Asia and Oceania

How China Is Expanding Beyond Western Institutions

The “Boao Forum for Asia”, the region’s answer to Davos, was slated for late March, but has been postponed amid the spread of COVID-19. But even as the coronavirus unsettles the global economy, China’s bid to reshape international relations beyond Western formats is quietly gathering steam. China’s foreign policy should be understood as a large […]

Serbian-Chinese Ties: A Potential Threat for the EU?

While many EU members have been heatedly debating whether the Chinese company Huawei should be banned from their national 5G networks, EU candidate Serbia is beefing up its ties with China. Does this pose a security risk to the European bloc? Since the early 2010s, China has been assertively seeking to increase its clout in […]

Korea’s Anti-Corruption Efforts an Inspiration for Other Countries

South Korea has recently strengthened its anti-corruption policy. The BTI and other international benchmarks note that institutional changes such as the Kim Young-ran Act are now bearing fruit. There has been less success in curbing corruption and influence peddling by big business groups. Anti-corruption is an important pillar for the current South Korean government. This […]

New Walls II: The Great Firewall of China

China’s so-called “Great Firewall” blocks citizens’ access to the outside world and to each other. But in the end, the virtual blockade might undermine the communist party’s own goals. — Episode 2 of our “New Walls” series. Over time, empires and nation-states have erected walls to protect their people and limit their interaction with “the […]

Military Set to Retain Influence despite Thai Vote

This time round, Thailand’s elections, slated for February 2019, look like they will actually materialize. But can they rescue its troubled democracy? More than four years after the May 2014 coup, the Thai junta has set a new date for elections: February 2019. Although the military government has frequently postponed elections in the past, it […]

Indonesia as a Pillar in the EU’s “Pivot to Asia”

The EU’s external relations are in turmoil. In the West, the United States has shaken the once reliable and stable transatlantic partnership to the ground. In the East, China is rising as a strong and self-confident power with political and economic interests that are not always in line with those of the EU. In these […]

Cambodian Elections: Hun Sen’s unbroken dominance

Cambodia’s vote in July is designed to confirm strongman Hun Sen. After quashing the opposition, he is geared up to extend his 33-year stint at the top. The result of Cambodia’s parliamentary elections on 29 July is already fixed. After dissolving popular oppositional Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in November 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen […]

Built Upon Non-Interference: Can ASEAN Economic Integration Succeed?

In April 2018, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will host its 32nd summit. The path to economic integration laid down by the foundation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 holds the promise of increasing living standards and growth – but it also presents challenges to the group’s policy of non-interference in […]

Peaceful Olympics amid Thawing Tensions

On 9 February the Pyeongchang Olympics will be opened. This means that South Korea will be the first country examined by the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) to host both summer and winter games. We fact-check the 2018 Olympics through the looking glass of selected criteria and indicators of our index, which will be published in […]

Money Can’t Buy You Love – but Influence, Apparently

China under Xi Jinping is deeply concerned with its global status and standing and aims to regain its deserved place on the global stage. This has dramatic consequences not only for China but for the rest of the world. One of the most important developments with regards to China has been the bold departure from […]

Time to Listen to Severely Threatened Islands

For the first time, a paradise in danger will host the UN climate talks. Can Fiji’s presidency bring about the desperately needed global partnerships for island nations? 03.11.2017 | by ALISON SINGER The 23rd UN Climate Change Conference will take place November 6 to 17, in Bonn, Germany. The government of Fiji with its Prime […]

Why Optimism is Fading in Pakistan

70 years after independence, Pakistan is caught in political chaos, and it seems as if the reasons to be optimist about the country’s democratic future got fewer. Next years’ elections could turn out to be a crossroads in its history. In a historic yet controversial decision in July 2017, Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified former PM […]

“Islamic Values Are Compatible with Democratic Values”

BTI Blog spoke with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of the Republic of Indonesia during the “golden decade” from 2004 to 2014, about the lessons from his military reform, the relationship between Islam and democracy, and the appeal of democracy among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). BTI Blog: Your Excellency, President Yudhoyono, […]

“I Enjoy Sitting down with Common People”

BTI Blog spoke with José Ramos-Horta, former president of Timor-Leste and co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, about the state of democracy in the country, socioeconomic challenges for the new government, and the role of the international community in post-conflict societies. BTI Blog: Timor-Leste has elected a new parliament on July 22nd, for the […]

Revitalizing Democracy in Asia

How can reform-oriented political leaders utilize the rapid social change in Asia and Oceania for their democratic agenda? This question was at the core of a roundtable on “Next Generation Democracy” in Díli, Timor-Leste. As developing Asia struggles with consolidating their fragile democratic achievements, Timor-Leste is already reckoned by some as democracy’s new poster child […]

The End of Malaysia’s Multi-Ethnic Coalition?

