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Indian resistance to China’s expansionism would be a definitive moment in Asia’s geopolitical evolution

C. Raja Mohan

The Indian Express, June 30, 2020

There is a general consensus in Delhi that the Galwan encounter has produced a discontinuity in India’s China policy… the Galwan clash comes amidst the deepening crisis in bilateral relations over the last decade…At a time when most of the world is finding it hard to stand up against relentless political, economic and military pressures from Beijing, successful Indian resistance to China’s expansionism would be a definitive moment in the geopolitical evolution of Asia. The stakes for India and the world, then, are far higher today than in 1962 (More).

Asean unity in the age of coronavirus

Kavi Chongkittavorn

Bangkok Post, June 30, 2020

The opening ceremony of the 36th Asean Summit in Hanoi last Friday, attended by a roomful of local and foreign dignitaries, was a definite “ooh-aah” moment for Vietnam, which has been successful in mitigating the spread of coronavirus… It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has further enhanced Asean centrality and unity. At the global level, the pandemic has widened the schism between the major powers, especially the US and China. Their conflict has gone beyond trade and proliferated into other spheres, which have far-reaching repercussions for the rest of the world in unimaginable ways. As such, it is imperative for Asean to stick together to face the challenges posed by these external shocks (More).

China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy only raises world’s concern, distrust

The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2020

It has become conspicuous that China is taking intimidating actions against many other countries. The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is urged to understand that escalating confrontations will only trigger concerns and distrust from the international community, undermining China’s own national interests… It is widely believed that China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy has been driven by its own domestic troubles… It is also unacceptable that Chinese government ships have become more active in waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture (More).

The global pushback against China’s overreach in Hong Kong

Andreas Fulda

East Asia Forum, June 18, 2020

On 28 May 2020, with a vote of 2878 to 1, China’s rubber stamp National People’s Congress passed and enacted its new controversial Hong Kong national security legislation. It sent a clear message to the international community: Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ model is history… The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has played a very long game… The process of undermining democracy accelerated once CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Under Xi we have seen the rise of an ever-expanding security state (More).

What the new Chinese security law means for Hong Kong

Andrew Anderson

Al Jazeera, June 03, 2020

The spectre of being barred from overseas travel, forced to delete social media content, disappeared, detained and held in a secret location, tortured, prosecuted or jailed simply because of one’s identity or exercise of human rights guaranteed under local laws is now looming over Hong Kong. Beijing’s proposed legislation would also enable the mainland government’s national security agencies, which are known perpetrators of these abuses, to set up branches and enforce related laws in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers know all too well what China does to ethnic minorities, government critics, and democracy advocates in the mainland (More).

On Hong Kong, South Korea Is Caught Between China and US

Tae-jun Kang

The Diplomat, May 29, 2020

South Korea’s concerns are deepening as the United States and China each seek support from other countries over their positions. The conflict between two nations is escalating over Beijing’s decision to introduce the controversial decision giving its legislature power to pass a Hong Kong national security law… According to diplomatic sources, meanwhile, the United States also recently invited a group of Washington-based diplomats from its key allies to explain the U.S. position regarding the national security law. South Korean diplomats were among those invited. This is a difficult situation for South Korea, which has maintained “strategic ambiguity” between the countries (More).

Australia and China should seek common ground, not conflict

South China Morning Post, May 29, 2020

A nation as reliant on China for trade as Australia should be mindful of its circumstances and try to smooth differences. In the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, with economies hard hit by shutdowns, the expectation should be that care is necessary. But Australian politicians have instead taken a confrontational approach and fractures of recent years have widened, leading to Chinese measures that are being perceived as economic retaliation. The recovery from the coronavirus crisis requires countries cooperating on strategies to ensure a return to growth and prosperity; when differences arise, resolution depends on finding common ground through diplomacy (More).

