A man uses his mobile phone at the garden of the National Convention Center, the venue for the 12th National Congress of Vietnam's Communist Party in Hanoi, Vietnam on Jan. 22. HANOI -- There's no arguing the obvious: The Pacific and its attendant seas cover a vast space, from California to the Indian Ocean, and thousands of frequent flier miles that I have been logging over two months from Los Angeles to Singapore, to Sydney and Auckland, to Bali, Vietnam, Hong Kong and back to Honolulu. But the question that will determine if the Asian 21st century remains peaceful or reverts to conflict is whether all this water can accommodate two superpowers -- China and the United States. And that question is at the center of debate and strategic discussions across Asia -- some of it conducted openly and loudly as in Australia, some of it more quietly as in Singapore and Vietnam. Now a rising China is challenging 70 years of American preeminence in the Pacific as it becomes the world's second largest economy with a rapidly growing military budget.
This story originally appeared on CityLab and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration. It's no surprise that a list of places most at risk from climate change and sea-level rise reads like a Who's Who of global cities, since historically, many great cities have developed near oceans, natural harbors, or other bodies of water. Miami ranks first, New York comes second, and Tokyo, London, Shanghai, and Hong Kong all number among the top 20 at-risk cities in terms of total projected losses. Cities in the less developed and more rapidly urbanizing parts of the world, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai, may experience even more substantial losses as a percentage of their total economic output. Looking out to 2050, annual losses from flooding related to climate change and sea-level rise could increase to more than $60 billion a year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered Vietnam a credit line on Saturday of half a billion dollars for defense cooperation, giving a lift to a country rapidly pursing a military deterrent as discord festers in the South China Sea. The deal was among a dozen cooperation agreements Modi signed in Hanoi alongside his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, on the first visit to the country by an Indian prime minister in 15 years. India and Vietnam share borders and large trade volumes with China and have repeatedly locked horns with Beijing, over the territorial disputes in the Himalayas and the South China Sea, respectively. Both are also beefing-up of their defenses and in India's case, its defense industry, promoting heavily its supersonic BrahMos missile. India is keen to sell the missile to Vietnam and four other countries, according to a government note seen by Reuters in June.
Vietnamese Facebook users had problems accessing the popular social network over the past weekend, apparently due to an ongoing protest that the government has been trying to suppress. For the past two weekends in a row, hundreds of people have been protesting in Vietnam's two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as in smaller cities like Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Da Nang. The protests were prompted by millions of dead fish washing up on its shores since April -- which local media and protesters have blamed on Formosa Plastics, a Taiwanese firm. Vietnam's environment minister admitted the company had an illegal waste pipe at one of its steel plants in Vietnam, and was ordered to dig it up. He said the pipe hasn't conclusively been linked to the fish deaths, but protesters are seeing red over the firm.