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Asia Unbound

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

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Bird Flu, North Korean Coal Crunch, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
bird-flu-south-korea South Korean health officials disinfect a vehicle to prevent spread of bird flu in Pocheon, South Korea, November 23, 2016. (Kim Myeong-jin/News1 via Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Erik Crouch, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Bird flu outbreak puts Asian nations on high alert. A newly identified spate of bird flu outbreaks has alarmed public health officials across Asia. Bird flu, more formally known as Avian influenza, is a virus that occurs naturally among wild aquatic birds, but can spread to domestic poultry and sometimes to humans. These fears harken back to an H5N1 strain that that killed 450 people throughout the 2000s. Read more »

“Toughest Sanctions Ever”: UN Security Council Resolution 2321

by Scott A. Snyder
The United Nations Security Council votes to approve a resolution that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York March 2, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid) The United Nations Security Council votes to approve a resolution that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York March 2, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

The UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed Resolution 2321 condemning North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, conducted on September 9, 2016. The resolution builds on Resolution 2270 passed by the UNSC only nine months earlier in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test by imposing even tougher restrictions on North Korean maritime and financial activities, misuse of diplomatic channels for commercial purposes, and restrictions on North Korean trade. On paper, UNSC 2321 essentially calls upon member states to place North Korea under economic quarantine unless it reverses course on nuclear development. Read more »

China’s New Two Child Policy: Too Little, Too Late

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Sun Huanping, 55, shows her dead son's "honourable single child certification" which bears the slogan, "For the revolution, have only one child" at her house in Zhangjiakou, China, November 23, 2015. Sun's son with her 53-year-old husband Li Guoquan, Li Chao, was born in 1987 and died from a car accident in 2013. Sun terminated another pregnancy and couldn't think of having a second child because of the strict application of the one-child policy. After the loss of their son, Sun has suffered from conditions including depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. They live on Sun's pension and Li's monthly salary; it is not enough to cover their medical bills so they rely on the savings they had put aside for their son’s marriage. The change to the one-child policy is too late and means nothing to them, they said.  (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters) Sun Huanping, 55, shows her dead son's "honourable single child certification" which bears the slogan, "For the revolution, have only one child" at her house in Zhangjiakou, China, November 23, 2015. Sun's son with her 53-year-old husband Li Guoquan, Li Chao, was born in 1987 and died from a car accident in 2013. Sun terminated another pregnancy and couldn't think of having a second child because of the strict application of the one-child policy. After the loss of their son, Sun has suffered from conditions including depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. They live on Sun's pension and Li's monthly salary; it is not enough to cover their medical bills so they rely on the savings they had put aside for their son’s marriage. The change to the one-child policy is too late and means nothing to them, they said. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters)

Joan Kaufman is the director for academics at Schwarzman Scholars.

I have been closely watching China’s population policy for about forty years and arrived in China for my first work stint (with the United Nations Population Fund) in 1980 just after the one child policy was launched. I was in China for my latest work stint (with Columbia University) when it officially ended on January 1, 2016. Even while the total fertility rate, a rough approximation of the number of children a woman has over her reproductive years, had already dropped from about six to less than three, the population “problem” was one of the first issues Deng Xiaoping tackled as part of the Four Modernizations, setting a goal to keep the population at 1.2 billion by 2000 as part of the formula for quadrupling China’s GDP within the same period. It quickly became evident that the target driven program being implemented by local officials was leading, in some cases, to serious rights abuses. Read more »

The Trump Transition, the South Korean Leadership Quagmire, and North Korea’s Opportunity

by Scott A. Snyder
Officials move a sign of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) Officials move a sign of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

As a seemingly personality-driven, rather than policy-driven, Trump transition unfolds in the United States and Park Geun-hye’s scandal-ridden political crisis deepens with no clear end in sight in South Korea, North Korea under Kim Jong Un is comparatively a bastion of stability and fixed strategic purpose. But Pyongyang may have far more capacity as a source of instability than as an exploiter of uncertainty in Washington and Seoul. Read more »

Making America Great is Like Making a Great Hotel

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A cyclist passes the construction entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington September 1, 2015. The iconic Old Post Office building is being transformed into a luxury hotel by presidential hopeful Donald Trump. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque A cyclist passes the construction entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington on September 1, 2015. The iconic Old Post Office building has been transformed into a luxury hotel by President-Elect Donald Trump. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As the world watches one foreign policy hopeful after the next take a spin through the revolving doors of Trump Tower to meet with President-Elect Trump, it is easy to imagine that it is CEO Trump interviewing candidates for the top positions at one of his new hotels abroad. There will be a chief marketing officer, a chief financial officer, legal counsel, and a communications director, among other senior staff. Once Mr. Trump picks his team, it will be time to weigh various opportunities. As they cast their eyes out to the Asia-Pacific, they should begin by undertaking the proper due diligence. Read more »

