Is Japan’s mountain of public debt a threat to financial stability? (East Asia Forum)

The level of government debt in Japan is unprecedented. At two and a half times what the entire economy produces each year, it is by far the largest gross debt-to-GDP ratio in the world and, at 200 per cent of domestic GDP, Japan’s public debt is rivalled only by British government debt after the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century.

Is Japan’s mountain of public debt a threat to financial stability?

Editorial Board, ANU

The Philippines stays free and open in its position on the Indo-Pacific (East Asia Forum)

When US Defence Secretary James Mattis met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on 28 June 2018, he conveyed Washington’s growing concern over Beijing’s military activities in the South China Sea (SCS). In response Xi stressed that Beijing ‘cannot lose one inch’ of its territory. This bold statement portends a more challenging time for US President Donald Trump’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) strategy and raises the question of how regional US allies and partners like the Philippines may respond to the FOIP.

The Philippines stays free and open in its position on the Indo-Pacific

Christian Vicedo

How can Indonesia assist its farmers? (East Asia Forum)

At a press conference introducing the recent Asian Agriculture and Food Forum in Jakarta, organised by the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), the Association’s Secretary-General Bambang Budi Waluyo said that Indonesian farmers face five issues in improving their welfare: working capital access, high quality seeds, fertilisers, agricultural technology and efficient distribution.

How can Indonesia assist its farmers?

Peter Warr, ANU

China can energise Africa’s quest to industrialise (East Asia Forum)

Why is Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting three small African countries on his first state trip of 2018?

In late July, Xi was in Johannesburg for a summit of the leaders of the five BRICS emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Other stops included the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Senegal and Mauritius.

China can energise Africa’s quest to industrialise

Deborah Brautigam, Johns Hopkins University

Two steps forward in Indonesia’s foreign worker policy? (East Asia Forum)

Controversy has surrounded revision of Indonesia’s foreign worker regulations ever since the Presidential Regulation (PP20) on the subject was issued on 26 March 2018. This is hardly surprising considering 2019 is an election year. Parties and potential presidential candidates are already looking for standout issues to garner public support.

Two steps forward in Indonesia’s foreign worker policy?

Chris Manning, ANU

Taking up the challenge in US–China economic relations (East Asia Forum)

During the US presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump singled out Chinese trade practices as a key concern. Once in office many of the threats he made against China, such as labelling it a currency manipulator and imposing 30 per cent tariffs, did not come to pass. But this is changing as dealing with China increasingly assumes centre stage for the administration.

Taking up the challenge in US–China economic relations

Joshua P Meltzer, Brookings

China’s insecure security men (East Asia Forum)

China invests massively — both in terms of funding and human capital — in the ‘image management’ of its armed and security forces. Led or coordinated by the secretive Central Propaganda Department (also known as the ‘Central Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China’ in the English-speaking world), China drills home to one and all, at home and abroad, several messages: the Communist Party’s leadership has the unswerving support of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and other security forces; these forces are enthusiastic about the Communist Party and enjoy a privileged position in the state and society; and both the Communist Party and the PLA have the unwavering support of the patriotic Chinese people, who will take umbrage at any perceived affront to China.

China’s insecure security men

Neil J Diamant, Dickinson College

The nationalist undertow in India’s politics (East Asia Forum)

As the celebrations subsided on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, many Indians might have been wondering, we then wrote, what they had done. Above all they voted decisively for change from the elitist Indian National Congress-dominated politics of the past and for a new openness in the hope that Modi would lift the country out of low-level growth and political scandal and corruption. Indian voters demanded a move away from a government by the few for the few. They voted for can-do decisiveness rather than policy timidity.

Editorial Board, ANU

Too early to tell if the Singapore summit was successful (East Asia Forum)

The 12 June US–DPRK summit meeting was vastly oversold, not least by US President Donald Trump. The day after the summit, Trump tweeted that the North Korean nuclear threat had been removed, even though Pyongyang had taken no verifiable action toward eliminating its nuclear program. On 12 July, one month after the summit, Trump brandished a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who declared their Singapore meeting ‘the start of a meaningful journey’ and said he was looking forward to their next meeting. Trump took this as a reflection of the ‘great progress’ that the two countries had made despite the frustrations that had beset US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his recent visit to Pyongyang. Six weeks after the Singapore summit, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has not diminished, US and UN sanctions against North Korea remain in place, and the US government continues to forbid US citizens from visiting North Korea (and vice versa) without special permission..

Too early to tell if the Singapore summit was successful

Charles K Armstrong, Columbia University

Ethnic diversity matters for decentralisation and development (East Asia Forum)

Twenty years have now passed since the New Order regime was overthrown in Indonesia. This event triggered not only democratisation in Indonesia but also a remarkable experiment with decentralisation that saw significant power transferred from Jakarta down to the country’s many and diverse districts. While decentralisation likely played an important role in mitigating the centripetal tendencies that gripped Indonesia at the time, there is little evidence that it has effectively delivered on its many other promises, like promoting growth or improving governance.

Ethnic diversity matters for decentralisation and development

Kai Ostwald, University of British Columbia, Krislert Samphantharak, University of California San Diego and Yuhki Tajima, Georgetown University