Under the Radar News 12.19.11

Posted on Monday, December 19, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • On December 12, Japan launched a new satellite, as part of a larger plan to have an intelligence surveillance system in place by 2013 to monitor Pyongyang. Prime Minister Noda emphasized the importance of this move for Tokyo’s national security. The same rocket that carried the satellite, the H-2A, is set to launch a South Korean satellite through a commercial agreement with Seoul.

  • Beijing sent its largest and most technologically advanced patrol ship, the Haijian 50, into the East China Sea under the objective of securing its “territorial rights and marine interests.” The next day, the Philippines sends it newest warship, the U.S.-developed Gregario del Pilar, to patrol the South China Sea, another site of Chinese territorial disputes.

  • The U.S. embassy in Seoul has sent officials to visit the offices of South Korean businesses with investment interests in Iran. The move is directed at companies which have or are aiming to conduct ventures without formally consulting the national government. The U.S. is asking its allies to apply heavier sanctions against Tehran in light of its nuclear development program.

  • The Seychelles offers the Chinese Navy its first military base abroad in a move to improve defense against piracy. Additionally, Chinese officials are considering setting up “supplies facilities” in the archipelago. India has expressed concern over the military base. Former intelligence chief, Vikram Sood said that the base gives China a strategic advantage in protecting its interest through military interventions in Africa.

  • The murder of a South Korean officer at the hands of a Chinese fisherman has prompted Seoul to call for an expansion of its coast guard. The government is considering doubling its large patrol boat fleet, increasing emphasis on firearm use for self-defense, and enhancing collaborations between the navy and army.

  • The Burmese government announced Wednesday that it was allowing locals to mine rubies in the Moegoke for the first time since the junta came into power in 1962. Allowing private companies access to the mine is seen as way to foster economic growth by creating new jobs. Likewise, government officials believe it will help reduce poverty and aid in regional development. The move is the latest in a chain of reforms by the new government.

  • The upcoming presidential elections in Taiwan have become a popular topic among Chinese netizens. Internet users in China have been wondering when “Taiwan is going to take us back?” reflecting perceptions of the island as a model for Chinese democracy. Related search terms have yet to be blocked by China’s censorship.
  • Under the Radar News 12.09.11

    Posted on Friday, December 9, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • Newly surfaced internal military documents in North Korea suggest that the military’s discipline and loyalty to Kim Jong-Il is in decline.

  • Kureha Corporation in Japan illegally exported carbon fibers to a Chinese defense company through Taiwan and Hong Kong. The fibers may have been used to manufacture radar and arms for the People’s Liberation Army.

  • South Korea sells Jakarta three submarines worth $1.2 billion. The sale posits South Korea alongside China as the top arms exporter in Asia.

  • Brunei will increase its exports of crude oil to China from thirteen to sixteen thousand barrels per day in an effort to strengthen bilateral energy cooperation and investment.

  • Australia unconditionally grants three patrol boats to Indonesia. The boats will assist Indonesian police with intercepting human trafficking, smuggling activities, and terrorism.

  • In a speech to the China’s Central Military Commission in Beijing, Hu Jintao urged the Navy to prepare for military combat and advance naval modernization to safeguard national security and world peace.

  • Malaysia and Qatar set up a joint $2 billion investment fund to increase the volume of bilateral trade and cooperation. The money will go towards investment opportunities in Malaysia, Qatar, and the region.
  • China’s Charity Case: Reforming the Third Sector

    Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 by Jessica Drun

    Recent scandals involving charity misspending and embezzlement have tarnished the image of China’s non-profit organizations (NPO). News of these controversies has spread like wildfire across Chinese microblogs and public philanthropy suffered a blow by alienating potential donors. For instance, China saw an immediate decline in blood donations following the Guo Mei Mei incident, in which the supposed general commercial manager of the Red Cross flaunted her lavish lifestyle on Weibo, a Chinese social networking site. The Red Cross in China now reportedly faces a 30-40% shortage. With Chinese people increasingly wary of corruption, monetary contributions to charities have reportedly more than halved from June to August of this year. The consequences of these trends are grave, as Chinese citizens across the board have called for government reform in the country’s nascent third sector—and Beijing is feeling some pressure to respond.

    The economic reforms spearheaded by the late Chinese patriarch, Deng Xiaoping, are largely credited with unleashing market forces that spurred China’s rapid growth. The “opening up” policy contributed to a wide scale privatization campaign, leaving in its wake a debilitated social safety net. These trends, coupled with an upsurge of development-induced social problems, have opened space for Chinese NPOs to emerge at the forefront of the country’s public service sector. Under- resourced and overextended, China’s third sector has been a reoccurring topic in legislative debates in recent years—both in the frontlines of grassroots initiatives and among many levels of government officials. The situation presents an interesting contradiction, wherein the Chinese government must face the need to address social problems while at the same time realizing that such a move could detract from its authority.

    The landscape of the country’s third sector has changed significantly in recent years. This change is reflected in official government statistics that show the number of registered organizations has shot up over 40% between 2005 and 2010 alone. This increase does not include unregistered organizations, which are blocked from formal proceedings by China’s dual-registration system and strict guidelines. Comparatively, the non-profit landscape was practically barren under Mao’s rule and these types of organizations did not emerge until the 1980’s. This surge coincides with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decision to defer social management responsibilities to NPOs as a means to promote Deng’s economic policies and encourage market forces. The initial non-profits were directly under government jurisdiction but as social problems emerged at a faster rate than the Party could manage, the central government began to defer control and reform the system.

