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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 "Innovation"

Shazeda Ahmed: Saving Face in U.S.-China Space Relations

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
The sun is captured over Earth's horizon by one of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station on May 21, 2013 (NASA/Courtesy Reuters). The sun is captured over Earth's horizon by one of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station on May 21, 2013 (NASA/Courtesy Reuters).

Shazeda Ahmed is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In early- to mid-October, NASA came under fire for allegations of prejudice against Chinese scientists. Prominent scientists in the United States and Chinese netizens harshly criticized what they understood as NASA’s choice to bar Chinese scientists from attending an upcoming conference on the Kepler space telescope. Instead, it emerged that the agency was simply complying with a Congressional ban on using federal funds to collaborate with “China or any Chinese-owned companies.” Read more »

The United States Is Quietly Losing Its Innovation Edge to China

by Yanzhong Huang
A newly-made fuel-efficient vehicle travels along a street inside the Hunan University during a test drive in Changsha, Hunan province October 8, 2013. A newly-made fuel-efficient vehicle travels along a street inside the Hunan University during a test drive in Changsha, Hunan province October 8, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

I am not a supporter of the faddish idea that America is in decline. Despite all the hullabaloo about the rise of China, the United States still boasts the most formidable military force and the largest, most innovative economy. But as a student of international studies, I am keenly aware that the rise and fall of great nations are often associated with significant historical events. It is hard to deny that the 2008 financial crisis exposed the Achilles’ heel in our economy and accerlated the shift of international power balance. This month, the self-inflicted U.S. government shutdown highlighted the partisanship and immobilism in our political system and undermined our ability to engage with the outside world.  China for example lost no time in questioning U.S. global leadership, urging all the emerging countries to consider building of a “de-Americanized world.” At the same time, an OECD report forecasted that China will overtake the United States in 2016 to become the world’s largest economy. 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 »

Big Data: An Interview with Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal
Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (Courtesy Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin) Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (Courtesy Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin)

Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, authors of the new book Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, published last month, answered several questions on big data, foreign policy, and China. Questions by Sharone Tobias. Read more »

Giant Sucking Sound: China and IPR Theft

by Adam Segal

Water Vortex. (Courtesy Creative Commons)

That phrase is of course associated with presidential candidate Ross Perot and what he believed would be the massive loss of jobs to Mexico after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now it may best summarize the emerging view of congressional leaders about China and intellectual property.

Last week, in his opening statement, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers called out Chinese economic cyber espionage: “A massive and sustained intelligence effort by a government to blatantly steal commercial data and intellectual property.”  As Ellen Nakashima pointed out in the Washington Post, that Chinese hackers are behind the massive theft of intellectual property is widely assumed. People just don’t say it so directly very often.

At almost the same time, Senator Jim Webb was introducing legislation that is supposed to stop the transfer of technology funded by the U.S.  government to China and other countries that “by law, practice, or policy require proprietary technology transfers as a matter of doing business.”  These transfers, in Webb’s view, “clearly and unequivocally place the competitive advantage of the American economy at risk.” In his statement, Webb offered the specific examples of Westinghouse and third generation nuclear reactors; General Electric and avionics; and Ford and electric vehicles.

Read more »

Can India and America Up Their Investment Game?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum
Commuters on a suburban train during the morning rush hour in Mumbai.

Commuters on a suburban train during the morning rush hour in Mumbai.Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters.

My latest column is out in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard. I used this month’s column to talk a bit about structural impediments hindering U.S. investment in India. These challenges will grow if, as many economists suspect, India’s growth continues to slow from its restored post-crisis clip of 8 to 9 percent a year to something more on the order of 7 to 7.5 percent. And in that context, it’s worth noting that Indian stocks have just completed their worst quarter since 2008. And of course food price inflation remains as stubborn as ever.

