CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

The Comedown of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 11, 2013
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a ceremony where she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at Seoul National University in Seoul February 1, 2013. Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a ceremony where she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at Seoul National University in Seoul February 1, 2013 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past year, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has made the transition from democracy icon kept under house arrest for almost two decades to working politician, she has found the going harder than some of the people who were in similar situations, like Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s. Despite her best intentions, Suu Kyi seems to have surrounded herself with few competent political advisors, experts on business and the economy, or interlocutors with leading ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. Read more »

Tim Hanstad: A Prosperous New Year for China’s Farmers

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, February 11, 2013
A farmer works in her field in front of a residential construction site in Shanghai on April 25, 2012. A farmer works in her field in front of a residential construction site in Shanghai on April 25, 2012. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

Tim Hanstad is president and chief executive officer of Landesa, a global development non-profit that works to secure land rights for the world’s poor.

As more than 200 million people board buses, trains, and planes for lunar New Year celebrations in their ancestral homes across China, it is worth pausing to consider what this—the largest annual migration of people on the planet—says about the uneasy co-existence of China’s two worlds: the wealthy cities and the poor countryside. Read more »

Who’s in Charge?

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, February 8, 2013
A Chinese vessel pointed a type of radar normally used to help guide missiles at a Japanese navy ship near disputed East China Sea islets, prompting the Japanese government to lodge a protest with China On January 30, a Chinese naval frigate pointed a type of radar normally used to help guide missiles at Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Yudachi (pictured above) near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Stock photo February 5, 2013 (MSDF/Courtesy Reuters).

This week yet another ratcheting up of tensions between Japanese and Chinese forces in the East China Sea drew our attention. Alongside the incremental escalation of danger inherent in these interactions is the dueling narratives about what is actually happening on the ground—or, more accurately, on the water and in the air. The confusing stories coming out of Northeast Asian capitals only complicate an already worrisome  situation, one that could easily result in a local commander behaving badly or miscalculating. Read more »

Will Piekos: China’s Port in Gwadar—Another Pearl Encircling India?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 7, 2013
A view of Pakistan's deep-sea port of Gwadar on the Arabian sea in the southwestern province of Baluchistan on February 6, 2007. A view of Pakistan's deep-sea port of Gwadar on the Arabian sea in the southwestern province of Baluchistan on February 6, 2007. (Qadir Baloch/Courtesy Reuters)

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

There is a lot of speculation as to China’s intentions surrounding the acquisition of Pakistan’s Gwadar port by China Overseas Port Holdings. China bought the rights to develop Gwadar from the Port of Singapore Authority, and the purchase ostensibly will give China access to a deep sea port on the western side of India. Read more »

Time for a Coordinated Policy on Rohingya Refugees

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, February 6, 2013
A Rohingya woman, displaced by recent violence in Rakhine State, holds her crying child at a refugee camp for Muslims outside Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine. A Rohingya woman, displaced by recent violence in Rakhine State, holds her crying child at a refugee camp for Muslims outside Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past year, as conflict has flared in Rakhine State in Myanmar, growing numbers of Rohingya have fled their homes. It remains unclear to me—even after a trip to Rakhine State—exactly why the conflict started now, and what role the local security forces have played, if any.  However, it is abundantly clear that the region’s management of Rohingya outflows is horrendous, a failure pointed out by the increasing numbers of Rohingya who are fleeing by boat, rather than going to camps in Myanmar or Bangladesh. Read more »

North Korea’s Third Nuclear Test: Will China Change Direction?

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 5, 2013
China's newly appointed leader Xi Jinping gestures as he attends a meeting with a panel of foreign experts at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 5, 2012. (Ed Jones/courtesy Reuters) China's newly appointed leader Xi Jinping gestures as he attends a meeting with a panel of foreign experts at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 5, 2012. (Ed Jones/courtesy Reuters)

With multiple reports pouring out about North Korea’s preparations for a third nuclear test and KCNA’s own reporting on meetings at which Kim Jong-un has made important decisions, it is clear that diplomatic efforts to prevent North Korea from conducting a third nuclear test are likely to fail. As the international community embarks on the by-now familiar template of pushing for a new UN Security Council resolution and tightening sanctions, the almost universal question will be how far China is willing to go in punishing its erstwhile neighbors in Pyongyang. Read more »

The Thai Government’s Priorities

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (C), editor of "Voice of the Oppressed", a magazine devoted to self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, gestures as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok January 23, 2013. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (C), editor of "Voice of the Oppressed", a magazine devoted to self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, gestures as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok January 23, 2013 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, since the sentencing of a prominent Thai editor Somyot Prueksakakasemsuk and activist to ten years (eleven if you count the suspended sentence he must serve again) in jail for publishing articles that supposedly violated Thailand’s broad and outdated lèse majesté law, both Thai and foreign commentators have hotly debated whether, and how, to alter or abolish the law. On New Mandala, there is a lively discussion of whether the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand—which itself has been hit with lèse majesté charges—is too weak in defending the rights of free speech in Thailand. Read more »

What To Do About Chinese Cyber Espionage?

by Adam Segal Monday, February 4, 2013
The facade of the New York Times building is seen in New York, on November 29, 2010. The facade of the New York Times building is seen in New York, on November 29, 2010. (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters)

A few days after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post all admitted that their computer networks had been attacked, apparently by China-based hackers, it seems fair to say that both sides agree the “naming and shaming” approach to the problem is not working. The United States can call China out, but it has no real affect on behavior. Read more »

Ten Years after SARS: Five Myths to Unravel

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, February 4, 2013
Observers look out of windows as "patients" walk past during a SARS outbreak drill in Hong Kong November 19, 2004. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Observers look out of windows as "patients" walk past during a SARS outbreak drill in Hong Kong November 19, 2004. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, I was in Beijing for an international conference while the city experienced record levels of air pollution. I had a feeling of déjà vu as I saw people wearing face masks. Ten years ago, at the height of the SARS epidemic, a sea of people in white masks—most of them scared migrant workers and university students—flocked to train and bus stations and airports in the hope of fleeing the city. Then, face masks were a symbol of the fear of a deadly and seemingly omnipresent virus that was responsible for 349 deaths and over 5,300 infections in China alone. As the first severe infectious disease to emerge in the twenty-first century, SARS caused the most serious socio-political crisis for the Chinese leadership since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Read more »

Colonel Brian Killough: The Catch-22 of Modern Chinese Foreign Policy

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, February 4, 2013
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)

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

In Joseph Heller’s famous novel, Catch-22, the bombardier, John Yosserian, is caught in a situational paradox. Yosserian wants to be declared unfit for duty because he doesn’t want to fly in combat where he might be killed. But, by expressing his lack of desire, he shows himself to be sane and therefore among the most fit to fly in combat. Similarly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) finds itself today in a foreign policy paradox. Read more »