CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Dead Pigs in Shanghai: Failing Food Safety Regulations

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A villager cuts meat from a dead pig in the Zhulin village of Jiaxing March 12, 2013. A villager cuts meat from a dead pig in the Zhulin village of Jiaxing March 12, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, thousands of dead pigs were discovered floating in the Huangpu River, which supplies drinking water to Shanghai’s 23 million residents. As of Tuesday evening, sanitation workers have retrieved nearly 6,000 carcasses from the river. The municipal authorities insist that the city’s water supply has not been contaminated, but they did admit that the dead pigs have tested positive for the PCV virus (which causes a sometimes fatal pig disease) as well as other pathogens, including foot and mouth disease (FMD), swine fever, hog cholera, and blue-ear pig disease. Initial investigations have also identified Jiaxing, a city in the neighboring Zhejiang province, as the origin of the dead pigs. Read more »

Poison Air, Dead Pigs, and Cancer Rice: The Reform China Really Needs

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Cleaning workers retrieve the carcasses of pigs from a branch of Huangpu River in Shanghai on March 10, 2013. Cleaning workers retrieve the carcasses of pigs from a branch of Huangpu River in Shanghai on March 10, 2013. (Stringer China/Courtesy Reuters)

The bad news doesn’t stop coming. First, Beijing residents learned that breathing their air on a daily basis was akin to living in a smoking lounge. Then Guangdong residents learned that Hunan rice sold in their province in 2009 was contaminated with cadmium, which is carcinogenic and can cause severe pain in joints and the spine. And just this past weekend, Shanghai residents watched more than three thousand diseased pigs float down part of the city’s Huangpu River. Read more »

Troy Stangarone: Prospects for the U.S.-Korea Alliance Under Park and Obama

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Monday, March 11, 2013
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye talks with U.S. White House National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, February 26, 2013.(Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye talks with U.S. White House National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, February 26, 2013.(Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters)

Troy Stangarone is the senior director of congressional affairs and trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. He was also a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

New administrations have an opportunity for fresh starts. Under presidents Lee Myung-bak and Barack Obama, U.S.-South Korea (ROK) relations developed a level of cooperation that was arguably the closest the alliance has ever shared. This was in contrast to the weakening of South Korea’s ties with its neighbors. Relations with China frayed while those with North Korea deteriorated to an historic low. The incoming Park Geun-hye administration hopes to reverse these trends, but North Korea’s successful nuclear and missile tests present near term obstacles to starting anew with Pyongyang and has left regional actors adopting familiar positions. Read more »

UN Sanctions and North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, March 8, 2013
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters) Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters)

The unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 builds on prior UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, 1874, and 2087 in opposing North Korea’s drive to expand its nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.  Each of the UN Security Council resolutions were passed following North Korean long-range rocket launches or nuclear tests.  These resolutions were designed to cut off flows of nuclear and missile technologies between North Korea and the outside world and to signal international disapproval of North Korea’s nuclear-related activities. Read more »

Chavez Was Authoritarian, but Also Elected

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Supporters of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez react to the announcement of his death outside the hospital where he was being treated, in Caracas March 5, 2013. Supporters of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez react to the announcement of his death outside the hospital where he was being treated, in Caracas March 5, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s death on Tuesday, obituaries and analyses of Chavez’s legacy have already flooded the media. To be sure, his fourteen-year presidency was not without controversy and his legacy will undoubtedly be tarnished by the violence, botched economy and deeply divided society he leaves behind. But among a considerable population of Venezuelans, mostly poor, Chavez will be remembered as hero. After all, despite his autocratic tendencies, Chavez was popularly elected three times. Read more »

Bangkok Election Reinforces Class Divide

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra prepares to cast her ballot in the election for Bangkok's governor in a polling station in Bangkok March 3, 2013. Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra prepares to cast her ballot in the election for Bangkok's governor in a polling station in Bangkok March 3, 2013 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

On Sunday, Bangkokians turned out in record-breaking numbers to cast their votes in the city’s gubernatorial election—the first such contest since the violent red-shirt protests that engulfed the capital in the spring of 2010. The incumbent MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra of the Democrat Party was elected for a second term with 1.25 million votes. Equally notable was the fact that, for the first time, a runner-up—in this case, Pongsapat Pongcharoen of the Peau Thai party—received more than one million votes. As Bangkok Pundit notes, the mere 178,000 votes that separated the candidates marked the narrowest margin in the history of Bangkok elections. Read more »

Does Bangkok Have a Real Negotiating Partner in the South?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 4, 2013
The secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council and the chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) attend the signing ceremony of the general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace in the border provinces of southern Thailand, in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters). The secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council and the chief of Thailand's National Revolution Front (BRN) attend the signing ceremony of the general consensus document to launch a dialogue process for peace in the border provinces of southern Thailand, in Kuala Lumpur February 28, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, Thailand’s government made the surprising announcement that it would launch talks with the insurgent organization National Revolution Front (BRN) in the south, with the discussions focused on achieving peace in the south. This marked the first time Bangkok had opened talks with any insurgent organization in the south since the violence flared up again more than a decade ago. Previously, many Thai leaders had insisted that even opening formal talks with an insurgent organization would be providing the insurgents with the kind of status they did not deserve, and possibly would open the door to significant autonomy for the three southern provinces. Read more »

Choking to Death: Health Consequences of Air Pollution in China

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, March 4, 2013
Chinese commuters make their way in heavy smog in Beijing Chinese commuters make their way in heavy smog in Beijing (Reinhard Krause/Courtesy Reuters).

In the past few months, I wrote about the food the Chinese eat, and, more recently, Liz Economy wrote about the water the Chinese drink. But the air that the Chinese breathe is now a major concern. As the nearly 3,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) arrive in Beijing to attend the yearly event to formally endorse nominees for key government leadership posts and important national policies, it would be hard for them to ignore the poor air quality in the country’s capital. Last Thursday morning, readings near Tiananmen Square measured the concentration of PM2.5—fine particles in the air that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and are considered dangerous because they tend to penetrate the gas exchange regions of the lungs—at 469 micrograms per cubic meter, which corresponds to a U.S. EPA Air Quality Index reading of 479 (the scale stops at 500). Anything above 301 is considered “hazardous” in that it can cause “serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly,” and there is a “serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.” The PM2.5 levels in other famously polluted cities pale in comparison to those in Beijing; for instance, the highest PM2.5 level in a 24-period recorded in Los Angeles was 43 micrograms per cubic meter. Read more »