CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Thailand, Other Democracies Moving up the “Enemies of the Internet” List

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 15, 2012
Joe Gordon, a 54-year-old Thai-American citizen, arrives at Bangkok Criminal Court October 10, 2011. Gordon is charged with Lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy, as well as contravening the country's Computer Crimes Act. Joe Gordon, a 54-year-old Thai-American citizen, arrives at Bangkok Criminal Court October 10, 2011. Gordon is charged with Lese-majeste, or insulting the monarchy, as well as contravening the country's Computer Crimes Act. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters)

This week Reporters Without Borders issued its annual list of “Enemies of the Internet” – i.e., countries that impose the most restrictions, blocks, and filtering on free access to the Internet. The absolute worst offenders are hardly surprising – highly authoritarian states like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. But a more interesting component of the report is that a number of relatively free democracies are moving up the list as dedicated enemies of the Internet. These include India, Turkey, France, Australia, South Korea, and others that have laws designed to filter content and prohibit some content, often on shaky national security grounds, or because of alleged local cultural sensitivities. This trend seems to be picking up, as more and more democracies are imposing such blocks and filtering. Read more »

Timor-Leste’s Tenth Anniversary

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 13, 2012
A youth pastes stickers of Timor-Leste's presidential candidate and former military commander Taur Matan Ruak on his face during a campaign rally in Dili March 10, 2012. A youth pastes stickers of Timor-Leste's presidential candidate and former military commander Taur Matan Ruak on his face during a campaign rally in Dili March 10, 2012. (Lirio Da Fonseca/Courtesy Reuters)

A fine overview in The Economist this week outlines the challenges facing Timor-Leste this month, on the tenth anniversary of it becoming an independent state. On the surface, Dili and other parts of Timor seem to have made solid, hopeful progress; they are relatively quiet, and commerce is flourishing again. This looks like positive change compared to even five years ago, when on a visit I found much of Dili still deserted, the streets totally unsafe at night, and the ruins of not only the 1999 fighting but also battles between different militia groups contesting Dili. Many people I met in Timor then feared that the country, so small, and with so few capable administrators and other educated people, would not even survive, and would remain a ward of the international community indefinitely. Read more »

Japan’s Day of Remembrance

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, March 12, 2012
A child looks at a candle flame during an event to pray for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, in Iwanuma in Miyagi prefecture. A child looks at a candle flame during an event to pray for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, in Iwanuma in Miyagi prefecture. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, the Japanese people remembered the tragedy of March 11, 2011 as the nation looked back on the year since a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the northeastern Tohoku region. A large public ceremony in Tokyo included the emperor and empress of Japan as well as Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, and his cabinet.

Elsewhere, I have written of the broader political and economic challenges Japan confronts, challenges that have become vastly more acute as a result of the March 11 disasters. Yet today it is important to note where Japanese attention has focused. Read more »

Thoughts on the USCC’s New Report on Chinese Cyberattacks

by Adam Segal Friday, March 9, 2012
The U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, DC on February 8, 2011. The U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, DC on February 8, 2011. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) released the second report prepared for it by Northrop Grumman on Chinese cyber capabilities. As numerous press reports noted, Occupying the Information High Ground  argues that China’s improving cyber capabilities pose a threat to the United States military, that China could target U.S. logistic and transport networks in the case of a regional conflict, and that Chinese IT companies ZTE, Datang, and Huawei all have close collaborative ties with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Read more »

Suu Kyi as a Candidate

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 8, 2012
Supporters carry a bust of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrives in Mandalay March 3, 2012. Supporters carry a bust of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrives in Mandalay March 3, 2012. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

In today’s New York Times, Thomas Fuller has an excellent piece exploring the challenges faced by Aung San Suu Kyi as she attempts to make the transformation from longtime (and jailed) icon to politician. Fuller mentions that, since she is now a working politician, Suu Kyi has to offer solutions to the country’s problems, rather than just leading the dissent — and those problems are enormous. But he does not mention in detail the fact that, among some Burmese Democrats, there is concern that simply by working closely with the government, Suu Kyi is hurting her own image, since it still remains unclear where the reform path is headed. Read more »

Behind the Scenes at China’s Lianghui

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, March 8, 2012
China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai at the opening ceremony of National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5, 2012. China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai at the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5, 2012. (Jason Lee / Courtesy of Reuters)

From the outside looking in—and maybe from the inside as well—China’s legislative gatherings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference are largely tedious affairs, dominated by long-winded prepared speeches and commentary. Yet behind the scenes there is always some high-level politicking, some real ideas floating about, and generally a few moments worth waiting for. Read more »

Can the Bloom Return to Indonesia’s Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin Muhammad, escorted by policemen, leaves the Corruption Eradication Commission office in Jakarta. Former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin Muhammad, escorted by policemen, leaves the Corruption Eradication Commission office in Jakarta. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Months of revelations of alleged scandals of major figures in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party has slowly but surely dragged down public opinion in Indonesia of the government, and largely destroyed SBY’s second term. Though SBY himself is still seen by most people as personally honest —a rare commodity in Indonesian politics — that view of him as an exception is coming to matter less and less, as the public increasingly sees him as so indecisive and captured by corrupt, old-fashioned allies, that whether or not he is personally clean becomes relatively unimportant. Read more »

China’s March Madness—Not Jeremy Lin but Lei Feng

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, March 5, 2012
A portrait of Chinese national folk-hero, Lei Feng looks out over a busy intersection in a central Beijing shopping district in June of 1998. A portrait of Chinese national folk-hero, Lei Feng looks out over a busy intersection in a central Beijing shopping district in June of 1998. (Natalie Behring/Courtesy Reuters)

In late February, New York-based Global Times writer Rong Xiaoqing published a piece on Jeremy Lin and the “Hunger for Heroes in the U.S.” In her piece, Rong argues that the United States—and democracy more broadly—favors the hero-centered narrative because it needs strong hands “to hold the wheel steady” and “to help avoid endless arguments at times of crisis.” According to Rong, “Americans badly need new superheroes.” Read more »

Thailand’s Collapsing Peace: Part II

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 1, 2012
The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. The return of Suranand Vejjajiva is seen as a signal that Thaksin Shinawatra (above) is poised to return to Thailand. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

The Nation (the Thailand version) has an article today noting that Suranand Vejjajiva, who was the Prime Minister’s Office Minister in previous Thaksin Shinawatra governments, has now begun playing a major role in the administration of the current prime minister, Thaksin’s sister Yingluck. Suranand was banned from engaging in politics for five years following the coup that deposed Thaksin; but, like many other prominent pro-Thaksin politicians, his ban is almost up, and he and others are expected to return to the political scene in full force soon. Read more »

The Next American President and North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, March 1, 2012
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanges smiles with Chief of General Staff of the Korea People's Army Ri Yong-ho during a military parade in Pyongyang. (Courtesy Reuters/Kyodo) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanges smiles with Chief of General Staff of the Korea People's Army Ri Yong-ho during a military parade in Pyongyang. (Courtesy Reuters/Kyodo)

As part of CFR’s Campaign 2012 series, I have a new video discussing the policy challenges that the next U.S. administration is likely to face as North Korea faces a “transformative moment” that may require substantial time and resources. The opportunities and costs will be determined by how developments in U.S. presidential leadership track with leadership transitions in South Korea and China, as well as how North Korea’s own leadership transition challenges unfold. Read more »