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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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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 »

What the Delhi Elections Mean for Indian Foreign and International Economic Policy (Not Much, Yet)

by Alyssa Ayres
Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hold portraits of AAP chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, during the celebrations outside their party office in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

Delhi voters just elected—by a landslide—the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to lead their state assembly. What’s more, the chief minister will again be quirkily charismatic Arvind Kejriwal, who led the new anti-corruption party to a strong showing in Delhi in December 2013 but abandoned governance for street sit-ins and staged public protests. He then quit government after forty-nine days and plunged the state into a long period of uncertainty. Despite this, wielding brooms and wrapping a scarf (“muffler” in India, hence his nickname “Mufflerman”) around his head during winter, Kejriwal campaigned aggressively to root out corruption and provide free water, half-rate electricity, and a better jobs deal for the poor. It worked. Read more »

Ariella Rotenberg: National Anti-Smoking Regulation in China—Can it Succeed?

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) An employee with a cigarette at hand exhales smoke outside a cafe in Beijing, November 25, 2014. China, the world's biggest tobacco market, is considering a draft regulation that would ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In mid-December, Chinese state media reported that the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council (China’s cabinet) was weighing a new anti-smoking regulation that would curb tobacco use and advertising nationally. A draft of the regulation appeared on the website of the People’s Daily  in order to solicit public feedback on the ordinance. Read more »

China, Japan, and the Twenty-One Demands

by Yanzhong Huang
Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Chinese (L) and Japanese Buddhist monks pray next to candles during a memorial ceremony on the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, December 13, 2014. China and Japan should set aside hatred and not allow the minority who led Japan to war to affect relations now, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday, as the country marked its first national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Picture taken December 13, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Compared with the high-profile national Memorial Day for the Nanjing Massacre last month, the date January 18 passed uneventfully. Chinese media appeared to have forgotten that one hundred years ago, on exactly that day, Japan presented Chinese President Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-Kai) with requests that would have turned China into a de facto Japanese protectorate. Read more »

Where to Look for the Next Jack Ma?

by Yanzhong Huang
Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers a keynote speech during the Cross-Strait CEO Summit in Taipei, December 15, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/ Courtesy: Reuters). Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers a keynote speech during the Cross-Strait CEO Summit in Taipei, December 15, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/ Courtesy: Reuters).

Where to look for the next Jack Ma? This is a trillion dollar question. According to a document released by the State Council (China’s cabinet) last October, by 2020 the size of China’s health service industry—which covers medical care, pharmaceutical products, healthcare products, medical devices, and health management—would reach 8 trillion RMB (or $1.3 trillion), up from less than 1.7 trillion RMB in 2012. This would mean an annual growth rate of 21 percent between 2012 and 2020. Read more »

Another Four Years for Abe

by Sheila A. Smith
An election official stands among unopened ballot boxes at a counting center in Tokyo, December 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Peter) An election official stands among unopened ballot boxes at a counting center in Tokyo, December 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Yesterday’s snap election proved a victory for Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). His ruling coalition, composed of the LDP and Komeito, returned to govern Japan with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House of Parliament and a renewed sense of support for its policy priorities. But with voter turnout at a postwar low, and one-fourth of the seats still in opposition hands, Abe must persuade many Japanese that he can do what he has promised to revive their economy. Read more »

New Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance

by Scott A. Snyder
2014 US-ROK 2 plus 2 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (second right) and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel co-hosted the 2+2 Ministerial with South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (second left) and Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo, at the State Department in Washington on October 24, 2014 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters).

The U.S.-South Korea alliance has grown deeper since 2009, when Presidents Obama and Lee Myung-bak announced a U.S.-ROK Joint Vision Statement that expanded the framework for bilateral cooperation beyond the Korean peninsula to regional and global issues. This statement set the stage for both deeper U.S.-ROK security coordination toward North Korea and for South Korean contributions to anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and South Korean participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The vision was reaffirmed by Park Geun-hye last year in Washington on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the alliance. I argue in my chapter for National Bureau of Asian Research’s most recent volume, Strategic Asia 2014-2015: U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power, that further implementation of this broadened vision has created new internal and external challenges. Read more »

Obama, Asia, and Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-najib U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speak at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center in Cyberjaya in this file photo from April 27, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s nice, in a way, to see issues one has worked on appear in major, globally important publications. This past week, just before President Obama’s trip to Asia, the Banyan column in The Economist, a column that focuses on Asia, detailed the Obama administration’s general disinterest in issues related to democracy and human rights in Asia. Banyan notes that President Obama has kept quiet as protests for suffrage have raged in Hong Kong. Banyan also writes that the Obama administration also has ignored a serious regression in political freedoms in Malaysia, maintained the close bilateral relationship with Thailand even as a military junta took over in Bangkok, and spent little time working on relations with the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, as authentic a democrat as you will get anywhere. Read more »

Myanmar Not Yet Attracting U.S. Companies

by Joshua Kurlantzick
yangon-coca-cola-factory Staff work at a Coca-Cola factory during its opening ceremony outside of Yangon in this file photo from June 4, 2013. The facility was the first to locally bottle Coca-Cola in more than six decades and follows the U.S. company's re-entry into Myanmar in 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters).

As President Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar next week for the East Asia Summit, he will find less optimism not only about the political situation but also about Myanmar’s economic future. As I noted last week, when Obama first visited Myanmar in 2012, it was at the height of the country’s political reform process. Since then, the process of political reform has deteriorated, so much so that President Thein Sein last week held a kind of emergency summit with top civilian and military leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. This meeting was held in an attempt, I think, to get all top Myanmar public figures to at least paper over their differences during the East Asia Summit. Still, it has become clear that the military does intend to just easily hand power over to a truly civilian government, freedom of expression and press has been curtailed once again, and western Myanmar has exploded into inter-religious conflict, leaving over 100,000 Rohingya living in squalid camps that have been described by the Arakan Project as open air prisons.  It will not be easy to paper over these serious problems. Read more »

Obama Prepares to Travel to Myanmar at a Critical Time

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-in-myanmar Crowds hold U.S. flags as President Barack Obama's motorcade drives through Yangon on November 19, 2012. Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Myanmar (Jason Reed/Courtesy: Reuters).

In November, President Obama will travel to Myanmar to attend the East Asia Summit, which brings together a broad range of nations from across the Pacific Rim. It will be the president’s second trip to Myanmar, following his landmark 2012 trip, which was the first by a sitting U.S. president to Myanmar since the country gained independence six decades ago. During the East Asia Summit, Obama almost surely will hold bilateral meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and other senior Myanmar leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Read more »