Under the Radar News 05.27.11

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Taiwan plans to spend $860 million to buy MK 54 and MK 48 torpedoes to replace aging U.S. and German weapons. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry also plans to purchase M1A2 tanks and amphibious landing vehicles to modernize defense capabilities.

  • Extreme water shortages have caused extensive damage to farmland and crops, affecting 4.42 million people along the Yangtze River. Drought conditions may affect whether the amount of rice planted meets the expected 5.87 million hectares for 2011.

  • Kim Jong Il’s week-long China trip concludes in DPRK-China consensus for peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff, including resuming six-party talks. The visit largely sought to lay the foundation for rebuilding a cooperative relationship with China and boosting the DPRK economy.

  • Indonesia will send a team of surveyors to inspect the Thai-Cambodian border area, but not the actual 4.6 sq km of contested territory where Cambodian and Thai troops are currently stationed.

  • Shortage of thermal coal, insufficient facilities, and grid transmission problems may lead to China’s worst power shortage in decades. Twenty-six out of thirty-one provincial regions including Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjian will be affected.

  • Singapore announced intention to sign an FTA with Taiwan, the first Southeast Asian nation to do so following the cross-Strait economic agreement in 2010. A FTA will increase Taiwan’s access to Singapore’s financial markets and potentially into ASEAN’s agricultural markets. The Philippines and India are also initiating talks of trade agreements with Taiwan.

  • India’s Chief of the Naval Staff has asked his top commanders to be operationally ready. This notice comes in the wake of a terror attack on a naval base in Karachi last Sunday which resulted in loss of lives and destruction of maritime patrol aircraft.

  • Japan has permitted the U.S. to export a jointly developed ballistic missile interceptor, which the U.S. plans to deploy for a shield in Europe in response to threats from Iranian missiles. This step away from the three principles on arms exports is seen as an attempt to reaffirm bilateral ties after the controversial Okinawa relocation stalemate.

  • The Philippines has made little progress on meeting the 6th Millennium Development Goal of curbing HIV/AIDS. The Filipino Department of Health estimates a five-fold increase in new HIV infections in the next five years. Meanwhile, President Bengino Aquino III continues to advocate for use of contraceptives in spite of threats of excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Under the Radar News 05.20.11

    Posted on Friday, May 20, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The Chinese central government has sent monitoring teams to fourteen provinces to ensure fair local and regional elections. This is seen as an effort to crackdown on rampant election misconduct and increase central regulation over local officials.

  • China, the world’s largest wind power developer, has announced plans to substantially boost offshore wind power by 2020. Wind power is vital to reduce local energy shortages for China’s eastern coastal areas.

  • DPP former national policy adviser, Ellen Huang, announced her plans to run as a third party, independent candidate in the upcoming Taiwanese president elections. Huang, a close ally of Chen Shui Bian, aims to reawaken the Taiwanese independence debate and bring it back to the election forefront.

  • Despite Myanmar’s announced cuts to jail terms of political prisoners, the US renewed economic sanctions against the regime. This decision comes amidst pressure by Asian countries to ease sanctions after the recent civilian elections.

  • South Korea revealed the location for its new science belt, which will host key research facilities. With estimated expenditures of US$4.67 billion, the government hopes to not only bolster long-term economic growth, but establish the country as a global technology innovator.

  • Chief of the general staff of the PLA, and seven other generals are leading the PLA's first trip to the United States. This visit marks an improvement in relations following the disruption of military ties due to the 2010 US-Taiwan arms deal.

  • Mongolia has agreed to build an electrical line that will import electricity from China. The supply of electricity will be distributed to Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mining project in order to address a short-term energy need.

  • A high level forum between Latin American cabinet ministers and South Korean investors, held in Seoul, highlighted the importance of Latin America’s trade relationship with South Korea.

  • A report released by the World Bank predicts that Indonesia will be one of six countries accounting for half of global economic growth by 2025. In order to maintain a high level of growth, emerging economies must implement ‘structural changes’ to increase productivity and domestic demand.

  • China has agreed to provide 50 more JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan on an "expedited" basis. This decision, following bin Laden’s death, showcases the increasingly close economic and military relations between China and Pakistan.
  • China's Colombian Courtship

    Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

    With its long history of civil war, drugs, and armed guerrilla groups, Colombia has never been an investor’s paradise. Other than the United States, most other countries have stayed out—until now. China recently announced an ambitious plan to construct a 136-mile railroad connecting Colombia’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Financed by the Chinese Development Bank and operated by the state-owned China Railway Group, this $7.6 billion venture has a projected capacity of moving 40 million tons of cargo each year. Yet, this ‘dry canal’ is unlikely to supplant the traditional Panama Canal shipping lane—current conduit of 5% of global trade—as railway containers are a less effective and more costly method of transporting goods and resources.