Managing U.S.-China Relations in Uncertain Times

by Yanzhong Huang
xi-g20-speech Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at a Paris Agreements climate event ahead of the G20 Summit, at West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The electoral victory of Mr. Donald Trump has placed U.S.-China relations in a dicey situation. While ordinary Chinese—most of whom dreaded a Hillary Clinton presidency—were delighted that their wishful thinking came true, political leaders in Beijing appeared to be caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s stunning defeat of his Democratic opponent. They are concerned about the “improper” remarks made by the president-elect and the lack of experience of his foreign policy team. Memories are still fresh of 1993–1994 when Bill Clinton, whose party had been out of power for twelve years, brought the relationship to a low ebb by establishing the link between progress in human rights and the “most favored nation” tariff treatment for China. Read more »

Podcast: Fifteen Minutes With Joshua Wong

by Elizabeth C. Economy
joshua-wong-demosisto Student leader Joshua Wong celebrates after candidate Nathan Law won a seat in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, September 5, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

When Hong Kong police cleared the streets of Umbrella Movement protestors in December 2014, many feared for the fate of the city’s democracy movement. But two years later, in September’s elections, a handful of those same protestors won triumphant victories in Legislative Council elections. Joshua Wong, the twenty-year-old secretary general of the political party Demosistō, sat down with me last week to stress the importance of this moment to his shared fight for self-determination. Will democracy advocates be able to accomplish their aims through their new positions? And how far is Beijing willing to go in order to intervene in Hong Kong affairs and suppress democratic activities? Read more »

Rakhine Lockdown, Hong Kong Disqualifications, Choigate, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
rohingya-children Rohingya Muslim boys stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar, October 27, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Rohingyas suffer under Rakhine lockdown. Myanmar’s Rakhine State, home to roughly 1.1 million stateless Muslims self-identified as Rohingya, has been on military lockdown since October 9 following attacks on three border security posts. Government officials claim that the perpetrators were members of a jihadist organization, and that military exercises are counterterrorism measures. The military’s goal is to eradicate the presence of the group Aqa Lul Mujahidin, which is reportedly linked to the Organization for Rohingya Security, an armed group active during the 1990s. Read more »

No, India Doesn’t Need a Hukou System

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Labourers work at the site of a commercial building under construction in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi December 13, 2013. India's biggest cities face a worsening shortage of migrant manual labourers. While India has long suffered from a dearth of workers with vocational skills like plumbers and electricians, efforts to alleviate poverty in poor, rural areas have helped stifle what was once a flood of cheap, unskilled labour from India's poorest states. Struggling to cope with soaring food prices, this dwindling supply of migrant workers are demanding – and increasingly getting – rapid increases in pay and benefits. Picture taken December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee Laborers work at the site of a commercial building under construction in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi. India's biggest cities face a worsening shortage of migrant manual laborers. While India has long suffered from a dearth of workers with vocational skills like plumbers and electricians, efforts to alleviate poverty in poor, rural areas have helped stifle what was once a flood of cheap, unskilled labor from India's poorest states. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the first part of a series on migration trends in China and India.

Each minute, an estimated thirty Indians migrate from the countryside into cities. By 2050, as a result of this migration, Indian cities will house more than 800 million residents, many of them young people in search of work. However, the Indian government is ill-prepared to absorb this burgeoning youth population into cities and address their needs. Read more »

Securing Strategic Buffer Space: Case Studies and Implications for U.S. Global Strategy

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
A world map from 1507 world map by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller is pictured in this handout image from the Library of Congress. The map shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the southern continent, a clearly-lettered name: "America", the first known recorded instance of the use of the name. The Library of Congress acquired the 1507 map in 2003 for $10 million. (Reuters/Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress/Handout) A world map from 1507 world map by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller is pictured in this handout image from the Library of Congress. The map shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the southern continent, a clearly-lettered name: "America", the first known recorded instance of the use of the name. The Library of Congress acquired the 1507 map in 2003 for $10 million. (Reuters/Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress/Handout)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A series of geopolitical fault lines are coming apart today. There is a hybrid conflict in Ukraine, an arc of destruction from the Levant to Iraq, rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, and instability in the southern Caucasus, just to name a few. What these conflicts have in common is that they are taking place in strategic buffer zones, physical spaces caught between competing regional powers. To address these problems by drawing lessons from the past, my paper for the Center for the National Interest, completed in September and published in October, examines four major cases of strategic buffer space conflicts: the Belgian crisis of 1830-1831, Byzantine-Sassanid and Ottoman-Safavid wars, China-Japan-Russia competition over Korea during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the Balkan powder keg that led to World War I. A brief summary of the four case studies can be found in The National Interest. Read more »