Thursday, September 27, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: After Marawi: Time For Broader ASEAN Approach? – A...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: After Marawi: Time For Broader ASEAN Approach? – A...: After Marawi: Time For Broader ASEAN Approach? – Analysis Winning the War after the Battle for Marawi requires greater cooperation am...

After Marawi: Time For Broader ASEAN Approach? – Analysis

After Marawi: Time For Broader ASEAN Approach? – Analysis

Winning the War after the Battle for Marawi requires greater cooperation among ASEAN states. The continuing challenge posed by violent extremism must be met by a wider “community of practice”.

Nearly a year after the Battle for Marawi ended, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao has not fully addressed the threat posed by other Islamic State-linked groups. Manila continues to grapple with the challenges of countering violent extremism (CVE). A series of bombings in Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and South Cotabato by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) underscore the gaps in kinetic military approaches.

ASEAN was quick to act when the fighting erupted in Marawi. Singapore was one of the first countries to send in humanitarian supplies to the beleaguered city. Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines put into place joint, trilateral border patrols to prevent the spread of armed conflict. Aside from dealing with the consequences of the Marawi siege, Southeast Asian countries cooperated closely in sharing knowledge to confront violent extremist groups. The ASEAN defence ministers have been discussing the establishment of the “Our Eyes” Initiative that seeks to institutionalise further pre-existing intelligence sharing mechanisms.

Winning the War After Battle

Winning the war after the battle is a familiar refrain for those looking at post-conflict scenarios from Mosul to Marawi. The ruins of what was once the commercial heart of Marawi stand testament to the long-term disruption posed by violent extremism. The razing of dozens of mosques and madrasahs in Marawi imperils the city’s status as the Philippines’ centre for Islamic learning.

Delayed reconstruction of the city would only lead to resentment and create the wellspring for terrorist narratives in the future. The military defeat of the Maute Group and its IS-linked allies in Marawi is only the first step in rebuilding the city.

Information operations by the Philippine military complemented its combat operations during the Battle for Marawi. Confronting terrorist ideologies online denied IS-linked groups full control of the informational space. Partnerships with major social media companies and other states led to the systematic takedown of harmful content.

Communities of Practice Against Other “Extremisms”

As communities of practice emerge around CVE initiatives, there is recognition among stakeholders in the security sector, civil society organisations (CSOs), and academia of the complex policy environment. Growing polarisation within states can lead to the emergence of other potential “extremisms” aside from the brand of violence associated with the so-called Islamic State and other resurgent groups such as Al Qaeda.

This is apparent in ASEAN, which has witnessed the continuation of sectarian violence. Violence has come from a broad range of actors from inchoate nationalist movements to secessionist groups.

Rather than a fixation with counter-narratives, there is an emerging consensus that CVE has more in common with non-securitised digital literacy and public education programmes. Southeast Asian youths remain vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist groups. Developing critical thinking skills especially among the youth may lead to benefits beyond the CVE realm. Life skills that help inoculate against violent ideologies are also relevant in mitigating the effects of deliberate online falsehoods or information operations by hostile parties.

Unfortunately, there is an uneven distribution of government capacities to pursue holistic CVE among ASEAN member-states. One way to level the playing field is to share lessons learned and identify gaps, through events such as the upcoming counter-terrorism symposium to be held in Singapore in October 2018 organised by the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and the government.

ASEAN’s Potential Contributions to CVE

ASEAN’s push to create a resilient and networked community of peoples could manifest with states acting as enablers for joint initiatives. ASEAN’s long record of accomplishment in fostering Track 1.5 and Track 2 initiatives would mean not having to reinvent the wheel in terms of harnessing the efforts of states and CSOs. CSOs have a better grasp of ‘ground truth’ while states have access to resources to build inclusive CVE programmes.

Beyond upstream efforts to inoculate vulnerable populations from violent extremism, ASEAN can help bring needed quality-of-life improvements in Mindanao. The recent signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is expected to bring meaningful political and economic autonomy to Filipino Muslims. The BOL’s success rests on the ability of local elected officials to take the lead in bringing progress to their communities.

Given the uneven levels of local governance in Mindanao, ASEAN can help tip the scales by focusing on capacity-building programmes. Addressing the socioeconomic roots of conflict in Mindanao is of course a long-term project. However, its benefits go beyond dissipating the sources of rage that violent extremists tap into for their radicalisation activities.

