CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

The Futility of Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, September 30, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Brunei's Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah listens during the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel during the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Brunei's Sultan and Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah listens during the Trans-Pacific Partnership Leaders meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel during the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Later this week, President Obama will embark on a six-day trip to Southeast Asia, visiting Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, to attend the East Asia Summit, the annual ASEAN leaders summit, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, along with a global entrepreneurs’ meeting in Malaysia. It might seem surprising that the president would leave the United States at such a critical time in federal budget negotiations, but these are the biggest leaders’ meetings in Asia, and since 2009, the White House has committed to increasing the presence of the president and other top Cabinet officials in Asia. Read more »

How Much Should We Worry About Poultry Imported From China?

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, September 30, 2013
An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

One month ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly lifted the ban on processed poultry imports from China. This raised immediate concerns in the United States. The media responded critically to the decision; a recent Bloomberg article was titled “Don’t Trust a Chicken Nugget That’s Visited China.” U.S. consumers were worried, perhaps even frightened. One person commented to the CBS News report that “[I am] immediately taking anything and everything with processed chicken off my shopping list. It’s been clear for a long time now that products from China are simply not safe and may even be harmful.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 27, 2013
Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison. Former Communist Party official Bo Xilai was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power in the eastern city of Jinan and sentenced to life in prison on Sunday. Though the guilty verdict was by no means a surprise, the length of the term was much longer than the fifteen to twenty years that many analysts expected. On Monday, Bo appealed his verdict—though that is considered a mere formality. The Chinese government has trumpeted the sentencing as a victory for the rule of law in China, but many outside experts believe the opposite—that the trial only made it eminently clear “that the Party still controls the Law.” Read more »

Singapore Goes Underground

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, September 27, 2013
People walk through Ion, a mall on Orchard Road in Singapore on May 7, 2011. The mall has many stores located underground. (Russell Boyce/Courtesy Reuters) People walk through Ion, a mall on Orchard Road in Singapore on May 7, 2011. The mall has many stores located underground. (Russell Boyce/Courtesy Reuters)

On Wednesday, the New York Times had an extensive article about how Singapore, which hopes to expand its population from around 5.4 million today to around seven million people in fifteen years, plans to house its mushrooming population given its severe scarcity of land. Singapore is, of course, an island, it has already reclaimed large portions of land from the sea around it, it has a reputation for maintaining green space that is critical to its ability to attract companies from around the world, and it already has built nearly fifty skyscrapers in the downtown area, with more to come. So, in Singapore’s classically planned-to-the-hilt style, the city-state is considering building an extensive underground complex including shopping malls, walking areas, bike paths, and research and development areas. Read more »

Will the NSA Revelations Kickstart the Domestic Cybersecurity Industry in China?

by Adam Segal Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, delivers a speech at the Brazil Infrastructure Opportunity event in New York, September 25, 2013. Rousseff is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. (Chip East/Courtesy Reuters) Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, delivers a speech at the Brazil Infrastructure Opportunity event in New York, September 25, 2013. Rousseff is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. (Chip East/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the common arguments in the wake of the Snowden revelations about NSA surveillance is that other countries are going to double down on developing their own technology industries to reduce their dependence on U.S. companies. The Chinese press has made this argument numerous times–highlighting how IBM, Cisco, Intel and others have penetrated Chinese society–and this was one of the themes in Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s address to the United Nations General Assembly: “Brazil will redouble its efforts to adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data.” Read more »

Philippines Standoff Actually Rebellion’s Last Gasp

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, September 23, 2013
Police and military bomb experts search for fragments and residue after a bomb exploded and ripped through a passenger bus, killing three people on Friday night, in the coastal village in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines on September 21, 2013. The military believed the bomb explosion could be a diversionary attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, who are engaged in standoff against the government forces that has already killed more than a hundred and left scores of others wounded, local media reported. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Police and military bomb experts search for fragments and residue after a bomb exploded and ripped through a passenger bus, killing three people on Friday night, in the coastal village in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines on September 21, 2013. The military believed the bomb explosion could be a diversionary attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, who are engaged in standoff against the government forces that has already killed more than a hundred and left scores of others wounded, local media reported. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two weeks, a rebel group in the Muslim-majority southern Philippines, which long has been plagued by numerous insurgencies/bandits, has essentially laid siege to the southern city of Zamboanga, taking numerous hostages and sparking a protracted response from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The rebels, who came from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group, had at one point taken more than one hundred hostages, and the fighting between the MNLF and the army has now killed nearly 120 people and displaced over 100,000 Filipinos. The siege has attracted significant international media attention, because the fighting has forced so many to flee, and the rebels have made whole residential areas free-fire zones, hiding among civilians and taking seemingly as many hostages as possible. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 20, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 20, 2013
Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Chinese President wraps up trip to Central Asia.  President Xi Jinping ended a ten-day trip to Central Asia with a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last weekend. Xi signed a number of bilateral economic and energy deals with countries in the region, and the SCO reached consensus on a number of foreign policy issues (largely in line with Chinese and Russian interests). With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, Central Asia is a region ripe for Chinese leadership. Read more »

Will Piekos: China’s Inroads into Central Asia

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 20, 2013
(R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters). (R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a lengthy trip to Central Asia this past weekend that ended in a meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, Krgyzstan. On paper at least, the trip was a significant success for Beijing. Xi signed multiple economic and energy agreements with the former Soviet satellite states and showed regional security leadership through the SCO. The trip even included some attempts at soft power projection—Xi announced 30,000 government scholarships to students of SCO member states. With the United States withdrawing from Afghanistan, Central Asia is an area full of potential for Chinese investment and diplomacy. Read more »

Anniversary of Six Party Talks: Commemoration, Wake, or Revival?

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, September 19, 2013
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the tenth anniversary of the Six Party Talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, September 18, 2013. (Jason Lee/courtesy Reuters) China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the tenth anniversary of the Six Party Talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, September 18, 2013. (Jason Lee/courtesy Reuters)

The Chinese government held an unusual commemorative ceremony this week to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Six Party Talks and the eighth anniversary of the Six Party Joint Statement. The Joint Statement at the time seemed vague and incomplete, but it turns out that the consensus forged in favor of Korean peninsular denuclearization, peace, diplomatic normalization, and economic development was a high-water mark for the talks. In light of North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and its open rejection of its Joint Statement commitment to abandon nuclear weapons, the Six Party Talks have stalemated for five years. Now China is trying to revive the Joint Statement and breathe new life into the Six Party process. Read more »

Lynx, Mukden, Mooncakes, and Chinese Hackers

by Adam Segal Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Freshly-baked mooncakes pass along a conveyor belt at a mooncakes factory in Shanghai on September 12, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) Freshly-baked mooncakes pass along a conveyor belt at a mooncakes factory in Shanghai on September 12, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After a summer dominated by revelations of U.S. espionage and offensive cyber operations, Chinese hackers are back in the news. Three stories do a good job of illustrating that Chinese hackers are not a monolithic group, but rather multiple actors with manifold motivations. Read more »