CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

When a Collapsing, Paranoid North Korea Turns to Nukes. . .

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Saturday, February 13, 2016
The BADGER explosion on April 18, 1953, as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, at the Nevada Test Site. (Courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office) The BADGER explosion on April 18, 1953, as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, at the Nevada Test Site. (Courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. Parts of this article were adapted from his report, The Korean Pivot and the Return of Great Power Politics in Northeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 12, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 12, 2016
Taiwan-earthquake-collapsed-building Soldiers stand guard in front of seventeen-story apartment building collapsed after an earthquake, on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Tainan, Taiwan, February 8, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Developer of collapsed building arrested in Taiwan. After launching an investigation to determine the reasons behind the collapse of a seventeen-story building during a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in the city of Tainan last Saturday, Taiwanese authorities have arrested developer Lin Ming-Hui. The earthquake struck around 4 a.m. local time at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday, compounding the tragedy for some. Read more »

The Elephant in the US-ASEAN Room: Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 12, 2016
US-ASEAN-summit U.S. President Barack Obama (bottom L) participates in a US-ASEAN meeting at the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 21, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Next week, at a summit in California, President Obama will meet the ten leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the most important regional group in Asia. The event, the first-ever US-ASEAN summit on American soil, is being touted by the White House as a sign of the importance of Southeast Asia. After all, the Obama administration has made relations with Southeast Asia a centerpiece of “the pivot,” or “rebalance to Asia,” a national security strategy that entails shifting American military, economic, and diplomatic resources to the Pacific Rim. Read more »

Critics of China Vanish Outside China’s Borders

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 11, 2016
china-hong kong-disapppearances A policeman on duty during a protest on the disappearance of five booksellers, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China on January 4, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Gui Minhai, by most accounts, appeared quite happy with his life in Pattaya, a seedy seaside report east of Bangkok. The writer and editor, born in China and holding a Swedish passport, had been living in a condo in Pattaya and working on books for Mighty Current, a Hong Kong-based publishing house he founded that specialized in steamy (and possibly untrue) tell-alls about the private lives and political in-fighting of leaders of China’s Communist Party. He swam daily, and apparently wrote at a desk overlooking the blue-green Gulf of Thailand. Read more »

Podcast: Michael Pettis on the ABC’s of the Chinese Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 11, 2016
Pettis-China-economy-podcast An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, July 13, 2009. (Stringer/Reuters)

Peking University Professor of Finance Michael Pettis recently sat down with me to share his thoughts on what is going on in the Chinese economy, what the Chinese leadership needs to do to get back on track, and what it all means for the United States and the rest of the world. The takeaway: Hold on to your hats, we are in for a bumpy ride… but we are not falling off the cliff… yet.

Read more »

Where Are All the Women in China’s Anticorruption Campaign?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Lu Xiwen is seen on her way to work in Beijing, May 13, 2014. Lu, a deputy Communist Party boss in Beijing, and the vice mayor of Shanghai in charge of its experimental free trade zone are being investigated for suspected "serious breaches of discipline", the party said, using its usual euphemism for corruption. Picture taken May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer Lü Xiwen is seen on her way to work in Beijing, May 13, 2014. Lü, a deputy Communist Party boss in Beijing, is one of the three highest-ranking female officials to have been investigated and punished for corruption during Xi Jinping’s ongoing anticorruption campaign. She was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party in January 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A glance through ChinaFile’s recently released visualization of individuals investigated in China’s ongoing anticorruption campaign to “swat flies and hunt tigers” makes one thing clear: the only place where tigresses are rarer than in a Siberian reserve is in the ranks of Chinese officialdom. Among the 1,462 officials whose cases were announced by the Chinese government, only sixty-nine are women. Of those women, only three are considered “tigers,” those who have at least a deputy ministerial or deputy provincial-level rank; women make up just over 2 percent of the “tigers” brought down by corruption. Read more »

Off-Label Use of Drugs and Access to Medicines for All: A Thailand Example

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, February 9, 2016
A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters) A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Several years ago an Indonesian girl named Widya posted a message on my blog. She asked where she could obtain the drug Sorafenib for her father, who was terminally ill with liver cancer. Her family had already spent a significant sum on her father’s healthcare and could not afford further treatment. I forwarded the message to a pharmaceutical executive in Jakarta, who responded that Sorafenib was available in Indonesia but a month’s dosage would cost around $4,500 (the average monthly salary in Jakarta is about $1,180). “I hope the patient has health insurance coverage, otherwise the family will have to pay out of pocket,” he said.

Read more »

U.S. Assessments of North Korean Missile Capabilities Since 2011

by Scott A. Snyder Sunday, February 7, 2016
Missiles are taken on trucks past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang October 10, 2015. Isolated North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party on Saturday with a massive military parade overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said his country was ready to fight any war waged by the United States. (Courtesy REUTERS/James Pearson) Missiles are taken on trucks past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang October 10, 2015. Isolated North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party on Saturday with a massive military parade overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said his country was ready to fight any war waged by the United States. (Courtesy REUTERS/James Pearson)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) announced that it successfully launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite at 9:30 am on February 7, 2016. But the United States regards DPRK satellite launches as thinly-veiled efforts to advance its long-range ballistic missile capabilities. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the latest launch as “a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions related to the DPRK use of ballistic missile technology.” This compilation of statements by U.S. government officials over the past five years shows U.S. assessments regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 5, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 5, 2016
India-Supreme-Court-gay-rights Gay rights activists celebrate after the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to review a colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexuality in Mumbai, India, February 2, 2016. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indian Supreme Court scheduled to review discriminatory law against India’s LGBT community. In a win for LGBT activists, the Indian Supreme Court agreed to take another look at Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which effectively criminalizes India’s LGBT community. After the Delhi High Court ruled in 2009 to strike out Section 377, a relic of British colonial rule, it was overturned by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013. On Tuesday, the court decided to hear a “curative petition” to the 2013 ruling. Read more »

Democratic Regression and the Rise of Islamic State-Linked Militants in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 4, 2016
indonesia-terrorism-southeast asia Indonesia Muslim youth salute during the ceremony of defending the country against terrorism, radicalism and drug in Jakarta, on January 17, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here

Part 2

After Jakarta’s initial successes against militants such as those from Jemaah Islamiah, a new generation of Islamists began to emerge in Southeast Asia in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Some had been students in schools set up, in the 1990s and 2000s, by earlier generations of radicals, while others had taken part in plots and attacks in the 1990s and 2000s and had survived the region-wide crackdown on Jemaah Islamiah and other militants. Read more »