing a huge amount of our commercial and governmental energies. (Perhaps the visit to Australia by President Jokowi later this month will focus more attention on Indonesia.) 
The above is just one example. In terms of our situation in the world we should pay sustained attention to many kinds of countries and relationships as well as issues. As an ally of the US and a major trading partner of China, we need to be alert to everything that goes on between them, as well as within them. As a neighbour of the countries of East, Southeast and, to some extent, South Asia we need to pay close attention to countries such as Japan, India, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea and work with them to foster regional stability and resilience. With New Zealand, we have to pay close attention to the small island countries of the South Pacific, where we can make a difference to their struggles for social and economic advancement, and, unfortunately, perhaps later assist with the consequences of climate change.

Sheridan Mahavera, South China Morning Post

The PAS left the Hope Coalition in 2015 and became independent after a fellow coalition member, the secular Democratic Action Party, protested against its campaign to introduce a Muslim penal code called hudud. A senior leader of the Democratic Action Party – which is popular with ethnic Chinese voters – recently signalled a willingness to mend ties with the PAS, while former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, long known for his criticisms of the PAS’ ultra-conservatism, has also appeared to change tack. 
Mahathir’s party, the Malaysian Indigenous People’s Party, or Bersatu, is allied to the Hope Coalition and is now leading negotiations for an electoral pact with PAS in an effort to oust the National Front and its scandal-tainted chairman, Prime Minister Najib Razak. But Najib, too, is thought to be working behind the scenes to influence the PAS, leading to questions over where its loyalties lie. 
Will the PAS side with its estranged former allies in the Hope Coalition? Or will it go it alone in the elections, splitting support for the opposition and thereby helping keep Najib in power?

Long Zhenyang: The resignation that shook Hong Kong media
By Juliana Liu, BBC China Blog

"Given the draconian instructions given by the propaganda department and the increasingly rigid restrictions on what editorial line they can take, I imagine many journalists are not happy with their jobs. But most will simply obey the party line," he said. 
Mr Long has claimed he was anti-Party for many years, even as he rose through the ranks at Shenzhen newspapers from junior reporter to senior editor. 
"Over the past 20 years, I've written a lot of things I don't believe in," he said. 
But he believes it was essays supporting the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that he shared privately, to his Wechat group, that got him into trouble.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Things Are Tough All Over, Part 11,715

Photo: Carrie Lam's Facebook page is blowing up - and not in a good way


Specifically, the PLA Rocket Force appears to have been practicing on several ship targets of a similar size to U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers moored in a mock port that is a near-mirror image of the actual inner harbor at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka (see Figure 11). Note what looks like an impact crater located near the center of the three ship targets, close enough to have potentially damaged all three ships with submunitions. The display of these targets may itself constitute signaling to the United States and its allies as a long-term deterrent effort. All the same, it bears considering that the only way that China could realistically expect to catch multiple U.S. ships in port as shown above would be through a surprise attack. Otherwise, with clear signs of imminent hostilities, the United States would likely have already sent its fleet to sea. Some skeptics might say that catching the U.S. flat-footed would be unlikely, but history teaches us not to discount the possibility of successful surprise attacks.  
Japan is the 62nd largest country in terms of area. It is the 11th largest in terms of population. But neither of these facts disqualifies Japan from rising as a regional power. 
Unlike China, Japan has no land-based enemies—it is an island nation. Unlike China, the Japanese government has no concern about its ability to impose its writ throughout the entire country. 
Nor does it have to deal with a huge gulf in wealth disparity between regions. Japan has also managed a transition from a high-growth economy to a low-growth economy without revolution. 
Japan's weaknesses have manifested in the development of a strong navy able to guard maritime supply lines. It has also cultivated a tight alliance with a country that will guard those supply lines, the United States.


Dahwood Rheman, Daily Pakistan
(The) Sipri report is the first one that elaborately touches upon the topic of Indian concerns on CPEC-a subsidiary of 'One Belt One Road' initiative and discussed the mega project's implications on security mechanics in the region.

According to the report, India has serious reservations against the CPEC and strictly opposes it. India fears that China will ultimately pose a threat by possessing a clear edge, though a toehold in the beginning, in the Indian Ocean with direct access to the Arabian Sea. India considers that the toehold will culminate into a military presence at some stage, the report says. 

Senator Cory Bernardi's warning for Malcolm Turnbull

While he pledged his support for money bills to keep the Government operating, Bernardi hinted he wouldn't rubber stamp other legislation. As expected, the South Australian used the first sitting day of the year to inform Parliament he had resigned from the Liberal Party to guide his political movement, the Australian Conservatives.

