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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 "U.S. Foreign Policy"

Making Progress at the U.S.-China S&ED: Go Strategic or Stay Home

by Elizabeth C. Economy
(L-R) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington July 10, 2013. (L-R) Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese vice premier Wang Yang and U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

As the full contingent of U.S. cabinet secretaries, other senior officials, and support staff prepare for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) (to be held on July 9-10 in Beijing), it is not unreasonable to ask whether all the fuss and muss is worth it. Despite all the focus on this bilateral relationship, it often appears that for every problem addressed, ten more mushroom in its place. In the weeks leading up to the S&ED, a plaintive cry can be heard emanating from DC: Are we getting it right? What more can we do? I have two answers in response: batten down the hatches and get ready for the long haul; or stay home. Read more »

Sour Notes from China on the U.S. Rebalance to Asia

by Scott A. Snyder
xi-jinping-cica Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech to the media during the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Shanghai on May 21, 2014 (Aly Song/Courtesy: Reuters).

I spent a week in China early this month on the heels of the Shangri-La Dialogue and amidst rising tensions in the South China Sea following China’s placement of an oil rig in disputed waters near Vietnam. Instead of spending time “inside the ring roads” of Beijing with America-handlers practiced at making careful judgments about the China-U.S. relationship, I visited a few regional cities where the Chinese views of the U.S. rebalancing policy that I heard were harsh and unvarnished. This mood parallels Liz Economy’s assessment last month of the growing misconnect in U.S.-China relations. Read more »

Podcast: A Conversation with Evan Medeiros

by Adam Segal
Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode. Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

Asia Unbound is proud to announce a new podcast series. Our first guest is Special Advisor to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Evan Medeiros. I spoke with him on U.S. policy in Asia and the Obama administration’s Asia rebalancing strategy on May 30, 2014. Listen to the podcast below. Read more »

Wenchi Yu: President Obama’s Underreported Asia Strategy

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama high fives a member of the audience as he leaves after the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Intiative (YSEALI) Town Hall inside the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur April 27, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION) U.S. president Barack Obama high fives a member of the audience as he leaves after the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Intiative (YSEALI) Town Hall inside the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur on April 27, 2014. (Samsul Said/Courtesy Reuters)

Wenchi Yu is an Asia Society fellow, a Project 2049 Institute fellow, and a former U.S. Department of State official. She is the managing partner of the Banyan Advisory Group LLC, which focuses on social investment in Asia. Follow her on Twitter: @WenchiY.
Read more »

Missing in Asia: The Pivotal Person in Obama’s Pivot

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses next to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference in the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo April 24, 2014. Abe said on Thursday that he will continue to explain his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead to gain understanding from neighbouring Asian countries. REUTERS/Larry Downing (JAPAN - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. president Barack Obama pauses next to Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference in the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

It is tough to get a fix on what is wrong with President Obama’s Asia pivot. On the face of it, it is the perfect policy at the perfect time: it serves America’s economic interests by pushing a high-end trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); it reinforces and expands America’s role as the dominant security player in the region; and it advances the ideals of the American political system through capacity building in countries such as Myanmar. Yet, no matter how much attention the president and his team are paying to the region—and no one can legitimately claim that the Asia Pacific is suffering from a lack of U.S. attention given the number of trips to the region by senior U.S. officials—the sum of the policy is rapidly becoming less than its parts. Read more »

Obama Won’t Meet Anwar, But Susan Rice Will

by Joshua Kurlantzick
anwar-ibrahim Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a protest against the recent election results in Kuala Lumpur in June 2013 (Samsul Said/Courtesy: Reuters).

After sustained pressure from human rights groups, democracy advocates in Congress, and some within the Obama administration who were worried (rightly) that Obama touting Malaysia as a model democracy might be slightly compromised by the pending sham charges against Malaysia’s opposition leader, now it appears that National Security Advisor Susan Rice will meet Anwar Ibrahim during the president’s visit to Malaysia this coming weekend. AFP and ChannelNewsAsia have a summary of the most recent news on Obama’s upcoming visit to Malaysia here. Read more »

Obama and Park: Political Leadership Needed in the Face of Crisis

by Scott A. Snyder
park-on-sewol South Korean president Park Geun-hye speaks to family members of missing passengers who were on South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank at the sea off Jindo, during her visit to a gym in Jindo where family members gathered, on April 17, 2014. President Park said on Monday the actions of some crew of the ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

Rumors of an impending North Korean nuclear test have more than justified President Obama’s decision to add South Korea to his agenda during his trip to Asia this week. Rather than discussing security challenges, it would not be surprising if the American and South Korean leaders spend most of their time commiserating with each other over the limits and obstacles their respective governments are facing against high public expectations. Read more »

Obama’s Mission in Asia: Bring the Allies Together

by Scott A. Snyder
park-obama-abe-at-the-hague U.S. president Barack Obama hosted a trilateral meeting with South Korean president Park Geun-hye Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

President Obama took an important step before this week’s visit to Asia by bringing together Japanese and South Korean leaders for a trilateral summit at The Hague a few weeks ago. That meeting sent a crucial message that the president should hammer home at every opportunity in Asia this week: for the Obama administration’s rebalancing strategy toward Asia to be successful, America and its allies must work more closely with each other. Read more »

What President Obama Should Do in Malaysia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-speaks-before-asia-trip-in-april U.S. president Barack Obama makes a statement to the media in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on April 17, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

On April 27, President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Malaysia in five decades. This trip, which already had been postponed from the fall, has been complicated by the Malaysian government’s recent crackdown on opposition politicians, and by Kuala Lumpur’s inept handling of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tragedy. However, Obama still plans to highlight the growing strategic and economic relationship between Malaysia and the United States, the relationship between himself and Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, and Malaysia’s supposed credentials as a moderate, Muslim-majority state and emerging democracy. But on his trip, the president should try to maintain a balanced focus, hitting the following points: Read more »

Our Anxiety as the President Heads to Asia

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama walks among Cherry Blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama walks among cherry blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Anxiety is everywhere these days in the debate over U.S. policy toward Asia. Here in Washington, there seems to be deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s ability to fulfill its promise to rebalance to Asia. In Asia itself, the anxiety is more about the staying power of the United States in a region undergoing a challenging geostrategic shift, and often that anxiety is manifest not in what the United States does on a daily basis but in what the president will or will not say out loud when he goes there next week.

There is reason for anxiety, to be sure. But let’s make sure we are anxious about what matters. Let’s have a conversation about policy goals instead of atmospherics and personalities. And, rather than declare Obama’s visit to Asia doomed before it even begins, it might be wise to consider on balance the positive accomplishments as well as the limitations of current U.S. policy initiatives in Asia. Read more »