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Asia Unbound

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Showing posts for "Environment"

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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China’s Role in Myanmar’s Dangerous Jade Trade

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jade-trade-11-2-15 A man checks the quality of a jade stone found in the mine dump piled by major mining companies at a jade mine in Hpakant township in Myanmar's Kachin State, January 10, 2010. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In late October, Global Witness released an important report that systematically explored Myanmar’s jade industry, calling it the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” The mining and trade of the gem have been catalogued by journalists, photographers, and authors in the past, but most accounts only mention China’s economic role in driving demand for jade. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 23, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Xi-and-queen-10-23-15 Chinese President Xi Jinping with Queen Elizabeth II at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, London, during the first day of his state visit to Britain. Tuesday October 20, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski/Reuters)

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

1. Xi Jinping visits the United Kingdom. Fresh off his trip to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an official visit to the UK, meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron. As with Xi’s U.S. trip, PRC propagandists have pulled no punches, airing warm and fuzzy videos explaining how good China-UK relations are and showing thousands of Chinese nationals “spontaneously” lining London’s streets to wave pro-China banners shipped in by the country’s UK embassy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-fires Residents carry water as they try to extinguish fires near their homes at Pal 7 village in Ogan Ilir district, Indonesia's South Sumatra province, September 3, 2015. (Nova Wahyudi/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Raging flames in Indonesia. Intense forest fires have been burning for the past few months on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, blanketing vast areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand with smoke. Annual but illegal slash-and-burn agricultural practices that spiraled out of control caused the blazes, now amounting to more than 1,000 fire clusters on the islands. Read more »

What’s New in the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters).

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker co-convened, with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of State Nirmala Sitharaman, the new U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD). India and the United States have been convening a strategic dialogue since 2010, so the change this year elevated discussion of economic and commercial issues to the cabinet level alongside the central matters of security and global diplomatic concerns. Read more »

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: An Opportunity for Niche Diplomacy by Middle-Power Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Brendan Howe is a professor at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of International Studies.

From September 25 to 27, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be attending the United Nations (UN) Development Summit in New York, where she will be giving the keynote address. Much of the summit will focus on the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDGs are a set of proposals that look to build on two high profile international governance agendas: [1] international development cooperation, dominated since 2000 by the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of 2015; and [2] twenty years of environmental cooperation since the landmark United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

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

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »

Challenges and Benefits of South Korea’s Middle Power Aspirations

by Scott A. Snyder
World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters) World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters)

South Koreans have been among the world’s early adopters in globalization over the past two decades, going from outpost to “node” by embracing networks, connectivity, and economic interdependence in startling fashion in a very short period of time. It has been commonplace for most South Koreans to think of themselves as a small country, buffeted by geostrategic factors beyond its control, consigned to its fate as a “shrimp among whales.” This narrative, generally speaking, conforms with the twentieth century historical experience on the Korean peninsula, which witnessed annexation, colonization, subjugation, and a moment of liberation, followed by division, war, and marginalization as an outpost of the Cold War. Outsider impressions of late twentieth century Korea tended to view Koreans as defensive, self-absorbed, xenophobic to varying degrees, and only capable of viewing the outside world through a distinctively “Korean” lens. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Environmental Health Crisis – Challenges and Politics

by Yanzhong Huang
Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters) Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After more than three decades of rapid industrialization and modernization, China is on the cusp of potentially becoming the world’s largest economy. Yet China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous costs on the environment and public health. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination—outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result, as shown in the recent viral documentary “Under the Dome,” has been an environmental health crisis that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications. The ascending popularity of the documentary, followed by its quick disappearance from all major websites in China, beget a series of questions on China’s environmental health crisis: What is the nature and magnitude of the crisis? What are its causes and consequences?  What is the response of the Chinese government to the crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? Read more »

A Chinese Environmental Call to Arms Goes Viral and Then Not

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube). Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube).

In late February, former CCTV reporter Chai Jing released a gripping video, called Under the Dome, on the sources and devastating impact of pollution in China on the environment and the health of the people. The video mixes hard facts, personal emotional appeals, and interviews with local officials to present a shocking portrait of the decades of environmental abuse that the Chinese people have suffered. Chai presents her talk TED Talk-style—strolling back and forth across the stage in front of a large, clearly captivated audience of Chinese young people. Read more »