Home Tags Posts tagged with "national"
Zheng Zhi, the captain of China’s national soccer team, has been named player of the year by the Asian Football Confederation.
The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978.
Economic development has been more rapid in coastal provinces than in the interior, and approximately 200 million rural laborers and their dependents have relocated to urban areas to find work.
China is also the second largest trading nation in the world and the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods.
The PRC government’s decision to permit China to be used by multinational corporations as an export platform has made the country a major competitor to other Asian export-led economies, such as South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Available energy is insufficient to run at fully installed industrial capacity, and the transport system is inadequate to move sufficient quantities of such critical items as coal.
The two sectors have differed in many respects.
A report by UBS in 2009 concluded that China has experienced total factor productivity growth of 4 per cent per year since 1990, one of the fastest improvements in world economic history.
By the early 1990s these subsidies began to be eliminated, in large part due to China’s admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, which carried with it requirements for further economic liberalization and deregulation.
The ministry made the announcements during a press conference held in Xiamen on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) World Investment Forum and the 14th China International Fair for Investment and Trade.
“China is now the fifth largest investing nation worldwide, and the largest among the developing nations,” said Shen Danyang, vice-director of the ministry’s press department.
China reiterated the nation’s goals for the next decade – increasing market share of pure-electric and plug-in electric autos, building world-competitive auto makers and parts manufacturers in the energy-efficient auto sector as well as raising fuel-efficiency to world levels.
China’s challenge in the early 21st century will be to balance its highly centralized political system with an increasingly decentralized economic system.
Despite initial gains in farmers’ incomes in the early 1980s, taxes and fees have increasingly made farming an unprofitable occupation, and because the state owns all land farmers have at times been easily evicted when croplands are sought by developers.
China is the world’s largest producer of rice and wheat and a major producer of sweet potatoes, sorghum, millet, barley, peanuts, corn, soybeans, and potatoes.
Due to improved technology, the fishing industry has grown considerably since the late 1970s.
Oil fields discovered in the 1960s and after made China a net exporter, and by the early 1990s, China was the world’s fifth-ranked oil producer.
Alumina is found in many parts of the country; China is one of world’s largest producers of aluminum.
Hydroelectric projects exist in provinces served by major rivers where near-surface coal is not abundant.
In the northeast (Manchuria) are large cities and rail centers, notably Shenyang (Mukden), Harbin, and Changchun.
Go here to read the rest:
China’s Soccer Captain Named Player of the Year
Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum
Despite all the talk about the slowdown of China’s growth, the GDP numbers saw a lift in the growth rate for the first time in three quarters in the July-September quarter to a robust 7.8 per cent, pointing the economy towards comfortably attaining the official target of 7.5 per cent for 2013. Industrial output was up 10.2 per cent and retail sales 13.3 per cent over the same period last year. What does the fillip to growth (Li’s ‘mini fiscal stimulus’ some are calling it) mean for the structural reform agenda due to be laid out in the upcoming Third Plenum? Abandoning the past priority given to fiscal stimulus was supposed to be a pillar of Likonomics. Is this stimulus to growth a sign that for now growth and social stability will triumph over structural reform and longer term sustainability?
As Wang Jiao warned recently: ‘While there is clear commitment to [the] course of reform, the pace of reform will depend on the strength of the economy, and China watchers should not be surprised if reform goes backwards or is postponed should the economy falter along the way’. On the other hand, stronger growth might allow bolder reform strategies.
China has reached a critical point where fundamental reforms of factor markets are needed to achieve a new and sustainable growth path. Financial reform is at the centre of the new reform agenda. Distortions in interest rates have long caused enormous misallocation of capital, favouring state-owned enterprises and shielding the banking sector from the need to build risk-management capacity.
So too is capital account liberalisation and RMB internationalisation, which need to be progressed simultaneously. Restrictions on short-term cross-border flows are the core impediment to capital movements. Without a more flexible exchange rate regime or a strong RMB, the sudden removal of capital account restrictions would cause undesirable financial instability. The RMB can only become an effective regional or international currency under a convertible capital account. The need for a convertible capital account, and for the RMB to become an international reserve currency, is a consequence of the scale of China’s cross-border trade and investment payments. But the progress toward achieving actual capital account convertibility and a global currency is also closely connected to China’s future capacity for economic growth.
