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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 February 5, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India-Supreme-Court-gay-rights Gay rights activists celebrate after the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to review a colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexuality in Mumbai, India, February 2, 2016. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indian Supreme Court scheduled to review discriminatory law against India’s LGBT community. In a win for LGBT activists, the Indian Supreme Court agreed to take another look at Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which effectively criminalizes India’s LGBT community. After the Delhi High Court ruled in 2009 to strike out Section 377, a relic of British colonial rule, it was overturned by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013. On Tuesday, the court decided to hear a “curative petition” to the 2013 ruling. Read more »

Podcast: The China-Pakistan Axis

by Elizabeth C. Economy
The-China-Pakistan-Axis-Andrew-Small

Books on China’s relations with Pakistan are not usually at the top of my reading list, but I decided that it was time to delve into the topic when I encountered Andrew Small’s new book, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics. Maybe it was the creative and colorful cover that drew me in, but whatever the reason, Andrew, a transatlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, has converted me to a follower of the relationship. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Rajib-speech Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Malaysian prime minister evades corruption charges. Malaysia’s attorney general announced Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak did not commit a crime in accepting a $680 million donation from the Saudi royal family in 2013. Najib has been under investigation for corruption since July, when investigative journalists unearthed documents alleging the prime minister had taken $680 million from a state development fund he had created. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Coming War with Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese-army-actors Actors dressed as Red Army soldiers perform at a gala show to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Jonathan Holslag, professor of international politics at the Free University of Brussels, in his terrific new book China’s Coming War with Asia puts forth the provocative thesis that war between China and Asia is inevitable. Driven by four grand aspirations—integration of frontier lands, popular support of the Party, international recognition of Chinese sovereignty, and recovery of lost territories—the Chinese leadership has embarked on a journey from which it will not deviate. Read more »

THAAD: The Moment of Decision Has Arrived

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Courtesy REUTERS/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Courtesy REUTERS/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Korean Pivot and the Return of Great Power Politics in Northeast Asia. Read more »

China’s Nuclear Ambitions Go Global

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China-nuclear-global-ambitions A worker looks on as the dome roof of a generator unit is lifted to be installed, at Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant, in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, September 26, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators Laurent Stricker suggested that “overconfidence” could undermine the safety of nuclear power plants. While the Chinese nuclear industry may not necessarily be overconfident, its ambition is undeniable: the country has brought nearly twenty reactors online in the past decade and has around two-hundred proposed or planned in an all-out push to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. And after twenty-five years of developing nuclear power domestically, Chinese companies are now seeking to export their technology abroad. Read more »

The Fits and Starts of China’s Economic Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters)

Over the past several months, it has become more than a full-time job trying to figure out what is going on in the Chinese economy. There have been many good efforts to make sense of all the disparate numbers that are coming out of Beijing and to tell people what to look for moving forward (including from George Magnus, Gabriel Wildau, and Eswar Prasad), but it is challenging. One thing that should not be—but often is—forgotten in the sea of numbers is the politics of the reform process. The political dimension can provide some much-needed context as to the problems Beijing is facing. Let me suggest three political factors that may be contributing to Beijing’s disjointed and seemingly sub-optimal economic decision-making process. Read more »

Podcast: Pivotal Countries, Alternate Futures

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A man looks at the Pudong financial district of Shanghai, November 20, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Reuters) A man looks at the Pudong financial district of Shanghai, November 20, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Uncertainty is at the heart of China today: uncertainty over its economic reforms, over its political situation, and over its ultimate foreign policy objectives. In this podcast, I interview New York University professor Michael Oppenheimer about his new book, Pivotal Countries, Alternate Futures, in which he outlines a set of scenarios for the future of China and the implications of those scenarios for U.S. policy. Listen to our discussion for his fascinating assessment of where Beijing is, where it is likely to go, and what he thinks the United States ought to do to ensure that its interests are advanced whatever the future trajectory of China. Read more »

North Korea’s H-Bomb and the Costs of American Indifference

by Scott A. Snyder
People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo) People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo)

The White House moved quickly to debunk North Korea’s exaggerated claim that a Jan. 5 “artificial earthquake” at the site where Pyongyang had conducted three previous nuclear tests was a breakthrough detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The size of the blast was similar to that of North Korea’s January 2013 test and had a yield thousands of times lower than the yield expected of a hydrogen blast. But in downplaying North Korea’s claim so as not to feed Kim Jong-un’s cravings for international attention, the Barack Obama administration risks underplaying the growing danger posed by North Korea’s unchecked efforts to develop nuclear and missile capabilities needed to threaten a nuclear strike on the United States. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 15, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Taiwan-elections Supporters of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) react as the chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen addresses the crowd during a final campaign rally ahead of the elections in Taipei, Taiwan, January 15, 2016. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Taiwan takes to the polls. Tomorrow, the island’s citizens will choose between the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen, the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Eric Chu, and the People First Party’s (PFP) James Soong when they turn out to vote for a new president. Tsai, who lost the 2012 presidential race to incumbent KMT president Ma Ying-jeou, is expected to win with a significant margin this year. Read more »