Gaining valuable experience in promoting good governance could pay dividends even in non-security issues across Southeast Asia. Economic and political development forges stronger communal bonds. This could help stem the increasing appeal of populist politics and the intolerance it breeds within states.

Multilateral security mechanisms should just be the start of holistic CVE efforts. Across ASEAN, national-level best practices can be found, involving either or both states and non-state entities. The challenge lies in taking what works from one country and adapting it to suit local conditions in another country.

Adversaries like IS are continually evolving, seeking to exploit emerging technologies and building their own illicit networks. States and their partners, whether technology firms or CSOs, need to adapt quicker. The destruction wrought by IS-linked militants in Marawi is a cautionary example of what happens when drivers of conflict are not systematically addressed and security services become complacent.

*Joseph Franco is a Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The translation of "The Fifth Season" into Spanish...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The translation of "The Fifth Season" into Spanish...: Hi Kerry, Congratulations! The translation of "The Fifth Season" into Spanish has been sent to our different sales channels. ...

The translation of "The Fifth Season" into Spanish has been sent to our different sales channels.

Hi Kerry,

Congratulations! The translation of "The Fifth Season" into Spanish has been sent to our different sales channels.

We will let you know by email when it is finally available in each of them.

The Babelcube Team

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: There’s A New Crash Coming – OpEd -Donald Trump is...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: There’s A New Crash Coming – OpEd -Donald Trump is...: There’s A New Crash Coming – OpEd Donald Trump is the epitome of irrational exuberance. You might remember that phrase from the 19...

There’s A New Crash Coming – OpEd -Donald Trump is the epitome of irrational exuberance.

There’s A New Crash Coming – OpEd

Donald Trump is the epitome of irrational exuberance.

You might remember that phrase from the 1990s. Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve at the time, was describing how the tech boom was creating a bubble by generating enthusiasm way out of proportion to the actual value of the new companies.

Such an unwarranted economic boom was hardly something new, so it was easy to predict what would happen next. Periods of irrational exuberance — whether the dot-com expansion, Dutch tulipmania in the 17th century, or the housing bubble in America of the 2000s — have always led to a sudden crash and a serious hangover.

And now, here we go again.

Trump, always exuberant when talking about himself and his putative accomplishments, loves to boast about how well the American economy is chugging along. The stock market reached its all-time high at the end of August. In its second quarter this year, U.S. economic growth was 4.1 percent. Unemployment remains below 4 percent, and inflation remains moderate. Even wages are going up.

Irrationality enters the picture because there’s little if any connection between the president’s policies and the outcomes he lauds (since these trends began before he took office). Also, the prosperity that has resulted from this economic expansion has largely been enjoyed by the wealthier sectors of society. Finally, Trump’s economic fever dream is fueled by an enormous and growing amount of debt.

When it comes to irrational exuberance, it’s never if there will be a bust but when. On the tenth anniversary of the financial collapse of 2008, it’s worth looking at the potential pinpricks that will pop Trump’s hot-air balloon and send America crashing back to earth.

Mountains of Debt

Let’s start at the top. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that an expansion of military spending, an overall budget that’s as big as his predecessor’s, and a massive tax cut would produce an enormous budget deficit.

Although Trump promised to balance the books if he became president, he’s done the opposite. The deficit for this year will rise to $890 billion (it was about $660 billion when Obama left office). The shortfall in government expenditures will rise above $1 trillion next year.

Deficit spending makes sense during a recession. What Trump is doing now is essentially allowing the rich to siphon the cream off the top, providing the middle class with some skim milk, and leaving the sour dregs for everyone else. And unlike during earlier economic expansions, government revenues are actually falling, which is what small-government advocates are secretly cheering: less money, less government.

It’s not just the government that’s in hock. Total household debt reached a new high in August: $13.3 trillion. That includes a record amount of student debt ($1.5 trillion), an ever-growing amount of mortgage debt ($9 trillion, which is perilously close to the $10.5 trillion it reached during the mortgage crisis in 2008), and an overall credit card debt that just surpassed $1 trillion for the first time.

Then there’s corporate debt. Companies have taken advantage of low interest rates to borrow like crazy. This summer, corporate debt hit a new high of $6.3 trillion. Worse, the cash-to-debt ratio, which was 14 percent in 2008, has dropped to 12 percent: that’s $1 in cash for every $8 of debt.

