Category Archives: BUSINESS

Bangladesh’s regional majoritarian challenge

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 25 August 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Rafiqur Rahman).

Authors: Champa Patel, Chatham House and Rudabeh Shahid, University of York

Bangladesh is a country often subjected to the whims of its geography. Being surrounded by India and Myanmar means that ensuring good relations with its neighbours is paramount to maintaining regional cohesion but these relations are coming under strain as India’s and Myanmar’s majoritarian impulses resonate across their borders.

Myanmar is being heavily criticised by the international community for crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, that have seen one million Rohingya flee to Bangladesh — the latest in a series of similar displacements. But despite international attention, there are still no long-term solutions — whether for resettlement or voluntary repatriation let alone addressing citizenship and nationality issues — and the Rohingya continue to be stateless.

Although negative public perceptions towards Myanmar are evident from increased societal distrust and pressure on the Bangladeshi Buddhist community, the Rohingya crisis has not yet adversely affected other aspects of Bangladesh–Myanmar bilateral relations.

Despite Bangladeshi authorities‘ frustration with Myanmar, the two countries have still settled maritime disputes through the demarcation of proper maritime boundaries. In November 2017 — right after the latest refugee crisis erupted — an instrument of ratification was exchanged between Myanmar and Bangladesh demarcating the land north of the Naf River that separates the two countries. On the trade front, when cross-land border trade was abruptly suspended in 2017 amid the crisis, a 12 per cent devaluation of Myanmar’s currency actually boosted bilateral trade. Both countries are also preparing to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

On the other hand, Bangladesh’s current antipathy towards India may seem a surprising contrast given India’s pivotal role in Bangladesh’s War of Independence against Pakistan in …continue reading


Shinzo Abe’s unfinished political legacy

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the ASEAN-Japan Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, 4 November, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/ Zeya Tun).

Author: John Nilsson-Wright, Cambridge University and Chatham House

Under the premiership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan appears to have found its feet as a regional and global actor. By providing political stability and policy continuity at home, Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its Komeito ally, have secured the support of a Japanese electorate that values economic prosperity, is risk averse when it comes to foreign policy and has shown little confidence in Japan’s fractured opposition parties.

But does this record of success at the ballot box amount to proof of leadership ability? When it comes to diplomatic engagement and energy, few can match the hyperactivity of this peripatetic premier. Abe’s willingness to travel the globe to establish Japan’s credentials as a ‘proactive contributor to peace’ has given Japan an uncommon visibility and a sustained presence that has enabled him to establish a personal rapport with other national leaders.

On security policy, Abe’s credentials as a pragmatic realist are impressive. He has presided over a much needed increase in the country’s military capabilities and overseen the expansion of Japan’s strategic options beyond its traditional reliance on the United States.

By advancing a new vision of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, Abe has shown an appetite to engage in the difficult process of laying out a long-term foreign policy plan that reflects Japan’s national interests. Recent efforts to improve ties with China such as Abe’s visit to Beijing last October and next year’s anticipated visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping also reflect Abe’s tactical pragmatism. By hedging, the government is shrewdly avoiding excessive dependence on the United States and anticipating the dangers associated with a more confident and regionally assertive China.

There are limits to what this inherently rational and forward-looking approach can deliver. The spread of populist politics, the re-emergence of …continue reading


140m tall apartment tower planned for Shirokane

Tokyu Land Corporation has been chosen to lead the Shirokane 1 Chome North-Central Redevelopment Project. This will see a 140-meter tall, 900-unit apartment tower built on the western side of Shirokane AER City.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to start in 2021 with completion by 2025. It will be similar in height to Shirokane Tower, which is 141.9 meters tall with 42 floors and 581 apartments.

The project is a few blocks away from the 156-meter tall, 1,247-unit Shirokane The Sky condominium which is due for completion in late 2022. Further away, Daiwa House is in the process of building a 135-meter tall, 280-unit condominium on the south-eastern side of Shirokane AER City, with completion due by early 2023.

Within a few years, the area around Shirokane-Takanawa Station will have over 3,000 apartments in high-rise towers.

Source: The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun, October 31, 2019.

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The puzzles of political reform in Vietnam

Election council members decorate a polling station at Tan Xuan village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam, 19 May 2011. (Photo:Reuters/Kham)

Author: Pham Duy Nghia, Fulbright University Vietnam

Vietnam’s growing economy is one of a very few recent global success stories. With a population of 95 million people and with GDP approaching US$8000 per capita, Vietnam is home to millions of private businesses and has become an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. The lives of millions of Vietnamese have improved, poverty has fallen and by 2035 more than half of Vietnam’s population are projected to join the ranks of the global middle class.

Deeply integrated into the global economy, Vietnam is party to many new generation free trade agreements, including with the EU, Japan and the regional CPTPP. Unusually for a country with such a large population, Vietnam ranks fifth among the most open economies in the world, with total trade more than double the size of GDP.

But political reform in the country is uncertain and less visible. Vietnam remains an authoritarian regime with a single ruling party. The party controls the elective body, the government, the judiciary, the media and the surrounding mass organisations. For each the party selects, trains and rotates its apparatchiks to ensure their loyalty to the party.

Economic growth, improving government efficiency and facilitating citizen participation can liberalise a society. In Vietnam, a process of democratisation within the party and society is going on alongside economic liberalisation. The redesign of elective bodies is one of such political reforms demonstrating the party’s increasing efforts to include the people’s voice in political life and to ensure bureaucratic oversight. The party is now experimenting with these changes to see if it is possible to create a functioning representative democracy within a single-party system. If successful, Vietnam will be a rare example of democracy without political pluralism or a multi-party system.

Formally, free elections, …continue reading