CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

2013’s Biggest Surprise? The Philippines

by Joshua Kurlantzick Saturday, December 29, 2012
President Aquino III answers questions during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. President Aquino III answers questions during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (John Javellana/Courtesy Reuters).

In an excellent overview of the political and economic changes that occurred in the Philippines in 2012, the Financial Times this week discussed how the country, long the “sick man” economy of Southeast Asia, is primed for a significant take off, putting it in a much higher class of fast-growing economies, like Indonesia, India, China, and others. The paper rightly gives credit to the president, Benigno Aquino III, for overseeing new investments in infrastructure, taking a personal interest in—and reaching—a real peace deal with rebels in the south, taking on the Catholic church to make birth control more accessible in one of the most devoutly Catholic nations in the world, and targeting high-profile corruption cases. Read more »

Democracy in Retreat

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, December 27, 2012
Thai riot police detain an anti-government protester during a rally in Bangkok November 24, 2012. In “Democracy of Retreat”, published by the Council on Foreign Relations and Yale University Press, Joshua Kurlantzick examines the regression of democracy in Thailand, among other countries. Thai riot police detain an anti-government protester during a rally in Bangkok November 24, 2012. In “Democracy of Retreat”, published by the Council on Foreign Relations and Yale University Press, Joshua Kurlantzick examines the regression of democracy in Thailand, among other countries (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

My new book, Democracy in Retreat—which examines the rollback of democracy in countries as varied as Thailand, Malaysia, and Russia—comes out in a few weeks. The reviews have started to come in, and John Berthelsen of Asia Sentinel, who has extensive experience covering Southeast Asian politics, offers his take. You can read the review in its entirety here.

Why Is It in China’s Interest to Promote Health Security in Southeast Asia?

by Yanzhong Huang Thursday, December 20, 2012
Dead ducks are hung at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government (Chor Sokunthea/Courtesy Reuters). Dead ducks are hung at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government (Chor Sokunthea/Courtesy Reuters).

If there is a buzzword one needs to know to understand U.S. foreign policy toward Asia in 2013, it is “rebalancing,” or in the words of President Obama “pivoting.” Rebalancing is of course not solely about military redeployment. Indeed, a critical element of the U.S. rebalancing strategy in the region is to nurture partnerships with countries and international institutions to address common threats in areas such as regional health security. Read more »

Conflict Continues in Rakhine State

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, December 20, 2012
Myanmar people of Rohingya ethnicity who are living in Malaysia, display placards during a rally outside Malaysia's Foreign Ministry in Putrajaya. Myanmar people of Rohingya ethnicity who are living in Malaysia, display placards during a rally outside Malaysia's Foreign Ministry in Putrajaya (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

The continuing violence in Rakhine (or Arakan) State in western Myanmar, as well as the expanding war in Kachin State (see an excellent piece on Kachin State by Bertil Lintner here) threaten the reforms that Thein Sein continues to push through. Some specialists on western Myanmar are now urging that Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been mostly quiet on the conflict, become a kind of personal special envoy to both sides in Rakhine State to try and cool tensions. In a new article in The National, I examine the roots of the conflict, and discuss my ultimately pessimistic conclusions about whether it can be resolved. You read the entire piece here. Read more »

Mihoko Matsubara: What the LDP Victory Means for Japan’s Cybersecurity Policy

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal Thursday, December 20, 2012
Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo December 17, 2012. Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, December 17, 2012 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

Mihoko Matsubara is a cybersecurity analyst and a nonresident Sasakawa Peace Foundation fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS, Honolulu, Hawaii. The views expressed here are her own. 

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a majority in the lower house election on December 16. This victory will make it easier for the next administration to reinforce cybersecurity as part of national security and improve technologies to deal with cyber attacks. Yet this will not be sufficient, and the new government must also enhance nontechnical aspects of cybersecurity policy, including international cooperation. Read more »

Five Trends to Watch for in Chinese Cybersecurity in 2013

by Adam Segal Tuesday, December 18, 2012
A man smokes as he uses a computer at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province, A man smokes as he uses a computer at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province, (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters)

With 2012 coming to an end, here are some of the larger trends to watch in Chinese cybersecurity in the upcoming year.

