from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of October 14, 2016

Police forces prepare to patrol in Maungdaw township at Rakhine state, northeast Myanmar, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

October 14, 2016

Police forces prepare to patrol in Maungdaw township at Rakhine state, northeast Myanmar, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
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Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and David O’Connor look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Violence escalates in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Three police posts in townships in the volatile Rakhine state were attacked this week, further stoking concerns about ethnic conflict and violence in the region. These incidents resulted in the death of eight attackers and nine officers. Subsequent confrontations added to the death toll, which escalated to an estimated forty people. In Maungdaw district, where attacks occurred, a large majority of the population is Rohingya. The recent strife led to the imposition of a curfew, limits on group gathering sizes, and school closures. Border and army officials were also sent to conduct searches in local villages for evidence on the attacks. Members of the Union government visited the capital of the Rakhine state to allay concerns, and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi pledged that the government’s response would be in accordance with the law.

2. Leading Chinese expert floats proposal for new Chinese ADIZ. Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, stated recently that China “reserves the right” to impose a new air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. Although ADIZs are commonly used by many countries, including the United States, Canada, South Korea, and Japan, the declaration of a Chinese ADIZ in the highly-disputed waters of the South China Sea would be viewed as exceptionally confrontational. While China’s less than satisfactory experience after declaring an ADIZ in the East China Sea in 2013 may give the government pause in enacting a new ADIZ, Wu’s statement could also indicate that China is simply waiting for the means to enforce it before declaring an ADIZ in the South China Sea.

3. Philippine leader distances nation from the United States. Rodrigo Duterte is perhaps best known in the United States for his outlandish statements – comparing himself to Hitler and insulting Obama – but his recent statements regarding China, the United States, and the South China Sea are historic for both the Philippines and the wider region. He said, “I will be reconfiguring my foreign policy.” “I will break up with America.” The U.S.-Philippines relationship has lasted more than a hundred years and is a frequent source of controversy. Duterte views it as a vestige of imperialism, and he perhaps recognizes the potential benefits to his country of playing the United States against China, the largest power in the region and the Philippines’ second-largest trading partner. The reconfiguration of the archipelagic nation’s foreign policy will certainly alter the balance of power in the South China Sea, where the Philippines recently won a case regarding China’s claims to the Scarborough Shoal. However, after questioning if the U.S.-Philippines military alliance is really necessary, Duterte said Wednesday that he will not alter the country’s military treaties, adding further confusion to an already volatile situation.

4. Climate accord could deprive Indians of air conditioning. The 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer convened in Kigali, Rwanda this week, where they completed a proposed accord to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in air conditioners and refrigerators worldwide. HFCs are greenhouse gases that are even more powerful than carbon dioxide, introduced in the 1980s to supplant other ozone-depleting gases. However, they have become increasingly dangerous with the proliferation of air conditioners and refrigerators throughout the developing world, and scientists have warned that they could contribute to an average temperature increase of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Unlike the COP21 Paris Agreement, this accord, if completed, would have the force of international law, with trade and economic sanctions imposed on nations that fail to follow the accord, and wealthy nations mandated to provide financial assistance to help with compliance in developing nations. In India, where temperatures reached 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit this past spring, the purchase of an air conditioner symbolizes an escape from poverty and sweltering heat. Roughly 6 to 9 percent of Indian households own air conditioners, and many more hope to acquire them. However, the proposed accord may make this more difficult and reaching the agreement’s target of eliminating HFC production and usage by 2050, a longer timeline than that advocated by developed nations, will cost the Indian economy 13 to 38 billion dollars.

5. Bhutan opens first law school. A nation whose democracy is still in its infancy is beginning a quest to cultivate a generation who will construct an indigenous, yet sound, meaning of “the law,” and enforce it in accordance with a highly particular set of values. The staff of the newly opened Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law in the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu, is approaching the challenge of establishing the appropriate first principles with great care and the belief that this early period may be the best chance to get democratization right in Bhutan. An American, Michael Peil, is vice dean of the school and is also working with international legal consultants. They must account for the fact that most of the Bhutanese population is accustomed to arbitration as opposed to a trial system, and some fear that the standard democratic justice system will not fit the temperament of the isolated Buddhist kingdom. Additionally, Bhutan’s lawyers have traditionally been educated primarily in India, where the legal tradition differs from that of their home country.

Bonus: Kirin invests in Brooklyn Brewery. Kirin Holdings, Japan’s second-largest beer brewer, announced this week that it would take a minority stake in Brooklyn Brewery, one of the largest craft brewers in the United States. The two companies will launch a joint venture in Japan in hopes of expanding the country’s craft beer market and propping up Kirin’s profits, which face growing challenges as Japan’s population declines and demand for beer dries up. While the investment is only the most recent in a series of acquisitions of successful craft breweries by massive multinational beverage corporations like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, it’s a major step forward in the internationalization of the U.S. craft beer industry, which has been primarily driven by transatlantic acquisitions to date.

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