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Asia Unbound

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

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The Anticorruption Campaign and Rising Suicides in China’s Officialdom

by Yanzhong Huang
Yang Dacai, a former provincial official, listens to a verdict at a court in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, September 5, 2013. The court jailed Yang for 14 years on Thursday for corruption after pictures of him grinning at the scene of an accident and wearing expensive watches went viral online, earning him the nickname "watch brother". A picture of the rotund Yang Dacai smiling while inspecting the scene of a bus accident in which 36 people died last year provoked outrage, and criticism grew when pictures of him wearing high-end watches were then posted on social media sites. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA Yang Dacai, a former provincial official convicted of corruption, listens to his verdict at a court in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on September 5, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

On November 13, the deputy commissar of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Vice Admiral Ma Faxing, committed suicide by leaping from a building at a naval complex in Beijing. In the same month, at least two other important officials took their lives. They were among the more than forty officials who have killed themselves since January 2014, more than double the total in all of 2011. Read more »

Obama’s Rebalance to Asia In His Own Words: Where Does it Stand?

by Scott A. Snyder
obama-g20-brisbane U.S. President Barack Obama waves after holding a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 16, 2014. The leaders of the United States, Japan, and Australia lined up together against Russia on Sunday, vowing to oppose Russian incursions into Crimea during a rare trilateral meeting held at the G20 summit in Brisbane (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

A version of this post also appeared as a Pacific Forum CSIS PacNet publication, and can be found here.

President Obama had a better than expected visit to Asia for annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), East Asia Summit (EAS), and G-20 gatherings, due largely to a productive summit with Xi Jinping. At the end of his trip in Brisbane, Obama gave his second major speech on the U.S. rebalancing policy to Asia, coming almost three years to the day following an address to the Australian parliament on his previous visit to Australia. A side-by-side reading of President Obama’s two major Australian speeches on the subject (he has yet to give a major policy speech on the rebalance in the United States) provides a useful benchmark for assessing the administration’s progress in implementing the policy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China?s President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra November 17, 2014. China and Australia on Monday signed a declaration of intent on a landmark free trade deal more than a decade in the making, opening up markets worth billions to Australia and loosening restrictions on Chinese investment. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Australia following the G20 leaders summit which was held in Brisbane over the weekend. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2014. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Japan slips into recession, dissolves lower house. New economic data released Monday morning showed that Japan had lapsed into recession, striking yet another serious blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vaunted economic recovery policy and leading some to ask if this is the end of Abenomics. In a bid to win popular mandate for his economic policies, Abe announced he would delay a planned increase to the national sales tax and dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament. On Friday afternoon, lawmakers in the house of representatives chanted “Banzai!” as they disbanded. Snap elections are expected to take place in mid-December, and while Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may lose a number of seats, they are overwhelmingly expected to maintain their majority and could potentially increase their power. Read more »

India and U.S. Higher Education: Strong Indian Presence in the United States, but Americans Studying in India Still Meager

by Alyssa Ayres
Second EducationUSA Fair, Kolkata 2014. Photo by Biswarup Ganguly licensed under CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original. Second EducationUSA Fair, Kolkata 2014. Photo by Biswarup Ganguly licensed under CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original.

This week the Institute for International Education (IIE) released the latest survey data on foreign students, study abroad, and U.S. higher education. The survey, Open Doors, comes out annually and draws on data collected from around three thousand U.S. colleges and universities. Indian students are a strong presence on U.S. campuses, contributing an estimated $3.3 billion to the U.S. economy as IIE reports, using U.S. Department of Commerce data. This year, the number of Indian students in the United States surpassed the 100,000 mark, ticking up to 102,673, keeping India the number two country of origin for foreign students in the United States. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Obama and Xi strike deals at APEC summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum proved remarkably productive for U.S.-China relations this week. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced commitments to cut carbon emissions, and agreed to a reduction in tariffs on a range of technology products, to greater communication between their militaries in the Pacific, and to extend the duration of visas. Though these agreements are certainly a welcome change from years of stagnating relations, underlying issues still remain. China and the United States have fundamentally different visions of Asia’s security and trade architecture that are not easily reconciled. Read more »

Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Let’s be clear, the United States won big this week, but not for the reasons most people think. The media and China analysts have focused overwhelmingly on the climate deal, touting the new commitments from both the United States and China as exceptional, even “historic.” But this is missing the forest for the trees. The real win for U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping China in the tent or, in political science speak, reinforcing Beijing’s commitment to the liberal international order. Read more »

Michael Levi: What the Big U.S.-China Climate Announcement Means

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province September 16, 2013. China is pumping investment into wind power, which is more cost-competitive than solar energy and partly able to compete with coal and gas. China is the world's biggest producer of CO2 emissions, but is also the world's leading generator of renewable electricity. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight during a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will meet in Stockholm from September 23-26. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on September 16, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced new targets to cut climate pollution in their respective countries. My colleague and co-author Michael Levi explains the implications of this climate change agreement in a post on his blog, Energy, Security, and ClimateI have reposted it here. Read more »

What President Obama Should Bring to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague March 24 2014. Obama began crisis talks with his European allies on Monday after Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea, effectively yielding the region to Russian forces which stormed one of Kiev's last bases there. Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7 - a group of industrialised nations that excludes Russia, which joined in 1998 to form the G8. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague on March 24 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a world of foreign policy resets, rethinks, and redoes, U.S. President Barack Obama’s China strategy is right on track. The Asia pivot or rebalance makes core U.S. interests—freedom of trade and investment, freedom of navigation, and human rights—clear to Beijing in an effective and compelling manner. And within this framework, the United States has engaged China on multiple fronts, including expanding the military-to-military relationship, restarting talks on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and supporting all manner of capacity building in the legal, environmental, and public health arenas. Read more »

Japan and China Get to Yes on an Abe-Xi Summit

by Sheila A. Smith
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool) Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool)

On November 7, Japan and China revealed they had reached an understanding on their differences that would allow for a resumption of diplomacy. After several years of a virtual shutdown in bilateral talks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to meet face-to-face at next week’s APEC meeting. Economic needs may be driving Xi, but strategic concerns are on the top of Abe’s agenda. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing, November 4, 2014. Picture taken November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) CHINA OUT. Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing on November 4, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Leaders gather in Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. A wide range of issues are expected to be addressed throughout the week of APEC meetings, an agenda perceived as tailor-made for China. One of the most important topics is the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an initiative critics fear will take momentum from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. With the aim of rebooting Asia-Pacific growth, Chinese officials also announced a series of economic measures, including more bank credit for high-tech imports and quicker approvals for meat and seafood shipments. Other items on the forum agenda include an anti-corruption transparency network, climate issues, and regional support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Read more »