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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 "Central Asia"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 20, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Chinese President wraps up trip to Central Asia.  President Xi Jinping ended a ten-day trip to Central Asia with a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last weekend. Xi signed a number of bilateral economic and energy deals with countries in the region, and the SCO reached consensus on a number of foreign policy issues (largely in line with Chinese and Russian interests). With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, Central Asia is a region ripe for Chinese leadership. Read more »

Will Piekos: China’s Inroads into Central Asia

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
(R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters). (R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a lengthy trip to Central Asia this past weekend that ended in a meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, Krgyzstan. On paper at least, the trip was a significant success for Beijing. Xi signed multiple economic and energy agreements with the former Soviet satellite states and showed regional security leadership through the SCO. The trip even included some attempts at soft power projection—Xi announced 30,000 government scholarships to students of SCO member states. With the United States withdrawing from Afghanistan, Central Asia is an area full of potential for Chinese investment and diplomacy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 6, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
An employee of a sushi restaurant takes a break as seafood stalls are seen at the Noryangjin fisheries wholesale market in Seoul on September 6, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters) An employee of a sushi restaurant takes a break as seafood stalls are seen at the Noryangjin fisheries wholesale market in Seoul on September 6, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Beijing goes to war against a former security tsar. Investigations of multiple senior executives at state-owned oil producer PetroChina seem to link back to a corruption case against domestic security tsar and former senior oil executive Zhou Yongkang. Zhou was in charge of the police and domestic security apparatus and was also a member of the Politburo’s standing committee until 2012. Zhou is not officially under investigation himself, though there are rumors that he is under house arrest. Read more »

What to Expect in Asia in 2012

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Traders stand near a screen showing the Indonesia Stock Exchange Composite Index during the first day of trading for 2012 in Jakarta January 2, 2012. Courtesy Reuters/Stringer.

It’s been a fascinating year for Asia. The region has continued to consolidate its role as the essential player driving global recovery. Developing Asia, including China, India, and the major ASEAN economies, maintained robust growth, in contrast to the advanced economies’ collective anemic growth over the same period.

But 2012 promises to be more fraught as domestic politics take command amid new challenges to growth.

Here are twelve trends I see coming for Asia in 2012—risks, opportunities, and emerging patterns that will shape Asia during the next twelve months, and beyond.

Read more »

Asia’s Landlocked Spaces

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A Kyrgyz customs officer talks on a radio in front of workers as they reload cargo from a Chinese truck to Kyrgyz one at the Irkeshtam border crossing in southern Kyrgyzstan. Courtesy Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov.

Chris Rickleton, a Bishkek-based journalist, has a fascinating piece up on EurasiaNet about prospective Chinese rail construction in Kyrgyzstan. The piece cuts directly to tough political choices—namely, the push and pull between Russian and Chinese interests in Central Asia and, more important, how politicians in landlocked countries, like Kyrgyzstan, must try to balance among the larger countries on whom their economies depend for transit.

I’ve written a lot on efforts to reconnect trade and transit routes across continental Asia. You can read some of what I’ve argued herehereherehere, and here.

But Rickleton’s piece got me thinking about two questions:

(1) Since the obstacles to continental trade and transit are so high, is the game really worth the candle?

This is especially relevant because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vigorously promoting a “New Silk Road” concept, drawing heavily on a decade of prior efforts and experiences.

(2) With so much focus on the interests of the outside powers—Russia, China, Iran, and the United States, among others—what about the interests of the landlocked countries themselves?

Read more »

Does U.S.-China Strategic Cooperation Have To Be So Hard?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum
Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger delivers a speech in front of a picture of late U.S. president Richard Nixon meeting with late premier Zhou Enlai during a ceremony in Shanghai to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Shanghai Communique," on April 15, 2002. (China Photo / Courtesy of Reuters)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger delivers a speech in front of a picture of late U.S. President Richard Nixon meeting with late Premier Zhou Enlai during a ceremony in Shanghai to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Shanghai Communique." (China Photo/Courtesy Reuters)

Can the United States and China cooperate to forestall threats to stability? A new CFR report, Managing Instability on China’s Periphery, asks this question in the context of fragile states and regions that share borders with China—specifically North Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Central Asia. I participated in the project, which included workshops with Chinese specialists assembled by Peking University. I also wrote the report’s chapter on Central Asia.

