CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Podcast: Xi Jinping’s Team of Rivals

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, December 8, 2016
xi-jinping-li-keqiang-team-of-rivals Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Premier Li Keqiang attend a medal ceremony marking the seventieth anniversary of the Victory of Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, for World War II veterans, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, September 2, 2015. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

“Sometimes if you want to purge a leader, start with his mishu [secretary].” Cheng Li, director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, is one of the last true practitioners of “Pekingology”—the careful study of the inner workings of China’s top leadership. Li’s new book, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership, explores the intricate connections between Xi Jinping and Xi’s former classmates, close advisors, and political rivals. Read more »

Philippine Politics Become Even More Dangerous

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, December 7, 2016
duterte-2 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte salutes during the change of command for the new Armed Forces chief at a military camp in Quezon city, Metro Manila, on December 7, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Since the election, last spring, of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines has witnessed the effects of increasingly demagogic politics on its culture and institutions. While Duterte has won praise domestically and internationally for some of his efforts, including plans to resolve the southern insurgency and strategies to reduce economic inequality in the Philippines, he also has increasingly personalized politics, while dramatically undermining the rule of law. Campaigning as a demagogue, he has often governed as a demagogue, brooking little opposition and overseeing bloody policies. Read more »

China’s Environmental Health Crisis: The International and Comparative Perspective

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Protesters walk during an anti-nuclear rally in front of the nuclear power plant Gundremmingen March 11, 2012, to mark the first anniversary of Japan's earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. (Michaela Rehle/Reuters) Protesters walk during an anti-nuclear rally in front of the nuclear power plant Gundremmingen March 11, 2012, to mark the first anniversary of Japan's earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. (Michaela Rehle/Reuters)

China faces a daunting environmental health crisis due to its economic rise that has polluted its air, water, and soil. That being said, many industrialized and other developing nations have successfully overcome their environmental challenges. To what extent do China’s problems follow a similar path to those strategies undertaken by other countries, and what are the prospects of success in achieving similar outcomes? Read more »

Environment-Health Linkages in China

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, December 7, 2016
A family wearing masks walk on a bridge amid heavy smog in Shanghai, China December 5, 2016 (Aly Song/Reuters). A family wearing masks walk on a bridge amid heavy smog in Shanghai, China December 5, 2016 (Aly Song/Reuters).

One of the major victims of China’s runaway development is its air quality.  Just yesterday, China’s northern Hebei province issued its first “red alert” of the year for severe pollution, the highest level alert for smog which will see factories suspended and cars pulled off the road.  But this is just tip of the iceberg. China also faces other environmental health challenges including water pollution, soil pollution and food safety problems.

Read more »

Bird Flu, North Korean Coal Crunch, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, December 2, 2016
bird-flu-south-korea South Korean health officials disinfect a vehicle to prevent spread of bird flu in Pocheon, South Korea, November 23, 2016. (Kim Myeong-jin/News1 via Reuters)

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

1. Bird flu outbreak puts Asian nations on high alert. A newly identified spate of bird flu outbreaks has alarmed public health officials across Asia. Bird flu, more formally known as Avian influenza, is a virus that occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds, but can spread to domestic poultry and sometimes to humans. These fears harken back to an H5N1 strain that that killed 450 people throughout the 2000s. Read more »

“Toughest Sanctions Ever”: UN Security Council Resolution 2321

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, December 2, 2016
The United Nations Security Council votes to approve a resolution that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York March 2, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid) The United Nations Security Council votes to approve a resolution that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York March 2, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

The UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed Resolution 2321 condemning North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, conducted on September 9, 2016. The resolution builds on Resolution 2270 passed by the UNSC only nine months earlier in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test by imposing even tougher restrictions on North Korean maritime and financial activities, misuse of diplomatic channels for commercial purposes, and restrictions on North Korean trade. On paper, UNSC 2321 essentially calls upon member states to place North Korea under economic quarantine unless it reverses course on nuclear development. Read more »

