Research on the East-West Wire


In 2017, the East-West Wire, a long-standing media service provided by the East-West Center, increased coverage of findings and commentary from East-West Center researchers, visitors, and colleagues from the University of Hawaii and other research organizations. Produced by the Center's Research Program, the Wires are two-page summaries that cover a wide range of topics. Many recent Wires are based on presentations made in the Research Program's Noon Seminar Series.

The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any part or all of the Wire content may be used by media with attribution to the East-West Center or the person quoted. Access to the full list of East-West Wire articles is available in the News section of the East-West Center website at East-West Wire.

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Titles in this series

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. How the United States—and the rest of the world—adapts to this new reality will fundamentally shape the evolution of the global order going forward.

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. 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.