CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

What to Expect in Asia in 2012

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Traders stand near a screen showing the Indonesia Stock Exchange Composite Index during the first day of trading for 2012 in Jakarta January 2, 2012. Courtesy Reuters/Stringer.

It’s been a fascinating year for Asia. The region has continued to consolidate its role as the essential player driving global recovery. Developing Asia, including China, India, and the major ASEAN economies, maintained robust growth, in contrast to the advanced economies’ collective anemic growth over the same period.

But 2012 promises to be more fraught as domestic politics take command amid new challenges to growth.

Here are twelve trends I see coming for Asia in 2012—risks, opportunities, and emerging patterns that will shape Asia during the next twelve months, and beyond.

Read more »

Southeast Asia: What to Expect in 2012

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011.

Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

The year 2011 saw some of the biggest political developments in Southeast Asia in decades. Burma finally seemed poised for real change, while Thailand continued to move closer to the brink of self-immolation, as political in-fighting worsened. The United States, China, and ASEAN nations continued to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, to a point where, now, it seems unlikely anyone can back off their claims and truly sit down at the table to negotiate some kind of agreement. Singapore had its most competitive election in generations, while in Malaysia massive street protests clearly have rattled the government. Even smaller states faced political turmoil: Papua New Guinea went for weeks with two prime ministers and the potential for civil strife, before the situation was resolved.

What, then, should we expect for an encore? Here are several trends to watch:

  1. China will bring back the charm. Over the past two years, Beijing has cost itself much of the gains it made in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it appeared to be a good neighbor, trading partner, and investor. Through its belligerent approach to the South China Sea and, to some extent, the Mekong River, Beijing has scared many Southeast Asian nations enough that they have welcomed back a greater role for the United States in the region, even though their populations have not exactly become pro-American. Read more »

Asia Behind the Headlines

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, January 3, 2012
A floating restaurant is stranded in a branch of the Yangtze River in Chongqing Municipality on March 21, 2010.

A floating restaurant is stranded in a branch of the Yangtze River in Chongqing Municipality on March 21, 2010. (Stringer Shanghai / Courtesy of Reuters)

Jared Mondschein looks at the key stories behind the headlines in Asia.

- One less hurdle to the dam – The New York Times is reporting that the Xiaonanhai Dam along the Yangtze River, a $3.8 billion project that environmentalists have derided for its dire ecological impacts, is back on track for construction. China’s State Council decided to reduce the boundaries of a Yangtze River preserve—that had been established to protect biodiversity in the wake of the Three Gorges dam—signaling that overall approval for the project is imminent. According to one Chinese geologist, the dam will displace 400,000 people and flood 18 square miles of fertile farmland. All this to produce power at a cost of about $2,144 per kilowatt, triple the cost of the Three Gorges Dam.

- Where does China want foreigners investing? The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s top economic planning agency, announced the latest revision to the foreign direct investment catalogue. The catalogue, a list of industries that the NDRC divides into the categories encouraged, allowed, and restricted, for the first time deemed car-making and polysilicon plants as only allowed – not encouraged, as it had done previously. Are foreign carmakers worried? For the most part, those already in the country aren’t, but the future does not look at bright for those still waiting to be allowed to enter the market, such as Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, the maker of Subaru. Read more »