CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Will China Continue to “Turn Against Law”?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Li Keqiang, right, shakes hands with China's Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang after Li was elected Vice Premier in Beijing on March 17, 2008. Li Keqiang, right, shakes hands with China's Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang after Li was elected Vice Premier in Beijing on March 17, 2008. (Jason Lee / Courtesy Reuters)

Mark Jia is an intern for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As speculation brims over China’s impending leadership succession, focus has centered on the political leanings of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, seniors leaders who are expected to secure the top posts in the Politburo’s all-powerful Standing Committee this fall. However, recent Party machinations over another committee position, the one that oversees the country’s legal and security institutions, offer potentially more revealing clues into China’s prospects for future reform. Read more »

China’s New Political Class: The People

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, July 26, 2012
Rescuers and residents stand next to a stranded car which is being pulled up from a flooded street under the Guangqumen overpass amid heavy rainfalls in Beijing on July 21, 2012. Rescuers and residents stand next to a stranded car which is being pulled up from a flooded street under the Guangqumen overpass amid heavy rainfalls in Beijing on July 21, 2012. (Joe Chan / Courtesy Reuters)

Chinese people power has arrived. As China’s top officials meet in Beidaihe to finalize their selections for the country’s new leadership, they are being overshadowed by a different, and increasingly potent, political class—the Chinese people. From Beijing to Jiangsu to Guangdong, Chinese citizens are making their voices heard on the Internet and their actions felt on the streets.   Read more »

China Moving Soldiers to Disputed South China Sea Islands

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, July 25, 2012
People's Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison march at an airbase in Hong Kong (Bobby Yip/courtesy Reuters) People's Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison march at an airbase in Hong Kong (Bobby Yip/courtesy Reuters)

In today’s New York Times, a detailed article notes that China’s Central Military Commission has approved “the deployment of a garrison of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army to guard disputed islands claimed by China and Vietnam in the South China Sea.” This development is only going to ratchet tensions up even higher from the already sky-high level in the wake of the failed ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting earlier this month. Read more »

China Moves Forward on Cybersecurity Policy

by Adam Segal Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office answers questions after announcing the launch of the National Internet Information Office. (Zhai Zihe / Courtesy  Xinhua) Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office answers questions after announcing the launch of the National Internet Information Office. (Zhai Zihe / Courtesy Xinhua)

Last week, the State Council issued a new policy opinion for promoting the development of Chinese information technology and information security. In the State Council’s view, “international competition over the acquisition, use, and control of information is increasingly fierce” and China faces urgent challenges. In particular, the policy opinion notes the disparity between China and developed countries in broadband infrastructure; a low degree of information sharing between the government and industry; the control of core technologies by foreigners; inadequate strategic planning for information security and weak basic network defense capabilities; and the rapid growth of mobile Internet and other new technologies. Read more »

An Eye to the Future of Japan-South Korea Relations

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, July 23, 2012
South Korea's Defense Minister Kim shakes hands with Japan's Defense Minister Kitazawa before their meeting in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's Defense Minister Kim shakes hands with Japan's Defense Minister Kitazawa before their meeting in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s Democratic United Party (DUP) failed yesterday in its motion to dismiss South Korea’s Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik for the Lee Myung-bak administration’s handling of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan last month. South Korean public opposition not only forced the Lee administration to suspend the signing of this GSOMIA, but also cost the administration the resignation of one senior official. Despite the Lee administration already shelving its controversial plans to pursue cooperation with Japan, this being an election year, the DUP aimed to impose a higher political cost. Read more »

Thailand’s Forgotten Conflict

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, July 23, 2012
Thai rescue workers remove a body after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province. (Surapan Boonthamon/courtesy Reuters) Thai rescue workers remove a body after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province. (Surapan Boonthamon/courtesy Reuters)

