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Re-Examining Nationality in Aging Asia: Insights from Japan and South Korea

By Aizawa Nobuhiro

Several countries in Asia have recently amended their nationality laws, including the Philippines (2003), India (2003), Indonesia (2006), Taiwan (2006), Thailand (2008), Japan (2008), Vietnam (2009), and South Korea (2010). Was it mere coincidence that these countries reassessed their nationality laws? Or did they have important reasons to discard variously ‘outdated’ clauses in the face of sharp public debates and political contestations over issues of nationhood? This policy commentary provides background and context towards understanding some key issues that motivate changes to nationality laws in Asia, especially in Japan and South Korea. It suggests that the issue of nationality has become bound up with the dynamics and political implications of ‘human flows’ in Asia.

Changing Nationality Laws

The key changes over nationality laws revolve around two points. First, there are moves to redefine the legal status of the children of international marriage and divorce because of the increase in international marriage over the past 20 years in Asia. Second, governments must decide whether to accept dual/multiple nationality status which Asian countries were long reluctant to acknowledge because of Cold War politics and complex colonial legacies.

Two major amendments to nationality laws in Japan and South Korea may serve as good illustrations. (more…)

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Chinese views on Hu Jintao’s upcoming US visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit the United States next week from January 18 to 21. Read what the Chinese expectations are of this trip:

Ahead of Hu Jintao’s visit, the official tone is optimistic and confident, with editorials stressing the the shared interests of China and the United States, although other analysts take a more measured tone:

On military issues, several articles stress that China is not seeking to challenge the U.S., while making clear that China needs to and deserves to develop its military capabilities:

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Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: Views from China, Japan and Russia

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have flared up again since North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23.  Here is a round-up of Chinese, Japanese and Russian views on this latest crisis:

CHINA

The Global Times, the official English newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has been running daily editorials on the crisis:

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Obama’s Asian Journey: Prospects for US Policy

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia was a mixed bag of achievements and disappointments. This was the assessment of a panel of experts at a recent public event on “Obama’s Asian Journey: Prospects for US Policy,” co-hosted by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Asia Society. Speaking on the panel, Deepa M. Ollapally, Alasdair Bowie, Gregg A. Brazinsky and Mike M. Mochizuki assessed the outcomes of Obama’s visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, respectively:

INDIA

Obama’s visit to India was a case of “low expectations, high results.”

Concrete gains for India included: clear support for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; lifting of nearly all embargos on dual-use technologies; and U.S. commitment to work toward India’s inclusion in a number of nuclear regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.

More importantly, the visit marked a shift in U.S.-India relations from the narrow, sectoral engagement of the past, to a truly broad spectrum relationship. Obama is the first US President to view relations with India as a multi-layered partnership: (more…)

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Weak Japanese Leadership Prompts Calls for Stronger Ties with U.S.

Despite hosting the APEC summit this month, Japan’s leadership in the region is looking shaky. In this post, we summarize what the Japanese press is saying about Japan’s diplomatic difficulties and the future of Japan-US relations:

Commenting on President Obama’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Yokohama, The Daily Yomirui says it was “unfortunate that Japan and the US missed a golden opportunity” to issue a joint declaration on the bilateral alliance’s 50th anniversary, and blames this on the poor diplomacy of the current Japanese administration, led by the Democratic Party of Japan.

Earlier in the month, the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Kunashir Island had also focused attention on Japan’s relations with the United States:

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Obama’s India visit: Beyond strategic symbolism

By Deepa M. Ollapally

Before India’s political pundits write off President Obama’s visit as nothing more than symbolic, they would do well to consider US- India relations under the Obama administration in its entirety. But in order to do that, they need to first shed their single minded focus on strategic affairs.

There is growing apprehension in India (and among some US analysts) that Indo-US relations have reached a plateau, and that no big strategic breakthroughs are on the horizon. First of all, it is unrealistic to expect strategic transformations at every summit.

