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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 February 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea holds a copy of his report during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva February 17, 2014 Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea holds a copy of his report during a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva February 17, 2014. (Denis Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. UN releases report on North Korean human rights violations. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in North Korea, established in March 2013, released its findings on February 17, 2014. Led by former Australian high court justice Michael Kirby, the commission was tasked with investigating “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights…with a mind in view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may constitute crimes against humanity.” Read more »

Kerry and the Diplomatic Dead End With North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
kerry-in-beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry walks off after a news conference in Beijing on February 14, 2014. Kerry urged the Chinese to use “all of the means of persuasion that they have” to achieve a denuclearized North Korea (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry’s first visit to Northeast Asia last April was consumed with near-term crisis management since it coincided with the peak of regional tensions driven by North Korea’s provocative rhetoric. In contrast, his second visit to the region last week occurred against the backdrop of apparent easing of inter-Korean tensions and afforded a better environment for long-term coordination toward North Korea. Unfortunately, the visit appears to have illuminated the dead ends the administration faces on denuclearization of North Korea rather than showing a way forward. Washington has placed its bet on pressure from Beijing as the best hope for turning Pyongyang back to denuclearization, but Kerry’s conversations in Bejing raise questions about whether this route can really succeed. Read more »

Hunter Gross: What Did China and Taiwan’s Historic Talks Accomplish?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Wang Yu-chi (2nd L), Taiwan's mainland affairs chief, talks during a meeting with Head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun (not pictured), in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on February 11, 2014. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Wang Yu-chi (2nd L), Taiwan's mainland affairs chief, talks during a meeting with Head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Zhang Zhijun (not pictured), in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on February 11, 2014. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

Hunter Gross is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The four-day visit between Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), has been described as “historic,” “a turning point in relations,” and “unimaginable.” But the meeting is not unprecedented. In recent years, several encounters between Chinese and Taiwanese representatives have led to this moment. This meeting, however, serves as a symbolic affirmation of the relatively stable status quo that benefits both Beijing and Taipei. To be sure, from a diplomatic standpoint, this is the first official meeting between China and Taiwan since the end of the civil war in 1949. Despite the media hype, however, this is unlikely to bring about any substantial changes in cross-strait relations, and a dramatic change was not necessarily the goal. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
kerry_in_beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry meets with Chinese premier Li Keqiang at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing on February 14, 2014. (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Secretary Kerry visits South Korea, China, and Indonesia on Asia tour. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry’s trip marks his fifth to Asia during his first year in office. In Seoul, he met with South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se to discuss the South’s relations with North Korea, including efforts to facilitate reunions between family members on the divided peninsula. Read more »

Getting at the Heart of China’s Resource Quest

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker works at the Lauzoua manganese mine, supported by investment from the China National Geological and Mining Corporation, in the Ivory Coast on December 4, 2013. (Theirry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters) A worker works at the Lauzoua manganese mine, which is supported by investment from the China National Geological and Mining Corporation, in the Ivory Coast on December 4, 2013. (Theirry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters)

It all begins with courtship. The Chinese president arrives in the resource-rich country to woo the local leader with a large entourage of government and state-owned enterprise officials, bearing gifts of trade, aid, and investment. Love—or at least great friendship—is in the air, and a match is made. As Carly Simon says, “Nobody Does It better.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
srilanka_humanrights A demonstrator from the Frontline Socialist Party shouts slogans during a protest against Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government as they commemorate the International Human Rights Day in Colombo on December 10,2013. Demonstrators from Frontline Socialist Party protest against abductions and murders in the final stage of the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters).

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. envoy to visit Sri Lanka as pressure builds for war crimes inquiry. Three days after the United States announced that it would seek a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council calling for an investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, the U.S. State Department sent Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, to meet with government officials in the country. The ruling Sri Lankan government has not welcomed investigations into war crimes during the thirty-year civil war against the Tamil Tigers, though the UN Human Rights Council has already passed two resolutions pressing the Sri Lankan government to do so. Read more »

Sex Has Become the Main Mode of HIV Transmission in China

by Yanzhong Huang
Sex shops with neon signs are seen at a wealthy district in Beijing May 6, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Sex shops with neon signs are seen at a wealthy district in Beijing May 6, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Fifteen years ago, in light of the rapid spread of the HIV cases and the absence of effective government response, UN officials warned that China could have over 10 million HIV cases by 2010.  Thankfully, that prophesy was not fulfilled.  In fact, China today has an estimated 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.  The adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS is only 0.1 percent, the same as Japan’s and less than the United Kingdom’s (0.2 percent) and the United States’ (0.6 percent).  Comparatively, in 2010, China had 36,200 AIDS-related deaths—the same number of people die annually as a result of seasonal flu in the United States—compared to 1.7 million who died of stroke and nearly 1 million who died of heart disease. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of January 24, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Supporters of Xu Zhiyong, one of China's most prominent rights advocates, shout slogans near a court where Xu's trial is being held, in Beijing on January 22, 2014. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Report reveals that several of China’s top leaders hold trillions in offshore accounts. A new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed nearly 22,000 tax haven clients from Hong Kong and mainland China. Among the confidential files cited, there are details of a real estate company co-owned by President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law, and British Virgin Island companies set up by former Premier Wen Jiabao’s son and son-in-law. The report also states that PricewaterhouseCooper, UBS, and other Western banks have acted as middlemen aiding in setting up the offshore accounts. According to the report, “by some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000.” The ICIJ website is now blocked in China. Read more »

The Political Plight of China’s Wealthy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Visitors look around Rolls-Royce's vintage car during the Rolls-Royce's Concours d'Elegance event for celebrating its ten years of business in China on June 28, 2013. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters) Visitors look around Rolls-Royce's vintage car during the Rolls-Royce's Concours d'Elegance event for celebrating its ten years of business in China on June 28, 2013. (Kim Kyung-hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Technically, the news that many rich people in China have personal ties to China’s top leaders is not really news anymore. Nor is it news that many rich Chinese have placed their assets in offshore accounts or even that many rich people in China get that way through peddling influence or corruption. After all, the top fifty members of China’s National People’s Congress boast a combined wealth of $94.7 billion, making their American congressional cousins across the Pacific—whose top fifty members are worth only $1.6 billion—look positively poverty stricken. The link between politics and money in China is well-established. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters help a fellow protester injured in a grenade attack during a rally in Bangkok on January 17, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Explosions hit protestors in Bangkok. Two explosions hit anti-government protestors in Bangkok, Thailand on January 17, wounding more than two dozen people. Some reports claim the explosion was the result of an explosive device, such as a grenade. Since Monday, protestors have taken to the streets in opposition to the nation’s political system, which they demand be overhauled along with the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whom they accuse of corruption. The protests, which have gathered around seven main intersection in Bangkok, started with 170,000 protestors on Monday and dropped to 60,000 people on Tuesday. By Friday, only 12,000 protesters were still on the streets. Though generally peaceful, the protest has been marred by small incidences of violence between the protesters and police during this week’s demonstration. Read more »