While the now six-years-old standoff in Bangkok between Thailand’s traditional elites and the pseudo-populist parties allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has gotten most of the international press, a far more brutal struggle, in Thailand’s Deep South, has gone virtually unnoticed for more than a decade. Since the early 2000s, more than 5,000 people have been killed in the conflict in southern Thailand, and the war shows no signs of ending any time soon. Read more »

What Happens Now in the South China Sea?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, July 19, 2012
Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc (Erik de Castro/courtesy Reuters) Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc (Erik de Castro/courtesy Reuters)

Although the meltdown of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh last week seemed like an unmitigated disaster, and already has resulted in a flurry of press coverage blasting the organization, the situation in the South China Sea is not necessarily headed for a steep descent into real conflict. To be sure, both sides seem likely to send more “fishing vessels” and other boats that straddle the line between civilian and military vessels into the disputed waters, raising the possibility of further skirmishes. Meanwhile, in the wake of the summit Philippine opinion leaders, and the Philippine media, are both livid at Cambodia for allegedly scuttling any joint position and increasingly aware of how vulnerable the Philippines is, having allowed their armed forces to deteriorate badly over the past two decades. Read more »

ASEAN’s Failures on the South China Sea

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong addresses the closing ceremony of the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh (Pring Samrang/courtesy Reuters) Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong addresses the closing ceremony of the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh (Pring Samrang/courtesy Reuters)

In the wake of the disastrous break-up of last week’s ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, at which ASEAN failed to agree to any statement summarizing their position on the South China Sea, even some of the most ardent backers of the Southeast Asian organization have begun to wonder whether ASEAN’s traditional consensus way is now totally defunct. This emphasis on consensus, of course, allows even one country, no matter how small, to block any joint position taken by ASEAN – in this case, probably Cambodia and Laos, which are increasingly close to China, blocking any joint statement that criticized Beijing. But this is hardly the first time the consensus approach has proven utterly counterproductive: ASEAN failed for years to strengthen their charter to include strong new clauses on human rights, almost surely because of the objections of more repressive ASEAN members like Myanmar. ASEAN failed, in the past, to take strong positions even on conflict within Southeast Asia, as occurred in East Timor in 1999, because of this adherence – some might say slavish devotion – to consensus and noninterference, a sharp contrast from some other regional organizations like the African Union. Read more »

China’s Population Policy—An Exchange Between Edwin Winckler and Yanzhong Huang

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, July 17, 2012
A young Chinese mother watches her child in front of a sign reading "birth control is a basic state policy of our country" in Beijing on July 23, 2002. A young Chinese mother watches her child in front of a sign reading "birth control is a basic state policy of our country" in Beijing on July 23, 2002. (Guang Niu / Courtesy Reuters)

Dr. Yanzhong Huang is Senior Fellow for Global Health and the newest writer for Asia Unbound. His first post, “Time for China to Abandon Its Population Control Policy,” attracted significant attention, including a thoughtful response from Edwin A. Winckler, a Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. Here we have posted both Dr. Winckler’s commentary and a new response from Dr. Huang. We hope you enjoy their discussion.

-Elizabeth Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

Read more »

North Korea’s Missing Man: The Post-Kim Jong-il Era Begins In Earnest

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, July 17, 2012
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanges smiles with former chief of general staff of the Korean People's Army Ri Yong-ho during a military parade in Pyongyang (Kyodo/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un exchanges smiles with former chief of general staff of the Korean People's Army Ri Yong-ho during a military parade in Pyongyang (Kyodo/courtesy Reuters)

The North Korean announcement of Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho’s July 15 removal from all posts due to “illness” at a meeting of the General Political Bureau of the Central Committee “deal with the organizational issue” is the first purge of a senior figure in North Korea since Kim Jong-un assumed his father’s posts last April. It is all the more striking because Ri Yong-ho’s ascension to the top rung of power at North Korea’s September 2010 party conference placed him as the apparent guardian of the plan to implement a transition to a third generation of Kim family leadership. Read more »