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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 "Malaysia"

Obama’s Upcoming Trip to Malaysia: Going to Be Prickly and Tough

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-razak Since taking office last year, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has become more indebted to hardline, conservative elements in the ruling coalition, which has undercut the previously promised economic reforms that many, including the White House, had praised. (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

After canceling a trip to Southeast Asia last fall because of the U.S. government shutdown, President Obama is now planning to travel to the region in late April. (He will travel to Northeast Asia as well.) The president plans to visit Malaysia, where last year he had to skip a summit of entrepreneurs where he had promised to speak. The Washington Post recently had a piece summarizing the upcoming trip and noting that Obama will be the first sitting president to visit Malaysia in about fifty years. This is supposed to be a celebratory occasion. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, looks on as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama writes calligraphy in a class at the Beijing Normal School on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/courtesy Reuters) Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, looks on as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama writes calligraphy in a class at the Beijing Normal School on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Michelle Obama visits China. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Beijing on Thursday and will spend six days in China. Accompanied by her mother and two daughters, Obama toured Beijing with Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Obama will stay away from politicized topics such as human rights, and instead promote cultural and educational exchanges, particularly for young people. Read more »

Can Malaysia Restore Its Public Image?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-flight-family-briefing Relatives of passengers onboard missing flight MH370 complain to an official from Malaysia Airlines after the company's briefing to family members at a hotel in Beijing on March 19, 2014. Investigations into the mystery of the missing Malaysian jet appeared to be at a deadlock on Wednesday, with an exhaustive background search of the passengers and crew showing nothing untoward and no sign that the plane could be quickly found (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters).

The Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone else in the country’s nearly sixty years as an independent nation.

Of course, for most of those six decades until the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 the country received little international attention. If Malaysia made the news at all, it tended to get a relatively favorable image as a peaceful and multi-ethnic nation that had witnessed some of the strongest economic growth in Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Missing Malaysia Airlines flight leaves the fate of 239 passengers shrouded in mystery. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared Saturday, and its fate has still not been determined nearly a week after it vanished from radar screens. The most recent information indicates that the plane was deliberately flown off course, making a sharp left and flying hundreds of miles toward India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar islands. Read more »

Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Flight

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-flight Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman looks on during a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for fifteen hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 1, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Police cars are parked in front of a giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing on November 1, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon). Police cars are parked in front of a giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the main entrance of the Forbidden City in Beijing on November 1, 2013 (Kim Kyung-Hoon).

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

1. Five die in suspected terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square, Chinese authorities blame Uighur separatists. An SUV drove through Tiananmen Square on Monday, killing three people in the car and two bystanders, and wounding forty-two. Meng Jianzhu, China’s domestic security chief, said that the Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement was behind the attack. Beijing police have arrested eight suspects, seven of whom had Uighur names, according to witnesses of the arrest. Security has intensified in Beijing and the Muslim province of Xinjiang, where the suspects are believed to be from. Read more »

Najib Goes Back to the Internal Security Act (ISA)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters) Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak celebrates with his other party leaders after winning the elections at his party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on May 6, 2013. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

In the four months that have elapsed since Malaysia’s national elections in May, Prime Minister Najib tun Razak frequently has offered two conflicting public messages. To the party faithful in United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which now utterly dominates the ruling coalition, Najib—a relative moderate by temperament—has offered hunks of red meat, proposing new legislation that would further entrench economic and political preferences for ethnic Malays. Some allies of the government now have proposed classifying all Muslim indigenous people in the country as ethnic Malays, according to a report in Asia Sentinel; doing so would make even more people in Malaysia eligible for Malays’ economic preferences, though it likely would also further undermine economic growth and drive Chinese and Indian businesspeople out of the country. In the short term, the red meat approach has been relatively successful for Najib, whose coalition won more parliamentary seats in the May elections than the opposition but actually lost the popular vote, and without gerrymandering and alleged fraud likely would have won less seats than the opposition too; the increasingly pro-Malay agenda has prevented hard-line politicians from challenging Najib and his allies at recent internal UMNO elections. 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 »

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 »

ASEAN’s Haze Shows the Organization’s Futility

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A tourist wearing a face mask passes the hazy skyline of the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort in Singapore on June 18, 2013. (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters) A tourist wearing a face mask passes the hazy skyline of the Marina Bay Sands casino and resort in Singapore on June 18, 2013. (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters)

Haze continues to spread across Southeast Asia, the result primarily of burn-offs from farming by individuals and agribusinesses in Indonesia, combined with the dry summer weather and urban pollution in the region’s largest cities. As Yanzhong Huang notes, air pollution levels in some parts of penisular Southeast Asia have reached record highs this past week; the more proactive governments in the region, like Singapore, have taken health precautions like pushing nearly all residents to wear masks while outdoors and setting up centers across the city-state for low-income and elderly residents to get free face masks they can use. As Yanzhong notes, Singapore also is vowing to pursue companies that use polluting practices and cause this haze. Overall, countries in the region, like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, appear to be pointing fingers at each other and engaging in diplomatic recriminations rather than collaborating to address the haze crisis and its causes. Read more »