Economists are quick to reassure the public that all of this debt is not catastrophic. After all, the economy is humming along. America doesn’t look like Greece.

But all this debt is like the termites eating away at the foundation of your house. You don’t see anything wrong except a bit of sawdust and the faint sounds of consumption. And then one day, you’re sitting at your kitchen table and, boom! You’re sprawled out in your basement with the wreckage of your house around you.

As long as institutions continue to extend credit, debt is manageable, not a crisis. In other words, if creditors are still willing to buy Treasury bonds, then the United States is good to go.

But that’s a big if.

Chestnuts in the Fire

Currently, the U.S. government owes $21 trillion, which is slightly more than the household and corporate debt combined. The owners of U.S. debt include federal agencies like Social Security (which currently runs a surplus that it uses to buy Treasury bonds), the Federal Reserve (which bought a lot of debt during the financial crisis to lower interest rates), mutual funds, and banks.

Foreign countries also hold about a third of the debt. China and Japan own a little more than a trillion dollars each, followed by Brazil, Ireland, the UK, and Switzerland.

In ordinary times, foreign ownership of U.S debt is uncontroversial. Countries with revenue surpluses need a safe place to park their money. And the United States has never defaulted on its sovereign debt, unlike Greece or Argentina.

But these are not ordinary times. With the sharp downturn in U.S.-Russian relations, Moscow decided this spring to unload 84 percent of its holdings of Treasury bonds. That amounts to about $87 billion, a considerable sum.

Russia, of course, is not one of the major holders of U.S. debt. But Russia’s not the only country in a selling mood. Japan got rid of $18.4 billion in Treasury bonds in the spring. In the first half of 2018, Turkey unloaded 42 percent of its holdings in U.S. debt. Both countries currently have trade disputes with Washington.

The big player, however, is China, and right now the Trump administration is escalating its trade war with China. Trump just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese imports after targeting $50 billion of goods in the first round. If China retaliates with more tariffs of its own, the Trump administration is threatening a third round sanctioning all Chinese imports. China’s counter-sanctions are smaller, since it doesn’t import as much from the United States.

But China could retaliate in other ways, such as devaluing its currency. A potentially more devastating action would be to follow Russia’s example and sell its stake in Treasury bonds.

Again, this wouldn’t necessarily have much effect on the U.S. economy as long as other buyers step in to take China’s place. And that’s when all that other debt comes into play. At a certain point, foreign creditors will no longer support unsustainable U.S. spending. They won’t pull the U.S. chestnuts out of the fire.

Here’s another sign that foreign confidence in the U.S. economy is waning. For much of the post-World War II era, international transactions have been conducted in dollars. That has meant that people — and countries — have wanted dollars. But that situation is changing. The U.S. dollar remains the currency of choice for transactions, but by an ever-diminishing margin. As of July, it was used in 39 percent of transactions. The euro was in second place at 35 percent. Further down the list came the pound, the yen, and the yuan. The fall of the dollar anticipates an eclipse of U.S. global economic hegemony.

It’s hard to predict when all of these indicators will converge. Hedge fund manager Ray Dalio expects a major economic downturn in the United States in two years, after the impact of the tax cuts disappears and the government finds itself short on money. He predicts that:

We have to sell a lot of Treasury bonds, and we as Americans will not be able to buy all those treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve will have to print more money to make up for the deficit, will have to monetize more, and that’ll cause a depreciation in the value of the dollar.

This will be no ordinary downturn. Irrational exuberance has pushed up stocks above their value, sent household and corporate debt into the stratosphere, and burdened the government with debt it will have greater difficulty covering. Interest rates remain low, so there’s no real option to lower rates to stimulate the economy. Martin Feldstein, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, anticipates a $10 trillion drop in U.S. household assets. “When the next recession comes, it is going to be deeper and last longer than in the past,” he says.

The bottom line: the United States would finally turn into Greece.

The austerity programs Washington has supported all around the world will finally be visited upon the United States. And if the United States goes down, it will drag much of the global economy with it. After all, U.S. debt is only part of a larger problem. As Walden Bello explains:

Financial operators are racking up profits in a sea of liquidity provided by central banks, whose releasing of cheap money has resulted in the issuance of trillions of dollars of debt, pushing the level of debt globally to $325 trillion, more than three times the size of global GDP. There is a consensus among economists along the political spectrum that this debt build-up cannot go on indefinitely without inviting catastrophe.

