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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 "Economics"

Plunging Commodity Prices and the Impact on Malaysia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak-budget Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak announces revisions to the fiscal budget in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on January 28, 2016. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Last month, Malaysia cut its 2016 growth forecast and slashed spending plans as the economy continues to suffer from falling oil prices. Oil and commodities are very important to Malaysia’s economy, with palm oil, in particular, being one of its foundations. Gas and rubber are also important sectors. So falling global commodity prices have hurt Malaysia badly. According to an article in the Straits Times, the Malaysian government has said that “each $1 drop in oil prices slashes RM 300 million [roughly $72 million] from its annual revenue.” Read more »

Podcast: Michael Pettis on the ABC’s of the Chinese Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Pettis-China-economy-podcast An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, July 13, 2009. (Stringer/Reuters)

Peking University Professor of Finance Michael Pettis recently sat down with me to share his thoughts on what is going on in the Chinese economy, what the Chinese leadership needs to do to get back on track, and what it all means for the United States and the rest of the world. The takeaway: Hold on to your hats, we are in for a bumpy ride… but we are not falling off the cliff… yet.

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The Fits and Starts of China’s Economic Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters)

Over the past several months, it has become more than a full-time job trying to figure out what is going on in the Chinese economy. There have been many good efforts to make sense of all the disparate numbers that are coming out of Beijing and to tell people what to look for moving forward (including from George Magnus, Gabriel Wildau, and Eswar Prasad), but it is challenging. One thing that should not be—but often is—forgotten in the sea of numbers is the politics of the reform process. The political dimension can provide some much-needed context as to the problems Beijing is facing. Let me suggest three political factors that may be contributing to Beijing’s disjointed and seemingly sub-optimal economic decision-making process. Read more »

Indonesia’s Education Gap

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits an elementary school in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan October 31, 2015. President Widodo this week cut short an official trip to the United States due to a haze crisis caused by raging peat fires in the Southeast Asian country. After weeks of hazardous air caused by haze-producing forest fires, people on Indonesia's southern Sumatra and Kalimantan islands have finally found respite after three days of persistent rain significantly improved the air quality and quelled many of the raging forest fires, according to the national disaster agency on Friday. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits an elementary school in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on October 31, 2015. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Jake Thomases is a public policy analyst at the Risk Analysis Research Center.

Investors in Indonesia let out a small sigh of relief when Heri Sudarmanto, the director of foreign workers, announced on October 19 that foreign workers would not be required to pass Indonesian language tests after all. Just three days earlier, an official with the manpower ministry told reporters that such a test would be implemented. The language requirement, which has been proposed and rescinded more than once, is just the latest attempt to shield sectors of the Indonesian economy from outside competition. Such measures are puzzling and counterproductive given President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s pleas for infrastructure investment dollars during every state visit he makes. Against the backdrop of economic protectionism, such pleas come across as: “Bring us the money and we’ll tell you how to spend it.”

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The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2015

by Alyssa Ayres
Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters). Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters).

Each of the past two years, I’ve done a roundup of the developments and stories that mattered the most in South Asia. In 2014, India’s historic national election and the coming together of Afghanistan’s hard-won unity government topped my list. The year before, Indian women’s political activism, and Nawaz Sharif’s election in Pakistan’s first transfer of power from one civilian to another, were my top two picks. Looking back at those posts compared with the ten events I’ve selected for 2015, this year suggests a markedly less hopeful mood. The most chilling development has been the steady trickle of reports about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its presence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, border areas of Pakistan, and possibly in Bangladesh. Other developments in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives present a mixed picture of both progress and setbacks. Here is my selection of 2015’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

India Says: Bring Us Your Sick

by Guest blogger for Alyssa Ayres
"Cathlab (Angiogram & Angioplasty)," February 25, 2013. Photo by Hmhedp licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Cathlab (Angiogram & Angioplasty)," February 25, 2013. Photo by Hmhedp licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

Kermit Jones, MD, JD, is a physician and former White House Fellow based in Chicago. His research focuses on intellectual property and health information technology use in medicine; he recently returned from a medical observership at Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad, India. Follow him on Twitter: @duniyakermit Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories From the Week of December 11, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trafficking-camp-malaysia-12-11-15 A cage made of barbed wire and bamboo sticks that Malaysian police said was used to hold migrants is seen at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the jungle close the Thailand border at Bukit Wang Burma in northern Malaysia, May 26, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Human trafficking investigator flees Thailand. Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, a senior Thai police officer leading an investigation on human trafficking in Thailand, has fled the country to seek asylum in Australia. After more than thirty graves, which are believed to contain the remains of trafficked Rohingyas, were discovered near the Malaysian border this summer, Paween had been tasked with investigating the site and the trafficking network responsible. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 4, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India-coal - 12-4-15 Laborers load coal on trucks at Bari Brahamina on the outskirts of Jammu, India, March 16, 2012. (Mukesh Gupta/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. India’s embrace of coal complicates ambitious renewable energy targets. India brings a unique position to the climate negotiations underway in Paris as a huge developing country with grand economic plans that is also disproportionately facing the consequences of climate change. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Seoul-protests - 11-20-2015 A protester reacts as water mixed with tear gas liquid is sprayed by police water canon to disperse protesters during an anti-government rally in central Seoul, South Korea, November 14, 2015. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Antigovernment protests erupt in Seoul. This week, tens of thousands of people filled City Hall plaza in downtown Seoul to protest President Park Geun-hye, demanding her resignation. The protestors wore plastic raincoats to guard against the cannons of water and liquid tear gas fired at them by the police. Read more »

China Recalculates Its Coal Consumption: Why This Really Matters

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A labourer works at a coking plant in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, July 7, 2007. Starting off in Sydney on Saturday and travelling west around the world, the Live Earth concerts, planned for this weekend, are expected to attract more than a million people to raise awareness of global warming and environmental issues like climate change. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA) CHINA OUT A laborer works at a coking plant in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, July 7, 2007. (Stringer/Reuters)

It seems like a distant memory now, but just one month ago, the international community was lauding China for stepping up its commitment to address climate change by pledging to initiate a cap-and-trade system for CO2 by 2017 and contributing $3.1 billion to a fund to help poor countries combat climate change. Now, however, the talk is all about the release of a new set of game-changing Chinese statistics on coal consumption. A New York Times headline blared: “China burns much more coal than reported, complicating climate talks.”  And the Guardian reported: “China underreporting coal consumption by up to 17%, data suggests.”

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