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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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Rice Rebukes Bush Envoy Who Criticized Policy on North Korea – Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush’s special envoy on North Korean human rights said the current Bush Admin policy will not solve the nuclear issue in North Korea before Bush leaves office. Well, he is right, that is obvious to someone of the meanest intelligences.

Roadblocks on the Great Asian Highway – Interesting article about overcoming infrastructural barriers between Thailand, Laos, and China to create more efficient trade; and some immediate negative externalities for the local Laotian people.

Corruption-fighting Vietnamese granny gets award – Transparency International awards Vietnamese grandma for fighting the good fight for 25 years against death threats from local government officials. This woman is 150 cm (4’11” inch) tall and 40 kilograms (88 lbs) and has more “balls” than 99% of the politicians in Washington D.C., unfortunately for us Americans.

China closes 44,000 pornographic websites in 2007 – The Chinese government is not fond of “adult entertainment”. This is part of the increasingly common crackdown on various facets of the sex industry in China. I’m sure shutting down 44,000 websites has kept the thought police quite busy.

Science with Africa: Accelerating Science and Technology in Africa – Information on a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 3 to 7 March. The themes of the conference will be science and innovation policy, science themes and innovation and will consist of plenary sessions and workshops.

Africa: ‘U.S. Recession a Threat to Third World Exports’ – There has been a recession fear going through North America, Europe, and East Asia lately but any economic downturn for the United States will also significantly effect some of the world’s poorest nations, which are already on the margin. This will not just hurt trade but also aid revenues.

‘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.

Uganda’s Economy Grows By 7% – I found this over at Booker Rising. Apparently, Uganda has discovered more oil. I mused about my concerns, which mainly center around “Dutch Disease“, at Booker.

The East African Standard (Nairobi) – The Kenyan Election Committee Chairman, Samuel Kivuitu, announced that he was pressured to announce the incumbent, Kibaki, as the winner. He is urging the matter to be reviewed by a court and the commission has condemned the violence. There is more background information on what is happening in Kenya here.

MAC rejects PRC asylum seeker – Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has refused to help an asylum seeker from the Mainland who is facing imprisonment in a Laogai. The committee’s response:

“‘As unfair judicial rulings exist in many countries, he should deal with this problem via the legal system in his country. We ask that he leave when his trip finishes [today],’ Liu said on Friday.” Basically that means, “we don’t care“.

Vietnam economy grows nearly 8.5 pct in 2007 – More good news on Vietnam’s economy. I’m very impressed by the industrial mix of the economy; agriculture is only 20% of the economy. I also did not know America was their largest export market; followed closely by the EU. Vietnam also has over 20 billion in investment pledges pending. This is outstanding!

Foreign journalists report continued harassment in China – I fully expect this to increase for reasons I outlined previously. The new law is nice, but I doubt they will be widely enforced at a local level. Local officials do not want to lose face before their superiors, especially during the Olympics. I would be a lot of these assaults are due to these officials acting on their own (by the use of plain clothed thugs) to prevent any embarrassing details from leaking out to foreign press.

Japan to amend textbook accounts of Okinawa suicides -My grandfather served in Okinawa during WWII. He told me stories about Japanese people hiding all over the island (i.e. caves) believing that Americans would eat them, because that is what they were told by the government. The Okinawans would jump in the ocean before surrendering or even stab themselves in the throat. Due to historic discrimination against the Okinawans, due to their “impure” status, many Okinawans believe they were used as cannon fodder. My wife thinks that this is not an example of anti-Okinawan discrimination, as all Japanese were instructed to behave similarly. The main difference is that the war never got to the main islands, where they would have been expected to exercise these instructions; Okinawa actually became a battlefield for Japanese civilians.

In any case, I think most Japanese people know about this. It is clear to me that most Japanese people over 30 are aware of this; my wife certainly is and she is no history buff. It is good to acknowledge it formally in history texts though.

Chinese goods transform life in Southeast Asia – Cheap Chinese goods are apparently a benefit to poor Southeast Asian states, despite their low quality.

