Malaysia’s Chickenhawk Defense Minister’s Empty Talk On Jerusalem Issue


December 15, 2017

Malaysia’s Chickenhawk Defense Minister’s Empty Talk On Jerusalem Issue

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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“A soldier is someone’s son or father or brother,” he said. “The public has a right to know where we are sending our soldiers and why.”–– Mohd Arshad Raji, retired Brigadier-General

COMMENT | Chickenhawk politicians are usually extremely gung-ho about military action, especially when nobody holds them accountable for their words. Kudos to Rais Hussin and P Ramasamy for calling out Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on his extremely cavalier reminder that the Malaysian security apparatus is ready for action when it comes to the Jerusalem issue.

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Malaysia’s Chickenhawk  Defense Minister –Hishamuddin Hussein Onn

I wonder what would have happened that if instead of international mockery, someone took up Malaysia’s preparedness to send troops to Jerusalem? What would have been the response then? Would we have backtracked and attempted to explain that in Malaysia, establishment politicians can say anything they want but they cannot be held accountable for what they say?>

On the other hand, maybe what the current UMNO grand poohbah said in his big meet-up in Istanbul with other concerned Muslim potentates that US investments trumps any real action to go with that outrage, is a more acceptable solution? And let us not forget the ever-reliable strategy of dragging the United Nations to voice out whatever grievances that Muslim potentates claim on behalf of Palestinians.

In other words, the Defence Minister’s words were just more empty talk to burnish Malaysia’s increasingly joked about Islamic preoccupations on the world stage. No doubt whatever we learned from whatever we were doing in Saudi Arabia would have come in handy if we decided to ship our lads to Israel. Speaking of what we learned in Saudi Arabia, I am still unclear as to why we were there in the first place.

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22 members of Malaysian Armed Forces receiving their certificates and medals from Saudi Government for services rendered during  Ops Yeman since May, 2015.

In 2015, Arab News, under the chest thumping headline, ‘Malaysian troops join Arab coalition’, claimed that – “Malaysia has become the 12th country to join the coalition after Senegal which is sending 2,100 troops to fight the Houthis and the forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Ministry of Defence explained that the coalition’s operations centre is preparing for incorporating the Malaysian and Senegalese forces into the ranks and determining the nature of tasks assigned to them.”

Now, of course, under questioning by Amanah, among others, we are told by the Defense Minister that all we were doing there, besides “learning” that is, was evacuating Malaysians who were in Yemen. Why we need to “join a coalition” and send troops to evacuate Malaysian citizens when there are so many other less controversial and effective means of evacuation is beyond me.

Amanah, of course, loses points because one of their predictable concerns was that the presence of Malaysians troops there is awkward “because Western powers such as France and Britain were also present. These countries, the opposition party said, had anti-Islam policies” – which is dumb because thousands of Yemeni Muslims are butchered by another Muslim country.

A learning expedition

Of course, ever since the House of Saud got entangled in the 1MDB fiasco, Malaysia seems to have become extremely chummy with the Kingdom. Indeed, not only was the visit by the Saudi monarch memorable for reasons, which is beyond the scope of this piece but which I have documented elsewhere, we even managed to foil an assassination attempt allegedly planned by Yemeni operatives.

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As reported in The Independent, Malaysia foils ‘Yemeni attack’ on Saudi Arabia’s King Salman’ – “Malaysian police said they foiled an attack on Arab royals by suspected Yemeni militants.

“Seven militants, including four Yemenis, two Malaysians and one Indonesian, were arrested in separate raids ahead of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s visit to Kuala Lumpur…

“‘They were planning to attack Arab royalties during their visit to Kuala Lumpur. We got them in the nick of time,’ National Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.”

To our former IGP, getting terrorists in the nick of time is not something you want to be proud about and certainly not something you publicise. Now of course, if people who are at war with the House of Saud realised that we were in the kingdom not as allies but merely “learning” and evacuating citizens, they would be more inclined not to view citizens of where they were planning their attacks as collateral damage. And please note, a Malaysian citizen was also part of the kill team.

With this Jerusalem move, Al-Qaeda has called upon all Muslim nations to destroy Israel and this only makes it more complicated when we have citizens in this country who support these Islamic extremists for various reasons.

The United Nations has reported on the human rights violations that have been carried out by Saudi forces (and their allies) – which they deny – but of course, Malaysia only response that it was in fact only there on a learning expedition. Now how do you think this sounds to a demographic of disenfranchised Muslim Malaysian youths who seem to be ripe for radicalisation?

