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 September 4, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 4, 2015
Malaysia-protests-9-4-15 Supporters of pro-democracy group "Bersih" (Clean) shout slogans during a rally near Dataran Merdeka in Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 30, 2015. Tens of thousands joined a peaceful protest in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak, bringing to the streets a political crisis over a multi-million-dollar payment made to an account under his name. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Ariella Rotenberg, and Ayumi Teraoka look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Malaysian protestors call for prime minister to step down. Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Kuala Lumpur last weekend, saying that Prime Minister Najib Razak is unfit to govern following allegations that he took $700 million from a government development fund. Read more »

Park’s Decision to Join Xi Jinping’s World War II Commemoration

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Park Geun-hye Xi Jinping China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in front of Chinese and South Korean national flags during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters).

Many Western observers are likely to raise their eyebrows tomorrow when they see that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye is standing alongside Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the reviewing stand at Tiananmen Square to mark China’s newly established holiday commemorating the end of World War II (WWII). As China’s next-door neighbor and a military ally of the United States, Park may seem to be a big catch for Beijing, which has been lobbying hard for the attendance of Park and other leaders of countries that experienced Japanese aggression during WWII. Some critics have already suggested that Park’s visit is evidence that South Korea cannot resist the growing centripetal pull of Beijing’s orbit. But Park’s presence alongside Xi is less about Park being snared by Beijing than it is about Park pressing to consolidate China’s support for Korean unification in the context of unprecedently weak ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. Read more »

Bangkok Bombing Investigation Becomes Even Murkier

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Thailand-Erawan Shrine Thai police stand guard at Erawan Shrine, the site of the recent bomb blast, in Bangkok on August 30, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Over the past five days, Thai police have both made arrests in Erawan Shrine bombing case and publicly identified other suspects still at large for whom the police are hunting. Although after the bombing there were many theories about the culprits, both the two men arrested and the suspects identified could have some link to Turkey or to the Uighurs. Read more »

Cambodia’s Political Truce Breaks Down

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 1, 2015
hun sen-sam-rainsy Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) and Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), smile after a plenary session at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on April 9, 2015. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

An excellent article in this month’s Foreign Affairs, by Stephanie Giry, outlines the strategies Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has used to stay in power. Now the longest-serving nonroyal ruler in Asia and the seventh-longest serving nonroyal ruler in the world, Hun Sen remains the ultimate survivor. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 28, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 28, 2015
china-stock-plunge An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information of Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index at a brokerage house in Beijing, August 26, 2015. Asian shares struggled on Wednesday as investors feared fresh rate cuts in China would not be enough to stabilize its slowing economy or halt a stock collapse that is wreaking havoc in global markets. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. China’s stock plunge. Chinese stocks plunged this week, with the Shanghai Composite Index falling 22 percent between August 19 and August 24. The market’s drop on what was deemed “Black Monday” erased the gains made over the past year. Until June, the Shanghai Composite Index had risen nearly 150 percent in one year and state media had assured that this was just the start of a bull market. The Chinese market’s tumble rattled stock markets around the world. Read more »

One Week after the Bangkok Bombing, What do We Know?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 27, 2015
erawan-shrine A police officer stands in front of the Erawan shrine, the site of a deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, on August 18, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

A week after the bombing at central Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine that killed twenty people, wounded at least 125 more, and set off a massive manhunt for a suspect identified in CCTV video, a man who apparently left a backpack at the shrine shortly before the explosion, no one has been arrested. In fact, amidst a constant swirl of rumors about possible leads, the Thai authorities appear no closer to solving the case. Read more »

Malaysia’s Economy Faces Severe Strain

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 26, 2015
malaysia-economy A woman walks past a money exchange shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 25, 2015. The Malaysian ringgit hit a fresh pre-peg 17-year low on Monday as sustained worries about China's economy dented global risk appetite with European and Wall Street stocks suffering their largest one-day drop in nearly four years. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Like any Southeast Asian economy whose trade with China is a major foundation of growth, Malaysia was bound to suffer as the Chinese economy staggered and Chinese stock markets plunged. Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia-China two-way trade topped $100 billion in 2014. Read more »

What’s Missing in the China Story?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Rescue workers wearing chemical protective suits walk at the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 14, 2015. Rescuers on Friday pulled one survivor from the wreckage of a warehouse in northeast China's Tianjin that was hit by two massive blasts, a city official told reporters at a briefing. REUTERS/Jason Lee Rescue workers wearing chemical protective suits walk at the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 14, 2015. Rescuers on Friday pulled one survivor from the wreckage of a warehouse in northeast China's Tianjin that was hit by two massive blasts, a city official told reporters at a briefing. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past month, there has been a lot of “China drama.” The volatility in the Chinese stock market, the yuan devaluation, and now the Tianjin warehouse explosion have all raised China chatter to a new level of anxiety. Some of the anxiety is understandable. These events have real consequences—above all for the Chinese people. At the urging of the Chinese government, tens of millions of Chinese moved to stake their fortunes not on real estate but on the stock market—the most unfortunate used their real estate as leverage to invest in the market and are now desperate for some good news. The Tianjin warehouse explosion has thus far left 121 Chinese dead, more than seven hundred injured, and over fifty still missing. Globally, the yuan devaluation has triggered a rate rethink by central bankers in Europe and the United States, and the stock market slide has contributed to steep drops in Asian and U.S. markets.

Read more »

Pakistan: You Have One Job

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Hafiz Saeed (C), head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, waves to his supporters as he leads the rally to mark Pakistan Day (Resolution Day) in Islamabad March 23, 2014. (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters) Hafiz Saeed (C), head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, waves to his supporters as he leads the rally to mark Pakistan Day (Resolution Day) in Islamabad March 23, 2014. (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, called off planned talks with India’s national security advisor after a series of public disagreements escalated to the point of no return. Islamabad and New Delhi failed to agree on the scope of the agenda, despite a clear joint statement issued by Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi during their meeting last month in Ufa, Russia, which had set the parameters for India-Pakistan dialogue in coming months. Most press accounts indicate that Pakistan sought to expand the NSAs’ agenda from the single subject of “terrorism” agreed upon at Ufa to include discussion of Kashmir. Compounding things, India reiterated its redline, developed by the Modi government last summer, against Pakistani officials meeting with separatists from Jammu and Kashmir on the margins of Indo-Pak talks. The Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi invited Kashmiri separatists to a reception, so between the redline and the soiree invite grew an impasse. Read more »

A Modest Start Toward Inter-Korean Dialogue and Cooperation

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, August 24, 2015
South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters) South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

Senior representatives of the two Koreas completed three days of marathon negotiations to avert further escalation of military tensions on August 25 at 12:55 a.m. local time. Despite hours spent at the negotiating table, the agreement itself is relatively short and straightforward. However, the fact that it took so long to reach the agreement underscores the difficulty both sides had in allowing each other to save face despite high tensions. Read more »