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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: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 19, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Flagbearers lower a Chinese national flag beside a banner set up by pro-democracy protesters outside Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China June 16, 2015. Hong Kong's leader warned on Tuesday that violence will not be tolerated, a day after authorities arrested 10 people and seized suspected explosives ahead of a crucial vote on a China-backed electoral reform package this week. Security has been stepped up across the Chinese-ruled city, including at government buildings and train stations, as it braces for a fresh showdown over plans for how its next leader is elected in 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Flagbearers lower a Chinese national flag beside a banner set up by pro-democracy protesters outside Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China, on June 16, 2015 (Bobby Yip/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Hong Kong legislators reject a proposed framework for electing the next chief executive. The plan would have allowed the people of Hong Kong to elect a chief executive from a slate of three candidates chosen by a pro-Beijing nominating committee. While the measure was expected to fail—it needed to pass by a two-thirds majority—a botched attempt to boycott the vote by pro-Beijing lawmakers resulted in an embarrassing defeat of 28-8 that left one legislator in tears. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 12, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015. According to CCTV, Zhou was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, deprived of his political rights for life and his personal assets confiscated, for accepting bribes, abusing power and deliberately disclosing state secrets, the Tianjin Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled in its first instance. Zhou pleaded guilty and will not appeal. REUTERS/China Central Television via REUTERS TV Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015 (CCTV/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang to serve life sentence. The former Politburo Standing Committee member was convicted of abuse of power, accepting bribes, and revealing state secrets and sentenced to life in prison Thursday, just shy of a year after his arrest. While officials initially suggested Zhou’s trial would be open and transparent, it wasn’t, with Xinhua adopting the amusing terminology “non-public open trial” (in Chinese) to describe the proceedings. Zhou is the most senior Chinese official to be convicted of graft in PRC history, but this isn’t likely to be the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign (tigers beware!). Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 5, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Rescue workers stand on the river bank as the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star is pulled out of the Yangtze against sunset, in Jianli, Hubei province, China, June 5, 2015. Only 14 survivors, one of them the captain, have been found after the ship carrying 456 overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night. A total of 103 bodies have been found. REUTERS/China Daily CHINA OUT. Rescue workers stand on the river bank as the capsized cruise ship Eastern Star is pulled out of the Yangtze against sunset, in Jianli, Hubei province, China, on June 5, 2015 (China Daily/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Up to 440 presumed dead after Chinese cruise ship capsizes. A Yangtze River cruise ship sank during a torrential rainstorm in Hubei Province Monday evening. While emergency services rushed to respond, four days later only fourteen passengers have been rescued, making this the most deadly peacetime maritime disaster in China’s recent history. Read more »

Guest Post: With the Gaokao, Hacking and Drones Are Just a Way to Get Ahead

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal
A police officer displays a pair of glasses (R) with a hidden camera and a tiny receiver attached to a coin, which are both exam cheating equipment confiscated by the police, in Shenyang, Liaoning province November 22, 2013. Chinese authorities vowed harsh treatment for organizing or helping cheating in the national college entrance exam, which took place on June 7 and 8 this year. Education and police authorities will continue to investigate crimes including stealing and selling examination papers, leaking information to exam sitters, providing equipment designed for cheating, and cyber attacks on exam websites. The Ministry of Education warned that cheating students would be stripped of the enrollment qualification for a period ranging from one to three years, Xinhua News Agency reported. Picture taken November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: EDUCATION CRIME LAW SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA A police officer displays a pair of glasses (R) with a hidden camera and a tiny receiver attached to a coin, which are both exam cheating equipment confiscated by the police, in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on November 22, 2013 (Stringer/Reuters).

By Lincoln Davidson

Lincoln Davidson is a research associate for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Each year, millions of Chinese high school graduates take a two-day college entrance examination, colloquially known as the gaokao, that determines whether they’ll be able to attend university. The nine-hour test—which covers history, English, calculus, physics, chemistry, political theory, and more—is highly competitive, and students in the past have resorted to stolen questions and even IV drips to help them prepare. But as this year’s exam approaches, the test’s high stakes are pushing some to resort to technological means to give their score a boost. Read more »

China’s Muddled Message on the South China Sea

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy on May 21, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Reuters).

