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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 "The Philippines"

2013’s Biggest Surprise? The Philippines

by Joshua Kurlantzick
President Aquino III answers questions during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. President Aquino III answers questions during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (John Javellana/Courtesy Reuters).

In an excellent overview of the political and economic changes that occurred in the Philippines in 2012, the Financial Times this week discussed how the country, long the “sick man” economy of Southeast Asia, is primed for a significant take off, putting it in a much higher class of fast-growing economies, like Indonesia, India, China, and others. The paper rightly gives credit to the president, Benigno Aquino III, for overseeing new investments in infrastructure, taking a personal interest in—and reaching—a real peace deal with rebels in the south, taking on the Catholic church to make birth control more accessible in one of the most devoutly Catholic nations in the world, and targeting high-profile corruption cases. Read more »

Thailand’s Secessionist Muslim Insurgency Escalates

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thai security personnel investigate the site of a bomb attack by suspected Muslim militants a roadside in southern Thailand's Yala province October 6, 2012. Thai security personnel investigate the site of a bomb attack by suspected Muslim militants a roadside in southern Thailand's Yala province October 6, 2012 (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past six months, the insurgency in southern Thailand, which seemed to be cooling off late last year, has once again heated up. Incidents of daily violence are up, and the insurgents are using increasingly sophisticated bombing and gunning techniques. The recent ceasefire deal in the southern Philippines between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has shifted attention to the south Thailand insurgency, yet the prospect of change in the Thai south looks remote. Read more »

Philippines Signs Framework Deal With Muslim Rebels

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Philippine president Benigno Aquino shakes hands with presidential adviser on the peace process, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, after his speech on national television at the Malacanang palace in Manila October 7, 2012. Philippine president Benigno Aquino shakes hands with presidential adviser on the peace process, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, after his speech on national television at the Malacanang palace in Manila October 7, 2012 (Cheryl Ravelo/Courtesy Reuters).

On Sunday in Asia, the Philippine government reportedly signed a preliminary peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to the Associated Press and other services in Manila. If this deal is successful, it would end an insurgency that has raged in the south for decades, and which at times has seemed impossible to shut down —the rebels and various Philippine governments have been negotiating over a potential ceasefire and peace deal for more than fifteen years. Read more »

A New Twist on Chinese Foreign Policy: Beijing Mixing Business with Politics?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Filipinos chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district on May 11, 2012. Filipinos chant anti-China slogans as they march towards the Chinese consulate in Manila's Makati financial district on May 11, 2012 (Erik de Castro / Courtesy Reuters).

One of the cardinal rules of Chinese diplomacy is that China doesn’t mix business with politics. The precept fits in nicely with the primacy that China places on sovereignty, respecting the right of a country—or at least the leaders of the moment—to determine how things ought to work. And, of course, it also provides Beijing with the opportunity to rationalize its lack of enthusiasm for tough foreign policy action in places such as Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Zimbabwe as a matter of principle. Read more »

U.S.-Philippines Relations Benefit From China’s Poor Public Image

by Joshua Kurlantzick
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas moors alongside the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land in Subic Bay, Philippines. The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas moors alongside the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land in Subic Bay, Philippines (David R. Krigbaum/Courtesy Reuters).

Today’s Washington Post has a useful article outlining the plans for a much greater U.S. military presence in the Philippines. The article discusses all of the potential options being put on the table between U.S. and Philippines officials: “Operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises.” Read more »

Southeast Asia: What to Expect in 2012

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011.

Women use sparklers to draw "2012" for photographers as they celebrate New Years Eve in Manila December 31, 2011 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).

The year 2011 saw some of the biggest political developments in Southeast Asia in decades. Burma finally seemed poised for real change, while Thailand continued to move closer to the brink of self-immolation, as political in-fighting worsened. The United States, China, and ASEAN nations continued to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, to a point where, now, it seems unlikely anyone can back off their claims and truly sit down at the table to negotiate some kind of agreement. Singapore had its most competitive election in generations, while in Malaysia massive street protests clearly have rattled the government. Even smaller states faced political turmoil: Papua New Guinea went for weeks with two prime ministers and the potential for civil strife, before the situation was resolved.

What, then, should we expect for an encore? Here are several trends to watch:

  1. China will bring back the charm. Over the past two years, Beijing has cost itself much of the gains it made in Southeast Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it appeared to be a good neighbor, trading partner, and investor. Through its belligerent approach to the South China Sea and, to some extent, the Mekong River, Beijing has scared many Southeast Asian nations enough that they have welcomed back a greater role for the United States in the region, even though their populations have not exactly become pro-American. Read more »

Wikileaks and Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange smiles as he arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in east London.

Founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange smiles as he arrives for his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in east London (Toby Melville/Courtesy Reuters).

The recent releases of new batches of Wikileaks cables, many of which reveal the names of protected sources for American diplomats, has roiled diplomatic relations nearly everywhere in the world, and certainly made potential informants more scared of talking to U.S. diplomats. But the cache of cables available about Southeast Asia is among the largest, if not the largest, of any embassy. And recent weeks have seen the release of cables with major news stories, including:

  • A cable interviewing Singaporean Straits Times editors and reporters who claim that the government applies significant pressure on them to take a rosy view of its policies. Some of the finest Straits Times’ reporters, frustrated by what they perceive as government pressure, try to remain in overseas bureaus, where they are much freer (and put out fine work) or simply leave the Straits Times entirely.

Read more »