Forecast: More Inequality

The Trump administration, in addition to its irrational exuberance over the current economic expansion, is taking various steps to make matters worse. It is pushing for greater deregulation of the financial sector: rolling back elements of the Dodd-Frank bill, gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and appointing top regulators who have close ties to Wall Street.

“Instead of draining the swamp,” quips Aaron Klein, policy director of the Center on Regulation and Markets at the Brookings Institute, “the Trump administration is telling the alligators…that the zookeepers are taking a nap.”

Economic inequality is not an unintended consequence of deregulation. It’s one of the goals. You might think that the administration simply wants to move as much money as it can to the 1 percent before the debt hits the fan. But here’s the really depressing part. The wealthy make out like bandits during an economic downturn as well.

As Colin Schultz explains at, the stock market did well after the last financial crisis:

Anyone whose finances survived the initial blast had a chance to regain ground in the recovery — or even profit. But families with net worths closer to the average often have a huge portion of their overall wealth invested in their houses. With the value of that gone, they had little wealth left to reinvest. 

So while families hovering around the average net worth lost 36 percent over the past decade — dropping from $87,992 in 2003 to $56,335 in 2013 — people in the top 95th percentile actually gained 14 percent in the same tumultuous period — going from $740,700 in 2003 to $834,100 in 2013.

All that “creative destruction” you hear about when there’s a market “correction”?

Ultimately it’s just the sound of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The termites are having a feast. But they’re not dining out at mansions.

*John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: China’s Grand Strategy

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: China’s Grand Strategy: China’s Grand Strategy The first goal of all successive Chinese dynasties throughout the centuries was to gain and maintain control o...

China’s Grand Strategy

China’s Grand Strategy

The first goal of all successive Chinese dynasties throughout the centuries was to gain and maintain control of the heartland (Han), the core of which consists of major Chinese rivers, is abundant with productive lands and is full of people. A further logical step is maintenance of influence over the buffer zones which surround the Han core and consist of mountainous regions to the west, desert lands to the north-west and impregnable forests to the south. The third major imperative was historically to protect China’s coastline from foreign powers. However, since this threat was quite rare in the ancient and medieval periods of Chinese history, the country did not see any need to develop powerful naval capabilities. The Yangtze and Yellow rivers, with surrounding fertile lands, produced enough to feed large numbers of population living in the Han core and as such, in an age without transcontinental trade routes and the only way to connect with the Middle East and Europe being the famous Silk Road, the geographic boundaries (mountains, jungles, deserts and the sea) from all sides made China essentially a closed country with self-sufficient economic means.

In other words, where previously China’s insularity was a geopolitical advantage rather than a significant constraint, from the late 20th century this was no longer the case. With international trade routes and various supply chains, China has to be open and, in many cases, rely upon raw materials brought from abroad via sea routes. Thence comes China’s fourth geopolitical imperative: protection of international trade lines and resource hubs. This will only be viable through two options: finding alternative land routes such as One Belt, One Road or by building a powerful military fleet capable of securing various resources and global supply chains across the Asia Pacific and elsewhere.

Building a powerful navy will mean collusion with the United States, whose world primacy rests upon domination of sea lines and relevant security alliances in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Any diminution of the US sea power will have a direct impact on the world order, considering the importance which Washington attaches to developments in foreign powers’ naval capabilities. Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current US capabilities. Indeed, the US has 11 aircraft carriers, while the Chinese only one (which still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off a carrier deck). However, the trends indicate that China has been making significant progress in the last several decades, as the country is rapidly developing new destroyers, amphibs, stealth fighters and long-range weapons. This could potentially expand expeditionary military operations around the globe.

China continues to construct an array of offensive and defensive capabilities to enable the PLA to gain maritime superiority within the first island chain in Asia pacific. Those are the islands which run from the Kurils, through Taiwan, to Borneo, roughly encompassing the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea.

China’s broad range of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and launch platforms, as well as submarine launched torpedoes and naval mines, allow the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to create a lethal threat against enemies approaching Chinese waters and operating areas.

The PLAN continues to develop into a global force, gradually extending its operational reach beyond East Asia and the Indo-Pacific into a sustained ability to operate at increasingly longer ranges. The PLAN’s latest naval platforms enable combat operations beyond the reach of China’s land-based defenses.

