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Asia Unbound

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Showing posts for "Hillary Clinton"

Watching Before Moving Further on Burma

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with people outside the National League for Democracy (NLD) head office after a meeting in Yangon November 18, 2011.

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with people outside the National League for Democracy (NLD) head office after a meeting in Yangon November 18, 2011 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

With the announcement that Secretary of State Clinton will be traveling to Burma in early December, the first visit by such a high-level U.S. official in five decades, U.S.-Burma relations are actually moving so rapidly that it is hard to keep up with the change — something I never thought I would find myself writing about Burma. But in anticipation of the visit, it’s important to critically examine how to proceed from here. The government of new president Thein Sein already has presided over more opening than any Burmese government in at least two decades, but the administration should be watching these key markers to see that reform is continuing to progress: Read more »

Hillary Clinton to Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama announces that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Myanmar, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Bali.

U.S. President Barack Obama announces that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Myanmar, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Bali (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

In what is surely the biggest news in U.S.-Myanmar relations in fifty years, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that she will be traveling to Myanmar next month. On the same day, Aung San Suu Kyi announced she will be re-entering politics, setting the stage for her and her party, the National League for Democracy, to contest the next elections, which are believed to be coming in 2015. As the New York Times reported, “The twin events underscored the remarkable and sudden pace of change in Myanmar, which has stunned observers inside and outside the country.”

Clinton’s trip, though it caps off a year of serious reforms in Myanmar, is still something of a gamble. The new president, Thein Sein, does indeed seem to be a reformer, and possibly Myanmar’s de Klerk or Gorbachev. He has presided over an opening of the media environment, privatization of many companies,  a relaxation on political parties, a new dialogue with Suu Kyi, the freeing of significant numbers of Burma’s thousands of political prisoners,and a push to convince exiles who have fled the country to return. Still, many doubts remain about how much power Thein Sein himself wields, and whether the generals who formally retired after the elections last November will allow reform to continue.

In a piece last week for The New Republic, I outlined these challenges.

Read more »

Asia’s Landlocked Spaces

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A Kyrgyz customs officer talks on a radio in front of workers as they reload cargo from a Chinese truck to Kyrgyz one at the Irkeshtam border crossing in southern Kyrgyzstan. Courtesy Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov.

Chris Rickleton, a Bishkek-based journalist, has a fascinating piece up on EurasiaNet about prospective Chinese rail construction in Kyrgyzstan. The piece cuts directly to tough political choices—namely, the push and pull between Russian and Chinese interests in Central Asia and, more important, how politicians in landlocked countries, like Kyrgyzstan, must try to balance among the larger countries on whom their economies depend for transit.

I’ve written a lot on efforts to reconnect trade and transit routes across continental Asia. You can read some of what I’ve argued herehereherehere, and here.

But Rickleton’s piece got me thinking about two questions:

(1) Since the obstacles to continental trade and transit are so high, is the game really worth the candle?

This is especially relevant because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vigorously promoting a “New Silk Road” concept, drawing heavily on a decade of prior efforts and experiences.

(2) With so much focus on the interests of the outside powers—Russia, China, Iran, and the United States, among others—what about the interests of the landlocked countries themselves?

Read more »

Central Asia Celebrates Independence

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A general view of the Kalyan ensemble in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, which dates as far back as 1127. Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov.

With Central Asian countries celebrating the 20th anniversary of their independence, it seemed like a good time to repost a comprehensive report on U.S.-Central Asia relations.

Issued in February by the bipartisan Central Asia Study Group and published by the Project 2049 Institute, the report, Strengthening Fragile Partnerships, was premised, in part, on a concern that U.S. policy toward the region had become swamped by the war in Afghanistan.  Put simply, our group sought to articulate a vision of U.S. policy in Central Asia that was, (1) not derivative of the war, (2) premised on some enduring U.S. interests that date back at least to independence in 1991, and (3) will outlast 2014, when the U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan begins to wind down in earnest.

Read more »

The S&ED No-Holds Barred: China’s Deplorable Human Rights and the Simple American People

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Timothy Geithner gather for a portrait before a banquet for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington on May 9, 2011.

Timothy Geithner gather for a portrait before a banquet for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington on May 9, 2011. (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

So, the title of my post is a bit misleading. The Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) was actually pretty much what I thought it was going to be, namely pretty tame stuff. Together, the U.S. and China identified a wide range of issues on which the two sides hope to cooperate. The range of issues, in fact, was breathtaking—or some might call it weird—everything from Sudan and North Korea to smart grid to the China garden project. I would guess that the China garden project will break ground before spring comes to North Korea.

The “no-holds barred” part of the S&ED came not at the S&ED itself, but rather courtesy of the U.S. media. First, there was a well-timed piece in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, in which he interviewed Secretary of State Clinton. Although the bulk of the interview had nothing to do with China, Secretary Clinton’s remarks about China have gotten all the attention. Both Goldberg and fellow Atlantic writer James Fallows appear rather shocked at the Secretary’s comment that China’s human rights record is “deplorable” and that in holding off reform, the Chinese are on “a fool’s errand,” by “trying to stop history.” Goldberg likens Clinton’s remarks to those of the Cold War Reagan era. Fallows, in turn, implies that Clinton is reinforcing Beijing’s belief that the United States is trying to contain China and, in the process, acting outside the realm of traditional U.S. public diplomacy.

I have to say that I think the Atlantic duo is off-base here. Read more »

Is China Eating Our Lunch?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

An attendant fills the tank of a vehicle at a Sinopec gas station in Changzhi, Shanxi province March 28, 2010. Sinopec, Asia's top oil refiner, will buy a stake in upstream assets in Angola for $2.46 billion and said it wanted more such deals, which could shield it from high oil prices that hit margins in the fourth quarter. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

My latest “DC Diary” column is out in India’s leading financial newspaper, the Business Standard. The column plays off a rather extraordinary back-and-forth from Hillary Clinton’s budget testimony last week.

The Secretary of State told Congress that China is not just competing with the United States around the world but, for all intents and purposes, is eating America’s lunch.

“Let’s just talk, you know, straight realpolitik,” Mrs. Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We are in a competition with China. Take Papua New Guinea: huge energy find … ExxonMobil is producing it. China is in there every day in every way, trying to figure out how it’s going to come in behind us, come under us.”

But how effective is the China model, anyway? And is China’s approach really quite so uniform?

Read more »

No Winners from the Sinking of the Cheonan

by Scott A. Snyder

Two months ago, the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan appeared to mark a turning point in inter-Korean relations. The South Korean interim investigation identified a North Korean torpedo as the cause of the sinking, providing South Korea and the United States with a strong case to take the issue to the UN Security Council and hold North Korea accountable for its actions. But the July 10th UN Presidential Statement failed to explicitly hold North Korea accountable.  Read more »

The Chinese Internet Century

by Adam Segal

My reaction to Secretary of State Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, “The Chinese Internet Century,” is now up.  While Clinton’s call for an open, global Internet was both stirring and the right thing to do, we have to start planning for a world where China and others shape their own cyberspaces to meet economic, political, and strategic interests. Go read the whole thing at Read more »

Harmony without Uniformity

by Elizabeth C. Economy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Internet speech was noteworthy for a number of reasons—but what struck me most was her comment that principles like information freedom aren’t just good policy connected to American values; they are universal. I like the sound of that. Read more »