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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: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 26, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters). Students in Chennai pose with banners featuring Mars and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists as they celebrate India's Mars orbiter successfully entering the red planet's orbit on September 24, 2014 (Babu/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. India becomes the first Asian nation to reach Mars. India’s space program celebrated a huge victory this week, successfully launching an orbiter to Mars on its first attempt. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) managed to send the Mars Orbitor Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, on a budget of  $74 million; many have been quick to point out that it cost less than the production of the Hollywood hit movie, Gravity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a celebration of the mission’s success, and schools in India organized programs to commemorate the entry of MOM into Mars’s orbit. The first images of the red planet were uploaded to Twitter, sparking a Twitter conversation between Modi and ISRO’s orbiter. Read more »

South Korea-U.S. Nuclear Cooperation: How to Move Forward

by Scott A. Snyder
shin kori 3 and 4_au The Shin Kori No. 1 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) are seen in Ulsan, about 255 miles southeast of Seoul. Picture taken on September 3, 2013 (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters).

South Korea’s vibrant civilian nuclear sector, which consists of 23 reactors that supplied approximately 30 percent of its electricity in 2012, was built through cooperation with the United States. The United States shared know-how and technology that enabled the construction and operation of South Korea’s first reactors in the 1960s. American companies such as Westinghouse and the former Combustion Engineering worked closely with South Korean counterparts over decades to build a vibrant nuclear power generation capacity in South Korea, a country that has virtually no indigenous energy production resources. Read more »

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk October 17, 2012. By a remote fjord where icebergs float in silence and hunters stalk reindeer, plans are being drawn up for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by four percent at a stroke - by hiring Chinese workers. The $2.3-billion project by the small, British company London Mining Plc would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. It would supply China with much needed iron for the steel its economy. With global warming thawing its Arctic sea lanes, and global industry eyeing minerals under this barren island a quarter the size of the United States, the 57,000 Greenlanders are wrestling with opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule. Yet a scramble for Greenland already may be under way, in which some see China trying to exploit the icebound territory as a staging ground in a global battle for Arctic resources and strategic control of new shipping routes. Picture taken October 17, 2012. To match Insight GREENLAND/ REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk on October 17, 2012. (Alistair Scrutton/Courtesy Reuters)

If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 28, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Journalists and editors from Ming Pao hold up front pages of their newspaper during a protest against violence in Hong Kong February 27, 2014, after Wednesday's attack on their former chief editor Kevin Lau. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Journalists and editors from Ming Pao hold up front pages of their newspaper during a protest against violence in Hong Kong February 27, 2014, after Wednesday's attack on their former chief editor Kevin Lau. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Hong Kong editor attacked. Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Ming Pao Daily News, was slashed three times in his back and legs by an attacker and accomplice on a motorbike. The attack on Mr. Lau sparked protests and an offer of a one million Hong Kong dollar reward from Ming Pao for any information leading to the arrest of the attacker. Mr. Lau was the center of controversy last month when removed from his editorial role. Hong Kong journalist associations are concerned that Mr. Lau’s removal, alongside the firing of a radio talk show host, are encroachments upon press freedom. Read more »

Piekos and Tobias: China’s Place in ‘House of Cards’

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Cast member Kevin Spacey poses at the premiere for the second season of the television series "House of Cards" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters) Cast member Kevin Spacey poses at the premiere for the second season of the television series "House of Cards" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a program coordinator and Sharone Tobias is a research associate in the Council on Foreign Relation’s Asia Studies program.

Warning: This blog post contains spoilers for House of Cards.

Netflix’s original series House of Cards returned with a second season on Valentine’s Day this year. Read more »

Oil Security, China, and Taiwan

by Adam Segal
A soldier stands guard next to a Z-9WZ military helicopter designed and manufactured by China during a media visit at the military base of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Army Aviation 4th Helicopter Regiment, on the outskirts of Beijing, July 24, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) A soldier stands guard next to a Z-9WZ military helicopter designed and manufactured by China during a media visit at the military base of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Army Aviation 4th Helicopter Regiment, on the outskirts of Beijing, July 24, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

The news last week that China has passed the United States as the world’s largest net oil importer points to a number of significant geopolitical shifts that have been long in the making, including China’s increased diplomatic presence in the Middle East and its efforts to develop overland pipelines to energy sources in Central Asia. This transformation is also forcing us to rethink how an actual military conflict may unfold in East Asia, highlighting new vulnerabilities and strategies. Read more »

Will Piekos: China’s Inroads into Central Asia

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
(R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters). (R-L) Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, China's President Xi Jinping, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on September 13, 2013 (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a lengthy trip to Central Asia this past weekend that ended in a meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, Krgyzstan. On paper at least, the trip was a significant success for Beijing. Xi signed multiple economic and energy agreements with the former Soviet satellite states and showed regional security leadership through the SCO. The trip even included some attempts at soft power projection—Xi announced 30,000 government scholarships to students of SCO member states. With the United States withdrawing from Afghanistan, Central Asia is an area full of potential for Chinese investment and diplomacy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 6, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
An employee of a sushi restaurant takes a break as seafood stalls are seen at the Noryangjin fisheries wholesale market in Seoul on September 6, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters) An employee of a sushi restaurant takes a break as seafood stalls are seen at the Noryangjin fisheries wholesale market in Seoul on September 6, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Beijing goes to war against a former security tsar. Investigations of multiple senior executives at state-owned oil producer PetroChina seem to link back to a corruption case against domestic security tsar and former senior oil executive Zhou Yongkang. Zhou was in charge of the police and domestic security apparatus and was also a member of the Politburo’s standing committee until 2012. Zhou is not officially under investigation himself, though there are rumors that he is under house arrest. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 16, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji) Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally near Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong complex. After seven rounds of negotiations, the shuttered Kaesong complex, closed for months following a period of particularly high tensions, is set to be reopened, though there is no timetable yet. The complex was a major source of hard currency and jobs for North Korea until it was shut down, and it is one of the few symbols of cooperation between the two Koreas. The agreement includes a pledge from both sides to prevent any future shutdowns, an agreement to try to attract foreign companies to the complex, and permission for South Korean managers to use the Internet and mobile phones. Read more »

Aldrich, Platte, and Sklarew: What’s Ahead for Abe’s Energy Agenda?

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Workers check solar panels at a solar power field in Kawasaki, near Tokyo July 6, 2011. Workers check solar panels at a solar power field in Kawasaki, near Tokyo July 6, 2011 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a major victory in the Upper House election on July 21, and gained control of both houses of the Diet together with its coalition partner New Komeito. The LDP has been historically pro-nuclear and may push more strongly for nuclear power after the election. However, power sector reforms, renewable energy development, and uncertainty over plutonium use may dampen the LDP’s ability to push an overly pro-nuclear energy policy. Read more »