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"

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 »

What Beijing Wants From APEC

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A man (bottom) takes pictures of workers installing lighting on an APEC sign post at the financial district in Beijing, October 28, 2014. Countries at an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing pledged to pursue "flexible" fiscal policies to support the world economy and job creation, their finance ministers said in a joint statement on Wednesday. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS SOCIETY) Workers install lighting on an APEC sign post at the financial district in Beijing on October 28, 2014. (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters)

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is just around the corner, and Beijing is pulling out all the stops. Elegant Chinese limousines will ferry the region’s leaders to and fro. The Gods—or maybe just the Communist Party, in this case—have preordained clear skies (since all factories within polluting distance will be shut down and each day half of all cars will be banned from the road). And Beijing is working hard to patch up political rifts with neighbors such as Vietnam and Japan to ensure that a spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation prevails. Read more »

Ten Fun and Fascinating Facts About Xi Jinping

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Residents hold posters of the newly appointed chief of China's Communist Party Xi Jinping and the disputed islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan (R), during a "Shehuo" performance to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, February 22, 2013. "Shehuo", which originated from the Han Dynasty, is a kind of folk performance with a long history to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, begun on February 10 this year and marks the start of the year of the snake, according to the Chinese zodiac. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA Residents hold posters of the newly appointed chief of China's Communist Party Xi Jinping during a "Shehuo" performance to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on February 22, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

A friend recently dropped off a hot-off-the-press copy of Xi Jinping: The Goverance of China. It is a compilation of speeches, main points of speeches, pictures, interviews, and a biographical sketch of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Several different parts of the Chinese government bureaucracy participated in producing the book, which runs more than 500 pages. While I can’t do justice to all the material presented, here are some things I learned from reading through Xi’s musings and the musings of others about him. Read more »

What Beijing Should Do About Hong Kong

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old who heads the group leading a pupils' protest, Scholarism, addresses a rally in Hong Kong September 26, 2014. Hundreds of children joined students demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong on Friday, capping a week-long campaign that has seen a large cut-out depicting the territory's leader as the devil paraded through the city and calls for him to resign. The Chinese characters on the background read "Fate". REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION CIVIL UNREST) Joshua Wong, a seventeen-year-old who heads the group leading a pupils' protest, Scholarism, addresses a rally in Hong Kong on September 26, 2014. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Hong Kong is not Beijing, 2014 is not 1989, and Civic Square is not Tiananmen Square. Still, the images of tens of thousands of Hong Kong Chinese demonstrating in the streets for democratic reform cannot help but bring back memories of a quarter century ago. Like the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing, those in Hong Kong are spearheaded by extraordinarily passionate, articulate, and inspiring young leaders. Both movements include Chinese people from all walks of life. And both movements, while at heart represent a call for fuller democracy and more direct political participation, also engage issues of economic well-being and inequities within the system. Read more »