Furthermore, the PLAN now has a sizable force of high-capability logistical replenishment ships to support long-distance, long-duration deployments, including two new ships being built specifically to support aircraft carrier operations. The expansion of naval operations beyond China’s immediate region will also facilitate non-war uses of military force.

The PLAN’s force structure continues to evolve, incorporating more platforms with the versatility for both offshore and long-distance power projection. China is engaged in series production of the LUYANG III-class DDG, the JIANGKAI II-class FFG, and the JIANGDAO-class FFL.

Even on the aircraft level, despite its numerical weaknesses, China continues to learn lessons from operating its only Ukraine-produced aircraft carrier, Liaoning. The Chinese first domestically produced aircraft carrier, launched in 2017, will be commissioned in 2019 (according to various sources this will be a multi-carrier force). China’s next generation of carriers will probably have greater endurance and be capable of launching more varied types of fixed-wing aircraft than Liaoning. There also comes PLAN Aviation’s progress on improving capabilities to conduct offensive and defensive offshore operations such as strike, air and missile defense, strategic mobility, and early warning and reconnaissance missions.

Overall, for the moment, the PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the first island chain is modest. What is important here is that the PLAN’s ability is constantly growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced technologies. The US will remain a dominant force in the coming decades, but Chinese successes cannot be underestimated.

Chinese naval successes, reflected in the recent congressional report, add to growing American fears that China might become a global competitor. Indeed, from the US perspective, what the Chinese are doing in Eurasia through its pivotal One Belt, One Road initiative, and various moves to influence Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, is geopolitically important. From the US perspective, the Chinese are doing exactly what the Americans have been opposed to – solidifying one-country rule in Eurasia.

By Emil Avdaliani This article was published at Georgia Today.

One thought on “China’s Grand Strategy – OpEd”

The writer is correct in China’s altered mindset in her national defense and offense operations on land and sea. However, as China was geographically isolated in the past up to the Russian and British penetrations on land and sea against China since the 17th century, and the over one hundred years of European, American and Japanese invasions, defeats and occupations for over one hundred years: China’s national mindset is totally different from the old inward looking, passive, non aggressive and non expansive thinking of the past. China today is a forward looking, combative, expansive, outward looking, innovative and with a formidable desire to catch up and surpass Europe and her descendants, including USA. As we all know in history there is no free lunch, all past arrangements by the superior powers will be redefined and rearranged by the on going power shifts, which goes on non stop indefinitely. China will not only challenge America in all areas and will certainly do all possible to surpass her. If one really studied Sun Tze’s Art of War well, one should without a doubt understand the principal of power shift as Sun Tze stated: “Water flows from higher level to lower levels, such as all superior powers attacks weaker powers and overtake them.” This is what China is aiming to do for the next few centuries with the non stop power shifts continues non stop indefinitely in our future. Siao Liu



Thursday, September 13, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Party Vs Faith: China Drafts Restrictions For All ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Party Vs Faith: China Drafts Restrictions For All ...: Party Vs Faith: China Drafts Restrictions For All Religions China intends to extend aspects of its crackdown on Islam in the north-w...

Party Vs Faith: China Drafts Restrictions For All Religions

Party Vs Faith: China Drafts Restrictions For All Religions

China intends to extend aspects of its crackdown on Islam in the north-western province of Xinjiang to all religions as is evident from the publication of proposed restrictive guidelines for online religious activity.

The guidelines, according to Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times, would ban online religious services from “inciting subversion, opposing the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrowing the socialist system and promoting extremism, terrorism and separatism,” identified as the three evils China say it is combatting in Xinjiang.

The guidelines would also forbid livestreaming or broadcast of religious activity, including praying, burning incense, worshipping or baptism ceremonies in the form of text, photo, audio or video.

The guidelines, published on China’s legislative information website, are likely to be adopted after October 9 when the window for public comment closes.

The newspaper quoted Zhu Weiqun, former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as saying that the guidelines were designed to regulate online religious information and protect the legal rights of religious people and religious freedom.

“Some organizations, in the name of religion, deliberately exaggerate and distort religious doctrine online, and some evil forces, such as terrorism, separatism and religious extremism, and cults, also attempt to expand their online influences,” Mr. Zhu said.

By applying the guidelines to all religions, the government hopes in part to take the sting out of an increasing number of media reports as well as assertions by the United Nations that its policy in Xinjiang involves massive violation of religious and human rights. China has denied any violations.

