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"

Three Things for Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe to Read

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Demonstrators chant slogans and carry a Chinese national flag as they march past riot police outside the main entrance to the Japanese embassy in Beijing September 17, 2012. Chinese police used pepper spray, tear gas and water cannon to break up an anti-Japan protest in southern China on Sunday as demonstrators took to the streets in scores of cities across the country in a long-running row with Japan over a group of disputed islands. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) Demonstrators chant slogans and carry a Chinese national flag as they march past riot police outside the main entrance to the Japanese embassy in Beijing on September 17, 2012. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

With the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in early November approaching rapidly, hopes are high for a meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. The downturn in relations between Japan and China has been a lose-lose proposition for both countries. Japanese investment in China has dropped off dramatically at a time when Beijing can ill-afford another hit to its sputtering economy, and many Japanese companies have hitched their future to China and are suffering as a result of current political tensions. Moreover, the potential for military conflict to erupt around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands remains significant. The summit, which will be held in Beijing, offers an important opportunity for President Xi and Prime Minister Abe to begin to bring their countries’ derailed relations back on track. Read more »

Chinese Drop-Off in U.S. Graduate Schools Triggers False Alarm

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Bo Guagua, son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, receives his masters degree in public policy from Senior Lecturer John Donohue (R) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government during the 361st Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 24, 2012. Bo graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government on Thursday, capping a tumultuous academic year that also placed him in the center of his homeland's biggest leadership crisis in two decades. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS) Bo Guagua, son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, receives his masters degree in public policy from Senior Lecturer John Donohue (R) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government during the 361st Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 24, 2012.

The Chronicle of Higher Education blog first sounded the alarm on August 21: a just-released survey by the Council of Graduate Schools reported that graduate school admission offers to Chinese students had plateaued. As a result, the Chronicle made clear: “Chinese appetite for American higher education may have finally hit a saturation point. That could spell trouble for American universities who have come to rely on students from China, who account for one in three foreign graduate students….” Read more »

Yum, Yum, Yum: Another Food Safety Scandal Rocks Multinationals in China

by Elizabeth C. Economy
OSI Group Chairman and CEO Sheldon Lavin (C), OSI Group President and Chief Operating Officer David McDonald (L) and OSI Vice President of North America Quality Sharon Birkett attend a news conference in Shanghai, July 28, 2014. An on-going internal investigation conducted by OSI Group LLC into its unit, the scandal-hit Chinese food supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co Ltd, has revealed that standards were below par. The firm will also spend 10 million yuan ($1.62 million) over three years to launch a food safety education programme in Shanghai. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD) OSI Group chairman and CEO Sheldon Lavin (C), OSI Group president and chief operating officer David McDonald (L) and OSI Vice President of North America Quality Sharon Birkett attend a news conference in Shanghai on July 28, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It was a bad week for the crown jewels of the U.S. fast food industry. At the end of July, Louisiana-based Yum! Brands, which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, discovered (along with McDonalds, Subway, and Starbucks, among others) that one of their suppliers in China, Shanghai Husi Food Co., a subsidiary of the Chicago-based OSI Group, was supplying them with products using expired or rotten meat. Unfortunately, this was only the latest in a number of food safety scandals that have plagued U.S. fast food companies in China over the past few years. Read more »

All Roads Lead to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard before a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia July 17, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) China's President Xi Jinping reviews an honor guard on the sidelines of the 6th BRICS summit at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on July 17, 2014. (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series following a recent CFR trip to India and China. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Daniel Markey. Read more »

Making Progress at the U.S.-China S&ED: Go Strategic or Stay Home

by Elizabeth C. Economy
(L-R) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington July 10, 2013. (L-R) Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese vice premier Wang Yang and U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

As the full contingent of U.S. cabinet secretaries, other senior officials, and support staff prepare for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) (to be held on July 9-10 in Beijing), it is not unreasonable to ask whether all the fuss and muss is worth it. Despite all the focus on this bilateral relationship, it often appears that for every problem addressed, ten more mushroom in its place. In the weeks leading up to the S&ED, a plaintive cry can be heard emanating from DC: Are we getting it right? What more can we do? I have two answers in response: batten down the hatches and get ready for the long haul; or stay home. Read more »

