Aqueous edition

This edition – as the name suggests already – is about issues around the topic “water” in the greater Asia-Pacific region as well as South-East Asia. Water as we know it – as a good, as a necessity, as given – will shift towards the center of global political and economic attention in the future. In parts of the world it will be or is already a scarce good, in other parts it will be a source of conflict and for some countries it bears huge benefits.

The South China Sea – Developments in the region

This Foreign Affairs article is actually on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which is another free trade agreement between several countries in the region. As Japan is not joining though (at least under the currently negotiated terms) the agreement is – in economic terms – not a real heavy weight. But the following sentence made me ponder over China’s attitude towards dealing with the prospective conflicts in this region.

“China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.”

But are the small countries that small after all…!?

“The Philippine and Vietnamese presidents met Wednesday to oversee the signing of agreements that will allow their navies and coast guards to better respond to emergencies and monitor foreign intrusions in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.”

“China wants bilateral negotiations with other claimant countries to resolve the disputes over the potentially resource-rich Spratlys and has rejected any role by non-claimant countries like the United States.”

The following article is very interesting in many ways. It shows how diplomacy works out in this region and who signs deals with whom, on what and why… have a read!

“In recent months, the Philippines and Vietnam have taken a similar two-way diplomatic approach by strengthening relations with China’s traditional regional competitors, including Japan and India, while at the same time maintaining dialogue and growing commercial ties with Beijing.”

“By joining forces, the Philippines and Vietnam aim to enhance their negotiating leverage vis-a-vis China. Beijing has repeatedly stated its preference to pursue bilateral agreements with smaller claimant countries while the latter have pushed for a binding agreement through multilateral channels led by the 10-member ASEAN.”

These articles argue about why American foreign policy has to shift towards the Asia-Pacific region albeit it’s preoccupation with the Middle East.

“The United States has become preoccupied with the Middle East – in certain ways, the wrong Orient – and has not paid adequate attention to East Asia and the Pacific, where much of the twenty-first century’s history will be written.”

“The US has multiple alliance obligations – with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand – which are needed, in part, to deter North Korean aggression. Moreover, US policy must create an environment in which a rising China is never tempted to use its growing power coercively – within or outside the region. For this reason, recent US efforts to strengthen ties with India and several Southeast Asian countries make good sense.”

“The absence of such a structure of peace has been obscured, to some extent, by America’s dominant role in Asia since the Pacific War. But China’s rise and America’s other global and domestic concerns have left many Asians wondering just how enduring those commitments will be in the future. Nevertheless, China’s recent strategic assertiveness has led many Asian democracies to seek to deepen their ties with the US, as South Korea has done with a bilateral free-trade agreement. The US is reciprocating by pledging not to cut Asia-related defense spending, despite the big reduction in overall US defense spending that lies ahead.”

The Thai Flood – is it over yet??

Unfortunately not!!!! So keep the Land of Smiles and its people in your blessings and thoughts – and maybe also for the annual Christmas donation you will give 🙂

(Recent pictures – have a look here:

Some parts of the country are still heavily flooded and the damage cannot be assessed so far. Luckily, Thailand can count on countries that are good partners. Japan is not going to relocate its manufacturing sites and neither is the US industry.  So the Thai people will have to be patient and rely on their government to deal with the crisis. So in economic terms, the country will be fine at some point in the future.

What about migrant workers during and after the crisis?

Thailand will not get any rest in the upcoming months as new political turmoil is scheduled. For sure, the opposition will blame the Yingluck government and the way in which it handled the flood and the crisis management. Furthermore they will try to take advantage from these mistakes in order to re-gain some political support and power.

But actually this story here is the sad side of the flood crisis. Some people lost all of their belongings, their jobs, some lost family members and as you can read in the following article, some people are not capable of dealing with the whole situation anymore.

Last week, there was a reason though to celebrate in Thailand. The Loi Krathong festival took place and the irony is that the Thai people pay tribute to the water during this festival. Still, it brought back some smiles to the “Land of Smiles” and that is what counts anyway.

An epic fail by the media (mostly the TV channels actually)

You’ve seen coverage of, heard or read about the Thai floods I assume (well, if you read this, you definitely have done so) and this is good. But do you also know that Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines have been partly inundated as well (each of the nations to a different extent – but still)? Pakistan is still struggling with water and damages from 2010’s flood and rain is heavily hitting the country again… Pakistan Flood 2011 or V2.0 here we go!

As Thailand is the tourism hot spot in the region and the worlds biggest rice exporter, it’s the only/biggest concern for our TV channels (and us?). Who cares about Laos or Myanmar as long as I can go shopping in Bangkok and get my tan on an island down South!? This is the picture I got from the latest reporting on the situation in South-East Asia and it’s quite sobering comparing what really happens and what is being covered by the European/American TV channels. (Furthermore, the picture they show the people is quite wrong anyway so stick to local media to do your research.)

“The floods that have affected three-quarters of the country’s land area, by the United Nations’ estimate, have been overshadowed by similar troubles in Cambodia’s larger and wealthier neighbor, Thailand, where the government is scrambling to protect central Bangkok from inundation.”

“The cost in human life, more than 1,000 including flooding in the Philippines, was enormous, but perhaps the biggest tragedy has been the number of children who drowned – more than 200, simply because they were never taught how to swim.”

The situation in South-East Asia is devastating and therefore we should think about the people and send them our blessings whenever we feel like – and if you do so, please to the people all over the region.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned.


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