Category Archives: Asia

A Big Step Forward for Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender equality, including gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion, and economic marginalization. The lack of prominent, respected, capable, and well-organized advocates for gender equality and women’s rights directly contributes to the sociopolitical and economic marginalization of women in Papua New Guinea.

In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, CIPE is supporting the efforts of a pioneering group of women who recently established the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI). These visionary Papua New Guineans seek to change the operating environment faced by women in PNG, and this week saw a major step forward in this effort. From February 17-21, a CIPE delegation conducted the first of several planned training programs for the leaders and members of PNGWCCI.

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Dr. Jesus Estanislao on the Recipe for Successful Reforms

It took years of patient effort to consolidate democracy after the Philippines' People Power Movement toppled the Marcos regime in 1986.

It took years of patient effort to consolidate democracy after the Philippines’ People Power Movement toppled the Marcos regime in 1986.

Democratization and the desire for a free market economy continue to be major driving forces behind reform movements around the world. In recent years, we have witnessed millions of people rising up for meaningful political and economic reforms, especially in the Middle East region. Genuine democracy, however, calls for more essential ingredients in its recipe for success and sustainability — namely good governance and responsible citizenship.

Dr. Jesus Estanislao, Chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia and of the Institute of Corporate Directors, is one of the leading advocates for good governance and for responsible citizenship. He observes a crucial connection that reformers must comprehend— “Economic and political freedoms belong to the essence of a genuine democracy.”

In his recent interview with CIPE, now published as an Economic Reform Feature Service article, Dr. Estanislao shares his personal experiences in strengthening democracy through market-oriented reform. He reveals several factors that contribute to successful and meaningful reforms by providing readers with his first-hand knowledge of good governance advocacy and reform — factors that will benefit current and future reformers.

Read the whole article here.

Tackling Corruption in Disaster Relief Efforts

(Photo: WFP/Praveen Agrawal)

(Photo: WFP/Praveen Agrawal)

This article originally appeared on the TrustLaw blog.

Natural disasters affect millions of lives each year and bring humanity together around a common goal of helping the victims and supporting reconstruction. The Asian tsunami of 2004, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, or the deadly foods in Pakistan later that year are just a few examples of tragic events that triggered the outpouring of donations to relief efforts. Yet, all too often this well-intended generosity fails to translate into commensurate results on the ground.

One reason is the sheer volume of aid that tends to overwhelm the absorptive capacity of governments, aid agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Another key reason is corruption caused by the urgency to disburse aid that often leads to dangerous corner cutting when it comes to controls on spending and accountability.

The need to tackle corruption in disaster aid has been brought into focus again by the destruction wrecked by typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it is known in the Philippines. In response, so far nearly 18 billion pesos ($414 million) in cash and relief goods have been pledged. The challenge of administering this magnitude of aid creates considerable corruption risks.

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Book Review: A Contest for Supremacy – Dragon vs Eagle

contest-supremacy

A Contest for Supremacy is a book that thoroughly examines the history of Sino-American relationship and provides a clear view of the challenges and risks for the United States as China’s power continues to grow.

Despite the fact that author Aaron Friedberg inevitably touches on recycled opinions made by other Western China experts, he indeed offers unique insights and assessments on this widely discussed topic, proving to the readers that the book is unlikely to collect dust on the shelf for the upcoming years.

Friedberg’s core argument is two-fold: China and the U.S. are on the path to compete for power and for influence worldwide, with an emphasis on the Asia region — a newfound source of economic dynamism. The Sino-U.S. relationship, according to Friedberg, is increasingly intensified while the power gap narrows. Furthermore, Friedberg argues that an emerging Sino-U.S. rivalry is not the product of easily correctable policy errors or misperceptions, but rather is driven by the differences of ideology and political agenda.

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Corruption, Reform, and Foreign Investment in China

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While delivering the keynote speech at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Chinese president Xi Jinping stated that the government was drafting a “master plan for reform.” Speaking to a group of leaders who invariably have a stake in China’s continued development, Xi touched upon topics including politics, society, and the environment.  Given the recent slowdown in growth, Xi’s remarks mainly aimed to assuage the concerns of economic and business leaders regarding the stability of China’s economy.

Some of the most discussed topics that come to mind when thinking about economic reform in the Middle Kingdom include liberalization of interest rates, freer access to capital for small firms, and correcting market distortions such as real estate prices. These factors are admittedly extremely important to rectify if the economy is to avoid stalling out, but there is also another issue on the minds of many business leaders looking to become or stay involved in China’s economy – corruption.

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China’s Foreign Relations

President Li Jinping at the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo: South China Morning Post)

President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo: South China Morning Post)

In recent years, China has seemed to take a more central place on the world stage. But is it really as important a player as its image suggests?

In a recent book review event held at George Washington University, Professor Robert Sutter talked about his new book: Foreign Relations of the PRC: The Legacy and Constraints of China’s International Policies since 1949. Sutter’s overarching assessment of foreign relations in China carries a negative tone throughout—for now, China is not as important in international affairs as it was in the past. To support his statement, Sutter provided an overview to address the following points:

  1. Does China have any strategy in foreign affairs?
  2. Has China come to follow modern world order/Is China a status-quo power?
  3. How is China important in world affairs?
  4. Does China have principles for its actions?

Sutter’s answer to the first point is a solid “no.” He argues that while China does have certain goals it desire to achieve, its policies change constantly based on circumstances inside and outside of China, causing competition between its different priorities. China positioning itself in a triangular relationship with the United States and the Soviet Union while its priority was (supposedly) nation building, according to Sutter, was an example of China’s lack of foreign affairs strategy. This assessment reminds me of Professor David Shambaugh’s lecture on China’s foreign policy—“policies in China are made by the top leaders, but its process remains a myth.”

While all four points are crucial in Sutter’s assessment, I am particularly interested in the discussion of the second point because he used free market in China as an example— a major theme that CIPE focuses on in its programs. In Sutter’s analysis, China uses its capacities in the realm of the military, economy, and technology only to fulfill its interests. China’s overall trade policies, Sutter said, “degrade the free market, which contradicts international norm.”

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A Closer Look at “China’s Trapped Transition”

Shanghai_Tower

Recently, I read a widely discussed book called “China’s Trapped Transition” by Minxin Pei. Pei challenges popular arguments about China’s development as a neo-authoritarian regime: that economic development will provoke better governance; that gradualism works well to promote economic growth; that economic growth in China will eventually lead to democratization; and that authoritarianism is a better system to sustain economic development.

The underlying assessment of Pei’s book is that China has reached a phase in which its growth is stagnant. China’s political system, Pei argues, cannot be reformed because of its deep-rooted corruption issues and due to the lack of institutional infrastructure to address these issues. Pei labels China’s situation as “self-destructive political dynamics inherent in an autocracy caught up in rapid socioeconomic change.”  While Pei provides credible statistics and evidence to support his assessment, he fails to incorporate an ongoing major factor of competition between China’s socialist ideology and capitalist ideology in other parts of the world. A re-visit of Pei’s assessment, published in 2006, is necessary because China has hitherto maintained its growth (more or less) while its system remains unchanged, and in some ways seems even stronger.

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