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.

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