CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 1, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 1, 2015
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in front of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 29, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in front of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 29, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Shinzo Abe visits the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the United States this week to discuss the future of U.S.­-Japan relations. Increased security cooperation as well as relations with China topped the agenda. Abe delivered the first-ever speech by a Japanese prime minister to a joint session of Congress. In his speech, Abe described his vision for a stronger alliance between the United States and Japan and expressed his condolences for Japanese behavior in World War II. He announced his determination to “take more responsibility for peace and stability in the world.” Read more »

Myanmar’s Election Day May be Only a Step Toward Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, May 1, 2015
shwe mann-aung hlaing-suu kyi-myanmar Shwe Mann (C), speaker of Myanmar's Lower House of Parliament, Myanmar's military Commander-in-chief Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing (L) and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrive for Myanmar's top six-party talks at the Presidential palace in Naypyitaw on April 10, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the end of October, Myanmar will hold what will be probably its first truly free national election in twenty-five years. Several reports released this week on the upcoming election suggest that, for all the problems with Myanmar’s reform process over the past five years, the actual Election Day is likely to be relatively fair. A new International Crisis Group (ICG) report on the upcoming election notes that the election commission has, thus far, operated transparently and consulted widely and that the government has reached out to credible international observers to help ensure Election Day is fair. Read more »

China’s Secret Plan to Supplant the United States

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 1, 2015
Members of People's Liberation Army (PLA) coastal defence force shout as they practise during a drill to mark the upcoming 87th Army Day at a military base in Qingdao, Shandong province July 29, 2014. The PLA Army Day falls on August 1 every year. Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to strike hard against graft in the military, urging soldiers to banish corrupt practices and ensure their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, state media reported on Friday. Picture taken July 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS ANNIVERSARY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA Members of People's Liberation Army (PLA) coastal defence force shout as they practise during a drill to mark the upcoming 87th Army Day at a military base in Qingdao, Shandong province, on July 29, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

We are entering the season of presidential primary politics, and many of the candidates—or at least their advisors—might benefit from a fresh look at the current crop of foreign policy books. China should be at or near the top of every candidate’s bedside reading list. With that in mind, I have begun to make my way through the mounting pile of new books and reports on U.S.-China relations that has accumulated over the past few months and thought I might offer a few reflections on what is novel and most useful—or not—from each. For those of you who have already read one of books, I welcome your thoughts. Read more »

Amid Spectacle of Malaysia Infighting, Democratic Slide Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, April 30, 2015
najib-razak-malaysia Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the opening ceremony of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 27, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. Read more »

Mr. Abe Comes to Washington

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 28, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington April 27, 2015. Abe is on a week-long visit to the U.S. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington April 27, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

With hundreds of well-wishers at his side, President Barack Obama welcomed Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House this morning. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day, and smiles were in abundance for this first of many meetings during Abe’s official visit. In private, the president and the prime minister had a full agenda of alliance priorities to discuss, and afterwards, issued a new Vision Statement for the alliance, suggesting that the U.S.-Japan partnership was turning an important corner. Read more »

Abe’s Best Strategic Play Is South Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 27, 2015
abe kennedy library tour Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband Edwin Schlossberg in Boston on April 26, 2015. (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS.

Since taking office in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown himself to be a strong political leader and a keen strategic thinker. Agreement on new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines, scheduled to be reached next week, and a deal with Washington on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will further strengthen his reputation and standing. But Abe’s most prudent geostrategic move is the one that he has not yet made: reconciliation with America’s other close ally in Northeast Asia, South Korea. Read more »

Nepal Quake: Governance Matters

by Alyssa Ayres Saturday, April 25, 2015
People work to rescue trapped people inside a temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015 (Navresh Chitrakar/Courtesy: Reuters). People work to rescue trapped people inside a temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015 (Navresh Chitrakar/Courtesy: Reuters).

Several years ago, I went on an “Earthquake Walk” in downtown Kathmandu, a walk designed to raise awareness about the city’s vulnerability to a major earthquake. As we ducked into a traditional courtyard, winding our way through a low narrow corridor before emerging into an open square surrounded by high traditional homes, we saw a big stick propping one edge of a building up against another. I’ve thought a lot about that stick today—its inadequacy, its fragility—as news of Nepal’s quake poured in. Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 24, 2015
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 24, 2015
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

The Anti-Corruption Drive and Risk of Policy Paralysis in China

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, April 24, 2015
China's Politburo Standing Committee members (2nd row from bottom, L to R) Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng (bottom row, 2nd R) sing Chinese national anthem at the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters) China's Politburo Standing Committee members (2nd row from bottom, L to R) Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng (bottom row, 2nd R) sing Chinese national anthem at the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters)

Like it or not, President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is extremely popular among Chinese people. According to an online survey, “combating corruption” trails “income distribution” as the top two concerns of the Chinese public. There are already reports suggesting that the campaign has helped reduce the transaction cost for ordinary people to get things done in China. Read more »