Already the plight of the Yemeni people has gained traction among a certain crowd of tech-savvy youths all over the Muslim world who blame the House of Saud for perpetrating crimes on innocent Muslims.

Way back in 2014, Harezt ran an interesting piece on why the Islamic State was not too interested in attacking Israel – “The Islamic State’s target bank contains a long list of Arab leaders – including the Saudi and Jordanian kings, the Prime Minister of Iraq, the president of Egypt and even the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood – before it gets to the Jews and Israel.”

So, while Jerusalem may not exactly be the issue that ignites Islamic radicalisation in this country, the alleged atrocities committed by the House of Saud and their allies, which includes Western powers and their Muslim proxies, may be ripe soft targets for radicalised Muslim youths who benefit from organisations like Islamic State who have declared Southeast Asia as their new theatre of war and destruction.

Now, I am not saying that Malaysia has troops fighting in Yemen – I have no evidence of this – I am just saying that for radicalised Muslim youths in the region latching on to the plight of the Yemenis, it will not make a difference.

Old Dominance and new dominoes in Southeast Asia


December 14, 2017

Old Dominance and new dominoes in Southeast Asia

by Dan Slater@www.eastasiaforum.org

Not since World War II has liberal democracy seemed so deeply endangered in so many places. If the flu of political and social illiberalism is circumnavigating the globe, Southeast Asia has precious little immunity with which to withstand it. This is a region where authoritarian regimes have always easily outnumbered democracies, and where liberalism and universalism have always struggled to gain traction.

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Since most of the region is enduringly authoritarian to begin with, Southeast Asia is and always has been well on its way to being a democratic abyss. It is useful to distinguish the cases of existing dominance that establish that dismal baseline from ‘the new dominos’, which find themselves either tumbling or looking increasingly wobbly.

None of the region’s long-dominant authoritarian regimes appear deeply endangered at the moment. Singapore’s People’s Action Party is riding high in the saddle after its electoral–authoritarian landslide in September 2017. In Malaysia, so long as the ruling Barisan Nasional party can compensate for its high-level corruption with high-level repression, it seems likely to get away with it.

Commentators commonly fret that Hun Sen killed the last remnants of democracy in Cambodia when he shuttered the Cambodia Daily and moved to ban the country’s only major opposition party. But what is really transpiring is a transition from multiparty authoritarianism to single-party authoritarianism, since Cambodia has not met even minimal democratic standards for the past 25 years.

Speaking of single-party dictatorships, Vietnam’s leaders have recently stepped up repression of dissidents. But it is not as if the Vietnamese Communist Party ever brooked serious dissent in the first place.

Not coincidentally, in all four cases, old dominance is rooted in old authoritarian ruling parties. Dictatorships ruled by parties have long tended to be more stable than those in which the military plays the leading role. So it stands to reason that the greatest action in the region over the past decade has been in countries where the military either still is, or in the past was, a leading power in political life.

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A militarised past means a high potential for a dominoing present. Just as we can identify four clear cases of old dominance rooted in authoritarian ruling parties, four cases fit more readily in the ‘new domino’ category: Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand. In each case, there is a long history of parties failing to decisively supersede the power of the military, which left their democracies with relatively little institutional strength.

Could Myanmar soon follow Thailand’s recent path back to unchallenged military rule? Could the Philippines descend from its fragile status as an illiberal democracy to an outright one-man autocracy? And does the shocking imprisonment of Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese former governor on blasphemy charges portend the demise in Indonesia of the tolerant norms on which even a minimalist democracy depends?

There is a vital common theme. When procedural democracy arises in otherwise politically and socially illiberal and intolerant conditions, democracy’s own key features can easily undermine its own quality and even threaten its own survival.

Specifically, democratic procedures have a tendency to produce unbridled majoritarianism and unconstrained leadership unless there are powerful countervailing forces. In settings where liberal institutions and societal commitment to inclusive and cosmopolitan values are relatively weak, minorities exist at the mercy of domineering and abusive executives.

In Thailand, the rise of Thaksin Shinwatra did not lead to outright populist authoritarianism in part because the Thai military and monarchy saw fit to re-establish oligarchic authoritarianism. It is in the Philippines where a brazenly violent populist seems inclined to seize as many authoritarian-style powers as the system and public will allow. As abysmal as Rodrigo Duterte has been for human rights, his defenders quite plausibly support a highly popular president responding to actual social ills like the drug trade.

