CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 31, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 31, 2013
Meat products of Shuanghui (Shineway) Group are seen on display on a shelf at a supermarket in Wuhan, Hubei province on May 31, 2013. Meat products of Shuanghui (Shineway) Group are seen on display on a shelf at a supermarket in Wuhan, Hubei province on May 31, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Chinese buy into America’s pork market. Chinese meat giant Shuanghui Group announced that it plans to acquire Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, for $4.7 billion. Both companies would benefit from the deal: Shuanghui would gain a steady and safe supply of pork while Smithfield would gain entry into the expansive Chinese market. If approved—the deal still needs to face the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) process, which assesses national security risks—it would be the largest Chinese acquisition of an American company to date. Read more »

Has Democracy Had Its Day?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, May 31, 2013
Global financial recessions have created pressure on democratic systems. Riot police stand near the euro sign in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters during an anti-capitalist "Blockupy" demonstration on May 31, 2013. Global financial recessions have created pressure on democratic systems. Riot police stand near the euro sign in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters during an anti-capitalist "Blockupy" demonstration on May 31, 2013. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Courtesy Reuters)

In the current issue of Prospect, a UK magazine, Columbia University historian Mark Mazower has written an extensive cover story on the growing dissatisfaction with democratic government both in developing nations and in parts of the Western world, including the United States and Europe. His ambitious piece analyzes many of the challenges of modern-day democratic governance, including the United States’ own serious problems, and asks whether democracy is in serious regression worldwide. His review includes an extensive discussion of my new book Democracy in Retreat. Read Mazower’s essay here.

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 24, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 24, 2013
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on May 20, 2013. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on May 20, 2013. (Adnan Adibi/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Li wraps up first foreign trip to India and Pakistan. Li Keqiang finished his first foreign trip as Chinese premier, where he visited India and Pakistan. The trip came only weeks after tensions had mounted between China and India over a Chinese military incursion into an Indian-controlled disputed border region in the Himalayas. Li was eager to focus on economic talks, but the governments continue to be wary of each other. Read more »

The U.S. Response to Malaysia’s Election

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, May 24, 2013
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the announcement of his new cabinet ministers lineup at his office in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur on May 15, 2013. Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the announcement of his new cabinet ministers lineup at his office in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur on May 15, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

On May 5, Malaysia held its closest national election in modern history. Although the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won the largest number of seats, the opposition actually won the popular vote, and only gerrymandering, massive handouts to voters to vote for the BN, and many election irregularities ensured the BN’s victory. This was the first time in history the BN had lost the popular vote. The irregularities allegedly included flying and busing voters from one district to another, where they did not actually live, inflating voter rolls, using pre-election postal voting to help BN supporters vote twice, and many other irregularities. Independent and accredited observers who witnessed the election deemed it “partially free but not fair.” An excellent summary of all the problems with the election has been written up by Bridget Welsh and is available here. Read more »

Thein Sein’s Visit to Washington

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 23, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on May 20, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on May 20, 2013. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

On Monday, May 20, Thein Sein visited the White House, the first president of Myanmar to receive the honor in nearly fifty years. In his historic meeting, President Obama lavishly praised Thein Sein’s leadership “in moving Myanmar down a path of both political and economic reform,” before discussing joint projects that U.S. assistance will focus on in Myanmar, such as improving agriculture. Pleased, Thein Sein replied, “ I will take this opportunity to reiterate that Myanmar and I will continue to … move forward so that we will have—we can build a new democratic state—a new Myanmar…” Read more »

Responding to Disease Outbreaks: Is China’s Move Toward Greater Transparency Irreversible?

by Yanzhong Huang Thursday, May 23, 2013
Passengers walk past temperature detectors. Passengers walk past temperature detectors. (Stringer Taiwan/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) at the  “Food and Drug Safety, Public Health, and the Environment in China” hearing. My testimony focused on China’s response to public health emergencies. As the H7N9 virus appears to be burning itself out, the consensus among public health scholars and practitioners is that China has been much more transparent and open in handing this outbreak than it was in 2003 during the SARS epidemic. In fact, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan thanked China for their speed in sharing relevant information. Read more »

Mihoko Matsubara: A Roadmap for U.S.-Japan Cybersecurity Cooperation

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal Tuesday, May 21, 2013
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (centre R) stands below flags of Japan (L) and the U.S. as he talks to U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo on April 25, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Yuya Shino) U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (centre R) stands below flags of Japan (L) and the U.S. as he talks to U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo on April 25, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Yuya Shino)

This is a blog post by Mihoko Matsubara, a cybersecurity analyst and adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

On May 9-10, 2013, American and Japanese governments held the first U.S.-Japan Cyber Dialogue in Tokyo. This meeting comes nineteen months after the two sides met in September 2011, for the first working-level dialogue on cybersecurity. These meetings have set a good foundation for cooperation, but they must be followed by concrete steps if Tokyo and Washington truly want to make cybersecurity a cornerstone of the U.S.-Japan relationship. Read more »

China’s Environmental Politics: A Game of Crisis Management

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, May 20, 2013
Police officers stand guard as residents raise a banner to protest against a planned refinery in Kunming, Yunnan province, on May 4, 2013. Police officers stand guard as residents raise a banner to protest against a planned refinery in Kunming, Yunnan province, on May 4, 2013. (Wong Campion/Courtesy Reuters)

Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province, has become the latest city in China to be rocked by environmental protest. On May 4 and then again on May 16, 1,000 to 2,000 protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the construction of an oil and chemical refinery in the nearby city of Anning by the state-run oil company China National Petroleum Corporation. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 17, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 17, 2013
Former police officer Abner Afuang burns a replica of Taiwan's national flag as he protests against the mistreatment of Filipinos working overseas, along a main street of Manila on May 17, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Romeo Ranoco) Former police officer Abner Afuang burns a replica of Taiwan's national flag as he protests against the mistreatment of Filipinos working overseas, along a main street of Manila on May 17, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Tensions between Taiwan, Philippines escalate. The Philippine navy opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing vessel last week in disputed waters, killing one man on board and igniting a new round of tensions in the South China Sea. Though Philippine officials (including the president) have expressed their sympathies, Taiwan has rejected these apologies as lacking “sincerity.”  In response, Taipei recalled its envoy to the Philippines, announced a hiring freeze of Filipino workers, and held military drills. Yesterday, the Philippine envoy to Taiwan advised thousands of Filipino workers not to leave their homes. Read more »

Apartheid in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 16, 2013
Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. Myanmar's President Thein Sein attends the opening ceremony of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok on April 29, 2013. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

Next week, Myanmar President Thein Sein will arrive in Washington, DC, for a historic visit and meeting with President Obama. It will be the first visit by a Myanmar president to the United States in nearly fifty years. Only three years earlier, nearly every top Myanmar leader had been barred from entering the United States (and most other leading democracies) due to sanctions on the country’s military-ruled government and on nearly all exports to and imports from the country. U.S. congresspeople regularly castigated Myanmar as one of the most tyrannical societies on earth, and when former president George W. Bush found himself in a room in the mid-2000s, at an Asian summit, with Myanmar’s then-leader, he essentially refused to even acknowledge the other man’s presence. Read more »