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  • Author: Siautu Alefaio
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Of all the earth’s regions, the Pacific is one of the most prone to natural disasters. Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and tropical cyclones make the headlines, along with other natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These may be accompanied by crises in public health. Today, many Pacific Island countries rely heavily on government relief and international aid when they face a disaster. Traditional sources of resilience can still play an important role, however, both within local communities and within the broader diaspora of Pacific communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, and the US. A better understanding of Pacific cultures from within and a better recognition of the role of the Pacific diaspora and of churches in Pacific communities would also help improve development efforts and disaster response.
  • Topic: Development, Humanitarian Aid, Natural Disasters, Diaspora
  • Political Geography: Australia, New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Alison D. Nugent, Ryan J. Longman, Clay Trauernicht, Matthew P. Lucas, Henry F. Diaz, Thomas W. Giambelluca
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Hurricane Lane, which struck the Hawaiian islands on 22–25 August 2018, presented a textbook example of the compounding hazards that can be produced by a single storm. Over a four-day period, the island of Hawaiʻi received an average 17 inches of rainfall. One location received 57 inches, making Hurricane Lane the wettest tropical storm ever recorded in the state and the second wettest ever recorded in the US. At the same time, three wildfires on the island of Maui and one on Oʻahu burned nearly 3,000 acres of abandoned agricultural land. As the global climate warms, the number and strength of hurricanes is expected to increase, both in Hawaiʻi and in the Pacific region generally. A better understanding of the relationship between hurricanes and global climate change is critical in order to predict the vulnerability of people and resources during a severe weather event and to plan an appropriate course of action.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Natural Resources, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: North America, Asia-Pacific, Hawaii
  • Author: Nancy Davis Lewis, Jonathan D. Mayer
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Experience in Asia suggests that public health and medical capacity are critical for an effective response to an emerging infectious disease. Political will and previous experience with disease outbreaks also play a role. Singapore ignored an important segment of its population and is now experiencing a huge spike in cases. China and Vietnam were able to enforce draconian measures, while in Japan and Hong Kong, civil society had a greater role in initiating effective controls. In several countries, local political outcomes have been affected by the perceived success or failure of leaders in controlling the crisis.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, Leadership, Crisis Management, Public Health, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong
  • Author: Christopher A. McNally
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With both the US and China facing a long economic slowdown, the bilateral relationship between the globe's two largest economies faces massive challenges. Making matters worse, Washington and Beijing have attempted to divert domestic attention away from their own substantial shortcomings by blaming each other. Given the economic uncertainty, each side has limited leverage to force the other into making concessions. Harsh rhetoric only serves to inflame tensions at the worst possible time. For better or worse, the US and China are locked in a messy economic marriage. A divorce at this time would exact an enormous cost in an already weakened economy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andew Mason, Sang-Hyop Lee, Donghyun Park
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Elderly populations in Asia are expanding more quickly than other age groups. This shift in population age structure had two major impacts: demand for income support for the elderly will rise because their labor income tends to be extremely low; and gross domestic product (GDP) and other aggregate economic indicators will grow more slowly as growth in the effective labor force declines. In countries where government programs play an important role in old-age support, tax rates will have to rise or benefits will have to be curtailed or both—all options with significant political costs.
  • Topic: Demographics, Labor Issues, Population, GDP, Economy
  • Political Geography: Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: James H. Spencer, Sumeet Saksena, Jefferson Fox
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The current COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China, underscores what the public health community has warned about for more than two decades—the risk of viral diseases capable of spreading from animal to human hosts. The first outbreaks of “bird flu” (highly pathogenic avian influenza—HPAI, subtype H5N1)—raised similar concerns 20 years ago, concerns that have persisted with the outbreak of SARS in 2002–2004 and COVID-19 today. A recent study compared information on infrastructure and other aspects of economic development in Vietnam with outbreaks of avian influenza. While this research focuses on avian influenza in Vietnam, the study of links between infrastructure characteristics and new and reemerging health risks has broad applicability, especially given the global importance of today’s rapidly expanding urban landscapes.
  • Topic: Infectious Diseases, Urban, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam
  • Author: Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In an atmosphere of heightened geostrategic competition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised questions about the risk of debt problems in less-developed countries. Such risks are especially worrying for the small and fragile economies of the Pacific. A close look at the evidence suggests that China has not been engaged in debt-trap diplomacy in the Pacific, at least not so far. Nonetheless, if future Chinese lending continues on a business-as-usual basis, serious problems of debt sustainability will arise, and concerns about quality and corruption are valid.There have been recent signs that both China and Pacific Island governments recognize the need for reform. China needs to adopt formal lending rules similar to those of the multilateral development banks, providing more favorable terms to countries at greater risk of debt distress. Alternative approaches might include replacing or partially replacing EXIM loans with the interest-free loans and grants that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce already provides.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Abby G. Frazier, Laura Brewington
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Of all the earth's environments, alpine regions are arguably the most vulnerable to climate change. This is especially true for alpine areas on islands. In both Hawai'i and New Zealand, about 11 percent of the land area is above the tree line, the definition of an alpine environment. In addition to climate change, these island ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to damage from human activity and the invasion of alien species.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment
  • Political Geography: New Zealand, Asia-Pacific, Hawaii
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: With a population of 650 million and an annual GDP of $2.8 trillion, ASEAN is a key component of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Two visitors to the East-West Center, Kavi Chongkittavorn and Anu Anwar, emphasized that the United States needs to take several steps to strengthen working relations with ASEAN. Priorities for the Trump administration include: Attend the annual ASEAN-sponsored East Asia Summit; Establish personal rapport with ASEAN leaders; Participate actively in all ASEAN-led mechanisms, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting Plus, and the Lower Mekong Initiative; Appoint an American envoy to ASEAN, a position that has been vacant for more than 30 months; Maintain the ASEAN-focused programs and activities initiated under previous US administrations; Expand educational, cultural, and youth programs; Strengthen the US-ASEAN security commitment, in particular maritime and cyber security.
  • Topic: International Relations, Geopolitics, Donald Trump, ASEAN
  • Political Geography: North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Charles E. Morrison, Mark Nuttall
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In the summer of 2019, Greenland received considerable media attention for two developments: Its large ice sheet saw record rates of surface melt with potentially devastating impacts on the oceans, and Donald Trump suggested that the United States should look into buying the island from Denmark. Although Greenland is not for sale, the Greenlandic government welcomes foreign investment and assistance in meeting the island's socio-economic challenges. The United States can also assist Greenland by improving international scientific cooperation on climate change research, helping Greenlanders adapt to a changing climate, and providing global leadership in addressing and mitigating the effects of climate change.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Leadership, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Greenland, United States of America