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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Climate Change"

Podcast: China’s Environmental Health Crisis – Challenges and Politics

by Yanzhong Huang
Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After more than three decades of rapid industrialization and modernization, China is on the cusp of potentially becoming the world’s largest economy. Yet China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous costs on the environment and public health. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination—outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result, as shown in the recent viral documentary “Under the Dome,” has been an environmental health crisis that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications. The ascending popularity of the documentary, followed by its quick disappearance from all major websites in China, beget a series of questions on China’s environmental health crisis: What is the nature and magnitude of the crisis? What are its causes and consequences?  What is the response of the Chinese government to the crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? Read more »

A Chinese Environmental Call to Arms Goes Viral and Then Not

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube). Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube).

In late February, former CCTV reporter Chai Jing released a gripping video, called Under the Dome, on the sources and devastating impact of pollution in China on the environment and the health of the people. The video mixes hard facts, personal emotional appeals, and interviews with local officials to present a shocking portrait of the decades of environmental abuse that the Chinese people have suffered. Chai presents her talk TED Talk-style—strolling back and forth across the stage in front of a large, clearly captivated audience of Chinese young people. Read more »

2014: The Top Ten Stories in China’s Health Sector

by Yanzhong Huang
Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters) Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters)

1. China formally enters post-Global Fund era

By the end of 2013, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria officially closed its portfolio in China. Having approved $1.81 billion to support China’s fight against the three diseases, the Global Fund was the largest international health cooperation program in China. One decade of the Global Fund’s presence in China has left behind a mixed legacy. With the departure of the Global Fund, sustaining the existing level of achievement becomes a daunting challenge. Already, the government has eliminated one trademark of the Global Fund: the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China?s President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra November 17, 2014. China and Australia on Monday signed a declaration of intent on a landmark free trade deal more than a decade in the making, opening up markets worth billions to Australia and loosening restrictions on Chinese investment. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Australia following the G20 leaders summit which was held in Brisbane over the weekend. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2014. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Japan slips into recession, dissolves lower house. New economic data released Monday morning showed that Japan had lapsed into recession, striking yet another serious blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vaunted economic recovery policy and leading some to ask if this is the end of Abenomics. In a bid to win popular mandate for his economic policies, Abe announced he would delay a planned increase to the national sales tax and dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament. On Friday afternoon, lawmakers in the house of representatives chanted “Banzai!” as they disbanded. Snap elections are expected to take place in mid-December, and while Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may lose a number of seats, they are overwhelmingly expected to maintain their majority and could potentially increase their power. Read more »

Michael Levi: What the Big U.S.-China Climate Announcement Means

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province September 16, 2013. China is pumping investment into wind power, which is more cost-competitive than solar energy and partly able to compete with coal and gas. China is the world's biggest producer of CO2 emissions, but is also the world's leading generator of renewable electricity. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight during a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will meet in Stockholm from September 23-26. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on September 16, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced new targets to cut climate pollution in their respective countries. My colleague and co-author Michael Levi explains the implications of this climate change agreement in a post on his blog, Energy, Security, and ClimateI have reposted it here. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 26, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters). Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. India becomes the first Asian nation to reach Mars. India’s space program celebrated a huge victory this week, successfully launching an orbiter to Mars on its first attempt. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) managed to send the Mars Orbitor Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, on a budget of  $74 million; many have been quick to point out that it cost less than the production of the Hollywood hit movie, Gravity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a celebration of the mission’s success, and schools in India organized programs to commemorate the entry of MOM into Mars’s orbit. The first images of the red planet were uploaded to Twitter, sparking a Twitter conversation between Modi and ISRO’s orbiter. Read more »

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk October 17, 2012. By a remote fjord where icebergs float in silence and hunters stalk reindeer, plans are being drawn up for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by four percent at a stroke - by hiring Chinese workers. The $2.3-billion project by the small, British company London Mining Plc would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. It would supply China with much needed iron for the steel its economy. With global warming thawing its Arctic sea lanes, and global industry eyeing minerals under this barren island a quarter the size of the United States, the 57,000 Greenlanders are wrestling with opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule. Yet a scramble for Greenland already may be under way, in which some see China trying to exploit the icebound territory as a staging ground in a global battle for Arctic resources and strategic control of new shipping routes. Picture taken October 17, 2012. To match Insight GREENLAND/ REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk on October 17, 2012. (Alistair Scrutton/Courtesy Reuters)

If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic. Read more »

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago. Read more »

Assessing the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Sustainability of South Korea’s Contribution

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech at an inaugural meeting of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Seoul. (Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech at an inaugural meeting of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Seoul. (Courtesy Reuters)

When South Korean president Lee Myung Bak first offered to serve as a bridge between developing and industrialized countries on climate change issues in a speech August of 2008, it seemed implausible that South Korea, as a smaller country in the global climate change discussion, could have an influence on either group. In fact, the speech ultimately seemed more targeted at a domestic rather than an international audience, since it spawned the establishment of a Blue House-led Green Growth Committee tasked to reform national energy policy across all sectors (including the National Asssembly’s adoption of an emissions trading scheme) and to promote policies of adaptation through enhanced energy efficiency and promotion of Korean development of renewables. Read more »

China Tries to Breathe Free

by Elizabeth C. Economy
The National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest', can be seen next to a tower bearing the Olympic rings and a building under construction on a high air pollution day in Beijing on June 6, 2012. The National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest', can be seen next to a tower bearing the Olympic rings and a building under construction on a high air pollution day in Beijing on June 6, 2012. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

After one day in Beijing, I had a sore throat. After two days, I had a cough. In nine days, the sun never made an appearance. So, when I returned to New York from Beijing earlier this week, I wasn’t surprised to learn from a friend who tracks China’s air quality that the pollution in the country’s capital during my stay had been among the worst since 2007.

There really isn’t any mystery as to why Beijing’s air pollution is so bad. Read more »