COVID-19 Heats up the U.S.-China Competition

Rodger Baker

Stratfor, May 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified awareness of U.S.-China strategic competition, and refocused international attention on the expression of Chinese power. In a reinvigorated battle for the rimlands, it will be increasingly difficult for countries to maintain a “neutral” balance between the two powers (More).

The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy

Kevin Rudd

Foreign Affairs, May 06, 2020

In January and February of this year, there was audible popping of champagne corks in certain quarters of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. What some observers had long seen as this era’s giant geopolitical bubble had finally begun to deflate. China’s Communist Party leadership, the thinking went, was at last coming apart, a result of its obsession with official secrecy, its initial missteps in responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the unfolding economic carnage across the country. Then, as China began to recover and the virus migrated to the West in March and April, irrational jubilation turned to irrational despair (More).

China Is the Key to North Korea’s Denuclearization. Trump Is Throwing It Away

Kimberly Ann Elliott

World Politics Review, May 05, 2020

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un showed up to cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertilizer factory late last week, thereby quashing rumors that he was dead or perhaps incapacitated as a result of botched heart surgery. Disappearing for weeks at a time, as he did last month, is not unusual for Kim. But his failure to appear on April 15 at ceremonies celebrating the birthday of his grandfather and the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, triggered a whirlwind of rumors… he uncertainty of the past few weeks—and the potential that political instability in North Korea could lead to a strategic miscalculation with disastrous results—underscores why the past four American presidents have made it a priority to eliminate the country’s nuclear weapons and missile capabilities (More).

South China Sea Fishermen Caught between COVID-19 and China

James Borton

Geopolitical Monitor, April 29, 2020

The South China Sea is a marginal sea despite encompassing nearly 1.4 million square miles. Which to cartographers and marine scientists simply means that it is the division of an ocean. Along with archipelagos, islands and peninsulas it is the place where an ocean surrenders itself to the inevitably of the earth… The sea is under all kinds of assault: climate change, acidification, coral reef destruction, industrial pollution, marine plastics, and overfishing, to name but a few. The Spratlys, an archipelago, comprised of hundreds of reefs, sandbars and tiny atolls, sprawl some 160,000 square miles. These islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potentially by gas and oil deposits with one of the busiest international sea lanes nearby. Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute over the this stretch of water, referred to as the East Sea by Vietnam (More).

The script of disruption and a new order

M.K. Narayanan

The Hindu, April 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, involving as it does far too many variables. The very complexity of the novel coronavirus leads to radical uncertainty. Hence, it unlikely that the world will ever be the same again. Abnormal could well become the new normal. Pandemics have often changed the world and reshaped human society. Empires have collapsed… There is already concern that a diminution in human values could occur, and with this, the concept of an international community might well cease to exist. Each nation is tending to look inwards, concentrating on its narrowly defined national interests (More).

US warns China to stop bullying tactics in SCS

SD Pradhan

The Times of India, April 26, 2020

The US Secretary of States Mike Pompeo blamed China for continued bullying tactics in the South China Sea (SCS) that is distracting current efforts of the International Community to deal with the pandemic at a video conference with ASEAN states on 23rd April…China is pursuing a three-fold strategy to achieve its hegemonic objective in the SCS…The above aggressive policy of China has attracted strong protests from its neighbours and from the International Community. While Vietnam has lodged a complaint with the UN, the Philippines has filed two diplomatic protests with China over the violations of international law and of the Philippines sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. Malaysian standoff has brought American and Australian ships into the region. Three American warships and an Australian frigate this week held a joint exercise in the South China Sea near where the West Capella was operating (More).

Whither ASEAN unity?

The Jakarta Post, April 14, 2020

It is past due for ASEAN to step up its regional cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. No longer can it rely on its lumbering business-as-usual approach to address a virus that has infected over 18,000 people and killed around 700 in Southeast Asia alone. As all eyes are glued to the emergency ASEAN Summit on Tuesday, collective efforts must be sped up and all underutilized potential mobilized. As a regional organization, ASEAN needs now to dig deep into its reservoir of mechanisms and tap into its rich experience accumulated over the years, as was the case in the response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. However, it still must learn to cut through red tape to make itself immediately useful (More).

