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Asia Unbound

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

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Predictions for 2014

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Chinese sailors stand at attention on the helipad of the Chinese frigate Yancheng docked at Limassol port on January 4, 2014. (Andreas Manolis/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese sailors stand at attention on the helipad of the Chinese frigate Yancheng docked at Limassol port on January 4, 2014. (Andreas Manolis/Courtesy Reuters)

Just as in 2013, the new year promises to be a year of enormous dynamism and change in Asia. The region is now not only the biggest engine of global growth but also the center of multilateral free trade negotiations, the real heart of a democracy “spring” in developing nations–and the home of the rawest, most dangerous power politics in the world. After all, only in Asia do great powers with great stocks of nuclear weapons still face each other down, Cold War-style. In a new piece for Bloomberg, I offer my predictions for the region for 2014. Read it here.

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 22, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Paramilitary policemen walk past Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region on November 17, 2013 (Rooney Chen). Paramilitary policemen walk past Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, on November 17, 2013. (Rooney Chen/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Darcie Draudt look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bloomberg dogged by self-censorship questions. Bloomberg News reporter Michael Forsythe, who worked on an unpublished article about a Chinese tycoon and his ties to CCP leaders, left the company this past week. The move came after it was reported that the unpublished article was rejected by top editors, led by editor in chief Matthew Winkler, because of fears that Bloomberg would be banished from China. Mr. Winkler has denied these claims, instead arguing that the article was not ready for publication. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: The Top Five Stories for the Week of November 8, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Police stand guard in front of the Shanxi Provincial Communist Party office building after explosions in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province on November 6, 2013 (cnsphoto/Courtesy Reuters). Police stand guard in front of the Shanxi Provincial Communist Party office building after explosions in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province on November 6, 2013 (cnsphoto/Courtesy Reuters).

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Thailand delays debate on amnesty bill that has sparked mass protests. The Thai senate on Friday delayed debate on a bill that would grant amnesty to almost anyone facing charges arising from Thailand’s political turmoil that took place from 2004 to 2010. Opponents of the bill claim that it is an attempt to bring back former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from self-exile without serving jail time. (His sister, Yingluck Sinawatra, is currently serving as prime minister.) Thousands have taken to the streets in protest of the bill, some wearing yellow shirts to signify their opposition to the former premier, and others wearing red shirts as a call for justice for their comrades who were killed in a crackdown of 2010 political protests. Read more »

Why Obama Shouldn’t Cancel his Asia Trip

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

With the government shut down, the White House announced yesterday that the President’s upcoming trip to Asia, scheduled to begin October 6, will be cut short. Plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines have been shelved for now, though Obama will still attend the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting of leaders in Bali, Indonesia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison. Former Communist Party official Bo Xilai was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power in the eastern city of Jinan and sentenced to life in prison on Sunday. Though the guilty verdict was by no means a surprise, the length of the term was much longer than the fifteen to twenty years that many analysts expected. On Monday, Bo appealed his verdict—though that is considered a mere formality. The Chinese government has trumpeted the sentencing as a victory for the rule of law in China, but many outside experts believe the opposite—that the trial only made it eminently clear “that the Party still controls the Law.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 20, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Chinese President wraps up trip to Central Asia.  President Xi Jinping ended a ten-day trip to Central Asia with a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last weekend. Xi signed a number of bilateral economic and energy deals with countries in the region, and the SCO reached consensus on a number of foreign policy issues (largely in line with Chinese and Russian interests). With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, Central Asia is a region ripe for Chinese leadership. Read more »

Obama’s October Trip to Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

The White House last week confirmed that President Obama will be traveling to Southeast Asia between October 6 and 12. He will visit Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 16, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji) Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally near Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong complex. After seven rounds of negotiations, the shuttered Kaesong complex, closed for months following a period of particularly high tensions, is set to be reopened, though there is no timetable yet. The complex was a major source of hard currency and jobs for North Korea until it was shut down, and it is one of the few symbols of cooperation between the two Koreas. The agreement includes a pledge from both sides to prevent any future shutdowns, an agreement to try to attract foreign companies to the complex, and permission for South Korean managers to use the Internet and mobile phones. Read more »

Indonesia Adrift?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Children cover their noses near burnt land in Marpoyan Damai sub district, in the outskirts of Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province on June 20, 2013. (Stringer Indonesia/Courtesy Reuters) Children cover their noses near burnt land in Marpoyan Damai sub district, in the outskirts of Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province on June 20, 2013. (Stringer Indonesia/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past month,Indonesia, the natural leader of Southeast Asia, has often seemed rudderless in its foreign policy, lashing out at other nations in the region over a haze crisis caused primarily in Indonesia, and offering little leadership as the region tries to work toward serious negotiations with China on a realistic South China Sea code of conduct. Does Indonesia have a regional strategy, or even an international one? Does it have a foreign ministry up to the challenge of returning to leadership in ASEAN, and playing a leading role in global organizations like the G-20 and the UN? Read more »

Southeast Asia’s Purple Haze

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A worker stands as he looks on at fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze in Indonesia's Riau province on June 24, 2013. A worker stands as he looks on at fire from burning trees planted for palm oil, during haze in Indonesia's Riau province on June 24, 2013. (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters)

Even before several of my CFR colleagues and I arrived in Indonesia earlier this week for discussions on regional security and governance, headlines in the region’s media were dominated by the haze that was blanketing Singapore and Malaysia—not to mention parts of Indonesia—as a result of the slash-and-burn practices in Sumatra. In an effort to clear land to plant new crops, farmers there burn crop residue, timber, and peat. The result is hundreds of “hotspots,” or fires that contribute to a thick, toxic haze that travels throughout the region. This is despite a government effort to promote “zero burning” and a moratorium on all deforestation in much of the country. Read more »