But democratisation does not deserve the brunt of the blame for an ongoing calamity like the forcible expulsion and state-sanctioned mass murder of the Rohingya. In Myanmar as in Indonesia, it is the ideological potency of ethnic and religious nationalism that explains why minorities get brutalised. Authoritarian legacies of militarisation in Myanmar and ethnic and ideological scapegoating in Indonesia best explain the severity of both countries’ nativist downturns.

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If one vivid lesson shines through the dim shadows of Southeast Asia’s democratic downslide, it is that democratisation and human rights are far from the same thing. Nationalists steeped in a lifetime of authoritarian state propaganda are analogously primed to see the world in terms of us (who belong) and them (who do not). Under such conditions, democratic rights may get extended — but no further than the ranks of the supposedly virtuous.

What all this suggests is that the global crisis of liberalism and democracy is first and foremost a crisis of education. Heroic histories of mass urban mobilisation predict that if civil society is to help forge democracy, it will be by ‘people power’.

This may still be largely true in Southeast Asia’s cases of old dominance, where dictatorship must somehow be dislodged before democracy can be defended. But in Southeast Asia’s new dominos, as in Western democracies where pluralism is under assault, a deeper educational imperative underlies the organisational challenge confronting us.

Remarkably, the world has reached a moment when its politics most urgently needs to be driven not by an exalted desire to maximise human freedom, but by the base need to minimise human cruelty. If educational institutions and mass media do not spread the message that even the lives of minorities and suspected criminals have value, who will?

Dan Slater is Professor of Political Science and incoming Director of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan. This article originally appeared at New Mandala as part of a series on the challenges facing democracy and civil society in Southeast Asia supported by the TIFA Foundation, Indonesia.

 

An Interview with Mu Sochua


December 11, 2017

An Interview with Mu Sochua

In Jakarta on 8 December, politicians, activists, and scholars dug deeper into the themes covered in New Mandala‘s ongoing series on Southeast Asia’s crisis of democracy at a special forum hosted by the TIFA Foundation. Among the speakers was Mu Sochua, a senior member of Cambodia’s Cambodian National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by a court order on 16 November 2017. A long time human rights advocate and former Minister for Womens Affairs, she has now joined other CNRP figures in exile after being threatened with imprisonment. New Mandala editor Liam Gammon met with her for a brief interview about how the opposition is adapting to the crackdown.

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CNRP’s Mu Sochua on Democracy in Cambodia–Interview New Mandala

Do you think that by shutting off institutional avenues for opposition to his rule, Hun Sen has raised the probably of some sort of popular uprising—some kind of “people power” movement?

They are waiting for the opposition leaders to give the signal. In 2013 when we contested the result of the elections, we were in the streets for over three or four months. Up to half a million people were with us; we were at park called Freedom Park, it was the most beautiful, beautiful moment for democracy in Cambodia and never had it happened before.

Our party is not just a political party. It comes from a movement, from civil society, that has been able to plant democracy’s seeds in Cambodia for quite some time—after the Paris peace accords. It is actually the UN program on human rights free and fair elections that brought the Cambodian people the principles of democracy, of free and fair elections.

So, after that moment, people and then on the fourth of January 2014 Hun Sen brought the tank, shot the workers—since then, we have not been able to bring the people back. But then after that moment, when they shut down Freedom Park, I myself led a group—there were just two or three of us and then it went on to thousands and thousands—for three months, then I was arrested. Put in jail. And now my colleagues are now in jail for 20 years.

If you look back on the long road leading up to the crackdown this year, are you and other opposition figures thinking about some of the strategic mistakes that the opposition may have made? If you had to identify some things that you would have done differently, what would they be?

There are always gaps and short-sighted decisions. For example, at that moment when the tanks were coming at us—and every day we had half a million people with us—we were fighting all the time about whether to take the crowd to the right, or the left, you know—to confront the parliament and the government, to cross over the bridge, or whatever. So I was always in the camp of the young people—hot-headed, but my leaders are more like “no, we can’t do that”. I come from civil society, you see.

So we have always been, and even today, accused of not having good leadership. But we had half a million people—why did we not take over parliament? And we went over that for so long, even today. But one thing was very clear: we do not want to have bloodshed. Because of our past genocide. At any time in the day when Sam Rainsy said “march”, people will come out and march. But we’re not doing that. And we went into parliament after a year of boycott. When we signed the agreement with Hun Sen, we were too quick to accept the agreements. He [Hun Sen] promised that there be reforms in the judiciary, he promised that the opposition minority would be recognised, he promised that we could have our own TV. We signed the agreement, but we didn’t look at the details, and he didn’t deliver on the details. We lost at that.

