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The latest article is now up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded 42 years ago, was created to provide a framework to advance regional stability in Southeast Asia at a time when the withdrawal of colonial powers had created a vacuum. This placed the newly independent states of the region in danger of succumbing to ethnic strife and communist insurgencies. Since the conclusion of the Cold War, ASEAN has embarked on a series of free trade initiatives, linking it to some of the Asian-Pacific regions most dynamic economies.

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Article is also up at Brooks Foreign Policy Review, here.

In 2001, Former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations, Kishore Mahbubani asked a simple question, which was also the title of his book, “Can Asians Think?” Mr. Mahbubani sought to challenge, what he perceived as, Western paternalism. He believes that Asians do not need indefinite guidance by the Western world, because Asians are capable of independent thought, and just because these thoughts may differ from the West does not mean they are the result of defective thinking. A befitting question for the coming decade is, “Can Sub-Saharan Africans think?” For many Westerners it would seem the answer is, “No”, at least as far as Africa’s relationship with China.

In 2005, the Western media began to express “concern” with the increasing Chinese presence in Sub-Sahara Africa (Africa). During this period, many foreign policy observers began to promote the idea that China is plotting to take over Africa in some neo-colonialist attempt to gain unlimited access to natural resources. For example, Karin Kortmann, a German parliamentary state secretary stated in November of 2006, “our African partners really have to watch out that they will not be facing a new process of colonization” (Cheng 2007). The same year, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Jack Straw, made similar allegations “Most of what China has been doing in Africa today is what we did in Africa 150 years ago” (Stevenson 2006). This Sinophobic boilerplate is hyperbole, but the narrative suggests that the average African is impotent and their leaders are all iniquitous or ineffectual.

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I wrote a few times about the changing family dynamic in Japan and the rise of the woman worker. Despite Japan’s shrinking and aging population the article makes clear the crime rate is low, unemployment is very low for a developed nation (less than 4%) and the country is still quite middle class. It does not sound like a crisis, it sounds like Japan is going the way of some less dynamic and mature European countries. It is becoming what I like to call a “museum country”, it is stagnating.

So what can Japan do? Further deregulate and import more foreigners? That might be a long term solution, but I’m not sure the social cost outweigh the benefits for most Japanese people.

I believe one of the key problems in Japan is how decisions are made. Japanese people, since the Late Tokogawa Period (and likely before) have be very high on consensus. They do not tend to like strong independent leaders making controversial and difficult decisions. They do not like this in CEOs and they especially do not tend to like this in Prime Ministers, therefore these positions are historically weak. Some of the issues that plague Japan need a strong leader, but due to the way the political and economic establishment has been historically structured this individual or “new generation” of leaders is unlikely to manifest.

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For Japan, a Long, Slow Slide

Declines in Productivity, Population Combining to Stifle Economic Growth
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 3, 2008; A17

TOKYO — As the United States frets noisily about a recession, Japan is quietly enduring a far more fundamental economic slide, one that seems irreversible.

This country, which got rich quick in a postwar miracle of manufacturing and alarmed Americans by buying up baubles such as Rockefeller Center, is steadily slipping backward as a major economic force.

Fifteen years ago, Japan ranked fourth among the world’s countries in gross domestic product per capita. It now ranks 20th. In 1994, its share of the world’s economy peaked at 18 percent; in 2006, the number was below 10 percent.

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Africa: Africans Stuck With EU Deals – Europe attempting to screw Africa economically again. Wow, big shock.

Ghana 2008: Who Benefits from the $ One Billion ACN Merchandise Sales? – The spending boom in Ghana with the African Cup at its epicenter benefits China the most? Benin Mwangi thinks so and I have to agree. It is an interesting that this trade boom is being lead by African women who are outsourcing production to Asia! That is just amazing, in a bad way. Then again they may have no choice due to Ghana’s poor infrastructure it might not be possible to manufacture the amount of product they need faster and cheaper than it is to import it.

