Energy resources

A general view of Laos, January 2020. (SPH)

Is Laos mining itself into a crisis?

Despite low global commodity prices, the mining sector in Lao PDR still constitutes a key source of state revenue and an important destination for foreign direct investment, especially from China, Vietnam and Thailand. However, economic development through industrial mining has not translated into employment opportunities for local communities. Rather, the Lao mining sector is marked by a parallel structure of medium- to large-scale mining operations and informal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), which often operate in a legal grey zone. ASM communities thus suffer from the sector’s high social and environmental costs and conflicts with foreign investors over allocated land.
People visit the riverbank of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on 2 February 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

China’s serious water woes

Water security is literally a question of life and death. And as one of the most populous nations in the world with a severe lack of water resources, China needs to ensure that its water sources are sustainable and usable. But as Chinese academic Chen Hongbin explains, this is not always easy, despite the country’s best efforts.
US President Joe Biden speaks about jobs and the economy at the White House in Washington, US, 7 April 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden's China strategy only looks impressive on the surface

Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao says that while the US wants China to do more to reduce global carbon emissions, surely it can expect China to prioritise its own development trajectory or to seek leverage in other areas. They should not forget that two can play at that game.
Iranians drive down a street in the capital Tehran, on 11 April 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

China-Iran deal complements the BRI, but faces Iranian domestic opposition and US sanctions

The recently signed China-Iran Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement will be a linchpin for China’s BRI in the Middle East, says Yu Hong. In the best-case scenario, it will be a win-win arrangement, providing Iran with the foreign investment it needs and China the oil supply and strategic influence it hopes to get. However, a number of challenges stand in the way including US sanctions and domestic opposition within Iran.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi bump elbows during the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement, in Tehran, Iran, 27 March 2021. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Chinese academic: China-Iran deal will benefit China, Iran and Middle Eastern countries in the long run

A 25-year cooperation agreement was signed recently between China and Iran. The West and countries in the Middle East are alarmed by what closer China-Iran ties could mean for their interests, while the Iranians and the Chinese have different reactions to the news. Fan Hongda weighs the pros and cons of the agreement and what it means for all its stakeholders.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Role of Vietnam in Mekong: A middle power in another US-China geopolitical battleground

Hanoi is applying its South China Sea playbook to the Mekong. It is putting effort into enmeshing all stakeholders while carefully balancing relationships with major powers interested in the Mekong. What does this mean for Southeast Asia and the region's relationship with China and the US? RSIS graduate research assistant Phan Xuan Dung examines how Vietnam can make a difference.
A Molycorp worker holds a handful of rocks containing rare earth elements during a media tour in Mountain Pass, California, U.S., 13 December 2010. (Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg)

Chinese academic: Will China play the rare earth card against the US?

Despite China’s dominance of the rare earth industry, it will not lightly play this card against the US, simply because it knows it is weaker than the US in various areas and the US can well retaliate. Economics professor Zhu Ying looks at rare earths, the weapon of last resort in China’s defence against the US.
Cranes unload imported iron ore from a cargo vessel at a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, 27 October 2019. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

Will China have enough natural resources to sustain its growth?

It is no longer an unqualified truism that China is a vast land of abundant resources, says Chen Hongbin. While it is rich in minerals such as rare earths, it is one of the world’s largest importers of natural gas, oil and iron ore, and is paying through its nose in some cases to reach a level of sufficiency. How can China achieve greater energy security?