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 April 17, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 17, 2015
Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters) Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Japan court blocks reopening of nuclear reactors. A Japanese district court issued orders for two nuclear reactors in western Fukui prefecture to stay offline, rejecting regulators’ safety approval of the planned restart later this year. The court criticized the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s lax safety standards, particularly in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima crisis. Kansai Electric, the operators of the reactors in Fukui, plan to file a protest asking the court to reverse its decision. With all forty-eight commercial reactors in Japan still offline, the decision may further delay Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to restart nuclear reactors. Abe has said the shutdown damages the struggling Japanese economy, forcing Japan to import expensive fossil fuels to compensate for the existing energy deficit. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Influence on the North Korean Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, April 16, 2015
A female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province May 31, 2009. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and he warned Pyongyang against transferring nuclear material overseas. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA POLITICS MILITARY IMAGES OF THE DAY) A female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province on May 31, 2009 (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters).

China and North Korea historically have had a close relationship—as close as “lips and teeth,” as leaders in both countries were fond of saying during the Cold War. To this day, China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, energy provider, and source of aid. Despite these close ties, however, the past eighteen months have revealed fissures in the relationship. Since coming to power, neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made an official state visit to see his counterpart; Xi even chose to visit South Korea first. In Pyongyang, the execution of Jang Song-taek, a major proponent of engagement with China, caused consternation in Beijing.  Read more »

Korea’s Immigration Policy Backlash

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Women of diverse ethnic backgrounds in traditional Korean costume participate in a traditional Confucian ceremony celebrating the Coming-Of-Age Day in front of Seoul City Hall in this file photo from May 19, 2008. (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters) Women of diverse ethnic backgrounds in traditional Korean costume participate in a traditional Confucian ceremony celebrating the Coming-Of-Age Day in front of Seoul City Hall in this file photo from May 19, 2008. (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters)

Darcie Draudt is a research associate for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Late last month, the South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family presented an open discussion titled “Changes and Alternative Models in the Korean Multicultural Family Policy Paradigm.” Speaking to Yonhap news about the need for the event, Yonsei University Anthropology Professor Kim Hyun-mi said that in the process of viewing the multicultural families as a vulnerable social group, the South Korean government’s welfare programs have led to reverse discrimination and xenophobia due to what many South Koreans perceive as preferential treatment and disruption in the monoethnic social fabric. Read more »

The U.S. Presidential Race: Hillary and India

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, April 14, 2015
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is the first of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s April 12, 2015 presidential campaign launch kicked the U.S. presidential race for 2016 into higher gear. It’s also the first American campaign announcement to garner significant media attention in India. Due to her long history with India—as first lady, a senator, and secretary of state—Clinton is a known quantity in the region and has a clearly articulated policy record on South Asia, unlike other presidential candidates. One Indian paper covered her campaign launch with the headline, “Hillary hearts India.” That background makes it easier to assess how a possible Clinton administration might approach ties with India. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 10, 2015
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Rotenberg and Di: Ali Health Offers a Revolutionary Moment for China’s Healthcare Industry

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Friday, April 10, 2015
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. Foreign Policy, and Peng Di is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Private sector actors in China, first and foremost Alibaba, are taking significant steps to do what they believe will earn a handsome profit in the growing Chinese healthcare industry. With a market estimated to reach one trillion dollars by 2020, companies are working fast to secure their slice of the expanding Chinese healthcare pie. Read more »

Little Mention of Southeast Asia in Secretary of Defense’s Rebalance Speech

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, April 9, 2015
ash-carter-rebalance U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a speech at Arizona State University earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter laid out a kind of relaunch of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia—a plan for moving the rebalance forward over the final years of the president’s second term. Carter hit many key points that the administration hopes to emphasize: the importance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership both for the region’s economic future and for America’s own strategic interests; the growth in maritime partnerships with longtime allies like Australia and Japan; the increase in training programs for partner militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more »

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, April 9, 2015
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. Read more »

Joyce Dong: China’s Reactions to Assessments of the PLA’s Weaknesses

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, April 8, 2015
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing on July 22, 2014 (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters).

Joyce Dong is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent publications such as the RAND Corporation’s report “China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)” and Dennis Blasko’s article “Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern Warmark a significant shift away from the usual narrative that China’s economic rise has led to an increasingly militarized and powerful PLA. While the PLA’s military budget continues to grow at double-digit rates, these reports suggest that the “China threat” has been overhyped. Read more »

Is There Such Thing As a Thai-Style Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Prayuth-Chan-ocha-Thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays respect in front of Buddhist monks as he attends the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

This past week, Thai prime minister—and junta leader—General Prayuth Chan-ocha ended martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, and replaced it by invoking an article of the interim constitution that gives him nearly-absolute powers. This shift did not necessarily mean Thailand is moving any closer to a return to democracy. Read more »