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Asia Unbound

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

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Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 13, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippines-transgender-congress Geraldine Roman, a transgender congressional candidate, waves to her supporters as confetti rains during a “Miting de Avance” (last political campaign rally) for the national election in Orani town, Bataan province, north of Manila in the Philippines, May 6, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Philippine congress gains its first transgender member. Despite the country’s discriminatory laws against gay and transgender people, Liberal Party candidate Geraldine Roman received more than 60 percent of the vote in her home province of Bataan in northern Philippines. Roman comes from a long line of politicians, and will take the congressional seat occupied by her mother during the previous three terms. Read more »

Podcast: What Everyone Needs to Know About China’s Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Kroeber-Chinas-Economy

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, I speak with Arthur Kroeber, founding partner and head of research at Gavekal Dragonomics and author of the just-released China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know, about why China’s much ballyhooed economic reforms have fallen flat. Kroeber argues that the Chinese leadership’s contradictory belief in both a “decisive” role for markets and a “dominant” state sector has not yet been resolved and is the fundamental barrier to economic progress. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 6, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters chant slogans as the motorcade of presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte passes by during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro Supporters chant slogans as the motorcade of presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte passes by during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Duterte ahead in Philippine pre-election polls. Leading candidate Rodrigo Duterte is currently the mayor of Davao city on the southern island of Mindanao, where he is considered to have effectively cracked down on crime and improved the local economy. Duterte has pledged to do the same for the nation if elected and and to act decisively as president. He leads in current opinion polls with roughly 32 percent of the vote, and is trailed by Senator Grace Poe with 25 percent, and Interior Minister Mar Roxas with 22 percent. Read more »

TPP and its Implications for Global Access to Medicines

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015. Pacific Rim trade ministers failed to clinch a deal on Friday to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. (Marco Garcia/Reuters) The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015. Pacific Rim trade ministers failed to clinch a deal on Friday to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Mi Lin is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On March 9-10 and March 16-17, two sections of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines (UNGSAM) were held in London and Johannesburg, respectively. These two conventions were launched in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call last November to “find solutions to the lack of access to medicines.” This was the first time such a high-level panel on access to medicines was made open to the public.  Though the two dialogues, one in a developed country and the other in a developing country, had different conversational dynamics, issues surrounding intellectual property (IP) rules in free trade agreements (FTAs) were frequently raised in both sections. Health advocates have long argued that stricter IP provisions in FTAs is a main barrier to access to essential medicines for populations in developing countries. As the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) adds the latest development to this decades-long debate on trade and health, issues around TPP and its potential effects on global access to medicine also arose frequently at the panel. Read more »

How Could the Philippines’ Money Laundering Woes Affect Overseas Workers?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Salud Bautista (R), president of PhilRem Service Corporation, a remittance and money changer company, answers questions from Senators, beside her lawyer, during a Senate hearing of money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh's central bank, at the Philippine Senate in Manila April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Salud Bautista (R), president of PhilRem Service Corporation, a remittance and money changing company, answers questions from senators during a hearing at the Philippine Senate in Manila on money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh's central bank on April 19, 2016. Greater scrutiny of PhilRem could have implications for other Philippine remittance services around the world. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In February, $81 million stolen from the central bank of Bangladesh’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was laundered through the Philippines. Most observers worried about the security of the institutions involved. But equally if not more important is the potential impact on overseas Filipino workers. Increased scrutiny of vulnerabilities in the Philippines’ anti-money laundering provisions could make it harder for the over ten million Filipinos working abroad to send remittances home, as has occurred in many other developing nations. Globally, the Philippines is the third-highest recipient of remittances, which compromised 10 percent of GDP in 2014. These funds help fuel domestic consumption, and anything that affects the cost or ease of sending money to the nation will have significant economic implications. Read more »

Podcast: The Paper Tigers and Hidden Dragons of China’s Tech Sector

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Paper-Tigers-Hidden-Dragons-2

Chinese President Xi Jinping has claimed that the direction of China’s technological development is “innovation, innovation and more innovation.” But besides prominent success stories like Huawei and Lenovo, how innovative are other companies in China’s tech sector? In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I talk with Douglas Fuller, professor of business administration at Zhejiang University’s School of Management, about his upcoming book—possibly the best China book I have read all year—Paper Tigers, Hidden Dragons: Firms and the Political Economy of China’s Technological Development. Read more »

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 »

A “Gut Check” on U.S.-China Policy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters).

At the end of March, I testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the economic aspects of the “rebalance” to Asia.  I have testified before the commission several times, know a number of the commission members, and typically enjoy the experience. This time was no different. However, I was struck by the number of “gut check” questions, as one commissioner put it—questions where the answer appears clear, even obvious, but with a bit more pushing becomes less clear and less obvious. Here are some of the “gut check” questions that the commissioners asked that have made me take another look:

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 »