Using the virus to bash Beijing could trigger a new cold war

Simon Tisdall

The Guardian, April 04, 2020

…the steady barrage of accusations and threats directed at China by rightwing politicians in the US and Europe, and China’s defiant response, is about more than deflecting blame for the coronavirus disaster. Pent-up resentments on both sides are suddenly bursting into the open. The danger is that escalating mutual antagonism could, if unchecked, provoke a permanent east-west rift, even a second cold war. Under pressure to curb the pandemic, Donald Trump has agreed a temporary ceasefire with Beijing. His anti-China jibes and barbed comments about the “Wuhan virus” have stopped. Chinese officials are also stressing bilateral cooperation rather than name-calling. But once the immediate crisis passes, hostilities seem likely to resume (More).


Let the UN Command Remain a Tool for Korean Peace

 The Council on Foreign Relations, March 31, 2020

In Colonel (Ret.) David Maxwell’s comprehensive blog post outlining unresolved issues in the transition of operational control (OPCON) on the Korean Peninsula, he remarks that “There is a fundamental lack of understanding of the OPCON transition. Press, pundits, and partisan politicos on both sides of the Pacific are unaware of the history, plan, intent, and necessity of the transition.” Maxwell is right to articulate that the OPCON transition debate is peppered with Korean and American misunderstandings. Maxwell’s five-point communications plan to tackle these misunderstanding is well-considered, and I would suggest one additional topic of focus. This would be a deliberate communications effort to settle the disagreement over the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) after the OPCON transition, and to clarify that the UNC will continue its vital armistice-management activities after the OPCON transition occurs (More).


 Why Asia’s New Wave of Virus Cases Should Worry the World

 Motoko Rich

The New York Times, March 31, 2020

In China, international flights have been cut back so severely that Chinese students abroad wonder when they will be able to get home. In Singapore, recently returned citizens must share their phones’ location data with the authorities each day to prove they are sticking to government-ordered quarantines…Across Asia, countries and cities that seemed to have brought the coronavirus epidemic under control are suddenly tightening their borders and imposing stricter containment measures, fearful about a wave of new infections imported from elsewhere. The moves portend a worrisome sign for the United States, Europe and the rest of the world still battling a surging outbreak: Any country’s success with containment could be tenuous, and the world could remain on a kind of indefinite lockdown (More). 

India needs at least 38 million masks to fight coronavirus: agency document

Aditya Kalra, Devjyot Ghoshal

Reuters, March 28, 2020

India needs at least 38 million masks and 6.2 million pieces of personal protective equipment as it confronts the spread of coronavirus, and has approached hundreds of companies to secure supplies quickly, according to a report by the country’s investment agency seen by Reuters. As cases of the illness have risen, so has demand for protective equipment and masks, as well as complaints from healthcare workers about shortages. In a four-page internal document dated March 27, the Invest India agency detailed efforts to find companies that can supply critical supplies. Invest India said it had contacted 730 companies for ventilators, ICU monitors, protective equipment, masks and testing kits, of which 319 firms had responded so far. India, with 873 recorded cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths, took strong steps this week to curb the spread of the illness, with authorities concerned the healthcare system could be overwhelmed if the disease becomes rampant in the country of 1.3 billion (More).

Covid-19: India, US in talks to ease woes of stranded citizens, expats

Indrani Bagchi

The Times of India, March 28, 2020

The US, with almost 33,000 of its nationals stranded in India, will get special flights out of India most probably as soon as India lifts the commercial flights ban. According to officials, both countries are currently getting the permissions ready. However, the Indian government is not yet ready to bring back those in other countries yet — as India battles the coronavirus internally, the government has asked Indian citizens overseas to ‘shelter in place’…India asked the US to relax rules for H-1B visa holders, which currently requires them to leave the US to apply for a renewal. In the current circumstances, that might be difficult. India has also asked for similar rules for other visa holders to be relaxed during this period of an almost global lockdown (More). 

