CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Jokowi Struggles to Find an Economic Policy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Indonesia-rupiah A teller holds a stack of Indonesian Rupiah inside a money changer in Jakarta on June 4, 2015. (Nyimas Laula/Reuters)

News this week that Bank Indonesia will prohibit foreign currencies from being used in domestic transactions in Indonesia further added to analysts’ and investors’ concerns about the country’s fragile economy, and about the economic strategy of President Joko Widodo. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the law prohibiting the use of foreign currency in settling domestic transactions was actually passed years ago, but like many Indonesian laws it was not put into practice for years—until now. Read more »

Disdain in Beijing and Edginess in Tokyo

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, June 30, 2015
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at a session of the World Peace Forum at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, June 27, 2015 (China Daily Information Corp/Reuters). China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at a session of the World Peace Forum at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, June 27, 2015 (China Daily Information Corp/Reuters).

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit late last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping began to restore their nations’ relations, attempting to overcome differences over islands in the East China Sea. Again this year, the leaders of Asia’s two largest powers met at the Bandung Conference, demonstrating a slightly more relaxed and encouraging demeanor, suggesting that the maritime talks between their two governments were bearing some fruit. But it is not the territorial dispute itself that threatens improvement in the Japan-China relationship; it is their deep skepticism of each other’s ambitions in the region. Read more »

Who Else Will Join the TPP?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, June 29, 2015
kerry-TPP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a trade speech at Boeing's 737 airplane factory in Renton, Washington, United States on May 19, 2015. (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

After the Obama administration’s victories in Congress the past two weeks, it appears far more likely that the United States will become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bilateral negotiations are still taking place between some of the countries negotiating the TPP—the United States and Japan still have major issues to resolve—but the chances of these bilateral hurdles being resolved, and the final agreement being negotiated, have risen substantially now that President Obama has gained fast track authority. Read more »

The Rising Anti-Intellectualism in China: Part I

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, June 29, 2015
Graduates, in academic dress, pose for pictures in front of a statue of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at a university in Shanghai, June 19, 2015. (Reuters/Aly Song) Graduates, in academic dress, pose for pictures in front of a statue of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at a university in Shanghai, June 19, 2015. (Reuters/Aly Song)

On June 10, a blogger named Zhou Xiaoping was elected to head the newly established China Online Writers Association in Sichuan Province. He thus followed the career path of another popular blogger, Hua Qianfang, who was elected the Vice Chairman of the Writers Association of Fushun City in Liaoning Province in November 2014, an honor that is usually reserved for professional writers whose achievements in literature are well recognized. While both of them received only secondary school education, Zhou and Hua were invited to join the seventy most famous writers and artists in attending a symposium on art and literature in Beijing last year.  Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 26, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 26, 2015
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014. The leaders were concluding the sixth round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014 (Jim Bourg/Reuters).

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

1. U.S. and China meet in Washington, DC, for annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). The talks, coming at a time of high tension between the two countries, managed to steer clear of acrimonious charges. The U.S. State Department highlighted 127 issues the two sides agreed upon at the S&ED, but agreements on China’s actions in the South China Sea and conflicting accusations of harmful activity in cyberspace were conspicuously absent. While both sides vowed to continue discussing a potential bilateral investment treaty, little was achieved on the economic side beyond platitudes about the importance of the US$590 billion of annual trade between the two countries. On a more positive note, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that China promised to limit currency interventions, a small victory in Treasury’s long fight to get China to liberalize the yuan. Moving forward, more dialogue between the two countries will be necessary to keep the relationship constructive; hopefully Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington in September will help with that. Read more »

What Will the TPP Mean for Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, June 25, 2015
Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb (6th R) speaks at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting of trade representatives in Sydney, October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) Trade representatives speak at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting in Sydney, October 27, 2014 (Jason Reed/Reuters).

With Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. Senate to give President Obama fast track negotiating authority on trade deals, the president is likely to be able to help complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with the United States in the deal, by the end of the year. With fast track authority completed, the United States will be positioned to resolve remaining bilateral hurdles with Japan, the key to moving forward with the TPP. Read more »

Challenges and Benefits of South Korea’s Middle Power Aspirations

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, June 24, 2015
World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters) World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters)

South Koreans have been among the world’s early adopters in globalization over the past two decades, going from outpost to “node” by embracing networks, connectivity, and economic interdependence in startling fashion in a very short period of time. It has been commonplace for most South Koreans to think of themselves as a small country, buffeted by geostrategic factors beyond its control, consigned to its fate as a “shrimp among whales.” This narrative, generally speaking, conforms with the twentieth century historical experience on the Korean peninsula, which witnessed annexation, colonization, subjugation, and a moment of liberation, followed by division, war, and marginalization as an outpost of the Cold War. Outsider impressions of late twentieth century Korea tended to view Koreans as defensive, self-absorbed, xenophobic to varying degrees, and only capable of viewing the outside world through a distinctively “Korean” lens. Read more »

Guest Post: China’s “Back to the Countryside” Policy: A Step Toward Reducing Rural-Urban Disparity

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal Wednesday, June 24, 2015
china rural villages migrants migrant workers migration entrepreneurship small business entrepreneur policy Farmers plant rice seedlings in a field near a residential compound in Shaxi township, Guangdong province March 29, 2015. China's leaders hope to encourage migrant workers to leave cities and return to their home villages to start small businesses. (Stringer/REUTERS)

By Lincoln Davidson

Lincoln Davidson is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Earlier this week, the Chinese government announced a set of policies aimed at encouraging migrants from rural areas to the cities to return to their hometowns and start businesses. The policy guidelines direct local governments to encourage migrant workers (as well as university graduates and discharged soldiers) to take the capital, skills, and experience they’ve acquired in urban areas back to underdeveloped rural areas and engage in entrepreneurship. These policies—think of them as the newest iteration of Deng Xiaoping’s “let some get rich first”—are a solid step towards promoting genuine market-driven development. Read more »

Japan-South Korea Relations on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Normalization

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, June 23, 2015
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) reaches out to shake hands with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the foreign ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo on June 21, 2015. (Issei Kato/Courtesy: Reuters) South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) reaches out to shake hands with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the foreign ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo on June 21, 2015. (Issei Kato/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

The Japan-South Korea relationship has been steadily improving in the run up to yesterday’s fiftieth anniversary of normalization.  In recent weeks ministerial–level bilateral contacts have resumed between economic and defense ministers. The relationship has essentially normalized (and the U.S. State Department spokesperson wasted no time in welcoming these developments), but President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have yet to schedule a formal summit (although they have held informal encounters at the November 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing and on the occasion of Lee Kwan Yew’s funeral in Singapore earlier this spring). Read more »

Would a U.S. Failure on TPP be a Strategic Disaster?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, June 22, 2015
TPP-negotiations U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As a new congressional vote looms this week that could decide whether the United States participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, advocates of the deal, both in the United States and in Asia, are arguing that the stakes could not be higher. During a visit to Washington last week, Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam was blunt, telling an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “It’s absolutely vital to get it [TPP] done [in the U.S.] … If you don’t do this deal, what are your levers of power?” Read more »