    This staggering investment in the infrastructure of the world’s fifth largest coal exporter goes beyond satiating China’s hunger for energy resources. Chinese ambassador to Colombia, Gao Zhengyue, pointed to Colombia’s “strategic position…as a port to the rest of Latin America.” Beijing’s efforts to upgrade relations with Bogota include an agreement to increase legislative cooperation and pursuing aspirations of making Colombia an unconditional friend and political ally.

    For its part, Colombia is not objecting to Chinese advances. In fact, it regards Chinese investment as significant for bolstering its infrastructure and increasing its economic standing in Latin America. Oscar Zuluaga, Colombia’s finance minister, attributes the country’s low level of integration with Asia for its inability to keep pace with its neighbors' high rate of economic growth. Although China is currently Colombia’s second largest trading partner after the United States—with bilateral trade skyrocketing from $10 million in 1980 to $5 billion in 2010—economic ties still lags behind China’s relations with other Latin American countries. Bogota’s recent appointment of Carlos Urrea, a successful textiles entrepreneur, as ambassador to Beijing signals a desire to more vigorously pursue closer ties with the Asian giant.

    From a political standpoint, a Sino-Colombian partnership seems ideologically incongruous. Colombia, a stalwart of democracy in the region, has spent nearly fifty years fighting against the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), a Socialist armed rebel group. Integral to its defense and counterinsurgency efforts has been U.S. support. Colombia has historically been one of, if not the, strongest U.S. allies in Latin America. Despite its steadfast loyalty, politically and economically, to the U.S., the long delay in ratifying the 2006 bilateral FTA may have contributed to Colombia’s interest in diversifying its trade relations, perhaps even with the implicit goal of pressuring the U.S. for more movement on the FTA deal. While Colombian president Santos has dismissed any adverse effects that a closer relationship with China will have on Colombia-US relations, the question lingers: can one be unconditional friends of both the United States and China?

    Image: Map of China’s proposed new railway in Colombia.

    Source: CICE

    Under the Radar News 05.13.11

    Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Chinese marine authorities on Sunday added a new ship to the fleet patrolling South China Sea. The South Sea fleet now has 13 patrolling ships, two planes and one helicopter.

  • China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan , all member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), last Friday conducted a joint anti-terror drill in Kashi of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

  • Australia has struck a deal with the Malaysian government to accept thousands of refugees, mostly Burmese, living in the country in return for Malaysia taking on the burden of hundreds of boatpeople that arrive in Australia each year. Canberra announced its plan to send 800 asylum seekers to camps in Malaysia over the next four years.

  • Thai Prime Minister Abhisit received royal permission to dissolve Parliament seven months early and scheduled general elections for July 3rd. The Thai Election Commission has asked police to provide security for politicians and their supporters following an attempted assassination of Pracha Prasopdee, a former Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan.

  • On May 10th, Indonesia ratified the ASEAN-Aust-NZ FTA. Jakarta announced that the free trade implementation will start this year, but the some post-tariff implementation would be gradual, up to 2015.

  • China Nonferrous Metal Mining Co.(Group) (CNMC), the country’s non-ferrous metal giant, is expecting two of its major overseas projects--a wet copper smelting project in Zambia and nickel mining and smelting project in Burma--to begin operation this year. More on China’s copper appetite.

  • A local Taiwanese newspaper reported on Monday that the military had begun deploying indigenous Hsiung Feng-III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles on its warships in anticipation of the imminent launch of China’s first aircraft carrier early next year.

  • The United States has struck a deal with the Marshall Islands to continue using the key missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll through to 2066.

  • A new rail connection for cargo between Antwerp in Belgium and Southwest China’s Chongqing was launched on May 9th, connecting the biggest transportation hub in western China to the second-largest port in Europe.

  • Japan, the United States and Mongolia are reportedly considering construction of a spent nuclear fuel storage and disposal facility in the central Asian nation.

  • The Tibet autonomous region is poised to become the country's leading solar power generation base with 10 more photovoltaic power plants to be completed within this year. There are plans to gradually expand the market to about 5 million kilowatts installation capacity in 2015 and 20 million kilowatts in 2020.

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    The Rise of China’s Eco-cities: A Harbinger of a Sustainable Future?

