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Asia Unbound

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

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Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Let’s be clear, the United States won big this week, but not for the reasons most people think. The media and China analysts have focused overwhelmingly on the climate deal, touting the new commitments from both the United States and China as exceptional, even “historic.” But this is missing the forest for the trees. The real win for U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping China in the tent or, in political science speak, reinforcing Beijing’s commitment to the liberal international order. Read more »

China’s Soft “Nyet” to Russia’s Ukraine Intervention

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Sheila Smith.

Russia’s de facto assertion of military control in Ukraine’s Crimean region has put China in a bind. Moscow’s actions fly in the face of one of China’s longest held tenets of foreign policy: “no interference in the internal affairs of others.” Yet China is loathe to criticize publicly one of the few countries that never criticizes it. So what is Beijing to do?

Read more »

Robert S. Spalding III: Being Firm With China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Honour guard troops march during a welcoming ceremony for visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 6, 2013. (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters) Honour guard troops march during a welcoming ceremony for visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 6, 2013. (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters)

Robert S. Spalding III is a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Air Defense Identification Zone recently announced by the Chinese was most likely not hastily done. The Chinese do not do anything hastily. It is part of a return to preeminence for a nation that feels slighted by history. Assailed on all sides by invaders and conquerors, China has had to bide its time while it rebuilt its devastated economy. While still a work in progress, Beijing now feels sufficiently confident about the future to assert its military rise. It’s important to remember, however, when it comes to its military rise, China is not evil, nor is China good. China is merely pursuing its own national interests. Read more »

Korean Middle Power Diplomacy: The Establishment of MIKTA

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the flurry of diplomatic consultations that focused on Syria and Iran among other issues at the UN General Assembly, five countries that consider themselves as newly emerging middle powers and G-20 members have banded together in a little-noticed move to form a new consultative group and to create a new acronym: MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia). Read more »

Dagny Dukach: The Wary Partnership Between China and Russia

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 22, 2013. Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 22, 2013. (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters)

Dagny Dukach is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sino-Russian cooperation has grown considerably over the past few months, with the most notable example of this being China and Russia’s joint naval exercise in July. Against the backdrop of Obama’s pivot to Asia and rhetoric from Russian and Chinese leaders extolling their renewed cooperative spirit, some Western observers have suggested that improved relations between the two powers threaten U.S. interests. Read more »

Colonel Brian Killough: The Catch-22 of Modern Chinese Foreign Policy

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)

Colonel Brian Killough is the U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In Joseph Heller’s famous novel, Catch-22, the bombardier, John Yosserian, is caught in a situational paradox. Yosserian wants to be declared unfit for duty because he doesn’t want to fly in combat where he might be killed. But, by expressing his lack of desire, he shows himself to be sane and therefore among the most fit to fly in combat. Similarly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) finds itself today in a foreign policy paradox. Read more »

Re-Envisioning ASEAN

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. president Obama participates in a family photo of ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. U.S. president Obama participates in a family photo of ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of ASEAN’s disastrous year, which included open fissures in the organization over how to handle the South China Sea, spats between Cambodia and the Philippines, and the utter failure to play any role in helping resolve growing violence in western Myanmar, many commentators —including the current ASEAN secretary-general— have argued that the organization needs to change substantially over the next decade if it is to remain, as it hopes, at the center of East Asian integration. I took my own stab at proposing some far-reaching —some might say idealistic— goals for ASEAN to meet over the next twenty years. Many of the goals that I set out in the paper might seem far-reaching for an organization that has always moved slowly and prided itself on operating, Quaker-style, through consensus. And yet powerful voices within ASEAN, including inside the Secretariat, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam, do realize the organization needs to change substantially. Read more »

U.S.-ROK Security Consultative Meetings: A Review of Progress Under the Obama and Lee Administrations

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters) South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters)

U.S. secretary of defense Panetta and ROK minister of defense Kim Kwan-jin released a joint communique following the 44th annual Security Consultative Meetings (SCM) on Wednesday.  Since this meeting is an annual event that rotates between Washington and Seoul, I decided to compare this week’s communique with the one issued four years ago (at the end of the Bush administration) under Lee Myung-bak’s first defense minister Lee Sang-hee and his counterpart Robert Gates to provide a sense of how the relationship has developed during the stewardship of Presidents Lee and Obama.  Here are my takeaways: Read more »

Can China Lead?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters march down a street during an anti-Japan protest in Shenzhen on August 19, 2012. Protesters march down a street during an anti-Japan protest in Shenzhen on August 19, 2012. (Keita Van / Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I participated in a BBC/Carnegie Endowment debate on the U.S. presidential campaign and policy toward China with the eminent and estimable Ambassadors Chas W. Freeman, Jr. and J. Stapleton Roy, and Tsinghua University scholar Yan Xuetong.  The full debate is available here.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but what struck me most was an assertion by one of the panelists that the next U.S. president will have to deal with the fact that China has surpassed the United States as the number one power (based on the size of its economy). As a result, in his opinion, China will no longer feel the need to defer to the United States and the current arrangement of international institutions. Read more »

China as a Responsible Power: “Known by the Company You Keep”

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. (Sana Sana / Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a Research Associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On August 3, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for its human rights violations against opposition rebels. The West, the Arab League, and most other UN member states voted to censure Assad’s government, while China, Russia, and an array of authoritarian states—including North Korea, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran, Myanmar, and Cuba—voted against the resolution. Though China’s vote is not unexpected, it does little to enhance Beijing’s efforts to be considered a responsible power.       Read more »