The other B&R

Proposed Long Thanh International Airport in Vietnam

Proposed Long Thanh International Airport in Vietnam

China’s Belt and Road infrastructure drive is still in high gear, but when the pedal hits the metal, Japan appears to be kicking China to the curb in Southeast Asia:

(Bloomberg) — Japan is still winning the Southeast Asia infrastructure race against China, with pending projects worth almost one and a half times its rival, according to the latest data from Fitch Solutions.

Japanese-backed projects in the region’s six biggest economies — Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — are valued at $367 billion, the figures show. China’s tally is $255 billion. […]

The latest Fitch figures, provided in an emailed response to Bloomberg, count only pending projects — those at the stages of planning, feasibility study, tender and currently under construction. Fitch data in February 2018 put Japan’s investment at $230 billion and China’s at $155 billion.

Vietnam is by far the biggest focus for Japan’s infrastructure involvement, with pending projects worth $209 billion — more than half of Japan’s total. That includes a $58.7 billion high-speed railway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Those are pending projects, mind you – they may not actually happen. Like China’s nuclear ambitions along the B&R:

China could build as many as 30 overseas nuclear reactors through its involvement in the “Belt and Road” initiative over the next decade, a senior industry official told a meeting of China’s political advisory body this week.

Wang Shoujun, a standing committee member of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), told delegates on Wednesday that China needed to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by “Belt and Road” and give more financial and policy support to its nuclear sector.

Stay tuned…

The lamps go out in Cambodia

A friend writes in Foreign Policy Journal:

The End of Nominal Democracy in Cambodia

By Antonio Graceffo | Sep 15, 2017

Until recently, most Cambodia observers would have tentatively applied the term “democracy” to the country’s political system. While general elections are held every five years, the ruling party always wins. Effectively, the country has been a one-party system since 1979, and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has been documented as using manipulation and bully tactics (including murder), to maintain its firm grip on power.[1]

Problem is, the opposition party started making serious gains in the 2013 general elections and then in the 2017 local elections. And that wouldn’t do at all:

However, unwilling to relinquish the CPP’s grip on power, Hun Sen in late August 2017 began an intense campaign of clamping down on Cambodia’s nominal democracy.

To this end, Prime Minister Hun Sen has begun restricting freedom of speech and quelling potential voices of opposition. The opposition leader, Kem Sokha was arrested for treason in late August, with the CPP accusing him of participating in a US backed plot to overthrow the government.[7] […]

The Cambodian Daily, one of two major English language newspapers, that was renowned for its excellent coverage of the country’s political situation, has been shut down under accusations of tax evasion.[9]

(More on the closing of The Cambodia Daily here.)

Additionally, the Information Ministry has closed down 19 radio stations, including Voice of Democracy (VOD), Voice of America (VOA), and Radio Free Asia (RFA). The Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan has accused VOD director Pa Nguon Teang of being a foreign agent.[10] Additionally, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ordered the closure of the US backed National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the expulsion of its staff.[11]

In just over a week, Graceffo writes, “Hun Sen’s government has set Cambodian democracy back decades and cemented the CPP as the dominant force of Cambodian politics.”

And the bruised, staggering “end of history” thesis takes another solid punch in the mouth.