|Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores China’s growing commercial footprint in Djibouti, a strategically vital country thanks to its location on the Horn of Africa. We also have an interview with Cherian George, a former journalist with The Straits Times and now a professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University, about Singapore’s de facto one-party state.|
|Story of the week|
DIPLOMACYChina Consolidates Its Commercial Foothold in Djibouti
What Happened: In 2017, Djibouti – Africa’s smallest country – made headlines by becoming the host of China’s first overseas military base. But Beijing’s presence in the strategically vital country stretches far beyond that military presence, to include massive commercial investments and a ballooning loan footprint.
Our Focus: “The Sino-Djibouti strategic partnership is much more than establishing a naval base; it strengthens Djibouti’s position as a critical entry point in,” writes Dr. Mordechai Chaziza, a senior lecturer at Ashkelon Academic College, Israel. “Most of Djibouti’s major infrastructure projects, which have been valued at $14.4 billion, are funded by Chinese banks.”
What Comes Next: While Djibouti’s government has eagerly embraced Chinese funding for projects that match its “Vision Djibouti 2035,” external analysts are increasingly concerned about the debt burden on the small country. Djibouti is thus an important test case for the narrative of China’s supposed debt trap diplomacy in Africa.Read this story
|Behind the News|
Cherian George, co-author of “PAP v PAP: The Party’s Struggle to Adapt to a Changing Singapore” on the challenges facing Singapore’s ruling party, the PAP: “The biggest revelation for me, though, is how many ordinary middle-of-the-road Singaporeans – not just the politicized minority – were prepared to question and contradict PAP ministers openly online.”Read the interview
|This Week in Asia|
Northeast AsiaCan Taiwan Keep Its COVID Success Story Going?
Taiwan has been a rare success story in the fight against COVID-19, keeping the total number of cases under 900 with just seven deaths, all while avoiding a full lockdown. That success, however, now faces an intense test, thanks to a growing cluster of cases linked to a hospital in Taoyuan.Find out more
South AsiaIndia Leaps Ahead With Vaccine Diplomacy
At a time when many have called the efficacy of the Narendra Modi government’s “Neighborhood First” policy in managing India’s relations with smaller South Asian countries into question, New Delhi has found a new strong hand to play: COVID-19 vaccines. India has enthusiastically embarked on a “Vaccine Maitri” drive to deliver indigenously manufactured vaccines to its neighbors, earning the country plaudits across the world.Find out more
Southeast AsiaThe Party Takes Center Stage in Vietnam
This week Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party is holding its five-yearly National Congress, the apex event of the country’s political calendar. The conclave, which caps off a year of hidden internal politicking, will lay out the development agenda for the coming five years, as well as formally selecting leaders to fill the country’s top political posts.Find out more
Central AsiaKazakhstan’s NGOs Under "Attack"
Since Kazakhstan’s January 10 elections, four domestic NGOs have been fined and had their operations suspended by the tax authorities. The four were among seven groups that pushed back against government pressure in December with a defiant statement that the tax authorities were being used to “attack” them. The attack may not be over yet.Find out more