CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Pakistan: Defeat Is an Orphan

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, February 24, 2017
Protesters hold placards and chant slogans against the recent bomb blasts in various parts of Pakistan during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan February 17, 2017. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

What ails Pakistan? A new book from former Reuters correspondent Myra MacDonald shows how the country’s chronic struggle to somehow best India has instead led to deleterious results on all fronts. I had the chance to interview her by email on her compelling book, and our exchange appears below. Read more »

A Lack of Oversight—Dating Back Decades

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, February 24, 2017
bin laden raid U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. (White House/Pete Souza/Reuters)

Between 1961 and 1973, in a civil war in the tiny Southeast Asian country of Laos, the Central Intelligence Agency oversaw a massive paramilitary operation. CIA operatives, working with the U.S. embassy, Thai commandos, U.S. military advisors, and others, helped build an army of tens of thousands of anticommunist Laotians, mostly from the Hmong ethnic group. Read more »

Arrests in the Death of U Ko Ni

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, February 22, 2017
FILE PHOTO - Supporters carry the coffin of Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority and legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy, after he was shot dead, in Yangon, Myanmar January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mg Nyi Nyi Supporters carry the coffin of Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority and legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy, after he was shot dead, in Yangon, Myanmar on January 30, 2017. (Mg Nyi Nyi/Reuters)

The apparent assassination of an advisor to de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside Yangon airport last month has raised disturbing questions about the country’s stability, and about Suu Kyi’s control of Myanmar’s military and police. U Ko Ni, a well-known lawyer and advisor to the National League for Democracy (NLD), was shot at close range just outside Yangon airport on January 29, after returning to Myanmar from Jakarta. He died on the spot. Read more »

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 »