CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Should the U.S. Government be Talking to Kim Kye-gwan?

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, July 28, 2011
North Korea's envoy to the six-party talks Kim Kye-gwan (C) speaks to the media after a meeting with a Chinese foreign ministry counterpart in Beijing, February 11, 2010.

North Korea's envoy to the six-party talks Kim Kye-gwan (C) speaks to the media after a meeting with a Chinese foreign ministry counterpart in Beijing, February 11, 2010. (Courtesy Reuters/Jason Lee)

Kim Kye-gwan, DPRK’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs arrived in New York yesterday for his first visit to the United States in four years, and for his first meeting with a senior representative of the U.S. government since the visit of Special Representative for North Korean Affairs Stephen Bosworth to Pyongyang in December of 2009. Despite the relative lack of contact in recent years, Vice Minister Kim and his delegation are all too familiar with his American counterparts; he has been the main North Korean interlocutor with the United States for at least fifteen years.   Read more »

China’s Policy Train Wreck

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Workers and rescuers look on as excavators dig through the wreckage after a high speed train crashed into a stalled train in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province on July 24, 2011.

Workers and rescuers look on as excavators dig through the wreckage after a high speed train crashed into a stalled train in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province on July 24, 2011. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

The July 23rd derailment of a high speed train in China, with at least 39 people dead and more than 190 injured, was a terrible tragedy. Of course, such devastating accidents such as this happen everywhere, whether due to human error, equipment malfunction, or as originally reported in this case, a natural disaster (reportedly in the form of a lightning strike). The question now is how is Beijing conducting itself in the aftermath of the crash?

Transparency is essential. The high-speed rail system has been the jewel in China’s massive infrastructure crown and a leading candidate for China’s foray into the world of high-tech exports. Given the arrest of China’s Minister of Railways last February for embezzling tens of millions of dollars and a series of small hiccups in the functioning of China’s rail system since that time, both the Chinese people and potential customers for Chinese railways abroad need to be reassured about the safety of the system.

Unfortunately, Beijing led off with the wrong foot. Read more »

A Vote of Confidence by Toyota*

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Akio Toyoda, center, poses with Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso, left, and Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai before a meeting at Miyagi prefectural government in Sendai July 19.

Akio Toyoda, center, poses with Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso, left, and Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai before a meeting at Miyagi prefectural government in Sendai July 19. (Courtesy The Asahi Shimbun)

Last month, I wrote an update on Japan’s efforts to cope with the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. One of the most dramatic discoveries during my trip to Tokyo was the buzz about the possibility that Japan’s continuing energy problems would encourage an exodus of industrial investment in Japan.

The shock was not the uncertainty about Japan’s future, but rather that the companies that were losing faith in Japan as a site for future investment was none other than Japan’s own industrial leaders.    Read more »

Who Will Win as China’s Economy Changes?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Sunday, July 24, 2011

A worker stands inside the shell of a wind turbine tower in the assembly workshop of the Guodian United Power Technology Company in Baoding, China. Courtesy Reuters/David Gray.

My latest “DC Diary” column in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard, focuses on Asia’s new geography of manufacturing:

China has unsettled its neighbors with naval displays and diplomatic spats. But could erstwhile Asian strategic rivals end up as big winners from China’s economic success?

In one sense, at least, Asian economies are already winning from Chinese growth: slack global demand has meant that China increasingly powers the growth of nearly every major economy in Asia.

But the question increasingly matters in another sense, as well: Chinese leaders are committed to rebalancing at least some elements of their country’s economy. And while that, in time, will mean a more competitive and powerful China, it will also create new opportunities for those countries in Asia that get manufacturing and investment policies right.

Read more »

The U.S. and China—Dialogue or Diatribe?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, July 19, 2011

President Barack Obama meets with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama in the Map Room of the White House on July 16, 2011. (Pete Souza/Courtesy The White House)

Is it ritualized noise or does China really mean it?

Here is what the Chinese Foreign Ministry had to say about President Obama’s July 16 meeting with the Dalai Lama: “We demand that the U.S. side seriously consider China’s stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces…such an act has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged Sino-American relations.”

Did President Obama’s meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader really “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”? The reports of the meeting suggest two primary outcomes: President Obama telling the Dalai Lama that the United States does not support Tibetan independence, and President Obama reiterating his support for the maintenance of Tibetan culture. Both of these are supported by Beijing.

Read more »

Japan’s Heroines

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, July 18, 2011
Japan's players celebrate with the trophy after the victory against the U.S. in their Women's World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011.

