CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

The Rise of Innovative State Capitalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 29, 2012
In his new article for Bloomberg Businessweek, Kurlantzick argues that the Chinese government has intervened effectively to promote skilled research and development in advanced industries. In his new article for Bloomberg Businessweek, Kurlantzick argues that the Chinese government has intervened effectively to promote skilled research and development in advanced industries (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters).

Although government-led economic intervention runs counter to established wisdom that the market is best for promoting ideas, the international rise of state capitalism in recent years has suggested that state-supported industries are indeed capable of fostering innovation.

In my new piece for Bloomberg Businessweek, I explore the rise of state capitalism, its innovative potential, and the lessons that U.S. and European businesses and governments should draw from this phenomenon. You can read the piece in its entirety here. Read more »

China Tries to Breathe Free

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 29, 2012
The National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest', can be seen next to a tower bearing the Olympic rings and a building under construction on a high air pollution day in Beijing on June 6, 2012. The National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest', can be seen next to a tower bearing the Olympic rings and a building under construction on a high air pollution day in Beijing on June 6, 2012. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

After one day in Beijing, I had a sore throat. After two days, I had a cough. In nine days, the sun never made an appearance. So, when I returned to New York from Beijing earlier this week, I wasn’t surprised to learn from a friend who tracks China’s air quality that the pollution in the country’s capital during my stay had been among the worst since 2007.

There really isn’t any mystery as to why Beijing’s air pollution is so bad. Read more »

My Debate with the Thai Embassy Over Free Expression and the Monarchy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 29, 2012
A protester holds up a portrait of Thailand's King Bhumibol during a rally in front of the U.S. embassy in Bangkok December 16, 2011. A protester holds up a portrait of Thailand's King Bhumibol during a rally in front of the U.S. embassy in Bangkok December 16, 2011 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, “Bangkok Blues,” I explored the numerous factors that have led to the rapid decline of democracy in Thailand over the past six years. Yesterday, the Royal Thai Embassy submitted its rebuttal to my piece. You can read their response in its entirety here. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Strife and Media Coverage

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 29, 2012
Rohingya Muslims carry their belongings as they move after recent violence in Sittwe June 16, 2012. Rohingya Muslims carry their belongings as they move after recent violence in Sittwe June 16, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Over at Bangkok Pundit, BP has a fine summary of complaints by some Burmese bloggers and writers that the foreign media has covered the ethnic strife in western Myanmar poorly and, in some cases, allegedly in a biased manner. Some Burmese bloggers cited there argue that the foreign media, such as the New York Times, overhypes divisions between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar and sensationalizes Burmese citizens’ dislike for Muslims, and argue that in some cases the media seems to be taking the side of the Muslim Rohingya against Buddhists living in western Myanmar. Read more »

Cambodia and China: No Strings Attached?

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, June 27, 2012
China's Vice President Xi Jinping toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) after signing an agreement on cooperation at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009. China's Vice President Xi Jinping toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) after signing an agreement on cooperation at council of minister in Phnom Penh December 21, 2009 (Chor Sokunthea/Courtesy Reuters).

Laura Speyer is an intern for Southeast Asian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Just three years ago, Chinese vice president Xi Jinping claimed that “Sino-Cambodian relations are a model of friendly cooperation.” This week, Vice President Xi may have reason to reassess Cambodia’s willingness to “cooperate” with—some might say “obey”—its powerful neighbor. The issue highlighting power dynamics between the two countries is the extradition of Patrick Devillers, a French citizen allegedly involved in the increasingly bizarre imbroglio surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai, who is suspected of murder. Read more »

Prime Minister Noda’s Divided Party

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Japan's prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo after Japan's lower house approved a plan to double the sales tax June 26, 2012 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters). Japan's prime minister Yoshihiko Noda attends a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo after Japan's lower house approved a plan to double the sales tax by 2015 June 26, 2012 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda succeeded in passing his legislative initiative on consumption tax and social security reform by a vote of 393 to 96. But it was Noda’s ability to gain the cooperation of his opposition in parliament that made it possible. Fifty-seven members of his own party decided to thwart his appeal for unity and compromise by voting against the bill (while another fifteen abstained).

The engineer of this continued power struggle within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is none other than Ichiro Ozawa, the former secretary-general of the party who has spent almost two years fighting an indictment for mishandling campaign funds. Ozawa was never proven guilty, and after a final court decision on April 26 to that effect, Ozawa returned to political life in the DPJ. Read more »

Review of Peter Popham’s Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 22, 2012
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi walk in the rose garden at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire, southern England June 22, 2012. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi walk in the rose garden at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire, southern England June 22, 2012 (Peter Nicholls/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, Aung San Suu Kyi has been on a global tour, finally accepting the accolades she won but was unable to receive in person, meeting with longtime supporters in Europe, and giving what is said to be the first speech by a foreign woman to both Houses of Parliament. Yet when she returns to Myanmar, she will have to continue her struggle to reconcile her longstanding role as opposition leader and conscience of democracy with her new role in helping, along with President Thein Sein, promote the reform process. It is not an easy balance to strike, and for a thorough understanding of Suu Kyi’s life and philosophy, Peter Popham’s new biography The Lady and the Peacock is invaluable. Read more »

Google, Thailand, and the 2012 Transparency Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 22, 2012
Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, criticism of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pictured in Bangkok June 9, 2012) and the royal family is prohibited. Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, criticism of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pictured in Bangkok June 9, 2012) and the royal family is prohibited (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported on in Siam Voices this week, Google has released its 2012 Transparency Report, which chronicles requests that Google receives, mostly from governments, to block material online. As Lisa Gardner notes on Siam Voices, “Google bucked international trends in 2011 by blocking access to hundreds of web pages at the behest of the Thai Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology [MICT].” One part of the report shows that Google has restricted or partly restricted at least 149 YouTube videos that the Thai government claimed was insulting to the monarchy. Unlike in many other countries, where Google supposedly makes its decisions to take down material after a local court issues an order (not that courts are infallible, but at least there is a court order), in Thailand it took down material even without court orders being issued, simply at the request of the authorities. Read more »

An Emissions Trading Scheme for South Korea: Momentum for Rio+20?

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, June 20, 2012
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the opening of the High Level Segment at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban (Rogan Ward/courtesy Reuters) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the opening of the High Level Segment at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban (Rogan Ward/courtesy Reuters)

Lee Myung-bak departs Seoul for the G-20 in Los Cabos and the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development with an unanticipated political feather in his camp in the form of ratified national legislation establishing an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that is scheduled to take effect in 2015. But, as Jill O’Donnell describes in her latest ROK Green Growth Quarterly analysis, the legislation passed as part of a lame duck session of the eighteenth ROK National Assembly prior to its departure from office in early May has received relatively little public attention in South Korea. Read more »

U.S. and China in Cyberspace: Uneasy Next Steps

by Adam Segal Monday, June 18, 2012
U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Flournoy, chats with China'sDeputy Chief of General Staff of the PLA, Ma, during a bilateral meeting in Beijing on December 7, 2011. (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Flournoy, chats with China's Deputy Chief of General Staff of the PLA, Ma, during a bilateral meeting in Beijing on December 7, 2011. (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

I was in China last week for a cyber dialogue sponsored by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The good news is the two sides are continuing to talk. The not so good news is mistrust is high and the next steps will not be easy or quick.

In diplomatic speak, the talks were candid and constructive. Both sides acknowledged the mistrust that characterizes the relationship. Read more »