Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Japan needs to navigate a pathway between the United States and China

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at the premier's office in Tokyo on 2 December 2021 (Photo: Kyodo via Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Japan’s Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai, who runs the Uniqlo clothing chain, declared that his company wouldn’t be choosing between the United States and China in an interview with financial daily Nikkei Asia last week. ‘Japan can’t survive without being an open country’, Yanai said. Japanese companies caught between the United States and China ‘need to acknowledge that Japan has nothing. Japan has no choice but to make money in markets across the world’. Read more…

Japan’s way forward in 2022

A New Year market of 'daruma' dolls, a popular talisman of good luck, opens in Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, 1 January 2022 (Photo: Kyodo via Reuters).

Author: Ben Ascione, Waseda University

Japan’s political calendar in 2021 was dominated by the government’s commitment to host the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games in July in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the election of the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in September and the lower house election in October. This series of events saw the end of Yoshihide Suga’s time as prime minister after just one year and the inauguration of Fumio Kishida. Yet, the change in leadership shows no sign yet of bringing significant change in policy direction despite the domestic and foreign policy challenges that face the new administration. Read more…

Timor-Leste defies the odds for stability in 2021

Women wearing protective masks look on as they walk on a street after the government announced new cases of COVID-19, Dili, Timor Leste, 16 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lirio da Fonseca).

Author: Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University

Following a period of parliamentary instability in 2020, Timor-Leste looked to chart a steadier political course in 2021. While the country continued to face poverty, malnutrition and unsustainable government spending, the political process finally settled into a workable pattern. This allowed for an orderly response to emergencies by avoiding the distractions of political infighting and contest.

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Middle power conundrum amid US–China rivalry

South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets with Australian PM Scott Morrison in Canberra, Australia, 13 December 2021 (PHOTO: Lukas Coch/Pool via REUTERS)

Author: Shin-wha Lee, Korea University

The international community has faced an unprecedented social and economic shock due to three ‘big bangs’ — increasing US–China strategic competition, the fourth industrial revolution and the COVID-19 crisis. These three big bangs are interrelated and pose important challenges and consequences for world trade, regional stability and the future of the liberal international order.

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Choppy conditions in the South China Sea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the South China Sea, 4 November 2021 (Photo: REUTERS/Tyler R. Fraser)

Author: Collin Koh, NTU

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis stalled the intended conclusion of the proposed South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) by 2021. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr remarked that the negotiations between ASEAN and China ‘went nowhere’. ASEAN countries and China have a tough job cut out for them in overcoming serious differences around the COC — not least of which involve the geographical scope of any deal and the role of non-signatories.

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Taiwan’s global prominence grows in 2021

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks after referendum in Taipei

Author: Lev Nachman, Harvard University

Taiwan is living in an unprecedented time. At the end of 2020, it was still one of the few places in the world not ravaged by COVID-19. President Tsai Ing-wen’s government enjoyed broad support, but people were nervous about the transition of power in the United States from former US president Donald Trump to Joe Biden and how the transition could impact Taiwan. 

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The tangled diplomacy of Sri Lanka’s currency crisis

A Sri Lankan customer buys vegetables in the Nugegoda retail vegetable market near Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka. 16 December 2021 (Akila Jayawardana/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect).

Author: Dushni Weerakoon, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka ends 2021 with foreign currency reserves in hand (US$1.6 billion) to support a month of imports. For much of the year, a shortage of dollars saw uncleared essential imports piling up at the Colombo port as domestic prices soared. Directions from the country’s central bank to maintain an artificially fixed rate have seen a parallel black market emerge, as businesses have struggled to find hard currency.

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Chinese aid strategy hinders goals on North Korea

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un at a Youth Day rally in Pyongyang, North Korea, 28 August 2021 (Photo: Reuters/KCNA).

Author: Andrei Lankov, Kookmin University

The 2018–2021 period can be seen as an important turning point in Korean history. In the space of a few years, the US–China confrontation has changed everything in Northeast Asia — and this change is likely to last for a long time. The ‘new Cold War’, as this confrontation is sometimes known, has not altered China’s strategic goals in Northeast Asia. But China is now willing to invest much more to achieve them.

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The future of South Korea’s defence transition

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Joe Biden enjoy lunch on the Oval Office Patio of the White House, 21 May 2021 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Jina Kim, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

In South Korea, presidential election fever is heating up. Key candidates from the conservative People Power Party and the liberal Democratic Party of Korea are presenting their blueprints for the future of South Korea’s security and defence.

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ASEAN and the new geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific

China Premier Li Keqiang attends Southeast Asian leaders virtual summit Tuesday 26 October 2021 without Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing after its top general failure of Myanmar's army to adhere to a peace road map it had agreed with the southeast Asian bloc following the coup in February.

Author: Amitav Acharya, American University

Southeast Asia is no stranger to strategic competition. But its ‘new geopolitics’ is different from those that existed during the Cold War.

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Myanmar’s military coup redux

Refugees, who fled a flare-up in fighting between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority rebels, stand at a temporary shelter in Mae Sot district, Tak province, Thailand, 18 December 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: David I Steinberg, Georgetown University

For the fourth time since Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Tatmadaw (military) has reasserted its control. On 1 February 2021, on the cusp of inaugurating a new parliament from the 2020 national elections, the Tatmadaw claimed electoral corruption in the opposition National League for Democracy’s overwhelming victory over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

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South Korea’s developmentalist response to COVID-19

A young girl, wearing a protective mask to avoid the spread of COVID-19, plays with bubbles at a shopping mall, South Korea, 1 May, 2020 (Photo: Gimpo via Reuters).

Author: David Hundt, Deakin University

For South Korea, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity to burnish its ‘national brand’. It has experienced relatively few daily infections, cumulative deaths are not high by world standards and vaccination rates are above global averages. The ‘tool-kit’ of policy responses for managing the pandemic is theoretically the same for all countries, but the hallmark of South Korea’s approach has been the ability to make pragmatic choices amid imperfect conditions.

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The India–Russia strategic partnership is key to Indo-Pacific stability

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia's President Vladimir Putin wave ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, 6 December 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi).

Author: Joshy M Paul, CAPS

India and Russia held their first ever 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brief visit to India on 6 December. Both countries decided to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation and boost the Vladivostok–Chennai energy corridor, a gateway for Russia into the Indo-Pacific and an alternate source of energy for India, rather than relying on the volatile Middle East.

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How China and the United States might find a way to collaborate around strategic competition

Lines of trucks are seen at a container terminal of Ningbo Zhoushan port in Zhejiang province, China, 15 August 2021 (Photo: cnsphoto via Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Heightened US–China tensions and strategic competition and China’s recent weaponisation of trade against countries like Canada and Australia have encouraged calls to drastically divert economic ties away from China. Some switching of trade is inevitable because lower trust and increased uncertainties increase the risk-adjusted costs of doing business.

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Balancing US–China strategic competition and collaboration

Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a virtual summit in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC on Monday, 15 November 2021 (Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters).

Author: Dong Wang, Peking University

The Asia Pacific has entered a period of profound change characterised by a shifting power balance and increasingly contentious great power rivalry. Key questions that loom large on the strategic horizon for the region and beyond are to what extent peace, stability and prosperity in the region can be maintained? And what steps need to be taken to strike the right balance between strategic competition and collaboration?

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