On December 24, 2013, several Cambodian union groups called for worker strikes throughout the country in response to new minimum wage policies by the Labor Ministry, who had set the minimum wage for 2014 at $95 dollars a month, not the $160 dollars a month that labor leaders had demanded. For ten days, tens of thousands of workers went on strike, marching through the streets of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. At the height of the protests, over 100,000 workers joined the demonstrations on December 29th for new labor laws and improved wages.
Asia is home to the eight of the world’s ten largest megacities—Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Guangzhou, Delhi, Shanghai, Karachi, and Manila—all with over 20 million inhabitants. As Asia’s megacities continue to grow, concern mounts over the ability of states to control them. That control would be tested by natural disasters, civil unrest, infrastructure shortfalls, or epidemics. Indeed, the preparedness of most of Asia’s sprawling megacities is untested.
If there were a medal for calling for labor strikes, colloquially known as hartal, Bangladesh would be the perpetual champion. Since their birth, the political parties of Bangladesh have regularly exercised their democratic rights more in staging hartal than working towards a truly democratic Bangladesh. Hartal often see people die in the street clashes and cause economic paralysis, while demonstrating how political leadership in Bangladesh has manipulated the core values of democracy with a view to eternalizing power by so-called ‘democratic’ means.
In late 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the United States’ intention to participate in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. The TPP has become the capstone of the U.S.’ rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and will be the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in the world. The TPP will set a new a standard for FTAs and consists of 11 member states. However, the world’s second largest economy, China, has not been a part of the negotiations. There have been voices calling for China’s inclusion and also exclusion. After the informal U.S.-China summit in Sunnylands, both leaders recognized the need for continued cooperation and economic integration. But is the time right for China to join the talks? Both the U.S. and China have goals and objectives that will prevent China from joining the TPP in the short term, but both countries should strive for further trade liberalization and economic integration.
One of the foreign policy dilemmas facing many Southeast Asian nations is how to deal with the competing interests of two superpowers in the region: China and the United States. The United States has had a vested interest in the region since the Vietnam War, but China’s influence stretches back as far as the Qin dynasty. Southeast Asian nations often side with one or the other in order to attract foreign aid or investment. Over the past decade, however, Cambodia has managed to play both sides, drawing huge capital inflows from both countries to fuel its economy.
"My soil, my mother will not turn into a desert!” “We do not want electricity destroying the Sundarbans!” These are only two of many more emotional slogans chanted by the participants of a long march protesting against the proposed installation of a power plant with Indian assistance. A 400km march en route to Rampal—a small town near the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest on the planet—from the capital city of Dhaka spearheaded by the left-leaning Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports ended just recently. Protesters participating in the long march vow to stop the building of a massive 1320 megawatt coal-based power plant that finds its home just 14 km away from the Sundarbans. They have also issued an ultimatum to the government to cancel the project by October 11th, as Professor Anu Mohammad, the member secretary of the Committee, recited from the Sundarbans Announcement. The speakers say that failure to comply with this will trigger fresh protests.
When India tested its nuclear weapons, one of its primary objectives was to develop a nuclear triad for the nation. A nuclear triad includes land based intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, and SSBNs (fitted with Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles). In the Indian context, the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000H which was initially meant only for air defence, but was later chosen for nuclear strikes. The Jaguar-IM was also capable of delivering nuclear bombs. The MiG-27ML and Mirage 2000Ns were also considered to be a choice to deliver nuclear weapons.
Kyodo News reported on July 6th that the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD) is assessing the option to purchase two additional Aegis-equipped destroyers for BMD missions. The country’s current Aegis fleet consists of four Kongo-class destroyers. Combined with the commissioning of two Aegis-equipped destroyers currently under renovation, the new purchase would effectively double Japan’s Aegis fleet and make eight destroyers available for BMD missions in out years.
At the end of May, the Wilson Center hosted a conference on China’s economic and political outlook under its new generation of leadership. J. Stapleton Roy, Director of the Kissinger Institute, moderated the discussion featuring Junhua Wu, Chief Senior Economist at the Japan Research Institute Ltd. and a Wilson Center Senior Scholar, as well as Kiyoyuki Seguchi from the Canon Institute for Global Studies. While each panelist presented their opinions primarily on the economic outlook of China, each highlighted different challenges and opportunities for China’s fifth generation of leaders.
Junhua Wu began her presentation by focusing on the short-term economic projections put forth by the Chinese government. Furthermore, she questioned the legitimacy of these numbers. However, instead of delving into these topics, she reversed course and stated that both topics were irrelevant (unless you are an investment banker, she said) and that long-term projections were of utmost importance. “China’s economy has gone through ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ cycles since 1979,” she stated. She followed this by presenting a graph that showed China’s economy has grown, on average, at a blistering pace of 9.8 percent for the past three decades. She argued that less attention should be focused on whether or not China’s economy has had a “soft landing” and more attention given to potential long-term structural changes contemplated by China’s new leaders.
Since separating himself from the governing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the late 1990s, Anwar Ibrahim has labored relentlessly at the forefront of Malaysia's political opposition movement. After successfully upending the BN's two-thirds parliamentary majority in the landmark 2008 general election, it looked as though 2013 would be the year in which the Anwar-fronted People's Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) finally broke through at the ballot box.
That much hoped-for political watershed will now be deferred for at least one more election cycle. After a record turnout last Sunday, the BN emerged with a necessary majority of 133 seats against 89 for the opposition. Although they racked up 7 more seats than in 2008, Anwar and his allies remain well short of a parliamentary majority.
But while Prime Minister Najib gets to keep his job for the time being, in the long run, 2013 may amount to little more than a pyrrhic victory. The election results did little to bridge the growing political chasm between differing segments of Malaysian society. Going forward, the future viability of the ruling coalition is looking more precarious than ever.
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