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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 "Democracy"

What Does the Rise of State Capitalism Mean for the World?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petrobras Workers repair a tank of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company in Cubatao, Brazil, on April 12, 2016. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

In just the past year, major scandals have erupted at several of the world’s most influential state-owned companies, with repercussions going far beyond the boardrooms. In Brazil, graft scandals centered on state-owned petroleum company Petrobras have triggered waves of arrests and played a role in the ongoing impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Meanwhile, in Malaysia investigations continue into allegations of massive irregularities in state fund 1MDB, allegations that have shaken the government of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak and reportedly triggered investigations into 1MDB in Singapore, Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia. Read more »

Upheaval in South Korea’s National Assembly: Expect More Surprises

by Scott A. Snyder
Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool) Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool)

The first rule of watching South Korean elections is the same as the first rule for watching Korean TV dramas: be prepared to be surprised. In this respect, South Korea’s 2016 National Assembly electoral result delivered, as virtually no one predicted the magnitude of the failure of the ruling Saenuri party or its major standard bearers. The results left the former majority party in second place at 122 seats, well short of the 151 seats needed to exercise a majority in the 300-seat National Assembly. The first place Minjoo or Democratic Party of Korea, pruned by the departure of entrepreneur-turned-National Assemblyman Ahn Cheol-soo, who started his own People’s Party, captured 123 seats to become the largest party in the National Assembly. Ahn’s own start-up experience proved sufficient to lead the newly-established People’s Party to a better-than-expected thirty-eight seats, primarily centered in Korea’s southwestern Jeolla region. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »

How Will the Philippines Presidential Election Transform the Country?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
philipines-grace-poe Philippine presidential candidate Grace Poe speaks at International Women's Day rally by Gabriela Party List women's group in Manila on March 8, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

On May 9, the Philippines will hold its presidential election. Philippine presidents are limited to one, six-year term, which makes them powerful and weak at the same time. They enjoy a long term in office, removing them from the regular grind of campaigning that is common in many other democracies. But, as soon as they are inaugurated, they become a kind of lame duck. Read more »

Assessing Myanmar’s New Cabinet

by Joshua Kurlantzick
myanmar-nld-cabinet National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the parliament building after a meeting with members of her party in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on March 28, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced the first Cabinet proposed by its NLD-dominated government. Although a handful of important ministries, like defense, were reserved for the armed forces, the NLD took most of the other important posts. In fact, Suu Kyi herself decided to take four ministerial posts, including the foreign ministry. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of March 25, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jakarta-ride-app-protests Taxi drivers take part in a protest rally to demand that the government prohibit ride-hailing apps in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 22, 2016. (Garry Lotulung/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indonesians protest ride-hailing apps. Traffic in notoriously congested Jakarta came to a near standstill this week when approximately ten thousand taxi drivers protested popular ride-hailing apps like Grab, Go-Jek, and Uber, which have driven down taxi fares in the city. Some of the protesters turned violent and attacked other taxis not participating in the protests, leading to the arrest of eighty-three individuals. Read more »

Thailand’s State Capitalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thaksin-red shirts A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group (C) holds a picture of ousted Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as she gather with others during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, on April 5, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Though former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose family originally came from the northern suburbs of Chiang Mai, has lived in exile for years, in the Chiang Mai area, until the spring of 2014, it was almost as if he never left. Cab drivers displayed his photo on their dashboard right next to Buddha images and pictures of ancient Thai royals. Community radio stations broadcast his speeches from exile, and vendors in nearby villages sold posters of the politician grinning and T-shirts bearing his image. Billboards featuring Thaksin and other local politicians from his party dominated the landscape on the sides of roads. Read more »

State Capitalism and its Threats

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thaksin-red shirts-2 A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group gestures and holds a picture of ousted Thai prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, on May 11, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

State capitalism poses five types of threats to democracy, global security, and the global economy.

One of the fears about state capitalism is that the state’s control of the economy, in democratic nations, will inexorably lead to state control of politics and a reduction in democratic freedoms. These fears are not totally misplaced. But when Western writers, politicians and other opinion leaders examine state capitalism, they tend to take an undifferentiated approach, treating all state capitalists alike, rather than examining each country in some more detail. Read more »

Malaysia’s Institutions Come Unraveled

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Muhyiddin Yassin-Mahathir Mohamad-Malaysia (Seated from L to R) UMNO's Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and member of parliament Razaleigh Hamzah give a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on October 12, 2015. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir and some leaders of the ruling party jointly demanded resolution of the 1MDB state fund scandal on Monday and condemned a crackdown on dissent, signalling a divide within the coalition. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

On Saturday, as the Diplomat reported, Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, released a statement on Facebook warning that the country was slipping into dictatorship. Yassin lashed out against Prime Minister Najib tun Razak for overseeing this reversal from democracy. “In the face of public outrage at his leadership, Najib is using all the power that he has to suppress the voice of the opposition and silence his critics,” warned Yassin. “We are really witnessing the collapse of democratic institutions and the emergence of a new dictatorship.” Read more »