Do you think there was an element of complacency within the leadership about whether Hun Sen would actually follow through on those commitments?

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Not complacency, but I think we were too—we made an agreement on the basis of mutual trust. But Hun Sen is not a democrat. And our mistake it that we assumed that he is a democrat.

And this is a central question for outside observers. If we’re making this claim that Hun Sen has killed Cambodian democracy, by implication we’re saying that from 1993 until 2017 it was a functioning democracy. In hindsight do you think that in reality this is not really the fall of a democracy or the fall of a pretence of democracy?

Full democracy, no. A façade of democracy. He allowed us to function in that framework. And the donors—we all knew. But we kept on going for democratic change within elections. But when he saw, and he sees now, that he will never win a truly democratic—even half democratic—elections, that’s why he had to kill it. However, we have 25 years of grassroots—this is not just elitist democracy, but grassroots. So we refuse to say we give up. We are banned from politics for 5 years, but we’re still very active. And we have to reconnect with civil society and our structure inside [Cambodia].

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On the China question: there’s an idea that’s getting stronger that part of the reason why Hun Sen has been so confident in cracking down on the media, civil society, and opposition forces is because Beijing, as it were, will have his back. I guess the question is are we in danger of overstating the influence of China? Would he have done this anyway?

No. I think the international community has been complacent. They want to say “okay, we’re finished with Cambodia”.

They saw it coming! The last time they had a real donor meeting with Hun Sen was four or five years ago. They made no demands whatsoever. And on top of that, I think they forget that Hun Sen needs the legitimacy. Hun Sen has a lot of money. His children have a lot of money. His cronies have a lot of money—invested in Australia, in France, in the USA. So when the US has imposed vis sanctions, within a day, Hun Sen says: “will you reconsider”. It touches a nerve, because he wants China and he wants the west at the same time. But the west is not willing to use its leverage.

It’s interesting that you mention the donor meetings, because they have become infamous as a ritual whereby the donors make of Hun Sen, there are promises that are never fulfilled, and they come back next year and nothing’s changed. Hun Sen has always done terrible things to the opposition—1997 for instance—and gotten away with it. Do international donors have to share in some of the blame for the current situation?

They put in five billion dollars and here it is. Look the judiciary. What reforms have taken place? Look at the scale of corruption. And even now, Australia, for example, still wants to engage Hun Sen, through this $50 million [sic] refugee deal that they made. What is this? So there is no way Australia can say “we didn’t know, we’re not part of it, we tried our best”. I just went to meet with your foreign minister, she still wants to engage Hun Sen. She doesn’t want to isolate Hun Sen. It’s because of the $50 million deal. This is really peeling [away] democracy. And this is how dictators survive. Even killers survive.

So if the threat of withholding western largesse hasn’t changed the regime’s behaviour before, why should we expect it to change now?

Before, Hun Sen didn’t have a lot of money. Now he has a lot of money. “He” meaning all his cronies, his generals. So they have to protect their territory. Before they fought to survive, now they fight to keep the money. To keep the prestige that they have, to keep the comfort that they have. But all of this could crumble very quickly, because he doesn’t fight on principle or anything, he fights just for his own power, so he’s very vulnerable.

This seems almost a silly question to ask, but do you see any role for Southeast Asian governments in disciplining Hun Sen?

Surely. Surely. We have to take measures to prevent another tragedy in Cambodia. If you study the ruling party structure, it has not changed from the communist structure. They had cells, groups, from a group of five, a group of ten, that spy on each other. Now, Hun Sen is doing the same thing. The parents are spying on the children because the youth are not voting for Hun Sen. But they are buying the parents, to force their children to vote for Hun Sen. And the children say no! in the past it was the children that spied on their parents—to see who is communist and who is not, to see who is Khmer Rouge and who is not. It’s the same type of control.

I assume you and your opposition colleagues are still communicating frequently?

There’s a lot of difficulty.

At what point do opposition leaders countenance trying, from abroad, to encourage street mobilisation?

Right now if we were to do it, I don’t know. We haven’t been able to meet in the same room to strategise. So it’s like dealing with this crisis one thing at a time, and that’s why we’re now saying we need to meet.