Podcast: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, December 1, 2016
U.S. and Japan Self-Defence Force's soldiers listen a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visits at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, enroute to Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria U.S. and Japan Self-Defence Force's soldiers listen a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, enroute to Hiroshima, Japan on May 27, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Harvard Professor Joseph Nye once said that “security is like oxygen: you do not tend to notice it until you begin to lose it.” Alliances also often function like oxygen, with the security and stability they provide going underappreciated argues Victor Cha, the director of Asian studies and D.S. Song-Korea Foundation professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University. Read more »

China’s New Two Child Policy: Too Little, Too Late

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Thursday, December 1, 2016
Sun Huanping, 55, shows her dead son's "honourable single child certification" which bears the slogan, "For the revolution, have only one child" at her house in Zhangjiakou, China, November 23, 2015. Sun's son with her 53-year-old husband Li Guoquan, Li Chao, was born in 1987 and died from a car accident in 2013. Sun terminated another pregnancy and couldn't think of having a second child because of the strict application of the one-child policy. After the loss of their son, Sun has suffered from conditions including depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. They live on Sun's pension and Li's monthly salary; it is not enough to cover their medical bills so they rely on the savings they had put aside for their son’s marriage. The change to the one-child policy is too late and means nothing to them, they said.  (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters) Sun Huanping, 55, shows her dead son's "honourable single child certification" which bears the slogan, "For the revolution, have only one child" at her house in Zhangjiakou, China, November 23, 2015. Sun's son with her 53-year-old husband Li Guoquan, Li Chao, was born in 1987 and died from a car accident in 2013. Sun terminated another pregnancy and couldn't think of having a second child because of the strict application of the one-child policy. After the loss of their son, Sun has suffered from conditions including depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. They live on Sun's pension and Li's monthly salary; it is not enough to cover their medical bills so they rely on the savings they had put aside for their son’s marriage. The change to the one-child policy is too late and means nothing to them, they said. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters)

Joan Kaufman is the director for academics at Schwarzman Scholars.

I have been closely watching China’s population policy for about forty years and arrived in China for my first work stint (with the United Nations Population Fund) in 1980 just after the one child policy was launched. I was in China for my latest work stint (with Columbia University) when it officially ended on January 1, 2016. Even while the total fertility rate, a rough approximation of the number of children a woman has over her reproductive years, had already dropped from about six to less than three, the population “problem” was one of the first issues Deng Xiaoping tackled as part of the Four Modernizations, setting a goal to keep the population at 1.2 billion by 2000 as part of the formula for quadrupling China’s GDP within the same period. It quickly became evident that the target driven program being implemented by local officials was leading, in some cases, to serious rights abuses. Read more »

The Trump Transition, the South Korean Leadership Quagmire, and North Korea’s Opportunity

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Officials move a sign of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) Officials move a sign of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

As a seemingly personality-driven, rather than policy-driven, Trump transition unfolds in the United States and Park Geun-hye’s scandal-ridden political crisis deepens with no clear end in sight in South Korea, North Korea under Kim Jong Un is comparatively a bastion of stability and fixed strategic purpose. But Pyongyang may have far more capacity as a source of instability than as an exploiter of uncertainty in Washington and Seoul. Read more »

Making America Great is Like Making a Great Hotel

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, November 30, 2016
A cyclist passes the construction entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington September 1, 2015. The iconic Old Post Office building is being transformed into a luxury hotel by presidential hopeful Donald Trump. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque A cyclist passes the construction entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington on September 1, 2015. The iconic Old Post Office building has been transformed into a luxury hotel by President-Elect Donald Trump. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As the world watches one foreign policy hopeful after the next take a spin through the revolving doors of Trump Tower to meet with President-Elect Trump, it is easy to imagine that it is CEO Trump interviewing candidates for the top positions at one of his new hotels abroad. There will be a chief marketing officer, a chief financial officer, legal counsel, and a communications director, among other senior staff. Once Mr. Trump picks his team, it will be time to weigh various opportunities. As they cast their eyes out to the Asia-Pacific, they should begin by undertaking the proper due diligence. Read more »