Ma ‘never intended’ to hide green card – Apparently the new big scandal in Taiwan. I suppose if I was voting for a president to lead my nation and he was a permanent resident in another nation that would disturb me. I would think he was not completely loyal or was looking for a back door to exist quickly if things started to fall apart. Not good Ma Shensheng.

Permanent mechanism to close urban-rural gap – More ideas on that harmonious society that the CCP has been talking about since the the 17th Party Congress. As I mentioned before, the Chinese government is in a race against time to secure the future stability of China. This article focuses on investments in rural infrastructure as an attempt to improve the economic condition of the hinterland.

Africa: Current Intellectual Property Systems Marginalise Continent – Tumelo – This article deals with the need for better a better market regulatory infrastructure for the continent. I like the emphasis placed on African solutions to these problems and not just copying the West. Japan created a system based on Western capitalism but with specific Japanese characteristics that proved exportable to other nations in the region like South Korea and to a less extent Taiwan. Africa also should be encouraged to undertake such innovation for issues specific to the continent.

Ma promises 100 years of peace and prosperity – Ma’s using the boost from the Legislative victory of his party to help him campaign for the office of president.  He sounds even more arrogant than before. (sigh)

Why Europe should thank China – An interesting article on why the EU should THANK China for their dollar peg on the yuan. Strictly going by the article, I guess the judgment should be based on what how does the long term and short term benefit stack up when comparing advantages and disadvantages of a strong euro to USD relationship. The article does not address this. The conclusion is the EU gets “some benefit”, so suck up the cost and just reduce the overhead on your exports. LOL, easier said than done.

Chinese sub, Kitty Hawk in standoff – More “war games” in the Taiwan Strait. I wonder why China is getting provocative all the sudden or is it they are just testing new equipment in realistic scenarios?

‘Iron Lady’ bids public farewell – Wu taitai gone already? I was looking forward to reading more about her after the last Sino-EU summit. Maybe she can consult for some African nations. This woman is a bulldog, and I mean that in a respectful way. Not just anyone could lead the negotiation for China ascension to the WTO.

S Korean military on alert following attacks by hackers – I’m not really surprised Chinese hackers attacked South Korea as there have been some major “beefs” between the two nations over interpretation of overlapping ancient histories.

Overseas Vietnamese eyed for hi-tech sector – Saigon Hi-tech Park is trying to recruit overseas Vietnamese tech workers to make up for the shortage of domestic talent. As one would expect there are growing pains.

China to Switch to Lethal Injections – China said they will stop shooting people in the head and use lethal injection, which is funny due to the fact America is debating if “lethal injection” is cruel and unusual punishment. Cruel and unusual punishment is against the U.S. constitution.

Li Yinhe on the recent porn crackdowns – An interesting post on porn crackdowns in China.

This is surprisingly a good article. So is China buying into the argument that greater appreciation of the Yuan is good for everyone, or is this a hollow show of good face to appease critics? The article is likely correct that the Chinese government will appreciate slowly if they do intend to do that so as to maintain greater control, but the point about speculation is ominous. What is more disturbing to the CCP is the thought of massive unemployment in export related industries leading to even greater social instability, as rural migrants have nowhere to go. They can not go to the city to work and the value of agricultural products at home could fall due to greater foreign competition. Remember that most Chinese still live in rural areas, not large cities.

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 China appears to allow faster appreciation of yuan

By Keith Bradsher
Friday, December 28, 2007

HONG KONG:

The yuan has risen faster against the dollar this week than at any time since the end of the Chinese currency’s peg to the dollar in 2005, feeding speculation that the Chinese government has begun allowing a brisker pace of appreciation.

The currency, also known as the renminbi, rose 0.9 percent this week. That included an increase of 0.18 percent on Friday to close at 7.3041 to the dollar in Shanghai trading.

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-Turnout is heavy in Kenyan election – Well it is election time in Kenya. I covered the candidate that is expected to win, here a few days ago. It seems to come down to a battle between Kibaki and Odinga; Kibaki being the incumbent establishment candidate of the dominant Kikuya tribe, and Odinga; the up and comer from a less affluent tribal group. Turn out is very high and from earlier reading it seems many people from the various other ethnic groups are tired of the Kikuya running things, but besides that education and the economy seem to be big issues. Whatever happens, I’m glad the vote is being judged “free and fair”.

