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Asia Unbound

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

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Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 24, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Wukan-protest Villagers carrying Chinese flags protest at Wukan village in China's Guangdong province, June 20, 2016. (James Pomfret/Reuters)

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

1. Smoldering discontent rekindles protests in Wukan, China. Nearly five years ago, popular protests erupted in the small fishing village of Wukan, Guangdong province, over illegal land grabs by the local government. The “Siege of Wukan,” as it was later known, set a precedent for diffusing tensions on the local level through democratic means, as villagers were allowed to elect new leaders after protesting for three months. Read more »

Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick
bookstore A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2016. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

It’s that time of year again—when Washington cooks, the public transport goes on extended holiday, people head to the beach, and I offer some thoughts on books to take with you on vacation if you have an interest in Asian history, Southeast Asian politics, and Southeast Asian culture. Keep in mind that none of these books are exactly traditional “beach reads”—light page-turners that you can flip through while also watching your kids bury themselves in sand. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 17, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters) Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Ayumi Teraoka, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Prominent Chinese lawyer facing possibility of lifetime imprisonment. The Chinese police have recommended prosecution on a charge of “subverting state power” for Zhou Shifeng, director of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm whose arrest last summer invigorated a campaign to discredit and dismantle networks of rights-focused defense lawyers who have attempted to challenge the government. Zhou’s law firm took on many contentious cases about legal rights, representing the likes of dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Uighur academic Ilham Tohti. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 10, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Vietnam-fish-protests Demonstrators, holding signs, say they are demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 1, 2016. (Kham/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Poisoned Vietnamese fish fuel popular discontent. A massive die-off of fish has occurred along 120 miles of coastline in Vietnam, where hundreds of residents in traditional fishing villages have fallen ill from eating the poisoned catch. Read more »

Podcast: The Life and Death of John Birch

by Elizabeth C. Economy
John-Birch-A-Life

When most Americans hear the name John Birch, they immediately think of the John Birch Society: an anticommunist, right-wing advocacy group that flourished in the 1950s and 60s. But who was John Birch, and what did the society have to do with him? On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Terry Lautz, visiting professor at Syracuse University, about his new book, John Birch: A Life. Read more »

Podcast: Environmental Degradation and Political Change in China

by Yanzhong Huang
Air-pollution-shanghai A woman wears a mask as she takes pictures on the Bund on a hazy day in Shanghai, China, March 7, 2016. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous social costs.  In December 2015, as levels of PM2.5—the deadliest airborne particles—were forecast to be more than twenty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization, the Beijing municipal government issued its first-ever red alert for pollution (the most serious on a four-tier system), closing schools and restricting the number of cars on the road. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 3, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. Picture taken September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province on September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. The Chinese government released a new action plan to address soil pollution this week (Stringer/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China releases ambitious plan to clean up polluted soil. In 2014, the Chinese government disclosed that approximately 20 percent of its arable land was contaminated, primarily with heavy metals and agricultural chemicals from industry and farming. This Tuesday, the central government released a long-awaited action plan as a first major step to control and remedy the widespread problem, known as the last of the “three big campaigns” in Chinese environmental protection along with air and water pollution. The plan aims to stabilize and improve soil quality so that 90 percent of contaminated sites are safe for use by 2020, and 95 percent by 2030. Read more »

Forty-Five Minutes With Joshua Wong

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong October 1, 2014. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday, some of them jeering National Day celebrations, and students threatened to ramp up demonstrations if the city's pro-Beijing leader did not step down. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. Since the Umbrella Revolution, Wong has gone on to found the new political party Demosisto. (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

Four years ago, when he was just fifteen years old, Joshua Wong launched a campaign to prevent Beijing from enforcing its own version of history in Hong Kong schools. Along with other student activists involved in his “Scholarism” group, he managed to rally one hundred and twenty thousand people in protest and eventually beat back the government’s initiative. During that effort, Scholarism raised one million Hong Kong dollars in just one day—with 25-40 year olds as the most supportive demographic. For Wong, it was a signal that young people really could achieve change. (Less well known, perhaps, is that Wong cut his activist teeth protesting against a high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and the mainland when he was only thirteen years old.) Since then, of course, Wong has become world-renowned for his effort in helping lead the Occupy Central movement, which called for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. For his actions, he has been vilified by the Chinese government, assaulted, and arrested—all by the age of eighteen. Read more »

Podcast: How State Capitalism is Transforming the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy
State-Capitalism-Kurlantzick

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR’s senior fellow for Southeast Asia, about his new book, State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World. Kurlantzick explains that although state capitalism has been around for more than two decades, it has entered a new era of popularity. Read more »

How Much Can We Learn From Taiwanese Inauguration Speeches?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen walks on the podium before addressing during an inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen walks on the podium before addressing during an inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan on May 20, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Pei-Yu Wei is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The inauguration speech of Tsai Ing-Wen, the new president of Taiwan, on May 20, drew much attention from audiences both at home and abroad who hoped to glean information about the future path that Taiwan’s China policy might take. Tsai, the island’s first female president, is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party known for its more independent stance vis-a-vis China, and Beijing has so far regarded her rise with wariness. But how indicative are Taiwanese inaugural speeches of policies down the line? Read more »