American Bomber Overflights Challenge Chinese Air Control

A B-52 Stratofortress bomber leads a formation of American and Japanese fighter jets in a flight over Guam, February 21, 2011 (USAF/Angelita M. Lawrence)

America sent a strong signal on Tuesday of its position in a territorial dispute between China and Japan when it conducted bomber overflights of the Senkaku Islands. The island chain has been at the center of tensions in the Sino-Japanese relationship for some years and lies at the heart of an Air Defense Identification Zone that China declared just days ago.

Chinese authorities’ announcement of the ADIZ unilaterally requires all aircraft wishing to operate within a broad zone of the East China Sea to register their flight plans and other identifying information ahead of time. Failure to comply would, according to the government in Beijing, lead to proportionate responses from its armed forces. The implication being that this applies to the military and merchant aircraft that regularly service and patrol the Senkaku Islands which are administered by Japan and known in China as the Diaoyu Islands. Read more “American Bomber Overflights Challenge Chinese Air Control”

Vietnam Expected to Loosen State Controls, If Carefully

The international community is keeping a close watch on Vietnam’s National Assembly as it is convening a month-long session to decide the extent to which it will amend the Constitution. The session is expected to end next week with lawmakers believed ready to give the go ahead on loosening the communist country’s economy, finance and investment laws.

The big question is: will the government take on its vested interests and reform the heavily indebted state-owned enterprises? Read more “Vietnam Expected to Loosen State Controls, If Carefully”

Thai Government Destabilized by Protests, Border Dispute

Thailand’s benchmark equity index fell for a third day in a row this week, closing down 2.06 percent to 1,375.86 on Thursday and reaching an eleven week low. The country is tense with thousands of protesters in Bangkok, the capital, and elsewhere around the country, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra following the introduction of an amnesty bill.

In addition, an ancient land dispute has relations with Cambodia simmering again. With parliament in gridlock, Thailand’s internal and external political conflicts are at risk of overheating and threatening the stability of Shinawatra’s government only two years after she was elected. Read more “Thai Government Destabilized by Protests, Border Dispute”

Vested Interests Could Stymie China’s Economic Reforms

China’s ruling Communist Party last week outlined a series of reforms not seen in the country in decades. The changes are as deep and significant as many analysts expected beforehand as China is forced to change its economic model in order to keep growing while maintaining stability and single party rule.

The third plenary session of the party’s Eighteenth Central Committee in Beijing decided, among other things, to further liberalize trade, investment and price controls, extend land rights to farmers, give migrant workers access to education and health care, improve food and environment regulations, end the labor camp system and relax China’s one-child policy.

The broad array of proposed reforms signals that President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, who came to power during a leadership transition earlier this year, are serious about jolting the party into changing course. The challenge, which their predecessors also faced, will be implementing them. Vested interests have benefited much from the current system and are resistant to change. Read more “Vested Interests Could Stymie China’s Economic Reforms”

China to Harness Godly Power for Clean Energy Future

Thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element that was discovered in 1828 by the Norwegian mineralogist Morten Thrane Esmark and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is undergoing something of a renaissance thanks to Chinese research.

The United States pioneered thorium research during the Cold War before abandoning it in the early 1970s because of its limited use in making weapons. The Defense Department needed plutonium residue from uranium to build nuclear bombs. The imperatives of the Cold War prevailed. The research gathered dust in the archives until it was retrieved and published by former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen. The United States largely ignored him. China did not.

China, hampered by electricity shortages in many of its cities, is racing to develop nuclear technology fueled by thorium which some energy experts predict will revolutionize an industry racked by safety concerns following Japan’s Fukushima power plant meltdown in 2011. Read more “China to Harness Godly Power for Clean Energy Future”

City State Revival Likely to Skip Authoritarian China

Shanghai, China at night, May 4, 2012
Shanghai, China at night, May 4, 2012 (Mariusz Kluzniak)

City states might seem a thing of the past. Athens, Danzig, Venice — all became part of nation states. Except for Monaco and the Vatican in Rome, the only true city state remaining is Singapore although Hong Kong and Macau enjoy a high degree of autonomy within China. But as cities rise and become global cities, could the city state make a comeback? Read more “City State Revival Likely to Skip Authoritarian China”

Vietnam Addresses Trade Deficit with China

Bilateral trade between China and Vietnam has seen exponential growth in recent years following the establishment of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area. In 2001, trade between the two countries stood at $3 billion but has since climbed to $40 billion by 2012, expanding over 1,200 percent.

While both countries have benefited from this meteoric rise in bilateral trade, in recent months Vietnamese leaders have sought to address the trade deficit that exists with China.

During the first two quarters of 2013, Vietnam’s trade deficit with China reached $11.4 billion dollars, with exports worth $6 billion and imports totaling $17.4 billion.

In order to increase Vietnam’s exporting power to China, the government has ratified new addendums to liberalize the country’s Law on Investment aimed at boosting foreign direct investment into several sectors, including oil refining, iron and steel, cement and construction materials. It is hoped that the increased flow of foreign capital will allow Vietnam to boost the value of its exported goods by climbing the value added chain. Read more “Vietnam Addresses Trade Deficit with China”

America, Vietnam Deepening Cooperation to Balance China

In an historic meeting at the White House in Washington DC on Thursday, President Barak Obama announced with Vietnam’s president Trương Tấn Sang by his side that bilateral relations between the former rivals will be upgraded to a comprehensive partnership.

In his remarks, President Obama called it “the steady progression in US-Vietnam relations.” Indeed, the progress since 2005, when a slew of business contracts was signed, has been profound with the United States now Vietnam’s largest export market. With unprecedented cooperation, in a wide array of sectors, it appears that a new era in American-Vietnamese relations has begun.

The agreement stops short of a mutual defense treaty, similar to the one America has in place with Japan and the Philippines, but the breadth of sectors now open for cooperation will touch about every area of society. They include political and diplomatic relations, defense, trade, science and technology, education, the environment, health, tourism and war legacy issues. Read more “America, Vietnam Deepening Cooperation to Balance China”

Global Interest in Japan’s Election, Expected to Strengthen Premier

As Japanese go to the polls Sunday to vote in elections for the upper house of parliament, all eyes will really be on the margin of victory for Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s ruling coalition. Judging from the latest polls, and from the results of municipal elections in Tokyo last month where Abe’s Liberal Democrats won handily, the premier can expect to gain control of the upper chamber and claim a mandate for his policies that could fundamentally change the world’s third largest economy and its role in the region.

After the elections, the real drama will start. Abe will be expected to move forward and provide greater details about his plans to restructure the Japanese economy, the so-called third arrow of “Abenomics.”

In addition, Abe could change Japan’s national-security strategy which would transform the role of the military for the first time since the end of World War II. Read more “Global Interest in Japan’s Election, Expected to Strengthen Premier”

China’s Trade Figures for June Appear “Grim”

China’s customs spokesman Zheng Yuesheng has described the recently released June trade figures as “grim” as the nation surprised analysts by posting a significant decline in trade. Economists had been expecting exports to increase by 4 percent and imports to rise by 8 percent yet the figures showed a year on year decrease of 3.1 percent and .7 percent respectively.

“China faces relatively stern challenges in trade. Exports in the third quarter look grim,” commented Zheng. Read more “China’s Trade Figures for June Appear “Grim””