Taiwan opposition presidential candidate awaits verdict on corruption case – I am pretty sure the verdict will be upheld and Ma will not go to jail or be disqualified from running for president. I’m also sure he is guilty but you know… 🙂

Japanese PM looks to boost ties through China visit – Well, looks like Fukuda will have a good trip as Beijing seems to approve of him and no major typical issues of “Chinese outrage” are on the table. This usually means that China wants something, like more Japanese investment (as they asked for a few weeks back). China is Japan’s largest trade partner and Japan is China’s largest investor. It seems most of the outstanding issues revolve around economics and military buildups on both sides. Could this be the dawn of new relations? I wouldn’t count on it, but money unites all. 🙂  The capital must flow!

Is the sun setting on Japan’s economic power?: GDP drops to 18th among major nations – This is nominal per capita, not purchasing power parity. Japan is still the second largest economy on earth in terms of GDP. Japanese people are also not poor, PPP is more accurate to measure this. This has to do more with exchange rates.

Asia: Lure of China proves irresistible for Japanese seeking fame and fortune – Maybe relations are getting better, after all. This is a very interesting article, worth the read; especially the last part concerning the Japanese companies problems.

Africa Brings New Financial Frontier to American Investors – This article speaks primarily  about African Americans investing in Africa.

Keeping with the Confucianist trend, Vietnam has been declared the 6th most attractive country for FDI (foreign direct investment) by the UN. Seems like Vietnam finally “got its groove back”. From my reading, there still needs to be more work done on privatizing and simplifying the legal structure, still they are making good progress. I would say that Vietnam needs to continue to focus on niche industries in order to be competitive with China due to their lower level of infrastructure and smaller economy of scale, which is the direction they seem to be headed; quite impressive.
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UN report analyzes FDI in Vietnam
Secretary-General Supachai Panichpakdi of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) quoted his agency’s recent survey on Tuesday, saying that Vietnam was the sixth most attractive location for foreign direct investment (FDI) over the 2007-2009 period.

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This is an interesting story concerning how China’s new openness has given ethnic Koreans (Chaoxian Ren) opportunities to work with North and South Koreans.  I knew a Chaoxian girl when I was in Shanghai.  She was trying to marry anyone she could  to get out of China.  I never found out what her father’s business was, but he was wealthy and she promised he would pay anyone who would marry her.  I think it was a way for all of them to get eventually get new citizenship.  As far as I know, she asked almost all the S.Korean male students, a couple of Japanese, and myself (the only American that was not married at the school). 

Some interesting notes, Chaoxian ren is used in China for N.Koreans and ethnic Koreans in China, but in Japan the same characters 朝鮮 pronounced Chosen, are consider discriminatory.  Before reading this article I was not aware that N.Korea had a significant business presence in China.  I met some N.Koreans, while I lived in Shanghai, who owed a restaurant I frequented with the S.Korean students at my school.  Very nice and humble people.

The picture below is of a crazy S.Korean nationalist who eats flags (Chinese, American, Japanese).  I always found him funny and I couldn’t find anything better.

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Sizing up China: Koreans quickly coming to terms amid new openness in China

12/17/2007

BY KIM HAN IL, STAFF WRITER

This is part of a series on ethnic Koreans living in northeast China.

A North Korean restaurant lit up in neon stands alongside a South Korean eatery in Xida, in Shenyang, Liaoning province. (KIM HAN IL/ STAFF WRITER)
BEIJING–When China and South Korea established diplomatic relations in 1992, it transformed the lives of ethnic Koreans living in this country.

With South Korean investment pouring into China, ethnic Koreans found themselves serving as a bridge between the two countries.

That, in turn, provided a jumping board for them to escape from rural communities in northeastern China, mainly in Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces, for the bright lights of Beijing, Seoul and other cities.

Li Yingshu, 52, was managing a small Korean restaurant in Hunchun, near the border with Russia, at the time.

The new chapter in relations with South Korea prompted her to move her business to the Chinese capital.

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