Research on the East-West Wire


The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. The Wires are two-page summaries that cover a wide range of topics. They are based on findings and commentary from East-West Center researchers, visitors, and colleagues from other research organizations.

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Titles in this series

Planning for Pandemics: Learning from the 2004–05 Avian Influenza Outbreak in Vietnam
By James H. Spencer, David Marasco, and Michelle Eichinger

Most newly emerging infectious diseases in human populations originate from livestock or wild animals. When infected animals encounter susceptible human hosts, a novel virus may evolve that can then be transmitted from human to human. This is a low-probability event, but—as is now well known—it is an event with potentially catastrophic consequences. Land-use planners need to ensure that livestock farms, processing facilities, and markets for live animals adhere to appropriate building codes and are situated at a safe distance from human population centers. Planners also have an important role to play in ensuring that farms and other livestock facilities are managed effectively to reduce the possibility of disease transmission. Appropriate measures include regular hand washing, good water and sanitation systems, frequent checks for fever and other symptoms of human flu, prompt isolation of sick animals, and basic sick-leave compensation for farmers and farm workers.

COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts a New Look at Ecological Security
By Laura Brewington

Resilient and healthy ecosystems help prevent wildfires, flooding, and other natural disasters. As the COVID-19 crisis illustrates, the unsafe exploitation of the natural environment can also have a lasting impact on population health and economic growth. Today, we need a reassessment of how societies prioritize the preservation of healthy ecosystems to support human health and wellbeing. This concept, often called “Planetary Health” or the “One Health” framework, views biodiversity management, land-use practices, and food production systems as dynamic interconnections among the plants, animals, and people that make up an ecosystem.

Forest Fires—Indonesian Experience Highlights Prevention Challenges
By Wendy B. Miles

Indonesia’s massive peatland fires have exposed millions of people in Southeast Asia to toxic haze and have made the nation one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. In response to these and similar environmental disasters, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative, envisioned as a mechanism for high carbon-emitting countries and companies to pay rainforest-rich nations and communities to conserve forests. A pilot REDD+ project initiated by the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership illustrates some of the challenges these efforts experience on the ground. Looking to the future, if forest loss and carbon emissions are to be addressed in Kalimantan, it will require sustained funding streams for peatland rehabilitation, fire prevention, and improved forest governance.

Mobilizing the Pacific Diaspora: A Key Component of Disaster Resilience
By Siautu Alefaio

Of all the earth’s regions, the Pacific is one of the most prone to natural disasters. Climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and tropical cyclones make the headlines, along with other natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These may be accompanied by crises in public health. Today, many Pacific Island countries rely heavily on government relief and international aid when they face a disaster. Traditional sources of resilience can still play an important role, however, both within local communities and within the broader diaspora of Pacific communities in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, and the US. A better understanding of Pacific cultures from within and a better recognition of the role of the Pacific diaspora and of churches in Pacific communities would also help improve development efforts and disaster response.

Another Possible Cost of COVID-19: Returning Workers May Lead to Deforestation in Nepal
By Jefferson Fox, Phanwin Yokying, Naya Sharma Paudel, and Ram Chhetri

In rural Nepal, many young people have migrated to urban areas or overseas in search of employment. Farm sizes remained the same, but with remittance income coming in from migrants plus a sharp reduction in available labor at home, many farmers left some of their land uncultivated. The resulting increase in tree cover has provided an important environmental benefit. Today, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Nepali migrants to return home. With more available labor and less remittance income, will farmers in Nepal now remove trees on their land to expand cultivation?

The Fierce Urgency of Now—Engaging Pacific Islander Communities in Hawai'i to Contain COVID-19
By David Derauf, F. DeWolfe Miller, and Tim Brown

The “fierce urgency of now” created by the surging COVID-19 epidemic among Pacific Islanders in Hawai‘i calls for urgent, positive action. The state response must broaden immediately to engage Pacific Island communities as equal partners, provide for truly collective and just approaches to health care and support needs, and channel resources to community organizations and stakeholder groups in a way that allows them to take leadership in COVID prevention and care.