The Party leadership meets next month to discuss rolling out these policies — policies that could hurt growth temporarily while they aim to put China’s expansion on a sounder long-term footing. The upcoming gathering is the third full meeting of the Party’s current Central Committee, including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li, ministers and the heads of the biggest state firms and banks. It was at such a gathering in late 1978 that Deng Xiaoping and his supporters inaugurated the series of reforms that began to open up China to trade and foreign investment and loosen state controls over the economy.
The reform challenges that face the Chinese leadership today are rightly compared with those that faced Zhu Rongji in the late 1990s as he led China towards accession to the WTO. That round of reform, itself kickstarted at the 1993 Third Plenum, effectively completed the integration of China’s goods markets with international goods markets. But the current challenge is one of even greater magnitude — the integration of China’s capital markets into international capital markets. Even embarked on now, it’s an ambition that still won’t be quickly achieved. For one thing, it’s not just a narrowly technical economic challenge; integration of China into international capital markets will require a much more open and transparent set of institutional arrangements that push at the envelope of political reform.
Maybe the degree of difficulty in this big game of national reform explains the hype surrounding a more cautious approach to reform experimentation with the announcement of the so-called Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ). Bo Chen sees the establishment of the Shanghai FTZ as ‘part of a series of reforms by Premier Li Keqiang, which are focused on de-leveraging debt, reducing financial support and upgrading industrial infrastructure in order to better allocate resources through the market mechanism’. He observes that ‘many scholars have compared the Shanghai FTZ to the situation in Shenzhen in 1979, when China began experimenting with more liberal economic policies’.
Chen connects the Shanghai experiment with preparing China for participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and underlines its four main goals as: achieving zero tariffs on all merchandise trade, including agricultural products; protecting intellectual property rights, and making sure that labour, environmental and safety conditions meet international standards; enhancing economic and regulatory fairness and transparency, and removing subsidies and preferential support for specific industries and state-owned enterprises; and fully liberalising the financial services industry and opening up the capital account to facilitate the free convertibility of currency and movement of capital.
Our lead essay from Yiping Huang this week suggests that it ‘is not yet clear exactly what the Shanghai FTZ will achieve’.
As Huang argues, a ‘more fundamental issue is whether service sector liberalisation can actually be effectively tested in such a small area’.
Indeed, the suggestion that the Shanghai FTZ can somehow swing the nation towards fundamental interest rate, exchange rate and capital account reforms appears somewhat fanciful.
As Huang says, ‘it is not clear how it will work. Taking interest rate liberalisation as an example, can the FTZ form market-based interest rates among just a dozen banks and another dozen corporates, without the reference of a risk-free yield curve? And how would the FTZ control inward and outward capital leakage? Would the FTZ set strict quotas for every institution or would it establish strict capital account controls vis-à-vis the rest of Shanghai? The same applies to other service industries. Would a new telecom company established inside the FTZ be able to service clients outside the FTZ? If the answer is no, then no company would want to establish operations in the FTZ. If the answer is yes, then it really means nationwide liberalisation’.
And that’s the big question that the leadership must grapple with at the Third Plenum.
Peter Drysdale is Editor of the East Asia Forum.
See the original post here:
China struggles with the way forward on reform
Author: Dennis C McCornac, Loyola University Maryland
Vietnam’s new foreign policy approach, which some analysts have labelled ‘more friends, fewer enemies’, reflects its precarious position as a bird on the wire caught between China and the United States.
In the past few months, Vietnamese officials have held a number of high-level meetings with leaders of both states. At the end of July, President Truong Tan Sang travelled to Washington to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership with President Barack Obama, highlighting the improved relations between the former foes under America’s increasingly Asia-focused strategy. A little over a month later, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and reiterated the Vietnamese Party and State’s long-lasting and consistent policy of consolidating and strengthening neighbourliness and cooperation with China.
This whirlwind diplomacy is evidence of Vietnam’s desire to maintain stable and normalised economic and military relations with both China and the US, something that is especially important given its past history of conflict with each state, and their importance to Vietnam’s aim of integration into the global economy. Vietnam is nervous about Beijing’s rise, and its new foreign policy approach is directed at countering China’s growing influence in the region. But ideologically, Vietnam is more comfortable with China than the US. And economically, China is a large market, a source of financial assistance and a model of development. This has placed Vietnam in an uncomfortable position. One Vietnamese government official has described Vietnam as swinging on a tightrope, held by China from one end and the US from the other.
