CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 10, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 10, 2014
Malala Yousafzai speaks during the Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the Southbank Centre in London on March 8, 2014 (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy: Reuters). Malala Yousafzai speaks during the Women of the World Festival (WOW) at the Southbank Centre in London on March 8, 2014 (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Indian and Pakistani share Nobel Peace Prize; gunfire results in casualties in Kashmir. Kailash Stayarthi, an Indian activist against child labor and trafficking, and Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for girls’ education, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. At seventeen, Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever receive the prize. In unrelated news, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire over their border in the divided region of Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of at least seventeen civilians and forcing thousands out of their homes. Each country blames the other for targeting civilians and violating a border truce that has largely held since 2003. Read more »

South Asia’s Peace Heroes

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, October 10, 2014
Combination picture of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners, Indian children's right activist, Kailash Satyarthi, (L) at his office in New Delhi on October 10, 2014, and Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York in a file picture taken on August 18, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). Combination picture of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners, Indian children's right activist, Kailash Satyarthi, (L) at his office in New Delhi on October 10, 2014, and Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York in a file picture taken on August 18, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

What a day for South Asia. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Peace Prize to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi, both passionate advocates for children’s rights. The Nobel Committee’s decisions highlight a focus on the role of social advocacy and social impact on poverty, children’s education, and empowerment of women and girls in South Asia. Malala Yousufzai is recognized around the world for standing up to the Taliban, who shot her in the face for her outspoken support of girls’ education; Kailash Satyarthi is known in India for his decades-long dedication to ending child labor. Read more »

Alisha Sud: China’s Central Asian Anti-Terrorism Efforts

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, October 8, 2014
(L-R) Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before their meeting during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe September 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (TAJIKISTAN - Tags: POLITICS) (L-R) Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov pose for a picture before their meeting during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe on September 12, 2014. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters)

Alisha Sud is the intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Growing concern over terrorism in Asia is driving Beijing to strengthen the military capability of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Committed to fighting the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism, and separatism, the intergovernmental organization has recently demonstrated that it is a power to be reckoned with; last month in Inner Mongolia, China hosted the largest SCO military drill to date. Read more »

Selling Vietnam Lethal Arms: The Right Move

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, October 8, 2014
vietnam military An officer checks the alignment of the honor guard at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on October 6, 2014 (Nguyen Huy Kham/Courtesy: Reuters).

Last Friday, the Obama administration partially lifted the U.S. ban on lethal arms sales to Vietnam, which had been in place since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. According to the Associated Press, on Friday, “State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the United States will now allow sales of lethal maritime security capabilities and for surveillance on a case-by-case basis.” These lethal arms sales will, for now, remain relatively limited, though the United States could sell Vietnam boats and planes, which would theoretically be used for Vietnam’s coast guard. Read more »

The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong: Part of a Trend of Weakness on Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, October 6, 2014
hong kong occupy central People walk near a blocked area outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on October 6, 2014. Pro-democracy protests in Chinese-controlled Hong Kong subsided on Monday as students and civil servants returned to school and work after more than a week of demonstrations, but activists vowed to keep up their campaign of civil disobedience (Carlos Barria/Courtesy: Reuters).

As protests have mounted in Hong Kong, with a possible violent resolution in sight, the U.S. Consulate in the SAR has done little more than issue tepid statements on the demonstrations, which had been largely peaceful and orderly until the past two days. “We do not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support and particular individuals or groups involved in it,” the consulate’s most notable statement said. The statement’s anodyne weakness basically suggested that the United States did not care whether the democracy movement succeeded in Hong Kong, or whether Hong Kong people were granted the real universal suffrage and political rights promised them under the 1984 handover agreement. And as the New York Times reported on Saturday, when President Obama briefly met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week, they discussed a wide range of issues to be examined during Obama’s upcoming trip to Beijing; Hong Kong appeared to be just an afterthought for Obama and clearly would be an afterthought in Obama’s conversations in Beijing. Read more »

Modi’s Tale of Two Visits: Drama in One, Pragmatism and Continuity in the Other

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, October 3, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 30, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 30, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

The five-day U.S. visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded earlier this week. He is already back in India, busy launching a new “Clean India” campaign complete with before-and-after photos on Twitter. Mr. Modi’s New York program was extensively covered by the media, U.S. as well as Indian. The high-profile nature of his appearances at Madison Square Garden, the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, and his UN and Council on Foreign Relations addresses showcased an Indian prime minister in demand at the policy podium as well as alongside celebrities like Hugh Jackman, speaking to his homeland as well as to a global audience. One U.S. congressman, Pete Sessions even said that Modi “will become the next Ronald Reagan for the world.” Jon Stewart’s Daily Show picked up this quote, and more, in a special segment titled, “America’s Next Top Modi.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 3, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 3, 2014
Protesters sit under umbrellas at a main street at Mongkok shopping district after thousand of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters sit under umbrellas at a main street at Mongkok shopping district after thousand of protesters blocked the road in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. (Tyrone Siu/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy protests have engulfed Hong Kong over the past week, focusing on China’s announcement that candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s leader will be selected by a pro-Beijing committee. In addition to the right to freely elect the city’s next leader, the demonstrators are demanding the removal of Hong Kong’s current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, widely seen as Beijing’s lackey. Read more »

Darcie Draudt: South Korean Multiculturalism and the Next Step in Civic Nationalism

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Thursday, October 2, 2014
seoul women's migrant center Foreign brides from Vietnam take part in a Korean conversation class at the Women Migrants Human Rights Centre in Seoul in this photo from May 27, 2008 (Jo Yong-Hak/Courtesy: Reuters).

Darcie Draudt is a research associate for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On September 29, the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, began the first-ever official UN Human Rights Council mission to South Korea. Ruteere is scheduled to present his preliminary findings at a press conference on October 6, at the end of his visit. South Korea has increasingly aroused scrutiny for its myopic depiction of foreigners in media and treatment of foreigners in workplaces and public spaces. But the situation is more complicated than meets the eye, and the special rapporteur is likely to find a nation confronted with new, unfamiliar choices in defining itself as it continues to deepen and broaden exchange on the global stage. Read more »

Maclachlan and Shimizu: Shinzo Abe’s Tug-of-War With the Farm Lobby

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Thursday, October 2, 2014
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drives a rice planting machine at a a paddy field in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. (Courtesy Kyodo/Reuters) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drives a rice planting machine at a a paddy field in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. (Courtesy Kyodo/Reuters)

Last week, ministerial negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between Japan and the United States ended abruptly after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on key sticking points, including the removal of tariffs on sensitive Japanese farm products. The failure of the talks disappointed both sides, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long upheld TPP as a fundamental component of his structural reform agenda. Read more »

The Pivot and Democratic Regression in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, October 1, 2014
cambodia opposition youth supoprt A young supporter of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) holds a Cambodian national flag during the last day of a three-day protest at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on September 17, 2013 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

This past week’s serious challenges to democracy in Indonesia, on the heels of what had been a successful presidential election in July, should serve as a reminder that, while the region has made strides since the 1980s and early 1990s, democracy is far from entrenched in Southeast Asia. Retrograde forces, like the coalition of politicians allied with Prabowo Subianto in Indonesia, continue to stand in the way of democratic reforms. In some Southeast Asian nations, such as Thailand and Malaysia, anti-democratic forces have been highly successful in reversing progress toward democratization. Read more »