Border Economic Zones Linking China with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam: Categorization and Assessment of Sustainability

I attended the Wenzao Southeast Asia International Conference at Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The paper I gave was “Border Economic Zones Linking China with Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam: Categorization and Assessment of Sustainability.” Here is the abstract:

China’s southern border region has throughout history been diverse, multidimensional and contested. At least some parts of the area belong to the anarchic upland Southeast Asian region some have called Zomia and labelled beyond the reach of the state. However, in recent decades, even the remotest parts are being brought under state control of some sort, although progress is uneven and sometimes unpredictable. China’s One Belt and Road policy will intensify the ability of state agencies to enforce control but, at the moment, a transitional period may be witnessed in which private sector agencies are taking the place of state agents. The private sector has organized a series of different economic systems in the border regions of Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam, ranging from cowboy capitalism that seems to exploit all it touches to formalized economic zones and special economic zones that systematically organize production activities that have become parts of global value chains. The formation and administration of these different systems is affected by the difficult terrain, the antipathy felt by some peripheral ethnic minority groups to the central authority and the actions of transnational organizations such as the Asian Development Bank aiming to link the region together more tightly through building physical infrastructure. This paper documents the different types and scales of economic activities taking place in the three border regions identified and categorizes them. Suggestions are made as to how to promote higher levels of equality and sustainability of the different categories and an assessment is made as to how these activities will, if at all, be incorporated into the more formal state systems that will in due course be put into place.

Keywords: borders, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, special economic zones, Vietnam

I am hopeful of the publication of this paper in a subsequent book or journal from the conference organizers in due course.

Advertisements

Urban Change and Economic Transformation: The Case of Phnom Penh

Lovichakorntikul, Petcharat and John Walsh, “Urban Change and Economic Transformation: The Case of Phnom Penh,” International Review of Management and Development Studies, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.40-6, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Urban_Change_and_Economic_Transformation_The_Case_of_Phnom_Penh.PDF.

Abstract: Capital cities are required to fulfill some or all of a variety of functions: home of the monarchy, center of religious monuments, commercial and social center of the state. Yet Phnom Penh, historically, is rarely fulfilling any of these functions. The center of religious monuments and the legitimization this offered was located in Angkor, while the home of the monarchy was moved from place to place on a regular basis. When it did become established as the capital city, Phnom Penh passed through periods of transformation based on economic and commercial change rather than for political or legalistic reasons. Different ethnic communities lived next to each other in more or less harmony on the basis that they occupied different economic and occupation-based activities. This was managed by the colonizing French and, after a brief and somewhat decadent post-colonial period, Phnom Penh suffered its most debilitating changes
after the Communist revolution of 1975 brought the Maoist Khmer Rouge into power.
Antithetical to urban living and mostly manned by people who had never visited a large
conurbation, Phnom Penh was almost completely emptied as the city dwellers were forced into agricultural collectivization or imprisoned or forced into exile. Historical monuments, for example the Catholic Cathedral, were razed to the ground while others, Tuol Sleng notably, have become reconfigured as monuments for the genocide conducted in the city. After the Khmer Rouge were evicted by Vietnamese armed forces and the long and painful transition towards democracy commenced, the city returned to some form of life. Significant inflows of investment were sourced through transnational non-governmental organizations and government overseas development and assistance and that investment were aimed at both institutional improvement at the macro-social level and help for businesses and entrepreneurs often at the micro-social level (since large business corporations can be assumed to develop from association with government and social elites). Changes to the city, therefore, have been largely driven by commercial interests. Simultaneously, the real estate sector is booming and the government is planning large increases in the downtown areas. In some cases, this has featured the forcible relocation of slum dwellers to new areas far from the city. This paper investigates the nature and cause of changes in Phnom Penh over recent decades and seeks to explain what changes are likely to be seen in the future.
Keywords: Urban Change, Economic Developments, Culture, Commercial change, Phnom Penh

Unity and Uniformity in Thailand’s Urban Environments after the 2014 Coup

Walsh, John, “Unity and Uniformity in Thailand’s Urban Environments after the 2014 Coup,” International Review of Management and Development Studies, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.34-9, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Unity_and_Uniformity_in_Thailand’s_Urban_Environments_after_the_2014_Coup.PDF.

Abstract: The Thai economy and society have grown to be heavily dependent on low-cost
migrant labor, whether that migration is domestic or cross-border in nature. That means the post-2014 campaigns against migrant workers in various categories is more complex than it might at first appear. Consequently, the vending has returned to the streets even where additional market areas have been targeted for closure and low-cost housing areas to be cleared. People are obliged to use the weapons of the weak to try to find and reclaim their places in urban environments, even while gentrification projects are being pressed forward and all gatherings of people subject to summary arrest and periods of attitude adjustment. The lens of unity and uniformity through which the junta would like observers to view Thai society is challenged by the very presence of the diverse people who make it a fundamentally unequal nature persist. This paper explores these issues using ethnographic observation in different parts of Thailand with a view to identifying the reality of everyday politics on the streets of the country.
Keywords: diversity, junta, street vending, Thailand, weapons of the weak

Thai Rak Thai’s Policies and Vision: Evidence from Chiang Rai Province

Walsh, John, “Thai Rak Thai’s Policies and Vision: Evidence from Chiang Rai Province,” International Review of Management and Development Studies, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.21-33, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Thai_Rak_Thai’s_Economic_Policies_and_Vision_Evidence_from_Chiang_Rai_Province.PDF.

