Monday, April 17, 2017

Yet Another List of Important Matters in Asia North Korea is Distracting Everyone From

Sectarian schisms to decide Jakarta’s election?
Edward Aspinall, East Asia Forum 160000APRIL2017

When Indonesian electoral candidates make ethnic or religious appeals, they mostly adopt a benign approach: they emphasise their membership of a particular ethnic or religious group without denigrating others. By contrast, the campaign against Ahok has been relentlessly negative. 
At the grassroots, a legion of preachers and activists have striven to convince Muslim voters not only that Ahok insulted their religion, but also that it is forbidden to vote for a kafir — an unbeliever. Friday sermons at the city’s mosques have become important campaign arenas. Fevered rumours about floods of Chinese nationals illegally planning to vote for Ahok have swept through social media and been fanned by Anies’ backers. There has been a resurgence of racist denigration of ethnic Chinese of a sort not seen for years. 
Though Anies Baswedan — a Muslim intellectual who previously had cultivated a reputation as a pluralist — has not personally engaged in crude attacks on Ahok, he has instead run a dog-whistle campaign signalling his Muslim credentials and reaching out to extremist groups like the Islamic Defenders Front. An army of proxies is mobilising religious and ethnic appeals against Ahok on his behalf.

If Hong Kong can’t become ‘Asia’s Israel’, future may rest on leading role in Greater Bay Area plan
Tammy Tam, South China Morning Post 161430APRIL2017

Now comes a new plan for Hong Kong – Leung is leading a major delegation later this week to six Pearl River Delta cities to learn more about the Greater Bay Area, an ambitious development plan announced by Premier Li Keqiang in March. Leung’s successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has just received her official appointment from Beijing as the city’s next leader, was also reminded of the significance of this project by the premier in a face-to-face meeting. Some mainland academics have even described it as Hong Kong’s “last chance”.

Re-imagining Taiwan: National rejuvenation or effort to counter China’s pressure tactics?
Rudroneel Ghosh, Times of India, 160605APRIL2017

Hearing local legislator Bi-khim Hsiao speak about re-imagining Taiwan over dinner, I am struck by the realisation that a fundamental shift is underway on this island state. Taiwan is trying to re-orient its economic profile to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. It seems the current Taiwanese government believes that a manufacturing-driven economy has run its course. Especially so since manufacturing in Taiwan has developed a deep connection with factories in China. And it is this connection that Beijing has been using as leverage to arm-twist Taipei on Cross-Taiwan Strait relations. 
In a nutshell, growth in Taiwanese manufacturing is heavily dependent on China. And Beijing can turn off that tap anytime it wants to put Taipei under pressure. A classic example of this is Beijing’s Red Supply Chain policy that will replace Taiwanese supply chains in China with local Chinese ones. Plus, there’s also the belief that manufacturing-driven growth in Taiwan has only helped a certain section of people, especially in the north and west of Taiwan. The current Taiwanese government wants to correct this imbalance.

Thailand's Political Crisis Runs Deeper Than the Military Wants to Admit
Eugene Mark, The Diplomat, 110000APRIL2017

A demand for electoral democracy by the rural populace poses a significant threat to the ideological basis upon which the military elites can exist in the political realm. It essentially rejects the role of the King and his “few good men” in providing for the nation. The demand for electoral democracy was not new; it dates back at least to the student movement in the mid-1970s. However, a similar demand by the rural populace is more threatening as they constitute a majority of the Thai population. 
Another important thing to note is that this ideological crisis can get more severe over time, with the justification for the military’s authoritarian control at stake. The military’s authority rests on the justification that it is the “protector of the monarchy.” The success of this justification has so far depended heavily on the charisma and popularity of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. However, finding a like-for-like replacement for King Bhumibol after his passing was never realistic. In other words, the way in which King Bhumibol’s personality cult was formed set the military on the course of failure right from the start.

Why a Political Settlement in Afghanistan Will Benefit Indo-US Relations
Sameer lalwani and Travis Wheeler, The Wire, 160000APRIL2017

The main benefit Delhi would derive from a political settlement in Afghanistan is that it would permit a renewed US focus on strategic relationship-building with India. As American policymakers view the rise of China as the primary challenge to stability in Asia, there are strong reasons for the US to further expand its defense ties with India. However, deepening strategic ties requires continuous attention, engagement, and hand-holding as evidenced by former secretary of defense Ash Carter’s numerous visits. Any such potential remains inhibited while the US is pouring political capital, resources, expertise, and of course, its military into Afghanistan. Significant advances in US-India ties (in 2005-06 and 2015-16) seem to coincide with less US concentration on Afghanistan. So long as the United States is committed to a “long war” in Afghanistan with thousands of US troops deployed in harms way, its South Asia policy will be run through a Kabul-first lens. 
Furthermore, the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan is arguably problematic for India because it weakens American leverage over Pakistan. Part of this relates to continued dependence on Pakistan for the air and ground lines of communication into Afghanistan. In a post-settlement world, however, the US would possess greater leverage over Pakistan as it becomes less vulnerable to logistics dependencies. Although the US will still have some core interests with Pakistan, such as fostering responsible nuclear stewardship, a reconciliation deal allows for firmer American reaction to cross border terrorism that Indian leaders have so long sought.

No comments: