Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.
1. China commits billions to international development. Addressing a United Nations conference on the UN sustainable development goals late last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China would pledge $2 billion in aid to the United Nations to help developing countries. He followed that commitment with a further promise of $1 billion to the United Nations for a “peace and development fund” as well as a permanent UN peacekeeping unit of eight thousand troops during his first speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday. In his joint statement with President Obama last week, Xi promised $3.1 billion to the South-South Climate Cooperation Fund to aid developing countries in implementing climate change policies. Is Xi vindicating the Bush administration’s “responsible stakeholder” policy? While China continues to pursue provocative actions in the South China Sea, the country’s leadership seems to have gotten the message that being a “new type of great power” involves responsibility, and not just shows of strength—or at least that this is what the rest of the world would like to see.
2. Abe triples aid to Middle East refugees but keeps Japan’s doors closed. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday to announce a sizable increase in aid that Japan will give to help those who have fled violence in the Middle East. Abe committed to $810 million, triple the amount Japan committed last year, to assist both refugees and internally displaced persons. Additionally, he committed to $750 million for peace-building and stabilization efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. Notably, Abe did not offer to take in any of those displaced persons. In the same address, Abe continued to demand reforms that would allow Japan to become a permanent member of the Security Council.
3. Bombing in southern China kills ten. On Wednesday, a series of seventeen bombs hidden in packages successively exploded throughout the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, killing ten and injuring more than fifty. The thirty three year old suspect behind the explosions, Wei Yinyong, who was reportedly involved in a dispute with neighbors, was killed in one of the blasts. Wei hired street vendors to deliver some of the packages to shopping malls, hospitals, and government buildings around the city, and others were placed in advance and detonated remotely. Authorities were quick to respond with instructions for media censorship, which prohibited the gathering of independent information. Bombings as a result of civil disputes, such as events in Shijiazhuang and Fuzhou, occur sporadically in China, where explosive materials for mining, construction, and farming are relatively easy to acquire. Bombings related to terrorist activity, which officials say this was not, are less common. On Thursday morning another explosion occurred in Liuzhou, although it was unclear whether it was directly linked to Wednesday’s attack.
4. India and Nepal spar following the passage of Nepal’s constitution. Following the adoption of a new constitution in Nepal, protesters from the country’s Madhesi community have continuously assembled near the Nepalese-Indian border. The protesters have congregated at border crossings, leading to a disruption in trade between the two countries. Indian officials have pointed to the security risks of sending cargo across the border; more than forty people have died in Nepal as a result of violent protests during the past month. Nepal, however, landlocked between India and China, depends on India for its entire oil supply. Fears of fuel shortages have led Nepalese authorities to announce restrictions on vehicle use. Many in Nepal believe that India imposed the blockade as a show of its disapproval of Nepal’s new constitution, leading to widespread anti-India protests. India maintains that the unrest and obstructions on Nepal’s side of the border are the causes for the halt in trade, and that the blockade is not linked to India’s position on Nepal’s constitution.
5. Child gold miners in the Philippines. According to a Human Rights Watch report released this week, children employed in the Filipino gold mining industry face numerous dangers ranging from mercury poisoning to death from the collapse of underwater compressor mines. As many as eighteen thousand children are involved in gold mining in the nation, some as young as nine years old. An estimated 3.2 million child laborers were employed across the Philippines as of 2011. While underground and underwater mining is banned in the Philippines for those under eighteen, the laws remain largely unenforced. The Philippines is currently the twentieth-largest gold producer worldwide, with eighteen tons of gold worth $700 million mined in 2014. The country has the potential to boost production substantially, however, as it has the world’s second largest gold reserves. While the report offers a number of recommendations, such as the creation of child labor-free zones, reforms may be difficult to implement if the Filipino mining sector expands rapidly.
Bonus: North Korea’s big boss. According to a South Korean government analysis, North Korean’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, now weighs close to one hundred thirty kilograms, or nearly three hundred pounds. Kim reportedly began to gain weight rapidly after the execution of his uncle-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, in December 2013. The tendency to gain weight is a notable Kim family trait, along with the habit of looking at things and carrying out executions. Some analysts consider Kim’s ballooning weight to be a serious concern (for better or for worse) because of the possibility of his sudden demise. Unlike his father and grandfather, the third Kim does not currently have an heir-apparent.