CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Global Order"

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 »

China’s Olympic Debate

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's Feng Zhe, the eventual gold medal winner, reacts after competing in the men's gymnastics parallel bars final during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 7, 2012. China's Feng Zhe, the eventual gold medal winner, reacts after competing in the men's gymnastics parallel bars final during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 7, 2012. (Brian Snyder / Courtesy Reuters)

The Chinese stand second in the Olympic medals table—both in gold and overall—but you would never know it from what’s going on in their media. Of course, there is celebration of the country’s athletes. Yet the flawless performances of the Chinese divers and spectacular achievements of the Chinese male gymnasts are in danger of being drowned out by a torrent of commentary focused on what the games mean for China as a society and for its place in the world.  Some of the commentary is lamenting, some angry, and still other searching.

Read more »

What Can the East Asia Summit Do for Northeast Asia?

by Scott A. Snyder
Leaders walk during dinner at the East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua, Bali

Leaders walk during dinner at the East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua, Bali November 18, 2011 (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters).

Although this weekend’s East Asia Summit (EAS) is the sixth in the series, it will be part of American awareness for the first time as a result of America’s decision to join the group (with Russia) and President Obama’s first-time participation. In some respects, it will be a new start for the organization. EAS priorities do appear to have been reshuffled as a result of American membership away from economics and toward three main issues that mesh well with American priorities: disaster relief, nonproliferation, and maritime security. While the United States has reportedly been careful not to usurp leadership within the EAS, ASEAN thus far seems very responsive to American priorities. However, Korea University’s Lee Shin-wha argues in this month’s Korea Update essay that there is a deep disconnect between East Asian summitry and Northeast Asian security needs that is likely to remain. The sixth EAS may feel like a new start, but there is a long way to go in establishing effective regional-based solutions to acute and longstanding security problems such as the standoff on the Korean peninsula. Read more »

Obama to Asia: It’s Our Party

by Elizabeth C. Economy
World leaders arrive to take family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011.

World leaders arrive to take family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011. (Larry Downing / Courtesy of Reuters)

President Obama is having a good week. He held court in Hawaii at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, pushed through a reduction on tariffs for environmental goods, and gained steam on what has become his signature regional free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with interest from Japan, Canada, and Mexico. On to Australia, President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard agreed to enhance joint military training and provide the United States with access to Australian bases. Score two for the president. His last stop will be Bali for the East Asian Summit. For a home run, the president need only let Washington’s allies take the lead in setting the agenda—thereby allaying quietly-voiced concerns among some of the smaller Asian nations that the United States would try to control the agenda—and reaffirm the willingness of the United States to support its partners’ interests.

For many observers, President Obama’s trip represents a “return to Asia.” The truth is that the United States never left Asia; it was just focused elsewhere in the region. Mostly, Washington was busy banging its head against the wall trying to find ways to work constructively with China (translation: get the Chinese to change their economic, political, and security policies) and to persuade North Korea to step back from the nuclear brink. Suffice it to say that neither effort yielded a significant return. The president and his team have now realized that it is much more substantively productive and politically profitable to spend time with people whose overall political values, economic practices, and strategic interests are generally aligned with those of the United States—namely all the important players in the region except for China.

Beijing’s reaction to President Obama’s initiatives in the region, unsurprisingly, has been one of deep unhappiness. Read more »

The United States in the New Asia … Revisited

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

For the next several days, President Obama is hosting leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region in Hawaii for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. So this seemed like a good time to repost a Council on Foreign Relations special report on Asian regionalism that I co-wrote with my colleague, Bob Manning, in the run up to the 2009 meeting.

Our report, The United States in the New Asia, is two years old. But in my view, it’s still deeply relevant.

You can download the report here.

Some good things have happened since we wrote our paper in 2009. For one, the United States has joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and that is a decidedly good thing. There isn’t likely to be a successful Doha Round nor is another global trade round likely anytime soon. So TPP can fill in some of the gaps between global trade liberalization and bilateral and regional agreements. The United States has also—finally—completed the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

And yet the larger questions Bob and I raised about the United States and Asian regionalism remain important and mostly unanswered.

Read more »

China Games the G20, but to What End?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes China's President Hu Jintao at the G20 venue where world leaders gather in Cannes on November 2, 2011.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomes China's President Hu Jintao at the G20 venue where world leaders gather in Cannes on November 2, 2011. (Yves Herman / Courtesy of Reuters)

One of the big stories playing out at the G20 in Cannes is “will it or won’t it?” Namely, will China meet the European request to help bailout the euro to the tune of $140 billion or will it take a pass? While China holds out on its answer—either for maximal political advantage or because it really isn’t sure what it wants to do—the drama is mounting.

Analysts and the media are consumed with the prospect of what China will ask for in return—if it decides to help.  Will China be able to parlay its economic support into some political concessions? Some observers have suggested that European leaders will back down on visits with the Dalai Lama—always a sticking point with the Chinese—or not pressing the Chinese on human rights. An editorial in China’s nationalist Global Times argues that, in return for China’s cash, the EU should further open their markets to China and finally admit that it is a market economy. Maybe it will be as straightforward as the G20 not issuing a joint leader statement singling out China as needing more flexibility in its currency to help ease global trade and investment balances, as a draft statement indicated. While the latter might be a feasible trade-off, a simple look at the realities of democratic politics in Europe provides the answer to the issue of a broader quid pro quo. Read more »