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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: Denny Roy
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to damage China’s international reputation just as the Chinese government under Xi Jinping was peaking in its promotion of China as a model political system and superior international citizen. Beijing launched a massive diplomatic effort aimed at both foreign governments and foreign societies. The goal was to overcome initial negative publicity and to recast China as an efficient and heroic country in the eyes of international public opinion. The crisis created an opening for China to make gains in its international leadership credentials as the world saw the superpower United States falter. Ultimately, however, Chinese pandemic diplomacy contributed to a net decrease in China’s global prestige, largely because domestic political imperatives motivated behavior that generated international disapproval and distrust for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government. This paper summarizes the content of Chinese pandemic diplomacy through the key period of January through May 20201, identifies specific strengths and weaknesses of China’s effort, and briefly assesses its global impact.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Riaz A. Khokhar
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Within the Indo-Pacific region, the United States and Pakistan have sharply divergent strategic objectives. While American objectives have changed over time, focusing in recent years on rivalry with China, Pakistan’s strategic objective has remained constant—to maintain a balance of power with India. Yet Pakistan retains close strategic and economic ties with China, and the United States considers India an important strategic partner. Nevertheless, the two countries have worked together for nearly two decades toward two tactical goals—achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan and eliminating terrorism in South Asia. There is potential for them to cooperate more broadly, for example, increasing direct foreign investment to Pakistan and helping Islamabad balance its relations with the United States and China. Washington’s willingness to expand such cooperation will depend on Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting terrorism in the region.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Terrorism, Power Politics, Foreign Direct Investment, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, South Asia, India, North America, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Soyoung Han, Marcus Noland
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In an era of slowing economic growth, Asian countries face an imperative to boost productivity. One possible source of economic revitalization would be to make better use of women in the labor force. Although female representation in corporate leadership has been rising gradually over time, as of 2017, women comprised only 16 percent of executive officers and 11 percent of board members in publicly listed firms in Asia. Research shows that Asian firms with female executive officers and board members perform better in terms of net profit margin and return on assets than firms that lack females in leadership positions. Public policy can improve this gender gap. For one thing, countries that produce large numbers of female college graduates in fields such as law, business, or economics tend to generate more female corporate executives.
  • Topic: Women, Leadership, Economy, Business , Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: This report explores the trade, investment, business, diplomacy, security, education,and people-to-people connections between the United States and the five countries of mainland Southeast Asia referred to as the Mekong region. Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam are bound together and geographically defined by the Mekong River, which has historically provided a rich, natural bounty of fish, agricultural productivity, physical connectivity, and key environmental services to more than 60 million people living in the river basin. The Mekong’s importance has only grown as the region’s social, economic, and diplomatic ties export the river’s bounty to the rest of the world. As the region develops, urbanization, infrastructure development, and climate change—among other changes—are all impacting the river, its resources, and the millions who depend on the mighty Mekong. This publication was produced in partnership with the Stimson Center Southeast Asia Program.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Environment, Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar, United States of America
  • Author: Rebecca Strating
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The seas are an increasingly important domain for understanding the balance-of-power dynamics between a rising People’s Republic of China and the United States. Specifically, disputes in the South China Sea have intensified over the past decade. Multifaceted disputes concern overlapping claims to territory and maritime jurisdiction, strategic control over maritime domain, and differences in legal interpretations of freedom of navigation. These disputes have become a highly visible microcosm of a broader contest between a maritime order underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and challenger conceptions of order that see a bigger role for rising powers in generating new rules and alternative interpretations of existing international law. This issue examines the responses of non-claimant regional states—India, Australia, South Korea, and Japan—to the South China Sea disputes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Geopolitics, Maritime, Jurisdiction
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America, South China Sea
  • Author: Robert Sutter
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The so-called “truce” in the trade war with the signing of the phase one U.S.-China trade agreement on January 15 comes amid indicators that the intense U.S. government consensus pushback against a wide range of perceived challenges posed by China may be subsiding.
