CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Disasters"

A Vote of Confidence by Toyota*

by Sheila A. Smith
Akio Toyoda, center, poses with Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso, left, and Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai before a meeting at Miyagi prefectural government in Sendai July 19.

Akio Toyoda, center, poses with Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso, left, and Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai before a meeting at Miyagi prefectural government in Sendai July 19. (Courtesy The Asahi Shimbun)

Last month, I wrote an update on Japan’s efforts to cope with the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. One of the most dramatic discoveries during my trip to Tokyo was the buzz about the possibility that Japan’s continuing energy problems would encourage an exodus of industrial investment in Japan.

The shock was not the uncertainty about Japan’s future, but rather that the companies that were losing faith in Japan as a site for future investment was none other than Japan’s own industrial leaders.    Read more »

Japan’s Heroines

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's players celebrate with the trophy after the victory against the U.S. in their Women's World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011.

Japan's players celebrate with the trophy after the victory against the U.S. in their Women's World Cup final soccer match in Frankfurt July 17, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

What a game! The U.S. and Japanese women’s soccer teams faced off for the World Cup yesterday afternoon, and after an electric overtime comeback by the Japanese team, Nadeshiko Japan went on to win the match in penalty kicks. For soccer fans, it was a heart-stopping finale. For American fans who have been consumed with the vitality of their women’s soccer team, it was so close…

But for the people of Japan, it was a miraculous demonstration of what determination and skill can bring. As team captain Homare Sawa said, on the morning of the final match, the opportunity to play was “a gift from the soccer god.”   Read more »

Harnessing Technological Prowess for Japan’s Recovery

by Sheila A. Smith

Full service is restored to JR East Tohoku Shinkansen line on April 29, 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

A bullet train arrives at JR Sendai Station after full service is restored on April 29 to the JR East Tohoku Shinkansen line following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. (YouTube User Karibajct)

As politicians in Tokyo continue to flounder in their efforts to look forward, it continues to impress upon me the importance of understanding what is going right in Japan’s recovery effort. Last time I shared a story that reflects the ability of individual Japanese to innovate and cope during the crisis. Today it is a story of Japan’s technological prowess—harnessed in the service of social need—that I want to share with you from my recent trip to Tohoku. Read more »

Innovation and Leadership in the March 11 Crisis

by Sheila A. Smith
Survivors of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami receive treatment at the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital in Miyagi prefecture March 12, 2011.

Survivors of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami receive treatment at the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital in Miyagi prefecture March 12, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Ho New)

One of the most impressive accounts of disaster response came from Dr. Tadashi Ishii of Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital. Dr. Ishii—a slender man, with graying hair and glasses dressed in jeans and a t-shirt—provided a concise and matter of fact account of his hospital’s response to the terrifying and chaotic days after the March 11 disaster. Read more »

Ishinomaki City—Three Months After

by Sheila A. Smith

In Ishigaki, debris of all types in piles along the roadway, organized by type and size (June 22, 2011).

In Ishinomaki, debris of all types are organized in piles along the roadway by type and size. (Photo by author, taken on June 22, 2011)

So many aspects of Japan’s response to the disasters of March 11 have yet to be fully understood. Many in Japan continue to be critical of their government’s response, and yet so much that happened on that day and in the days that followed demonstrates the strengths of Japanese society—and of the Japanese people. Read more »

Japan’s Reconstruction Planning

by Sheila A. Smith
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (2nd R) attends a cabinet meeting on environment and energy in Tokyo June 22, 2011.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (2nd R) attends a cabinet meeting on environment and energy in Tokyo June 22, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Frank Robichon/Pool)

Without a doubt, this is a complex moment for the Japanese people. This is both a country struggling with critical governance challenges, and a society recovering from the shock and devastation of a tremendous set of disasters. As I travel, I have been amazed—both at the scale of Japan’s governance problems, and at the immense effort and creativity that has been ongoing across Japanese society since March 11.   Read more »

A Dimmer Tokyo

by Sheila A. Smith
Lights are turned off to save energy before rolling blackouts in Tokyo, March 17, 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan. Tokyo Electric Power Co has announced rolling blackouts after its power generation was cut due to damage from an earthquake and tsunami to its Fukushima Daiichi power plant, where it is struggling to prevent reactor meltdowns.