A foreign policy issue that continues to plague the Vietnam–China relationship involves both countries’ claim on two island groups: the Paracels and Spratlys. The most important matter at stake is who has the right to explore and exploit the natural resources in and below the waters surrounding the islands. Although proven reserves have not yet been forthcoming, the most optimistic estimates from China suggest that potential oil resources of the Spratly and Paracel Islands could be as high as 213 billion barrels of oil and that the area is also rich in natural gas. Both states have contemplated the possibility of taking military action. But for now, they have pledged to peacefully negotiate a settlement despite pressure by nationalists on both sides to remain firm on issues of sovereignty.
Economic tensions between the two countries could also derail relations. On the one hand, China is Vietnam’s largest trade partner, particularly due to China’s insatiable demand for goods and resources. Sustaining economic growth for a nation nearing to 1.4 billion citizens requires a tremendous amount of natural resources, many of which need to be imported. And as China scours the globe building economic relationships to ensure a continuous supply of commodities such as coal, crude oil, iron ore, it is only natural for it to look to a close neighbour for help.
On the other hand, disparities between the two countries, especially in terms of economic size and political power, mean that the opening of markets is not an unqualified win-win situation. The influx of Chinese goods, both smuggled over the border and imported legally into the Vietnamese market, has impacted negatively on the domestic production of a number of Vietnamese goods, particularly consumer goods. One particular concern in Vietnam is that many of the goods are of low quality and dubious origin and may contain toxins and other substances harmful to people’s health. Some products can be made in Vietnam, but are still imported as the latter is more cost-effective. This dependence on Chinese imports has already pushed many Vietnamese firms into the red and Vietnam’s heavy reliance on trade with China is only expected to rise over time.
Still, economic frictions and territorial disputes notwithstanding, relations between China and Vietnam have improved recently, and the conciliatory nature of recent meetings between Beijing and Hanoi has ushered in a relative period of calm. Both countries appear keen to continue to foster better bilateral ties, and improvements in Sino–Vietnamese relations are unlikely to damage Vietnam’s relations with the US.
Yet, whenever China or the US swings the tightrope more aggressively, Vietnam finds itself in a more precarious position, not knowing which end of the rope is the safest point of refuge. If the Vietnamese government is to continue to stay upright it must avoid too close an alignment with one country at the expense of ties with the other.
Vietnam is currently at a relatively unique time in its history. It is unified, and it has the economic and political wherewithal to play an important role in the region. But the rise of national sentiments in either China or Vietnam may portend more troubling times ahead. And as stated by one Vietnamese diplomat, ‘No one will say it openly, but what drives every meeting in Southeast Asia now is fear of what the region will be like with China dominating’.
Dennis C McCornac is the Director of Global Studies at Loyola University Maryland. His academic specialty is economics and he has over 20 years experience living in Japan and Vietnam.
Go here to read the rest:
Vietnam’s foreign policy tightrope
Photos: Vietnam Mourns Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap
Author: Vannarith Chheang, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace
After 25 years of experimenting with general elections, the Cambodian people have come to embrace a more democratic value set, and they are demanding greater respect for human rights and dignity.
The general election that took place on 28 July 2013 was a critical turning point in this process of democratisation. Three interrelated factors help to explain the political dynamics of the election: the country’s demographics; the prevalence of communications technology; and the shortcomings of the serving prime minister, Hun Sen, and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
About 3.5 million of Cambodia’s 9.6 million registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 30; and of those, around 1.5 million are first-time voters. The majority of these young voters look beyond the country’s tragic past and are demanding concrete political and economic reforms, more freedom of expression, justice, inclusiveness, and good governance. Their aspirations are higher than their parents’ generation. Thanks to the rapid development of communications technology, especially through social media and smart phones, young voters can also receive updated information and actively exchange their views online.
Such a widespread proliferation of social media has broken down the effectiveness of state media control and propaganda in shaping public opinion on national issues. Although the CPP has been reasonably successful in maintaining peace and stability, economic growth, and infrastructure development, there are still serious shortcomings that are now more widely acknowledged. Public institutions have not satisfactorily responded to the needs and demands of the people. Systematic and chronic corruption, social injustice, land disputes and forced eviction, human rights violations, deforestation, national resource depletion, lack of transparency and accountability, and widening development gaps are among the key issues facing Cambodian society. Increasing numbers of voters have expressed their dissatisfaction with the ruling CPP by voting for the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The CNRP focused its campaign on “change”, serious reforms of national institutions in order to have better checks and balances, improving the wellbeing of the people, especially those working in public institutions, factory workers, farmers and the elderly.