Fire and Rain: The Legacy of Hurricane Lane in Hawaiʻi
By Alison D. Nugent, Ryan J. Longman, Clay Trauernicht, Mathew P. Lucas, Henry F. Diaz, and Thomas W. Giambelluca
7 August 2020

Hurricane Lane, which struck the Hawaiian islands on 22–25 August 2018, presented a textbook example of the compounding hazards that can be produced by a single storm. Over a four-day period, the island of Hawaiʻi received an average 17 inches of rainfall, while at the same time, three wildfires on the island of Maui and one on Oʻahu burned nearly 3,000 acres of abandoned agricultural land. The rainfall and fire effects of Hurricane Lane may be related to global climate changes that could become more common in the future.

The US and the Mekong Region: Cooperation for Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth
By Satu Limaye
29 July 2020

In recent years, relations with Southeast Asia have emerged as an important pillar of US engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is central to US foreign policy in the region, with a growing focus on the five countries bound together by the Mekong River—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Challenges and Responses to COVID-19: Experience from Asia
By Nancy Davis Lewis and Jonathan D. Mayer
10 July 2020

Experience in Asia suggests that public health and medical capacity are critical for an effective response to an emerging infectious disease, and political will and previous experience with disease outbreaks also play a role. Singapore ignored an important segment of its population and is now experiencing a huge spike in cases. China and Vietnam were able to enforce draconian measures, while in Japan and Hong Kong, civil society had a greater role in initiating effective controls. In several countries, local political outcomes have been affected by the perceived success or failure of leaders in controlling the crisis.

Impact of COVID-19 on Rice Farmers in Southeast Asia
By Jefferson M. Fox, Arunee Promkhambut, and Phanwin Yokying
3 July 2020

In Southeast Asia, COVID 19 has affected rice farming in many ways including security of land tenure and access to credit, capital inputs, remittance income, and safe food and water. During emergencies such as the 2019 drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers need assistance, either from the government or private philanthropy. Thailand and Vietnam, the wealthier countries in the region, have provided farmers with basic assistance. Farmers in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia are struggling.

Catching Up in a Technology War—China's Challenge in Artificial Intelligence
By Dieter Ernst
16 June 2020

Leaders in China and the US need to reconsider the notion that they can only progress in AI if they pursue zero-sum competition. Global knowledge sourcing through international cooperation remains critical for further development of AI technologies. Progress will be damaged both by the "America First" doctrine and by China's attempts to wall off its AI industry from the outside world.

The Pandemic in North Korea: Lessons from the 1990s Famine
By Marcus Noland
8 June 2020

North Korea's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is oddly reminiscent of the catastrophic famine that overtook the country in the 1990s. Then as now, the onset and severity of the problem caught the North Korean leadership unawares, and their first response was to deny that a problem existed. Eventually the government reversed course and began exaggerating the distress in order to obtain international aid. This pattern may well occur again in the face of the pandemic.

US-China Economic Relations Under Pressure from COVID-19
By Christopher A. McNally
1 June 2020

With both the US and China facing a long economic slowdown, the bilateral relationship between the globe's two largest economies faces massive challenges. Making matters worse, Washington and Beijing have attempted to divert domestic attention away from their own substantial shortcomings by blaming each other. Given the economic uncertainty, each side has limited leverage to force the other into making concessions. Harsh rhetoric only serves to inflame tensions at the worst possible time. For better or worse, the US and China are locked in a messy economic marriage. A divorce at this time would exact an enormous cost in an already weakened economy.

Better Work Opportunities for Older Adults Would Benefit the South Korean Economy
By Sang-Hyop Lee, Cheol-Kon Park, and Andrew Mason
26 May 2020

Over the next 30 years, the share of South Korea's population age 65 and older is projected to grow from 15 to 40 percent. Given this extreme rate of population aging, Korean policymakers face two critical challenges—ensuring an adequate level of support for the elderly while maintaining robust economic growth. Keeping healthy older people in the labor force can help achieve both these goals.