Lights are turned off to save energy before rolling blackouts in Tokyo, March 17, 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)

I arrived in Tokyo several days ago, and was immediately struck by both the mood and the changes visible in the city itself. The hotels are nearly empty, elevators are turned off, and lighting everywhere is dimmer. Quite literally, Tokyo’s sparkle has been muted in an effort to conserve energy.

But dimmer, too, is the mood. In my early conversations here, the on-going challenges to cope with the effects of March 11 and its aftermath top the agenda. Daily coverage of the effort to clean up coastal cities in Tohoku is heartbreaking still. 86,000 or so Japanese are still in evacuation shelters three months after the tsunami hit. Resettling people by the end of the summer continues to be the goal, but temporary housing may fall short of current needs. Read more »

Unnatural Selection

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People gather in front of City Bank to buy tickets for the cricket World Cup in Dhaka on January 2, 2011.

People gather in front of City Bank to buy tickets for the cricket World Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 2, 2011. (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy Reuters)

In today’s Financial Times, I have a review of the new book Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl. The book looks at what is one of the most pressing – and undercovered – security challenges in Asia today: The growing gender imbalances in pivotal countries, from India to China to Vietnam. As sex ratios become more and more skewed, all of these nations are going to have to deal with the consequences of having millions of unmarriageable men, including human trafficking, rising social instability, and possibly even war.

The review can be seen here. Read more »

The Truth about the Three Gorges Dam

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker clears floating garbage on the Yangtze River near the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, Hubei province on August 1, 2010.

A worker clears floating garbage on the Yangtze River near the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, Hubei province on August 1, 2010. (China Daily Information Group/Courtesy Reuters)

It has only taken ninety years, but China’s leaders have finally admitted that the Three Gorges Dam is a disaster.  With Wen Jiabao at the helm, the State Council noted last week that there were “urgent problems” concerning the relocation effort, the environment and disaster prevention that would now require an infusion of US$23 billion on top of the $45 billion spent already.

Despite high-level support for the project since Sun Yat-sen first proposed it in 1919, the dam has had serious critics within China all along. One of China’s earliest and most renowned environmental activists, Dai Qing, published the book Yangtze! Yangtze! in 1989, which explored the engineering and social costs of the proposed dam. The book was a hit among Tiananmen Square protestors, and Dai spent a year in prison for her truth-telling. In 1992, when the dam came up for a vote in the National People’s Congress, an unprecedented one-third of the delegates voted against the plan.

Once the construction began in 1994, the problems mounted.  Read more »

A Time for Daffodils—But No Taxes, Please

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Empress Michiko (top R) talks with evacuees as she visit an evacuation shelter in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, April 27, 2011. Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met and chatted with survivors of last month's massive earthquake and tsunami on Wednesday, offering comfort and solace in a role that has helped keep the country's ancient monarchy relevant in modern times.

Japan's Empress Michiko (top R) talks with evacuees as she visit an evacuation shelter in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, April 27, 2011. Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met and chatted with survivors of last month's massive earthquake and tsunami on Wednesday, offering comfort and solace in a role that has helped keep the country's ancient monarchy relevant in modern times. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool/Courtesy Reuters)

The effort to breathe fresh energy into Japan’s recovery was poignantly demonstrated yesterday when the emperor and empress of Japan visited Miyagi prefecture. One of the evacuees at a shelter in Sendai presented Empress Michiko with a bunch of daffodils, freshly picked that morning from the garden of her devastated home. Amidst the rubble, spring flowers are blooming all across Tohoku, and across Japan the idea that recovery will indeed be possible is gradually taking hold. Read more »