For decades, the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional has narrowed the ethnic and religious divides in Malaysia. In the run-up to the next general elections, however, Prime Minister Najib Razak is intensifying cooperation with the Islamic party PAS, alienating large parts of his coalition and the population. The first quarter of 2017 indicated that Malaysia’s economy […]

Moon Jae-in at a rally in Seoul, by Jee Su Na, via flickr.com, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Is South Korea’s New President up to the Job?

Former human-rights attorney Moon Jae-in has won the South Korean presidential elections. His supporters expect above all a fight against cronyism and fundamental economic reforms. Relations with neighbors and allies are tense. On Wednesday, Moon Jae-in was sworn in for a five-year term as South Korea’s president. Winning 41 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s […]

President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivers a speech during the turnover rites of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

Duterte’s Plan to Revive Philippine Democracy

The Philippine president is working towards a constitutional amendment in favour of greater federalism and parliamentarism. Could this empower the country’s citizenry and strengthen democracy? And how does it fit in with Duterte’s controversial policies against drugs and crime? The new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has garnered global attention for his controversial policies […]

Ulan Bator - Mongolia - The Parliament

Mongolia: The Hidden Welfare Champion?

The World Social Forum convenes in Montreal from August 9-14. On occasion of the world’s largest civil society gathering, we look at an unknown star of social policy: Mongolia. Capitalizing on its mineral wealth, the country has set out to become a leading welfare state amongst emerging and developing countries.  In parliamentary elections on 29 […]

Is Cambodia Becoming the Sick Man of Southeast Asia?

Lack of transparency, accountability and judicial independence as well as widespread corruption seem to be unalterable elements of Cambodia’s development process. Could the reform bottleneck harm the country’s economic prospects and how far will the regime go to stay in power? Sometimes odds and ends are enough to reveal the whole picture. In April 2016, […]

Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar.

Guarded Confidence in Mongolian Democracy

A high court ruling on the country’s electoral system has thrown Mongolia into political turmoil. How will this affect the upcoming parliamentary elections? Will the country stay on its path towards consolidating democracy? On June 29, 2016, Mongolians will be voting for a new parliament, the State Great Khural, for the seventh time since the […]

Many colourful figures of Hindu gods are shown

Is religious dogma taking hold of democracy in India?

Hindu fanaticism seems to be on the rise in India with the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi turning a blind eye. Is the world’s largest democracy on a slippery slope? Not a day goes by in which we are not reminded of the growing threat posed by religious extremism and fanaticism. There is a […]

Taipei Skyline

And the winner is … Taiwan

Ranking at the top of the BTI Status Index, Taiwan’s transformation from an authoritarian developing country to a thriving democracy and market economy deserves special attention. What are the recipes for the island state’s political and economic success? Taiwan is the Status Index top performer among the 129 countries surveyed in the 2016 edition of […]

President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and President of China Xi Jinping at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Sandton, Johannesburg

Buyer Beware: China’s Risky Commodity Investments

A few years ago, Western countries feared that China’s forays into Africa would cut them off from commodities. In light of current low prices it looks as if China made a mistake when it secured access to resources through risky investments. What do countries like Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea […]

Afghans who were repatriated are arriving to Afghanistan in a truck with an Afghan flag on it

Pakistan’s Uneasy Relation with Afghan Refugees

The latest efforts of the government in Islamabad to repatriate Afghan refugees show that Pakistan’s refugee problem is deeply connected with the country’s response to terrorism and with international cooperation. This article is part of our “Migration & Transformation” series. Many governments and civil societies in developing and transition countries are confronted with the influx […]

Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar: Into Unchartered Waters

Transition talks in Myanmar are entering their finale phase. While many issues remain unresolved between the military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, further democratization is possible in the Southeast Asian country. Myanmar is entering unknown terrain these days. For the first time since the historic victory of the oppositional National League for Democracy (NLD) […]

“Discrimination in Nepal Continues under New Constitution”

After a turbulent year 2015 for Nepal, we spoke with social entrepreneur Rabi Karmacharya about the stalled post-earthquake reconstruction effort and the political quagmire following the adoption of a much-criticized new constitution. BTI Blog: Mr. Karmacharya, your NGO “Open Learning Exchange Nepal” has worked for many years to improve education quality in rural schools. How […]

Construction workers in Dagachhu Hydropower Development in Bhutan.

Is Bhutan on the Cusp of a Revolution in Private Sector Growth?

Expanding the private sector is key for development in Bhutan. Yet, aligning this with the practice of Gross National Happiness is only one of the challenges. What could the government do to foster entrepreneurship? Bhutan has made remarkable developmental progress since the 1960s when the Third King decided to end the Himalayan kingdom’s self-imposed isolation […]

A military plane is unloaded in Kathmundu, Nepal on 29 April 2015 delivering UK aid © Sgt Neil Bryden/RAF (CC BY 2.0)

Nepal’s New Prime Minister Faces Herculean Tasks

A military plane is unloaded in Kathmundu, Nepal on 29 April 2015 delivering UK aid © Sgt Neil Bryden/RAF (CC BY 2.0) A new constitution, a virtual embargo by its neighbor India, deadly clashes between police and protesters and the recovery from the earthquakes in April and May 2015. Nepal’s newly elected Prime Minister K.P. […]

Rohingya refugee camp in Myebon in Rakhine State of Myanmar © Evangelos Petratos EU/ECHO, Myebon, June 2013 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A New Refugee Crisis Looming?

Southeast Asia is seeing persecuted minorities fleeing their homeland. As in Europe, lack of political consensus has exacerbated the situation – and a new wave of migration is just about to start. 2015 will be remembered as the year of mass migration. This year, the world has endured an unprecedented flood of haunting images. The […]

Rubble-strewn streets of Chautara in central Nepal May 2015 © IOM 2015 via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nepal’s Mammoth Tasks after the Earthquake

The recent earthquake has dealt a serious blow to Nepal’s fragile economy and development. What priorities must the government set in order to revitalize the country and prepare it better for future catastrophes? The world has watched helplessly in April and May as heart-wrenching images stream in from Nepal. An estimated 8,500 people were killed […]

Afghan parliament, March 2014 © Fardin waezi / UNAMA (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Afghanistan’s Future is Hanging by a Thread

Last year’s presidential elections were a huge achievement for Afghanistan’s infant democracy. Yet, will President Ashraf Ghani’s national unity government be able to face the challenges posed by US troop exit, Taliban peace talks, and the Afghan economy? A lot was at stake for Afghanistan during President Ashraf Ghani’s first official trip to the United […]

Construction works in Ethiopia © Simon Davis/Department for International Development (CC BY 2.0)

Is Geothermal Power the Answer to Indonesia’s Energy Demand?

Indonesia has the largest geothermal reserves in the world. Yet, the government’s failure to manage its natural resources effectively and reform its regulatory environment remains an obstacle to fully tap into the country’s renewable energy wealth. The 17,500-island archipelago of Indonesia is home to about 260 million people, making it the 4th most populous country on […]

Policy gear in Bangladesh © Rajiv Ashrafi via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Is Bangladesh on the Brink of Civil War?