Government to stop energy subsidies next year – Relying more on the market should help control inflation, at least a little bit. This is always a good thing, as price ceilings and floors are inefficient; basic Econ 101. It is also good to see Vietnam moving away from such intricate state intervention in the market.

Vietnam plans Mekong mega-dam in Laos – Laos wants to become the hydro-capital of Southeast Asia and Vietnam will contract to build it?

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.

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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Apartment supply-demand gap still problematic for expats – The fact they are have a shortage is a good sign, as it hints to a boom of ex-pats moving to the nation to work for long periods.

Vietnam, Japan strengthen technology ties – I was somewhat surprised to here that Vietnam is already at the point of considering joint technology research parks. Let alone teaming up with companies like Toshiba, Mitsui and Sharp. The spillover effect of such initiatives is always a positive thing, but especially for nations like Vietnam. Due to economy of scale, first mover advantage, and infrastructure issues they will have a difficult time competing directly with China in low end manufacturing. They need niche markets, and if they have the educational base to do R&D in specific industries that is a great move.

East Africa: Starbucks Plans Sh64m Coffee Centres in Region

West Africa: Meeting Education Targets – Access Versus Quality – I understand the issues that the author cites, but I think in this type of situation, it helps to have 80% of people to read at a basic level than 20% to read very well and 60% to be illiterate. They can always focus on improving teacher quality, classrooms, books, etc. The most important thing is to get the children in the class and to have them learn something more than what they would have known if they were out working a field.

Academic says pan-blues will trounce DPP in poll –  I have never doubted this to be the case, but this has happened before and a DPP candidate has still won the presidency, so I’m keeping my eyes on that, to my knowledge, Ma is leading in the polls by about 10 points, this was a few months ago.  I’m looking for recent more polling data.

South Africa: Mbeki Booed By Hostile Polokwane Delegates – WOW!  Actually, I see this as healthy, in a young democracy there should be lively debate and disagreement. Aslong as it conforms to the rule of law I have no issues with it.

Hill: North Korea refused nuclear declarationI told you so…Kim Jong Il is never going to give up his only ace card.  There is no benefit for him to do so as long as he can bribe and threaten his way to economic concessions.

China, Japan need more dialogue – A very interesting behind closed doors debate between Japanese and Chinese journalist.   That is if you can call the Chinese people “journalist” when there is no freedom of the press in China.  It broke down around the usual nationalist chest beating as the Chinese attack the Japanese and the Japanese seem oblivious to why.  There were some more instructive issues that came up though, such as the quote below, which clearly shows the success of the Communist government to promote neo-Confucianism as propaganda for people to remain loyal to the party.  It also shows how far the Japanese have moved away from these Confucian ideas in the past 60 years. Interesting indeed.

One Japanese member said: “The media’s basic role is to report the facts and serve the public’s right to know the facts. The Chinese media are controlled too tightly by political judgments, and fail to convey what readers and viewers should know. The media should be liberalized.”

In response, a Chinese member said: “What is the definition of liberalization? There is no absolute liberty. Don’t the Japanese media have taboos about the Imperial family? What we consider first is the stability of society. Confusion caused by the media can affect people’s lives adversely.”

To save, South Koreans use credit cards – Koreans are learning about the convenience and dangers of credit cards.  I wish the article had some statistic on the average debt load of the Korean household as compared to American, or the percentage of defaults as compared to Americans.  I would be my money, that they handle their credit much better, despite the number of cards, and this is especially true of married couples.  I can not imagine the average S.Korean woman (who will be doing most bill paying) spending as recklessly as an American.

Hollywood officials say China has started banning American movies – Seems the rumors were true and do not just apply to Will Smith movies. 🙂   This is not just about the international property rights case at the WTO.  China has been perturbed about a few things, including American support for Taiwan and praise of the Dalia Lama.

CHINA: China rejects demand on communique – Just a brief update on Chinese denial.

Inter-Korean rail service resumes after five decades – More “Sunshine Policy” news.

Vietcombank says foreign buying capped to benefit local investors – Big bank about to go public.