If the recent Shangri-La Dialogue demonstrated one thing—aside from the fact that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong can deliver an important speech that is both strong and subtle—it is that mitigating tensions in the South China Sea remains a problem with no solution in sight. As the Chinese have continued with their reef reclamation and low-level militarization of small islands in the South China Sea, a number of Chinese scholars and foreign policy officials have sought to clarify the reasons behind Beijing’s actions. Yet what emerges from all the disparate voices is a sense that there is no compelling rationale—or at least not one that the foreign policy community can acknowledge. Instead, there is significant effort to impute an acceptable rationale to the country’s destabilizing behavior. Read more »

Does MERS Pose a Serious Threat to China?

by Yanzhong Huang
A health worker with protective suits sitting with people who came into close contact with the Korean MERS patient arrive at Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine, in Hong Kong, China May 30, 2015. China said on Friday a 44-year-old South Korean man had tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), China's first confirmed case, but that it had not found any symptoms in 38 people who had been in close contact with him. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu) A health worker with protective suits sitting with people who came into close contact with the Korean MERS patient arrive at Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine, in Hong Kong, China May 30, 2015. China said on Friday a 44-year-old South Korean man had tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), China's first confirmed case, but that it had not found any symptoms in 38 people who had been in close contact with him. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Last Friday, China confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Guangdong province. The now-confirmed South Korean MERS patient, who ignored travel warnings and lied about his conditions when flying to China, had been in close contact with seventy-seven people in the province. As of June 1, sixty-four have been quarantined while the thirteen others remain to be found. Read more »

Korea and the AIIB

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Korea China Investment Forum at a hotel in Seoul on July 4, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Korea China Investment Forum at a hotel in Seoul on July 4, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

Min Hyung Kang is a former intern for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

South Korea’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member reminded observers of Korea’s place as a middle power caught between great powers. Korea’s interest in joining the AIIB is indicative of improving Korea-China relations, one of the determinants for security of the Korean peninsula. However, to the United States, South Korea’s strongest ally, Korea’s involvement in the AIIB may not be very pleasing especially when the AIIB seems like a mechanism designed to oppose U.S. influence in Asia. It seems that Korea is at a critical moment that may either extensively benefit or severely undermine its national interest. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 29, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Men sleep on a temporary shade built over a drain next to a slum on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2015. A heat wave in India has killed at least 1,371 people this week as temperatures soar above 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit), and doctors' leave has been cancelled to help cope with the sick. (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee) Men sleep on a temporary shade built over a drain next to a slum on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2015. A heat wave in India has killed at least 1,371 people this week as temperatures soar above 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit), and doctors' leave has been cancelled to help cope with the sick. (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Death toll in India’s heat wave nears two thousand. Hospitals across India are struggling to meet the needs of victims of the most severe heatwave the country has seen in twenty years. With temperatures hovering above 110 degrees Fahrenheit for over a week, Indian citizens are anxiously waiting for monsoon rains to cool the smoldering air. Pictures of melting roads with swirled and distorted road markings illustrate the shocking intensity of the heat. Day workers, the homeless, and elderly people face severe danger, unable to take a day off from work or to find adequate shelter. Although heatwaves are not uncommon in India, climate change has led to more frequent and intense heatwaves in recent years. India’s Meteorological Department recorded temperatures just five degrees short of the nation’s record. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 22, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Rohingya child who recently arrived by boat has his picture taken for identification purposes at a shelter in Kuala Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh province on May 18, 2015. (Roni Bintang/Courtesy: Reuters) A Rohingya child who recently arrived by boat has his picture taken for identification purposes at a shelter in Kuala Langsa in Indonesia's Aceh province on May 18, 2015. (Roni Bintang/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Plight of migrants in Andaman Sea continues. As many as three thousand refugees, mostly Rohingya minority Muslims fleeing state-sanctioned persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi economic migrants, remain stranded in the waters in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar and Thailand. An estimated seven thousand refugees were abandoned by human traffickers during the past week without food or water in overcrowded boats; as many as fifty thousand attempt the trip each year. Read more »

The Debate on U.S.-China Relations: Make Room, Make Way, or Make Hay

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS MARITIME) A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters on June 16, 2014 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters).

The Asia security field is a crowded one these days, and that is a good thing. The region is confronting a number of destabilizing threats: disputes over islands in the South and East China Seas, weak governance in several Southeast Asian nations, and continuing uncertainty over North Korea’s intentions and capabilities, among others. All are long-term, ongoing challenges, and the more ideas that get out there about how to manage these issues, the better. Read more »