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Asia Unbound

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

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So Many Southeast Asia Top Events, So Many Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters). A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

The past week has been so busy with events, both tragic and hopeful, related to Southeast Asia, that I barely have time to keep up with the news.  A few short thoughts:

1. Is Prabowo Going to Concede?

No way. Prabowo Subianto is now tacitly hinting in interviews that, on July 22, he might be declared the loser of Indonesia’s presidential election, and he is now using interviews to argue that, whatever the result announced on July 22, it is likely a fraud. This is a shift from his earlier position stating simply that he was going to win. On July 22 he will expand on his fraud argument and file a case to the Constitutional Court. Jokowi – and Indonesia – better be prepared for a long and drawn-out legal contest. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 17, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Emergencies ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region on July 17, 2014 (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy: Reuters). Emergencies ministry members walk at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region on July 17, 2014 (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Malaysia Airlines plane shot down over eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was downed by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board. Though the Ukrainian and Russian militaries, along with pro-Russian separatists, all possess weaponry capable of shooting down a plane flying at 33,000 feet, evidence is increasingly pointing to separatists as the perpetrators. The incident comes just five months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared over the Indian Ocean, along with its 239 passengers and crew. Read more »

The 2008 Milk Scandal Revisited

by Yanzhong Huang
A woman holding a baby stands in front of a shelf displaying milk powder products at a supermarket in Beijing May 20, 2013. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters) A woman holding a baby stands in front of a shelf displaying milk powder products at a supermarket in Beijing May 20, 2013. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Six years ago today, sixteen infants in China’s Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. All of them had been fed milk powder that was later found to have been adulterated with a toxic industrial compound called melamine. Four months later, an estimated 300,000 babies in China were sick from the contaminated milk, and the kidney damage led to six fatalities. The Sanlu Group, one of the largest dairy producers in China, was identified as the chief culprit. But as the scandal unfolded, more Chinese dairy firms became implicated. Read more »

Dickey and Tobias: What to Expect From Xi Jinping’s Latin America Trip

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal
Giant panda Ying Mei approaches a box of food with the Brazilian flag on it during an event called "Panda Predicts World Cup Results," ahead of the 2014 World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia, in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province on June 12, 2014 (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters). Giant panda Ying Mei approaches a box of food with the Brazilian flag on it during an event called "Panda Predicts World Cup Results," ahead of the 2014 World Cup opening match between Brazil and Croatia, in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province on June 12, 2014 (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters).

Lauren Dickey is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy and Sharone Tobias is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese president Xi Jinping began his week-long visit to Latin America today on the heels of a number of major events. Brazil is central in the minds of many as the World Cup wraps up and Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Olympics, initially darkened by protests. Argentina is facing a new unhappy chapter in its battle against debt. China’s ideological allies, Cuba and Venezuela, remain prone to domestic instability amid economic reform. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 11, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Villagers line up to vote in the country's presidential election at Bojong Koneng polling station in Bogor July 9, 2014. Indonesians began voting on Wednesday in a presidential election that has become a closely fought contest between the old guard who flourished under decades of autocratic rule and a new breed of politician that has emerged in the fledgling democracy. Only the third direct election for president in the world's fourth-most populous nation, the contest pits former special forces general Prabowo Subianto against Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who have been running neck-and-neck in opinion polls. REUTERS/Beawiharta (INDONESIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) Villagers line up to vote in the country's presidential election at Bojong Koneng polling station in Bogor on July 9, 2014. (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Indonesians await official results of presidential election. Joko Widodo, known popularly as Jokowi, seems to have won Indonesia’s presidential election against Prabowo Subianto, a self-described military strongman. Though unofficial quick count tallies appear split on the winner of the election, the more respected polling firms point to a Jokowi victory; the official results will be released on July 22. Read more »