The official results of the election, released by the National Election Committee (NEC), show that the CPP won 68 seats and the CNRP won 55, out of the 123 seats in the National Assembly. However, the CNRP has rejected the results and claims to have won 63 seats. It has called for the creation of an independent committee to investigate alleged election fraud. The CNRP has stated that ‘fifteen per cent of voters — about 1.2 to 1.3 million — were unable to vote because of list irregularities. There were also about 1 million ghost names on the voter list and about 200,000 duplicate names … That’s why we require the technical working group comprising the CNRP, the CPP, the UN, the NEC, local and international NGOs to investigate and make a report about these irregularities’.
However, the CPP has not accepted the proposal and has argued that all political parties must respect the official results issued by the NEC. After the failure of two rounds of negotiations between the two parties, the CPP went ahead to convene the opening of the National Assembly on 23 September — in line with the national constitution, which states that the first national assembly meeting shall be convened within 60 days of the election. The meeting was endorsed by the king, regardless of objections from civil society groups and the CNRP’s boycott.
The national assembly, with only the 68 CPP members sitting, voted to renew the prime minister’s five-year term. The first cabinet meeting was held on 25 September, with a promise to deepen reforms. Judicial reform, good governance, anti-corruption, and land and forest management are the top priorities for the next five-year reform program. Yet the opposition CNRP has denounced the creation of the new government, saying it was established by a ‘constitutional coup’. It continues to call for more protests and international pressure on the government. The United States and the European Union have both demanded a transparent review of election irregularities and reform of the electoral administration. Japan and Australia have also announced similar positions. But Hun Sen is standing firm.
China is among the few countries that congratulated the victory of the CPP. During a bilateral meeting between Premier Hun Sen and Premier Li Keqiang in Nanning on 2 September, Li confirmed Chinese support for Hun Sen. And in his visit to Cambodia on 21 August, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stated: ‘We will support Cambodia ruling out external interference to pursue a development path in line with its own national conditions and the interest of the people’.
Thus, the future for Cambodian politics looks grim and highly uncertain. There is a serious lack of trust and confidence between the two political parties, and it will be difficult for both to return to negotiations and find a political breakthrough until there is a serious compromise from both sides. If a sustainable power-sharing arrangement cannot be found, the country could fall into a short-term political crisis. The implications of this would be a serious setback in the country’s economic development and poverty-reduction efforts — two areas that Cambodia has been struggling to improve over the years. In addition, it could also create space for more strategic and political competition among major powers in the region.
Vannarith Chheang is a senior fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.
See the original post here:
Hun Sen stands firm on election results
Author: John Garnaut, Fairfax Media
It is ironic that President Xi Jinping has deployed the Maoist model of ‘rectification’ to revitalise and impose his will over the world’s largest and most powerful political party. This is the model of ‘self-purification’ that Mao applied to instil discipline and consolidate personal power from the early 1940s. It requires tight control of an internal security apparatus, to forcefully extract confessions, and it works by rooting out the patronage networks of perceived rivals. More recently Bo used such stratagems to transform the Communist Party in Chongqing city and build a formidable power base, in ways that are not widely understood. Now Xi is applying the same underlying political logic to establish his own authority across the country, with some important innovations. And he is doing it by purging Bo.
It is easy to forget, amid the sordid hypocrisy exposed by his fall, that Bo Xilai was a leader who identified a problem and wanted to get things done. Bo was making his run for high office at a time when it was getting harder to restrain the predatory instincts of the bureaucracy and harder still to explain why the Chinese Communist Party, of all political movements, had created one of the least egalitarian societies in Asia. In Bo’s judgment, desperate times demanded desperate measures. He offered himself as the surgeon to remove the Communist Party’s cancerous tumours and fetid organs. ‘Without help, the disease will become fatal’, said Bo in December 2009, borrowing the metaphors of bodily disease that Mao used to commence his own ‘rectification campaign’ in 1942.
Bo mapped the city’s channels of patronage and nodes of political and financial power, planted key people, and uprooted the existing networks of propaganda and coercion which he did not personally control. His key target was the old Chongqing police chief, Wen Qiang, who, like most established police chiefs in China, enjoyed power well beyond his official portfolio. Wen’s patrons included one of Bo’s powerful predecessors, who had been promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee, and his protégés were stacked throughout the municipal political-legal establishment. Wen controlled many of the city’s bath houses, for example, where business was often done. In other words, Chongqing was an ordinary mainland city in which a new leader who lacked deep local patronage ties had little hope of getting anything done — unless he found a way to purge the old regime and make it his own.