Japan's players celebrate with the trophy after the victory against the U.S. in their Women's World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

What a game! The U.S. and Japanese women’s soccer teams faced off for the World Cup yesterday afternoon, and after an electric overtime comeback by the Japanese team, Nadeshiko Japan went on to win the match in penalty kicks. For soccer fans, it was a heart-stopping finale. For American fans who have been consumed with the vitality of their women’s soccer team, it was so close…

But for the people of Japan, it was a miraculous demonstration of what determination and skill can bring. As team captain Homare Sawa said, on the morning of the final match, the opportunity to play was “a gift from the soccer god.”   Read more »

Malaysia’s Bersih Movement

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, July 14, 2011
Supporters of the "Bersih" (Clean) electoral reform coalition shout slogans during clashes with police in downtown Kuala Lumpur July 9, 2011.

Supporters of the "Bersih" (Clean) electoral reform coalition shout slogans during clashes with police in downtown Kuala Lumpur July 9, 2011. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

Last weekend, Malaysia’s Bersih (clean elections) movement drew tens of thousands of protestors to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, demanding reform of the electoral system, which is weighted in numerous ways to protect the ruling coalition. Though the protest was largely peaceful, the government met the demonstration with massive force, arresting thousands of protestors. The police used clubs, water cannons, and tear gas to crush the protests. (New Mandala has fine coverage of the Bersih protests.)

As in Thailand, where the red shirt movement started largely as a pro-Thaksin protest and developed into a larger force, the Bersih movement, which began as just a call for electoral reform, also may be developing into something larger. Read more »

China’s “Hyper IPR Environment”

by Adam Segal Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Counterfeit goods seized by the U.S. government are shown on display at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in northern Virginia on October 7, 2010.

Counterfeit goods seized by the U.S. government are shown on display at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in northern Virginia on October 7, 2010. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Richard Suttmeier and Xiangkui Yao have just published a new and excellent paper on China’s intellectual property (IP) rights transition. It is well worth the read, and, until September 8, you can download it for free from the National Bureau of Asian Research’s site.

There is much good analysis of the 2006 Medium- to Long-Term Scientific and Technological Development, the 2008 National Intellectual Property Strategy, as well as the 2010 National Patent Development Strategy and how these and other policies fit into and help shape China’s emerging IP regime.  Suttmeier and Yao’s main argument seems to be that outside observers (and probably the Chinese themselves) have no idea which way China is going to go. We could be at the beginning of “harmonization”, with Chinese laws and, more importantly, practices increasingly coming to look more like the rest of the world’s. Alternatively, the rise of strategic behavior and techno-nationalist policies could promote “tit for tat behavior” and create “an IP security dilemma that would undermine China’s aspirations and make international cooperation much more difficult.”

Read more »

The U.S. Response to Thailand’s Election

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Thailand's Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra (L) poses for photographers as she gives United States ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney a bouquet of flowers ahead of U.S. Independence Day celebrations in Bangkok July 5, 2011.

Thailand's Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra (L) poses for photographers as she gives United States ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney a bouquet of flowers ahead of U.S. Independence Day celebrations in Bangkok July 5, 2011. (Adrees Latif/Courtesy Reuters)

As the major foreign actor in Thailand, U.S. policy toward the Kingdom remains critical, and closely watched by Thai opinion leaders. Following the 2006 coup in Thailand, for example, American policy signals that, in many ways, seemed to indicate that Washington tolerated the coup provided support for the Thai military, even though, in the long run, the coup produced only more chaos.

Now, in the wake of Thailand’s July 3 election, the United States may have a role to play again, if Thailand’s establishment is able to nullify the poll through judicial rulings or other maneuverings.

In a new piece in the New Republic, I examine U.S. policy toward Thailand’s election. You can see the piece here.

Read more »

Time for the United States to Learn from China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, July 11, 2011
Employees decorate a Buick Regal car at a General Motors auto dealership in Suining, Sichuan province on November 18, 2010.

Employees decorate a Buick Regal car at a General Motors auto dealership in Suining, Sichuan province on November 18, 2010. (Stringer Shanghai/Courtesy Reuters)

The United States has spent over thirty years trying to “teach” China with, at best, mixed results. I think the time is well overdue for a turnabout in roles. We need to start learning from China.

I have been thinking about this issue for a long time, but reading Michael Dunne’s terrific new book American Wheels Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China, has convinced me that we can’t wait any longer. While not the central theme of Dunne’s book, it is an important concluding thought. Dunne underscores what I think should be the strategy for the United States as we anticipate a wave of Chinese capital flowing into the United States, and it boils down to taking a page from the Chinese playbook. Read more »