CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Ban Ki-moon Goes to Myanmar: What He Should Be Looking For

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 25, 2012
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Myanmar later this week to observe the country's democratic transition. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Myanmar later this week to observe the country's democratic transition. (Yves Herman/Courtesy Reuters)

The UN secretary general is shortly headed to Myanmar to observe the country’s reforms, and ahead of his visit his special advisor on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, told the press that the country had the potential to be the next Asian tiger, as it emerges from its hibernation and begins to attract significant investment. But Ban, who in the past has taken a relatively meek approach to the Myanmar government and military, should be coming in this time more empowered, able to go where he wants, and able to try and answer some of the big questions about the reform process. Read more »

Why So Gloomy, India?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Wednesday, April 25, 2012
People look at a large screen displaying India's Finance Minister Mukherjee announcing the federal budget on the facade of BSE building in Mumbai (Arko Datta / Courtesy Reuters). People look at a large screen displaying India's Finance Minister Mukherjee announcing the federal budget on the facade of BSE building in Mumbai (Arko Datta / Courtesy Reuters).

Over at “India Ink,” the India blog of The New York Times, there’s a terrific interview with Ajay Banga—the CEO of Mastercard and the new chair of the U.S.-India Business Council. It’s a striking presentation at a time when there’s been little but gloom and doom about India in the markets.

Why all that gloom? Here are six reasons:

Read more »

Myanmar — the Next Asian Tiger?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends a meeting at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Kawasaki Thermal Power Plant. Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends a meeting at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Kawasaki Thermal Power Plant. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters)

Pretty soon everyone you know will have been to Myanmar, so you better get there fast. The UN Secretary General is headed there, Canada just suspended sanctions (following the EU earlier this week), and Japan is gearing up for sizable investments in the country, as are many European businesses. In the new issue of Prospect, I explore Myanmar’s looming gold rush. Read more »

Hyping U.S.-China Competition

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, April 24, 2012
President, Chairman, and CEO of Dow Chemical Andrew Liveris speaks with Fortune Contributing Editor Marc Gunther at the Fortune Brainstorm GREEN Conference on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. (Courtesy of Fortune Brainstorm Green/Stuart Isett) President, Chairman, and CEO of Dow Chemical Andrew Liveris (left) speaks with Fortune Contributing Editor Marc Gunther at the Fortune Brainstorm GREEN Conference on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. (Courtesy of Fortune Brainstorm Green/Stuart Isett)

Last week I participated in the Fortune Brainstorm GREEN conference, a two-and-a-half day meeting in California that brought together money people, inventors, CEOs, chief sustainability officers, journalists, and policy analysts to talk about what is going on in the world of clean and green tech. The meeting struck me as unusual for a couple of reasons.

First, there was a lot of positive energy—no pun intended—engendered primarily by the inventor types and CEOs (not surprising, I suppose, since they are the ones actually involved in creating things), as well as the sustainability officers who are always thinking about how to make their companies do more with less. Read more »

More on Thaksin’s Imminent Return

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Former Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra (front L), welcomes his supporters during a ceremony in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, April 14, 2012. Former Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra (front L), welcomes his supporters during a ceremony in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, April 14, 2012. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

Over at New Mandala, there is a detailed report by longtime correspondent Nick Nostitz of Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to Cambodia during the Thai New Year. For followers of Thailand and Indochinese politics, it is well worth a read.

As with Nostitz’s prior reports and books, this one is full of on-the-ground details, but what struck me the most was the intense feeling poured out by some of the Thais who traveled to meet Thaksin, the kind of emotion I previously associated in Thailand with Thais’ meetings with, er, a man whose title ends with “Nine.” Read more »

The Kachin War Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 20, 2012
Supporters wave the National League for Democracy party's flag during pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's speech at Kachin National Manu park in the capital city Myitkyina, Kachin state. Supporters wave the National League for Democracy party's flag during pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's speech at Kachin National Manu park in the capital city Myitkyina, Kachin state. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over at New Mandala, there have been a series of excellent posts on the continuing conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military. Several have suggested that, as the Kachin area is increasingly covered in the state press in Yangon, it suggests that the government may no longer be trying to downplay the conflict, and may instead be trying to wins hearts and minds both in the Kachin area and among the majority Burman population for its handling of the fighting, in order to isolate Kachin regions from the broader reform effort and possibly split them from sympathy in the National League for Democracy (NLD). Read more »

A Tough UN Presidential Statement and North Korea’s Defiant Response

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, April 18, 2012
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks to the media after Security Council consultations at the United Nations in New York (Courtesy Reuters/Allison Joyce) U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks to the media after Security Council consultations at the United Nations in New York (Courtesy Reuters/Allison Joyce)

The UN Security Council issued a toughly-worded Presidential Statement on April 16, 2012, that deplored North Korea’s April 13 launch, called upon North Korea to “re-establish its preexisting commitments to a moratorium on missile launches” and directed the committee responsible for implementing UN security council resolutions against North Korea to make additional sanctions recommendations. Read more »

When Will Thaksin Return?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012. Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin took some small but symbolic steps towards the fringes of his homeland on Wednesday after five years in exile. Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012. Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin took some small but symbolic steps towards the fringes of his homeland on Wednesday after five years in exile. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

A spate of articles over the past week has highlighted the growing possibility that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will soon return to Thailand from exile. During a recent visit to Laos, just across the border from the Thai Northeast, Thaksin told supporters that he is going to return to Thailand within the next three or four months, in time for his birthday. As The Economist noted last week, his recent visit to Laos had all the trappings of a state visit, with high security, crowds of supporters, and the highest-level audiences with the Lao government. Thaksin has also increasingly dropped the façade that he is “retired” from politics, though he continues to insist that he is not interested in returning to the premiership. Read more »

Remembering Tadashi Yamamoto

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Jefferson Memorial is framed by blooming cherry trees, originally a gift from Japan in 1912, along the Tidal Basin in Washington on April 12, 2010. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) The Jefferson Memorial is framed by blooming cherry trees, originally a gift from Japan in 1912, along the Tidal Basin in Washington on April 12, 2010. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

I heard this morning the news that Tadashi Yamamoto passed away in Tokyo on Sunday. There will be a flood of tributes from the many people who knew him better than I did, but I wanted to add my modest voice to these many remembrances.

I first met Tadashi Yamamoto in the 1990s through a U.S.-Japan-China trilateral project that he put together at the Japan Center for International Exchange. I had studied Japanese in Tokyo in the late 1980s and continued to stay involved with Japan. But through Tadashi Yamamoto and JCIE, I met Japanese colleagues at the very outset of my professional career who became close friends and have remained important associates ever since.

Read more »

David Cameron to Visit Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 11, 2012
British prime minister David Cameron walks beside British Ambassador to Indonesia Mark Canning upon his arrival in Jakarta, April 11, 2012. British prime minister David Cameron walks beside British Ambassador to Indonesia Mark Canning upon his arrival in Jakarta, April 11, 2012. (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters)

Press reports today and yesterday confirm that British prime minister David Cameron will visit Myanmar on Friday, as part of a tour through Asia. This will make Cameron the first major Western leader to visit Myanmar in at least two decades, since the 1990 elections, whose results were never recognized internationally. Cameron is supposedly bringing with him a business delegation, as companies are now rushing to get into Myanmar.

In some ways, the United Kingdom is well positioned to be the European country that breaks the ice, leading the end of the European sanctions. Read more »