Japan’s Abe vows unprecedented stimulus as Tokyo coronavirus cases rise

Stanley White, Leika Kihara

Reuters, March 28, 2020

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country was close to a national emergency as infections surged…Infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,500, with 52 deaths, excluding those from a cruise ship quarantined last month, according to public broadcaster NHK. Officials confirmed a further 63 cases in Tokyo and on Saturday announced 57 new coronavirus cases at a center for the disabled in Chiba prefecture near the capital, NHK said. Hit early by the coronavirus in its initial spread from China, Japan had seen a more gradual rise than the recent surge in much of Europe and the United States that has led to lockdowns of billions of people around the world (More). 

To Slow Virus, China Bars Entry by Almost All Foreigners

Keith Bradsher

The New York Times, March 26, 2020

Worried that international travelers might trigger a second wave of coronavirus infections, China announced late Thursday night that it was suspending practically all entry to the country by foreigners and was halting almost all international passenger flights as well. The announcement came after official Chinese data indicated that the country had almost completely halted domestic transmission of the virus but was struggling to handle a growing number of people who were infected overseas. Foreign residents of China and foreigners with previously issued visas will no longer be allowed to enter the country as of midnight Friday, China’s foreign ministry declared late Thursday. The announcement represents one of the most comprehensive international travel bans imposed anywhere in the world, as governments try to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has already infected more than a half million people and killed more than 22,000 (More). 

China Needs More Progressive Taxes and More Spending on Public Health

Brad W. Setser

The Council on Foreign Relations, March 25, 2020

China’s tax system is far too regressive. And its system of social insurance is still underdeveloped. China consequently needs to collect more in tax (from the upper income cohorts) devote and far more resources to social spending. And that includes far more spending on public health. This isn’t the standard (pre-corona virus) outside prescription for China’s economy. The standard focus has been on reducing the large role of China’s state and allowing the market more room to operate. But that agenda is incomplete. It has to be combined with the creation of a new system of tax and much broader provision of social insurance…China effectively taxes the bottom half more heavily than the top half. The income tax only kicks in at the very top of the income distribution and it generates very little revenue (More).

Coronavirus: ‘Narrowing window’ to contain outbreak, WHO says

BBC News, February 22, 2020

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern at the number of coronavirus cases with no clear link to China or other confirmed cases. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”. Chinese health authorities reported a decrease in deaths and new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday. But cases are on the rise in South Korea, Italy, Iran and other countries. Outside China, more than 1,200 cases of the virus have been confirmed in 26 countries and there have been eight deaths, the WHO says. They include two deaths in South Korea, which has the biggest cluster of confirmed cases apart from China and a cruise ship quarantined in Japan. On Saturday, South Korea reported 142 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the national tally to 346 (More).

China’s top diplomat assures Southeast Asia on epidemic

Jim Gomez

The Associated Press, February 19, 2020

China’s top diplomat assured his Southeast Asian counterparts on Wednesday that the situation in a central Chinese province where the outbreak of a new virus began has “been brought under effective control.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi also expressed confidence that China can “secure an early victory against this outbreak.” Wang made the remarks in a speech to diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Laotian capital of Vientiane. The group, which has expressed alarm over the outbreak that started in China’s Hubei province, is to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the disease (More).

 Japan logged goods trade deficit of ¥1.31 trillion in January

 Japan Times, February 19, 2020

Japan posted a goods trade deficit for the third consecutive month in January, hit by weak exports to China and the United States, government data showed Wednesday…A ministry official referred to the tendency for exports to China to weaken before the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in late January, earlier than last year. The impact of COVID-19 was hard to quantify, the official said…The size of Japan-U.S. trade contracted despite their trade deal, which entered into force Jan. 1 and eliminated or lowered tariffs on U.S. beef and other agricultural products, as well as on Japanese exports such as components for air conditioning units…Across Asia including China, Japan’s trade balance turned red for the first time in a year (More).

