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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Tony Abbott Has To Go

by Joshua Kurlantzick
tony abbott g20 Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers his keynote speech during the B20 Summit in Sydney, on July 17, 2014. (Lisa Maree Williams/Courtesy: Reuters)

Important: The views expressed on this blog are my own. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no positions on matters of policy or politics. 

Is Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott the most incompetent leader of any industrialized democracy? Of course, a leader’s popularity, to some, depends on that leader’s political orientation. Many conservative Republicans think Barack Obama is one of the worst presidents in modern history, while many liberal Spaniards think conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is one of the worst leaders in Spain’s modern history. Read more »

Deglobalization Remains a Powerful Trend

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries in Beijing November 10, 2014. Leaders have gathered in Beijing for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Obama will also travel to Myanmar and Australia during his week-long trip to Asia. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries in Beijing on November 10, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

During a seemingly successful trip to Asia last November, U.S. President Barack Obama announced several breakthroughs. Among them was a promise that the United States and Asian nations would proceed toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping also announced a new climate deal, the first between the two powers, which will commit both the United States and China to significant emissions cuts over the next two decades. Read more »

Jokowi’s Presidency: Part 2 – The Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: ELECTIONS POLITICS) Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gestures to supporters a day after he was named winner in the presidential election in Taman Proklamasi, Jakarta, on July 23, 2014 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters).

Among his supporters, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo raised expectations so high, before he was actually elected, that he was bound to disappoint them. Somewhat like U.S. President Barack Obama, Jokowi seemed to fulfill different images of hope for different supporters, even if Jokowi himself did not try to actually cultivate all of these images. Read more »

Jokowi’s Presidency Thus Far: Part One – The Good News

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore November 21, 2014. Jokowi on Friday flew in to Singapore in an economy-class flight to attend the graduation ceremony of his youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, according to local media. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS) Indonesian President Joko Jokowi Widodo and his wife Iriana react as names are read out during their son's graduation ceremony at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) International in Singapore on November 21, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

Without any doubt, the first months of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s first term have delivered some impressive successes. The president’s “smart card” and “health card”—cards sent out to poor Indonesians guaranteeing them a certain number of years of free medical care and schooling, as well as state subsidies for school supplies—have gone out to millions of Indonesians. In the long run, this new social welfare program will likely bring dramatic improvements in education and health indicators for many of the poorest in the country. Read more »

The U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue: Frank Criticism but No Action

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state June 9, 2014. Baekon is among many Rohingya Muslims living in squalid camps in Myanmar after being displaced by religious unrest. Baekon is from Rakhine state, where her family home was burned down in religious riots that broke out in June 2012. Baekon ended up in a refugee camp, where she is still living now. Her husband left her before she gave birth to twins, and she is struggling to feed them. June 20 is World Refugee Day, an occasion that draws attention to those who have been displaced around the globe. In the run-up to the date, Reuters photographers in different regions have photographed various people who have at some point fled their homes. Picture taken June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS RELIGION CIVIL UNREST) Sinnuyar Baekon, 25, sits in front of her hut at a refugee camp outside Sittwe, the capital city of the Rakhine state, on June 9, 2014 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, and a group of other U.S. officials from State, Defense, and USAID were in Myanmar for the second U.S.-Burma Human Rights Dialogue. The dialogue came at a time when Myanmar’s rights record is backsliding, more than one-hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced in Myanmar, and there are concerns, both within Myanmar and among outside countries, that this year’s critical national elections will be waylaid, not allowing the vote to go on freely and fairly. Read more »

Power Trip: Might China’s Struggles With Its Neighbors Bring War to Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
spratlys Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines on March 31, 2014. (Erik De Castro/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post also appeared at The Nationaland can be found here.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 160,000 miles square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino Marines camp on a rusty hulk of an American World War II-era ship grounded in the Spratlys. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Constitution Becomes Clearer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai military Thai soldiers stand guard at the police boat T813 tsunami memorial in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province on December 25, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Although much of the negotiations within Thailand’s constitutional drafting committee, hand picked by the Thai military, will go on without public input, the outlines of the next constitution are becoming clearer as the drafting committee has begun to meet. In recent weeks, some aspects of the drafting have been covered – and even occasionally criticized – by the Thai media, and it is clear that, despite being picked by the military, a few drafters have concerns about the opaque drafting process and the possible rollback of democratic institutions in the next constitution. Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Reforming Indonesia’s Aviation Safety Procedures

by Joshua Kurlantzick
airasia search A crew member of an Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out a window during a flight with Muslim clerics to offer prayers for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ 8501, over the Java Sea off Pangkalan Bun on January 6, 2015. (Achmad Ibrahim/Courtesy: Reuters)

The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, though tragic, was not an enormous surprise to anyone who follows aviation in Indonesia, or who has flown repeatedly in Indonesia. This is not to say that AirAsia has a poor safety record; the airline had never had a fatal accident prior to this one, and AirAsia management has responded admirably to the crash. Senior management, including AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, have reached out to families of the survivors, trying to keep them updated about information on the search and rescue operations and personally consoling relatives of people who were on Flight 8501. Read more »

Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in and Around Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters) Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the past year, Malaysia’s aviation industry has suffered an unprecedented number of tragedies. Although the odds of any person boarding a flight dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million, three Malaysia-based aircraft have apparently gone down, with no survivors. The latest, AirAsia Flight QZ8501, had been traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it vanished over the Java Sea.
Read more »