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Asia Unbound

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

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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 »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 16, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
delhi-mosquito-net A boy covered with a mosquito net sleeps in a cot on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2016. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

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

1. Delhi battles major chikungunya outbreak. Over 1,000 people have fallen ill and at least twelve have died due to a major outbreak of chikungunya in Delhi. Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus similar to Zika and dengue, is typically not fatal, but can cause debilitating joint pain along with fever, fatigue, and nausea. Health minister J. P. Nadda has assured the Indian public that chikungunya did not cause the fatalities, but rather exacerbated deadly illnesses that were already ailing the elderly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of July 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Xi-Putin-meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China and Russia to hold “routine” naval exercises in the South China Sea. China’s Ministry of National Defense announced on Thursday that China and Russia have scheduled cooperative naval exercises in the South China Sea for September. While China also stated that the naval exercises will be aimed at strengthening Russian-Chinese cooperation and are not directed at any other country, the announcement comes at a time of intensified strain between China and other Asian nations due to rival claims in the South China Sea. Read more »

Podcast: How State Capitalism is Transforming the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy
State-Capitalism-Kurlantzick

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR’s senior fellow for Southeast Asia, about his new book, State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World. Kurlantzick explains that although state capitalism has been around for more than two decades, it has entered a new era of popularity. Read more »

What “One Belt, One Road” Could Mean for China’s Regional Security Approach

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A Chinese flag marking a railway linked to China is seen in front of a train at the Khorgos border crossing point, east of the country's biggest city and commercial hub Almaty, Kazakhstan, October 19, 2015. Kazakhstan wants to establish itself as a major trading hub between China and Europe and get a share of a $600 billion market, but it will have to end tough, often time-wasting, regulations that hurt its reputation as a cross-border trading partner. Picture taken October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov A Chinese flag marking a railway linked to China is seen in front of a train at the Khorgos border crossing point, east of the country's biggest city and commercial hub Almaty, Kazakhstan, October 19, 2015. Kazakhstan wants to establish itself as a major trading hub between China and Europe. The nation is also a key counterterrorism partner for China. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In November, when the Islamic State group executed Chinese hostage Fan Jinghui, a Chinese advertising consultant and self-identified “wanderer,” Chinese netizens quickly vented their frustration over the government’s limited response. One Weibo user wrote, “It’s time for China as a big power to stand up and act.” Although Chinese censors temporarily blocked keywords such as “hostage” and “IS,” the burst of online sentiment raised questions about how the Chinese government would react to the mounting threat posed by terrorism both abroad and within its borders. In particular, would the specter of the Islamic State lead China to change its regional security strategy as it expands its trade and investment presence under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative?

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 28, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
china-stock-plunge An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information of Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index at a brokerage house in Beijing, August 26, 2015. Asian shares struggled on Wednesday as investors feared fresh rate cuts in China would not be enough to stabilize its slowing economy or halt a stock collapse that is wreaking havoc in global markets. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. China’s stock plunge. Chinese stocks plunged this week, with the Shanghai Composite Index falling 22 percent between August 19 and August 24. The market’s drop on what was deemed “Black Monday” erased the gains made over the past year. Until June, the Shanghai Composite Index had risen nearly 150 percent in one year and state media had assured that this was just the start of a bull market. The Chinese market’s tumble rattled stock markets around the world. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 15, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A woman holds a picture of Pope Francis while waiting for his arrival for the Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup stadium in Daejeon August 15, 2014. Pope Francis on Friday commemorated the more than 300 people killed in a ferry disaster in April, and called on South Koreans, among Asia's richest people, to beware of the spiritual "cancer" that often accompanies affluent societies. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man/Pool (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS) A woman holds a picture of Pope Francis while waiting for his arrival for the Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup stadium in Daejeon on August 15, 2014. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Pope Francis draws thousands on his first trip to Asia. Pope Francis visited South Korea this week, marking the first visit by a pope to Asia in fifteen years. Though the pope will not visit other countries in Asia, a spokesperson said that he is there “to address the entire continent, not just Korea,” and he will also travel to the Philippines and Sri Lanka next year. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 6, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters). Tens of thousands of people take part in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park on June 4, 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Bobby Yip/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Thousands protest on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tiananmen Square; mainland China ramps up security. Much of the world commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Police presence shot up in Beijing and other major Chinese cities for the anniversary, and many websites, including LinkedIn, censored all mention of the incident. In Hong Kong, where freedom of speech is more protected, approximately 180,000 people converged in Victoria Park, lighting candles and chanting slogans. The White House officially commemorated the anniversary, leaving China “strongly dissatisfied.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 23, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters). Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after a military coup was declared in Bangkok on May 22, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Tumultuous times for Thailand. On Thursday, Thailand’s army chief general Prayuth Chan-ocha declared a military coup, just two days after martial law was instated. The coup d’etat is the latest development in six months of political instability and protests, and follows the May 7 dismissal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. General Chan-ocha has assumed the role until new elections are held. Although Yingluck was elected by popular vote, the Thai establishment (defenders of the monarchy) has historically found ways to invalidate the ballot box when a rival comes into power. Violence between the pro-government “Red Shirts” and anti-government “Yellow Shirts,” with the military now in the mix, is a looming possibility. Read more »

Is Washington Getting China Policy Wrong?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It would be easy to think that U.S. policy toward China has gone off the rails. Washington is at odds with Beijing in the East and South China Seas; accusations of cyber espionage are flying across the Pacific; and Beijing is signing big oil and gas deals and talking about shared security concerns with Moscow, even as the United States is trying to coordinate sanctions against Russia for its crisis-inducing behavior in Ukraine. Read more »