South China Sea

  • Argentina is playing a game of chicken with NML, saying: we are prepared to go as far as the possibility of default not to pay you. Given that, how are we going to settle this case?
  • Oil majors including ExxonMobil and BP started evacuating staff from Iraq as Sunni militants battled for control of the north’s main oil facility.
  • China has been moving sand onto reefs and shoals to add several new islands to the Spratly archipelago, in what foreign officials say is a new effort to expand the Chinese footprint in the South China Sea.
  • Anti-Brussels sentiment in Hungary is manifesting itself in a fight over home-brewed palinka.

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By Gideon Rachman
Atlanta coined the catchphrase that it was the city that was “too busy to hate”. During the past 30 years, the countries of Asia have informally adopted that slogan and transferred it to a whole continent. Since the end of the 1970s, the biggest Asian nations have forgotten about fighting each other – and concentrated on the serious business of getting rich. The results have been spectacular. But there are now alarming signs that East Asia’s giants are pursuing dangerous new priorities, and diverting their energy into angry nationalism and territorial disputes.

Protesters holding Vietnamese flags attempt to push down the front gate of a factory in Bien Hoa (Getty)

By Ben Bland

Prompted by anger over Beijing’s assertive stance in the South China Sea, the deadly anti-Chinese riots sweeping through Vietnam’s industrial parks have highlighted just how important the country has become to global supply chains.

This has been good for Vietnam too.

With the crucial banking and state-owned enterprise sectors hamstrung by huge debts and a lack of reform since Vietnam started overheating in 2008, it is the thriving manufacturing sector that has kept the economy ticking along, accounting for 17 percent of GDP and generating much-needed foreign exchange.

What’s behind this manufacturing boom? Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Ukraine is a distraction. Syria is a distraction. For believers in America’s “pivot to Asia”, the centre of Barack Obama’s foreign policy must remain the region of the future – Asia. The pivoters will be delighted that this week – despite a raging crisis with Russia – the president is embarking on a four-nation tour of Asia, beginning in Japan.

♦ The FT’s partner charity for this year’s Seasonal Appeal is World Child Cancer – Shawn Donnan and Andrew Schipani look at the work it has been doing in Colombia.
♦ The FT’s Jamil Anderlini explains why London gains little from trying to please Beijing.
♦ As territorial disputes escalate in the waters around China, the Chinese government has been asserting ownership over thousands of shipwrecks in the South China Sea, which it says have been in its territorial waters for centuries.
♦ David Sanger at the New York Times analyses the row over the disputed islands: “As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.”
A geopolitical tug of war is pulling Ukraine to the brink of upheaval once more.
German Christmas markets are not what they used to be – gifts and wholesome foods are being replaced by fatty foods and tacky fairground rides.  Read more

♦ The FT’s Neil Buckley interviews Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most famous prisoner – a former oligarch who dared to cross Vladimir Putin.
♦ Trade has broken from a 30-year trend of growing at twice the speed of the global economy, pushing economists to wonder whether there has been a fundamental shift in world business.
♦ The Palestinians have called on countries to tell companies linked to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to withdraw immediately because the settlements violate international law.
♦ Mark Carney says the Bank of England is open for business and the days when the Old Lady preached the perils of “moral hazard” without due regard to financial pressures are well and truly over.
♦ The allegation by the German government that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has set off recriminations behind the scenes in the US.
♦ The NYT looks at the friction point between the Philiippines and China in the South China Sea, reporting from a ship at the dividing line.
♦ Formula 1 is considered entertainment, not a sport, by the Indian government, while chess is considered to be a sporting event.
♦ There is some disbelief over Al-Sisi mania.
♦ Tony Blair in the the Balkans to deliver some “deliverology”.
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The Xi-Obama summit
Later this week, the presidents of the United States and China will hold a two-day summit, the first since Xi Jinping’s elevation to the top job in China. It comes as US-China tensions are fairly high on a number of issues, from cyber attacks to territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. So what are both sides hoping to achieve? Gideon Rachman is joined by James Kynge, editor of FT China Confidential, and Geoff Dyer,who was a Beijing correspondent before his current assignment in Washington.

By Gideon Rachman

Everybody agrees that economic and political power is moving east. Barack Obama has constructed a whole new foreign policy around this theory – the “pivot to Asia”. But, as I assemble my annual list of the five most important events of the year, it is striking how events in Europe and the Middle East still dominate.

This is what got us chatting today:

David Pilling

China’s definition of what constitutes its “core interest” appears to be spreading. Such interests used to be confined to a few areas, about which the Communist party would brook absolutely no dissenting view. These included its national security, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tibet, where there is a strong separatist element, quite obviously forms part of China’s definition of territorial integrity. So does the island of Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, and now a self-governed democracy. Beijing has made clear that, if Taiwan were ever to declare formal independence, it would invade. More recently, the term has been applied to Xinjiang, the huge area of western China that has been the scene of clashes between local Muslims and Han Chinese. Read more