CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Obama and the Vietnam Arms Embargo

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-vietnam U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong after they spoke to reporters following their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington July 7, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This weekend, President Obama will travel to Vietnam, making the third U.S. presidential visit to the country since the end of the Vietnam War. Obama’s trip, which will also include a stop in Japan, will encompass several priorities. He will try to reassure allies that the United States remains committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the deal has stalled on Capitol Hill and could be rejected in Congress entirely. (For more on the TPP’s current fate, see this new Bloomberg piece.) He will become the first president to visit Hiroshima, where he will likely reaffirm his commitment to reducing nuclear proliferation without making a formal apology for the use of nuclear weapons in World War II. Read more »

Some Brief Takeaways on Duterte’s Win

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters) Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte raises a clenched fist before casting his vote at a polling precinct for national elections at Daniel Aguinaldo National High School in Davao city in southern Philippines, on May 9, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

With Rodrigo Duterte now officially confirmed as the winner of the Philippines’ presidential election last Monday, it is time for some brief thoughts on the immediate implications of his victory.

Duterte will now try to win a mass of defectors from the president’s party. Although the Liberal Party performed reasonably well in some local elections, political parties in the Philippines are notoriously weak, which is one reason why charismatic figures like Duterte and celebrities are able to win higher office. Expect the president-elect to try to win over large numbers of Liberal Party members who won local elections earlier in the week. Read more »

What to Expect From a Duterte Presidency

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Philippine presidential candidate and Davao city mayor Rodrigo 'Digong' Duterte (C) is flanked by his relatives during a "Miting de Avance" (last political campaign rally) before the national elections at Rizal park in Manila in the Philippines on May 7, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters) Philippine presidential candidate and Davao city mayor Rodrigo 'Digong' Duterte (C) is flanked by his relatives during a "Miting de Avance" (last political campaign rally) before the national elections at Rizal park in Manila in the Philippines on May 7, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

As the Philippines ushers in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, the country is poised for dramatic changes from the leadership of Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s tenure was generally stable, and he oversaw the longest sustained period of growth the country had enjoyed in decades. Aquino rhetorically touted the need to retain strong democratic institutions, and he also used typical political methods of trying to achieve policy successes: he consulted with advisors, unveiled policy platforms, and then tried to build support for them in the legislature and with the public. His persona was rarely controversial. Read more »

A Turn Toward Authoritarianism in the Philippines?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rodrigo-Duterte Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte raises a clenched fist aboard a truck during election campaigning for May 2016 national elections in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

As I wrote last week, the Philippines’ presidential race is still extremely close, going into the final days before Election Day. But as numerous Philippine polling organizations have reported, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte maintains a slim lead over his closest challenger, Senator Grace Poe, and over the other three major candidates. Since there is no runoff system like that of the French presidential election, which has more than one round, Duterte could win the presidency with a plurality 30 to 35 percent of the total votes. Read more »

Further Signs of Southeast Asia’s Political Regression

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth-thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha looks on before a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 26, 2016. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Three new annual reports, from the U.S. State Department, Freedom House, and Reporters without Borders, add further evidence to worries that much of Southeast Asia is experiencing an authoritarian revival. Released this week, Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report (for which I served as a consultant for several Southeast Asia chapters) reveals that in nearly all the ten ASEAN nations, press freedom regressed significantly last year. Freedom House’s findings are similar those of Reporters Without Borders annual Press Freedom Index, which was released earlier this month. Read more »

What Does the Rise of State Capitalism Mean for the World?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petrobras Workers repair a tank of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company in Cubatao, Brazil, on April 12, 2016. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

In just the past year, major scandals have erupted at several of the world’s most influential state-owned companies, with repercussions going far beyond the boardrooms. In Brazil, graft scandals centered on state-owned petroleum company Petrobras have triggered waves of arrests and played a role in the ongoing impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Meanwhile, in Malaysia investigations continue into allegations of massive irregularities in state fund 1MDB, allegations that have shaken the government of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak and reportedly triggered investigations into 1MDB in Singapore, Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia. Read more »

How Has the Rebalance Affected Security Assistance to Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-philippines U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honor guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 15, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the Philippines, an increasingly important U.S. security partner. In the Philippines, where he observed the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises, Carter made several important announcements. He revealed that the United States and the Philippines are, and will be, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Carter also offered specifics on new U.S. assistance to the Philippines as part of the new U.S. Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia, a program conceived by the Senate Armed Services Committee and designed to provide U.S. aid to Southeast Asian nations to bolster their maritime capabilities. Read more »

Brunei Desperately Looks to Diversify its Economy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Sultan-Hassanal-Bolkiah U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuter)

The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei remains almost totally dependent on petroleum for its growth, to provide its lavish social welfare programs—and to help reduce any possible opposition to the ruling sultan. Today, about 95 percent of Brunei’s exports are either oil or in some way related to oil, according to the Diplomat. Brunei’s oil has helped make it the fourth-richest country in the world by GDP per capita. But with low global oil prices, and Brunei’s oil reserves predicted to run out within the next three decades, the sultanate is desperately looking for ways to diversify its economy. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »