CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Ariella Rotenberg: National Anti-Smoking Regulation in China—Can it Succeed?

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, January 28, 2015
An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In mid-December, Chinese state media reported that the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council (China’s cabinet) was weighing a new anti-smoking regulation that would curb tobacco use and advertising nationally. A draft of the regulation appeared on the website of the People’s Daily  in order to solicit public feedback on the ordinance. Read more »

Jokowi’s Presidency: Part 2 – The Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS) Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta, on July 23, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters).

Among his supporters, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo raised expectations so high, before he was actually elected, that he was bound to disappoint them. Somewhat like U.S. President Barack Obama, Jokowi seemed to fulfill different images of hope for different supporters, even if Jokowi himself did not try to actually cultivate all of these images. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 23, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 23, 2015
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence in Tokyo January 23, 2015. It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence in Tokyo January 23, 2015. It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. The fate of Japanese ISIS hostages still unknown. The fate of two Japanese hostages captured this past Tuesday by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains unclear. The terrorist organization released a video on Tuesday threatening to kill Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa in seventy-two hours unless Japan paid a ransom of $200 million; that deadline expired early Friday morning with no news of their status. ISIS captured Haruna Yakawa, the founder of a private security company, in northern Syria in August 2014. Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, arrived in Syria in late October with the aim of establishing contact with ISIS in hopes that he could convince them to release Yukawa. Friday morning, Goto’s mother held a news conference asking the Japanese government to save her son. Read more »

Podcast: The United States, China, and the Asia Pacific

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 23, 2015
Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, on November 17, 2011 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, renowned China scholars Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson from the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney visited the Council on Foreign Relations to share their views on emerging political and security dynamics in the Asia Pacific and U.S-China relations. Australia is a U.S. ally, a major trading partner of China, and a regional leader in its own right; and Bates and Linda’s remarks reminded me once again how important it is to seek perspectives outside those of the United States and China. Listen to this podcast for a “to-the point” discussion of how Australia views the U.S. pivot, what U.S. analysts are missing in their thinking about the current state of Asian regional politics, and what major changes we should expect in the region over the next five years. Read more »

Jokowi’s Presidency Thus Far: Part One – The Good News

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, January 22, 2015
Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore November 21, 2014. Jokowi on Friday flew in to Singapore in an economy-class flight to attend the graduation ceremony of his youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, according to local media. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS) Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore on November 21, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

Without any doubt, the first months of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first term have delivered some impressive successes. The president’s “smart card” and “health card”—cards sent out to poor Indonesians guaranteeing them a certain number of years of free medical care and schooling, as well as state subsidies for school supplies—have gone out to millions of Indonesians. In the long run, this new social welfare program will likely bring dramatic improvements in education and health indicators for many of the poorest in the country. Read more »

China, Japan, and the Twenty-One Demands

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Compared with the high-profile national Memorial Day for the Nanjing Massacre last month, the date January 18 passed uneventfully. Chinese media appeared to have forgotten that one hundred years ago, on exactly that day, Japan presented Chinese President Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-Kai) with requests that would have turned China into a de facto Japanese protectorate. Read more »

The U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue: Frank Criticism but No Action

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state June 9, 2014. Baekon is among many Rohingya Muslims living in squalid camps in Myanmar after being displaced by religious unrest. Baekon is from Rakhine state, where her family home was burned down in religious riots that broke out in June 2012. Baekon ended up in a refugee camp, where she is still living now. Her husband left her before she gave birth to twins, and she is struggling to feed them. June 20 is World Refugee Day, an occasion that draws attention to those who have been displaced around the globe. In the run-up to the date, Reuters photographers in different regions have photographed various people who have at some point fled their homes. Picture taken June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state, on June 9, 2014 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, and a group of other U.S. officials from State, Defense, and USAID were in Myanmar for the second U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue. The dialogue came at a time when Myanmar’s rights record is backsliding, more than one-hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced in Myanmar, and there are concerns, both within Myanmar and among outside countries, that this year’s critical national elections will be waylaid, not allowing the vote to go on freely and fairly. Read more »

Power Trip: Might China’s Struggles With Its Neighbors Bring War to Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, January 16, 2015
spratlys Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines on March 31, 2014. (Erik De Castro/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post also appeared at The Nationaland can be found here.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 160,000 miles square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino Marines camp on a rusty hulk of an American World War II-era ship grounded in the Spratlys. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 16, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 16, 2015
Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila January 16, 2015. Pope Francis called on the Philippine government on Friday to tackle corruption and hear the cries of the poor suffering from "scandalous social inequalities" in Asia's most Catholic country. The Pope arrived the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day visit, the second and last leg of his week-long Asian tour. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini ( PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS SOCIETY) Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila on January 16, 2015 (Stefano Rellandini/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Pope Francis visits Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The pope made his second trip to Asia in less than two years, a sign of his “interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent,” visiting Sri Lanka and Philippines (which have Catholic populations of 6 percent and 81 percent, respectively). His first stop was Colombo, where he preached peace and reconciliation and said that Sri Lanka must heal divisions from the country’s twenty-five year civil war. After holding mass in the capital, Francis traveled to Tamil territory in the north to visit the Our Lady of Madhu shrine, a Catholic pilgrimage site. It was the first visit by a pope to the region. In the Philippines, Asia’s only predominately Christian country, the pope denounced corruption and reasserted the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception. Francis will hold three masses in the capital of Manila and in Tacloban, the province most affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Read more »