CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

China’s Not-So-Beautiful Neighborhood

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 30, 2012
Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. (Fred Prouser/Courtesy Reuters)

It is time for China and the rest of Asia to wave good-bye to Mr. Rogers. The Asia Pacific is no longer a beautiful neighborhood. Instead, it has become a battleground for demarcating property lines, grandiose plans for home expansion, and a general lack of good manners. And the situation is only likely to get more contentious with the arrival of Xi Jinping and the new Chinese Politburo Standing Committee to the neighborhood. Read more »

Thailand’s Education System Continues to Decline

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, November 30, 2012
Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012. Anti-government protesters clash with police near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Amidst all the chaos in Bangkok over the Pitak Siam rally —a group of monarchists opposed to the Yingluck government who were supposed to bring hundreds of thousands of supporters into the streets— another, similarly important piece of news about Thailand’s decline emerged. As it turns out, the Pitak Siam rally was mostly a bust. Only about 20,000 supporters actually turned out to rally sites in Bangkok, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of people who came out in 2006 for anti-Thaksin rallies that ultimately helped precipitate the 2006 coup. Read more »

Jennifer Lind: Japan, the Never Normal

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 30, 2012
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

For some reason we scholars, policy analysts, and journalists seem unable to see Japan as normal. No matter what Japan does, people view it through the lens of extremes. In the 1970s and ‘80s, when Japan’s economy grew rapidly, we concluded that Japan had created a miraculous strain of capitalism that would propel it to overtake the United States and achieve global supremacy. Then Japan’s bubble burst, and the slide began. Analysts now suggest that Japan is in terminal decline. Reading the news, one might conclude that in 100 years, there will only be eleven Japanese people left, all octogenarians. Read more »

Gerald L. Curtis: The Declinist Debate is a Diversion

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Thursday, November 29, 2012
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Is Japan in decline? Frankly I don’t think that spending a lot of time trying to answer that question is worth the effort.

Japan is declining in some respects and in other important ways it is not declining at all. It is well known that Japan’s relative standing in the hierarchy of the world’s economies has declined. Japan as number one has given way to a Japan that is number three. But would you prefer to live in the number two economy China or the number three economy Japan? If you think about living standards and the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat, the health care and other social services you receive, and the number of years you can expect to live, the answer is obvious: better to live in a “declining” Japan than in a rising China. Read more »

South Korea’s Launch and North Korean Satellite Envy: Take Two

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, November 28, 2012
South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung. (Ho/Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung. (Ho/Courtesy Reuters)

In a previous post from last month, I asserted that South Korea’s efforts to launch its own satellite would likely enrage North Korea, which is banned from conducting similar launches under UN Security Council Resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874. That post highlighted an essay by Clay Moltz of the Naval Postgraduate School that we posted last month. Read more »

Is Japan in Decline?: A Conversation

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Japan is now in the throes of another election, with myriad politicians and parties competing for media air time. While this political drama is capturing the headlines inside Japan, outside the country a more dismissive tone has crept into the conversation about Japan’s future.

A number of public statements in the U.S. media, most notably the front page article in the Washington Post last month, have heralded Japan’s decline. When the Republican candidate for office this summer made an offhand reference to Japan’s decline, I responded by pointing out all that Japan is and does in global affairs and why Japan is so important to the United States. But beyond the policy benefits of our alliance with Japan, I encounter many Americans who ask me about the decreasing role played by Tokyo in global and regional affairs. Read more »

China’s J-15 Carrier Operations: Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, November 27, 2012
China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is seen docked at Dalian Port, in Dalian, China, on September 23, 2012. China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is seen docked at Dalian Port, in Dalian, China, on September 23, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters / China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC)

Colonel Brian Killough is the U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On November 25, the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) announced that it had successfully landed a fighter on the aircraft carrier, Liaoning, and then taken off again. Furthermore, Beijing released video of the event to prove it. Read more »

Obama Announces Aid Package to Myanmar

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Saturday, November 24, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Yangon November 19, 2012. U.S. president Barack Obama delivers remarks at the University of Yangon November 19, 2012.

Nathan LaGrave is an intern for the Southeast Asia studies program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week, during his historic trip to Myanmar, President Obama demonstrated the United States’ continued commitment to the country’s transition with the announcement of a $170 million aid package. The announcement coincides with the reestablishment of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Myanmar, which was suspended for twenty-four years during the brutal reign of the former military regime. Now comes the critical time in which Chris Milligan, the newly-appointed USAID mission director in Myanmar, must develop a strategy for the distribution of these dollars. It is vital that the United States recognize those hazards which can potentially surround the offering of aid and tread cautiously, understanding the issues that could stall a successful transition in Myanmar and negate the positive effects of aid. Read more »

China’s Role in Syria: How Beijing Can Help End the Violence

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, November 21, 2012
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on October 31, 2012. U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on October 31, 2012. (Takuro Yabe/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a Research Associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry recently announced a “new” four-point peace initiative to solve the crisis in Syria. During a visit to Beijing by U.N. and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi in October, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stated that “political dialogue is the only correct way to tackle this issue,” and he added that he hoped the mediation discussions would promote “mutual understanding” and “the appropriate handling of the Syrian issue.” Read more »

A Referendum for Japan

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Japanese college students raise their fists at a job-hunting rally in Tokyo February 5, 2009 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters). Japanese college students raise their fists at a job-hunting rally in Tokyo February 5, 2009 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

Japan’s politicians have been released from legislative deliberations, and are rushing to prepare for the next Lower House election, scheduled for December 16. The media is in hot pursuit as politicians change allegiances and new parties emerge and join forces against Japan’s old legislative guard. There is a frenzy of criticism against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his much maligned ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). But to think this election is just a referendum against the DPJ misses the point. This election will shape Japan’s choices for years to come. Read more »