CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Secretary of State John Kerry on China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, February 27, 2013
U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) testifies during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to be secretary of state, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 24, 2013. U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) testifies during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing to be secretary of state, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 24, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

When it came to China, Secretary of State John Kerry’s confirmation hearing touched on a little bit of everything. Here is what he said he wants:

  • To compete with China economically in Africa—this will be tough given the extraordinary government resources China pours into its trade and investment effort in the continent;
  • To use the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as leverage with China to ensure commonly accepted rules of the road on trade—of course the TPP has to move forward for this to happen; Read more »

ASEAN’s Enormous Growth Rates

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 26, 2013
A Bangkok Mass Transit System skytrain station is pictured under construction on the outskirts of Bangkok. Thailand posted an 18.9 percent year-on-year growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2012. A Bangkok Mass Transit System skytrain station is pictured under construction on the outskirts of Bangkok. Thailand posted an 18.9 percent year-on-year growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

Over at Asia Sentinel, a new piece notes the extremely high growth rates posted in the third and fourth quarters of 2012 by major Southeast Asian economies. Most notably, Thailand posted a staggering 18.9 percent year-on-year growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2012. Although this growth is somewhat artificial, since it is compared to the anemic growth in the flood-wracked fourth quarter of 2011, it is still extremely impressive. The Philippines also is growing strongly, posted over 7 percent growth in the third quarter of 2012, and Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia also are booming. Read more »

Post-Summit Decisions for Prime Minister Abe

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, February 25, 2013
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference at a Washington hotel, February 22, 2013 Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference at a Washington hotel during his visit to meet with President Barack Obama February 22, 2013 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, returned to Tokyo this weekend after his first summit meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama. Post-summit, Abe faces two important economic decisions. The first is his nomination for the next governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ). The second is whether Japan’s prime minister will urge his party onwards to participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). To succeed, Abe now has to confront some political hurdles at home. Read more »

The PLA Becomes More Involved in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 25, 2013
Soldiers from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) cross a stream towards the front line in Laiza, Kachin state, January 29, 2013. Soldiers from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) cross a stream towards the front line in Laiza, Kachin state, January 29, 2013 (David Johnson/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past decade, up until the beginning of Myanmar’s reform period in 2010, China had appeared to consolidate its influence over the country. Without a doubt, China had become Myanmar’s most important ally, diplomatic partner, and aid donor, and probably its largest trading partner, though the statistics were hard to keep. Yet China’s policy toward Myanmar was always more complicated than it appeared. Read more »

South Korea’s New President Park Geun-hye: Heralding Hope Amidst Tough Realities

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, February 25, 2013
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye speaks during her inauguration at the parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013. Park, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, became the first female president of South Korea on Monday. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye speaks during her inauguration at the parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013. Park, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, became the first female president of South Korea on Monday. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye took the oath of office today as South Korea’s first female president, the first Korean president to have previously lived in the Blue House, and the first Korean president to have visited North Korea prior to her term in office.  In her inauguration address, Park vowed to “open a new era of hope” in the face of a global economic crisis and North Korea’s nuclear threat.  She pledged a “creative economy” based on scientific and IT innovation, a “new paradigm of tailored welfare” and a merit-based society that enforces social justice through effective rule of law, a Korean cultural renaissance, and step-by-step efforts to build trust-based diplomacy with North Korea and with South Korea’s other partners. Read more »

Thailand’s Insurgency Enters Its Second Generation

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Security personnel investigate around bodies of insurgents at the site of an attack on an army base in the troubled southern province of Narathiwat February 13, 2013. Security personnel investigate around bodies of insurgents at the site of an attack on an army base in the troubled southern province of Narathiwat February 13, 2013 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy Reuters).

In all the recent news about the southern Thailand insurgency—a failed attack by insurgents on a marine base in the south, and a string of attacks in recent days that included at least fifty bombings and shootings—there has not been enough attention paid to the motivations of some of the insurgents killed in the last week. In the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul alludes to the problem: Several of the insurgents killed by Thai forces in the marine attack had been present at a protest in 2004 at Tak Bai at which at least seventy-eight protestors were stuffed into hot, airless trucks and ultimately suffocated to death. Read more »

The World’s Imminent Deglobalization?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 19, 2013
People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013. People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

On Saturday, 3,000 demonstrators turned out in Singapore—in one of the biggest protests in the country’s history—to protest the government’s new plan to increase the tiny nation-state’s immigrant population by nearly two million people by 2030. And who are this proposal’s greatest opponents? The Singaporean middle class, which has increasingly seen its political capital and purchasing power strangled by the influx of wealthy immigrants, mainly from China. Read more »

What to Do About North Korea? Forget Beijing for Now; Bring in Ulaanbaatar

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, February 13, 2013
North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly Chairman Choe Tae Bok (L) talks with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Ulaanbaatar on November 19, 2012. North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly Chairman Choe Tae Bok (L) talks with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Ulaanbaatar on November 19, 2012. (Office of the President of Mongolia)

A few months ago, the eminent Chinese scholar Wang Jisi noted that China had achieved “first class power status” and “should be treated as such.” The current situation with North Korea suggests two responses: There is scarcely a more opportune moment for Beijing to step up to the plate; and be careful what you wish for. Read more »

The Costs of North Korea’s Defiance

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 12, 2013
A man watches a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul February 12, 2013. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Tuesday, South Korea's defense ministry said, after seismic activity measuring 4.9 magnitude was registered by the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) A man watches a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul February 12, 2013. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Tuesday, South Korea's defense ministry said, after seismic activity measuring 4.9 magnitude was registered by the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) made good on a January 24, 2013, pledge by the National Defense Commission to conduct a nuclear test “of higher level” on February 12, 2013. The statement, which also pledged launches of “a variety of satellites and long-range rockets,” was North Korea’s defiant response to passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2087, which condemned North Korea’s December 12, 2012 launch of a satellite in violation of previous UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874. Read more »

‘Democracy in Retreat’ Review Capsules

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 11, 2013
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wears glasses reading "I'm Chavez" as he attends a parade to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Chavez's attempted coup d'etat in Caracas February 4, 2013. A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wears glasses reading "I'm Chavez" as he attends a parade to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Chavez's attempted coup d'etat in Caracas February 4, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters).

My new book Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government (CFR and Yale University Press) has started to amass reviews, and from both bookstores and online booksellers starting this week, including amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and indiebound.org. It has started to garner reviews from a wide range of places, including some surprising sources. Read more »