Bo’s first major political move was to appoint his own man, Wang Lijun, to act as his scalpel in the rectification operation. He moved Wang to be Wen ‘s deputy police chief, from where he could collect intelligence and map Wen’s patronage ties. In March 2009 Bo shifted Wen Qiang sideways, to be the minister of justice, while promoting Wang Lijun to take his place and arresting Wen’s key police department deputies and protégés. One of them reportedly died of a heart attack in custody. Another reportedly died by smashing his head against a wall. Wen’s sister-in-law was dubbed the ‘Godmother of the Underworld’ and sentenced to 18 years jail. Wen’s wife was shown pictures of her husband with an underage prostitute — and she reportedly led police to the family millions, buried under a gold fish pond.
With potential critics silenced (including the head of Chongqing TV, who was concerned that viewers were boycotting Bo’s ‘red’ programming), the completion of Bo’s ascendancy was announced with a text message, the substance of which appeared on the front page of the next day’s Chongqing Daily: ‘Wen Qiang Is Dead, The People Rejoice, Chongqing is at Peace’.
Bo and his scalpel, Wang Lijun, sliced through the city’s commercial precincts. Police were given quotas of ‘black society’ members to detain in each district, just like the bad class elements in Mao’s day. Alleged gangsters were asked to testify against wealthy entrepreneurs who, in turn, were forced to testify against higher political targets. ‘Basically, the 20 richest guys in Chongqing, he sent them all to jail and confiscated all their assets’, said Wang Boming, publisher of Caijing Magazine, in an interview.
The system of justice, based mostly on lies extracted by torture, proved to be a phenomenally powerful tool of political control. Bo became locally popular for articulating social concerns and cleaning up the streets. Nationally, he became the hero of China’s growing neo-Maoist and New Left movements. Ambitious scholars, entrepreneurs, officials, generals and international statesmen were drawn into his orbit. By the new year of 2012 he seemed to be on the cusp of breaking into the top leadership sanctum.
It could have been Mao at Yan’an, 65 years before.
Mao’s ‘scalpel’ was the internal intelligence chief, Kang Sheng. Kang’s torture-based extraction of false confessions and testimony was instrumental in Mao’s consolidation of power at Yan’an. It also triggered a substantial internal backlash, which forced Mao sideline Kang Sheng before bringing him back to prominence in the 1960s, to resume the work of rooting out the patronage networks of Mao’s perceived and potential rivals. One of Kang’s victims was Xi’s father, a vice premier, in 1962, which led to 16 years in purgatory. Another was Bo’s father, also a vice-premier, during the Cultural Revolution of 1966. Both men were jailed, and tortured, and a member of each family was ‘persecuted to death’.
Bo applied the Maoist strategies of purge and rectification beneath the barest of judicial facades. By then, however, China had changed in ways that meant the old torture-based confession methods didn’t work so well anymore.
Bo’s methods were so brutal, and so out of kilter with the values of China’s increasingly sophisticated and pluralistic society, that they galvanised lawyers, editors, historians and other intellectuals to fight to protect their interests and restrain him. The only weapon they had was to talk truth, in and outside the courtroom, and let events take their course — an approach whose ultimate success relied on China’s information revolution and an increasingly engaged public. Several of them warned of a return to the methods of the Cultural Revolution.
Eventually, the pressure forced open cracks in the political elite. Bo’s court room persecutions of his rivals were so perverse and so public — despite his prodigious propaganda efforts — that enemies sharpened their hatchets and allies found it harder to defend him. Indirectly, as I argue in The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo, this is what brought Bo crashing down.
Bo is likely to be convicted of misdeeds that are marginal to the political reasons that brought his downfall. His downfall followed the interrogation of dozens of associates, with each detainee testifying against the one above. The national crisis of injustice and inequality that Bo articulated, however, has only become more pressing.
It must bemuse Bo to see Xi using the Maoist language of life-and-death struggle and bodily decay. Public revolt at ‘vile’ cases threatened to ‘doom the party and the state’, said Xi when he took the stage in November last year, six weeks after the Politburo pre-announced Bo’s guilt. ‘There must first be decay for maggots to set in.’
Immediately before Bo’s trial, the Xi administration announced the promotion of a new deputy police chief, Fu Zhenghua, whose crazy-brave assaults on power had previously earned him comparisons with Bo’s old police chief, Wang Lijun. Fu quickly made news with high profile arrests of alleged rumour-mongers on the internet.
