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Asia Unbound

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

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Chinese Ivory, Google in India, Philippine Jailbreak, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
china-ivory-ban A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on January 6, 2014. (Alex Lee/Reuters)

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

1. The world reacts to China’s ivory ban. Following a resolution at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in South Africa in October, the Chinese State Council last Friday announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the close of 2017. China currently sustains roughly 70 percent of the world’s ivory market, where the coveted material can cost upwards of $1,000 per kilogram. Read more »

Why Young Democracies Fear YouTube

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A man looks at YouTube at an Internet cafe in Yangon, Myanmar. A man looks at YouTube at an Internet cafe in Yangon, Myanmar (Soe Zeya/Courtesy Reuters).

In the Washington Post  yesterday, Craig Timberg and Paula Moura described the recent jailing of a top Google executive in Brazil, and explored the broader trend of so-called democracies’ attempts to restrict Internet freedom. While China’s construction of the “Great Firewall” and Iran’s internet blackouts tend to grab headlines, democracies around the word are allthewhile taking their own measures to block content. Read more »

Google, Thailand, and the 2012 Transparency Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, criticism of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pictured in Bangkok June 9, 2012) and the royal family is prohibited. Under Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, criticism of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (pictured in Bangkok June 9, 2012) and the royal family is prohibited (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported on in Siam Voices this week, Google has released its 2012 Transparency Report, which chronicles requests that Google receives, mostly from governments, to block material online. As Lisa Gardner notes on Siam Voices, “Google bucked international trends in 2011 by blocking access to hundreds of web pages at the behest of the Thai Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology [MICT].” One part of the report shows that Google has restricted or partly restricted at least 149 YouTube videos that the Thai government claimed was insulting to the monarchy. Unlike in many other countries, where Google supposedly makes its decisions to take down material after a local court issues an order (not that courts are infallible, but at least there is a court order), in Thailand it took down material even without court orders being issued, simply at the request of the authorities. Read more »

WikiLeaks, Google, and the Politburo

by Adam Segal

There are a good number of cables about China in State Department documents just released by WikiLeaks.  China is the fifth most often mentioned country, with 8320 records, trailing Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Israel.  There are almost 4000 cables from the U.S Embasssy in Beijing, about the same from the American Institute in Taiwan, and slightly more from the U.S Embassy in Tokyo. Read more »

Simmering Technology Tensions

by Adam Segal

Photo courtesy of flickr/Chrystian Guy

While much of the sturm and drang of the “big” issues in U.S.-China relations–Tibet, North Korea, Iran, and RMB revaluation among others–seems to have dissipated in the intense summer heat wave we have been enjoying here on the East Coast, a number of conflicts over technology continue to bubble along.

Read more »

Race between Innovation and Security

by Adam Segal

With Rob Knake, I have a new piece up on Yale Global Online about the race between innovation and security.

We use the hacking of Google not to focus on human rights or cyberwar, but rather to show a growing tension between a globalized model of innovation, based on ever-quickening times to market and geographically disbursed R&D and manufacturing, and the need for greater reliability and security. In the end, we come to a slightly heretical conclusion: if we want greater security, we probably have to sacrifice the pace of innovation. Read more »

The U.S. and China Have at it Again; but it’s much ado about nothing

by Elizabeth C. Economy

Everyone is in a tizzy over the supposed downturn in U.S.-China relations. (See here, here, and here.) The rhetoric is heating up on both sides, and new issues of contention appear to pop up daily. Our disputes over Copenhagen, Google, Taiwan arms sales, the Dalai Lama and Iran are all front page headlines. Are we indeed headed for an open rift in the relationship that could imperil future cooperation on a range of important, pressing global matters? Read more »

The Chinese Internet Century

by Adam Segal

My reaction to Secretary of State Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, “The Chinese Internet Century,” is now up.  While Clinton’s call for an open, global Internet was both stirring and the right thing to do, we have to start planning for a world where China and others shape their own cyberspaces to meet economic, political, and strategic interests. Go read the whole thing at Read more »

Looking Back: Human Rights in 2009

by Joshua Kurlantzick

Although it was buried amidst the past month’s news of the global financial crisis and Barack Obama’s struggles to maintain any political momentum, the global monitoring group Freedom House released its annual Freedom in the World outlook, which assesses the state of political and civil liberties in each country. For the fourth year in a row, global freedom declined, which Freedom House said was the longest continuous decline in the nearly forty years it has been producing the report. (Disclosure: I participated in some of the Freedom House assessments of countries in Southeast Asia.) Indeed, 2009 was one of the worst years in recent memory for human rights activists, with crackdowns on prominent figures from Liu Xiaobo to Shirin Ebadi, whose Nobel Peace Prize was seized by the Iranian government. (Talk about spite!) Read more »