Within a party there are always differences. So we can fight within the party, and come up with a concrete game plan. Some people say “why don’t we go in. Why don’t we mobilise the people and march again?” Then some people say: “Are you crazy?” Some people are saying “how about a government in exile?”. But definitely, we are—

—strictly speaking, you haven’t won an election yet, so a government in exile might seem a little bit premature…

A shadow government. Although we knew that in 2013 we won, so we are capable of getting the votes. But we don’t want to think that way [about a government in exile], because that means long term outside, in exile. That would kill the hope of the people inside. We have to keep the hope alive.

So you envision a situation in which you and your colleagues could return to Cambodia?

Yeah. Any day. It could be any day. That’s why the role of ASEAN, the role of southeast Asian leaders—it may only take one person, to talk to Hun Sen and say, “what about a dignified exit strategy”.

Who do you think has that kind of clout in Southeast Asia?

Japan.

Do you see any movement there? Have they been sympathetic?

In the past, yes, it’s always been Japan who talked to Hun Sen.

The United States?

They are great at taking actions, but it antagonises. It’s good they deliver. But Hun Sen can say, “oh, it’s the United States”. And all the donors can say “that’s the US.”

It’s interesting that there’s this impulse to talk about the external influences, because one of the criticisms of the opposition, and of Sam Rainsy in particular, was that he was better at cultivating support and networks in Washington or Paris than he was in Phnom Penh.

No, no, no. Totally wrong. Of course, high ranking officials talk to him. But his popularity is in the country. Sam Rainsy can go anywhere in the country, the crowd around him. He’s a symbol. Like Khem Sokha. Even me, when I go to my country, I don’t need anything, I walk around and people get me a motorcycle.

We represent the hope of the people. He is educated, he speaks the language of an educated person. But if he were so close to France, to the Élysée, France would be working with us today. France is not working. We were saying, “France? Where are you?”

You have to live a life on the move now. Living in exile is expensive, isolating, stressful—do you feel safe in exile? Do you expect to be, or have you been, contacted by representatives of the regime?

In Thailand. When I go to Thailand, I don’t feel safe. Now that I talk a lot, that I am the face of the opposition—I’m on BBC, I’m on Aljazeera—I worry. You never know; you don’t want to touch these nerves. And I always go alone. The expenses are always covered somehow. And the loneliness, I have to deal with that. My children want me home, my grandchild wants me home. Of course, I just went through the passing away of my husband. So it’s been a long, difficult two years. However, serving democracy keeps me alive. And I refuse to slow down, although I wish I could, but that’s not a choice. And I have the choice of staying home in Cambodia, but staying behind in a cell. Being captured.

Now there are some CNRP figures left in Cambodia, are they able to engage in any political activity, or are they laying low?

No, they are laying low. Even in communicating with them, we try to not endanger them. We have many in Thailand as well, so even speaking to them—I’m going to go through Thailand, they come to meet me at the airport. I don’t go to visit where they are. And their places have been raided by the local police in Thailand.

So to put it in simple terms, you see the Thai regime as unfriendly to the opposition?

So far they have not kicked us out, but they have given us the message: don’t do anything political. But with Khun Kasit [Piromya], who is the go-between between us and the military, we have been able to stay in Bangkok.

Although you say you have the hope of going back to Cambodia, in the back of your mind do you think about a life outside of Cambodia forever?

[Smiles]. I don’t want to think about it. Because my husband’s ashes are at home. I had less than 24 hours to pack my bags. We had a beautiful home, and a beautiful life. My people are beautiful people. It pains me to stay away from them. It pains me to hear them crying, going back to the farm, going back to being motor taxi drivers, are used to living in exile, are used to hiding [sic], it’s very painful.

The clock is ticking; there’s going to be some kind of election in Cambodia next year, do you think there’s a possibility that Hun Sen could climb down from his current strategy and there could be some kind of free and fair contest? And if not, are you planning towards subsequent elections as a next goal?

At this point we want to be optimistic, so we are focused on lobbying ASEAN. We have done a lot of work in Europe and the US, now it’s ASEAN.

Do you have realistic hopes of being able to contest in 2018?

Yep. We only need six months. Because we are so sure of our strategy.

So in the short term, what do you define as success?

Free[ing] Kem Sokha on 10 December. And for us to go home.

Foreign Policy: Balancing US-China Interest in the Trump–Xi era


December 11, 2017

Foreign Policy: Balancing  US-China Interest  in the Trump–Xi era

by David M Lampton, Johns Hopkins University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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The Asian Statesman,HE President President Xi Jinping–Economic Diplomacy

From 1945 to 2016 the United States used its economic, military and ideological power to build institutions, alliances and regimes that contributed to global economic growth and the avoidance of great power war. In doing so, it fostered the rise of a new constellation of powers, China notable among them, with which it must now deal. If the United States wants to see its interests met, Washington must win Beijing’s cooperation rather than try to compel it.