COVID-19 Crisis Highlights Importance of US-India Ties
By Jagannath Panda
22 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has brought several international issues into sharper focus. One serious concern is the loss of confidence in the decision-making processes of global institutions, particularly in the area of public health. Given the erosion of global leadership, India and the US need to act together to address the challenges to global governance regimes raised by the pandemic.

An Aging Population in Asia Creates Economic Challenges
By Andrew Mason, Sang-Hyop Lee, and Donghyun Park
8 May 2020

Elderly populations in Asia are expanding more quickly than other age groups. This shift in population age structure had two major impacts: Demand for income support for the elderly will rise because their labor income tends to be extremely low; and gross domestic product (GDP) and other aggregate economic indicators will grow more slowly as growth in the effective labor force declines. In countries where government programs play an important role in old-age support, tax rates will have to rise or benefits will have to be curtailed or both—all options with significant political costs.

Japan and South Korea: Two "Like-Minded" States Have Mixed Views on Conflicts in the South China Sea
By Rebecca Strating
24 April 2020

Many argue that China's increasingly aggressive posture in the South China Sea is an attempt to unilaterally alter the US-led regional order, which includes a strong emphasis on freedom of navigation. In response, the US has stressed the importance of "like-minded" states—including Japan and South Korea—in defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and elsewhere. The "like-minded" characterization, however, disguises important differences in attitudes and behavior that could hinder joint efforts to push back against China.

The Impact of AI on  Nuclear Deterrence: China, Russia, and the United States
By Lora Saalman
14 April 2020

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly important component of weapons systems, with both positive and negative implications for nuclear deterrence. Integration of AI into military platforms has the potential to allow weaker nuclear-armed states to reset the imbalance of power, but at the same time it exacerbates fears that stronger states may further solidify their dominance and engage in more provocative actions.China, Russia, and the US are all engaged in developing and integrating AI applications into their military modernization programs, both to enhance their early-warning systems in case of attack and to deploy nuclear or conventional weapons from unmanned platforms.

New Technologies and New Modes of Production Disrupt China's Automotive Industry
By Boy Lüthje
6 April 2020

The development of electric and self-driving vehicles is bringing on a massive restructuring of the global automotive industry. Emerging forms of new and shared mobility undermine the very model of private car ownership that has underpinned the industry since the days of Henry Ford, and China is at the center of this revolutionary change.

New findings on links between urban expansion and viral disease in Vietnam offer lessons for COVID-19
By James H. Spencer, Sumeet Saksena, and Jefferson Fox
1 April 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China, underscores what the public health community has warned about for more than two decades—the risk of viral diseases capable of spreading from animal to human hosts. The first outbreaks of “bird flu” (highly pathogenic avian influenza—HPAI, subtype H5N1)—raised similar concerns 20 years ago, concerns that have persisted with the outbreak of SARS in 2002–2004 and COVID-19 today. A recent study compared information on infrastructure and other aspects of economic development in Vietnam with outbreaks of avian influenza. While this research focuses on avian influenza in Vietnam, the study of links between infrastructure characteristics and new and reemerging health risks has broad applicability, especially given the global importance of today’s rapidly expanding urban landscapes.

Can technology offset the effects of population aging on economic growth? New report from the Asian Development Bank
By East-West Center
27 March 2020

Population aging will leave many countries in Asia increasingly dependent on an aging, and eventually a shrinking, workforce. An aging workforce is often viewed as an impediment to economic growth, but experience from economies in advanced stages of aging suggests that, with the right policies, population aging can induce innovation and adoption of new technologies and so promote productivity and sustained growth.

