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Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Backgrounder: Media Censorship in China

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: Media Censorship in China
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Chinese government has long kept tight reins on both traditional and new media to avoid potential subversion of its authority. Its tactics often entail strict media controls using monitoring systems and firewalls, shuttering publications or websites, and jailing dissident journalists, bloggers, and activists. The severity of media censorship grabbed headlines in early January 2013 when Southern Weekly, a liberal-leaning paper based in Guangzhou, staged a week-long confrontation with the government after local propaganda authorities rewrote a front-page pro-reform editorial. Google’s battle with the Chinese government over Internet censorship in China, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s awarding of the 2010 Peace Prize to jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, have also increased international attention to media censorship in the country. At the same time, the country’s burgeoning economy has allowed for greater diversity in China’s media coverage, and experts say the growing Chinese demand for information is testing the regime’s control.

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Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back – Commons Library Standard Note
Source: House of Commons Library

In May 2013 elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, won a majority of seats in parliament despite gaining only 47% of the vote. The opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), led by Anwar Ibrahim, gained 51% of the vote but extreme variations in the size of parliamentary constituencies across Malaysia meant that it was unable to translate that into electoral victory.

The outcome represented a further erosion of the BN’s once impregnable political ascendancy in Malaysia. Prime Minister Najib had sought to win back enough urban Malays and Chinese-origin voters by invoking “One Malaysia” and introducing a cautious range of political reforms. He did just enough, although the opposition challenged the probity of the result.

With his leadership under significant threat within UMNO, the dominant Malay party within the BN, since the 2013 elections Najib has launched a campaign of harassment of the political opposition and focused anew on affirmative action for Malays. Longstanding sodomy charges have been revived against Anwar Ibrahim – he is currently appealing against a five-year jail sentence but if unsuccessful his political career could well be over – and he could soon also be charged with sedition. Many wonder if the PR will hold together if he is removed from the scene.

At the same time, Najib has sought to preserve his international reputation as a reformer, focusing primarily on economic liberalisation measures. But a closer look suggests that his reforming credentials are currently somewhat threadbare.

Hat tip: GP

Urban Poverty in Asia

October 28, 2014 Comments off

Urban Poverty in Asia
Source: Asian Development Bank

The phenomenon of urban poverty in Asia is pervasive, severe, and largely unacknowledged. In several Asian countries, the numbers of the urban poor have risen over the 1990–2008 period, lending strength to the proposition that as Asian economies become more urbanized, they may face increasing urban poverty with some urban scholars labeling it as “urbanization of poverty.”

Unlike rural poverty, urban poverty is complex and multidimensional—extending beyond the deficiency of income or consumption, where its many dimensions relate to the vulnerability of the poor on account of their inadequate access to land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, economic and livelihood sources, health and education facilities, social security networks, and voice and empowerment.

In most of developing Asia, urbanization has been accompanied by slums and shelter deprivation, informality, worsening of the living conditions, and increasing risks due to climate change and exclusionary urban forms. According to the UN-HABITAT, Asia has 60% of the world’s total slum population, and many more live in slum-like conditions in areas that are officially designated as nonslums. Working poverty and informality are high in Asian cities and towns. Recent years have witnessed, almost universally, increasing urban inequalities and stagnating consumption shares of lower-percentile households, with Hong Kong, China registering one of the highest Gini-coefficients observed in any other part of the developing and developed world.

Hong Kong: one country, two systems?

October 23, 2014 Comments off

Hong Kong: one country, two systems?
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

The on-going heated debate about the introduction of universal suffrage for the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has turned into widespread protests on the territory’s streets. Hopes that the public would be able to nominate candidates were dashed by China’s decision to allow only committee-based nomination of candidates in the 2017 election. The Occupy Central protests, widely known as the Umbrella Revolution, kicked off on 28 September. Agreement to talks, scheduled for 10 October, saw tensions lowered, but after those talks were cancelled by the authorities, organisers called for protesters to return to the streets. With numbers not reaching earlier heights, the authorities appear to have concluded that the protests’ momentum is going.

Country Analysis Brief — Malaysia

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief — Malaysia
Source: Energy Information Administration

Malaysia’s energy industry is a critical sector of growth for the entire economy, and it makes up almost 20% of the total gross domestic product. New tax and investment incentives, starting in 2010, aim to promote oil and natural gas exploration and development in the country’s deepwater and marginal fields as well as promote energy efficiency measures and use of alternative energy sources. These fiscal incentives are part of the country’s economic transformation program to leverage its resources and geographic location to be one of Asia’s top energy players by 2020. Another key pillar in Malaysia’s energy strategy is to become a regional oil and natural gas storage, trading, and development hub that will attract technical expertise and downstream services that can compete in Asia.

Keeping the South China Sea in Perspective

October 17, 2014 Comments off

Keeping the South China Sea in Perspective
Source: Brookings Institution

The United States seeks to promote Asia-Pacific economic interdependence and dynamism and to mitigate security tensions in the region. Unfortunately, maritime territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea increasingly threaten these dual objectives of U.S.-Asia policy. This policy brief focuses on the South China Sea set of issues.

Complex Rivalries and Claims in the South China Sea

U.S. Principles and Interests

Recommendations for a Diplomatic Strategy

Issue Guide: What’s at Stake in Hong Kong?

October 17, 2014 Comments off

Issue Guide: What’s at Stake in Hong Kong?
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Twenty-five years after the brutal Tiananmen crackdown, continuing protests in Hong Kong calling for greater democracy in the territory have once again focused the world’s attention on China’s rise and challenges to its authoritarian rule. The following guide provides background and analysis of the issues at stake for Hong Kong and the wider region.

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