CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

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 »

Where Should Donald Trump Begin in South Asia?

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Donald J. Trump will assume the U.S. presidency at a time of flux in South Asia. Afghanistan appears at risk of greater instability, Pakistan continues to harbor terrorists that attack its neighbors, India-Pakistan tensions have increased, and India’s growth story has hit a speed bump. China has escalated its involvement in the region, with extensive infrastructure development plans for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The Trump administration’s national security and international economic teams will enter office with both near-term tactical as well as long-term strategic decisions to make about how to approach the region. Read more »

Looking Ahead in Asia, With Our Allies

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, November 30, 2016
United States Navy Admiral Scott Swift greets Japan Maritime Defense Force Rear Admiral Koji Manabe before a press conference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam about the multi-national military exercise RIMPAC in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 5, 2016 (Hugh Gentry/REUTERS). United States Navy Admiral Scott Swift greets Japan Maritime Defense Force Rear Admiral Koji Manabe before a press conference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam about the multi-national military exercise RIMPAC in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 5, 2016 (Hugh Gentry/REUTERS).

The United States will face a variety of challenges ahead in the Asia-Pacific. It will need diplomatic supporters, economic partners, and military allies. Japan and our Asian allies are all of these, and more.

Today’s Asia is complex, but tomorrow’s Asia will be fraught if the United States fails to look ahead. It will be vital for the Trump administration to consider the longer game, aiming for a vision of Asia that in the end serves U.S. interests. Read more »

Managing U.S.-China Relations in Uncertain Times

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, November 30, 2016
xi-g20-speech Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at a Paris Agreements climate event ahead of the G20 Summit, at West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The electoral victory of Mr. Donald Trump has placed U.S.-China relations in a dicey situation. While ordinary Chinese—most of whom dreaded a Hillary Clinton presidency—were delighted that their wishful thinking came true, political leaders in Beijing appeared to be caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s stunning defeat of his Democratic opponent. They are concerned about the “improper” remarks made by the president-elect and the lack of experience of his foreign policy team. Memories are still fresh of 1993–1994 when Bill Clinton, whose party had been out of power for twelve years, brought the relationship to a low ebb by establishing the link between progress in human rights and the “most favored nation” tariff treatment for China. Read more »

Moving Forward in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, November 30, 2016
duterte-speech-airport Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks after arriving from Malaysia at Davao International airport in Davao city in southern Philippines, November 11, 2016. (Lean Daval, Jr./Reuters)

Although Southeast Asia was not mentioned often during the presidential campaign, the new U.S. administration will face several imminent regional challenges. For one, the relationship between the United States and the Philippines has deteriorated significantly since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year. Duterte has publicly blasted U.S. officials and U.S. policy in the region, suggested he wants to move Philippine foreign policy closer to China, and threatened to scale down joint military exercises. Duterte expressed seeming approval of Trump’s election, presenting a possibility to restore closer ties, but the fact that Trump—a figure with some similar characteristics as Duterte—was elected will probably not change the Philippine president’s underlying anti-American worldview. Read more »