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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"

Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Rule,” One Year In

by Joshua Kurlantzick
aung-san-suu-kyi-one-year-the-national Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, reviews honour guards upon arrival at the Manila International airport in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2017. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Roughly one year after Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party took control of Myanmar’s parliament, and Suu Kyi became de facto head of state (Myanmar has a president, but Suu Kyi is widely known to control the government), the euphoria of last year has melted away. When the NLD won a sweeping electoral victory in November 2015, the country’s first truly free and accepted national elections in decades, it gained a massive majority in the lower house of parliament, as well as control of most of the country’s provincial legislatures. Read more »

Pence Returns Home: Southeast Asia Overshadowed

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pence-australia U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) meets with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, on April 22, 2017. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Vice President Mike Pence, after a brief but relatively successful trip in Asia, rushed back to Washington ahead of schedule this week; the U.S. administration plans to tackle a very important set of domestic priorities including tax reform and keeping the federal government open. Pence reduced his time in Honolulu at the end of his trip. More important, as Reuters notes, portions of his trip in Indonesia and Australia were overshadowed by the increasingly tense environment in Northeast Asia, which now includes the reported chance of another North Korean missile or nuclear test Tuesday. Read more »

Anies’s Big Win, India’s Sex Ratio, USS Carl Vinson Bluff, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Anti-Ahok-Jakarta Supporters of Jakarta governor candidate Anies Baswedan react as Baswedan leads the count at the Petamburan flat polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 19, 2017. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

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

1. Anies elected Jakarta’s next governor. Anies Baswedan, Indonesia’s former education minister, beat out sitting governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as Ahok) in a closely contested election. While official results have not yet been released, Anies clearly leads in polls. Read more »

Vice President Mike Pence in Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pence-indonesia tour U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tours the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 20, 2017. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

On his current visit to Indonesia, Vice President Mike Pence appears likely to play a role he is quickly becoming accustomed to—the low-key, reassuring, figure who provides continuity in U.S. foreign policy. On Thursday, Pence toured Indonesia’s largest mosque, after earlier calling the country’s moderate form of Islam “an inspiration,” and met with Indonesian religious leaders from various faiths. This is just the kind of public diplomacy that would have fit right into the regional soft power strategies of the Obama or George W. Bush administrations, and Pence is, in private, likely to offer broad reassurances of the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship for Washington. Read more »

Thailand’s New King Adds Even More Uncertainty to Thai Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Vajiralongkorn Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun salutes as he arrives at the monument of King Rama I after signing a new constitution in Bangkok, Thailand on April 6, 2017. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Two weeks ago, David Streckfuss, a longtime analyst of Thai royal politics, wrote an incisive op-ed in the New York Times. It effectively summarized a growing current of analysis about how Thailand’s new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, may upend the country’s already fractious politics. Read more »

Myanmar–China Pipeline, Malaysian Disappearances, Japan’s Population Problem, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Xi-Htin-Kyaw-meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, on April 10, 2017. (Yohei Kanasashi/Reuters)

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

1. At last, Myanmar–China pipeline opens for business. This Tuesday, the first drops of crude oil began their slow northward crawl through a new pipeline connecting the Burmese coast to the southern Chinese city of Kunming. After nearly three years of remaining empty, the 480-mile-long, $1.5-billion pipeline will carry up to 260,000 barrels’ worth of crude a day to a refinery owned by the state-owned PetroChina, China’s largest oil producer. Read more »

Podcast: Everything Under the Heavens

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker looks through the fence of a construction site that is decorated with pictures of the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing, China, September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter A worker looks through the fence of a construction site that is decorated with pictures of the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing, China on September 1, 2016. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

One of the first things any student of China learns about is the country’s illustrious five thousand years of history. While those millennia were replete with accomplishments in science and philosophy, they were also characterized by territorial expansion and the coercion of surrounding nations into shows of deference. On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Howard French, associate professor of journalism at the Columbia Journalism School and author of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power, explores the relationship between domestic narratives of China’s history and geopolitical realities. Read more »

Some Reasons for New Tensions Over Cambodia’s Debt

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun-sen-debt Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smiles as he arrive at the National Assembly of Cambodia during a plenary session, in central Phnom Penh, on February 20, 2017. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

In recent months, the issue of Cambodia’s Indochina War-era debt to the United States, for which the U.S. government still demands repayment, has resurfaced once again. A recent lengthy New York Times article outlines the current situation, which has also been covered by Southeast Asian media. The Cambodian government is asking Washington to forgive a loan made to the Lon Nol government to buy essential items, at a time when U.S. bombing and the growing civil war in Cambodia had driven large numbers of refugees into Phnom Penh. Read more »

Japanese Offense, Tencent Meets Tesla, North Korean Hackers, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Japan-SDF A Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) official is silhouetted during an air show at the annual SDF ceremony at Asaka Base, Japan, on October 23, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

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

1. LDP eyes offensive push for Japan. A policy research group in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is pushing for the adoption of new long-range offensive capabilities. Consisting primarily of former defense ministers, former deputy defense ministers, and former parliamentary vice ministers, the LDP group urged the government to begin considering a change to Japan’s military stance, citing a “new level of threat” from North Korea. Read more »

What Happens to Congressional Southeast Asia Policy Under a New U.S. Administration?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
congress-southeast asia U.S. Democratic Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (front C) and Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang (3rd R) pose for a photo with other U.S. representatives and officials after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on March 31, 2015. (Kham/Reuters)

Unlike many regions of the world, where U.S. foreign policy has in recent decades been dominated by the executive branch, since the end of the Cold War Congress has played a major role in policy toward much of Southeast Asia. In mainland Southeast Asia, in fact, Congress has often been the dominant foreign policy actor, in part because successive U.S. administrations—throughout the 1990s and 2000s—placed a relatively low priority on mainland Southeast Asia. Read more »