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Asia Unbound

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

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Personnel and Policy in U.S. Policymaking Toward China

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014 (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters).

Alarm bells are ringing yet again over the apparent dearth of expertise and interest in China within the Obama administration. This is a problem I have been tempted to write about on a number of occasions over the past year or two. I have not done so because I do not think that there is a problem. Still, people keep writing articles suggesting that such a problem exists, so perhaps it is worth taking a bit of time to assess the claim. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. After nearly a year of president’s rule, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sweeps to power in Delhi state elections. The AAP won sixty-seven out of the seventy legislative seats in the Delhi assembly, a stunning victory that surprised many. The party was founded by Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 and grew out of a protest movement against corruption; it made its debut in the December 2013 Delhi elections when it joined with the Congress party to form the Delhi government—with Kejriwal serving as chief minister. Read more »

South Korea’s Self-Defense Needs: Does China Get a Veto?

by Scott A. Snyder
A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters). A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters).

During his visit to Seoul on February 4, PRC Defense minister Chang Wanquan is reported to have raised objections with South Korean counterparts to the potential deployment of a THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) battery  to South Korean territory, and Xi Jinping reportedly raised the issue during his July 2014 summit meeting with Park Geun-hye. Read more »

Time For Xi to Reform His Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

As Xi Jinping nears the two-year mark of his tenure as president of China, he might want to take stock of what is working on the political front and what is not. Here are some early wins and losses.

Certainly, his anti-corruption campaign has hit its target—hundreds of thousands of them to be exact—and shows little sign of slowing down. He has cast a wide net, leaving little doubt that no sector of society—party, military, business, or other—is completely safe. Still, Xi remains vulnerable to accusations that the campaign is at least partially politically motivated, given that almost half of the senior-most officials arrested are tied in some way to his political opponents, and none of his Fujian or Zhejiang associates have been detained. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Emergency personnel retrieve wreckage from TransAsia Airways turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft after it crashed in a river, in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Emergency personnel retrieve wreckage from TransAsia Airways turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft after it crashed in a river, in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Taiwanese plane crashes into river, resulting in at least thirty-five deaths. TransAsia GE235 lost engine power shortly after takeoff from Taipei’s Songshan Airport on Wednesday. The twin-propeller plane was carrying fifty-eight passenger and crew; eight are still unaccounted for. Preliminary reports suggest that the pilots shut down the wrong engine after the other stalled; the pilots, both of whom were killed, have been widely praised for avoiding buildings in Taipei’s urban center. Harrowing imagery from a car dashcam shows the plane losing altitude and clipping a bridge before crashing into the Keelung River. The accident is the second in seven months for TransAsia Airways. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 30, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila January 30, 2015. Aquino urged legislators on Wednesday not to abandon a plan for autonomy for Muslims to end a decades-old insurgency after the clash in which dozens of people were killed, saying doing so would dash hopes for peace. A top official described the clash on Sunday, which shattered a three-year ceasefire, as a "misencounter" during a bid to arrest two militants who had taken refuge with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco (PHILIPPINES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY) Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in front of the caskets of the slain members of the Special Action Force (SAF) who were killed in Sunday's clash with Muslim rebels, during a service inside a police headquarters in Taguig city, south of Manila, on January 30, 2015 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Forty-four commandos killed in the Philippines. On January 25, forty-four commandos in the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) were slain in a firefight with two Muslim rebel groups in the southern province of Maguindanao. The area in which the raid took place is currently held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who signed a peace deal with the government last year to end years of fighting; MILF was apparently uninformed of the planned raid. The team of 392 had been deployed to capture two high-value terror suspects: suspected bombmaker Abdul Basit Usman and Malaysian Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan. President Benigno Aquino held a ceremony to honor those killed and urged the nation to support the ongoing peace process. Read more »

Ariella Rotenberg: National Anti-Smoking Regulation in China—Can it Succeed?

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In mid-December, Chinese state media reported that the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council (China’s cabinet) was weighing a new anti-smoking regulation that would curb tobacco use and advertising nationally. A draft of the regulation appeared on the website of the People’s Daily  in order to solicit public feedback on the ordinance. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 23, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence in Tokyo January 23, 2015. It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence in Tokyo January 23, 2015. It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for whom Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million ransom this week. (Yuya Shino/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. The fate of Japanese ISIS hostages still unknown. The fate of two Japanese hostages captured this past Tuesday by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains unclear. The terrorist organization released a video on Tuesday threatening to kill Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa in seventy-two hours unless Japan paid a ransom of $200 million; that deadline expired early Friday morning with no news of their status. ISIS captured Haruna Yakawa, the founder of a private security company, in northern Syria in August 2014. Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, arrived in Syria in late October with the aim of establishing contact with ISIS in hopes that he could convince them to release Yukawa. Friday morning, Goto’s mother held a news conference asking the Japanese government to save her son. Read more »

Podcast: The United States, China, and the Asia Pacific

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, on November 17, 2011 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, renowned China scholars Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson from the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney visited the Council on Foreign Relations to share their views on emerging political and security dynamics in the Asia Pacific and U.S-China relations. Australia is a U.S. ally, a major trading partner of China, and a regional leader in its own right; and Bates and Linda’s remarks reminded me once again how important it is to seek perspectives outside those of the United States and China. Listen to this podcast for a “to-the-point” discussion of how Australia views the U.S. pivot, what U.S. analysts are missing in their thinking about the current state of Asian regional politics, and what major changes we should expect in the region over the next five years. Read more »

China, Japan, and the Twenty-One Demands

by Yanzhong Huang
Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Compared with the high-profile national Memorial Day for the Nanjing Massacre last month, the date January 18 passed uneventfully. Chinese media appeared to have forgotten that one hundred years ago, on exactly that day, Japan presented Chinese President Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-Kai) with requests that would have turned China into a de facto Japanese protectorate. Read more »