CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Why Haven’t Chinese Leaders Acted Decisively to Reduce Tobacco Use?

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, October 31, 2012
A visitor dressed as a Red Army soldier smokes as he poses for a picture in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi province on September 20, 2012. (Carlos Barria / Courtesy Reuters) A visitor dressed as a Red Army soldier smokes as he poses for a picture in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi province on September 20, 2012. (Carlos Barria / Courtesy Reuters)

In mid-October, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev voiced support for a proposed ban on smoking in public places by 2015. “The government is not at war with smokers,” he said, “but we are making a stand against smoking.”

Compared to Russia, where about a third of the population smokes, China has “the biggest tobacco problem in the world.” As Cheng Li pointed out in a recent publication, China is “the world’s biggest tobacco producer, largest cigarette consumer, and gravest victim of the smoking-related health crisis.” Read more »

More on the Strife in Rakhine State

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence earlier this year outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012. Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)..

While we on the East Coast of the United States get battered by the hurricane, reports suggest that the most recent wave of strife in Rakhine State has cooled, at least temporarily. The Irrawaddy reports that at least 22,000 people have been displaced by the most recent conflict in Rakhine State, according to the UN, but that calm has been restored for now, albeit with a significantly larger presence of security forces on the streets of major towns and cities in the state, including 5,000 more police and at least 1,000 more border security forces.

Although it is certainly good that some calm has been restored, no one believes that another explosion of violence will not occur soon in Rakhine State. Read more »

The ‘New York Times’ Takedown of Wen Jiabao and What It Means

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, October 29, 2012
China's Premier Wen Jiabao attends the second plenary meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 8, 2012. China's Premier Wen Jiabao attends the second plenary meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 8, 2012. (Jason Lee / Courtesy Reuters)

No doubt about it, David Barboza of the New York Times has achieved a journalistic coup. His deep dive into the financial wherewithal of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family exposed a total net worth of a staggering $2.7 billion. Other journalists, of course, have investigated the family holdings of other Chinese leaders: a team of Bloomberg reporters broke the secrecy barrier with reports on the wealth of Bo Xilai’s family and last June published an in-depth look into the burgeoning financial holdings—almost $400 million—of soon-to-be Chinese president Xi Jinping’s extended family. Frankly, anyone who spends much time in China knows about the oligarchic nature of the Chinese elite, but the extent and distribution of the Wen family wealth is eye-opening. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Where Is Suu Kyi?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Sunday, October 28, 2012
People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012. People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State, in the western part of Myanmar, has flared up badly once again. According to reports in local media and the news wires, over the past seven days at least sixty —and as many as one hundred— people have been killed in clashes. The local security forces allegedly have been firing on some crowds, and other reports suggest that the refugee camps set up for Muslims in the area have already become so overcrowded that they can no longer hold new arrivals. Read more »

U.S.-ROK Security Consultative Meetings: A Review of Progress Under the Obama and Lee Administrations

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, October 26, 2012
South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters) South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters)

U.S. secretary of defense Panetta and ROK minister of defense Kim Kwan-jin released a joint communique following the 44th annual Security Consultative Meetings (SCM) on Wednesday.  Since this meeting is an annual event that rotates between Washington and Seoul, I decided to compare this week’s communique with the one issued four years ago (at the end of the Bush administration) under Lee Myung-bak’s first defense minister Lee Sang-hee and his counterpart Robert Gates to provide a sense of how the relationship has developed during the stewardship of Presidents Lee and Obama.  Here are my takeaways: Read more »

Will the Real Chinese Leaders Please Stand Up?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, October 25, 2012
China's Guangdong Province Party Secretary Wang Yang (R) smiles next to Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang at the second plenary meeting of the National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 8, 2012. China's Guangdong Province Party Secretary Wang Yang (R) smiles next to Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang at the second plenary meeting of the National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 8, 2012. (Jason Lee / Reuters)

For more than two decades beginning in 1956, CBS and then NBC aired a television show “To Tell the Truth,” in which a panel of celebrities attempted to identify which one of three contestants was telling the truth about who he/she was. I always found the show rather painfully gripping as I waited for the final reveal, when the host would ask, “Would the real [so and so] please stand up?”  Read more »

Global Korea in International Security: Why It Is Likely to Last

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, October 23, 2012
South Korean soldiers salute during the inauguration ceremony of the Dongmyong peacekeeping troops bound for Lebanon, in Gwangju (courtesy Reuters) South Korean soldiers salute during the inauguration ceremony of the Dongmyong peacekeeping troops bound for Lebanon, in Gwangju (courtesy Reuters)

The agenda for the annual U.S.-ROK Security Consultative Meeting to be held this week in Washington between South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, will inevitably focus on how to keep the Korean peninsula stable against potential North Korean provocations. However, with South Korea’s decision to contribute resources to a variety of international peacekeeping and stabilization missions, U.S.-ROK security cooperation has gone global. Read more »

Review: ‘From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia’ by Pankaj Mishra

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, October 22, 2012
(L-R) Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff, Russia's president Vladimir Putin, India's prime minister Manmohan Singh, China's president Hu Jintao and South African president Jacob Zuma pose for a picture after a BRICS leaders' meeting in Los Cabos June 18, 2012. (L-R) Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff, Russia's president Vladimir Putin, India's prime minister Manmohan Singh, China's president Hu Jintao and South African president Jacob Zuma pose for a picture after a BRICS leaders' meeting in Los Cabos June 18, 2012 (Victor Ruiz Garcia/Courtesy Reuters).

As Western economies continue to struggle, while China and many other large developing nations are now being looked to as potential saviors of indebted European nations, the idea that the twenty-first century will be dominated by the “rise of the rest” —i.e., non-Western nations, most of them in Asia —has only become more powerful. Indeed, from Goldman Sachs’ first landmark report predicting the emergence of the so-called “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to, more recently, the originator of the famous term “Washington Consensus” publicly wondering whether the Washington Consensus had been replaced by a Beijing Consensus, the “rest” already seem to have risen quite far, while the West has nowhere to go but down. Read more »

South Korea’s Satellite Launch and North Korean Satellite Envy

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, October 22, 2012
South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung (courtesy Reuters) South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung (courtesy Reuters)

South Korea tries for the third time to successfully launch its own satellite into earth orbit using Russian technology this Friday, October 26, 2012. A new essay by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Clay Moltz analyzes South Korea’s space strategy in a new U.S.-Korea program essay. The essay analyzes South Korea’s program achievements and strategic challenges in the context of rapidly advancing Chinese, Indian, and Japanese programs. Moltz also analyzes opportunities and challenges to enhanced U.S.-ROK cooperation in space as part of my edited volume released earlier this year entitled The US-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges. Read more »

Thailand’s Secessionist Muslim Insurgency Escalates

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, October 22, 2012
Thai security personnel investigate the site of a bomb attack by suspected Muslim militants a roadside in southern Thailand's Yala province October 6, 2012. Thai security personnel investigate the site of a bomb attack by suspected Muslim militants a roadside in southern Thailand's Yala province October 6, 2012 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past six months, the insurgency in southern Thailand, which seemed to be cooling off late last year, has once again heated up. Incidents of daily violence are up, and the insurgents are using increasingly sophisticated bombing and gunning techniques. The recent ceasefire deal in the southern Philippines between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has shifted attention to the south Thailand insurgency, yet the prospect of change in the Thai south looks remote. Read more »