 

On entering office, US President Donald Trump put several contentious issues with China on the backburner in the hope of achieving his primary goal — North Korea’s denuclearisation. When that failed, the front burner of US–China relations became crowded with previously repressed issues.

Several of these — US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, talk of steel and aluminium tariffs, weapons sales to Taiwan, threats to tighten technology and investment flows as well as secondary sanctions on Chinese entities — threaten to become serious problems if not managed in a more careful manner than the Trump administration is currently demonstrating.

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From Pivot to Asia to Divert from Asia–America First

So what might the United States usefully do? There are three issues on which Washington should focus: fostering an economic balance of power in Asia that promotes regional stability, achieving more reciprocity in US–China relations and addressing the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.

A central part of Xi Jinping’s geo-economic vision is the expansion of regional links and the promotion of urbanisation and growth on China’s periphery to make China the central node in this growing region. For Beijing, this means north–south connectivity — namely supply chains that originate in China and extend to the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal and beyond.

Unless Washington wants Asia to become a unipolar sphere of Chinese influence, it should become more involved in the construction of regional infrastructure to foster linkages that are not just north–south but also east–west from India to Vietnam through Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia and on to Japan and the wider Pacific.

Turning to reciprocity, when China joined the WTO in 2001 its overseas trade and financial involvements grew enormously. So too did its global trade surplus and bilateral trade surplus with the United States. Beijing soon had the technology, capital and capacity to seize the opportunities of openness abroad without providing reciprocal domestic access to the United States and others.

From 2008 onwards, the pace of domestic economic, financial and foreign trade liberalisation slowed. China’s world trade partners came to realise that as China leapt outward to seize opportunities, it did not reciprocally open itself in areas where foreigners enjoyed comparative advantages. Consequently, the issues of ‘reciprocity’ and ‘fairness’ have moved to front and centre in US–China relations. US companies are now asking themselves why Chinese entrepreneurs should be able to freely acquire US service and technology firms when these areas in China are closed to foreigners.

While US feelings of resentment mount, finding ways to enhance reciprocity with Beijing that do not injure US workers or other bystanders is hard. Limiting Chinese investment into US employment-generating firms diminishes US job opportunities. On the other hand, ignoring the problem invites extremist proposals at home as well as contempt in Beijing.

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Finally, the issue of North Korea. Trump thought his predecessors had been right in pressing Beijing to put more pressure on North Korea and in their assessment that Beijing had sufficient means to do so. Where they had gone wrong, Trump believed, was in not making it worth Beijing’s while to apply the necessary pressure.

So President Trump suggested that Washington would give Beijing concessions in other areas — trade and Taiwan among them — in exchange for pressure on North Korea. Of all the reasons that this approach has not worked out (including the viability of some of Trump’s promised consessions) the most dominant is that Pyongyang resists following any external advice that it fears would be lethal to the regime.

Consequently, the Trump administration is left with the same stark choices as its predecessors, except that Trump has staked even more on the issue and North Korea is further down its deliverable nuclear weapons path.

It is time for Washington (in close consultation with its South Korean and Japanese allies) to acknowledge that North Korea has a modest nuclear deterrent, and that as a result the United States should shift its aim from denuclearisation to deterring the use and further proliferation of these capabilities.

The US–China relationship is fraught with problems and will be for the foreseeable future. The United States is no longer positioned to compel cooperation from China. Any policy changes from Beijing must be negotiated, and within this negotiation Washington must seek a balance of power and interests.

David M Lampton is Professor and Director of China Studies in the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. His most recent book is Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping.

This article appeared in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘China’s Influence’.

 

Cambodia: Democracy Update


December 9, 2017

Cambodia: Democracy Update

by Sorpong Peou

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

In recent months, the Cambodian government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen has taken stronger steps to guarantee a win in the national election scheduled for July 2018. Hun Sen’s objective is simple — to prevent his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) from losing power by whatever means necessary.

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Prime Minister HE Samdech Techo Hun Sen– sustaining economic economic growth and maintaining national security. World Bank October 2017 Update is positive

Hun Sen has relied on a combination of three tactics — coercion, co-option and control — to maintain his domination over Cambodia’s politics in the name of protecting national security. Those who cannot be co-opted into the CPP’s sphere through material rewards can be coerced into submission, and those who do submit are still kept under tight control.

