A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘southeast asia

[ISL] “China building artificial islands in the Pacific, stoking tensions with neighbours”

The National Post‘s Matthew Fisher notes how China is, among other things, building artificial islands in the South China Sea to support its claimed maritime boundaries against Southeast Asian neighbours. Remarkable process, dubious goals.

To support part of its brazen — some might say preposterous — claim to about 85 per cent of the South China Sea, Beijing is building artificial islands on tiny outcroppings, atolls and reefs in hotly disputed waters in the Spratly Archipelago.

To do so, the Chinese have been using formidable seaborne dredges to haul up huge amounts of sand and coral from the ocean floor, and bulldozing what is brought to the surface onto at least six of the far-flung lumps of rock.

The growing outposts are part of a chain of more than 700 islets, none of which rises more than four metres above sea level. The string of promontories is closest to the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, in that order. But it is China, with a coastline more distant than any of the others, that has seized and is expanding on scraps of what little high ground there is.

[. . .]

To back what it says belongs to China, Beijing has been expanding islets in waters that are clearly within the 200-mile (320-km) exclusive zone of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. It has also sent its coast guard to prevent Chinese boats being arrested for illegal fishing and to warn off fishing boats and sailors from countries with territorial claims.

The Chinese actions seriously complicate an already murky legal situation. There is no clear definition or consensus in maritime law about when or if a piece of rock that rises just above the surface can become part of a country’s sovereign territory through expansion by artificial means.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 10, 2015 at 9:58 pm

[LINK] “In Myanmar, white elephants are prized symbols of rulers”

Nathan Vanderklippe’s article in The Globe and Mail looks at how the so-called white elephant has become a vital element in statecraft in mainland Southeast Asia, particularly in Burma but also in Thailand.

White elephants hold power by virtue of a history possibly rooted in Vedic Hinduism, dating back more than two millennia, “where Indra, the king of the gods, is always depicted as seated upon exactly such a beast,” says Rupert Arrowsmith, a cultural historian at the University College London who has lived in Myanmar, where he has twice been ordained a monk.

Later, the mother of Gautama Siddhartha – Buddha – dreamed that a white elephant had entered her womb before giving birth, extending the animal’s influence to Buddhism. Burmese kings took “master of the white elephant” as one of their titles and the animals were afforded every luxury. They suckled human breasts as babies and as adults were ornamented with diamonds, kept in gold houses and fed from golden troughs.

Having them in place was among the most important events in the inauguration of a new capital. Their death, too, had great portent. Colonialists rooted out white elephants along with monarchies, since the animals were potent royal symbols.

In Myanmar, royal rule ended in 1885, and the tradition was only recently revived. Author Rena Pederson writes that military strongman Than Shwe, in power from 1992 to 2011, “desperately wanted one of the power symbols to signify his own kingly rule.” Mr. Arrowsmith speculates it might have to do with Than Shwe seeking legitimacy for his new capital, Naypyidaw, built at the cost of billions of dollars on an empty plain.

What seems clear is the collection of white elephants was a deliberate act. In 2008, Myanmar’s government created a White Elephant Capture and Training Group charged with the nationwide collection effort.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On Goa dreaming of being Singapore

Outlook India’s Vivek Menezes writes about how the Indian state of Goa, once a Portuguese enclave, has flirted with the idea of being a Singapore-like city-state.

At that very beginning of decolonisation in Asia, the Portuguese dictator Salazar found a lot to like in what was happening in the British-ruled port city — its new Legislative Council included only six (later nine) elected seats out of twenty-five, and only British subjects were eligible to vote. Meanwhile the colonial system remained dominant. Salazar figured this an excellent model for the four-centuries-old Estado da India Portuguesa.

Even after the Council yielded to a fully-elected Assembly, and the UK Parliament passed the 1958 State of Singapore Act accepting the establishment of an independent state, Salazar still looked for a Singapore-type solution to the increasingly thorny Goa crisis, as Nehru and Krishna Menon grew progressively restive about the last colonial “pimple disfiguring the face of India”. The Portuguese dangled promise of a NATO port at Mormugao to his allies, and it took a Russian veto to stymie the US/UK-led United Nations resolution demanding withdrawal of Indian troops after their mercifully bloodless takeover in 1961.

In the immediate aftermath of Indian annexation, the Goan freedom fighter (he famously got into a fistfight with the colonial Governor General) António Anastásio Bruto da Costa led a group demanding “Goan Goa” with “full sovereignty” to be achieved via “natural right to a plebiscite.” This “third force” also looked to Singapore as a model of what might be possible in Goa.

With those political questions resolved, visions of Singapore continue dancing in the minds of a very wide range of contemporary observers of India’s smallest state. As India Today — the national media outlet that gets Goa most consistently wrong — ludicrously put it in 2013, “the steady march of urbanisation, experts predict, will turn tiny Goa into a Singapore-like city state miraculously untouched by the woes of overpopulation and urbanisation.”

