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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 "Corruption"

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 »

China’s Unprecedented Political Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A man breaks the window of a police van with a wooden plank during a protest in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, on October 11, 2013. (Young/Courtesy Reuters) A man breaks the window of a police van with a wooden plank during a protest in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, on October 11, 2013. (Young/Courtesy Reuters)

I was heartened last week to read a piece in Foreign Affairs by Eric Li, a Chinese venture capitalist and political commentator, in which he asserts that “unprecedented” political reforms are underway in China [registration required]. Somehow I had missed them, mistakenly thinking that President Xi Jinping was tightening political control rather than offering greater opportunities for political participation. Read more »

Typhoon Haiyan

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Children hold signs asking for help and food along the highway, after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tabogon town in Cebu Province, central Philippines on November 11, 2013 (Charlie Saceda/Courtesy Reuters). Children hold signs asking for help and food along the highway, after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tabogon town in Cebu Province, central Philippines on November 11, 2013 (Charlie Saceda/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit Southeast Asia, Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines is counting its dead and assessing the massive damage to infrastructure from the storm, particularly in Leyte province. The scope of the devastation in Leyte was, on Sunday, being compared by some disaster specialists to the destruction wrought by the 2004 Asian tsunami, which completely leveled parts of Aceh in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, like the Thai coast around Phuket. The typhoon was more powerful than most, but the Philippines has, sadly, become used to this type of devastation: the country is right in the path of the most dangerous Asian typhoons, and was hit by another deadly storm only a few weeks ago. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 18, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Women in kimonos stand at the Yasukuni Shrine during the Annual Autumn Festival in Tokyo on October 18, 2013. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters Women in kimonos stand at the Yasukuni Shrine during the Annual Autumn Festival in Tokyo on October 18, 2013. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. India, China near border deal. Diplomats from Beijing and New Delhi are finalizing a border defense cooperation pact in advance of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China next week. The two sides agreed to notify the other of any planned patrols, to not tail each other’s patrols, and to establish a hotline between top ranking military officers. The pact follows a period of heightened tensions in the wake of a three-week border incursion in May by Chinese forces into disputed territory. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison. Former Communist Party official Bo Xilai was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power in the eastern city of Jinan and sentenced to life in prison on Sunday. Though the guilty verdict was by no means a surprise, the length of the term was much longer than the fifteen to twenty years that many analysts expected. On Monday, Bo appealed his verdict—though that is considered a mere formality. The Chinese government has trumpeted the sentencing as a victory for the rule of law in China, but many outside experts believe the opposite—that the trial only made it eminently clear “that the Party still controls the Law.” Read more »

A Chill, Ill Wind Blows Across China

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, attends a session at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in Boao town, Hainan province on April 8, 2013 (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters). Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China, attends a session at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference in Boao town, Hainan province on April 8, 2013 (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters).

I have to give Beijing credit. When the Chinese leaders put Wang Qishan in charge of the anti-corruption effort, they knew what they were doing. Widely believed to be one of the most competent of the new leadership, he has ensured that no policy arena has as much energy behind it as his anti-corruption campaign. Other priorities such as building a social welfare net, protecting the environment, and reforming the economy are still in the familiar planning and blueprint stages. Wang, in contrast, has spearheaded campaigns against multinationals, Chinese companies, individual Chinese officials, and businesspeople. Scarcely a week goes by when one corruption case or another does not make Chinese headlines. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 30, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
The JP Morgan sign is pictured at its Beijing office, in this picture taken December 13, 2010. A federal bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired the children of key Chinese officials to help it win business is just the latest in a series of legal and regulatory headaches. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) The JP Morgan sign is pictured at its Beijing office, in this picture taken December 13, 2010. A federal bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase & Co. hired the children of key Chinese officials to help it win business is just the latest in a series of legal and regulatory headaches. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. The SEC probes JPMorgan amid allegations that it hired Chinese princelings. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has begun an investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of senior Chinese officials to help secure business in a now-defunct program called “Sons and Daughters.” The scrutiny began in Hong Kong and now has spread through the bank’s Asia offices; the bank has flagged more than 200 hires for review. JPMorgan has not yet been accused of any illegal acts, but they might have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids granting personal favors to government officials in exchange for business. One example included the son of Tang Shuangning, chairman of a state-run financial conglomerate, who was hired and retained even after other employees questioned his financial expertise. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 23, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai stands trial inside the court in Jinan, Shandong province, on August 22, 2013. (Jinan Intermediate People's Court/Courtesy Reuters) Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai stands trial inside the court in Jinan, Shandong province, on August 22, 2013. (Jinan Intermediate People's Court/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Bo Xilai defiant in trial. Standing trial on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, former Communist Party official Bo Xilai was surprisingly defiant during his two days in court. The trial, which began on Thursday, was expected to be simply another piece of scripted Chinese political theater—albeit one with much more press and its own official microblog—but Bo put on a spirited defense, refuting testimony and casting doubt on his wife’s mental state. Some analysts have postulated that Bo might have agreed to a predetermined prison sentence in exchange for the opportunity to express himself at the trial. Read more »

Knowing Autumn From a Falling Leaf: The GSK Probe and China’s Business Environment

by Yanzhong Huang
A flag (L) bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GlaxoSmithKline office building in Shanghai on July 12, 2013. A flag (L) bearing the logo of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) flutters next to a Chinese national flag outside a GlaxoSmithKline office building in Shanghai on July 12, 2013. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

There is a Chinese saying, Yi Ye Zhi Qiu, which means “Knowing that autumn is coming by seeing a single leaf fall.” This expression is fully applicable to the current business environment for foreign pharmaceutical firms in China.  Indeed, the recent investigation of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s involvement in commercial bribery in China should send a chilly signal to all multinational pharmaceuticals aspiring to make big money in the China market: the go-go years are over. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of July 19, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A view from on board North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. Panama detained the North Korean-flagged ship from Cuba as it headed to the Panama Canal and said it was hiding weapons in brown sugar containers, sparking a standoff in which the ship's captain attempted to commit suicide. (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy Reuters) A view from on board North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. China’s economy slows in the second quarter. China’s economic growth slowed to 7.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, the second straight quarter of declining growth. Chinese officials encouraged local governments to speed up spending to support economic growth, though they have asserted that China’s main economic indicators were within a “reasonable range.” The International Monetary Fund is less confident, stating that “since the global crisis, a mix of investment, credit, and fiscal stimulus has underpinned [Chinese economic] activity. This pattern of growth is not sustainable and is raising vulnerability.” Read more »