CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Cambodia’s Turn Toward Authoritarianism (Again)

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Over the past year, any hopes that Cambodia, where national elections almost led to a change in government three years ago, was headed toward a democratic transition, have been fully dashed. Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are again taking complete control of the kingdom. In fact, as the country prepares for the next national elections, to be held in 2018, Hun Sen appears to be resorting to his usual combination of repressing opposition politicians and co-opting a small number of his opponents. These harsh but skillful tactics have helped him become the longest-serving non-royal ruler in Asia, surviving one of the most tumultuous political environments in the world. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 24, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 24, 2016
Wukan-protest Villagers carrying Chinese flags protest at Wukan village in China's Guangdong province, June 20, 2016. (James Pomfret/Reuters)

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

1. Smoldering discontent rekindles protests in Wukan, China. Nearly five years ago, popular protests erupted in the small fishing village of Wukan, Guangdong province, over illegal land grabs by the local government. The “Siege of Wukan,” as it was later known, set a precedent for diffusing tensions on the local level through democratic means, as villagers were allowed to elect new leaders after protesting for three months. Read more »

Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 21, 2016
bookstore A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2016. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

It’s that time of year again—when Washington cooks, the public transport goes on extended holiday, people head to the beach, and I offer some thoughts on books to take with you on vacation if you have an interest in Asian history, Southeast Asian politics, and Southeast Asian culture. Keep in mind that none of these books are exactly traditional “beach reads”—light page-turners that you can flip through while also watching your kids bury themselves in sand. Read more »

Namaste, World! India Amps Up its Yoga Diplomacy

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, June 20, 2016
Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters) Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Tuesday, June 21, marks the second year of “International Day of Yoga,” a UN designation enacted in December 2014 through a General Assembly resolution introduced by India. It came about after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 2014 address to the assembly, where he spoke about yoga as a potential solution for many of the world’s challenges, including climate change. Since then, Modi has continued to reference yoga’s benefits in a variety of speeches, including most recently his address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress. While this concern might appear esoteric to outsiders, Modi, and the government he leads, is one hundred percent serious about expanding the framework in which people around the world think of yoga and its role. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 17, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 17, 2016
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters) Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Ayumi Teraoka, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Prominent Chinese lawyer facing possibility of lifetime imprisonment. The Chinese police have recommended prosecution on a charge of “subverting state power” for Zhou Shifeng, director of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm whose arrest last summer invigorated a campaign to discredit and dismantle networks of rights-focused defense lawyers who have attempted to challenge the government. Zhou’s law firm took on many contentious cases about legal rights, representing the likes of dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Uighur academic Ilham Tohti. Read more »

What Does the Future Hold for the Rohingya?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 14, 2016
rohingya-camp A boy walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burnt entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 10, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 10, 2016
Vietnam-fish-protests Demonstrators, holding signs, say they are demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 1, 2016. (Kham/Reuters)

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

1. Poisoned Vietnamese fish fuel popular discontent. A massive die-off of fish has occurred along 120 miles of coastline in Vietnam, where hundreds of residents in traditional fishing villages have fallen ill from eating the poisoned catch. Read more »

Podcast: The Life and Death of John Birch

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 10, 2016
John-Birch-A-Life

When most Americans hear the name John Birch, they immediately think of the John Birch Society: an anticommunist, right-wing advocacy group that flourished in the 1950s and 60s. But who was John Birch, and what did the society have to do with him? On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Terry Lautz, visiting professor at Syracuse University, about his new book, John Birch: A Life. Read more »

Reforming the International Military Education and Training Program

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, June 8, 2016
balikatan-2015 Filipino soldiers take positions as a U.S. military helicopter CH-47 takes off during the annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games at a military camp, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in northern Philippines on April 20, 2015. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which provides U.S. government funds to members of foreign militaries to take classes at U.S. military facilities, has the potential to be a powerful tool of U.S. influence. IMET is designed to help foreign militaries bolster their relationships with the United States, learn about U.S. military equipment, improve military professionalism, and instill democratic values in their members. For forty years, the program has played an important role in the United States’ relations with many strategic partners and in cultivating foreign officers who become influential policymakers. Read more »

Podcast: Environmental Degradation and Political Change in China

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Air-pollution-shanghai A woman wears a mask as she takes pictures on the Bund on a hazy day in Shanghai, China, March 7, 2016. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous social costs.  In December 2015, as levels of PM2.5—the deadliest airborne particles—were forecast to be more than twenty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization, the Beijing municipal government issued its first-ever red alert for pollution (the most serious on a four-tier system), closing schools and restricting the number of cars on the road. Read more »