China is not conducting debt trap diplomacy in the Pacific—at least not yet
By Jonathan Pryke
2 March 2020

A close look at the evidence suggests that China has not been engaged in “debt-trap diplomacy” in the Pacific, at least not so far. Nonetheless, if future Chinese lending continues on a business-as-usual basis, serious problems of debt sustainability will arise, and concerns about quality and corruption are valid.

Alliances under Stress: South Korea, Japan, and the United States
By Marcus Noland
19 November 2019

Rising diplomatic tensions between South Korea and Japan are putting American security interests at risk. Yet the United States government appears detached, unable to facilitate a rapprochement between its two allies. If Japan and South Korea come to regard the United States as an unreliable security partner, both countries may seek to develop independent nuclear capabilities, not an outcome that many would welcome.

Alpine Environments under Threat in Hawai'i and New Zealand
By Abby G. Frazier and Laura Brewington
11 November 2019

Of all the earth's environments, alpine regions are arguably the most vulnerable to climate change. This is especially true for alpine areas on islands. In both Hawai'i and New Zealand, about 11 percent of the land area is above the tree line, the definition of an alpine environment. In addition to climate change, these island ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to damage from human activity and the invasion of alien species.

Belt and Road Initiative: What’s in it for China?
By Anu Anwar
1 November 2019

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays several important roles. Within China, infrastructure projects are designed to integrate the nation's underdeveloped and wealthy regions. They also provide an outlet for Chinese companies’ excess construction capacity, and they contribute to the positive image of Chairman Xi and the Communist Party. Overseas, BRI projects are part of an effort to develop alternative transportation routes for energy and other critical Chinese imports. They also extend the Chinese government’s political and economic influence and enhance China's image as a global leader. Finally, BRI projects expand the use of the Chinese yuan as a global currency.

Strengthening US Relations with ASEAN: A Critical Element of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy
By East-West Center
4 October 2019

With a population of 650 million and an annual GDP of $2.8 trillion, ASEAN is a key component of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. Two visitors to the East-West Center, Kavi Chongkittavorn and Anu Anwar, emphasized that the United States needs to take several steps to strengthen working relations with ASEAN.

New U.S. Policies toward Greenland
By Charles E. Morrison and Mark Nuttal
27 September 2019

In the summer of 2019, Greenland received considerable media attention for two developments: Its large ice sheet saw record rates of surface melt with potentially devastating impacts on the oceans, and Donald Trump suggested that the United States should look into buying the island from Denmark. Although Greenland is not for sale, the Greenlandic government welcomes foreign investment and assistance in meeting the island's socio-economic challenges. The United States can also assist Greenland by improving international scientific cooperation on climate change research, helping Greenlanders adapt to a changing climate, and providing global leadership in addressing and mitigating the effects of climate change.

HIV/AIDS in Asia: We Need to Keep the Focus on Key Population Groups
By Tim Brown and Wiwat Peerapatanapokin
17 September 2019

In 2018, roughly 6 million people were living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific, and 310,000 were newly infected, according to UNAIDS estimates. Given the continued HIV infection levels and limited funds for halting the epidemic, it is more important than ever for prevention efforts to achieve maximum impact with the resources available. This means that programs need to target the key populations most at risk of contracting HIV—female sex workers and their clients, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men.

Plastic and Microplastic Litter: A Serious Problem in the Arctic Ocean
By Sherry P. Broder
28 August 2019

Plastic debris has been found throughout the Arctic marine environment—including shorelines, sea ice, surface and subsurface waters, the deep-sea floor, ocean sediments, and the atmosphere. A study prepared for the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in May 2019—Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Desktop Study on Marine Litter, including Microplastics in the Arctic—identified evidence that marine litter, including microplastics, enters the oceans from coastlines, rivers, tides, and marine sources. The study recommended that formal monitoring programs be established that cover all the sources, pathways, compartments, and impacts of marine litter and microplastics in the Arctic. Scientists do not fully understand how plastics, and particularly microplastics, affect marine animals or the human body, but plastics will remain a matter of great concern, not only in the Arctic, but also for the environment worldwide and for human health.