Why Tiananmen Doesn’t Disappear

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

There are few dates in contemporary history that are as universally acknowledged as June 4, 1989, the day of the Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Yet what is the significance of this date twenty-five years later? Certainly there is no consensus: from the Global Times to the New York Times, Tiananmen elicits vastly different understandings of what transpired then and what it means today. Yet there is value in acknowledging these different understandings of history and hopes for the future, in large part because they so clearly inform the present. Moreover, the story of Tiananmen continues to evolve. New voices are emerging that want to be heard. Read more »

Is Washington Getting China Policy Wrong?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It would be easy to think that U.S. policy toward China has gone off the rails. Washington is at odds with Beijing in the East and South China Seas; accusations of cyber espionage are flying across the Pacific; and Beijing is signing big oil and gas deals and talking about shared security concerns with Moscow, even as the United States is trying to coordinate sanctions against Russia for its crisis-inducing behavior in Ukraine. Read more »

Missing in Asia: The Pivotal Person in Obama’s Pivot

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses next to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference in the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo April 24, 2014. Abe said on Thursday that he will continue to explain his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead to gain understanding from neighbouring Asian countries. REUTERS/Larry Downing (JAPAN - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. president Barack Obama pauses next to Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference in the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

It is tough to get a fix on what is wrong with President Obama’s Asia pivot. On the face of it, it is the perfect policy at the perfect time: it serves America’s economic interests by pushing a high-end trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); it reinforces and expands America’s role as the dominant security player in the region; and it advances the ideals of the American political system through capacity building in countries such as Myanmar. Yet, no matter how much attention the president and his team are paying to the region—and no one can legitimately claim that the Asia Pacific is suffering from a lack of U.S. attention given the number of trips to the region by senior U.S. officials—the sum of the policy is rapidly becoming less than its parts. Read more »

China’s Round Two on Electric Cars: Will It Work?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A visitor looks at BYD E6 electric car on display at the New Energy Auto Expo in Nanjing, Jiangsu province March 22, 2014. Three of China's biggest cities are helping consumers pay for a range of electric cars, heeding calls to encourage the sale of green vehicles that the government sees helping tackle pollution. China's smoggy skies topped the agenda at the annual parliamentary session this year, while Premier Li Keqiang in January demonstrated the importance of green cars by visiting a factory of BYD Co Ltd , maker of the e6 pure electric car. The BYD E6 electric car was on display at the New Energy Auto Expo in Nanjing, Jiangsu province on March 22, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Everyone loves China’s five-year plans. They tell you everything you need to know about the future direction of the Chinese economy: intentions and priorities, along with timetables and targets. The only thing missing are the results. After five years, though, who keeps track of what was promised and what was delivered? Well, the Chinese government for one. And as Beijing takes stock of its efforts to become a world leader in the production and deployment of electric and hybrid electric cars during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the picture isn’t pretty. Now Beijing is attempting a mid-plan course correction. Will it work? Read more »

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk October 17, 2012. By a remote fjord where icebergs float in silence and hunters stalk reindeer, plans are being drawn up for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by four percent at a stroke - by hiring Chinese workers. The $2.3-billion project by the small, British company London Mining Plc would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. It would supply China with much needed iron for the steel its economy. With global warming thawing its Arctic sea lanes, and global industry eyeing minerals under this barren island a quarter the size of the United States, the 57,000 Greenlanders are wrestling with opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule. Yet a scramble for Greenland already may be under way, in which some see China trying to exploit the icebound territory as a staging ground in a global battle for Arctic resources and strategic control of new shipping routes. Picture taken October 17, 2012. To match Insight GREENLAND/ REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk on October 17, 2012. (Alistair Scrutton/Courtesy Reuters)

If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic. Read more »