Rise of Environmental NGOs in China: Official Ambivalence and Contested Messages

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 8, December 2013.

By Ruge Gao

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

Figure 1. Registered NGOs (Civil Organizations) in China 1988 to 2009. Data source: Xu Ying and Zhao Litao, 2013.

With China’s impressive economic growth over the past few decades has come an environmental cost that reaches from the countryside to the capital.[1]  While some Chinese economists believe the lack of environmental regulation encourages uninhibited growth, the Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency and State Statistics Bureau have produced statistics that indicate that environmental damages have decreased growth by three percent.[2] Triggered most prominently by the 1998 Yangtze River Floods, the number of Chinese environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) began growing around 2000 and experienced explosive growth within the last decade. According to Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs statistics,[3] in 2008 China had approximately 212,000 social groups, with 5,330 being of the environmental variety. Many Chinese ENGOs are in the public eye, but must simultaneously satisfy international donors and local government officials in order to survive. Continue reading

Political Risk to Investment in Iran: Sanctions, Inflation, Protectionism, War, Bonyads, and the IRGC

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 2013.

Figure 1: Foreign Investment in Iran and its Neighboring Countries, March 19, 2012-March 19, 2013. Data Source: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran News.

Figure 1: Foreign Investment in Iran and its Neighboring Countries, March 19, 2012-March 19, 2013. Data Source: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran News.

By Reza Yeganehshakib

Despite a tumultuous recent political history that includes revolution, war and sanctions, relations between Iran and the West are improving and Western investors are increasingly interested. But, Iran’s politics cause sanctions, and the economy suffers from inflation. Protectionist laws are on the books, and in some cases economic crimes are punishable by death. Regardless of warming relations with the West, Iran has in the past reneged on its agreements, and war is still a risk with non-Western bordering countries and regional powers. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has nationalized foreign investments in the recent past, and the politically powerful revolutionary foundations known as Bonyads control large segments of the most lucrative investment sectors. Continue reading

Legal Services Reform in China: Limitations, Policy Perspectives, and Strategies for the Future

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Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.

By Julian Yang, Esq.

Précis: Mr. Julian Yang, a practicing lawyer and arbitrator in Beijing, China, describes problems with the Chinese legal system, including bias by courts, corruption, a culture of litigation, and lack of sufficient numbers of lawyers to satisfy market demand. He argues for legal services reform in China, including: 1) allowing foreign lawyers to address Chinese courts, 2) allowing foreign lawyers to practice commercial law, 3) increasing consultation of lawyers in contractual law to avoid litigation, 4) use of arbitration to decrease the quantity of litigation, 5) increasing the rights of Chinese lawyers, such as rights to gather evidence, and 6) increasing the rights of clients, for example the right to freely choose and meet with lawyers without police scrutiny. Mr. Yang argues that these reforms will increase the influence of China abroad, improve legal services in China, and provide a test as to whether greater political reform would be possible without loss of political stability.

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Chinese Political and Economic Influence in the Philippines: Implications for Alliances and the South China Sea Dispute

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 2013.

By Anders S. Corr, Ph.D., and Priscilla A. Tacujan, Ph.D.

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.

Figure 1: China and Philippines: Military Expenditure and Energy Use, 1989-2011. Shortly after most US forces left the Philippines in 1991-2, Chinese military expenditure and activity in the South China Sea increased dramatically. Data source: Correlates of War Project.

The Philippine government is constitutionally required to craft an independent foreign policy, but it must accelerate cooperation with foreign powers to do so effectively.  China’s growing militarization and energy consumption are fast out-pacing the meager military spending and energy consumption of the Philippines (See Figure 1). This makes China, more so than the Philippines, willing to risk military conflict over disputed energy resources, fishing areas, and transportation routes in the South China Sea.

Since the People Power Revolution of 1986, the Philippines has had a comparatively weak, and sometimes fractious, alliance with the United States, Japan and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean). China, on the other hand, has increased its political influence in the Philippines over the last twenty-five years, through both economic means, and threatening military behavior. China would prefer prolonged bilateral negotiations with the Philippines, as with other small countries, while gradually encroaching on maritime territory. The minor concessions or royalty payments offered by China are in no way commensurate with the energy resources of the South China Sea (also known as the West Philippine Sea). The cheapest approach for China, though one costly in terms of reputation, has been to compromise individual Philippine politicians in exchange for turning a blind eye to encroachments. The belief of China is that such encroachments may cause minor discomfort in Chinese foreign affairs in the short-run, but will eventually be accepted and legitimized as fait accompli. Control over lucrative shipping, fishing, and energy fields will result.

The Philippines could extract far greater ownership rights and royalty payments on the international market by keeping Chinese corruption and military threats at bay. The latter strategy requires political fortitude and strengthened alliance cooperation with the United States, Japan, and Asean. The Philippines can become a leading partner in a developing Asian alliance system[1] geared to contain China and safeguard an UNCLOS determination on the East and South China Seas, but to do this requires safeguards against Chinese influence in Philippine politics. Continue reading

Unfounded Worries of a Sino-Japanese War

Saber-rattling by China over the Senkaku Islands, most recently in the form of locking weapons on a Japanese ship and helicopter, have led some analysts to warn of war between the two East Asian countries. These analysts go further to question whether the US treaty commitment to Japan’s territorial integrity would hold in this case (Wall Street Journal).

Such warnings are overblown. Militarized jostling of this sort is normal for low-intensity territorial disputes. All parties — including China — recognize that war would be counterproductive. China regularly activates media coverage with its mildly belligerent actions in order to bolster and maintain its long-term claim to the islands should the case go to an international court in future. Japan is a key US ally and trading partner. There is no question that were war to occur between China and Japan, the United States would defend its ally.