Interpreting American Public Opinion on International Trade: How Should Asia Respond?
By Marcus Noland
23 August 2019

Since he was elected, President Trump's protectionist moves have been supported by many Americans. There are two broad interpretations of why Americans have become increasingly hostile toward both trade and immigration. The first emphasizes economic distress. The second focuses on cultural factors, specifically anxiety among white Americans about their group’s position within the U.S. and about America’s standing abroad. If the turn toward protectionism is being driven by conventional economic factors, then it is possible that public policy interventions could mitigate the impact of negative trade shocks and support the re-establishment of a political consensus in the U.S. for open trade. If, however, the drivers of public opinion are less-malleable identity or cultural issues, then the scope for constructive policy intervention becomes much less clear.

Taobao Villages: Rural E-Commerce and Low-End Manufacturing in China
By Fan Lulu and Boy Luethje
31 July 2019

Taobao is the leading Chinese online shopping and e-commerce website, founded by the Alibaba Group. In 2018, there were 3,202 "Taobao villages" in 24 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions of China. Taobao merchants sell clothing and other consumer items, mostly obtained from small local factories. Most Taobao manufacturing firms operate informally and do not necessarily adhere to basic labor and safety standards. The current lack of governance raises challenges for trade unions and government entities tasked with ensuring the rights and welfare of workers. If the negative aspects related to lack of oversight can be addressed, however, Taobao villages could provide a promising development model for rural and remote areas, not only in China but also in other countries of Asia.

Jakarta’s ‘Great Garuda’ Project: Profits for Re-emerging Elites in the Name of Climate Change
By Wilmar Salim, Keith Bettinger, and Micah Fisher
21 June 2019

Jakarta has faced chronic flooding for years, primarily because the land is sinking due to unsustainable groundwater extraction and excessive building and construction loads. A re-emerging development coalition that includes government officials, private developers, and international investors who were active during the Suharto years is proposing a massive scheme that will include a giant sea wall, several large fresh-water drainage lagoons, and 17 artificial islands. The plan could greatly increase the city’s vulnerability to climate change and saddle the government with an expensive and problematic white elephant for decades to come.

Tree Planting and Cooking Fuel in Vietnam: A Case of Unintended Consequences
By Sumeet Saksena, Chinh Cong Tran, Jefferson Fox
24 May 2019

Vietnam’s successful tree-planting program seems to be slowing the transition from wood to cleaner, healthier cooking fuels such as liquified natural gas. Rural families apparently find it difficult to switch to a cleaner cooking fuel because supplies of wood are plentiful while the poor development of roads and markets means that natural gas is simply not available. Vietnam's experience suggests that when governments encourage farmers to plant trees they should consider reducing the possibility of negative health effects by making investments in rural infrastructure at the same time.

India's Response to China's Proposed "Asia for Asians"
By Jagannath Panda
20 May 2019

The two primary objectives of India’s recent dealings with China have been to resist Beijing’s protectionist tendencies within the global order and to reform global financial institutions to favor emerging economies. Given these guiding principles, India has chosen to participate in some Chinese economic initiatives, such as the AIIB, but not in others, such as the BRI. New Delhi continues to evaluate each opportunity for collaboration with China on a case-by-case basis.

New East-West Center Report Reveals Attitudes of Younger Okinawans Toward US Bases
By East-West Center
19 April 2019

A new East-West Center report on the attitudes of younger Okinawans toward the islands’ US military bases, authored by former East-West Center President Charles E. Morrison and East-West Center representative in Okinawa Daniel Chinen, has found that many have mixed feeling about the bases and are often more concerned with other issues such as jobs, the economy, and the possibility of natural disasters.

