The Thai Political Crisis of 2014: Necessary Cultural and Historical Background

Memo #303

By Jim Placzek – james.placzek [at] ubc.ca

Jim PlaczekThe key to understanding the current crisis in Thailand is Thai national identity. For decades a government office has been successfully promoting symbols of this identity. The central symbol of that identity is the monarchy. The elite of Thailand, including the military, have been called “the network monarchy”and… Continue reading

Modi: Breaking the Mold of Indian Politics (Part 1 of 2)

Memo #296

Narendra Modi’s Historic Electoral Victory.

By John Harriss – jharriss [at] sfu.ca

HE DID IT.

That Narendra Modi should have won India’s 16th General Election is no great surprise.

But the scale of his triumph is.

Together with most other commentators I expected Modi to win, but thought it likely that he would be… Continue reading

Decision Time for Hong Kong Democracy Fast Approaching

Memo #288

With a raft of elections in the offing, Beijing must soon decide if it will give Hong Kong its promised democracy.

By Jonathan Manthorpe – jonathan.manthorpe [at] gmail.com

This June 4 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the pro-reform demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Nowhere will that memory resonate… Continue reading

Dealing with the Resource Curse in Myanmar: UN Global Compact and Institutional Capacity

Memo #276

By  Yves Tiberghien – yves.tiberghien [at] ubc.ca

Since it began its gradual opening and domestic process of change, Myanmar has become a great target of opportunity for a myriad of foreign players, especially global investors interested in its vast energy potential and other resources. The challenge for the country is how to turn these blessings into… Continue reading

Beauty Queens in Post War Japan (Video with Dr. Jan Bardsley)

The study of Japanese beauty queens offers insights into democracy and gender issues in post-war Japan. In the 1905s, Japanese beauty queens were often celebrated as models of democracy. They were confident, willing to travel overseas, and represented the idea of upward social mobility. This captured the imagination of Japanese women and for some, signified a step forward for Japanese women’s rights.
However, women in the beauty contests were constructed as images, only allowed to say certain things and unable to complain. This image of beauty queens belies the true situation of Japanese women in the 1950s who were protesting over a lack of equality. Continue reading

Collective Protests in China and India: Unexpected Similarity?

Collective protests against corruption and land grabs are widespread in both China and India. The official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported that the government spent $110 billion on containing these and related popular protests in 2011, more than the defense budget. Many argue that disruptive protests erupt because there are no effective institutional channels, such as the judiciary, for expressing grievances in China. However, in neighboring India, the world’s biggest democracy where such channels do exist, people similarly express their discontent through disruptive protests. Though not yet systematically counted, disruptions, both violent and non-violent, are an essential characteristic of Indian democracy. Continue reading

Change in Democratic Mongolia (Video Interview with Dr. Julian Dierkes)

Memo #181 – In this interview, Dr. Julian Dierkes introduces the edited volume “Change in Democratic Mongolia: Social Relations, Health, Mobile Pastoralism, and Mining.” By tracing rapid change in Mongolia in four broad fields of contemporary social relations, the chapters in this volume will elucidate the state of contemporary Mongolia and help us understand Mongolia ten or 20 years from now. Continue reading

Indonesia’s Unconsolidated Democracy: Prelude to 2014

Memo #163 – The “Indonesia Model,” the post-1998 political transformation and institutional reform process during which Indonesia’s primarily Muslim society shed the shackles of authoritarianism, is considered an exemplar for Arab Spring countries transitioning to democracy. But transition marks only the beginning: consolidation occurs when liberal institutions and democratic norms are fully embedded. Continue reading

Mongolian Election: Bumpy Road, but Heading in the Right Direction

Memo #161 – Elections are milestones in democratic development. With the closing of nominations on June 6, 2012, the campaign for the Mongolian parliamentary election officially opens. Observers seem pessimistic about Asia’s only post-socialist democracy. But the upcoming election promises to be more carefully organized and transparent, and public discussions of corruption will strengthen democracy. Continue reading