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The Impact of the U.S. Justice Department 1MDB Announcement on Malaysian Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters) U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington on July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

I could write a six hundred word blog before getting to the point here, but I will get right to it: The 1MDB asset seizure is likely to have minimal impact on Malaysian domestic politics. To recap … the U.S. Justice Department this morning announced it was filing “civil-forfeiture complaints against more than $1 billion of assets allegedly acquired using funds misappropriated from a Malaysian economic development fund,” known as 1MDB, according to the Wall Street Journal, which has extensively covered the 1MDB saga. Read more »

The Rise of Modern State Capitalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick
gazprom Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller attends an annual general meeting of the company's shareholders in Moscow, Russia, on June 30, 2016. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

China’s state-owned enterprises have received the most coverage of any such companies around the world, but they are hardly alone. In fact, although China has been the focus of nearly all discussion of the trend in the West, it is only one player in a new era of state capitalism born over the past decade. Throughout the developing world, many governments are increasing their intervention in their economies. Read more »

How Much Should We Read Into China’s New “Core Socialist Values”?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A man walks with his bicycle in front of a screen showing propaganda displays near the Great Hall of the People at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, November 7, 2012. Just days before the party's all-important congress opens, China's stability-obsessed rulers are taking no chances and have combed through a list all possible threats, avian or otherwise. Their list includes bus windows being screwed shut and handles for rear windows in taxis - to stop subversive leaflets being scattered on the streets - plus balloons and remote control model planes. The goal is to ensure an image of harmony as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power as party leader to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping at the congress, which starts on Thursday. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) A man walks with his bicycle in front of a screen showing propaganda displays near the Great Hall of the People at Beijing's Tiananmen Square. China’s most recent values and propaganda campaign has taken the form of promoting “core socialist values.” (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Bochen Han is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Driving through any Chinese city, town, or village today it’s hard to miss the 24-character set of “core socialist values” (shehuizhuyi hexin jiazhiguan) that adorn almost every public surface—restaurant menus, billboards, taxi cabs. In Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, schoolchildren must recite them on demand. In Chaohu city in Anhui province, citizens were encouraged to hang values-inscribed lanterns for the Spring Festival. Southwest, in Sichuan province, officials popularized the values by including them in riddles. Read more »

Duterte Isn’t Going to Change

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rodrigo-duterte-inaugeration President Rodrigo Duterte takes his oath before Supreme Court Justice Bienvenido Reyes as his daughter Veronica holds the bible, during his inauguration as President of the Philippines at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on June 30, 2016. (Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

It doesn’t look like there is going to be a more presidential Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao made his name on the campaign trail for his blunt rhetoric, which often offended many civil society activists, journalists, and other Filipinos. He had a reputation, as mayor of Davao, for both effective management and for allegedly condoning extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects. He had a highly testy relationship with the press. Read more »

Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick
bookstore A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2016. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

It’s that time of year again—when Washington cooks, the public transport goes on extended holiday, people head to the beach, and I offer some thoughts on books to take with you on vacation if you have an interest in Asian history, Southeast Asian politics, and Southeast Asian culture. Keep in mind that none of these books are exactly traditional “beach reads”—light page-turners that you can flip through while also watching your kids bury themselves in sand. Read more »

What Does the Future Hold for the Rohingya?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rohingya-camp A boy walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar on May 3, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Of all the ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in the world, wrote the Economist last year, the Rohingya may well be the most persecuted people on the planet. Today nearly two million Rohingya live in western Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar they have no formal status, and they face the constant threat of violence from paramilitary groups egged on by nationalist Buddhist monks while security forces look the other way. Since 2012, when the latest wave of anti-Rohingya violence broke out, attackers have burnt entire Rohingya neighborhoods, butchering the populace with knives, sticks, and machetes. Read more »

Reforming the International Military Education and Training Program

by Joshua Kurlantzick
balikatan-2015 Filipino soldiers take positions as a U.S. military helicopter CH-47 takes off during the annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games at a military camp, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in northern Philippines on April 20, 2015. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which provides U.S. government funds to members of foreign militaries to take classes at U.S. military facilities, has the potential to be a powerful tool of U.S. influence. IMET is designed to help foreign militaries bolster their relationships with the United States, learn about U.S. military equipment, improve military professionalism, and instill democratic values in their members. For forty years, the program has played an important role in the United States’ relations with many strategic partners and in cultivating foreign officers who become influential policymakers. Read more »

Duterte’s Policies Take Shape

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rodrigo-duterte-economic Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte answers questions during a news conference in Davao City, southern Philippines on May 31, 2016. (Lean Dava/Reuters)

The new president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, came into office without a clear policy platform. On the campaign trail, Duterte had vowed to get tough on crime, duplicating his efforts as mayor of Davao on a national level. He had made vague promises of changing the Philippines’ political system to reduce the power of entrenched elites, and he had offered contradictory, sometimes confusing statements on the Philippines’ major security challenges—the ongoing threat of militant groups in the southern Philippines, and the growing contest with China over control of disputed parts of the South China Sea. Read more »

Forty-Five Minutes With Joshua Wong

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong October 1, 2014. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday, some of them jeering National Day celebrations, and students threatened to ramp up demonstrations if the city's pro-Beijing leader did not step down. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. Since the Umbrella Revolution, Wong has gone on to found the new political party Demosisto. (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

Four years ago, when he was just fifteen years old, Joshua Wong launched a campaign to prevent Beijing from enforcing its own version of history in Hong Kong schools. Along with other student activists involved in his “Scholarism” group, he managed to rally one hundred and twenty thousand people in protest and eventually beat back the government’s initiative. During that effort, Scholarism raised one million Hong Kong dollars in just one day—with 25-40 year olds as the most supportive demographic. For Wong, it was a signal that young people really could achieve change. (Less well known, perhaps, is that Wong cut his activist teeth protesting against a high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and the mainland when he was only thirteen years old.) Since then, of course, Wong has become world-renowned for his effort in helping lead the Occupy Central movement, which called for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. For his actions, he has been vilified by the Chinese government, assaulted, and arrested—all by the age of eighteen. Read more »

The Global Democratic Regression and Wealthy Democracies

by Joshua Kurlantzick
donald-trump-2 U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California, U.S. June 1, 2016. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

As the presidential election moves into general mode, Donald Trump’s blowtorch style has led many critics to accuse him of bringing dangerous 1930s-style politics to America. But in reality, Trump’s rise does not signal a return of fascism, and his political style does not exactly parallel that of Mussolini. Instead, Trump is part of a modern-day, worldwide democratic retreat, one that has been going on for a decade now in the developing world—and is now making its way to America and Western Europe. Read more »