While the crackdown on Islam in Xinjiang is the most severe because of Chinese concerns about Uyghur nationalist aspirations as well as Islamization and Arabization, references to more conservative, if not ultra-conservative strands of Islam, and the potential return to Central Asia of militant Uyghur foreign fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq, it reflects a wider Chinese effort to control religion.

Similar to Xinjiang where Uyghurs report that mosques are being destroyed, authorities elsewhere in the country have destroyed what allegedly were ‘underground churches,’ including a massive evangelical church in China’s northern Shanxi province that services a congregation of 50,000.

A rare, mass protest last month by Hui Muslims, who together with Uyghur’s account for the bulk of China’s estimated 20 million Muslims, forced local authorities in the northern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to suspend plans to demolish a newly built mosque.

Former inmates of re-education camps as well as family members of detainees assert that re-education involves subjecting religious views to the precepts of the Communist party, putting allegiance to the party above that of God, and breaking with religious dietary rules and other Islamic legal requirements.

The drafting of the guidelines come as China is finding it increasingly difficult to keep a publicity lid on developments in Xinjiang. The Global Times announcement came a day after Human Rights Watch issued a damning report and two days after a detailed expose in The New York Times, part of a flurry of media and academic reports published despite probable Chinese efforts to suppress critical reporting where it can.

Independent Media, publisher of 18 major South African titles with a combined readership of 25 million, recently refused to publish a column by foreign affairs columnist Azad Essa on a United Nations report asserting that up to one million Uyghurs were being detained in the re-education camps. Mr. Essa was told his column had been discontinued because of a redesign of the groups’ papers and the introduction of a new system.

China International Television Corporation (CITVC ) and China-Africa Development Fund (CADFUND) own a 20 percent stake in Independent Media through Interacom Investment Holdings Limited, a Mauritius-registered vehicle. There was no immediate indication that Chinese stakeholders were responsible for the cancellation of Mr. Essa’s column.

China’s ability to keep its lid on the crackdown is nonetheless slipping. US officials said this week that the Trump administration, locked into a trade war with China, was considering sanctions against Chinese senior officials and companies involved in Xinjiang in what would be the first US human rights-related measures against the People’s Republic.

The administration was also looking at ways to limit sales of US surveillance technology that could assist Chinese security agencies and companies in turning Xinjiang into a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state.

Deliberations about possible sanctions gained momentum after US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the chair of the congressional committee, called for the sanctioning of Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary and Politburo member Chen Quanguo and “all government officials and business entities assisting the mass detentions and surveillance”. He also demanded that Chinese security agencies be added “to a restricted end-user list to ensure that American companies don’t aid Chinese human-rights abuses.”

With the media reporting and UN and US criticism putting pressure on the Islamic world to speak out, cracks are emerging in its wall of virtually absolute silence.

Rais Hussin, a supreme council member of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) party and head of its Policy and Strategy Bureau, cautioned in an editorial this week against deportation of 11 Uyghurs wanted by China.

“Being friendly to China is a must, as China is a close neighbour of Malaysia. But it is also on this point that geographical proximity cannot be taken advantage by China to ride roughshod over everything that Malaysia holds dear, such as Islam, democracy, freedom of worship and deep respect for every country’s sovereignty… On its mistreatment of Muslims in Xinjiang almost en masse, Malaysia must speak up, and defend the most basic human rights of all,” Mr. Hussin said.

Mr. Hussin’s comments may not be that surprising given that Mr. Mahathir, since returning to power in May in an upset election, has emerged as a point man in a pushback by various nations against Chinese-funded, Belt and Road-related infrastructure projects that are perceived as risking unsustainable debt or being potential white elephants.

Mr. Mahathir has, since assuming office, suspended or cancelled US$26 billion in Chinese-funded projects in Malaysia.

Echoing Mr. Hussin’s statements, Ismailan, a Hui Muslim poet, posted pictures on Twitter of Bangladeshi Muslims protesting in the capital Dacca against the crackdown in Xinjiang.

“They are the first people of Islamic world to stand up for brothers and sisters in #china. Muslims, our fate is connected!” Ismailan tweeted, insisting that his opposition to the crackdown and “the use of concentration camps to solve the problem” did not amount to support for Uighur nationalism.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Millennial Generation: Deciding Bloc In Indone...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Millennial Generation: Deciding Bloc In Indone...: The Millennial Generation: Deciding Bloc In Indonesia Elections? Indonesian millennials will determine the direction of the Indonesia...