The CPP is also resource-rich, well equipped with coercive means and in control of state institutions, especially the armed forces and the judiciary. Those who have refused to defect to the CPP or who resist it face acts of intimidation and threats of punishment.

Disarming the CPP’s political opposition involves taking pre-emptive action to make it difficult for opposition leaders to mobilise effective political support far ahead of the 2018 election. Hun Sen has been successful in suppressing the political opposition and shutting out any help offered to his opponents. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has been the primary target. The recent jailing of its president, Kem Sokha, is a good example of Hun Sen’s tactics. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP ensures the CPP will not face any credible challenges in 2018.

Any organisations, domestic or foreign, perceived as politically supportive of or sympathetic to opposition parties are also viewed as potential targets by the CPP. Media outlets have come under pressure, especially those that broadcast news produced by foreign media agencies such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. The government recently shut down The Cambodia Daily, a major English language newspaper in the country, and sent its owner a bill of several million dollars for its failure to pay taxes. In August 2017, the government closed the US-funded National Democratic Institute and expelled its staff from Cambodia.

Hun Sen claims these ‘legal’ actions against the CPP’s political opponents and its critics are about protecting national security. Is this true?

The answer is no. Since the end of the Cold War, Cambodia has not encountered any serious external threat. In fact, the country has been blessed with goodwill from countries around the world. Cambodia did the right thing when it joined ASEAN in 1999. In spite of some unresolved territorial disputes and minor border clashes between Cambodia and two of its fellow ASEAN members, Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodian relations with its neighbours have been relatively peaceful. Western democracies may want to see regime change, but evidently have not done anything credible to undermine the CPP.

The unarmed opposition to the CPP does not pose any threat to Cambodian national security either, but it has threatened to undermine the ruling party’s political dominance. Although the CPP won in the 2013 national election, it lost 22 seats to the CNRP, giving the opposition more leverage over the ruling elite. In spite of good economic growth, ratings of Hun Sen’s performance among urban populations remain low. If elections were free and fair, the CPP would end up losing.

While they have done a lot of good for the country, including taking part in the war against the murderous Pol Pot regime and helping many Cambodians to enjoy the fruits of economic growth, the CPP elite have reason to worry about their political future.

Hun Sen and other top CPP leaders have been accused of human rights violations and rampant corruption and thus can never be sure of what might happen to them if they were to lose power. Hun Sen has already been threatened with legal action — another reason why the CPP has tightened control over the security forces and the judicial system, using the courts to prosecute any serious opponents threatening its survival.

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Cambodia remains an attractive tourist destination

Cambodia’s politics of survival is likely to continue unless or until members of the CPP elite and those in the opposition see their common problem: the inherent weakness of Cambodia’s state institutions, which perpetuates the toxic dynamics of threat and counter-threat. Both sides tend to demonise each other. They keep engaging in the nasty politics of character assassination, killing any possibility of advancing a common interest or any hopes for solidifying the culture of dialogue.

Cambodian leaders have a big choice to make. Either they continue along this current trend with no end in sight, or they band together to build the country’s democratic state institutions for the benefit of their own nation. Working together is certainly the only way out and the best option, but this is likely to fall on deaf ears. This is the tragedy of survival politics in Cambodia — a real threat to democracy and its national security.

Sorpong Peou is President of Science for Peace, based at the University of Toronto, and Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University.

Populist Politics in Indonesia


December 8, 2017

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Number 407 | December 7, 2017

ANALYSIS

Populist Politics in Indonesia

by  Ehito Kimura

Indonesia’s Varieties of Populism

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Indonesia–From Sukarno to Jokowi–Prabowo next? “Prabowo offered his angrier and even demagogic populist style. He railed against corruption, called for economic nationalism and for more “firm leadership.”  Prabowo’s populism looked backwards, with the candidate self-styling himself on the image of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president”.–Ehito Kimura

Populist politics burst onto Indonesia’s national stage in 2014 during the country’s presidential election which pitted two leaders with starkly contrasting styles. Joko Widodo, dubbed a “polite” or “technocratic” populist campaigned against the establishment by portraying himself as an affable “man of the people” and a pro-poor reformer with a track record of getting things done. Prabowo Subianto also campaigned against the establishment but more angrily and bombastically, condemning corruption and economic ‘traitors.’ More recently, Jakarta’s 2016 gubernatorial elections saw a surge of Islamic forces engaging in populist-style politics, organizing mass rallies against the Chinese Christian incumbent and claiming that he had committed blasphemy.