  • Topic: Government, Bilateral Relations, Economy, Trade Wars
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: H. H. Michael Hsiao, Alan H. Yang
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The elections in January 2020 marked a new era for Taiwan, clearly demonstrating citizens’ resistance to China. The results showed that incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was re-elected with a landslide victory of 8.17 million votes (57.1%) which is higher than the previous record high of 7.65 million votes obtained by the Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying Jeou in 2008. Michael Hsiao and Alan Yang, Chairman and Executive Director, respectively, of the Taiwan‐Asia Exchange Foundation in Taiwan, explain that “The Taiwanese people firmly defended Taiwan’s sovereignty and cherished democracy through free and open elections.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Sovereignty, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: David Scott
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Traditionally, New Zealand’s strategic focus has been on Australia and the South Pacific. As recently as 18 October, 2018, Ben King, New Zealand’s Deputy Secretary for Americas and Asia said that “the term Indo‑Pacific may not resonate in New Zealand yet.” And this despite a July 2018 Strategic Defence Policy Statement that already pinpointed New Zealand’s “Indo-Pacific partners reinforcing the rules based order” as being Australia, India, Japan and the United States. It is worth noting that the Strategic Defence Policy Statement gave lengthy details on the threat posed by China; in its Maritime Silk Road push into the Indian Ocean, its militarization of the South China Sea, and its push into the Pacific islands. Events from August 2019 to February 2020 reinforce that New Zealand is seeking out “Indo-Pacific” cooperation with these four particular “partners” (Japan, United States, India, Australia) over shared concerns about China.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Economy
  • Political Geography: Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Jagannath P. Panda
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The concepts of ‘strategic autonomy’ and ‘inclusiveness’ have been core to India’s Indo-Pacific policies. Without taking a defined position on the contested power politics in the Indo-Pacific, India has largely maintained cordial relations with most countries and stakeholders in the region. As a corollary to this, the rubric of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) advances India’s maritime diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, reflecting India’s desire to manage maritime security and governance in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposition to establish the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI) at the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 4, 2019, primarily draws on this assertion.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Economy, Narendra Modi
  • Political Geography: India, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Daniel Wertz
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: North Korea’s tumultuous path over the past few years from nuclear standoff to summit diplomacy put a spotlight on Pyongyang’s bilateral relations across the Indo-Pacific. The February 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Un’s exiled half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport dramatized the malign aspects of North Korea’s overseas presence, and presaged Southeast Asia’s role as an important front in the incipient U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign against Pyongyang. As maximum pressure transitioned to engagement with North Korea, U.S.-DPRK summits in Singapore and Vietnam raised hopes that North Korea could follow the examples of these host nations, and move forward on a more hopeful path toward economic development and reconciliation with old adversaries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, Pyongyang
  • Author: Huong Le Thu
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Dr. Huong Le Thu, Senior Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, explains that “To many, shared concerns about China are the driving force for Vietnam‐U.S. relations.”
  • Topic: Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Vietnam, North America, Southeast Asia, United States of America
  • Author: June Park
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: June Park, political economist at the National Research Foundation of Korea, explains that “even the like-minded countries of GPAI have revealed their differences and institutional variance in deploying digital technology to fight COVID-19 at a time of grave national emergency and public health crisis.”
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Crisis Management, Trade, Artificial Intelligence, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Global Focus
  • Author: Alicia Campi
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Dr Alicia Campi, President of the Mongolia Society, explains that “The [“Third Neighbor”] policy was reinterpreted in content and meaning to include cultural and economic partners as diverse as India, Brazil, Kuwait, Turkey, Vietnam, and Iran. With increased superpower rivalry in its region, Mongolia has expanded this basic policy.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Partnerships, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Turkey, India, Mongolia, Asia, Kuwait, Brazil, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Steven McGann
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The United States and Fiji continue to strengthen security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Ties between the regional partners endured throughout Fiji’s 2006 military takeover and resultant domestic political challenges. During this period Washington’s engagement with Suva included humanitarian assistance/disaster response, maritime security, law enforcement cooperation, counter-narcotics, and anti-trafficking of vulnerable populations.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, International Cooperation, Partnerships, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: United States of America, Fiji