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Thailand Junta

Calm in Thailand Hides Problems

By Fraser Cameron

4 February 2016

Visiting Thailand last month I was struck by the superficial calm in Bangkok as well as other cities. Most people go about their daily business without army or police interference. Tourists still come in their thousands to enjoy the many delights of the country. But although there are few visible signs of unrest many Thais wonder when they are going to have an elected government again. There is growing dissatisfaction with the military even among its initial supporters.

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Japan EU

The Economics of Origami

By Lena Muxfeldt, Matthias Götz

16 December 2015

In recent decades, it has become a mantra that the EU-Japan relations are full of significant untapped potential. Now, with the negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA; officially: Economic Partnership Agreement) underway, there is momentum to believe that this untapped trade potential will finally be unfolded like a delicate origami.

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EU-India Relations: Wishful Thinking

By Susanna Mocker

23 November 2015

‘Diversity is our pride and our strength’ declared Indian Prime Minister Modi at a public diplomacy spectacle in London last week. This was very reminiscent of President Juncker's last state of the European Union address. The two unions of 28 and 29 states respectively, share a strategic partnership since 2004. On paper, the partners make a great couple: the world's most populous democracy and an entity of 28 democracies considering itself a normative power; a subcontinent launching the ‘Make in India’ campaign and the world's biggest trading bloc; a state seeking technological innovation and a union applying for one third of the world's patents; a remarkably young country excelling in healthcare and a rapidly aging continent wondering how to take care of the elderly. India-EU relations certainly have a lot of potential but to date untapped potential. There was no EU-India summit since 2012 although Modi has visited France, Germany, Ireland and the UK in his 18 months as prime minister.

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Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar goes to the polls

By Susanna Mocker

17 October 2015

On 8 November Myanmar holds important national and regional elections. While the elections are likely to be the freest since the military took power in 1962, a quarter of the seats in the national parliament remain reserved for the military. The incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is being strongly challenged by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi. Another 90 parties are contesting the election, reflecting the diversity of Myanmar.

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Turnbull Abbott

Australia’s Turnbull Government: Big Changes Coming?

By Rajaratnam School of International Studies

30 September 2015


Australia’s new government led by Malcom Turnbull will be very different from its predecessor, though of the same Liberal-National coalition. However residual conservative forces within its ranks mean that major changes in direction are unlikely in the short-term.

Australia’s new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will lead a government that is very different from its predecessor though of the same Liberal-National coalition. Turnbull has described his government as one that will seize the opportunities of the future rather than one seeing only challenges ahead and seeking to preserve the order of the past. The government of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, had become derided for its reactionary mindset, including its failure to accept challenges of the 21st Century, such as climate change and the need for a constructive renewable energy policy.

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Domestic Consensus Vital for ASEAN Economic Integration

By Institute of South East Asian Studies

14 September 2015


On 31st December 2015, the ten ASEANY member states will jointly announce the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). At present, these states have yet to fulfil all the stipulated targets stated in the AEC Blueprint. This Blueprint ultimately aims for an integrated market and a production base that allow for free movement of goods, services and skilled labour, as well as freer movement of capital.

One explanation for their shortcoming is the conflicting interests existing within the domestic economy. These generally involve technical, human and financial constraints; national priorities; bureaucratic complexities; preference for unilateral liberalization; differing interests among industry players; as well as lack of coherence in government policies.

What is needed to enhance the AEC beyond 2015 are improvements in four key areas: a) greater policy coherence in domestic economies; b) increased stakeholder consultation; c) identifying of winners and losers to mitigate the negative impact on domestic stakeholders; and d) overcoming resource constraints.

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History and Politics

History and Politics

By Fraser Cameron

27 August 2015

History and politics are more intertwined in East Asia than anywhere else in the world and rarely has a statement been more anticipated and digested than that by Japan’s Prime Minister Abe on 14 August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Would he apologise for Japan’s aggression in Korea, China and elsewhere in Asia during the 1930s and 40s? Would he tackle the sensitive issue of the comfort women? How would Korea and China react to the statement? And what would be the political consequences?

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A modest proposal to help ASEAN reconcile their overlapping claims in the Spratlys

By Michael McDevitt

10 July 2015

Because the multiple Spratly sovereignty claims largely overlap, attempting to unscramble these claims is generally considered too difficult. What follows is one way ASEAN claimants – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei – could reconcile their competing claims in the Spratly Islands.

The reason for doing so is simple. It would set a positive example for subsequent resolution with China. It would also make it easier for ASEAN to speak with one voice to China regarding a resolution of overlapping claims, and would create a useful precedent for other maritime disputes in East Asia. It might also make it easier for each country to begin to exploit resources in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

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xi and putin

The “New” Russia-China Relations -Implications for the EU

By Jess,Xufeng JIA

22 June 2015

·         Russia is increasingly turning towards China as a result of Western sanctions. But although there is much talk and diplomatic support there are few concrete results due to Russia’s structural economic problems.  
·         This short-term ‘axis of convenience’ could, however, develop into a more strategic alliance in the future given the right incentives on both sides.
·         The EU has taken a relaxed position to this new relationship. This may not be possible in future and the EU should reflect on how closer ties between Russia and China might affect important EU interests. 

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eu in asia

Europe in Emerging Asia

By Fraser Cameron

21 June 2015

This volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature on EU-Asia relations. It examines the problems and opportunities facing the EU as it grapples with a continent containing 60% of the world’s population and likely to contain 60% of the world’s middle class in less than two decades. The various authors make abundantly clear the growing interdependence between Europe and Asia.

One of the advantages of the book is the mix of authors, including experts and policy makers from both continents. But the book suffers, as is the fate of all edited volumes, from a certain inconsistency in the chapters.  China, India, Korea and Thailand are covered but not Japan. On the European side Britain and Poland are given prominence but there is nothing on Germany or France. Inevitably the chapters reflect the interests of the authors but nevertheless one finishes the book with a sense of having eaten a good meal, albeit with no dessert or coffee.

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