Here’s my argument, which reflects in part a perspective from my new perch in Chicago rather than Washington, DC:

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New Questions about Chinese Innovation

by Adam Segal

Rorschach Ink Blot Test. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

John Kao has a six-part series over at CNN GPS on China as an innovation nation.  Just back from a study trip, Kao is a little breathless in his admiration of Chinese policymakers’ embrace of innovation.  At least in my view, he doesn’t add very much to the debate about how innovative the country truly is.  In fact, he seems pretty torn himself since he sees China’s ambitious planning and government intervention as great both a strength and a major pothole.  The whole series is a kind of Rorschach test: those already skeptical will find further evidence of weakness in the Chinese system, those sure of China’s rise will find some new awe-inspiring stories.

As one of the skeptical voices, I began amassing new evidence of what I call the weakness in the software of innovation—the social, political, and cultural institutions and understandings that help move ideas from lab to marketplace.  But I’ve begun to wonder how useful that is.  Sure, there have been some good stories out the last two weeks which suggest that the process of building an innovation system will be slow and uneven—60 percent of state R&D funds are lost to corruption; the president of China Agricultural University accused of plagiarism; and an outspoken neuroscientist rejected from the Chinese Academy of Sciences—but this back and forth must be getting a little stale.  Perhaps we can all agree that there are major weaknesses embedded in apparent strengths and that trends are clearer than outcomes.

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My Kind of Town

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

The Chicago skyline in fog caused by extreme cold temperatures of -21 degrees. Courtesy Reuters.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve had a day job at Eurasia Group, a global political risk consulting firm. And they’ll know, too, that I’ve sometimes blogged or talked about the firm’s work, including what my time there has taught me about the relationship between politics and markets in Asia and around the world. For a guy with a background principally in foreign and national security policy, intensive exposure to the markets—and to financial market participants—has been a great experience. But today is my last day at Eurasia Group. I’ll remain an adjunct senior fellow at CFR and will, of course, continue blogging here at Asia Unbound. But I’m taking up a new job as the first executive director of the Paulson Institute, an independent center, located at the University of Chicago, established by former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson. The institute will promote economic activity and cross-investment, leading to the creation of jobs, as well as encourage progress in environmental protection and the development of alternative sources of clean energy. Its aim is to promote sustainable economic growth and a cleaner environment around the world, focusing initially on concrete actions by businesses and governments in the United States and China—the world’s two largest economies and energy consumers. I’m readying myself for a steady diet of Cubs games, Bears tailgates, and a very cold winter. And I’m looking forward to continued interchange with readers of Asia Unbound.

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China’s Great Rebalancing Act

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A resident cycles past the Wumen Gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Reuters/Jason Lee.

As Vice President Biden meets with Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders this week, his number one economic talking point is almost certain to be about “rebalancing.”  Nearly all of Washington’s principal economic concerns, from currency valuation to Chinese industrial policy, touch this central issue.  But, quite frankly, rebalancing is not just an American goal.  It is, too, a Chinese objective because Beijing’s existing growth model—predicated on the two pillars of exports and capital-intensive investment—is delivering diminishing returns, and China’s savvy leaders know it.

A major new report from Eurasia Group, China Great Rebalancing Act, explains why.

First, a little truth in advertising:  I’m the head of the Asia practice group at Eurasia Group, so I helped write the report.  But our team’s report is well worth reading because it provides a very comprehensive overview of the forces and dynamics shaping the future of China’s political economy.

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Who Will Win as China’s Economy Changes?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A worker stands inside the shell of a wind turbine tower in the assembly workshop of the Guodian United Power Technology Company in Baoding, China. Courtesy Reuters/David Gray.

My latest “DC Diary” column in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard, focuses on Asia’s new geography of manufacturing:

China has unsettled its neighbors with naval displays and diplomatic spats. But could erstwhile Asian strategic rivals end up as big winners from China’s economic success?

In one sense, at least, Asian economies are already winning from Chinese growth: slack global demand has meant that China increasingly powers the growth of nearly every major economy in Asia.

But the question increasingly matters in another sense, as well: Chinese leaders are committed to rebalancing at least some elements of their country’s economy. And while that, in time, will mean a more competitive and powerful China, it will also create new opportunities for those countries in Asia that get manufacturing and investment policies right.

Read more »