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The Okinawa Problem: The Forgotten History of Japanese Colonialism and Ryukyuan Indigeneity

While most observers view the “Okinawa Problem” as one of U.S. military bases, it actually involves the colonial history of the Ryukyu islands and the violation of the Okinawans’ rights as an indigenous people.

On June 16, Okinawans gathered in a 65,000 strong protest rally demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. Marine Corps. Organized as a response to the murder of a 20-year Okinawan girl by a former U.S. marine officer, the rally presents the latest episode of the “Okinawa Problem.”

Okinawa hosts 74 percent of all U.S. military bases in Japan, although it only constitutes 0.6 percent of Japanese territory. Many Okinawans have been demanding the removal of these bases since the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three American servicemen in 1995. Very few observers, however, realize the Okinawa Problem is not just about the military bases, but it takes into account of the colonial history of the Okinawans as an indigenous people. (more…)

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Cultural and Linguistic Links between China and Central Asia: An Advantage or a Concern for “One Belt, One Road?”

Winding road in Zhangjiajie, China (Source: Liu Tao, Flickr)

Winding road in Zhangjiajie, China (Source: Liu Tao, Flickr)

The “One Belt, One Road” policy in China has received a great deal of attention over the past few years. This policy is the focal point of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy and domestic economic plan. While it is often referred to as “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR, the policy is in actuality a combination of two individual parts. The first part, the “Belt,” is a network of oil and natural gas pipelines as well as road and rail routes that span the distance between Xi’an and Western Europe. The second part, the “Road,” refers to waterways or a chain of ports and infrastructure projects on China’s coasts that travel from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa all the way to the north Mediterranean Sea.

One subject of particular interest with regard to the policy is the set of opportunities and challenges it presents, both for China and the countries it directly affects. Michael Clarke, in his report “Beijing’s March West: Opportunities and Challenges for China’s Eurasian Pivot,” points to several of these challenges and opportunities. Among the opportunities, Central Asia can act as a safety valve for China as US influence in the region tapers off. On the other hand, the stability of the far west regions of Xinjiang and Tibet is a challenge that China will continue to face as it pursues this policy. (more…)

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POLICY ALERT: Rising Powers Converge in China for G-20 Summit

 

g20-2016-china

From September 4-5, China hosted this year’s G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, a city known for beautiful scenery and its historical West Lake. Launched in response to the 2008 global recession, the forum was an opportunity for the world’s 20 largest economies to convene and discuss major challenges. Although commentary in China and Russia was quite positive about the Summit’s results, others in India, Japan, and South Korea were less enthusiastic. The gathering was also part of Barack Obama’s last trip to Asia as president and was closely watched by rising powers for signs of what the future might have in store for the international political and economic order. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the G-20 Summit.

CHINA

China’s theme for the Summit was “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy.” As the host leader, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged leaders to avoid “empty talk” and instead seek “concrete actions to implement joint plans on sustainable development, green financing, and anti-corruption.” At a business focused event on the sidelines of the Summit, Xi promised China does “not seek to rewrite the international rulebooks” but instead wanted to “refine the existing mechanisms to facilitate global win-win cooperation.”

Most commentary in China hailed the Summit as a success and a clear sign of China’s rising economic and political strength on the world stage.

  • Wang Peng, associate researcher at Fudan University, identified a “Hangzhou Consensus” emerge from the Summit with leaders recognizing the need to “revitalize globalization” in a “more comprehensive, innovative, and inclusive manner.”
  • China Daily thought the host country left “its stamp on the G-20” by demonstrating “unswerving commitment to globalization,” expanding the existing global market system, fighting off protectionism, and aligning the G-20 agenda with UN development goals.
  • Global Times declared “multiple victories” for China at the Summit, including recognition of Chinese soft power in spite of Western criticisms.
  • Global Times blamed Western media outlets for making a “fuss over trifling issues” such as an awkward confrontation between Chinese officials and U.S. journalists/White House staff as Air Force One arrived in China.
  • China Daily praised Hangzhou’s tour as host city and proving “how China has become a leader of growth, as the city is home to many new businesses and new management models.”

(more…)

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Doing High Quality Research in Myanmar: Four Recommendations

(Source: MCMS, Flickr)

(Source: MCMS, Flickr)

Doing research in Myanmar has not always been easy, possible, or legal. For example, Christina Fink, scholar of Myanmar and author of Living Silence in Burma originally published in 2001, was eventually banned from the country and forced to continue her research and work from nearby Chiang Mai, Thailand. After last November’s elections, Myanmar has largely been on a path towards positive change. Myanmar is slowly opening itself up to development initiatives, foreign direct investment, and even research. While total academic freedom is not a reality in Myanmar today, the country is surprisingly open to academic research.

