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Hong Kong Votes, Beijing Fumes

By Dylan Loh Ming Hui

2 July 2014

An unofficial referendum conducted in Hong Kong, sponsored by the ‘Occupy Central’ movement, drew a surprising 800,000 votes cast – drawing fire from China. What are the implications of the vote for Beijing?

ALMOST 800,000 ballots were cast online and physically at polling stations in Hong Kong, in an unofficial referendum on Hong Kong’s electoral reform. The turnout is a sizeable proportion of the 3.5 million registered voters in the 2012 elections –representing about one in five registered voters.

The poll gave voters three options all of which would allow voters to directly nominate and elect their Chief Executive, although there is an option to abstain.

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Jokowi Prabowo

Indonesia’s Post-Election Foreign Policy: New Directions?

By Emirza Adi Syailendra

16 June 2014

Indonesia’s foreign policy under President Yudhoyono has led to a higher profile and more favourable global image for the country. What trajectory will Indonesia’s foreign policy take after the 9 July presidential election?


INDONESIA’S FOREIGN policy-making is now highly personalised. Indonesia’s greater global diplomatic involvement has been associated with the growth of the economy and President Yudhoyono’s vision. As his term comes to an end, uncertainty is emerging over whether the global-mindedness of Indonesia foreign policy under him can be sustained.

For the upcoming presidential election, both Joko Widodo (“Jokowi’) and his rival Prabowo Subianto have been taking inspiration from the nationalist outlook of Sukarno. Jokowi has placed his own imprint on Sukarno’s Trisakti principle centred on national pride that places importance on three basic propositions: freedom to proactively assert the right of self-determination in the international scene; economic self-sufficiency; and building a strong national identity. Coupled with Prabowo’s posture as a strong leader in the image of Sukarno, the question arises as to the overall impact of a Sukarnoist influence on the future trajectory of Indonesia’s foreign policy.

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Hong Kong's Future

By Tom Roe

21 May 2014

As Hong Kong approaches the 17th year of ‘one country – two systems’ it is timely to reflect on the state of play in the former British colony and the challenges it faces in preserving its democratic structures in the face of a more assertive China. This paper considers the role of ‘Perfidious Albion’ pointing to British arrogance and inconsistency towards Hong Kong and China. It considers the possible options for Beijing faced by the sensitive ‘democracy issue,’ suggesting it is likely to opt for some flexibility within a rigid framework. The paper also examines Hong Kong peoples’ fears and desires before concluding with an analysis of the prospects for Hong Kong, especially its future autonomy, freedoms and suffrage in light of the proposal currently under discussion for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017.

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Afghanistan's Insurgency after the Transition

By International Crisis Group

13 May 2014

The war in Afghanistan entered a new phase in 2013. It now is increasingly a contest between the insurgents and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Many within and outside the government are more optimistic about stability in the wake of a relatively successful first round of presidential elections on 5 April 2014. However, any euphoria should be tempered by a realistic assessment of the security challenges that President Karzai’s successor will face in the transitional period of 2014-2015. Kabul may find these challenges difficult to overcome without significant and sustained international security, political and economic support.

The overall trend is one of escalating violence and insurgent attacks. Ongoing withdrawals of international soldiers have generally coincided with a deterioration of Kabul’s reach in outlying districts. The insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and some areas have experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops. Yet, the increasing confidence of the insurgents, as evidenced by their ability to assemble bigger formations for assaults, reduces the chances for meaningful national-level peace talks in 2014-2015.

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Whither Myanmar

Whither Myanmar?

By Derek Tonkin

29 March 2014

After three years of remarkable progress, commentators are wondering whether the reform process in Myanmar might be running out of steam. Some Western politicians undoubtedly cherished unreasonable expectations about the pace of the transition to democracy. More generally, the outcome of the Arab 'Spring' has shattered many illusions. Transitions are seen to be fraught with difficulties.

There has been a concerted, possibly inspired campaign against the National Census which is due to start on 30 March 2014, counting the population as at midnight tonight. In some cases, I suspect an intention to destabilise, as there is never likely to be a good time for a Census in any nation in transition. It is on balance better that the deed were done now, rather than wait until later.

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Indonesian elections - a watershed?

By Julia Marie Ewert

7 March 2014

In the next few weeks Indonesia will elect a new People’s Consultative Assembly and a new president. The legislative elections are scheduled for 9 April and presidential elections will take place on 9 July. With incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono being barred from a third term by the constitution, the Indonesian political scene will be fundamentally reshaped. The change of leadership in the largest Muslim-majority country in the world and the world’s fourth most populous country will have an impact beyond South East Asia.

The Indonesian legislature, the People’s Consultative Assembly, consists of the People’s Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR) and the Regional Representative Council. Of the 692 seats, 560 are in the People’s Representative Council and 132 in the Regional Representative Council.

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Mapping EU-ASEAN Relations

Mapping EU-ASEAN Relations

By Gauri Khandekar

6 March 2014

This publication provides an in-depth review of the European Union’s (EU) relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and each of the 10 ASEAN member countries. EU-ASEAN bilateral ties have undergone much progress in recent years. They are multi-layered, and cover a wide array of issues, ranging from development to economics, trade and investment, aid, and political and cultural affairs. By working with ASEAN, the EU enhances its presence in Asia and supports regional cooperation and multilateralism at large. This publication argues that the two parties should build on these achievements and deepen their partnership to exploit its full potential.

The book can be downloaded in .pdf format at

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Is the Rise of Asia Unstoppable?

By James Clad and Robert A. Manning

3 March 2014

For some time now, it has been fashionable to say that we have begun what will be a "Pacific Century." We have seen a flood of books of late, variations on the theme of When China Rules the World, as one put it. Certainly, in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession, this has been the conventional wisdom, a view shaped to a large extent by linear thinking. One of the most celebrated proponents of such views is the prolific former Singapore diplomat Kishore Mahbubani in a series of well received books on Asia's rise such as The New Asian Hemisphere.

In a recent article, Mahbubani has taken this linear logic to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective) with the premise that America's slide to number two economic status is "inevitable by 2019." His premise appears to be that the prospect of yielding the top spot to China appears horrible and unnatural in the collective U.S. psyche:

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UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

By Fraser Cameron

3 March 2014

On 17 February a UN Commission published documents detailing wide-ranging and ongoing crimes against humanity arising from "policies established at the highest level of State." The report called for urgent action by the international community to address the human rights situation in the country, including referral to the International Criminal Court.  

In a 400-page set of linked reports and supporting documents, based on first-hand testimony from victims and witnesses, the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK has documented in great detail the "unspeakable atrocities" committed in the country. "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world stated the report. "These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."

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Kerry Abe

Minefields in Obama’s trip to Asia

By Fraser Cameron

11 February 2014

This week John Kerry embarks on another visit to Asia seeking to remind everyone that the US pivot is still on track. In late April Barack Obama will visit Asia - Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. China is not on the list as Obama will pay a separate visit there later in the year.

Kerry will discuss political, security and economic issues in his trip. He will no doubt face questions about TPP. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for later this month but there are increasing doubts as to whether TPP can be completed in a reasonable timeframe given the inability of the Obama administration to secure fast track authority from Congress. If the President cannot secure the necessary support in Washington it is unlikely that Prime Minister Abe will risk political capital in trying to push for internal reforms in Japan.

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