Bangladesh’s two main political parties have been deadlocked since the controversial general elections over one year ago. Political violence has now taken a turn for the worse as casualties continue to rise throwing the country further off the democratic path. The escalation began when Khaleda Zia, leader of the country’s largest opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party […]

City Scape of the Hangzhong road, China ©veer/veerguy

Asia at the Crossroads

Aside from China, nearly all the states in Asia make use of the trappings of democracy, such as elections, parliaments, and the separation of powers. A new report examines the future of democracy in Asia in the next 15 years. Asia has made significant progress towards democratization in recent decades. Despite being tested from outside […]

Xi Jinping, President of China

“It Has Become More Difficult to be Corrupt in China”

BTI Blog speaks with China expert Christian Göbel about Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign and how it is helping transform China from collectivist one-party rule to a one-person authoritarian system. BTI Blog: In Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI), China is among the countries with the largest decline in points, despite a high profile anti-corruption […]

Women in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka © Brett Davies (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

What is Holding Women Back in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has fared well in recent years by promoting health and education opportunities for women. Yet the country still fails to translate these achievements into female economic participation. The teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka lies in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India. Today, five years after the end of an almost […]

Seoul, South Korea's capital city © Clint Sharp via Flick (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Success beyond Gangnam Style

With a strong state, powerful industries and high innovation spending South Korea provides a model for managing globalization. Yet Korea also shows some of the dangers of national oligarchy and over-centralization. South Korea today faces economic and political headwinds as strong as any country in Asia, with faltering domestic consumption and struggling exports in the face of slowing […]

© m a c s f via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Tyranny of the Establishment

Asia’s growing middle-income population flexes its political muscle. Yet, reactionaries among them stand in the way of democratization, as recent developments in Thailand and Indonesia have shown. If forecasts are anything to go by, Asia will account for two thirds of the global middle class population in 2030. Whereas investors and businesses already did the math and […]

Protests against a new trade agreement between Taiwan and China, Taipei, March 2014 © Tenz1225 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Walking the Line of Rapprochement

After more than six decades of conflict over the political status of Taiwan, Beijing and Taipei are normalizing their relations. Yet, how much Chinese influence can the island state’s democracy tolerate? On 25 June 2014, for the first time in over 60 years, China sent a ministerial-level figure on an official visit to Taiwan. Zhang Zhijun, head […]

The centre of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city © Francisco Anzola via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Is Myanmar’s Progress about to Unravel?

Buddhist monks who incite hatred against Muslims are gaining political ground in Myanmar as President Thein Sein and his administration continue to turn a blind eye to the worsening conditions of the Rohingyas, an ethnic group and a Muslim minority, living mainly in the state of Rakhine. Some fear a proposed set of laws will […]

Narendra Modi addresses victory rally in Ahmedabad © Narendra Modi via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Can Narendra Modi Undermine Indian Secularism?

India’s new Prime Minister is one of the country’s most divisive political figures. Does Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist politics and his development agenda threaten religious pluralism and secularism in India? Now that Hindu nationalist politician Narendra Modi has assumed power in the world’s largest democracy as its 15th prime minister, it’s pertinent that some questions […]

A royal Thai army soldier © Null0 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A Coup, the Crown, and Two Middle Classes

The man behind Thailand’s twelfth successful coup since 1932 made no mention of the Crown. By declaring martial law, he had already seized a royal prerogative, revealing both, the sorrow state of Thai democracy and the erosion of the monarchy. “I have decided to seize power,” Thailand’s army chief said on May 22, slamming his […]

Police escort in Karachi © Colin Cookman/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Pakistan’s Violent Economy

Contrary to Western perception it’s not Islamic violence but economic misery that matters most to people in Pakistan. Yet, few believe that the government will soon put the country on a path of progress. I had only five days to shoot in Karachi for the “Secrets of Transformation” series, a joint project of Deutsche Welle […]

Chinese surveillance ships near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, April 2013 © Times Asi (CC BY 2.0)

Symbols for Competition

The disputes over islands in the East and South China Seas are as much about resources and territories as they are about reaffirming national sentiments. Yet the chances of outright conflict remain slim. China’s assertiveness in the East and South China Seas has been causing alarm from Washington to Tokyo. In the East China Sea, […]

Are powers concentrated in good hands? Nepal’s Chief Justice and interim head of government Khil Raj Regmi © Krish Dulal (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Re-Thinking Separation of Powers in Nepal

Nepal’s November 2013 parliamentary elections set a precedent for democratic governance in the Himalayan nation. Ironically, with the right leaders and support from the population, temporary restrictions on separation of powers may serve the future of Nepali democracy. Global and regional powers, including the European Union, the United States, Japan, China, and India, sent congratulations […]