    Posted on Monday, May 9, 2011 by Amy Chang

    China is harnessing renewable energy resources in an effort to bolster economic growth, accommodate rural-to-urban migration, and promote environmental sustainability. Among bold initiatives is the State Council’s encouragement for the “energetic establishment of eco-provinces, eco-cities, eco-counties and eco-townships.” Eco-cities are new urban development models that aim to balance environmental sustainability and urban life. As of 2009, China had 40 eco-city projects proposed or under development and by 2010, there were as many as 168 projects at various stages of development. Among these is the joint Sino-Singapore Tianjin eco-city project, launched in late-2007, which allows China to capitalize on the expertise of Asia’s greenest city.

    The Sino-Singapore Tianjin eco-city, located 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Tianjin city center, covers about 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles), and will consist of 100,000 homes for a population of 350,000 upon its projected completion in 2020. The city would utilize solar and geothermal energy, water desalination and recycling, and several modes of public transportation. Project designers have outlined 26 key performance indicators to measure progress and development on the eco-city. The ambitious project has attracted billions in funding from commercial entities, as well as a US$6.16 million grant from the World Bank.

    If successfully implemented, China’s efforts at constructing eco-cities would not only revamp the urban landscape and improve high-density living conditions, but also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. China’s eco-construction sector is an attractive, profitable investment opportunity despite the existence of bureaucratic boundaries, but such projects are at risk of failure due to abandonment, unaffordability, poor management, and lack of local expertise. While collaborations with external experts hold great potential, track record shows that joint projects do not always guarantee success: Dongtan, a UK engineering consultancy-designed eco-city, has yet to break any ground despite being proposed and approved in 2005.

    Even with prime conditions for eco-cities in China, it is still uncertain whether the process of demolition and construction is equally (if not more) ecologically detrimental to the earth and local community. Also worth considering is the failure of Huangbaiyu eco-village designers to scrutinize cultural conventions and demographic trends. Execution deviated so far from original plans because residents could not adapt to the new lifestyle that eco-cities offered.

    The variety and scope of eco-cities in China illustrate that the design and implementation of eco-cities are still in its experimental stages. If the Sino-Singapore Tianjin eco-city considers these concerns, and successfully addresses them, the eco-city could serve as a model of sustainable development for other cities in China. The proliferation of functional Chinese eco-cities could effectively address pressing issues such as increased energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improvement in consumption patterns, and an important step towards long-term energy policy change.

    Under the Radar News 05.06.11

    Posted on Friday, May 6, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Malaysia and India’s bilateral agreement, MICECA, is set to be implemented July 1st. The agreement may double bilateral trade by 2015; in particular, it will be a major boost to the services sector and will increase human capital movement.

  • ASEAN senior officials agreed to support Myanmar as chair in 2014. This approval comes despite former threats by the EU and US to boycott in 2005, if Myanmar assumed leadership.

  • A UN report revealed that China is emerging as a major, new investor in Latin America; ninety percent of its investments are targeted at extracting natural resources, particularly mining. China is planning to diversify its investments into the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

  • China may cut railway investments by more than 200 billion yuan this year, from its previous target of 700 billion yuan. Led by the new railway minister’s “conservative development” strategy, a slowdown may limit the increasing debt faced by rapid railway expansion.

  • South Korea has announced it will invest in yuan as its foreign exchange currency reserves passed $300 billion. Korea wishes to diversify in light of the current dollar devaluation and in anticipation of the yuan’s rise as the dominant global currency.

  • The Korea-EU FTA passed the legislature in Seoul, a final step in ensuring the implementation of the world’s second largest free trade agreement. This deal may result in an over 3 percent increase in Korea’s GDP. The ratification came on the heels of US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s visit to South Korea in efforts to promote ratification of the Korea-US FTA, on hold since 2007.

  • According to a new report, China has increased the number of applications for defense related patents. Not only has there been a rise in volume, but there has also been a shift to more advanced technologies.

  • The 14th ASEAN +3 Finance Ministers' Meeting opened this past week in Vietnam. The Ministers stressed managing inflation and resisting protectionism to ensure sustained economic growth in the region.

  • South Korea has developed a vertical launching system (VLS) for about 3,000-ton heavy attack submarines, which will be deployed after 2018. This marks the first time that a VLS development has been confirmed by the government. The VLS will make it possible to launch long-range cruise missiles at North Korean targets.

  • A forty-year-old military exchange between South Korea and Taiwan is set to end in favor of the launch of a similar program with China. The program was regarded as an impediment to establishing strategic partnership cooperation between the ROK and PRC.
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