Erwin Li: Better Together? Two Approaches to LGBT Activism in China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Shi tou (not her real name), a lesbian, is seen in front of a rainbow flag during a campaign to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in Beijing February 14, 2008. For a number of Beijing's gay and lesbian community, Valentine's Day is not just a day to celebrate loving relationships, but also an ideal time to campaign for same-sex marriages and the acceptance of homosexuality in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA) A lesbian woman is seen in front of a rainbow flag during a campaign to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in Beijing on February 14, 2008. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Erwin Li is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In just its sixth year, Shanghai Pride has emerged as a major celebratory event for China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The weeklong festival features art exhibits, panel discussions, and even a marathon-picnic—all of whose locations span across many of the city’s most popular areas. But there’s more to the celebration than just fun. Shanghai Pride aims to promote awareness about China’s sexual minorities by openly addressing the unique social and cultural challenges that they face. For example, this year’s film festival displayed works on transgender identity and homophobic violence, while a panel discussion asked parents and relatives of LGBT children to share their stories of support and acceptance. In a society still dominated by traditional views on gender, Shanghai Pride thus offers a rare chance for solidarity, and an avenue towards greater social acceptance. Read more »

Can Beijing and Seoul Become Strategic Partners?

by Scott A. Snyder
park-xi-2013 South Korean president Park Geun-Hye (right) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 27, 2013. Park visited China in June 2013, and Xi will pay a return visit to Seoul this week (Wang Zhao/Courtesy: Reuters).

China’s President Xi Jinping will complete an exchange of state visits with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the space of a little less than a year. This is a remarkable intensification of the relationship between Seoul and Beijing, especially when one considers that Xi Jinping has yet to visit Pyongyang or receive Kim Jong-un. Likewise, routinized summits between Seoul and Tokyo have vanished as Seoul-Beijing relations have intensified, raising questions in Tokyo about whether Seoul might prefer Beijing over the United States and Japan. But despite a burgeoning trade relationship between Seoul and Beijing that is larger than the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan, what future can Xi and Park forge for China-South Korea relations going forward, and to what purpose? Read more »

Making Progress at the U.S.-China S&ED: Go Strategic or Stay Home

by Elizabeth C. Economy
(L-R) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington July 10, 2013. (L-R) Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese vice premier Wang Yang and U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

As the full contingent of U.S. cabinet secretaries, other senior officials, and support staff prepare for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) (to be held on July 9-10 in Beijing), it is not unreasonable to ask whether all the fuss and muss is worth it. Despite all the focus on this bilateral relationship, it often appears that for every problem addressed, ten more mushroom in its place. In the weeks leading up to the S&ED, a plaintive cry can be heard emanating from DC: Are we getting it right? What more can we do? I have two answers in response: batten down the hatches and get ready for the long haul; or stay home. Read more »

Susan Hubbard: East Asia Regional Cooperation on Global Health

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang

Susan Hubbard is a senior associate at the Japan Center for International Exchange where she focuses primarily on global health and human security issues.

In the spirit of the current World Cup mania, I am reminded of the historic decision that Korea and Japan made to combine their competing bids to host the 2005 World Cup. By doing so, they successfully won the bid, and the World Cup was cohosted by two countries for the first and only time in its history. The idea for combining the bids was originally proposed in 1995 at a meeting of the Korea-Japan Forum, a track 2 dialogue organized by the Japan Center for International Exchange and the Korea Foundation. The decision came at a time when the two countries were in a fierce battle over issues dealing with history and territory. But the games allowed the people of both countries to turn their attention away from geopolitical tensions and focus instead on their shared interests. Read more »

How China Becomes a Cyber Power

by Adam Segal
Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the justifications for the creation of the Chinese leading group on cybersecurity and information technology was the need to move China from a “big” network country to a “strong” cyber power (从网络大国走向网络强国). While China has the world’s largest number of Internet users and a vibrant domestic market, policymakers and outside analysts seem to have significant concerns about Beijing’s technological prowess, the coherence of its international strategy, and its ability to respond to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks. It is one thing to be big, it is another to be powerful.
Read more »