CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

India’s space program, Kim Jong-nam’s assassination, Jakarta’s elections, and more

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 17, 2017
People watch as India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) carrying 104 satellites in a single mission lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer People watch as India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) carrying 104 satellites in a single mission lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India on February 15, 2017. (Stringer/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Larry Hong, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. India’s space program shoots for the stars. This Wednesday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit from a single rocket. The feat, which shattered the previous Russian record of thirty-seven satellites in one launch, cemented India as a “serious player” in the private-sector space market. Read more »

The Death of Kim Jong Nam

by Joshua Kurlantzick and Scott A. Snyder Thursday, February 16, 2017
North Korean heir-apparent Kim Jong Nam emerges from a bus as he is escorted by Japanese authorities upon his deportation from Japan at Tokyo's Narita international airport May 4, 2001. Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the man entered Japan with a forged passport on Tuesday, but was deported to China on Friday. (Eriko Sugita)

The death in Malaysia of Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, was shocking on its surface. Reports indicate that two women may have poisoned him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, while others suggest a larger group of people might have been involved. Reports further suggest the attackers may have poisoned Kim Jong Nam with a needle, while other reports allege they sprayed or used a cloth to apply some kind of poison on him. He died on his way to a hospital in the Malaysian capital. Read more »

How Will the Australia-China Relationship Adapt?

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, February 15, 2017
trump-australia A pedestrian looks at a newspaper headline regarding U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in central Sydney, Australia, on February 3, 2017. (David Gray/Reuters)

Professor James Laurenceson is Deputy Director of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney.

A common assessment among Australian opinion leaders is that the start of the new U.S. administration has pushed Australia closer to China. Hugh White, a Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, said last week that the now infamous phone call between President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had shown Australians that they can no longer trust the United States. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Unlikely Partners on the Road to Reform

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Unlikely-Partners-edit Cover: Harvard University Press

Over the past forty years, the Chinese economy has undergone a striking transformation. In 1976, in the wake of Mao’s death and the Cultural Revolution, planned production and fixed pricing stifled market forces. Today, thriving capitalism vies for dominance with the socialist tenets of China’s past. What forces, and which individuals, brought about such a dramatic evolution? Read more »

“Behind Japan, 100%”

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, February 13, 2017
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by U.S. President Donald Trump (L) ahead of their joint news conference at the White House in Washington, United States, February 10, 2017 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could not have wished for a better outcome from his summit meeting with President Donald Trump. To be sure, there were some awkward moments—like the Lost in Translation-like nineteen-second handshake. But Japan’s prime minister came to Washington to ensure that the U.S.-Japan alliance was on steady ground with the new administration and to explore the economic pathway for Japan as the president develops his America First agenda. Read more »

India’s State Elections, South Korea’s Economic Squeeze, Afghanistan’s Red Cross Attack, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 10, 2017
Voters line up to cast their votes outside a polling station during the state assembly election in the northern state of Punjab, in the village of Nada, India, February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ajay Verma Voters line up to cast their votes outside a polling station during the state assembly election in the northern state of Punjab, in the village of Nada, India on February 4, 2017. (Ajay Verma/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Larry Hong, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. India kicks off state elections. Political contests in five Indian states over the next two months will offer insight into citizens’ attitudes toward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda. Last weekend, voters took to the polls in Goa and Punjab. Turnouts in the two states were unusually high with roughly 83 percent of eligible voters taking part in Goa, and 75 percent in Punjab. Read more »

The Laos War and its Long-Term Impact on U.S. Relations with Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 10, 2017
obama-laos U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address at the Lao National Cultural Hall, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos on September 6, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In my new book, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, I examine how the covert war in Laos, during the 1960s and early 1970s, dramatically changed the Central Intelligence Agency. But the war also forever altered Laotian domestic politics, and Vientiane’s relationship with Washington. Within the country, the war’s effects continue to shape politics. After 1975, Laotian security forces usually viewed Hmong communities with suspicion, and harshly repressed all political activity, as the post-1975 Laotian government instituted one of the toughest authoritarian regimes in the world. Read more »

Cracks in the U.S.-Australia Relationship

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 6, 2017
trump-turnbull U.S. President Donald Trump (L), seated at his desk with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (2nd L) and senior advisor Steve Bannon (3rd L), speaks by phone with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. on January 28, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

James Curran is Professor of History at the University of Sydney and the author of the recent Lowy Institute Paper Fighting With America: Why Saying No to the United States Wouldn’t Rupture the Alliance.

Now that much of the tumult over the recent phone call between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump has abated, there remain some uncomfortable conclusions to be drawn from this drama in U.S.-Australia relations. And the conclusions are relevant not only for these two longstanding allies. Read more »

When the United States Abdicates the Throne, Who Will Lead?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, February 6, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with the Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office on January 29, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Donald J. Trump’s initial forays into foreign policy suggest a desire to abdicate the throne. Not his own position as president of course, but rather the United States’ position as the world’s preeminent power—both as a driver of a globalized world and a defender of the traditional liberal order. He has withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific trade pact that would have cemented U.S. leadership among the economies that make up 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Read more »

Trump and Chinese Investment, Pakistan’s Missiles, Indian Lychee Illness, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 3, 2017
Trump-Ma U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma speak with members of the news media after their meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, January 9, 2017. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lorand Laskai, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Trump doesn’t like China, but does he like Chinese money? President Donald J. Trump will soon face some important decisions on Chinese investment in the United States. Trump will need to decide whether to approve a plan by Alibaba’s Paypal-like subsidiary Ant Financial to buy U.S. payment processor MoneyGram, or block the acquisition on national-security grounds. Read more »