The project is interesting because the U.S. and China actually have a long history of cooperating in places along China’s border. Just take recent tensions over Afghanistan, for example. These strains belie the degree to which Beijing and Washington worked jointly to defeat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Washington encouraged Chinese support for the Afghan mujahideen, and the two countries cooperated in other unprecedented ways during the conflict.

But that was then.

Read more »

Central Asia Celebrates Independence

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A general view of the Kalyan ensemble in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, which dates as far back as 1127. Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov.

With Central Asian countries celebrating the 20th anniversary of their independence, it seemed like a good time to repost a comprehensive report on U.S.-Central Asia relations.

Issued in February by the bipartisan Central Asia Study Group and published by the Project 2049 Institute, the report, Strengthening Fragile Partnerships, was premised, in part, on a concern that U.S. policy toward the region had become swamped by the war in Afghanistan.  Put simply, our group sought to articulate a vision of U.S. policy in Central Asia that was, (1) not derivative of the war, (2) premised on some enduring U.S. interests that date back at least to independence in 1991, and (3) will outlast 2014, when the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan begins to wind down in earnest.

Read more »

Speaking of the SCO …

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization walk during a meeting in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg June 15, 2009. Courtesy Reuters/RIA Novosti/Vladimir Rodionov/Pool.

Over at another CFR blog, The Internationalist, my colleague, Stewart Patrick, has posted a good piece about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Boy, did that take me back to old times.

The SCO stokes up all kinds of opinions in the United States—some informed, some less informed; some vituperative, and others merely skeptical.

Back in 2007, while serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia, I became, I think, the only U.S. official ever to devote an entire speech to the SCO.  Just two years earlier, the SCO had called for a timeline to end the Coalition military presence in Afghanistan.  And since the U.S. was in the midst of prosecuting a war, there was a great deal that we in the United States were forced to wrestle with as a result. For one, we sought to forestall any repeat statements from the group.  But for another, we aimed to sort through the SCO’s deeper (and perhaps darker?) intentions.

Read more »

Adapting to the New Asia

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Workers assemble a Hyundai i10 car at a plant of Hyundai Motor India Ltd in Sriperumbudur Taluk in the Kancheepuram district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu April 12, 2011. Courtesy Reuters/Babu Babu.

Time to beat my drum again …

A nice little piece from the BBC offers another reminder of how Asia is changing and why America must adapt. It builds illustratively on one of several themes of my recent essay, “Why America No Longer Gets Asia.” Asia is reintegrating but America isn’t adapting quickly enough.

Nissan, the piece notes, “is among several major Asian companies that have set up manufacturing hubs” in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. “A short drive down the congested highway, packed with large container trucks, and you’ll pass the facilities of Hyundai, Samsung, Mitsubishi and myriad others. ‘India is a rapidly growing market, so therefore it is very important for global auto manufacturers,’ says Nissan’s managing director in India, Kiminobu Tokuyama. But they are not just hoping to capture the local market. They are also using India as a hub for products aimed at overseas markets … Chennai alone has close to 3,000 Koreans and Little Koreas are springing up in pockets around the city.”

Read more »

Can the U.S. and India Cooperate in Central Asia?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inspect the guard of honor during their meeting in Astana April 16, 2011. Courtesy Reuters/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov.

As the U.S. moves toward military withdrawal from Afghanistan, will its commitment to continental Asia slide too?

My latest “DC Diary” column in India’s leading financial daily, the Business Standard, argues that the question is important to both the United States and India. It matters to Washington because Americans have other interests in Central Asia, quite apart from prosecuting the war. It matters to India because Central Asian governments will have fewer strategic options if the U.S. simply fades away.

Here’s the central reality: U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will mean a reduced footprint in Central Asia. But the United States certainly doesn’t have to disappear. And the U.S. and India, too, have some shared strategic interests, not least in facilitating the reconnection of Central Asia to the world economy.

Read more »