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 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 »

Inter-Korean Exchange of Fire Yields to Marathon Talks at the DMZ

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, August 24, 2015
Kim Jong un North Korea South Korea Fire North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 21, 2015 (KCNA/Reuters).

The South Korean injuries incurred on August 4 from land mines allegedly planted by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has set off an inter-Korean rollercoaster ride punctuated by rising tensions: the first South Korean propaganda broadcasts toward the North in over a decade beginning August 10, an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ on August 22, an ultimatum from the North demanding that South Korea stop the broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. on August 24 or face all-out war, and finally an agreement hours in advance of the North’s deadline to pursue over thirty hours (thus far) of marathon talks, led by senior military and civilian officials of the two governments at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 21, 2015
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

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

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »

Bangladesh’s Descent into Chaos

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 20, 2015
bangladesh-protests Activists of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League shout slogans as they try to attack the lawyers loyal to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami during a protest in front of the Supreme Court in Dhaka on December 30, 2013. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters)

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Bangladesh, which for years had been an international symbol of poverty and catastrophe, seemed to have reached a kind of stability. The country’s economy, powered by its garment industry and low-end manufacturing, was posting some of the highest growth rates in Asia, and grabbing textile jobs from China, Cambodia, and other countries. The Bangladesh government announced that Bangladesh could become a middle-income country by 2021. Read more »

The Implications of Thura Shwe Mann’s Removal

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, August 18, 2015
shwe-mann-parliament Shwe Mann, speaker of Union Parliament, attends a parliament meeting at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw on August 18, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) party leader Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, was abruptly removed as party chief, only months before Myanmar’s much-awaited national elections. The USDP is the party of President Thein Sein and is currently in control of government, although it is expected to suffer massive losses in the November election, provided the polls are held freely and fairly. Read more »