Nigeria: President’s Visit Represents Start of New Relationship – Nigeria’s president visits the “George Dubya” in Washington.  The topics on the table are the Nigerian Delta (read: Oil), African peace keeping, and continued political stability.

No White Hair in the Chinese Leadership – This is funny, I was just talking about this to my wife last night. LOL

I will keep my promises, Chen tells US – The initial article is the more Pan-Green take, the Pan-Blue take is here. I honestly do not believe China will make any serious threats against Taiwan if the referendum goes through, they know they can block any UN resolution for Taiwanese membership. The issues is that Burghardt know the referendum will be approved, as both the Pan-Blue and Pan-Green support UN membership, they just have different takes on if the name should be Taiwan or The Republic of China. The U.S. is concerned this will put more pressure on the Sino-American relationship, giving China a edge in any future dealings. It comes down to, it is an unneeded headache for Washington and one more step in the way of nationalism for Taiwan, which will also make any future talk of reunification more difficult. I do not believe Chen will ever declare independence, he is not stupid. What he wants is to establish strong roots for Taiwanese nationalism in the population, from which he hopes a strong independence movement will grow. IMOP, it is working, but a little slower than he expected.

No sex workers’ rights, no nation – My view on this is a libertarian one. Tax it, regulate it (disease test, red light districts, no street walking), license it, and leave it alone. The best thing any society can do is make it as safe as possible, for the workers and the clients. No society in history has stopped this industry and it is a victimless crime if you regulate the mafias and pimps out of the business.

China denies it deleted parts of communique with Japan – Despite “Japan’s fury“, China knows nothing. I was obviously not there, so I have no clue what went on, but what I do know from years of watching China is that the CCP publicly denying things in the face of firm evidence is not unheard of, in fact, it is common.

Researchers: Human evolution speeding up – I blogged about this once, twice, and now three times this year. People generally assume evolution is a measured slow change over time. That looks to be false. Evolution seems to be more subject to population pressure then thought. It appears it occurs in waves over thousands, not millions of years. We are not usually speaking of radical change in body shape or size. As the article points out, lactose tolerance, skin coloring, and other more subtle things are under high selection in different populations for different regions. I do not expect humans to “speciate”, likely ever, short of some type of epidemic or nuclear war that leaves very small populations geographically isolated for very long periods of time (like in the millions of years). That is unlikely. History shows that whenever slightly divergent populations come into contact gene flow commences as people do what they do. It is not shocking to me that different populations are under different selective pressures, as the world has changed in the last 200 years more than it did in the previous 2,000 years.

Foreign trade nears US$2 trln in first 11 months

PM talks with Singapore minister Goh – Big trade between two Confucian neighbors.

Banks say loan regulation unfeasible – Seems there is some push back from Vietnamese leaders over the new government initiative to temper inflation.

Kenya: Charity Begins At Home for Top Contenders – The article talks about how each presidential candidate is leading in his home province, largely due to tribal ties. 

Japan infuriated by China’s deletions from joint press communique – This is not the way for China to build goodwill.  When I read things like that I question the ability of the CCP elites to really understand the outside world.

Rising inflation forces banks into a corner – Vietnam is having some serious inflation issues, again.

Japanese studies facing the chop in Europe –  This is very sad to read but inevitable.  What this article should say is, “Japanese studies faced with popularity of Chinese studies, get the chop in Europe.”  Japan is not doing enough to stay relevant internationally.  They are the second wealthiest nation in the world with a lot of great qualities and they are fairly isolationist and timid.  That has to change if they they do not want China to run all over them in Asia and make them a larger outsider than they are, with Washington being their only real friend.  China is quickly surpassing Japan as the “sexy Asian country” because Japan allows it.

(LEAD) Front-runner Lee Myung-bak eyes landslide win – ’nuff said.   He is conservative, expecting to take a harder line on North Korea, but still favors engagement.  He is pro-free market.  Lee was born in Japan and he and his family moved back to Korea after WWII.  He grew up dirty-poor, but worked his way up.  He also has a history of being anti-Japanese, but then again, that is not going to hurt him in S.Korea, it makes him “normal”.