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 30, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 30, 2014
Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China convicts fifty-five people in Xinjiang mass sentencing. Fifty-five people were sentenced for terrorism, separatism, international homicide, and murder at a stadium of 7,000 onlookers in Yili, Xinjiang. Standing in backs of vehicles surrounded by armed guards, the defendants all appeared to be from the region’s Muslim Uighur community. The rare mass trial, in which three defendants were sentenced to death, is part of Beijing’s hardline response to a recent string of deadly attacks across the country. Human rights advocates criticized the mass sentencing for its failure to address underlying public security problems. Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang are hoping to overcome fears of terrorist attacks by offering cash bonuses to tourists to the region from elsewhere in China. Read more »

Why Has Philanthropy Failed to Take off in China?

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, May 30, 2014

Last month, when Bill Gates challenged China’s rich to embrace philanthropy rather than just spend money on luxury goods, he implied a philanthropy gap existed between China and the United States. In 2013,  China’s top 100 philanthropists gave away a mere $890 million, which is less than what Mark Zuckerberg and his wife donated last year. Total charitable donations in China were $13.2 billion in 2012, or 4 percent of all U.S. donations.  The gap has also manifested itself in the number of philanthropic foundations. China had only 2,961 such foundations in 2012, which is less than 3 percent of the U.S. total. Read more »

China’s Ready to Rumble

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 29, 2014
A fisherman (C) receives medical treatment upon his arrival home, after his boat was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A fisherman (C) receives medical treatment upon his arrival home, after his boat was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two months, as China’s maritime disputes with Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam have escalated, most foreign observers and American officials, though worried, have shown little concern that the conflicts would explode into a full-scale war. After all, for more than three decades China has profited enormously from being part of the global economic system. Its military, though growing, remains far less technologically advanced than American armed forces. And for thirty years, predictions that China one day would try to dominate its region by force have always been proven wrong. Read more »

Thailand’s Coup Just One Sign of Southeast Asia’s Regression From Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, May 28, 2014
thai-coup-demonstration Demonstrators march as riot police officers and soldiers block a street during a protest against military rule in central of Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was in a "safe place" on Saturday, an aide said, after being held by Thailand's army following its seizure of power this week, as opposition to the coup grew among her supporters and pro-democracy activists (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

This past week, the Thai military launched its second coup in a decade, destroying what was left of Thailand’s shaky democratic system. This coup is likely to last longer, and be much harsher than the coup in 2006; already, the Thai armed forces are censoring Thai media and putting journalists and politicians in detention or in jail. Read more »

Five Questions for Professor Jagdish Bhagwati on the Indian Economy and Prime Minister Modi’s Next Steps

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Jagdish Bhagwati Jagdish Bhagwati, university professor at Columbia University, is also a senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations (photo provided by Professor Bhagwati).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections.

Jagdish Bhagwati, university professor at Columbia University and senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, has been described as the most creative international trade theorist of his generation. He has been a leader in the fight for freer trade for decades. He is well-known in India as a champion of economic liberalization—and an early advocate for the reforms undertaken in 1991. With his coauthor Arvind Panagariya, he published Why Growth Matters last year, a book which makes the case for economic growth as the path to inclusive poverty alleviation. He is proudly Gujarati, and is likely to be an external adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Read more »

E-Cigarettes: China’s Next Growth Industry

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, May 27, 2014
E-Cigarette Production Facility in Shenzhen, China Electronic cigarettes are pictured at a production line in a factory in Shenzhen, China (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the growing global regulation on tobacco use and rising public awareness about the hazards of smoking, e-cigarettes are becoming a new, emerging industry. Invented by a Chinese medical researcher about one decade ago, electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that allow users simulate smoking by vaporizing liquid nicotine (among other additives), but in fact have no tobacco. Since being first released on the consumer market in 2005, the global e-cigarette market has been growing rapidly. In the United States, e-cigarette sales have grown at an annual rate of 115 percent in the 2009-12 period. It is estimated that global e-cigarette market could increase to $10 billion by 2017. Some analysts even predict that e-cigarette use will eclipse that of combustible cigarettes in ten years. Over 95 percent of the e-cigarettes worldwide are produced in one place: Shenzhen, China. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 23, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 23, 2014
Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters). Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Tumultuous times for Thailand. On Thursday, Thailand’s army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a military coup, just two days after martial law was instated. The coup d’etat is the latest development in six months of political instability and protests, and follows the May 7 dismissal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. General Chan-ocha has assumed the role until new elections are held. Although Yingluck was elected by popular vote, the Thai establishment (defenders of the monarchy) has historically found ways to invalidate the ballot box when a rival comes into power. Violence between the pro-government “Red Shirts” and anti-government “Yellow Shirts,” with the military now in the mix, is a looming possibility. Read more »

Roberta Cohen: Moving Forward on North Korean Human Rights

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Friday, May 23, 2014
un-human-rights-council-north-korea Michael Kirby (on screen), chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, delivers his remarks during the presentation of his report on North Korea during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva on March 17, 2014 (Denis Balibouse/Courtesy: Reuters).

Roberta Cohen is a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in human rights and humanitarian issues.

“Now is the time to act,” the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the DPRK announced after issuing a 400-page report documenting a wide array of “unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea constituting “crimes against humanity.” For decades, the international community has largely sidestepped its responsibility to hold North Korea to account. Read more »

The U.S. Response to Thailand’s Coup

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 22, 2014
thailand-coup Soldiers take up position at the Democracy monument after the coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014. Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha took control of the government in the coup on Thursday saying the army had to restore order and push through reforms, two days after he declared martial law (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

So, the Thai military has now made real what, in effect, it had already done earlier this week—launched a coup and taken over the powers of government. The armed forces now have posted troops around Bangkok, dispatched ministers from the previous civilian government, abrogated the standing constitution (except for a few articles) and passed harsh new censorship decrees as part of their martial law plan. Most likely, the leaders of the Thai army shortly will appoint a caretaker government, which will be made up of mostly conservative, royalist political figures. Unsurprisingly, the anti-government PDRC protestors who had been demonstrating for months to evict the elected government of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and to put democracy on hold now are jubilant. The PDRC protestors have seemingly gotten exactly what they wanted—Yingluck is gone, the Puea Thai party is in disarray, and democracy has been put on hold. Whatever appointed government is put into place by the military likely will launch reforms that, in theory, could help cleanse Thailand’s political system of graft and vote buying but that, in reality, will be designed to try to ensure the Shinawatras and their political base are disempowered once and for all. Read more »

Is Washington Getting China Policy Wrong?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, May 22, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It would be easy to think that U.S. policy toward China has gone off the rails. Washington is at odds with Beijing in the East and South China Seas; accusations of cyber espionage are flying across the Pacific; and Beijing is signing big oil and gas deals and talking about shared security concerns with Moscow, even as the United States is trying to coordinate sanctions against Russia for its crisis-inducing behavior in Ukraine. Read more »