Indonesian presidential candidates divided on rule of law, terrorism

January 17, 2019
Jakarta, Indonesia

There was a clear gap on how Indonesia will deal with law, human rights and terrorism in the first 2019 presidential debate between Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga. Jokowi presented his vision of a law and human rights approach, strengthening law enforcement institutions to tackle with corruption. Prabowo emphasised higher wages for the military, police and courts. Both saw their approach as being the best way to deal with terrorism. The debate was a prelude for a major rupture in foreign affairs, particularly with neighbouring Australia, due to the early release of Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing that targeted foreign tourists.

Shutdown in U.S., slowing growth in China trouble global economy

January 21, 2019
Washington DC, United States

It is the longest government shutdown in US history, and even though it affects only 40% of federal employees, it has already harmed the domestic economy. As long as the battle between Trump and congress continues, the costs will mount and exhaust the nation’s confidence. It has also stopped Trump from striding the stage at the World Economic Forum, subtly shifted the event’s focus. But what Trump may not realize, is that pausing government function, when combined with China’s lowest economic growth in 28 years, whips up huge concerns over the global economy.

China: US committing ‘high-tech McCarthyism’

January 17, 2019
Beijing, China

Frequent coverage of the arrest of Huawei’s employees in US and Poland on two of the popular news sources Sina (新浪网) and The Global Times (环球时报) highlights how much Chinese public and government attention has focused on the incident. A featured editorial from The Global Times suggested the arrest of Huawei executive Meng was a calculated political move by the United States to “suppress” the rise of China and its rapid technological advancement. It claims that US legislators are abusing legal institutions, as they falsely accused Huawei’s employees of corporate espionage as a way to achieve their political ends of “suppressing” China’s rise, creating ‘McCarthyism for the high-tech era’.

In New Year’s Address, Japan’s Prime Minister outlines new foreign policy

January 1, 2019
Tokyo, Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe argued that 2019 ‘will truly be a year in which Japan shines on the world’s center stage.’ In his important New Year’s address on the final new year of the long-running Heisei era, about to end with Japan’s change in emperor, Abe stated that Japan faced “immense challenges on the diplomatic front”.  Given major turning points such as the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations, and the arrival of a new era in Japan-China relations, Abe promised that “we will resolutely advance a total reassessment of Japan’s post-war diplomacy.” As chair of the G20, Japan will welcome President Donald Trump, President Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping, and other top leaders from around the world to Osaka in 2019.

Wanted: India seeks to move from non-alignment to more ‘rule-forming partnerships’

January 10, 2019
New Delhi, India

At the Raisina Dialogue 2019, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that India has moved past “non-alignment” as its driving force in foreign relations. He said that “the most diverse country on Earth” must seek to maintain a strategic autonomy policy and work on rule-forming partnerships like the G20 and Indo-Pacific partnerships to combat the challenges of unilateralism and ideology, amongst others.

Xi Jinping advances efforts to build China a new capital city

January 15, 2019
Xiong’an, Tianjin, Beijing, China

Xi Jinping’s visit to Jing-Jin-Ji region was featured in the front page of RenMinRiBao for two consecutive days. Xi Jinping visited the three cities — Xiongan New Region (in Hebei), Tianjin and Beijing — from January 16th to 18th, and spoke at the forum of “Coordinated Development Scheme for the Jing-Jin-Ji Region”. He emphasized the importance of effective development and construction of Beijing’s “two wings” — Xiongan New Region and Tianjin, so to meet the agenda of the Scheme and also to relieve China’s capital the burden of “non-capital functions (非首都功能)”.

US-China tensions enhance Japan’s role, so we need multilateral trade deals

January 11, 2019
Tokyo, Japan

Former Japanese diplomat, and foreign policy opinion leader Hitoshi Tanaka argues that Japan should bring a more strategic long-term view to US-China relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2018 China visit has moved the Japan-China relationship onto a new track at the same time that U.S reluctance on multilateralism under President Trump’s “America First” policy has made US interests with Japan’s. Tanaka thinks that Japan must both push the U.S to engage in the East Asia as a constructive leader, while stabilizing the China relationship. “Although Japan would not welcome the decisive confrontation between China and the United States, it has in fact enhanced Japan’s presence in this region. This might be the big opportunity for Japan’s diplomacy”, he noted. Finally, he insists that Japan should positively initiate “Trans Pacific Partnership 11” and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership so as to push both the U.S and China to be committed in the trend of free trade system.

In Indonesia, going to the chapel slowed by going to the doctor

January 18, 2019
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The article is about “marriage-eligibility certificates”. It is a “highly encouraged” health test. The back of the certificates lists the result of individual’s blood test and that they have been checked for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis, without going into detail. The purpose is to control the spread of contagious and genetic diseases. However, there has been heat debate regarding the issues of confidentiality and required level of training for counsellors.

Indian foreign policy goes to Silicon Valley

January 21, 2019
Varanasi, India

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has praised the Indian diaspora and lauded, in particular, young Indian CEOs of multi-national corporations like Google, Microsoft, MasterCard and so on in her speech on the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas. Further, she stressed upon the government’s success in creating awareness of foreign policy issues using a myriad of digital platforms and addressing key issues of Indian migrant workers using online governmental services (eMigrate and MADAD).

Donald Trump makes moves to hold a second summit with Kim Jong Un

January 20, 2019
Washington DC, United States

While the world cheered at the historical meeting of Trump and Kim last year, the momentum stopped right away. So while the low-profile second visit of North Korean delegate Kim Yong Chol to the White House gathered less spotlight, it is a positive signal that the long-stalled US-North Korea negotiations may resume in the near future. A second summit for this year is predicted to be announced soon.