10 things to watch in 2018

With images of ballistic missiles, beleaguered refugees and bombastic despots still fresh in our minds, thoughts now turn from the year that was to the one to come. Asia Pacific Foundation Canada’s crack team of dedicated researchers has once again turned its collective gaze to the future to produce our fourth annual year-end blog highlighting things we’ll be watching in Canada-Asia relations, news, and current events in 2018.


South Korea Welcomes a Wary World

South Korea will begin the New Year with an exciting start as the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Taking place in Pyeongchang from February 9 to 25, this is the second time the country has hosted the Olympics; its first being the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. The 2018 Games are unique in that they are set to take place in the middle of a developing security situation as North Korea continues to test ballistic missiles that threaten the region, and beyond. Canada is expected to send 220 athletes to compete in 14 different sporting events.


China Says No to Foreign Waste

Come the bleary light of post-holiday morning, the world will wake up to the startling realization that China no longer wants its recyclables and solid waste. Quite abruptly this past summer, China announced legislation that will ban imports of four classes and 24 types of solid wastes starting January 1, 2018. As the world’s largest importer of many types of solid waste, experts predict that this condemnation of “foreign garbage” by China will result in the immediate destabilization of global recyclable commodity market prices and undermine current solid waste trade flows.


Trading in Noodle Soup, or Broth

Among the ‘noodle soup’ of Asia-focused trade discussions that took place in 2017, none has captured the public’s attention as much as the possibility of negotiations on a Canada-China FTA. Canada’s involvement in discussions on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), overtures toward a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement, and ongoing negotiations toward a Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement all pale in comparison to the prospect of a trade deal with China, home to more than 145 million middle class adult consumers, and climbing.


Asia Shoots for the Moon (and Beyond)

A new ‘space race’ is building to a fervent crescendo, with China, India, and Japan having setting their sights on becoming space powers. Their respective space agencies have lofty plans for space exploration, including landing lunar rovers on the moon’s surface by 2019 (China, India, Japan), and collecting samples from Mars (China) and its moons later on (Japan).


In recent years, China has become more ambitious, with plans to build its own permanent space station by 2022, and a manned mission to the moon by 2036.


Projecting Power at the Movies

Cultural waves from the Asia Pacific are not new in North America: Anime and manga from Japan and K-Pop from South Korea are firmly established in the North American zeitgeist. However, since the first wave of Asian martial arts films became popular in North America in the 1970s, Asian influence in Hollywood has largely stagnated. We predict that 2018 will see the Asia Pacific’s big cinematic breakthrough, especially from China.


A Trump-Kim 'Hamburger Summit'

During the past few months, Trump has both venerated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and admonished him over the country's nuclear program. Experts regard Trump's fickleness and North Korea's continued progress in nuclear capability as a recipe for a global security disaster.

An informal meeting between Trump and Kim may be the way the two countries begin to defuse tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. During his presidential campaign, Trump expressed openness to the idea of Kim visiting the United States and “sharing a hamburger [at] a conference table.”


Chinese Tourists Like Canada’s Never Seen

The changing patterns of Chinese international tourism have already been well charted, but for Canada the sheer scale of visiting Chinese tourists will be massive. Canada welcomed 624,865 travellers from China in 2016. The number is expected to double to a targeted 1.25 million by 2021. This influx poses serious challenges for infrastructure, transportation, and business capacity in Canada’s tourism sector, and beyond.


Democracy on the Decline in Southeast Asia

2018 will be a “pivotal year” for Southeast Asian democracy. Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand are all scheduled to hold elections, but their incumbent governments have been undermining the norms and institutions needed to make these elections truly free, fair, and meaningful.


The War in (Cyber) Space

Governments across the Pacific are responding by investing heavily in cybersecurity defences. Moving into 2018, we will continue to see more countries toe the fine line between striving to be “cyber powers” and protecting their citizens’ cyber privacy. We can expect to see an increasing number of countries responding to these challenges, which will result in the proliferation of cyber-governance initiatives managing and policing cyberspace.


Bridging Asia’s Gender Gap

While much work still needs to be done to bridge the existing gender gap, women entrepreneurs, particularly in Southeast Asia, are on the rise and will be an economic force to reckon with in 2018. In 2017, women in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines were more likely to start a business than ever – participating in the total entrepreneurial activity of their country at equal and higher levels than their male counterparts. Not only are women-owned small business growing at a fast rate, but prominent women are also emerging at the top of their sectors.

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