CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Copenhagen: The Real China Take-Away

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, December 31, 2009

Without an eye-catching climate accord out of Copenhagen, what really grabbed the media spotlight were the behind-the-scenes negotiations and back-door politicking. And at the center of it all was China.

Two very different narratives emerged concerning China’s participation in the climate negotiations: savior versus spoiler. In the savior version–promulgated not surprisingly primarily by the Chinese media–Premier Wen through his leadership and perseverance not only brought hope to dispirited international negotiators but also played the central role in forging consensus at several critical junctures in the negotiations. In the spoiler version–put forward by some delegates from the G-77 and the developed countries–China refused critical compromises on issues such as global 2050 targets and measurement, reporting, and verification, making a meaningful deal impossible. Read more »

Thailand and Cambodia Compete to Throw Out Refugees

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News this week that the Thai government would begin forcibly repatriating some 4,000 Hmong back to Laos was greeted by condemnations from the UN, the United States, and various human rights organizations. With good reason: Laos has a poor record of human rights abuses against the Hmong, many of whom fought with the United States in the Vietnam War, and the Thai government admitted, even as it was forcing the Hmong back, that it feared for the safety of some in the group who were more overtly political. Read more »

Asia and World (dis)Order…

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Larry Downing

For 30 years, the G7 ruled the roost–Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and Japanese.  And with the exception of the Japanese, there was nary an Asian in sight. The G7 took the big decisions about the international economy. And with the many opportunities for side meetings on strategic and political issues, G7 summits became, in many ways, the top table of international relations.

But last week in Copenhagen, the United States hashed out a climate deal with Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, and South Africans–and with nary a Canadian, European, or Japanese in sight. How extraordinary is this photograph? What about this one, as the President of the United States briefs European leaders on a deal he has already struck with China and India? The world has changed.

Read more »

The Decade’s Top Ten Game-Changers in U.S.-China Relations

by Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal Monday, December 21, 2009

It’s the end of the year, and end of a decade, and we here at Asia Unbound are not immune to the easy lure of the “Top Ten” list. OK, it’s not the Top Ten “Accidental Celebrities” or “Cultural Moments” Newsweek has on offer, but below are the ten most important game-changers in U.S.-China relations from the last decade. Read more »

Are China’s Neighbors Being Too Deferential to Xi Jinping?

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, December 18, 2009

The visit of Xi Jinping, China’s vice president and heir apparent to People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Hu Jintao, has stirred up a mini-political firestorm in Japan over the decision to set aside imperial protocol in order to facilitate Xi’s meeting with Emperor Akihito. The Chinese apparently asked that a rule requiring that a request to meet the emperor be made a month in advance of the audience be waived so that the meeting could occur. The meeting arguably contributed to a positive mood in Sino-Japanese relations, but it has also left behind a residue of political controversy. Read more »

Party Like It’s 1999

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, December 17, 2009

Looking at Malaysia these days from 20,000 feet, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999, and not 2009. The prime minister, a longtime power player in the ruling coalition, fights for his life amidst a tangled web of corruption allegations swirling around his party. The economy is going nowhere, and educated Malaysians are leaving the country in droves. And opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the most charismatic – and divisive – politician in the country, is facing a trial for sodomy, which is illegal in Malaysia. Oh, and, like in 1999, when witnesses recanted testimony against Anwar and said they had been tortured in custody, the evidence against Anwar this time wouldn’t exactly pass the test in a U.S. court. (For his part, Anwar denied the previous charges and denies these as well.) All you need is a Y2K scare, maybe a new album by Brittany Spears and it seems like 1999 all over again. Read more »

Thailand’s Southern Insurgency

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, December 16, 2009

While most of the US policy-making community focuses on the AfPak theater, in southern Thailand another violent insurgency, which has attracted virtually no media attention, has proven nearly as deadly. Last week the Thai and Malaysian prime ministers made a joint visit to war-torn southern Thailand; in the days just before the visit, militants in the south killed ten people. In fact, since 2001 the battle in the Muslim-majority south, which sits inside Buddhist-majority Thailand, has raged out of control, killing over 4,000 people. These days, southern Thailand looks as much like a war zone as a place like Iraq: Checkpoints and machine guns nests dot the roads, while IEDs detonate daily and insurgents routinely attack soldiers, teachers, monks, local officials, and even random innocent laborers, shooting them, bombing them, or kidnapping and beheading them. Read more »