    Approaches to reform have been multifaceted. The central government, citing the importance of preserving social order, has sought to revise the current bylaws underlining non-profit management. The central government has overseen the establishment of experimental sites in Wenzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen to test the prospect of transferring more government functions to non-profit organizations. The National People’s Congress and the CCP Central Committee have dedicated a section of the country’s next Five Year Plan (FYP) to charity management, ostensibly to address rising public discontent towards corruption in NPOs.

    In Chapter 39 of the 12th Five Year Plan, the central government called for the development of social organization through a streamlined application process, improved tax incentive laws, and policy support a la legal and regulatory protections. Before final approval in March 2011, the government disclosed the FYP guidelines to the Chinese people through a series of public hearings, seeking e-mail feedback and leaving room open for revision. Consequently, a Charity Law, drafted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA), which has been on the table since 2005, has resurfaced for consideration. In July 2011, the government reopened the draft as the “Guideline for the Development of Charity in China” and solicited public input to give direction to charity growth and expedite processes conducive to the 12th FYP. However, the draft has since seen little movement within the legislature.

    Meanwhile, frustrated by government inaction, local and provincial governments have apparently taken matters into their hands. Respective authorities in Jiangsu, Ningbo, Hunan, Beijing, and just recently Guangdong have each enacted their own set of regulations, facilitating registration processes and allowing for more accountability in non-profit management. These moves have been commended by officials higher up in the government. In late 2010, a MoCA representative voiced his hopes that these developments will help guide those on a national scale.

    The general consensus on the need for reform paints an interesting picture for future developments of the third sector. The timing of the FYP and its related reforms comes at a critical crossroad in China’s development. First, the 12th FYP coincides with a transition of power to its fifth-generation leadership that will take place in 2012. Chinese leaders seek a seamless power change, but they must address the growing challenges posed by increasing social unrest. By adhering to the tenets set by the FYP and by shaping public interests through the charity law, the Party could mitigate discontent among the masses, while at the same time demonstrate responsible leadership. Moreover, promoting China’s international image should provide further incentive for the government to amend its non-profit regulations by legitimizing the new leaders through social progress. It should be noted, however, that certain types of non-profits within the sector, such as those dedicated to religion and human rights, will see little change in their directive.

    These advancements in the third sector may also point to the prospect of more comprehensive reform throughout the country. Grassroots movements empower and educate citizens for involvement in the public sphere, which then calls for a more active and informed society, with its own functions and claims. Larger citizen involvement, enabled by a burgeoning nonprofit sector, could lead to a further decentralization of power. This would be in line with the CCP’s “big society, small government” policy that seeks to create a network of social protections wherein citizens serve as intermediaries between the government and social organizations to sustain and promote a “harmonious society”. In essence, nonprofit reform may equip the citizenry with the capacity to take on the Chinese government’s social functions and become that “big society.” The deciding factor, however, is largely dependent on the direction the central government takes from its current Catch-22: toward third sector reform at the cost of its relative power or the continuation of the status quo at the risk of social instability.

    Image Source: AsiaNews.it

    Under the Radar News 12.02.11

    Posted on Friday, December 2, 2011 by Jessica Drun

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Last week, Chinese marines in Liaoning province allegedly started drone patrols in the East China Sea. The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are deployed from Dalian to observe conditions in the ocean, along the coastline, and on nearby islands to ensure the security of the Chinese coast and prevent unlawful activities in the waters. Scholars warn that the provincial government’s inexperience conducting drone patrols, poses the risk of unintentional flights into foreign territories and may lead to diplomatic disputes. Others are speculating that the purpose of the patrols is to monitor North Korean defectors and curtail Chinese trawlers fishing illegally in South Korean waters.

  • Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army and Min Aung, Hlaing Commander of the Burmese Armed Forces met on November 28 to discuss military ties. The two agreed to increase trust and cooperation between their respective forces, praising their previous accomplishments in high-level visitations, training, and defense initiatives. Hliang also reaffirmed Naypyidaw’s adherence to the One China Policy.

  • Kontras, a human rights group, denounces the Indonesian government for allegedly perpetuating the political conflict in Papua. A spokesperson for the group believes Jakarta is seeking material profit and national acclaim as a promoter of the sovereignty of the Indonesian republic against the instability that the province poses for the nation. Papua and West Papua, in Western Indonesia, have been embroiled in the Free Papua separatist movement since 1965.

  • South Korea signs aid partnership agreements with Brazil and Germany at the International Aid Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. Each agreement will work through a triangular relationship between the signatories and an underdeveloped country to reduce poverty levels in the latter. The Korean International Cooperation Agency has cited the importance of forging innovative partnerships in international development programs.

  • Steel Authority of India, and six other Indian companies, have cemented a $10.3 billion dollar agreement with Afghanistan, securing rights to three iron ore mines. The contract follows a move last month by New Delhi and Kabul to bolster their strategic partnership in via trade, security, and culture. The deal may increase tensions between India and Pakistan.

  • Transparency International, a corruption watchdog organization, recently revealed that two-thirds of states in the Asia-Pacific were “more corrupt than clean.” The organization followed with a precautionary warning to Australian businesses to safeguard their investments abroad.

  • UNESCO experts from Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands, joined by embassy officials from Japan, Portugal, and the United States, are in Thailand this week to oversee restoration projects of World Heritage Sites, which were hard-hit by floods last month. The team will assess the damages and outline recommendations for the Thai government.
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