The Farming Sector and the Environmental Crisis in China
By Joshua Muldavin
5 April 2019

Environmental problems are a focus of popular unrest within China and concern about the "China threat" in the rest of the world. Although pollution created by automobiles, heavy industry, and coal-fired power plants captures most of the public attention, many of China's rural areas are also plagued by an environmental crisis. The environmental problems faced by China's farmers stem directly from a model of economic growth built on the destructive extraction of natural resources, massive capital accumulation, and the uprooting of local populations. These problems are not likely to be resolved by free markets or the top-down importation of technology from the West. Rather, the plight of China's farmers and rural environment is a wake-up call for us all.

Global Warming in Round Numbers—Toward a Zero-Carbon Economy
By Michael A. Tamor
11 March 2019

Evidence of rising global temperatures is overwhelming. Likewise, the evidence is clear that people are causing most of this rise through their use of fossil fuels. Yet people are not behaving as if they feel threatened by the crisis that climate models predict. Two important arguments can cut through this confusion—first, that global warming is real and humans are causing it, mainly through carbon emissions, and second, that we can achieve a carbon-neutral economy without giving up the lifestyle we enjoy.

The Economic Impact of Population Aging: How Should Policymakers Respond?
By Andrew Mason and Sang-Hyop Lee
1 March 2019

The economic impacts of population aging vary widely from country to country for three main reasons: populations are aging much more rapidly in some countries than in others; the elderly consume more in some countries; and the financial needs of elderly populations are supported in different ways.

Japan Considers a National Economic Council
By Marcus Noland
5 February 2019

Japanese policymakers are considering formation of a National Economic Council to encourage strategic thinking and better integrate economic and foreign policy. Efforts to increase centralized power, may be a fraught process or even engender pushback, however.

In Myanmar, Conflicts over Land and Natural Resources Block the Peace Process
By Kevin M. Woods
29 January 2019

As the Myanmar government embarks on a national peace process, questions loom large over who has ownership rights over what resources and how these resources can be shared more equitably with the local and wider population. Conflict over the control of land and natural resources is particularly pressing in Myanmar’s resource-rich ethnic territories near the borders with China and Thailand. A more robust, accountable, and equitable system for managing resource wealth in these areas is critical if the country is to achieve a lasting peace.

WeChat and the Growth of China’s Indigenous Internet
By Eric Harwit
11 January 2019

Between the beginning of 2013 and the middle of 2015, the number of WeChat users in China more than tripled, and by March 2018, WeChat had passed the 1 billion active monthly user mark. WeChat’s popular features will continue to attract Chinese users, but at the expense of isolating them within small virtual communities and keeping them detached from global communications media.

Protectionist Trade Policy Dampens US Economy and Risks Conflict with Asia
By Marcus Noland
8 January 2019

The Trump administration's trade policy is likely to risk conflict with US trading partners in Asia and slow down productivity and income growth in the US.

Purposeful Engagement: Getting to Where We Want to Be with North Korea
By Marcus Noland
21 December 2018

Transformative engagement, which might lock in a permanent alteration in North Korea's military stance, will require careful design and political commitment on the part of South Korea and North Korea's other foreign counterparts.

Silicon Valley’s China Paradox
By East-West Center
1 November 2018

In an annual China Town Hall event held at the East-West Center, analyst Matt Sheehan listed three important questions from the early phases of China’s relationship with Silicon Valley that have been turned on their heads: “How will the global internet change China’s authoritarian politics?” has become “How will China’s authoritarian politics change the internet?”; “Can China thrive without Google?” has become “Can Google thrive without China?”; and “Can Chinese companies innovate under government censorship?” has become “Does government support give Chinese companies an unfair advantage?”

How Should the US React to China’s Political and Economic Transformation?
By East-West Center
24 October 2018

China’s astonishing rise over the past few decades, both in terms of economic growth and international influence, represents the most fundamental shift in the global balance of power in more than a century. In a Distinguished Lecture at the East-West Center, Christopher K. Johnson, senior advisor and Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, described how China has changed under the leadership of Xi Jinping and suggested how the United States—and the rest of the world—might best adapt to this new reality.

