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.

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