New institutions/bureaucratic reform. There are rumors that there will be another round of bureaucratic reforms in the spring. Chinese analysts have pointed out that one of the great weaknesses in their defenses is that institutional oversight of cybersecurity is fragmented and ineffective, and there is a low degree of information sharing between the government and industry. There have also been complaints that China lacks adequate strategic planning for information security. In the past, efforts at ministerial reform have been underwhelming, resulting in little more than shuffling around of titles. This CCID report, however, does make the interesting suggestion that China should set up an “information security agency” to better coordinate cyber strategy. Read more »

Charles T. McClean: The LDP’s Freshmen

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Hideki Murai (L) from Saitama 1st constituency appears at a rally alongside Liberal Democratic Party president Shinzo Abe (R). Murai, a first-time candidate, won his district with 96,000 votes. November 30, 2012 (Mamoru Watanabe/Courtesy Hideki Murai, Facebook). Hideki Murai (L) from Saitama 1st constituency appears at a rally alongside Liberal Democratic Party president Shinzo Abe (R). Murai, a first-time candidate, won his district with 96,000 votes. November 30, 2012 (Mamoru Watanabe/Courtesy Hideki Murai, Facebook).

Charles T. McClean is a Research Associate for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Sunday, Japan’s citizens went to the polls and elected 294 members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the national parliament.

Of the 294 LDP members, 105 are incumbents, 70 are former lawmakers, and 119 are first-time legislators. These 119 are part of a group of 184 new faces—the largest number of freshmen lawmakers to enter Japan’s Diet since 1949. Read more »

Taiwan’s Media Uproar: A New Generation Comes of Age

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, holds up a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper as he speaks to Reuters in Taipei on November 29, 2010. Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, holds up a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper as he speaks to Reuters in Taipei on November 29, 2010. (Nicky Loh/Courtesy Reuters)

James Stand is an intern for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The November 27 sale of Beijing critic Jimmy Lai’s Next Media Ltd. to Tsai Eng-Meng’s pro-Beijing media consortium Want Want Group has rekindled the debate over Taiwan’s media freedom. The proposed sale has exposed the failures of Taiwan’s media regulatory bodies, and, more importantly, has energized journalists, students, and freedom of speech advocates and inspired protests in defense of Taiwan’s free press. Read more »

South Korea’s Presidential Election: Formula for Victory

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, December 17, 2012
South Korea's presidential candidates Park of the ruling Saenuri Party shakes hands with Moon of the Democratic United Party before a final televised debate for the eighteenth presidential election in Seoul. (Pool/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's presidential candidates Park of the ruling Saenuri Party shakes hands with Moon of the Democratic United Party before a final televised debate for the eighteenth presidential election in Seoul. (Pool/courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s presidential campaign formally launched on November 26 with seven registered candidates. The main candidates are ruling Saenuri party representative Park Geun-hye and progressive opposition Democratic Unity Party (DUP) representative Moon Jae-in. The election is likely to turn on the following factors: a unified support base, demography, and turnout. Here are some factors to watch as South Korea’s campaign reaches its climax with a national vote to be held on December 19. Read more »

Are the New Democracies Pro-Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, December 17, 2012
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta. Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, democracy icon and Burmese parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to New Delhi at the invitation of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh to deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture.  Despite the two countries’ close proximity—India and Myanmar share an 800-mile border—the occasion marked Suu Kyi’s first visit to India in forty years. In recent years, Suu Kyi has publically expressed her disappointment in the Indian government’s decision to reverse decades of pro-democracy support regarding Myanmar, and pursue a more realist policy of accommodating the ruling junta. Thus, Suu Kyi’s address in New Delhi marked a potential shift in Indian-Burmese relations, and an opportunity for India to publically express support for its neighbor’s democratic transition. Read more »