The formation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was one of the most recent developments in the active merge of international finance, diplomacy and geo-strategy. Deep-pocketed forces, aligned with these merging elements and perceived by the United States as harmful to the AIIB, are rattling Washington and gradually re-shaping world order.
In March, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), the country’s two legislative bodies, convened in Beijing. This year’s meeting focused on the economic reforms envisioned and pursued by the administration of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Several initiatives were announced, including the further restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the development of a national consumer credit system.
There are only three museums that are open on a semi-regular basis in the Burmese capital of Yangon, and perhaps the only one of import is the National Museum, located in the heart of Yangon's most prosperous township. On the top floor of the museum is a hall dedicated to celebrating Burma's unique ethnic diversity, recognizing over 130 ethnic groups in the country. Representing each of these groups are mannequins garbed in ethnic dress, filling the poorly-lit and drab museum with vibrant color.
Late last year, in response to a Taliban attack in the Army Public school in Peshawar that left over 140 children dead, Pakistan lifted the moratorium on the death penalty "in terrorism-related cases." At the time it seemed like temporary and ultimately vindictive measure—but in a few short months it has evolved into something much worse.
The scene was certainly set as the 14th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue got underway in Singapore in the last days of May. The May 26th release from the Chinese Ministry of National Defense of a Chinese Military Strategy white paper promoting the concept of “active defense” laid down an important marker. It directs the military to be “in line with the strategic requirement of offshore waters defense and open seas protection, the PLA Navy will gradually shift its focus from ‘offshore waters defense’ to the combination of ‘offshore waters defense’ with ‘open seas protection’ and build a combined, multi-functional and efficient marine combat force structure for joint operations.”
Reports indicate that another round of violence has broken out between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, this time in the southern Maungdaw Township of the Rakhine state in Myanmar.
The cyber attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment have become probably the most scandalous and gossip-worthy foreign policy story of the past decade, with North Korea being rocketed back into the spotlight of the American public. During late November and early December of last year, hackers released thousands of private email conversations and other confidential data from Sony’s system, with the apparent goal of threatening Sony into not releasing a comedy film about assassinating Kim Jong Un, entitled The Interview. The FBI asserts that these security breaches were orchestrated by North Korean hackers, and the United States has just begun a new round of sanctions targeting North Korea. While North Korea claims that they were uninvolved with the data leaks and some security experts have blamed disgruntled insiders, the damage has already been done to North Korea’s already shattered reputation.
Cambodian democracy is once again under assault. On January 9th, the leaders in Cambodia’s ruling party announced to opposition leaders of their proposal to limit campaign rallies. Political parties throughout the nation would be restricted to just two days of rallies during an election campaign. While this is a violation of the cardinal civil right to assembly, it’s sadly only the most recent attempt by Cambodia’s government to rollback the evolution of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Given the recent stories about Japan’s turn to nationalism, it is sometimes easy to forget how much Japan is influenced by pacifist sentiments. Indeed, even nationalists such as Abe Shinzo have found it necessary to dress up their policies in the language of pacifism. Thus, it is not surprising that Japan’s first National Security Strategy talks of a more “proactive contribution to peace.”
The Malacañang Palace in Manila—some say its name means “place of the fisherman”—is a rambling white concrete structure on the north bank of the Pasig River in the old district of San Miguel. The former residence of Spanish colonial governors and American generals, it now houses the office of the Philippine president, who lives out back in a smaller building on the palace grounds known as the “House of Dreams.”
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