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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 "Regional Architecture"

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 »

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) 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 Future of U.S. Statecraft in Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur December 13, 2012. Seen in the background is a display of traditional Malay "songket" fabric. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 13, 2012. Seen in the background is a display of traditional Malay "songket" fabric. (Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters)

“The lion’s share of the history of the 21st century is going to play out in Asia,” states Kurt Campbell, the former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, on this week’s Asia Unbound podcast. Asia is now the top market for U.S. exports and home to 60 percent of the world’s top arms importers.

Read more »

Bilateral Mishap: A View From Nepal

by Guest blogger for Alyssa Ayres
A notice is displayed outside of a restaurant in Nepal as the fuel crisis continues in October 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters). A notice is displayed outside of a restaurant in Nepal as the fuel crisis continues in October 2015 (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters).

Sujeev Shakya is the author of Unleashing Nepal and chairs the Nepal Economic Forum. www.sujeevshakya.com 

India has a lot to do to rebuild its relationship with Nepal.

Nepali Prime Minister K. P. Oli visits India this week with a jumbo delegation at a time when Nepal-India ties have plunged to their lowest point in recent history. India had just shored up its image in Nepal with two successful visits of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August and November of 2014, followed by unprecedented support in the relief and rescue efforts after the April 2015 earthquake. But the warmth chilled by September 2015, with the announcement of a new constitution in Nepal and an “informal” blockade on trucks heading across India’s border with Nepal. Read more »

The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2015

by Alyssa Ayres
Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters). Afghans listen to a radio broadcast run by the Islamic State militants, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 19, 2015. Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan have taken to the airwaves to win recruits as they try to build strength and replace the Taliban as the leading force in the Islamist insurgency. Officials have been increasingly concerned by the broadcasts, which encourage young people to find a sense of direction in the radical movement (Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters).

Each of the past two years, I’ve done a roundup of the developments and stories that mattered the most in South Asia. In 2014, India’s historic national election and the coming together of Afghanistan’s hard-won unity government topped my list. The year before, Indian women’s political activism, and Nawaz Sharif’s election in Pakistan’s first transfer of power from one civilian to another, were my top two picks. Looking back at those posts compared with the ten events I’ve selected for 2015, this year suggests a markedly less hopeful mood. The most chilling development has been the steady trickle of reports about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its presence in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, border areas of Pakistan, and possibly in Bangladesh. Other developments in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives present a mixed picture of both progress and setbacks. Here is my selection of 2015’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

Korea and the AIIB

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Korea China Investment Forum at a hotel in Seoul on July 4, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the Korea China Investment Forum at a hotel in Seoul on July 4, 2014. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

Min Hyung Kang is a former intern for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

South Korea’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member reminded observers of Korea’s place as a middle power caught between great powers. Korea’s interest in joining the AIIB is indicative of improving Korea-China relations, one of the determinants for security of the Korean peninsula. However, to the United States, South Korea’s strongest ally, Korea’s involvement in the AIIB may not be very pleasing especially when the AIIB seems like a mechanism designed to oppose U.S. influence in Asia. It seems that Korea is at a critical moment that may either extensively benefit or severely undermine its national interest. Read more »

The AIIB Debacle: What Washington Should Do Now

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L) gives a speech with the guests of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Pool (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS) China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei (L) gives a speech with the guests of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 24, 2014 (Takaki Yajima/Courtesy of Reuters).

It is time for Washington to take a step back and regroup. Its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) strategy, ill-considered from the get-go, has now taken a major hit with the announcement this past week by the United Kingdom that it plans to join the Chinese-led AIIB. Washington’s concerns over the AIIB are well-established: the competition the AIIB poses to pre-existing development institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank; concern over the potential for weak environmental standards and social safeguards within the AIIB; and the opportunity for China to use AIIB-financed infrastructure for greater leverage in the region. Read more »

Podcast: The United States, China, and the Asia Pacific

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) Troops watch U.S. President Barack Obama talk to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, on November 17, 2011 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

This past week, renowned China scholars Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson from the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney visited the Council on Foreign Relations to share their views on emerging political and security dynamics in the Asia Pacific and U.S-China relations. Australia is a U.S. ally, a major trading partner of China, and a regional leader in its own right; and Bates and Linda’s remarks reminded me once again how important it is to seek perspectives outside those of the United States and China. Listen to this podcast for a “to-the-point” discussion of how Australia views the U.S. pivot, what U.S. analysts are missing in their thinking about the current state of Asian regional politics, and what major changes we should expect in the region over the next five years. Read more »

What President Obama Should Bring to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague March 24 2014. Obama began crisis talks with his European allies on Monday after Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea, effectively yielding the region to Russian forces which stormed one of Kiev's last bases there. Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7 - a group of industrialised nations that excludes Russia, which joined in 1998 to form the G8. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague on March 24 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a world of foreign policy resets, rethinks, and redoes, U.S. President Barack Obama’s China strategy is right on track. The Asia pivot or rebalance makes core U.S. interests—freedom of trade and investment, freedom of navigation, and human rights—clear to Beijing in an effective and compelling manner. And within this framework, the United States has engaged China on multiple fronts, including expanding the military-to-military relationship, restarting talks on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and supporting all manner of capacity building in the legal, environmental, and public health arenas. Read more »

Northeast Asian Security Architecture: Lessons from European History

by Scott A. Snyder
William Alberque, Cho Nam Hoon, Morimoto Satoshi, Pan Zhenqiang, and Scott Snyder participate in a panel at the conference, "Northeast Asia Peace and Security Initiative and the European Experience of CSBM," co-hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Lars Erik Lundin, William Alberque, Cho Nam Hoon, Morimoto Satoshi, Pan Zhenqiang, and Scott Snyder participate in a panel at the conference, "Northeast Asia Peace and Security Initiative and the European Experience of CSBM," co-hosted by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Courtesy: Darcie Draudt).

Henry Kissinger offered a sobering observation last February in Munich when he suggested that the uptick in geopolitical rivalry between China and Japan reminded him of nineteenth century Europe. Mindful of the negative consequences of such a conflict for his own country, South Korea’s foreign minister Yun Byung-se referenced Kissinger’s observation in the opening to his own speech last week at a conference in Seoul, co-sponsored by the Asan Institute and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The conference explicitly sought lessons from Europe’s past experience with establishment of Confidence and Security Building Mechanisms (CSBMs) for Park Geun-hye’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), a proposal to institutionalize a process for promoting multilateral cooperation that Park is promoting as a solution to the severe distrust in the region. Read more »