Straight after Bo’s trial the South China Morning Post and The New York Times reported previously-suppressed court evidence that linked Bo’s abuse of power to Zhou Yongkang, China’s bulldog-headed former petro-security czar. The news was followed by the detention of the recently-removed chief and remaining top executives at PetroChina, which is arguably the most powerful of all Chinese state-owned companies. Most tantalizing, the SCMP reported a link between Bo’s corruption and the former president who refuses to actually retire, Jiang Zemin.
Xi’s strategy of manipulating the coercive apparatus to purge enemies and use their confessions to taint and intimidate rivals comes directly from Bo’s Chongqing and Mao’s Yan’an. Xi’s propaganda apparatus is brandishing “swords” to enforce discipline across the contested spaces of the internet. His security apparatus has renewed the previous administration’s attack on lawyers and constitutionalism. And Xi’s personal willingness to extend the Bo investigation to the doorstep of some of the most powerful patrons in the country shows that the winner-takes-all logic remains firmly in place.
But the fact that Bo was given probably the most transparent trial in the history of the People’s Republic shows the rules are continuing to evolve.
Bo’s revolutionary prestige, his clan’s ties with other ruling families, and his cult-like status among neo-Maoist sections of the party encouraged (or possibly forced) President Xi to afford him the dignity of contesting the accusations in a relatively open fashion.
The rise of Bo Xilai showed that extreme measures may well be necessary to get anything done in an ageing one-party system. His demise, however, shows that Maoist political methods don’t sit easily with a modern economy, an increasingly fragmented political elite and a society that is empowered by prosperity and informed by new networks of information. Several of Xi’s supporters within the elite say it is too early to rule out the possibility that Xi wants to leave China with something closer to a credible legal system than the one he has inherited. Many say he is blasting a path through webs of patronage and a hopelessly self-interested political-bureaucracy to enable urgent economic reforms. Whatever Xi’s plans, it is ironic, and potentially dangerous, that he first has to borrow from Bo’s playbook in order to give himself a chance.
John Garnaut is the former China correspondent for Fairfax Media. He is the author of ‘The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo’.
This article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Leading China where?’.
Read more from the original source:
Purge and renewal in China: the importance of Bo Xilai’s day in court
SEOUL: Near South Korea’s main international airport, the national government is constructing a type of building never seen before in the country – a large complex capable of accommodating more than 1,000 refugee applicants. As South Korea becomes a more developed and better known country, with its TV shows and pop music appreciated around the world, the country is receiving more refugee applicants, and the government is still figuring out how to handle them. South Korea also receives many escapees from North Korea – more than 1,000 per year, which complicates relations with Pyongyang and Beijing.Between 1994 and 2003, South Korea received a total of only 251 refugee applications from non-North Koreans.
That number jumped to 1,143 in 2012 – with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal being the three most common countries of origin. A fairly low portion of those applicants is being accepted: Between 1994 and 2003, 14 were accepted; 60 applications were successful in 2012. In contrast, fewer North Koreans are arriving in Seoul nowadays. After increasing steadily for years, the number of defectors went down sharply in 2012, the lowest level in seven years, believed to be because leader Kim Jong Un has tightened border security.As a country that thinks of itself as ethnically homogeneous, South Korea doesn’t have a strong culture of welcoming outsiders, but as a developed power, it has signed international agreements and enacted its own law that promises fair treatment for refugees and acceptance of applicants deemed to be deserving. South Korea is the first country in East Asia to enact its own refugee law. South Korea became the first country in East Asia to enact its own refugee law when last year it passed its Refugee Act, which took effect July 1.
The act details the process for refugee status application and processing, as well as criteria for acceptance. It stipulates the provision of assistance for applicants, including translation services.
The law was enacted partly in response to pressure from civic groups who argued that refugee applicants did not have a fair chance to make their case for staying in South Korea, often lacking consultation on how to navigate the country’s legal system.The new refugee center is in Yeongjong Island in Incheon, an out-of-the-way location, far from public transit and much commercial activity, which will make it difficult for applicants to integrate into local life. Civic groups have argued that refugees should be allowed to live and work freely in South Korea while their cases are under consideration. As of now, they’re not permitted employment. No state funds are provided for basic living expenses, meaning applicants generally must rely on donations to survive.South Korea is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees, but there’s no binding pressure on the government to adhere to the convention’s dictates.
The refugee convention and the genocide convention are two UN human rights treaties that don’t have an independent monitoring committee or a court that assesses state compliance. Legal experts say this lack of oversight has hampered the treaties’ effectiveness.North Korean refugees can also arrive in South Korea at Incheon International Airport, but upon arrival are taken to a more comfortable location.
