The Week in Asia

Recent Features


The Week in Asia

Welcome to the first issue of The Week in Asia. Every weekend, The Diplomat will be rounding up the Asia-Pacific news, research and commentary that you may have missed.

Best of the Research

The Brookings Institution’s Wang Jisi and Kenneth G. Lieberthal looked at mutual “strategic distrust” between China and the United States. Their study, for the John L. Thornton China Center, focuses on the underlying concerns and reasons for distrust on both sides, and offers a number of recommendations for how to create a long-term non-adversarial relationship between the two major powers.

“To be sure, leaders in Washington and Beijing are much better informed and much more sophisticated than most citizens and commentators in the two countries in assessing their power and position in the world and vis-à-vis each other,” they write. “However, the alarmist, nationalistic tendencies in both societies often take the form of a zero-sum mindset and circumscribe to an extent the policy options of top leaders in Washington and Beijing.”

Click here to read the report.

Writing for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Masanori Akiyama and Ryozo Nagai take a look at Japan’s aging population and declining birthrate.  The authors, writing for the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, note the lack of a common platform for sharing medical data in Japan, the difficulty of accessing patient records from different hospitals and clinics, and the lack of a reliable health-data backup system.  The solutions? For a start, they propose an improved e-Health system to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Japanese health care.

“Health IT is a solution to many of the challenges Japanese health care faces. In particular, e-health improves patient safety at the point of care: it facilitates better clinical decisions; it saves time for doctors; and it reduces prescription drug-related error,” they write. “Health IT makes it easier to evaluate essential data on the patient’s identity and medical history, as well as medicines to be used and medical personnel required, every time a new intervention is required.”

Click here to read the report.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, interviews women and girls who have been accused of “moral crimes” in Afghanistan, highlighting the problem of gender equality that remains a frustratingly difficult issue for the country.

“Rather than finding support from police, judicial institutions, and government officials, women who try to flee abusive situations often face apathy, derision, and criminal sanctions for committing ‘moral crimes,’” the report says.

Click here to read more.

China Power

China has ordered all lawyers in the country to take an oath of loyalty to the Communist Party, another example of the country’s efforts to maintain stability, The Guardian reports. In other legal news, Chinese tax authorities tell dissident artist Ai Weiwei that there will be no public trial for his appeal against his tax evasion charges. But is China really capable of a softer approach? Certainly not a subtle one – in the village of Changjiang, Jiangsu Province, every one of the village’s 3,000 residents have apparently received silver and gold bars from the village party chief. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that Premier Wen Jiabao was warning about the threat corruption poses to the Communist Party only a few days later.

Just across the border, North Korea has decided once again to put the cat amongst the pigeons by scheduling a rocket launch, ostensibly to put a satellite into orbit, sometime next month. President Hu Jintao has called, yet again, for calm and restraint on the Korean Peninsula. The softly-softly approach apparently doesn’t apply to Australia, though, which was on the receiving end of a stinging rebuke after Chinese telecoms giant Huawei was banned from bidding for a broadband project on security grounds.

Closer to home, the Chinese government congratulated Leung Chun-Ying, their handpicked successor, to the position of chief executive of Hong Kong.

Indian Decade?

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called for unity in getting India’s economy back on track in the midst of political paralysis that would make even the U.S. Congress blush. Even the traditionally non-political Army seems mixed up in the political mess, with Army Chief V.K. Singh being accused of discrediting the government after slating the state of the armed forces. Indian politics evidently mirrors its traffic conditions, with Audi revealing that extra strong horns are made for Indian variants of its car to aid navigation on chaotic Indian roads

In other news, a Tibetan exile died after setting himself ablaze in New Delhi to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India, while India announced it’s joining China in banning its airlines from complying with the EU’s carbon tax on airlines.


Will the U.S. military be big enough to make its pivot to the Asia-Pacific happen? The U.S. Navy’s new 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for a navy of about 300 ships, more than a dozen less than previous estimates.  A new Congressional report warns that number may drop further if costs rise on any major shipbuilding programs. With talk recently of slowing production of new aircraft carriers, the delaying of construction of new ballistic missile submarines until 2021, and ongoing debates about the construction of a Virginia class attack  submarine, the naval-based pivot may already be under strain. Will the U.S. have to face up to a mostly one ocean navy in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific region?


The talk in Asia-Pacific business is centered on China: Will it engineer a soft landing or will it come back to earth with a thud. The current mood tends to pessimism, with the Shanghai Composite index plunging more than 5 percent in the week to Thursday. The implications are immense for Australia, one of the chief beneficiaries of China’s rise. Exports to China have slumped, and the Australian dollar may have peaked. March 30 is the last trading day of the Japanese fiscal year, signaling the end of yen repatriation, which will help government efforts to weaken the currency and thereby goose exports. In the futile long-term extrapolation department, Wealth Report 2012 by Knight Frank & Citi Private Bank predicts that India will become the world’s largest economy in 2050. For now, the Wall Street Journal reports a foreign capital exodus after the Indian government stunned foreign firms with its latest tax proposals. In, well, happier news, tiny Bhutan will propose at a U.N. conference next week that economics focus on measuring happiness and well-being, rather than growth. Far too sensible, we fear.