­­­Nicholas Farrelly, Deputy Director for the Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at Australian National University (ANU) and Director of the ANU Myanmar Research Center, has demonstrated how accessible some forms of empirical and non-empirical research in Myanmar have become. For example, in a recent Myanmar Times column, Farrelly shares about the process of easily accessing archives in Naypidaw and the many eager Myanmar researchers in Yangon.

This summer through the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliot School for International Affairs, I had the opportunity to conduct empirical research in Myanmar. Four key recommendations emerged from my recent experience that may help guide the research process in Myanmar as the country gradually opens to academic research. (more…)

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A Trump Presidency: Disaster or Boon for U.S.-China Relations?

Donald Trump at campaign rally in Reno, Nevada (Source: Darron Birgenheier, Flickr)

Donald Trump at campaign rally in Reno, Nevada (Source: Darron Birgenheier, Flickr)

The 2016 American presidential race has been a source of much discussion and debate. It has been an interesting year so far with an unconventional candidate, business tycoon Donald Trump, officially securing the Republican Party nomination. It is not only Americans, however, who are thinking about what a Trump presidency might mean for the world.

The Chinese are pondering this question as well. A brief survey of various views and concerns demonstrates that China watchers in the United States are concerned about how Mr. Trump will approach China. With regard to the Chinese side, however, the views seem to be more mixed. Is the prospect of a Trump presidency really all that dire?

What China Watchers in the United States Think

On July 20, 2016, ChinaFile asked a number of China analysts and thinkers how the Republican Party should approach China in the wake of Mr. Trump’s nomination. The analysis begins with Peter Navarro, one of Mr. Trump’s policy advisers. In his view, Mr. Trump should not support free trade with China that is not also fair. By “fair,” he means that China must stop using what he terms “weapons of job destruction” such as currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, and pollution havens. Mr. Trump has not started a trade war, as some have contended, but should rather be fighting back in the war China and the United States are already in. Mr. Trump, in Navarro’s view, will be a strong leader that China will respect. As one of his top advisers, this positive assessment is not surprising. (more…)

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POLICY ALERT: What Rising Powers Saw at the Democratic National Convention  

hrc-dncFrom July 25-28 in Philadelphia, the Democratic National Committee held its convention to nominate Hillary Clinton as their party’s candidate for president. One week after the Republican Convention, rising powers tuned in to watch how the other major U.S. political party responded and outlined its policy platform. China remained largely skeptical of Clinton’s campaign. Observers in Brazil, India, Japan, and South Korea applauded her nomination, but worried about her recent shift toward free trade protectionism. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the DNC Convention and the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Our previous Policy Alert covered the Republican Convention.

CHINA

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” strategy incensed China as a means to contain the country. Her prioritization on human rights – especially gender equality – and her more hawkish views on the South China Sea have left Chinese leaders uneasy about her candidacy. Tao Xie, professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, suspected “many Chinese have a very unfavorable view of her.” One online poll conducted in March 2016 by Global Times showed a preference for Trump over Clinton with 54 percent in support of the GOP candidate.

Given this view of Clinton, several China media voices and commentators explored her candidacy and the prospects for her campaign in the general election.

  • The hacking of thousands of emails from the servers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) – showing the preferences of ostensibly neutral staffers for Clinton as the nominee – and their leak just before the convention “ruins U.S. democracy myths,” according to Global Times. The paper also said the “scandal is devastating enough to bury Clinton’s presidential dream and political career,” though it expected less than severe actual consequences.
  • In a 2013 report, Global Times declared Hillary Clinton the “most hated” American political figure in China dating back to her 1995 speech on women’s rights as human rights at the World Conference on Women in Beijing.
  • In contrast, Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University and adviser to the Chinese cabinet, insisted Chinese leaders would still prefer Clinton in the White House to a “volatile” Trump. “The worst situation is instability,” he argued, especially as China’s economy – heavily linked to the United States – continues its slow growth rates.
  • Xinhua writer Zhu Lei saw the imprint of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders — the runner-up in the primary — on the Democratic Party’s policy platform, which was described by party officials as “the most progressive” in history.
  • Chen Weilhua, reporter for China Daily, highlighted thousands of Sanders and Green Party supporters who protested at the Democratic Convention against Clinton’s nomination. Likewise, Qiu Zhibo, consultant at the UN and Global Times columnist, questioned whether “disappointed Bernie supporters” will vote for either Clinton or Trump.