Technically, Seoul does not treat the North Koreans as refugees. Unlike refugees from anywhere else in the world, North Koreas are handled by the Ministry of Unification, while the Ministry of Justice handles immigration, including refugees from other countries, with wholly different procedures. More than 25,000 have left North Korea, eventually settling in the South, since 1953. More than 25,000 North Koreans have left North Korea and settled in the South since the combat phase of the Korean War ended in 1953. Most come from the northeastern provinces of North Korea that share borders with China, making a risky trip by foot over mountains and across the Tumen River into China, where they try to blend in with a sizeable Korean minority before making their way via a third country to South Korea.After an official interrogation to determine they aren’t spies or ethnic Korean Chinese nationals posing as refugees, North Koreans are taken to the Hanawon resettlement center, south of Seoul. At the center, the refugees undergo a three-month education and adaptation program with psychological counseling, job training and education on how to live in a modern, capitalist country.
The refugees are then given citizenship and financial assistance in starting life in South Korea. People who flee danger or poverty in other countries, however, aren’t entitled to the same benefits.South Korea’s program for integrating and assisting North Korean refugees is the most generous program of its kind anywhere in the world, and some South Koreans see it as a drain on public resources. Others see it as necessary assistance for ethnic brethren who suffered under North Korea’s repressive regime.The issue of North Korean refugees is a point of contention among North Korea, China and South Korea. China, also a signatory to the UN refugee convention, argues that the North Koreans who flee into its territory are not refugees on the move for humanitarian reasons, but economic migrants seeking work. It therefore argues that the Chinese state has no obligation to care for them and repatriates them to North Korea where they face harsh punishment, including death.The case of nine young North Korean refugees apprehended in Laos in May of this year illustrates the complexity of refugee status.
The nine had fled North Korea months earlier via China and were taken into custody by Laotian police for entering the country without documents.
They were then held for a couple of weeks while South and North Korean authorities both made requests for them to be handed over to their diplomatic missions. Laotian authorities eventually transferred them to the North Korean embassy for flight back to North Korea via China on the grounds that they were North Korean citizens. In June, the nine appeared on North Korean television, pledging allegiance to Kim Jong Un, expressing joy at being back in the North.
The issue of North Korean refugees is a point of contention for North Korea, China and South Korea. North Korea pursues its own refugees most energetically, as the refugees’ desperate wish to live elsewhere is a loss of face for the Pyongyang regime. South Korea was criticized domestically and internationally for making only what were seen as tepid diplomatic efforts to gain custody of the refugees. In response, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs promised to better coordinate with refugee rights groups and the governments of transit countries to prevent refugees from being handed over to North Korean authorities. Details of these new efforts were not provided, reportedly out of concern for protection of refugees and relations with transit countries.The refugees’ plight is complicated by the fact that China, the only country with which North Korea has a traversable land border, has a history of alliance with North Korea, dating back to 1950. In addition to wanting to placate Pyongyang by repatriating North Korean refugees, part of China’s motivation is presumably to avoid attracting a larger number of refugees. If China was a safe destination, more North Koreans would likely flee.South Korea’s policies on handling North Korean refugees and its own refugee act are exceptionally generous for a country that just decades ago was a developing country itself. Following through with these policies for citizens of other countries and providing refugees the room to make comfortable lives for themselves would reconfirm South Korea’s commitment to human rights. South Korea has emerged as a modern technology leader and a welcoming land for refugees, which adds to the nation’s status and may also encourage the arrival of technologists. Steven Borowiec is a journalist based in Seoul. He contributes regularly to the Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal and other outlets. He can be found on Twitter at @steven_borowiec Rights:Copyright © 2013 The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale
See the article here:
South Korea: New Beacon for Refugees
Author: Geoff Wade
At a time not too far distant, Lee Kuan Yew, the font of all authority, legitimacy, orthodoxy and indeed fear in Singapore for over 50 years will no longer be with us. It is thus perhaps appropriate to begin discussing what the absence of Lee Kuan Yew will mean for the Singaporean republic.
With the endorsement of the British, Lee came to power as prime minister of Singapore in 1959 and then eliminated the political Left through Operation Cold Store in 1963. The incorporation of Singapore into Malaysia and its subsequent ouster in 1965 gave him almost autocratic power to pursue the development of the island polity as he saw fit. No one will deny the massive economic and social development which Singapore then saw under Lee Kuan Yew, with per capita GDP leaping to first-world levels during his administration.