Is There a Future for Economic Integration in East and Southeast Asia?
By Choong Yong Ahn
10 October 2018

The rapid growth of many East and Southeast Asian economies has been fueled primarily by exports to the United States and other economies outside the region, but the financial crises of 1997 and 2008 ushered in a broader concept of regional economic cooperation. Several moves toward economic integration led to two free-trade initiatives—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). After the US exit from the TPP, however, progress on both trade deals appears to have slowed down. Any long-term outlook for East and Southeast Asian economic integration will be greatly affected by the bilateral relationship between the United States and China.

Rubber Has Replaced Many of Southeast Asia's Natural Forests
By Kaspar Hurni and Jefferson Fox
19 September 2018

A study of data derived from satellite images tracked land use in Southeast Asia from 2003 to 2014. The study focused on an area more than twice the size of France where land-use change has been most dramatic—all of Cambodia and Laos, most of Vietnam, northeast Thailand, Shan State in Myanmar, and Xishuangbanna Prefecture in southern Yunnan, China. During the 11-year period, the area planted with rubber more than quadrupled, so that by 2014, rubber accounted for 8 percent of total land cover in the region. Most of this expansion came at the expense of the region's native forests.

As Rubber Plantations Expand in the Highlands of Southeast Asia, What Happens to Local Farmers?
By Jefferson Fox, Jean Christophe Castella, and Kaspar Hurni
15 August 2018

What happens to local farmers in the highlands of Southeast Asia as the land they cultivated for centuries is transformed into rubber plantations? In China, Thailand, and Vietnam, many have been able to grow rubber, and some have become wealthy. In Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, by contrast, traditional farmers are being squeezed out by large companies. Government policies and programs appear to make all the difference in who benefits from expanded rubber production and who does not.

Opium, Rubber, and a Land Grab on Myanmar's Border with China
By Kevin Woods
8 August 2018

Northern Myanmar's Kachin State, which borders China, has been splintered for decades by fighting between ethnic-based armed rebel groups and the national military. Over the past 10 years, the government has increased control over the region by allocating large tracts of land to private businesses—often with ties to the military or to favored local armed groups—ostensibly to grow rubber. These "land grabs" have often been financed in part by the Chinese government under the guise of a program to reduce the production of opium poppies.

China's Push into Artificial Intelligence—How Should the United States Respond?
By Dieter Ernst
1 May 2018

Cooperation between artificial intelligence (AI) sectors in China and the United States would yield substantial benefits, not only for both economies but worldwide. In the absence of constructive government leadership, it is up to global AI communities—in research institutions and companies—to establish alternative channels for international AI governance and other forms of cooperation.

North Pacific Scientists, Policymakers Focus on the Arctic
By Charles E. Morrison
12 April 2018

Among nations of the North Pacific, three important developments have spurred growing interest in the Arctic. The first is global warming, opening up the prospect of shorter shipping routes between Asia and Europe but also exacerbating concerns about the effects of climate change on fragile Arctic environments. The second is rapid economic growth, triggering a huge increase in energy needs that might be met by Arctic resources. The third is new technologies in ship design and in exploration, drilling, and mining equipment, stoking hopes to unlock Arctic sea routes and exploit the region’s untapped energy resources.

A "Golden Era" for Mining in the Pacific Ocean? Perhaps Not Just Yet
By Allen L. Clark
6 April 2018

Deep-sea exploration projects have identified valuable deposits of gold, silver, copper, nickel, and cobalt across the Pacific—both in the open ocean under international jurisdiction and in the territorial waters of Pacific Island nations. Several nations have entered into exploration contracts with international companies, and in 2011, Papua New Guinea granted Nautilus Minerals a lease to begin mining copper and gold from a seabed vent in the Bismark Sea. Environmental risks are poorly understood, however, and a fierce public outcry has put the project on hold.

