CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Report from Thailand: Thaksin’s Return?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 26, 2010

As a stay this week in Chiang Mai has shown me, Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai prime minister forced out by a coup in 2006, isn’t going away as a political force. Chiang Mai and the North are Thaksin’s traditional power base, so, perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly everyone I met in the area was convinced that the economy performed better under Thaksin and that the country would go downhill until he returned. Outside one of Chiang Mai’s older temples, vendors had set up stalls selling bumper stickers, CDs, jackets, T-shirts, and many other items featuring Thaksin’s grinning face. Polls show that Puea Thai, the political party that serves as a proxy for Thaksin, would win the most seats in a theoretical national election, the major reason why the ruling Democrat Party seems wary of calling a poll anytime soon. Read more »

The G20 and the Labor Ministerial Meeting

by Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It is not surprising that the United states, which is properly concerned about the unemployment situation and the fact that employment is lagging behind output recovery, should use its influential position in the G20 to convene a meeting of the Employment and Labor Ministers on the jobs situation prior to the next G20 Heads of State meeting in Canada. Read more »

Race between Innovation and Security

by Adam Segal Monday, February 22, 2010

With Rob Knake, I have a new piece up on Yale Global Online about the race between innovation and security.

We use the hacking of Google not to focus on human rights or cyberwar, but rather to show a growing tension between a globalized model of innovation, based on ever-quickening times to market and geographically disbursed R&D and manufacturing, and the need for greater reliability and security. In the end, we come to a slightly heretical conclusion: if we want greater security, we probably have to sacrifice the pace of innovation. Read more »

Obama’s To-Do List in Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 19, 2010

Although the White House’s meeting with the Dalai Lama has overshadowed news that President Obama will visit Indonesia in March, in the long run, the Indonesia trip will have a greater impact on policy. It’s rare to have an opportunity, during any U.S. administration, to dramatically change the course of relations with a major nation. Yet the evolution of democracy in Indonesia, the changing strategic environment in Southeast Asia and growing fear of China, and Obama’s personal popularity in Indonesia combine to create this chance. In the long run, Indonesia could become the kind of partner in Southeast Asia America has lacked in Thailand and the Philippines, our formal allies. Read more »

The DPJ Confronts the Ozawa Factor

by Sheila A. Smith Thursday, February 18, 2010

Japan’s new ruling party seems about to go down in flames. Prime Minister Hatoyama looks badly shaken after the first few weeks of the legislative season. The policy agenda of Japan’s new DPJ government has been drowned out by chants of “corruption” and “tax evasion” being hurled from backbenchers—even from the PM’s brother—over funds provided by their mother.      Read more »

KORUS FTA: A Strategic Opportunity for Bipartisanship

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In an interview with Bloomberg Business Week last Thursday, President Obama stated that he would like to complete pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, but there’s a catch. Although his State of the Union Address provided a potentially powerful strategic rationale for passing these free trade agreements (FTAs) as part of the administration’s effort to double exports over the next five years, the president’s statement in his interview with Bloomberg was actually a step backwards. By adding that “with respect to South Korea, there is some concern that, although the deal was good for our telecommunications and our finance system, that our auto exports to South Korea are still subjected to a lot of nontariff barriers,” the president offered a tactical explanation why his administration has chosen NOT to move forward with the agreement rather than making strategic arguments for why the Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA is in the national interest. Read more »

Burma’s Turning Point?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 15, 2010

In the Lewis Carroll world of Burmese politics, where nothing is at it seems and deadlock is the norm, any potentially positive news must be viewed cynically. Still, the announcement by the Burmese junta last month that it will release Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest this November should be seen as a kind of progress. Read more »

What Another Thai Coup Could Mean for the U.S.

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 11, 2010

In recent weeks, Thailand has been awash in rumors of an impending coup, which would be the second in four years, and the last one led to the current downward spiral in Thai politics. Some Thais believe that elements of the military loyal to the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra “red shirts” want to remove the current, anti-Thaksin government. Others think that the current Bangkok government, led by the Democrat Party, eventually will have to call an election and will lose to Puea Thai, the pro-Thaksin party; the military would then step in and prevent Puea Thai from controlling Parliament. Read more »