Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Never Take For Granted

Lee Kwan Yew offers a warm welcome to Deng Xiaoping, 1978. (Xinhua)

Maria Siow on how China's bully-boy foreign policy has strained its relationship with Singapore - and like any abusive suitor, they now feel betrayed: 
Even before the ruling, there were signs China was getting irritated. In June, a Global Times commentary by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences researcher Cheng Bifan ran under the headline “Singapore has picked the wrong target in its balance of power strategy”. 
The latest comments against Singapore were a reality check that its long-standing approach of not taking sides was being challenged, said political scientist Ja Ian Chong from the National University of Singapore. 
The policy of “not choosing sides” only worked under certain conditions: when relations between China and the US, or when the relationships between either major power and the majority of other regional actors, were stable and relaxed, Chong said. 
“If not, then it becomes easy for one of the major powers or both to demand greater partiality from Singapore. Playing to the middle, as Singapore has done, could seem unhelpful or duplicitous in either or both Washington and Beijing.”


Meanwhile, India is alienating Bhutan, previously her most reliable ally. Omair Ahmad:
Modi received a very warm reception in Thimphu, was surrounded by people all the time and gave a speech to our closest neighbour from their parliament. Of course, there were a few glitches. The official translator struggled to transform Modi’s colloquial Hindi into the staid Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language, but the more worrying thing was that Modi’s speech, beyond the banalities of grants and historic friendship, hardly addressed any Bhutanese concerns. The comments about terrorism dividing neighbours while tourism brings them together seemed to be addressed more to Pakistan. Moreover, the comments missed a key point: Bhutan did not want to be any closer to India than it already was. 
As Modi expanded on the idea of creating greater links between Bhutan and India’s northeastern states – whether through sports, tourism or trade – he brought home the point that he understood Bhutan not at all. What most Bhutanese see of India around their borders are the badlands of Assam and West Bengal, the tea estates where the exploitation and poverty have been so extreme that they bred the original Naxal insurgency. The militancy prone small states of the Northeast are not that inviting either, especially as Bhutan had to go to war in 2006 to expel ULFA and other  militants from its territory. And Sikkim, just a hop, skip and jump away, was swallowed by India in 1975.


David Beirman on Thailand's vulnerable tourist industry:
For opponents of Thailand’s current military regime, tourism is the perfect soft target. Tourists are easy to identify and many are associated with hedonistic lifestyles that more conservative Thais resent. Targeting tourists through acts of terrorism can result in rapid loss of business to tourism-related enterprises. Leisure tourists normally predisposed to visit Thailand will vote with their feet and instead choose to travel elsewhere in Southeast Asia. 
Thailand’s ability to mount a credible counter-terrorism campaign in response to the bombings will depend on whether the Thai security forces can identify and neutralise those responsible for the attacks. Promising increased security measures to assuage tourist concerns over terrorism is meaningless until the identity of the perpetrators can be established. It is worth noting that a year after the Erawan Shrine bombing, authorities are yet to convincingly explain and identify who was behind the attack.


Finally, Linda Givetash on growing pains in Vancouver's Chinatown:
As the City of Vancouver begins to review the effect of its economic revitalization strategy for the neighbourhood, community members are at odds whether Chinatown’s direction is what they want. 
“With all the developments that are happening in the area, they’re condos for the most part and they’re not being catered to the residents that live there right now,” said Yuly Chan, a member of the Chinatown Action Group. “Just because people are poor, or are income assistance, it doesn’t mean they can be pushed out of their own neighbourhood.”
Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the oldest in the country, established in the late 1880s when early Chinese immigrants, many of them railway workers, settled in the area near what is now the downtown core. While the area has grown with waves of immigration and development over the decades, it remains one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Vancouver.

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