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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
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 »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
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 »

Maxine Builder: Antibiotics in China’s Rivers – An Emerging Health Threat

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, April 8, 2013. Picture taken April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, on April 8, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

On December 25, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) reported excessive amounts of antibiotics—up to four times the legal limit in the United States—in the Yangtze, Yellow, Huangpu, Liao, and Pearl Rivers, as well as in tap water from cities in Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Two culprits were named: run-off from poultry farms along the waterways and waste from Shandong Lukang Pharmaceutical, one of China’s four largest producers of antibiotics. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, with Shanghai's Pudong financial district in the background, January 6, 2015. Chinese state media and the public criticised the government and police on Friday for failing to prevent the stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and dented the city's image as modern China's global financial hub. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS) A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund on January 6, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. New  Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai. A deadly stampede broke out among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Shanghai’s Huangpu River waterfront on New Year’s Eve, resulting in thirty-six deaths and forty-nine hospitalizations. This past Wednesday, grieving loved ones gathered in memorial of those lost. Ahead of the festivities, the government feared overcrowding and went so far as to cancel a planned light show along the Bund; predicting smaller crowds than in previous years, five thousand fewer officers were posted during the celebration, and those on duty were unable to control the crowds.  Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 19, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters). A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Pakistan engulfed in anger and grief after the Taliban kills 132 schoolchildren and sixteen teachers. Members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren and 16 teachers, many of them shot at point-blank range and some burned alive. The Taliban claimed that the attack was to avenge Pakistani military operations in the northwest Taliban haven of North Waziristan. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 12, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) reads a joint statement as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches after their delegation level talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on December 11, 2014. (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) reads a joint statement as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches after their delegation level talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on December 11, 2014. (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Liu Tienan sentenced to life in prison. Liu Tienan, former deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission and former head of the National Energy Administration, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to life in prison. He was one of the first officials to be singled out by President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign and is among the highest-ranking officials to be imprisoned. Liu admitted to accepting bribes valued at 35 million yuan (approximately US$5.7 million) from 2002 to 2012. Read more »

Allen Grane: Combating the African Wildlife Trade in China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A herd of elephants confronts a hippopotamus at a watering hole in Hwange National Park October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. Picture taken October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW) A herd of elephants drinks at a watering hole in Hwange National Park on October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Allen Grane is a research associate for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recently, the Animal Planet aired a documentary entitled “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming.” The show, developed in conjunction with the environmental non-governmental organization WildAid, depicts Yao meeting with wildlife conservationists to discuss the future of African elephants and rhinoceroses. The documentary is part of an increased information campaign that includes other celebrities such as the Duke of Cambridge, David Beckham, and Jackie Chan. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: The Top Five Stories for the Week of December 5, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 14, 2012. China's senior leadership has agreed to open a corruption investigation into Zhou, one of China's most powerful politicians in the past decade, stepping up its anti-graft campaign, the South China Morning Post reported on August 30, 2013. Picture taken March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Zhou Yongkang arrested. Former head of China’s domestic security Zhou Yongkang was expelled from the Communist Party and arrested earlier today on charges including accepting bribes, helping family members and associates access government assets, disclosing state secrets, and leaking official secrets, Chinese state news service Xinhua announced. The decision was made by the Communist Party Politburo, comprised of the twenty-five most powerful officials in China, meaning that it is very likely that Zhou will be convicted. Read more »

Alisha Sud: China’s Investments in Brazil Spark Public Concern

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attend the official photo session for the meeting of China and CELAC at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia July 17, 2014. Brazil hosts the meeting of China and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: POLITICS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attend a meeting of China and CELAC at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia on July 17, 2014. (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

Alisha Sud is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In October, Baidu, China’s top search engine, bought Peixe Urbano, Brazil’s largest internet marketplace for local commerce. According to the Peixe Urbano website, the deal “represents one of the most important acquisitions to date in the Brazilian internet and technology sector.” Earlier in July, Baidu even launched a Portuguese version of the site. The goal is to capitalize on the increasing number of internet users in Brazil; it is projected that upwards of 43 million Brazilians will be online within the next three years. Read more »

Lauren Dickey: Taiwan’s Local Elections and a New Challenge for Beijing

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters wave flags after Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je won the local elections, in Taipei on November 29, 2014 (Pichi Chuang/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters wave flags after Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je won the city's election on November 29, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party experienced an unprecedented electoral defeat last Saturday, the “biggest defeat since 1949,” according to local media. Nearly 20,000 candidates ran for 11,130 political offices in Taiwan, with 18.5 million eligible voters casting ballots for nine levels of government across the island. Beyond the sheer scope of holding nine different elections on one single day, the electoral outcome sends a resounding signal to Beijing. After the spring Sunflower Movement protesting the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with mainland China, and the ongoing Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, these elections offered an opportunity for many voters to voice discontent with the pro-China, pro-business policies of the ruling KMT party. Read more »