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International outcry over Brunei revision of penal statutes

5 April 2019

5 April 2019

On April 3, a revision of the penal code entered into force in the Kingdom of Brunei-Darussalam, foreseeing death by stoning as the sole legal punishment for gay and lesbian sex, adultery, and abortion. The Sharia-inspired code, which entry into force had been postponed for four years due to mounting international pressure, has come under renewed criticism from governments and NGOs around the world.

The new law testifies to the conservative turn the country has taken in recent years under Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. In a statement by the EEAS, the EU condemned those aspects in the revised penal code which amount to “torture, acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which are prohibited by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” to which Brunei is a party.

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Thai Elections Standoff

2 April 2019

The long delayed general election in Thailand on 24 March has failed to produce any clarity let alone heal the divisions in Thai society. With final results only to be released after the coronation ceremony on May 6, it remains unclear which party will be leading in forming a new government. 

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EU Takes Tougher Line on China

13 March 2019

13 March 2019

The Commission and EEAS issued a communication on 12 March on EU-China relations proposing that the EU takes a tougher approach towards its strategic partner and top trading partner. The paper proposed ten actions (see annex) urging China, described as a ‘systematic rival,’ to deal with the lack of reciprocity in economic relations and to act as a responsible stakeholder in tackling global challenges. The paper also raised sensitive issues such as human rights and the situation in the South China Sea.

The paper will be discussed at the March European Council which will also prepare guidelines for the EU-China summit set for 9 April in Brussels. Before then China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 March. 

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nzeu

The EU and New Zealand are natural partners

11 March 2019

After a week of discussions in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch it is quite apparent that New Zealand is beginning to feel the impact of the growing rift between the US and China. 

For the past 50 years it has been dependent on the US for its security but not for its economic prosperity. That label, once held by the UK, now belongs to China which takes 25% of New Zealand exports or about the same as Australia and the US combined. It is no surprise therefore that New Zealand is looking around for new partners in an increasingly uncertain world. And one partner growing in importance is the European Union (EU), Fraser Cameron argues. 

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Connecting East and West through Music: Tan Dun in concert, 28/29 January

30 January 2019

On 28 January, the EU-Asia Centre, in collaboration with the Confucius Institute of the VUB and the Brussels Academy for China Studies, organized a panel discussion on the role of music in promoting connectivity between Europe and Asia. 

The event was followed by a grand concert on 29 January, jointly organized by the EU-Asia Centre and the Chinese Mission to the EU, where over 600 Chinese and European policymakers and artists viewed a spectacular performance of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra led by Maestro Tan Dun. Joined by award-winning Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat, rising suona star Liu Wenwen and renowned Peking opera artist Lian Wenqing, the orchestra performed a number of European and Chinese pieces, ranging from Igor Stravinsky to Ren Tongxiang. 

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Thailand to hold national elections on March 24

29 January 2019

29 January 2019

The government of Thailand announced last week that it will organize a long-overdue and widely anticipated general election on March 24 this year. Prayut Chan-o-cha, who proclaimed himself Prime Minister in May 2014 following a military coup, seems to be placing a bet that his National Council for Peace and Order will gain the support of the Thai population to lead the country to a period of increased social stability and more sustainable economic growth. 

Under Prayut’s rule, the self-proclaimed junta government initiated a severe crackdown on political and civil rights. Political activity seemed disadvantageous to the rule of his Party has been outlawed. Yet Prayut also promised upon his ascent to power in 2014 a return to democracy. This year, having come under increasingly great pressure from the international community and civil forces at home, the Thai population will be able to finally cast a vote on their future.

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New Zealand PM visits Brussels

25 January 2019

25 January 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, visited the EU and NATO on 25 January. Fresh from a starring role in Davos, she said that her visit was aimed at boosting the EU-NZ FTA negotiations which started six months ago. 

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EU-ASEAN Ministerial Charts Progress

21 January 2019

21 January 2019

 EU and ASEAN Foreign Ministers today agreed to upgrade their relationship to a ‘strategic partnership’, in a show of "support of multilateralism and the rule-based global order".

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Xi Refuses Outside Pressure to Reform (Plus Latest EU Policy Paper)

19 December 2018

19 December 2018

In a major speech on 18 December marking 40 years since the reform and opening up of the Chinese economy by Deng Xiaoping, President Xi Jinping praised the country’s great development from poverty to prosperity and warned that ‘no one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done.’ China would develop at its own pace, in its own style, without outside interference or pressure.' 

He stated that China would never seek to be a global hegemon and China’s development ‘will never constitute a threat to any other country.’ Xi made no direct mention of the current trade dispute with the US but emphasised China’s role as a defender of world peace and the international order. 

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European Think Tank Network on China - Report on Political Values in Europe-China Relations

10 December 2018

Last week, the European Think Tank Network on China (ETNC) published its latest report, titled "Political values in Europe-China relations". In its report, the group of researchers from 17 European states analyze the role political values (democracy, human rights and the rule of law) play in Europe's China policy, and whether China has any influence on the understanding of political values in Europe. 

The report finds that three particular factors are of importance to the variety in European approaches towards China: historical legacy, economic relations with China and Chinese pressure. It also finds that Europe's recent impact on China's political values has been rather limited - with the exception of a number of limited individual cases. 

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