(more…)

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POLICY ALERT: What Rising Powers Saw at the Republican Convention

GOP Nominee Donald Trump at RNC Convention (Source: AP)

From July 18-21 in Cleveland, the Republican National Committee held its convention to nominate Donald Trump as their party’s candidate for president. With the U.S election season now in full swing, rising powers are closely watching to see how the Trump campaign’s foreign and economic policies might shape the future direction of the United States. While some in China have welcomed his willingness to disengage America from the Indo-Pacific, others in India, Japan, Brazil, and South Korea are anxious to reevaluate the fundamentals of their relationships with Washington. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the RNC Convention and the prospects of a Trump presidency. In the next Policy Alert, we will cover reactions to the Democratic Party’ convention in Philadelphia.

CHINA
Trump’s nomination has surprised Chinese government officials. Just last September, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed Trump’s harsh views of Beijing since China only concerns itslef with policies held by “the mainstream opinion of the U.S. people.” Nonetheless, many in China have grown into Trump supporters over the course of the campaign, especially when compared to Hillary Clinton whose “pivot to Asia” strategy as Secretary of State incensed China as a means to contain the country. An online poll conducted in March 2016 by Global Times showed a preference for Trump over Clinton with 54 percent in support of the GOP candidate, citing the nominee’s image as a successful businessman, his foreign policy views, and the popularity of The Apprentice and the Trump family brand in China.

(more…)

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Want to support Myanmar? Don’t forget about Mae Sot.

myanmar riverAnyone who follows politics in Myanmar knows that Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), Nobel laureate and daughter of the liberator Aung San, is now the de facto leader of Myanmar. Things are on the up and up. SIM cards no longer cost hundreds of dollars, the banking system is taking shape, and foreign investment is on the rise.

So what is becoming of the border city Mae Sot in Thailand? Should donors and international NGOs (INGO) pack up and move inside Myanmar? Not so fast. In fact, if donors and INGOs really want to support Myanmar, they should continue supporting community-based organizations and initiatives in Mae Sot.

Along the Thai-Myanmar border, Mae Sot has served as the hub city for thousands of refugees who fled Myanmar after violent crackdowns in the late-1990s. Over the years, Mae Sot has been a focal area for INGOs, community-based organizations, and development workers – to support the over 120,000 Myanmar refugees and over two million migrant workers in Thailand with everything from healthcare, educational support, job training, and legal help.

Now that ASSK’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has won the elections, the public perception is that Myanmar is generally on a quick path to reform, making the work of community-based organizations along the border less and less relevant. (more…)

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NSG Rejection Derails India’s Potential Commitment to Paris Agreement

Smog in New Delhi, India (Source: Mark Danielson, Flickr)

Smog in New Delhi, India (Source: Mark Danielson, Flickr)

What does the trade of nuclear materials have to do with reducing greenhouse gas emissions? The connection between the two may be more complex than you might think. India’s recent failed candidacy to earn membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has discouraged New Delhi’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was drawn up at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last year and sought, among other things, to reduce global greenhouse emissions around the world in an effort to protect the environment and stop global warming. On April 22, 2016, India and 177 other countries signed the treaty with an understanding that the accord would take effect once 55 countries that account for 55 percent of the world’s emissions ratified it. Prior to India’s rejection from the NSG, 18 countries had already ratified it and a ratification by India would have meant that countries accounting for 55.49 percent of the emissions would have been committed to the agreement. This would have meant that only the remaining countries accounting for a meager .51 percent would have needed to ratify the agreement to finally make it binding on all signatories. (more…)

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Indo-Afghan Partnership Adds Fuel to Afghan-Pakistani Hostility

Torkham crossing along Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Source: USAID)

Torkham crossing along Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Source: USAID)

Indo-Afghan relations grew stronger as India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, traveled to Afghanistan on June 3rd to inaugurate the Afghan-Indian Friendship Dam. The 42 megawatt hydroelectric dam is the result of a $273 million investment by the Indian Government to promote agriculture in Afghanistan’s Herat province. It is estimated that the dam will be able to soon irrigate 75,000 hectares of farmland.

Construction of the dam, originally named Salma Dam, had actually begun in 1976, but was halted when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan in 1979. The rebellion against Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war greatly damaged the dam’s infrastructure. However, after the overthrow of the Taliban, India renewed its commitment to building the dam. Thus, although forty years after initially starting, construction of the dam is now complete.

The inauguration of the dam is only one of many recent steps towards stronger Indo-Afghan economic and political relations. Recently, the two powers – along with Iran – signed a regional corridor trade agreement. The key feature of the agreement is India’s pledge to finance the development of the Chabahar port, Iran’s only port with direct access to the ocean. In return, Iran agrees to a sea-land trade route to India via Afghanistan’s road networks. (more…)

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