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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 "History"

Podcast: China’s Unlikely Partners on the Road to Reform

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Unlikely-Partners-edit Cover: Harvard University Press

Over the past forty years, the Chinese economy has undergone a striking transformation. In 1976, in the wake of Mao’s death and the Cultural Revolution, planned production and fixed pricing stifled market forces. Today, thriving capitalism vies for dominance with the socialist tenets of China’s past. What forces, and which individuals, brought about such a dramatic evolution? Read more »

Podcast: A Great Place to Have a War

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva A Buddhist monk poses on September 3, 2016, next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang in Laos. The United States dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos in the course of the war. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

While Vietnam and Cambodia loom large in American memories of the Vietnam War, neighboring Laos recedes into the background. But during the 1960s and 1970s, the tiny, landlocked nation was the site of the CIA’s transformation from a loosely organized spy agency to a powerful paramilitary organization. Read more »

Samsung Scandal, Chinese Coal, Islamic State in Asia, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
jay-lee-samsung Chief of Samsung Group Lee Jae-yong is surrounded by media as he arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Sprawling influence-peddling scandal spreads to Samsung leadership. Last week, the de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, faced a twenty-two-hour interrogation regarding allegations that Samsung paid, and promised to pay, a total of 43 billion won (roughly $36.4 million) in bribes to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the government-controlled National Pension Service’s support of a contentious 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Read more »

Podcast: In China, What’s New and What’s Old?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
confucius-umbrellas Students holding umbrellas walk past a statue of Confucius after the morning session on the second day of the National College Entrance Exams in Wuhan, Hubei province, on June 8, 2009. (Stringer/Reuters)

According to Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, and editor of the recently published Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China, China is a place that lends itself to misconceptions. With shifting borders, crisscrossing cultural traditions, and a winding history of more than 5,000 years, it is easy for outside observers to oversimplify the country’s ongoing evolution. Read more »

Podcast: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. and Japan Self-Defence Force's soldiers listen a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visits at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, enroute to Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria U.S. and Japan Self-Defence Force's soldiers listen a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, enroute to Hiroshima, Japan on May 27, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Harvard Professor Joseph Nye once said that “security is like oxygen: you do not tend to notice it until you begin to lose it.” Alliances also often function like oxygen, with the security and stability they provide going underappreciated argues Victor Cha, the director of Asian studies and D.S. Song-Korea Foundation professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University. Read more »

Podcast: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters A rally held in North Korea’s Kim Il Sung square in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang (KCNA/via Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Robert Boynton, the author of The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project, takes us inside Pyongyang’s strange and sinister program to recruit spies and language teachers by seizing foreign nationals. More than a dozen Japanese citizens vanished from coastal cities without a trace in the 1970s and 1980s. Read more »

Securing Strategic Buffer Space: Case Studies and Implications for U.S. Global Strategy

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
A world map from 1507 world map by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller is pictured in this handout image from the Library of Congress. The map shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the southern continent, a clearly-lettered name: "America", the first known recorded instance of the use of the name. The Library of Congress acquired the 1507 map in 2003 for $10 million. (Reuters/Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress/Handout)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A series of geopolitical fault lines are coming apart today. There is a hybrid conflict in Ukraine, an arc of destruction from the Levant to Iraq, rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, and instability in the southern Caucasus, just to name a few. What these conflicts have in common is that they are taking place in strategic buffer zones, physical spaces caught between competing regional powers. To address these problems by drawing lessons from the past, my paper for the Center for the National Interest, completed in September and published in October, examines four major cases of strategic buffer space conflicts: the Belgian crisis of 1830-1831, Byzantine-Sassanid and Ottoman-Safavid wars, China-Japan-Russia competition over Korea during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the Balkan powder keg that led to World War I. A brief summary of the four case studies can be found in The National Interest. Read more »

Podcast: The Changing Face of Myanmar

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Porters wait for business in an older part of Yangon December 3, 2011. Hours after Hillary Clinton finished the first visit in more than half a century by a U.S. Secretary of State to Myanmar, property prices began to soar. The price hike reflects shoots of optimism among investors sizing up the resource-rich, former British colony following the most dramatic changes since the military took power in what was then known as Burma in a 1962 coup. To match Insight MYANMAR-INVESTMENT/ REUTERS/Damir Sagolj Porters wait for business in an older part of Yangon. Property prices in the city increased dramatically following Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar in 2011, with the price hike reflecting shoots of optimism among investors about the opening of the resource-rich, former British colony. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Richard Cockett, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the Economist and author of Blood, Dreams and Gold: The Changing Face of Burma, weaves a vivid narrative of Myanmar’s colonial past and its legacy for the nation today. As he brings to life the tumultuous history of Southeast Asia’s newest democracy, Cockett highlights the role of the “plural society,” a mercantilist jumble of ethnicities brought together under British rule to exploit local resources. Read more »

North Korea: Ten Years After the First Nuclear Test

by Scott A. Snyder
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters)

A decade has passed since North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon, on October 9, 2006. It conducted its fifth nuclear test last September, and there are rumors that a sixth will come within weeks or months. The United States has tried to both negotiate with and sanction North Korea while strengthening deterrence with South Korea and conducting shows of force to underscore the U.S. commitment to South Korean defense, but these measures have not halted, much less reversed, North Korea’s nuclear program. Read more »

Japan-South Korea Relations in 2016: A Return to the Old Normal

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The first nine months of 2016 have been very good for Japan-South Korea relations. In addition to the conclusion of the comfort women agreement at the end of December 2015, the two countries have reached several other bilateral economic and security agreements. This progress and the routinization of Cabinet-level exchanges since last year make clear that their relationship has bottomed out and that pragmatic considerations are prevailing over ideological or political concerns. Credit for that progress goes to constituencies in each country committed to rebuilding the bilateral relationship. Trends in the geopolitical environment have also underscored the advantages of cooperation—and the very real costs of a failure to do so. Read more »