Why these supercharged fantasies for famously laid-back Goa? Perhaps the promise of manageable size, with per-capita GDP and human development statistics dramatically higher than the neighbours? Both Singapore and Goa are centuries-old pockets of globalisation, with relatively cosmopolitan leanings. If it could happen there, it could logically follow that it can also happen here.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2015 at 10:11 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers old friends.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the search for extraterrestrial civilizations using infrared astronomy, concentrating on Dyson spheres and the like.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze has two links to papers looking at unusual brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the flora of late Permian Antarctica.
  • Language Log notes a potentially problematic effort at Bangladesh to put hundreds of thousands of Bengali words online with Google, ready for translators. What of quality control, Victor Mair asks?
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money comments on the Burmese slaves in the Thai fisheries and looks at the desperate last efforts of Confederates to persist.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that air conditioning really didn’t drive much interstate migration in the United States.
  • The Planetary Society Blog observes discoveries and anticipation for more at Ceres and Pluto.
  • Savage Minds looks to the example of Lesotho to point out that giving people land title by no means necessarily helps them out of poverty.
  • Torontoist looks at the Prism music video prize.

[DM] On Jollibee, the Philippines, and diaspora economics

I have a brief post up at Demography Matters ruminating on the expansion of Jollibee internationally as a marker of the growth of Filipino diaspora populations.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2015 at 3:56 am

[URBAN NOTE] On the imminent arrival of Jollibee in Toronto

blogTO noted yesterday that, as promised back in 2013, Filipino fast food chain Jollibee will be establishing an outpost in Toronto.

For anyone familiar with the cuisine of the Philippines, this is big news: Jollibee, a Manila-based fast food chain that’s widely seen as the country’s answer to McDonalds, is planning to open a restaurant in Toronto. The company, which already has about 30 stores in the U.S., has chosen Toronto for their first Canadian store, with their CFO saying they hope to be open here within the year.

For those previously unacquainted with the chain: The menu spans North American fast-food classics with a few local favourites. (Their mascot, naturally, is a jolly bee.)

Part of a large overseas expansion plan to set up restautants in the Middle East, Europe, and Japan, this seems to be the chain’s second attempt to expand overseas. Robin Levinson’s February 2014 Canadian Business article notes how the first push into the North American market was flawed, trying to compete head-on with established giants, and suggests that targeting urban centres with large Filipino populations is part of Jollibee’s North American strategy.

When its first location opens here next year, Canadians will finally be able to enjoy the distinctive pineapple-topped Aloha burger that has helped make Jollibee the Philippines’ largest fast-food chain. But the restaurant took its time expanding globally, having opened in the U.S. 15 years before considering coming north of the border.

Founded in 1975 as a single ice cream parlour just outside downtown Manila, Jollibee is today the flagship brand of a family-run empire, spanning 2,700 stores and nine brands around the world.

Jose Miñana, who heads U.S. operations for the company, says Jollibee initially limited its expansion to just those areas with large Filipino populations. But the company later decided to aggressively pursue “mainstream” clientele, opening branches in further-flung locations and tweaking recipes to cater to North American tastes.

[. . .]

After opening its doors in Toronto, Jollibee hopes to expand to other cities in Canada—like Vancouver and Winnipeg—with high Filipino populations.

Unlike in the Philippines, where Jollibee is a franchise, all of its North American stores are company-owned. Although franchises would allow Jollibee to expand faster, Miñana says that’s not the point: “We want to enter there with the Jollibee brand the way we want it done—really right.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2015 at 1:03 am

[LINK] “Coffee Harvest in Indonesia Expanding to Record on Rainfall”

I like coffee. From Bloomberg’s Rusmana and Eko Listiyorini:

Coffee farmers in Indonesia, the world’s third-biggest producer of the robusta variety used by Nestle SA, will probably harvest a record crop in the season starting April after rains boosted yields.

Production may increase 18 percent to 650,000 metric tons from 550,000 tons a year earlier, the median of five trader estimates compiled by Bloomberg shows. That would exceed the all-time high of 630,000 tons in 2009-2010 and matched in 2012-2013, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

The unprecedented harvest in Indonesia will add to global supply, potentially pressuring prices. A survey this month showed production could increase to a record in Vietnam, the largest robusta grower. Crop prospects have also improved in Brazil, the second-biggest robusta producer and the top supplier of arabica beans favored by Starbucks Corp.

“There’s fresh optimism that output will rise,” Theng Hong Sioe, a deputy chairman at the Association of Indonesian Coffee Exporters and Industries, said by phone on March 19. “The weather is quite favorable, it’s not too wet or too dry. Hopefully there’s no adverse weather that could hurt the crop.”

[. . .]

The global harvest will expand 7 percent to 152.8 million bags in 2015-2016 and cut the shortage to 1.4 million bags from 8.9 million bags this year, Volcafe Ltd. said last month. Output in Indonesia may climb to 10.9 million bags, it said. A bag weighs 60 kilograms, or 132 pounds.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 24, 2015 at 10:53 pm


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