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 February 27, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 27, 2015
Supporters hold signs of Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, during a protest calling for better protection of migrant workers, outside the district court in Hong Kong February 27, 2015. Former beautician Law Wan-tung, 44, a mother of two, was found guilty of 18 of 20 charges including grievous bodily harm and violence against Sulistyaningsih and two other maids, also from Indonesia. She is due to be sentenced on Friday. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: CRIME LAW BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT CIVIL UNREST) Supporters hold signs of Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, during a protest calling for better protection of migrant workers, outside the district court in Hong Kong February 27, 2015 (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. Australian prime minister announces new strategy to confront terrorism threat. Following the release of an official report on the terrorist attack in Sydney in December, Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered an address at the Australian Federal Police headquarters announcing a new national counterterrorism strategy. Read more »

Myanmar’s Rights Record Deteriorates in 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 27, 2015
myanmar-rohingya-protests Buddhist monks and other people take part in a protest to demand the revocation of the right of holders of temporary identification cards, known as white cards, to vote, in Yangon on February 11, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

This week, Amnesty International released its assessment of Myanmar’s 2014 human rights record. Although Myanmar’s bumpy road to reform had been well-documented, the report is even more negative than I had expected. Program toward improvement in political and civil rights in Myanmar “stalled” and went into reverse in 2014, Amnesty reported in the Myanmar chapter of its annual global assessment of freedom. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part I

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, February 27, 2015
A Thai Public Heath Ministry official places a thermometer into a child's mouth at a malaria clinic in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26,2012. The child, who lives on the Thai-Myanmar border, came to the clinic to get tested for malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH) A Thai Public Heath Ministry official places a thermometer into a child's mouth at a malaria clinic in Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province, on October 26, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy of Reuters).

Artemisinin, or Qinghaosu, is isolated from Artemisia annua L., a plant native to China but now naturalized in many other countries. Today, the artemisinin group of drugs is considered the most efficacious and fast-acting antimalarial known to the humankind. In 2011, Dr. Tu Youyou, a Chinese medical scientist, won the Lasker Award in Clinical Medicine—one of the most respected science prizes in the world—for discovering the antimalarial treatment that has saved millions of lives worldwide, especially in the developing countries. Read more »

Wendy Leutert: Chinese State-Owned Companies Under Scrutiny

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 26, 2015
China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan speaks at a dinner after the first meeting of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS) Wang Qishan, now China's top graft buster, speaks at a dinner after the first meeting of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington on July 28, 2009 (Yuri Gripas /Courtesy of Reuters).

Wendy Leutert is a visiting researcher at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center and a PhD candidate in government at Cornell University. She worked for International Crisis Group in Beijing and holds an MA in government from Cornell and an MA in international relations from Tsinghua University.

Earlier this month, China’s anti-corruption watchdog—the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection—announced the next targets in President Xi Jinping’s intensifying graft campaign. Unlike 2014, when military and Communist Party organs were front and center in Xi’s line of fire, this year Beijing is taking aim at the top fifty-three state-owned companies and their Party-appointed executives. Read more »

Is Myanmar’s Peace Process Unraveling?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 24, 2015
myanmar-kochin-region-clash An MI-35M military helicopter flies over a Christian church in Lashio on February 19, 2015. Fighting broke out on February 9 between the army and a rebel force in the Kokang region of northeast Myanmar, on the border with China, called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy:Reuters)

Over the last three weeks, fighting has broken out in Myanmar’s northeast between the military and several ethnic minority militias, including the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and, allegedly, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is one of the most powerful insurgent groups in Myanmar. At least 30,000 civilians have fled across the border into China, and the fighting has killed at least 130 people. The Myanmar military has attacked rebel groups with air strikes, and the fighting shows no sign of letting up. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 20, 2015
Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing, February 18, 2015. The Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 will welcome the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram). REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY) Lion dancers perform for the opening of the Temple Fair, as part of Chinese New Year celebrations, at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing on February 18, 2015 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. Myanmar declares martial law in Kokang. President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency and three months of martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, on the border with China, after a series of clashes between the Myanmar army and armed Kokang rebels. Under martial law, administrative and judicial power has been granted to the army’s commander in chief; the imposition of martial law is aimed at securing a ceasefire and political dialogue well in advance of general elections later this year. The conflict is a setback for Myanmar’s semi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after nearly fifty years of military rule. Myanmar is turning to neighboring China for help even as tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing into Yunnan province from Kokang. Read more »

Few Takers for Hindi

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, February 19, 2015
Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original. Indic Scripts, 2013. Photo by Rohini Lakshané licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped from original.

Another year, another survey: the Modern Language Association (MLA) has released its quadrennial language enrollments survey of foreign languages in U.S. higher education. I’m sorry to report that American students continue to display very low interest in Indian languages. This continues a pattern going back decades. Despite the Indian economy’s rapid growth, and the increase in U.S.-India diplomatic ties, students in U.S. colleges and universities are not signing up for Indian languages at remotely the scale languages like Arabic, Chinese, or Korean experience. Read more »

Personnel and Policy in U.S. Policymaking Toward China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 19, 2015
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014 (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters).

Alarm bells are ringing yet again over the apparent dearth of expertise and interest in China within the Obama administration. This is a problem I have been tempted to write about on a number of occasions over the past year or two. I have not done so because I do not think that there is a problem. Still, people keep writing articles suggesting that such a problem exists, so perhaps it is worth taking a bit of time to assess the claim. Read more »

Can Malaysia’s Opposition Survive Anwar’s Jail Term?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 19, 2015
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur, February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur on February 9, 2015 (Olivia Harris/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to jail for the second time in his life on charges of sodomy. Anwar’s jail term was set by Malaysia’s highest court at five years, and the opposition leader likely will never be able to hold a position in Malaysian politics or government again. Amidst outcry by the opposition, as well as international rights groups, about the Anwar trial and decisionHuman Rights Watch called the verdict “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law”some in the three-party opposition alliance also worry that the coalition will face challenges holding together with the charismatic Anwar gone. Read more »

North Korea’s Food Situation: Stable and Improving

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 17, 2015
A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr) A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr)

When asked in his January 22 interview with YouTube [9:00 ff.] about the likely effects of greater sanctions on North Korea following the Sony hack, President Obama repeated a mantra widely associated with North Korea that as a result of its isolated, authoritarian leadership, “the country can’t really even feed its own people” and that “over time, a regime like this will collapse.” But the latest reports show that North Korea’s food situation is stable, and the leadership probably thinks it is doing better, not worse. Read more »