What explains the rise of this form of politics in Indonesia?  Is it part of  a global wave of populism seen in places as disparate as Austria and the United States? What role do Indonesian national and local conditions play?  Part of the answer is that populism is not just a movement but also a political strategy. Indonesia is the world’s second largest democracy and voting rates are high.  The varieties of populism in Indonesia can in part be understood as a function of the varied roots of populism and its appeal to different kinds of audiences.

Global Roots

Populism is often associated with reactions against globalization and neo-liberal reform policies.  In Europe, the recent spate of populist elections suggests a frustration with free and open trade as well as migration and immigration, both of which are components of a more globalized world.

Indonesia is no stranger to the politics of globalization, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis led to the fall of the Suharto regime and the transition to democracy.  Since then, Indonesia has been experiencing broad based economic growth, although globalization and neo-liberal development policies over the years also arguably led to rising inequality, a large urban poor, and an emerging but fragmenting middle class including an Islamic middle class which may feel that they have not reaped the full benefits of developmental policies.

In this context, one audience of populist politics is the constituency which views the global economy and ‘foreign powers’ as culprits in their own economic malaise.  This became a central part of Prabowo’s campaign in 2014. It may also be part of the structural foundations of an Islamicized populist politics which in 2016 came to frame the discourse of an ethnic Chinese Christian as incompatible with or even hostile to economic and spiritual well-being. But global factors only partially explain populist appeal.

National Context

Nationally, Indonesia was not experiencing any profound degree of economic or political turmoil in 2014. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration oversaw not just an era of broad-based economic growth but also a decade of political stability, including the institutionalization of many parts of the political system.

However, deep structural problems persist. The sheer size of Indonesia’s population meant that even though poverty rates fell to about 16 percent, tens of millions still lived below the poverty line. Corruption too remained endemic. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigated and prosecuted several high level officials for financial improprieties including graft and extortion. In 2012, investigations tarnished the president when several members of his own party were accused of corruption, with some eventually jailed. Furthermore, in the waning years of his term, President Yudhoyono engaged in nepotistic tendencies, pushing to transfer power to his other family members, a prospect that led many voters to eventually abandon his party.

By the 2014 election, it became clear that Indonesians were ready for a change, and both Jokowi and Prabowo offered stark contrasts to the Yudhoyono era. Jokowi emerged as the fresh and humble candidate, forward-looking and drawing on his own biography and his local experiences as mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta.  Prabowo offered his angrier and even demagogic populist style. He railed against corruption, called for economic nationalism and for more “firm leadership.”  Prabowo’s populism looked backwards, with the candidate self-styling himself on the image of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president.

Local Roots

Finally, local politics mattered too. In the wake of Indonesia’s democratization and ‘big-bang’ decentralization in the late 1990s, local leaders had been empowered in new and unprecedented ways. In some cases it led to the decentralization of corruption and personalist politics in the regions. But it also produced leaders like Joko Widodo, whose national popularity emerged from his local level success.

A decade before becoming a household name, then-Mayor Widodo implemented pro-poor reformist policies in areas such as healthcare, education, welfare, and infrastructure. He gained a reputation as a leader who embodied both pro-investment and also pro-poor goals, and he was charismatic yet “down-to-earth” and humble. Under his tenure, his city, Solo rose to the top ranks in national governance and business attractiveness surveys and Mr. Widodo gained national and international recognition.

By the end of his second term, Jokowi’s popularity soared to the extent that in his reelection campaign, he received an extraordinary 90% of the vote. He rode that momentum from the mayor of Solo to the governorship of Jakarta and then all the way to the presidential palace. In other words, Jokowi’s ‘technocratic’ populist appeal can only be understood from its local beginnings.

2019

If recent trends are any indication, the 2019 presidential elections in Indonesia will once again feature populist politics though in what configuration is still impossible to say.  Today, President Jokowi’s popularity remains relatively high, especially around his technocratic agenda such as infrastructure development initiatives. At the same time, the sheen of his reformist and populist image has worn off somewhat as he has become mired in the everyday politics of governing. Prabowo may be seeking an electoral rematch and honing his angry and demagogic populist style. And the role of Islamic populism which surprised many in 2016 may also have a pivotal role to play.

About the Author

Ehito Kimura, is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawai’I at Manoa. He can be contacted at Ehito@Hawaii.edu.

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