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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 "Singapore"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 27, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters) Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, dies. Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore into one of Asia’s wealthiest and least corrupt countries during his time as founding father and first prime minister, died on Monday. Lee was prime minister beginning in 1959, after Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990. While his leadership was often criticized for suppressing freedom, his advocacy of “Asian values” and development models succeeded in making Singapore an international hub of business, culture, and finance. Read more »

Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s Future

by Joshua Kurlantzick
lee-kuan-yew-singapore Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew makes a speech during the 12th International Conference on 'The Future of Asia' in Tokyo on May 25, 2006. (Kiyoshi Ota/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the wake of the death of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, many obituaries lauding Lee’s role in transforming the city-state also have argued that Singapore faces high hurdles to continuing Lee’s revolution. As Forbes’ Joel Kotkin writes, Lee’s achievements during his three decades as prime minister were extraordinary, but in Singapore today the “durability of his legacy is in question.” Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters) A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Vietnam and India strengthen defense and energy ties amid territorial disputes with China. The two nations signed a number of agreements following a meeting this week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Most notably, Vietnam agreed to further open its oil and gas sector to India, while India agreed to provide Vietnam with four off-shore patrol vessels. Prior to his two-day state visit, Dung called for a larger Indian role in the South China Sea, in spite of criticism from China. Both Hanoi and New Delhi are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing: Vietnam in the South China Sea and India along the Himalayas. Read more »

What Has Gone Wrong in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai-coup-protest A protester, who was briefly detained and then released, walks back toward others protesting against military rule near the Victory Monument in Bangkok on May 24, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

What has gone wrong in Southeast Asia? Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, many countries in the region were viewed by global democracy analysts and Southeast Asians themselves as leading examples of democratization in the developing world.

By the late 2000s, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore all were ranked as “free” or “partly free” by the monitoring organization Freedom House, while Cambodia and, perhaps most surprisingly, Myanmar had both taken sizable steps toward democracy as well. Read more »

Singapore Goes Underground

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People walk through Ion, a mall on Orchard Road in Singapore on May 7, 2011. The mall has many stores located underground. (Russell Boyce/Courtesy Reuters) People walk through Ion, a mall on Orchard Road in Singapore on May 7, 2011. The mall has many stores located underground. (Russell Boyce/Courtesy Reuters)

On Wednesday, the New York Times had an extensive article about how Singapore, which hopes to expand its population from around 5.4 million today to around seven million people in fifteen years, plans to house its mushrooming population given its severe scarcity of land. Singapore is, of course, an island, it has already reclaimed large portions of land from the sea around it, it has a reputation for maintaining green space that is critical to its ability to attract companies from around the world, and it already has built nearly fifty skyscrapers in the downtown area, with more to come. So, in Singapore’s classically planned-to-the-hilt style, the city-state is considering building an extensive underground complex including shopping malls, walking areas, bike paths, and research and development areas. 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 »

Haze Crisis in Southeast Asia (and China)

by Yanzhong Huang
An aerial view of burning lands in Palalawan district in Riau province June 21, 2013. An aerial view of burning lands in Palalawan district in Riau province June 21, 2013. Indonesia deployed military planes to fight raging forest fires on Friday that blanketed neighbouring Singapore in record levels of hazardous smog for a third straight day in one of Southeast Asia's worst air-pollution crises. (Fikih Nauli//Courtesy Reuters)

Having just arrived in Jakarta for a joint CSIS-CFR workshop on emerging Indonesia and rising regionalism, I was greeted by hot and humid weather conditions and horrible traffic. However, this is nothing compared to the severe haze that has blanketed Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, Malaysia, and Singapore, sending air pollution there to record high levels. Read more »

The World’s Imminent Deglobalization?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013. People attend a demonstration against the government’s proposed plan for increased immigration at Speakers' Corner in Singapore February 16, 2013 (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters).

On Saturday, 3,000 demonstrators turned out in Singapore—in one of the biggest protests in the country’s history—to protest the government’s new plan to increase the tiny nation-state’s immigrant population by nearly two million people by 2030. And who are this proposal’s greatest opponents? The Singaporean middle class, which has increasingly seen its political capital and purchasing power strangled by the influx of wealthy immigrants, mainly from China. Read more »