Obama’s two predecessors were able to make history after the end of the Cold War by changing the course of US-India relations from one of decades-old disaffection to solid cooperation. Obama has inherited an excellent foundation for relations between the two countries, and there is little question that the US president has embraced India. (more…)

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Indian views on President Obama’s visit

This week, President Obama will visit India for the first time since taking office. What are commentators and experts in India saying about this historic visit?

The Rising Powers Initiative has compiled a summary of recent news and op-eds from major Indian newspapers about Indian expectations of Obama’s visit and the future of India-U.S. relations:

There is a sense of disappointment foreshadowing the visit, as it appears that the U.S. is more interested in an economic agenda rather than strengthening strategic ties with India.The Indian Express reports that a personal letter from President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed America’s expectations of the visit but did not mention issues important to India. Commentators lament that China and Pakistan loom larger on the U.S. radar screen, and that the official visit has an undue business focus, when the private sector will carry on with expanding India-U.S. business ties anyway.

Nevertheless, the general public likes Obama. A spring 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than 70% of Indians have confidence in the American president, and about two-thirds express a favorable opinion of the United States.

(more…)

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Back to the Future? A Revival of Realpolitik in Asia and Eurasia

By Nikola Mirilovic

In each of three key Asian and Eurasian powers, China, India, and Russia, a realpolitik approach plays a larger role in the foreign policy outlook today than it did in the period following the end of the Cold War.

China, India, and Russia all possess the key traditional attribute of great powers: size. All three countries are among the largest in the world in both territory and population. While size is a necessary prerequisite of great power status, it is not a sufficient one. Size creates potential which political capacity and economic efficiency can activate. Over the past decade (and longer in the case of China), all three countries have tended to benefit from a remarkable economic dynamism. This dynamism was due in large part to economic liberalization in the case of China and India, and to high global energy prices in the case of energy-rich Russia. Assuming these trends continue, all three of these states are likely to play an important role in shaping the future of Eurasia. It is of great importance to understand their foreign policy outlook, and the nature of the balance between realist and idealist thinking within that outlook. (more…)

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Exploring India’s Foreign Policy Debates

By Nikola Mirilovic

Among the most contested questions in Indian foreign policy today are those related to the extent and type of power that India should use to project itself internationally. Should India rely on military, economic or ideational power? How should Indian policymakers make trade-offs between military, economic and normative objectives? What mechanisms does India prefer for global leadership?

Deepa Ollapally and Rajesh Rajagopalan of the Rising Powers Initiative have classified India’s domestic debates about the country’s foreign policy into three main schools of thought: hyper-power, national-power and liberal power proponents.

The hyper-power proponents view military power as not only a means to an end, but as an end in and of itself. They claim that extensive military power is a necessary component of India’s greatness. This is a minority perspective. National-power proponents also advocate greater military strength and expenditures, but they view them as means of achieving other goals. Finally, the proponents of the liberal power perspective argue that hard power is not an effective means of projecting India’s influence abroad, and that trade and diplomacy should be relied on instead. (more…)

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Senkakus/Diaoyu incident: reinforced trends or a harbinger of change?

The jury is still out on how Japan-China relations will be affected by their recent dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. By now we have seen efforts on both sides to defuse tensions, but China’s intentions remain unclear, while Japan might choose to respond with more robust defense measures.

Aside from developments in the region’s security structure, a key variable to observe is the shifting perceptions of domestic actors in both countries, says Mike Mochizuki in a recent interview in The Oriental Economist.

In Japan, the security policy community had already been concerned about China’s increasingly assertive behavior. However, Mochizuki notes,

“The real question is whether this incident will convince others in Japan: those that have, up to now, been less concerned about Chinese military activities and were much more focused on the benefits that the Chinese market gives to the Japanese economy. If this incident has changed [their] perceptions, that would be a sea change.”

The obscurity of China’s decision-making process makes it more difficult to determine what is driving China’s behavior, and whether political competition between domestic actors can explain the mix of restraint and assertiveness we see from China. (more…)

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