Coronavirus Deepens India’s Economic Chill

Anthony Fensom

The Diplomat, February 18, 2020

Once Asia’s fastest-growing major economy, India’s recent downturn has seen the government hit the fiscal panic button. Will the coronavirus kill off its rescue effort? As of February 17, India had only three confirmed cases of COVID-19, the official name for the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. That’s negligible compared to the more than 72,000 infections reported in China. However, the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis could further chill growth in India’s already troubled economy…With the coronavirus spreading worldwide, New Delhi will be sweating that it is brought under control before lasting damage is inflicted on the world’s second-most populated nation (More).           

EU plans trade sanctions against Cambodia over rights record 

The Associated Press, February 12, 2020

The European Union has declared its intention to slap sanctions on Cambodia over what it considers to be the country’s human rights and trade union violations. The EU’s executive Commission said Wednesday that it has decided to withdraw key tariff preferences that amount to about one-fifth of the billion euros ($1.1 billion) the Southeast Asian nation exports to the bloc each year. The sanctions are due to start in half a year unless the European Parliament and EU member states raise objections…Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it regretted the EU judgment, which it said was “triggered by many misperceptions and misunderstandings about the actual realities in Cambodia.” (More).

Britain says ‘open for business,’ seeks deeper ASEAN ties 

The Associated Press, February 11, 2020

Britain sees huge trading opportunities in Southeast Asia and seeks to build a “new modern and dynamic” relationship with the region’s 10 nations after leaving the European Union, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Tuesday. Raab said Britain sees Malaysia as a key partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and that he made clear in talks with his Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, that “global Britain is open for business” following its contentious split from the EU. He said Britain has appointed Jon Lambe as ambassador to the Jakarta-based ASEAN as it seeks to bolster ties with the region (More).

India Conducts Second January 2020 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Test

Ankit Panda

The Diplomat, January 27, 2020

For the second time in six days, India conducted a test-launch of its longest-range submarine-launched ballistic missile, the K-4, from an underwater pontoon. The test was the second this month, with another taking place on January 19. Like the first test, the second K-4 launch was reported to have been successful…The test took place in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, near Vizag, and was overseen by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Indian government’s agency for the development of indigenous weapons systems…Aside from the K-4, India has also developed the K-15 Sagarika short-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (More).


Top UN official says Myanmar must follow order on Rohingya

Julhas Alam

The Associated Press, January 23, 2020

A top United Nations official who deals with human rights in Myanmar said Thursday that the international community must continue to put pressure on the Southeast Asian nation to follow any decision by the International Court of Justice regarding its treatment of minority Rohingya Muslims. U.N. Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee spoke in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, ahead of the court’s verdict in The Hague, Netherlands. The court read its verdict later Thursday, ordering Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya. In a unanimous decision, the court added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar (More).

China, US Sign ‘Historic’ Trade Deal

Shannon Tiezzi

The Diplomat, January 16, 2020

The “Phase One” U.S.-China trade deal was officially inked on Wednesday, in a ceremony featuring U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. A White House press release touted the deal as a “historic agreement” that “will begin to rebalance our vital trade partnership with China” and “will be an incredible boost for American businesses, farmers, manufacturers, and innovators.” Trump used similarly grandiose language in the ceremony, saying that the agreement “mark[s] a sea change in international trade.” China watchers noted the extreme oddity of having a signing ceremony featuring a president on one side and an envoy on the other – something analysts agreed China’s president would never submit to. Jorge Guajardo, formerly the Mexican ambassador to China and currently a senior director with McLarty Associates, tweeted: “China would never host a signing ceremony between Xi and a non-head of state/government.” But the discrepancy in rank didn’t seem to bother Trump, who appeared jubilant at the signing (More).