However, the social costs of such economic development have not even begun to be tallied. The maintenance and strengthening of colonial legislation to allow unlimited detention of political foes without trial; the control of all media (with Singapore now globally ranked alongside Iraq and Qatar in terms of press freedom); the use of the courts to drive political opponents to bankruptcy; the absolute control of the people’s capacity to organise, to assemble and to process; and the emasculation of the union movement all contributed to what was effectively a one-party state. The party-state tightly controlled every aspect of social existence and claimed that it could represent the interests of all citizens.
The resultant malleable, fearful and supine population served the needs of the People’s Action Party (PAP), and while this was useful for economic development, it was less than efficient in creating sentiments of loyalty or patriotism. With the lower levels of society serving the interests of the elite, there was little intrinsic group loyalty, and money had to serve as a poor substitute. Indeed, the degree to which the political arrangements and structures instituted by Lee Kuan Yew have warped Singapore society remain largely unexplored in mainstream media. Singapore Inc.’s spin-doctors’ tales solely of positive manifestations of economic development continue to hide the damaging social effects which his autocracy has had on every aspect of society.
Lee Kuan Yew relinquished the prime ministership of the Republic in 1990. In that year the mantle of premier passed to Goh Chok Tong and then, in 2004, back to the Lee family, with son Lee Hsien Loong assuming power. Despite these changes, the shadow of Lee Kuan Yew continues to enthral both the Singapore populace and many beyond the country’s borders, and his impending death thus raises questions about the future of Singapore.
Amazingly little has been written on what might happen to Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew passes on, as if even expression of this possibility is sacrilegious. Whither, then, Singapore after the demise of Mr Lee? Little change can be expected in administrative superstructures within the Republic or even in foreign policy directions. What is likely to see gradual change, though, is the political base. There have been in recent years all sorts of in-house proposals on how the PAP might deal with its surfeit of power and control, including intentionally dividing the party into two, to ensure a loyal opposition. However, the Singapore populace has already decided by their votes in the 2011 election that they would prefer an external opposition. The May 2011 election saw the PAP garner fewer votes than it has won since the establishment of the Republic, losing two cabinet ministers in the process, but still holding 81 out of 87 seats
There is no likelihood of the PAP losing power in any foreseeable election, but the death of Lee Kuan Yew will greatly diminish the authority and likely the legitimacy of Lee Hsien Loong both as leader of the party and as Prime Minister. Are there other leaders in waiting? Lee Kuan Yew has long done his utmost to eliminate potential rivals to his own leadership and then rivals to his selected successors as party leaders. The former foreign minister George Yeo had been recognised by Lee as a likely potential challenger to his son in the event of his own death. It was thus that we observed, prior to the 2011 election, the remarkable threats made to the voters of Aljunied Constituency by Lee senior. Repeatedly telling the electorate that they would have five years to ‘repent’ if they chose the Workers’ Party, Lee brought about the result he intended. The electorate voted for the opposition and thereby drove George Yeo out of Parliament and beyond capacity to challenge for the party leadership. No other credible challengers now exist within the cabinet.
However, despite protestations that he has retired from politics, post-ministerial George Yeo continues to circle. Having taken a job with Robert Kuok’s Kerry Group, Yeo is now the best-known and most active Singaporean in the region. His position allows him to travel incessantly and glad-hand political and business leaders around the Asia Pacific, while participating in China–ASEAN events, and being appointed to high-profile international and regional positions. He also continues to actively work the domestic constituency, participating in national events, accepting patron and advisory positions with local bodies, and recording all of his international and domestic activities on a very active Facebook account with 90,000 followers.
Today, the PAP is obviously frightened. Both the results of the 2011 election and the impending death of the man who has held the party together for more than half a century are bringing to the surface insecurities about the directions which the party has long pursued and its future leadership. Social and welfare policies unthinkable in the past are now being discussed and inviolable shibboleths, such as meritocracy and mandatory death sentences, are being questioned. As the PAP is inevitably pushed by its competitors toward a locus more aligned to social justice, and having necessarily to address some of the injustices perpetrated during the Lee Kuan Yew era, it will be seeking a leader less affiliated with the man and that period. It is at that time that the preparations which George Yeo is now making will position him to contest the leadership of the PAP, a party which he has already declared ripe for reform.
Geoff Wade is a Canberra-based researcher and author.
Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew
123...16Next Page 1 of 16