CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Brand Thailand

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, June 7, 2010

A tourist reads a book in Turatao Marine National Park off the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand's Satun province on December 22, 2008.

Stringer Thailand/Courtesy of Reuters

In the new issue of Newsweek International, I have an article on the collapse of “Brand Thailand,” the global image of a country that once was viewed, not only as a paradise for tourism, but also as an example of successful democratization and economic development. Like a failing company, Thailand’s decline into internecine political conflict and economic stagnation was due largely to a series of poor decisions made by its “managers” – the political class that, between the 1960s and late 1990s, guided Thailand to stability and fast growth.

Read more »

China’s Tough Choices

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Friday, June 4, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/CCTV via Reuters TV

Remember all those books and articles about a “power shift” in Asia, or China “eating America’s lunch,” or the relentless advance of Beijing’s soft power?  What a difference a couple of months make.

Here we are, nearly 10 weeks after North Korea torpedoed the South Korean corvette, Cheonan, and perceptions of Chinese foreign policy seem suddenly to be turning upside down.  And with good reason.  China’s strategic environment has deteriorated, not least because of its own choices but especially because of North Korea’s.

As Victor Cha pointedly argues in this interview with, the Chinese have been “weak, clumsy, totally anachronistic in terms of how they’ve dealt with this.“  “The Chinese are supposed to think long term,” Victor adds.  “What they’re doing right now is not long term thinking.”

China offers a rather extraordinary picture these days.

Read more »

Prime Minister Hatoyama’s Surprise

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/POOL

Yesterday’s resignation of Yukio Hatoyama as Japan’s prime minister was swift and complete. Prime Minister Hatoyama cited two reasons for his decision to step down. The first was his failure to fulfill a campaign promise to move the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma off Okinawa, and the resultant collapse of his coalition with the Social Democrats. The second was his personal responsibility – along with that of the party’s secretary general Ozawa Ichiro – for ruining the party’s reform effort with suspicions of old school money politics. Read more »

Truly New Thinking on North Korea

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, June 1, 2010
(L-R) Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pose before their summit in Seogwipo on Jeju island, south of Seoul May 29, 2010. Leaders of the three nations are meeting at the third trilateral summit on the resort island of Jeju from May 29-30 in which escalating tension on the Korean peninsula will certainly be high on the agenda.   REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy Reuters

Are three of the world’s wealthiest nations truly without recourse? In the wake of North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship and the death of forty-six South Korean sailors on board, Japan, the United States and South Korea all agree that tough talk needs to be followed by tough action. Thus far, tough action appears to boil down to taking North Korea before the United Nations Security Council and strengthening South Korea’s naval capabilities. Read more »

The Media and Asymmetry of Attention in the U.S.-ROK Alliance

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A South Korean protester holds a doll "infected" with Mad Cow Disease during a rally criticizing the U.S. beef import deal in Seoul May 14, 2008 (Jo Yong-Hak/ Courtesy Reuters).

Shin Gi-wook is Director of The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC); Director of the Korean Studies Program; and the Tong Yang, Korea Foundation, and Korea Stanford Alumni Chair of Korean Studies at Stanford University. Read more »

Failing Grade

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Soldiers of Shan State Army (SSA) take part in the military drill  in their base near the village of Loi Tai Leng February 5, 2010
Photo Courtesy of Reuters/STR New

In the current issue of the Washington Monthly magazine, I’ve written a review essay that looks at the flaws behind international policy toward Burma (Myanmar). While most international attention, and particularly U.S. attention, has focused on the longstanding political standoff between the ruling junta and the democratic opposition, led for over two decades by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a crisis with potentially greater implications looms almost unnoticed. Read more »