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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 "Southeast Asia"

Allegations Against Prime Minister Najib Raise the Political Temperature in Malaysia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Workmen are pictured on site at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2015. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak slammed a report that said close to $700 million was wired to his personal account from banks, government agencies and companies linked to the debt-laden state fund 1MDB, claiming this was a "continuation of political sabotage." Picture taken March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris Workmen are pictured on site at the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 1, 2015 (Olivia Harris/Reuters).

The past week has almost surely been the most challenging of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak’s career. Late last week both the Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report, an investigative reporting website about Malaysia, reported that a group of companies linked to debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysian Development Bhd. (1MDB) had made deposits into Najib’s bank accounts. The WSJ further alleged that the biggest deposit into Najib’s account was worth $620 million, and that one of the other deposits was worth over $60 million. Read more »

Jokowi Struggles to Find an Economic Policy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Indonesia-rupiah A teller holds a stack of Indonesian Rupiah inside a money changer in Jakarta on June 4, 2015. (Nyimas Laula/Reuters)

News this week that Bank Indonesia will prohibit foreign currencies from being used in domestic transactions in Indonesia further added to analysts’ and investors’ concerns about the country’s fragile economy, and about the economic strategy of President Joko Widodo. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the law prohibiting the use of foreign currency in settling domestic transactions was actually passed years ago, but like many Indonesian laws it was not put into practice for years—until now. Read more »

Who Else Will Join the TPP?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
kerry-TPP U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a trade speech at Boeing's 737 airplane factory in Renton, Washington, United States on May 19, 2015. (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

After the Obama administration’s victories in Congress the past two weeks, it appears far more likely that the United States will become part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bilateral negotiations are still taking place between some of the countries negotiating the TPP—the United States and Japan still have major issues to resolve—but the chances of these bilateral hurdles being resolved, and the final agreement being negotiated, have risen substantially now that President Obama has gained fast track authority. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 26, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014. The leaders were concluding the sixth round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014 (Jim Bourg/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. U.S. and China meet in Washington, DC, for annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). The talks, coming at a time of high tension between the two countries, managed to steer clear of acrimonious charges. The U.S. State Department highlighted 127 issues the two sides agreed upon at the S&ED, but agreements on China’s actions in the South China Sea and conflicting accusations of harmful activity in cyberspace were conspicuously absent. While both sides vowed to continue discussing a potential bilateral investment treaty, little was achieved on the economic side beyond platitudes about the importance of the US$590 billion of annual trade between the two countries. On a more positive note, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that China promised to limit currency interventions, a small victory in Treasury’s long fight to get China to liberalize the yuan. Moving forward, more dialogue between the two countries will be necessary to keep the relationship constructive; hopefully Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington in September will help with that. Read more »

What Will the TPP Mean for Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Australia's Trade Minister Andrew Robb (6th R) speaks at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting of trade representatives in Sydney, October 27, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AUSTRALIA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) Trade representatives speak at a news conference at the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting in Sydney, October 27, 2014 (Jason Reed/Reuters).

With Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. Senate to give President Obama fast track negotiating authority on trade deals, the president is likely to be able to help complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with the United States in the deal, by the end of the year. With fast track authority completed, the United States will be positioned to resolve remaining bilateral hurdles with Japan, the key to moving forward with the TPP. Read more »

Would a U.S. Failure on TPP be a Strategic Disaster?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
TPP-negotiations U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with the leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

As a new congressional vote looms this week that could decide whether the United States participates in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, advocates of the deal, both in the United States and in Asia, are arguing that the stakes could not be higher. During a visit to Washington last week, Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam was blunt, telling an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “It’s absolutely vital to get it [TPP] done [in the U.S.] … If you don’t do this deal, what are your levers of power?” Read more »

Myanmar’s Multiple Domestic Challenges

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar-migrants-regional Migrants from Bangladesh who were found at sea carry their belongings as they cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh friendship bridge to return to Bangladesh, in Taungpyo, northern Rakhine state on June 8, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Over the past month, Myanmar’s multiple domestic crises have spilled over into the region, highlighting setbacks in the country’s reform process just before highly anticipated national elections. The outflow of Rohingya, fleeing violence and discrimination in western Myanmar against their ethnic group and Muslims in general, has attracted the most global news coverage. Read more »

Toward a Solution to the Rohingya Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick
migrants-rakhine-myanmar Migrants, who were found at sea on a boat, collect rainwater during a heavy rain fall at a temporary refuge camp near Kanyin Chaung jetty, outside Maungdaw township, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar on June 4, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

So far, despite global coverage of Southeast Asia’s desperate migrants, Myanmar leaders continue to try to cast doubt on the idea that there is a migration crisis at all, though Myanmar officials attended the regional conference on the migration crisis held in Thailand in late May. Still, Myanmar officials reportedly refused to attend the meeting unless it was pitched as a broad discussion about migration, rather than a meeting to address the crisis of fleeing Rohingya. At the meeting, Myanmar “categorically refused to discuss its role as a cause for the crisis,” notes Matthew Davies of Australian National University, an expert on human rights in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 12, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015. According to CCTV, Zhou was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, deprived of his political rights for life and his personal assets confiscated, for accepting bribes, abusing power and deliberately disclosing state secrets, the Tianjin Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled in its first instance. Zhou pleaded guilty and will not appeal. REUTERS/China Central Television via REUTERS TV Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief, stands between his police escorts as he listens to his sentence in a court in Tianjin, China, in this still image taken from video provided by China Central Television and shot on June 11, 2015 (CCTV/Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang to serve life sentence. The former Politburo Standing Committee member was convicted of abuse of power, accepting bribes, and revealing state secrets and sentenced to life in prison Thursday, just shy of a year after his arrest. While officials initially suggested Zhou’s trial would be open and transparent, it wasn’t, with Xinhua adopting the amusing terminology “non-public open trial” (in Chinese) to describe the proceedings. Zhou is the most senior Chinese official to be convicted of graft in PRC history, but this isn’t likely to be the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign (tigers beware!). Read more »

Australia’s Foreign Aid Cuts Could be Costly

by Joshua Kurlantzick
australia-aid Australian defence force and emergency services personnel sit next to emergency relief supplies onboard an Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster as it heads towards Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on March 16, 2015. (Dave Hunt/Reuters)

An article this week in the Financial Times effectively summarizes the situation for Australia’s foreign aid agencies, noting that Canberra has “earmarked $8.4 billion in foreign aid cuts” for the years up until 2018. The reductions in Australia’s aid budget will reduce Australia’s overseas aid by about one third, as compared to aid figures in 2012, according to research by Australian National University. The cuts are being made as Canberra is struggling to maintain budget discipline, and as the Australian economy is buffeted by a global fall in commodity prices and the slowdown in the Australian real estate market. Read more »