CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Elizabeth C. Economy"

The AIIB Debacle: What Washington Should Do Now

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L) gives a speech with the guests of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Pool (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS) China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L) gives a speech with the guests of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 24, 2014 (Takaki Yajima/Courtesy of Reuters).

It is time for Washington to take a step back and regroup. Its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) strategy, ill-considered from the get-go, has now taken a major hit with the announcement this past week by the United Kingdom that it plans to join the Chinese-led AIIB. Washington’s concerns over the AIIB are well-established: the competition the AIIB poses to pre-existing development institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank; concern over the potential for weak environmental standards and social safeguards within the AIIB; and the opportunity for China to use AIIB-financed infrastructure for greater leverage in the region. Read more »

A Chinese Environmental Call to Arms Goes Viral and Then Not

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube). Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube).

In late February, former CCTV reporter Chai Jing released a gripping video, called Under the Dome, on the sources and devastating impact of pollution in China on the environment and the health of the people. The video mixes hard facts, personal emotional appeals, and interviews with local officials to present a shocking portrait of the decades of environmental abuse that the Chinese people have suffered. Chai presents her talk TED Talk-style—strolling back and forth across the stage in front of a large, clearly captivated audience of Chinese young people. Read more »

Personnel and Policy in U.S. Policymaking Toward China

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014 (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters).

Alarm bells are ringing yet again over the apparent dearth of expertise and interest in China within the Obama administration. This is a problem I have been tempted to write about on a number of occasions over the past year or two. I have not done so because I do not think that there is a problem. Still, people keep writing articles suggesting that such a problem exists, so perhaps it is worth taking a bit of time to assess the claim. Read more »

Time For Xi to Reform His Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

As Xi Jinping nears the two-year mark of his tenure as president of China, he might want to take stock of what is working on the political front and what is not. Here are some early wins and losses.

Certainly, his anti-corruption campaign has hit its target—hundreds of thousands of them to be exact—and shows little sign of slowing down. He has cast a wide net, leaving little doubt that no sector of society—party, military, business, or other—is completely safe. Still, Xi remains vulnerable to accusations that the campaign is at least partially politically motivated, given that almost half of the senior-most officials arrested are tied in some way to his political opponents, and none of his Fujian or Zhejiang associates have been detained. Read more »

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

by Elizabeth C. Economy
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 »

The Shanghai Stampede and Xi Jinping’s Lost Opportunity

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A woman lights a candle during a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, in Shanghai January 2, 2015. The stampede killed at least 36 people, authorities said, but police denied reports it was caused by people rushing to pick up fake money thrown from a building overlooking the city's famous waterfront. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY) A woman lights a candle during a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident during a New Year's celebration on the Bund in Shanghai on January 2, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of the New Year’s Eve stampede along the Bund in Shanghai that resulted in the death of almost forty people, Chinese President Xi Jinping wasted no time calling for hospitals to treat the injured and for an investigation to determine responsibility for the tragedy. Yet beyond that, his response, and that of the rest of the Chinese leadership, has been tone deaf, missing an important opportunity to demonstrate real leadership through compassion and understanding. Read more »

Some Good News For a Change: Mark Clifford’s The Greening of Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Mount Kinabalu appears through the clouds over Kota Kinabalu, capital of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, in this March 8, 2002 aerial photograph. Known as "aki nabalu" or "home of the spirits of the dead" to the Kadazan Dusun locals, Kinabalu is Southeast Asia's highest mountain, standing at 4,095 metres (13,432 feet). Picture taken March 8. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad Mount Kinabalu appears through the clouds over Kota Kinabalu, capital of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, in this March 8, 2002 aerial photograph. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

Picking up a copy of Mark Clifford’s new book The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency (Columbia University Press, forthcoming March 2015) is a good way to start the New Year. Clifford, the executive director of the Hong Kong–based Asia Business Council, offers an in-depth look at how entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies in Asia are making important contributions to energy, land, and water conservation and efficiency through technological and policy innovation. Coming on the heels of the recent U.S. and Chinese pledges to do more to address climate change, the book adds to the sense that there is real potential to change the world’s environmental future for the better. Read more »

Zuckerberg’s Love Affair With Xi Jinping

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, on April 4, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently stirred up controversy by advising his employees to read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China, because he wants them to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The book appeared prominently placed on his desk during a recent visit from China’s Internet czar Lu Wei, and he apparently has bought a number of copies to share with others. (To be clear—and I am assuming Mr. Zuckerberg realizes this—Xi’s book is not a book that he, himself, wrote; it is a collection of his speeches and interviews.) For the free publicity he is providing the Chinese leader, Zuckerberg has been widely condemned on the Chinese Internet. Given Zuckerberg’s position as the CEO of one of America’s leading technology firms, it is worth exploring whether such criticism is deserved. Read more »

Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Let’s be clear, the United States won big this week, but not for the reasons most people think. The media and China analysts have focused overwhelmingly on the climate deal, touting the new commitments from both the United States and China as exceptional, even “historic.” But this is missing the forest for the trees. The real win for U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping China in the tent or, in political science speak, reinforcing Beijing’s commitment to the liberal international order. Read more »

What President Obama Should Bring to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague March 24 2014. Obama began crisis talks with his European allies on Monday after Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea, effectively yielding the region to Russian forces which stormed one of Kiev's last bases there. Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7 - a group of industrialised nations that excludes Russia, which joined in 1998 to form the G8. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague on March 24 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a world of foreign policy resets, rethinks, and redoes, U.S. President Barack Obama’s China strategy is right on track. The Asia pivot or rebalance makes core U.S. interests—freedom of trade and investment, freedom of navigation, and human rights—clear to Beijing in an effective and compelling manner. And within this framework, the United States has engaged China on multiple fronts, including expanding the military-to-military relationship, restarting talks on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and supporting all manner of capacity building in the legal, environmental, and public health arenas. Read more »