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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 "Disasters"

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 »

Warning: Political Bickering Dangerous to Japan’s Health

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacts he he feels an earthquake in the upper house of parliament in Tokyo on March 11, 2011.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacts he he feels an earthquake in the upper house of parliament in Tokyo on March 11, 2011. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters)

 

It has been a month since the terrible earthquake/tsunami shock of March 11. Across the country, there is a palpable desire to reach out to the Tohoku region, and to bring the country together. 

But politics are returning to Tokyo. Last Sunday was the first of two sets of local elections scheduled for April. Before the crisis, the Kan government was weakened as it sought to pass the national budget. For the LDP and the New Komeito, opposition parties that had formed the coalition government up until the DPJ’s victory in 2009, these elections posed an opportunity to demonstrate their electoral strength, and challenge the prime minister. Read more »

NGO Efforts to Meet Japan’s Needs

by Sheila A. Smith
A girl holds her soft toy at an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, March 31, 2011

A girl holds her soft toy at an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, March 31, 2011 (Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

The March 11 disaster in Japan has prompted a broad effort at civic support, both within and without Japan, to provide assistance to the stricken Tohoku region. In a country where non-governmental organizations have struggled to create space for civic involvement in public affairs, today there seems to be a profusion of groups engaged in the disaster relief effort.

Japan has for decades supported disaster relief efforts abroad. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the national government’s agency tasked with administering Official Development Assistance, has staffed disaster relief efforts in countries as far afield as Pakistan, Mexico, Philippines and Haiti. Moreover, the JICA staff has worked closely with a growing group of Japanese NGOs organized to provided medical and technical assistance to those in need around the globe. Peace Winds Japan, for example, has played a significant role in post-conflict reconstruction activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sudan.

But today, the roles are reversed. Read more »

Operation Tomodachi

by Sheila A. Smith
Sailors load food and humanitarian supplies onto a helicopter aboard the USS Ronald Reagan which is off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi, March 18, 2011.

Sailors load food and humanitarian supplies onto a helicopter aboard the USS Ronald Reagan which is off the coast of Japan, providing humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi, March 18, 2011. (Ho New/Courtesy Reuters)

[Click here for information on how to locate friends and family in Japan, and here for how you can help]  

Last week, I discussed the front line role of Japan’s Self Defense Force, and received many emails from Japanese friends in Tokyo asking that I do the same for the U.S. government personnel, uniformed and civilian, that are providing much needed assistance to Japan.  

Operation Tomodachi—a broad disaster relief operation in support of Japan’s response to the triple crises—is growing by the day, and is a remarkable testament to the full throttle U.S. government effort to help the Japanese people. From the beginning the U.S. military was quickly on the scene; the U.S. Forces Japan stationed in country organized themselves for immediate support and Pacific Command forces outside Japan regrouped to lend assistance. An aircraft carrier task force, led by the USS Ronald Reagan, headed immediately for Japan, followed by eight other ships stocked with emergency relief equipment and supplies.  Read more »

Remembering Katrina and Sichuan Amidst Japan’s Crisis

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A man walks through the flooded Terme area of New Orleans, lying under several feet of water on August 29, 2005.

A man walks through the flooded Terme area of New Orleans, lying under several feet of water on August 29, 2005. (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters)

As I watched the Japan crisis unfold in rapid succession—the earthquake, the tsunami and then the collapsing nuclear reactors at the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima—I was struck by the absolute dignity and unity of the Japanese people. My colleague Sheila Smith has an excellent post on this, so no need for me to repeat.

Instead, I want to raise the issue of context, or the lack thereof.

For much of the past ten days, I have felt as though I was in an alternative reporting reality. Particularly in the early days, the western news media focused almost exclusively on the failures within the Japanese system: the failure of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to share information; the failure of the Prime Minister to stay on top of the crisis, and the failure of the Japanese people to retain hope and not hoard groceries. There was little to no reporting on the strength and resilience of the people. Yet many voices from Japan suggested this. How did we miss half the story?
Read more »

Voices from Inside Japan—No Panic, Simply Strength and Kindness

by Sheila A. Smith
A student volunteer holds a sign in front of instant noodles for evacuees from Futaba, a city near the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, at the evacuees' new shelter Saitama Super Arena, near Tokyo March 20, 2011, nine days after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

A student volunteer holds a sign in front of instant noodles for evacuees from Futaba, a city near the quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, at the evacuees' new shelter Saitama Super Arena, near Tokyo March 20, 2011, nine days after an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. (Jo Yong hak/Courtesy Reuters)

[Click here for information on how to locate friends and family in Japan, and here for how you can help] 

There are so many issues to discuss, but this morning, I thought I ought to share with you the voices I heard throughout the past week—on blogs, in conversation, and in the flowing emails to those of us outside the country—that ran counter to the speculation and panicky shrillness of our media’s coverage of the situation inside Japan. 

Read more »

Lessons from the 2004 Asian Tsunami

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Rescue workers make their way through an area devastated by a tsunami as they search for victims in Rikuzentakata March 21, 2011.

Rescue workers make their way through an area devastated by a tsunami as they search for victims in Rikuzentakata March 21, 2011. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

In the wake of the tsunami and earthquake, Japan is going to embark upon a massive reconstruction effort. Japan is a wealthy country, but already the sheer scale of the disaster, combined with the Japanese government’s apparent paralysis, is making initial relief efforts challenging.

Though the 2004 Asian tsunami mostly hit nations far poorer than Japan, like Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, there are lessons that can be taken from the 2004-05 relief and rebuilding effort that can be applied to Japan. In a CFR expert brief, I examine some of those lessons.

Read more »

A Stunned Japan Turns to Its Military

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan Self-Defense Forces officers search for victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan, after an earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 14, 2011.

Japan Self-Defense Forces officers search for victims in Higashimatsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan, after an earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 14, 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Kyodo)

[Click here for information on how to locate friends and family in Japan, and here for how you can help]

For much of the postwar period, the Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF) has remained in the background of national life. Post-war sensitivities about pre-war militarism left little room for the SDF to vaunt its capabilities, or its bravery.

But today, as the country faces a complex and simultaneous series of crises, Japan’s military has emerged as the nation’s most relied upon “first responder.” In Japan’s largest disaster relief operation ever, the SDF has every asset deployed. The Maritime Self Defense Force has 59 ships offshore, and there are a total of 176 helicopters and 319 fixed-wing aircraft engaged. Personnel total 70,000 (40,000 Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) and 30,000 combined Maritime and Air Self Defense Force personnel), and the number is growing. For the first time in the postwar era, the Japanese government has mobilized its reserves.

Read more »