Government Programs Have Begun to Reduce Maternal Deaths in Lao PDR: Now What Comes Next?
By Jonna P. Estudillo
30 March 2018

Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) has the highest maternal mortality ratio in Southeast Asia, with 197 women dying in 2015 from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth for every 100,000 live births. Most of these deaths could be prevented. Mortality is highest among women who are poor, who live in remote rural areas, who have little or no education, and who belong to ethnic minorities. To save women's lives, the Laotian government needs to increase funding to the health sector, train and employ more healthcare professionals, and provide more supplies and equipment to clinics and hospitals.

Follow that Fish: Assessing the Scope and Value of Nearshore Fishing in Hawai'i
By East-West Center
23 March 2018

Three-fourths of Hawai'i's reef fish species are seriously depleted. To preserve and build back these populations, government policymakers and community leaders need to know how many fish are actually harvested every year. Seaking at the East-West Center, Kirsten L.L. Oleson, University of Hawai‘i Professor of Ecological Economics, described a multi-year research project designed to fill this information gap. Reported sales account for $3 million of the annual nearshore fish catch, but this research estimates that another $7-$13 million is undocumented. Interventions to preserve Hawai'i's fish should include better monitoring of catch and post-catch distribution and improved consumer education.

What Happens to the Natural Environment When a Rural Community Joins the Global Economy? A Case Study from Nepal
By Jefferson Fox
16 March 2018

When young people leave the village, the immediate result is a labor shortage that affects both farming and the natural environment. In principle, remittances from migrants could be used to hire labor and purchase agricultural inputs, but scholars have generally found that remittances are seldom invested in the farming sector. Developments over 30 years in one village of Nepal's Middle Hills region illustrate the impact of out-migration on farming and the environment.

Jokowi and Duterte: Do Local Politics Apply?
By Ehito Kimura and Erik Martinez Kuhonta
12 February 2018

So far, performance of the two populist leaders in Indonesia and the Philippines suggests that local experience does not necessarily equal national success. Jokowi introduced national healthcare and infrastructure development but compromised his reformist ideals. Duterte conducted a killing spree that has not brought law and order.

Former US Special Envoy: Beneath the Rhetoric on North Korea, Humanitarian Aid and Rights Advocacy Are Still Important Tools
By East-West Center
29 November 2017

In today's dangerous climate, the United States ought to use every option available to engage North Korea in a positive way. While North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches provoke threats, private charitable organizations in the United States provide a small stream of health, education, and humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people. In addition, American particpation in international pressure on human rights issues is one of the few ways the United States can foster change.

How Will China's Industrial Modernization Plan Affect Workers?
By Boy Luethje
17 October 2017

China has developed a master plan to transform its vast manufacturing base from low-cost export production to highly automated advanced manufacturing. Serious questions remain, however, about the future of China's large, low-wage labor force.

Will Population Aging Squeeze Government Budgets? A Look at Japan and the United States
By East-West Center
2 October 2017

To reduce the pressure on government budgets associated with population aging, Andrew Mason of the East-West Center and Ronald Lee of the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California at Berkeley recommend policies to: 1) encourage older workers who are in good health to delay retirement; 2) help working-age adults accumulate assets they can rely on in old age; and 3) improve the job prospects of young people by providing education, training, and capital investment.

It's Time to Hurry History on Women's Economic Equality
By Amanda Ellis
25 August 2017

An estimated 70 percent of women-owned small enterprises in developing countries lack access to the financing they need to expand their business, create jobs, and contribute to economic growth. And yet recent research demonstrates that a whopping $28 trillion could be added to the global economy by 2025 if all countries bridged the gender gap. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde agrees that “the focus on gender equality is an ‘economic no-brainer.’”

New Priorities, Challenges for America's Pacific Military Command
By East-West Center
15 August 2017

The United States Pacific Command, or PACOM, controls the strongest military force in the Asia Pacific region, making it perhaps the region’s most important organization. Based in Hawai‘i, PACOM describes its mission as defending US interests in a geographic area that encompasses more than half of the earth’s surface and population. PACOM needs to manage complex relationships with American allies and determine how best to stand up to China’s growing challenge to US dominance in the region.