CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

The Final Normalization of U.S.-Vietnam Relations

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Obama-Vietnam-trip U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 23, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

After a period of broken diplomatic ties following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the United States and Vietnam re-established formal diplomatic relations in 1995. Since then, the two nations have built increasingly close strategic and economic ties, to the point that Hanoi is now one of the United States’s closest security partners in Asia. With a professional military and a highly strategic location, Vietnam is gradually becoming as important to U.S. security interests in the region as longtime allies and partners like Thailand and Malaysia. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta and the Southern Insurgency

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, May 23, 2016
prayuth-chan-ocha-2 Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 16, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented the ongoing bloodshed in southern Thailand and implicitly criticized his own government’s feeble attempts to restart talks with the insurgents. In his weekly address in early May, Prayuth lamented the “sad and terrible waste of lives” in fifteen years of fighting in the south. More than 6,500 people have reportedly been killed in the southern insurgency since 2001. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 20, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 20, 2016
Sri-Lanka-floods Villagers pull a boat with people after rescuing them on a flooded road in Biyagama, Sri Lanka, May 17, 2016. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Sri Lanka reeling from massive flooding and mudslides. Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its heaviest rains in twenty-five years, leading to flooding and landslides that have devastated twenty-one out of the country’s twenty-five districts. The death toll as of today has reached nearly seventy people, over 300,000 have been displaced from their homes, and 220 families are still reported missing beneath the mud, which in some places reaches up to thirty feet. Read more »

Demystifying Rodrigo Duterte

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, May 20, 2016
rodrigo-duterte- President-elect Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte speaks during a news conference in his hometown Davao City in southern Philippines, on May 16, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila. His latest book is “Asia’s New Battlefield: The US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

The Philippines’ new president, former Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, won last week in a five-way vote. His tough-talking style, effective social media campaign, and vows to reduce the power of the country’s elite and crack down on crime resonated enough to deliver him the win. Read more »

Obama and the Vietnam Arms Embargo

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 19, 2016
obama-vietnam U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong after they spoke to reporters following their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington July 7, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This weekend, President Obama will travel to Vietnam, making the third U.S. presidential visit to the country since the end of the Vietnam War. Obama’s trip, which will also include a stop in Japan, will encompass several priorities. He will try to reassure allies that the United States remains committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the deal has stalled on Capitol Hill and could be rejected in Congress entirely. (For more on the TPP’s current fate, see this new Bloomberg piece.) He will become the first president to visit Hiroshima, where he will likely reaffirm his commitment to reducing nuclear proliferation without making a formal apology for the use of nuclear weapons in World War II. Read more »

Podcast: The Hacked World Order

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Hacked-World-Order-Segal-2

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with my longtime colleague Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies and director of the digital and cyberspace policy program here at CFR, about his new book, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age. In our discussion, Segal clearly and concisely deconstructs the framework of U.S.-China cyber relations and describes the global implications of the geopolitics of cyberspace. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 13, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 13, 2016
Philippines-transgender-congress Geraldine Roman, a transgender congressional candidate, waves to her supporters as confetti rains during a “Miting de Avance” (last political campaign rally) for the national election in Orani town, Bataan province, north of Manila in the Philippines, May 6, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Philippine congress gains its first transgender member. Despite the country’s discriminatory laws against gay and transgender people, Liberal Party candidate Geraldine Roman received more than 60 percent of the vote in her home province of Bataan in northern Philippines. Roman comes from a long line of politicians, and will take the congressional seat occupied by her mother during the previous three terms. Read more »

Kim Jong-un’s Coronation and North Korea’s Future

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, May 12, 2016
Newspapers with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressing the ruling Workers' Party congress are placed inside one of halls of the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea May 9, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj Newspapers with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressing the ruling Workers' Party congress are placed inside one of halls of the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea May 9, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The seventh congress of the North Korean Workers’ Party (WPK) held from May 6 to 8 was a carefully choreographed affair designed to show the world that its newly installed Chairman Kim Jong-un is fully in control of the North Korean state. By taking the title of Chairman, Kim has signaled that he is no longer reliant solely on the legacy of his father and grandfather, that he is determined to lead, and that he expects the international community to accommodate his absolute leadership of a nuclear North Korea. Read more »

Some Brief Takeaways on Duterte’s Win

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 12, 2016
Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters) Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

With Rodrigo Duterte now officially confirmed as the winner of the Philippines’ presidential election last Monday, it is time for some brief thoughts on the immediate implications of his victory.

Duterte will now try to win a mass of defectors from the president’s party. Although the Liberal Party performed reasonably well in some local elections, political parties in the Philippines are notoriously weak, which is one reason why charismatic figures like Duterte and celebrities are able to win higher office. Expect the president-elect to try to win over large numbers of Liberal Party members who won local elections earlier in the week. Read more »

Podcast: What Everyone Needs to Know About China’s Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Kroeber-Chinas-Economy

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, I speak with Arthur Kroeber, founding partner and head of research at Gavekal Dragonomics and author of the just-released China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know, about why China’s much ballyhooed economic reforms have fallen flat. Kroeber argues that the Chinese leadership’s contradictory belief in both a “decisive” role for markets and a “dominant” state sector has not yet been resolved and is the fundamental barrier to economic progress. Read more »