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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Jokowi’s Maritime Doctrine and What it Means

by Joshua Kurlantzick
jokowi-at-eas Indonesia's President Joko Widodo listens to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech (not pictured) at the 17th ASEAN-Japan Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw on November 12, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Despite coming into the Indonesian presidency as a man with minimal foreign policy experience, Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has attempted to launch a bold new foreign policy doctrine. Since the end of the Suharto dictatorship, Indonesian presidents have slowly rebuilt the country’s clout in regional and international affairs, which diminished greatly in the chaotic post-Suharto era. Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, though considered mostly a failure as a domestic reformer, did restore Indonesian leadership of ASEAN and play a significant role in helping mediate several regional conflicts. Read more »

Obama Returns Home to Harsh Reality

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama at apec President Barack Obama pauses during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing on November 11, 2014 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Reuters).

President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Asia has been described as a triumph by some observers as well as by the administration itself. On the trip, which included meetings with Chinese and Myanmar leaders and appearances at two Asian regional organizations, the White House announced a new climate agreement with Beijing that would commit both countries to meeting targets for cutting their carbon emissions. It also announced other supposed breakthroughs. The United States and China agreed to a new system of notifying each other of military movements in the region and agreed to cut tariffs on other IT equipment. Obama also declared that the Pacific nations were getting close to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Read more »

Obama’s Visit to Myanmar: A Mixed Result

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

During President Obama’s visit to Myanmar last week, for the East Asia Summit, the president said some of the right things about Myanmar’s faltering political reform process. He noted the ongoing discrimination – some would say outright ethnic cleansing – against Rohingya in western Myanmar, as well as the precarious rule of law in much of the country. He expressed concern about the challenges of Myanmar’s elections next year, which will be held under a constitution designed to bar Aung San Suu Kyi from taking the presidency and which still reserves enormous powers for the military. The constitution, as it stands, will pose a danger to any future Myanmar civilian government, even if Suu Kyi’s party, as expected, wins control of Parliament next year. And much of the press coverage of the Myanmar visit focused on the president’s remarks about Myanmar’s political challenges. Indeed, Obama’s aides clearly briefed reporters covering the trip to emphasize that the visit was focused on pressuring the Myanmar leadership to reform, since several news articles picked up this theme. Read more »

Grading Jokowi’s First Month

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta, October 20, 2014. Widodo took over as president of the world's third-largest democracy on Monday with supporters' hopes high but pressing economic problems and sceptical rivals set to test the former furniture businessman. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta on October 20, 2014. (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

Slightly less than a month into Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office, a few aspects of how Jokowi will govern are coming into focus. And since he promised major change in the first hundred days of his presidency, it is fair to analyze how he has done to this (short) point in time. Let’s run down how the former Jakarta mayor, who never held national office before, is doing in several key areas. Read more »

Obama, Asia, and Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-najib U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speak at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center in Cyberjaya in this file photo from April 27, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s nice, in a way, to see issues one has worked on appear in major, globally important publications. This past week, just before President Obama’s trip to Asia, the Banyan column in The Economist, a column that focuses on Asia, detailed the Obama administration’s general disinterest in issues related to democracy and human rights in Asia. Banyan notes that President Obama has kept quiet as protests for suffrage have raged in Hong Kong. Banyan also writes that the Obama administration also has ignored a serious regression in political freedoms in Malaysia, maintained the close bilateral relationship with Thailand even as a military junta took over in Bangkok, and spent little time working on relations with the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, as authentic a democrat as you will get anywhere. Read more »

Myanmar Not Yet Attracting U.S. Companies

by Joshua Kurlantzick
yangon-coca-cola-factory Staff work at a Coca-Cola factory during its opening ceremony outside of Yangon in this file photo from June 4, 2013. The facility was the first to locally bottle Coca-Cola in more than six decades and follows the U.S. company's re-entry into Myanmar in 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters).

As President Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar next week for the East Asia Summit, he will find less optimism not only about the political situation but also about Myanmar’s economic future. As I noted last week, when Obama first visited Myanmar in 2012, it was at the height of the country’s political reform process. Since then, the process of political reform has deteriorated, so much so that President Thein Sein last week held a kind of emergency summit with top civilian and military leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. This meeting was held in an attempt, I think, to get all top Myanmar public figures to at least paper over their differences during the East Asia Summit. Still, it has become clear that the military does intend to just easily hand power over to a truly civilian government, freedom of expression and press has been curtailed once again, and western Myanmar has exploded into inter-religious conflict, leaving over 100,000 Rohingya living in squalid camps that have been described by the Arakan Project as open air prisons.  It will not be easy to paper over these serious problems. Read more »

Hun Sen’s Cambodia: A Review

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun sen Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen arrives at the Royal Palace during commemorations for the second anniversary of late king Norodom Sihanouk's death in Phnom Penh on October 15, 2014 (Samrang Pring/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although the Vietnam War, including the “sideshow” war in Cambodia, has been the subject of thousands of books, post-war Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos have gotten relatively little treatment from Western writers. This despite the fact that Cambodia suffered one of the worst genocides in history, Vietnam fought another war in 1979 against China and then remade itself into a strategic and economic power, and Laos remains one of the most authoritarian states in the world. Read more »

Obama Prepares to Travel to Myanmar at a Critical Time

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-in-myanmar Crowds hold U.S. flags as President Barack Obama's motorcade drives through Yangon on November 19, 2012. Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Myanmar (Jason Reed/Courtesy: Reuters).

In November, President Obama will travel to Myanmar to attend the East Asia Summit, which brings together a broad range of nations from across the Pacific Rim. It will be the president’s second trip to Myanmar, following his landmark 2012 trip, which was the first by a sitting U.S. president to Myanmar since the country gained independence six decades ago. During the East Asia Summit, Obama almost surely will hold bilateral meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and other senior Myanmar leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more »

Malaysia’s Growing Climate of Repression Gets Ignored

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia lawyer protest march Malaysian lawyers march during a protest calling for the repeal of the Sedition Act in Kuala Lumpur on October 16, 2014. The Sedition Act has been used to arrest at least 30 people since last March, local media reported (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters).

Amidst the gushing over the inauguration of new Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the first outsider, non-elite president in Indonesia’s democratic era, there is a significant void of international interest in neighboring Malaysia, where the climate for freedom of expression and assembly has deteriorated badly in the past year. Over the past year, the government of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, which in Najib’s first term had promised to improve the climate for civil liberties and abolish long-hated laws that allowed detention without trial, has shifted course. The government has pursued a sodomy case against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim that, next week, almost surely will end with Anwar being sentenced to jail, though the case was a comedy of ridiculous “evidence” and coached witnesses. (To be clear—I don’t think sodomy should be a crime, but it is in Malaysia; even so, there was no verifiable evidence Anwar actually engaged in this “crime.”) Read more »