His defection means the Turnbull Government will need the support of nine of the 10 independent cross benchers to have its legislation clear the Senate against opposition from Labor and the Greens.

Bernardi defended the "difficult" decision, arguing the political class was out of touch. He warned that Australia was succumbing to the lure of personality politics which he claimed was shrinking the debate and compromising the sense and values of the many.

The Rohingya Insurgents: Myanmar Creates Its Own Frankenstein 

Aparupa Bhattacherjee, THE DIPLOMAT
One thing is clear: HaY is a monster of Myanmar's own creation, an offspring of failed policy and abhorrent treatment toward the Rohingya. If this group becomes a threat the world is afraid of, the credit for HaY's growth and strength should be attributed to the failure of Myanmar's peace initiative and also the atrocities by the BGP and Tatmadaw in the name of preventing conflict. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Fences and Neighbors

The arrest of Xaysana Keopimpha, the suspected mastermind behind several drug rackets in Southeast Asia, has raised fears that Thailand has become a "superhighway" for drug trafficking.

If you want to see what a “Muslim ban” really looks like, start paying attention to Australia / Alex MacKinnon, Quartz

Watching the most powerful man on earth publicly embarrass one of the United States’ staunchest allies for attempting to uphold a diplomatic agreement has captivated many on both sides of the Pacific. But you shouldn’t play Australia the victim: Our inhumane immigration policies are arguably the groundwork for Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.” But in Australia, politicians don’t need walls and visas revocations to keep unwanted visitors out—they have a moat.

Pirates, cyclones and mud: Bangladesh's island solution to Rohingya crisis / Reuters

While most experts dismiss the scheme as impractical, a Bangladeshi minister told Reuters this week that it was determined to push ahead, adding authorities would provide shelters, other facilities and livestock.

Local administrators, however, say they have not been informed, and when Reuters visited the island the only signs of activity were a few buffalo lazily grazing on the yellow grass along its shores.

"We have only heard bad things about the Rohingya. If they work with the pirates and get involved in crime - we don't want them here," said Mizanur Rahman, 48, the administrator of Might Bangha village, the closest settlement to Thengar Char.


Whatever Mahathir’s true motives, controversy over his stance on Chinese investment is the latest snag in the coalition’s efforts to unseat Najib – efforts that have faltered despite the unpopularity of the prime minister, who is fighting corruption allegations regarding the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib was drawn into the crisis surrounding the fund when it was revealed that US$681 million in transfers were made to his personal bank accounts in 2013. He says they were “personal donations” from the Saudi royal family and has denied all wrong-doing.

Against this backdrop, China has been a white knight for Najib, buying up assets in the troubled 1MDB by outbidding everyone else, fuelling opposition concerns that the Chinese are buying influence.

Smoker's corner: Are we ready for CPEC? / Nadeem Paracha, Dawn

I’m not sure whether by the time this column goes into print, Pakistan’s name too would be put on Trump’s ban list. But even if it’s not, the state, government and people of Pakistan must seriously become aware of the most recent hypothesis which is predicting the rise of China as a leading superpower in the event of Trump’s (rather belligerent) attempt to isolate the US from a number of countries.

I say this because Pakistan is now at the epicentre of China’s economic influence and growth in the region. China has positively recognised and responded to the many pecuniary openings available in a growing economy such as Pakistan, despite the fact that these opportunities are often overshadowed in local and international media by the perception of Pakistan being politically unstable.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the result of China’s pursuit to utilise these untapped investment opportunities available in Pakistan. China believes that the economic outcome of this investment would have a positive impact on Pakistan’s economy, which, in turn, would result in political stability.

Does contemporary Japan need religion? / Michael Hoffman, Japan Times

That aside, postwar life was materialist, and it was good. At least it felt good. Its current twilight, says Aera, moves many to nostalgia. At its height, it was simple and (deceptively, perhaps) full. You worked hard at school, passed rote-learning tests, got into a respected university, made useful connections, joined a respected corporation and prospered. The corporation demanded a lot in return — unquestioning, unwavering devotion — but most people gave it willingly.

Then things went wrong. The economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. A “religion” called Aum Shinrikyo went on a terrorist rampage in 1995; two years later, the Great Hanshin Earthquake devastated Kobe; in 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated Tohoku. You didn’t need to see the hand of God in all this to wonder whether forces other than economics, crackpot theology and geology weren’t at work. Religion is not always dogmatic certainty; it can feed also, maybe better, on unanswered, unanswerable questions.