Abstract: The incoming Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government stood on a manifesto of changing the nature of the East Asian Economic Model (EAEM) that Thailand had been following since the early 1950s. This model had been quite successful in economic terms, but the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis revealed its shortcomings in a changing world in which the rise of China threatened Thailand’s low labour cost competitive advantage, not to mention the demographic changes that were reducing the relative numbers of young people compared to older people in the country. This was to be achieved by strengthening local economies in all 76 provinces of the country, thereby reducing the reliance on external export markets and the social problems resulting from labour migration. A political agenda also called for the uprooting of those elements of the developmental state that were acting to prevent any societal changes in support
of the new economic approach. This was to be accompanied by improvements in the
educational system designed to promote creativity and innovation. However, an open stance towards globalization was also to be pursued, which included the signing of various Free Trade Agreements to enhance choice in market selection and new opportunities for value added products. This chapter investigates the impact of these changes in a single spatial location, which is the province of Chiang Rai. It is shown that the region was more directly linked to international capital markets and local institutions and communities strengthened. People have subsequently been more able to deal with the international economic crisis starting in 2008, despite the cancellation of many of the TRT’s policies and, above all, vision.
Key words: Ecomony, Financial crises, export, Policies, Thai Rak Thai

Does the Tourism Industry Create Decent Work?

Walsh, John, “Does the Tourism Industry Create Decent Work?” International Review of Management and Development Studies, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.13-20, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Does_the_Tourism_Industry_Create_Decent_Work.PDF.

Abstract: It is generally accepted that the development of the tourism industry helps in
providing more jobs for local people and, hence, better income generation and prospects for economic development. Yet it has been shown that most new jobs in the tourism industry are low-skilled and low-salary in nature. Indeed, the negative externalities often associated with investment in the tourism industry, particularly in the Mekong Region but also elsewhere, result in jobs associated with demeaning and dangerous activities (e.g. Sex work industry and drugs peddling). Unless it is clear what kinds of jobs will be created by development in tourism, it will be impossible for government agencies to plan for future changes in the labour market and to the need for public services in the future. This paper examines the evidence for job creation in different parts of the world and estimates how this will apply to tourism development in Thailand. The limitations of this approach are explored and suggestions made as to future research necessary to improve the quality of labour market planning in this regard.
Key words: Decent work, labour market, Thailand, tourism, Economy

Cranes among Chickens: Chinese Investment in Mainland Southeast Asia

Announcing: Walsh, John, “Cranes among Chickens: Chinese Investment in Mainland Southeast Asia,” International Review of Management and Development Studies, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.1-12, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Cranes_among_Chickens_Chinese_Investment_in_Mainland_Southeast_Asia.PDF.

Abstract: : Resentment is reported to be growing in various parts of mainland Southeast Asia as Chinese capital remakes the business and physical environment. Contract workers involved with building physical infrastructure remain in Laos and Myanmar to establish their own businesses and plans for new and large-scale communities appear to threaten the societal status quo. Large-scale Chinese organizations construct large projects which will direct resources derived from outside the area directly to China, with the intervening territory simply unwanted land to be abridged as quickly as possible. As infrastructure is built, local entrepreneurial businesses are rendered redundant as new opportunities emerge for those merchants who can mobilize economies of scope and scale and who tend to arrive from another place. There are few areas in which local consumers or economic actors can feel a connection with the products of Chinese investment and so no sense of brand or organizational loyalty. Conflict is reported in
Vietnam and suppression of news from northern Laos hides other potential flashpoints from view. There is an important role for the Chinese state and the organizations that help enact its policies in mainland Southeast Asia to identify potential sources of conflict and take necessary steps to ensure harmonious relations.
Key words: Chinese capital, Infrastructure, emerging economy, suppression, South Asia

Aspects of Environmental Ethics in Business Decision-Making

Announcing: Palasak, Ratana and John Walsh, “Aspects of Environmental Ethics in Business Decision-Making,” Recent Issues in Human Resource Management, Vol.1, No.4 (June, 2017), pp.1-5, available at: http://crcltd.org/images/Aspects_of_Environmental_Ethics_in_Business_Decision-Making.PDF.

Abstract:

The impact of global climate change is increasingly evident all around the world. Possible solutions to this complex and difficult problem may come from the public or the private sectors. Increasingly, it is a combination of the two sectors to which people look for innovations that might lead to a reduction of the problems encountered. In this case, what are the issues facing businesses as they seek to maintain their profitability and various goals? This paper seeks to outline the contours of environmental ethics and make a first attempt to detail the
interactions that private sector agencies have in this respect.
Keywords: Human ethics, private sector, Human Relation, tragedy of the commons