The Millennial Generation: Deciding Bloc In Indonesia Elections?

The Millennial Generation: Deciding Bloc In Indonesia Elections?

Indonesian millennials will determine the direction of the Indonesian presidential election next year due to their significant population size (34%-50%). The presidential candidates who are able to think, absorb and accommodate their aspirations would probably be well placed to win.

Indonesia has taken the first step towards the 2019 presidential election by announcing the nominees for presidential and vice presidential candidates on 10 August 2018. The 2019 election is a re-run of the 2014 presidential election between Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. President Joko, also known as Jokowi, has appointed as his running mate Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative cleric from the Council of Indonesian Ulama (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI) with a Nahdaltul Ulama background. On his part, Prabowo has chosen Sandiaga Uno, an entrepreneur and former vice governor of the capital city of Jakarta.

Although the presidential election will be held in April 2019, the supporters of the two candidates have since nomination day aggressively started to canvas for votes especially in social media. The millennial voters are potential targets due their significant numbers and their prolific use of the social media.

Internet-based Politics

The millennial population in Indonesia forms about 34.5% – 50% (ages 15-35). This is a very significant size and therefore a clear target group to win over. However, are both contenders aware and familiar with the aspirations of the millennial generation?

A strong characteristic of the millennials is their high literacy and engagement in the Internet. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and University of Berkeley in their 2011 research American Millennials: Deciphering the Enigma Generation identify the strong face of American millennials as digital natives. Some 57% of American millennials are among the first group who try new technology. Their online activity in uploading and making contents whether photos, blog, micro-blog, and others is high: 60%, compared to the non-millennials at 29%.

Research done in 2016 by Indonesia’s Alvara Research Centre indicates that Indonesian millennials have almost similar characteristics to their American counterparts. Indonesian millennials utilise digital sources to know and understand politics with a reliance on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and LINE-channels (instead of WhatsApp) shaping their perceptions on politics. Competing presidential candidates who practise textbook politics now need to get to grips with this new political phenomenon to achieve success

Pragmatic Concern

A perspective that Indonesian millennials embrace is whether or not politics are useful for their immediate needs, their innovative imagination and creativity. Idealism in politics, meaning a full commitment to political ideology whether it is leftist, Islamist or liberal, is not a common perspective among the politics of millennials. Millennials consider politics in terms of the concrete and direct impact for them.

The Indonesian media often portrays the country’s millennial generation as pragmatic people, and less interested in political idealism, by presenting the image of young successful professionals with breakthrough and smart business innovation such as the founders of Gojek and Tokopedia. Young politicians are hardly covered in the media as the representatives of the millennial generation. However, despite their pragmatism, Indonesian millennials are not apolitical.

In fact, the Indonesian Muslim millennials are very critical of the current ruling administration as evident in their prominence in the #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident) movement. They do join in the movement, although sometimes they join without thinking about what is the next precise agenda. Presidential candidates should recognise this trend and find ways to transform their political strategies.

Importance of Religion

The Pew Research Centre survey discovered that African-American millennials are more religious than their peers. This survey is interesting because it mirrors the general inclination of Indonesian millennials. Indonesian millennial Muslims preserve and have a deep commitment to their Islamic doctrines.

However, in studying religion, they draw materials from online sources rather than from authoritative institutions and experts knowledgeable in the study of religion. There is a tendency for them to be attracted to conservative groups of the Islamic congregation. Many newly established-Islamic congregations have a membership base dominated by the millennial generation.

This tendency is quite alarming for the future of moderation in Indonesian Islam, therefore, both Jokowi and Prabowo should approach these groups, not only to win their hearts and minds but also to steer Indonesian Islam on the path of moderation.

Expecting More Positive Role

There is an assumption that the millennials will not use their rights to vote in the 2019 presidential election due their apolitical attitudes. This assumption could not be used as a reason to ignore their significance. It will be a big loss for Indonesia if both Jokowi and Prabowo disregard the influence of the millennials in the 2019 presidential election. How can democracy be preserved in a situation in which the significant number of Indonesian citizens are politically indifferent?

How will the two presidential candidates shape their campaign strategies to reach out to the millennials for the legislative and presidential elections? The participation of the millennials in the coming elections – both in the legislative and presidential contests — is needed to sustain democracy.

*Syafiq Hasyim is a Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. This is part of an RSIS series on the 2019 Indonesian presidential election.