CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Personnel and Policy in U.S. Policymaking Toward China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 19, 2015
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (centre L) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (centre R) pose for a group photo with Chinese officials after attending the opening ceremony of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, "S&ED" at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014 (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters).

Alarm bells are ringing yet again over the apparent dearth of expertise and interest in China within the Obama administration. This is a problem I have been tempted to write about on a number of occasions over the past year or two. I have not done so because I do not think that there is a problem. Still, people keep writing articles suggesting that such a problem exists, so perhaps it is worth taking a bit of time to assess the claim. Read more »

Can Malaysia’s Opposition Survive Anwar’s Jail Term?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 19, 2015
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur, February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a rally on the eve of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur on February 9, 2015 (Olivia Harris/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to jail for the second time in his life on charges of sodomy. Anwar’s jail term was set by Malaysia’s highest court at five years, and the opposition leader likely will never be able to hold a position in Malaysian politics or government again. Amidst outcry by the opposition, as well as international rights groups, about the Anwar trial and decisionHuman Rights Watch called the verdict “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law”some in the three-party opposition alliance also worry that the coalition will face challenges holding together with the charismatic Anwar gone. Read more »

North Korea’s Food Situation: Stable and Improving

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 17, 2015
A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr) A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr)

When asked in his January 22 interview with YouTube [9:00 ff.] about the likely effects of greater sanctions on North Korea following the Sony hack, President Obama repeated a mantra widely associated with North Korea that as a result of its isolated, authoritarian leadership, “the country can’t really even feed its own people” and that “over time, a regime like this will collapse.” But the latest reports show that North Korea’s food situation is stable, and the leadership probably thinks it is doing better, not worse. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 13, 2015
Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (center), waves to his supporters in New Delhi on February 10, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. After nearly a year of president’s rule, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) sweeps to power in Delhi state elections. The AAP won sixty-seven out of the seventy legislative seats in the Delhi assembly, a stunning victory that surprised many. The party was founded by Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 and grew out of a protest movement against corruption; it made its debut in the December 2013 Delhi elections when it joined with the Congress party to form the Delhi government—with Kejriwal serving as chief minister. Read more »

South Korea’s Self-Defense Needs: Does China Get a Veto?

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, February 13, 2015
A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters). A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters).

During his visit to Seoul on February 4, PRC Defense minister Chang Wanquan is reported to have raised objections with South Korean counterparts to the potential deployment of a THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) battery  to South Korean territory, and Xi Jinping reportedly raised the issue during his July 2014 summit meeting with Park Geun-hye. Read more »

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

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, February 10, 2015
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 »

Tony Abbott Lives for Another Day – Now What?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 10, 2015
abbott-parliament-feb2015 Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses opposition politicians during question time at Parliament House in Canberra on February 9, 2015. Abbott survived a challenge to his leadership after his ruling Liberal Party on Monday voted down an attempt to unseat him after weeks of infighting. (Sean Davey/Courtesy: Reuters)

Important: The views expressed on this blog are my own. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no positions on matters of policy or politics. 

Just before New Year’s, I predicted that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott would potentially be ousted in 2015 in an internal party battle. Abbott’s leadership in 2014 had been atrocious – he often looked confused or outright deceitful when discussing policy questions. His treasurer, Joe Hockey, seemed staggeringly unconcerned about the major challenges facing Australia’s economy as China’s economy cools and the Australian real estate market returns to earth. Read more »

Time For Xi to Reform His Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 6, 2015
A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA A book vendor reads a book as he waits for customer next to portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and late Chairman Mao Zedong, at an open-air fair in Juancheng county, Shandong province January 30, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

As Xi Jinping nears the two-year mark of his tenure as president of China, he might want to take stock of what is working on the political front and what is not. Here are some early wins and losses.

Certainly, his anti-corruption campaign has hit its target—hundreds of thousands of them to be exact—and shows little sign of slowing down. He has cast a wide net, leaving little doubt that no sector of society—party, military, business, or other—is completely safe. Still, Xi remains vulnerable to accusations that the campaign is at least partially politically motivated, given that almost half of the senior-most officials arrested are tied in some way to his political opponents, and none of his Fujian or Zhejiang associates have been detained. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 6, 2015
Emergency personnel retrieve wreckage from TransAsia Airways turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft after it crashed in a river, in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Emergency personnel retrieve wreckage from TransAsia Airways turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft after it crashed in a river, in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Taiwanese plane crashes into river, resulting in at least thirty-five deaths. TransAsia GE235 lost engine power shortly after takeoff from Taipei’s Songshan Airport on Wednesday. The twin-propeller plane was carrying fifty-eight passenger and crew; eight are still unaccounted for. Preliminary reports suggest that the pilots shut down the wrong engine after the other stalled; the pilots, both of whom were killed, have been widely praised for avoiding buildings in Taipei’s urban center. Harrowing imagery from a car dashcam shows the plane losing altitude and clipping a bridge before crashing into the Keelung River. The accident is the second in seven months for TransAsia Airways. Read more »

Next Steps with India (चलें साथ साथ कहां ?)

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, February 6, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015 (Jim Bourg/Courtesy: Reuters).

By most estimates, President Barack Obama had a good visit to India last week. The atmosphere was spectacular—how could it not be, with India’s Republic Day parade the backdrop—and the apparent warmth between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama was visible from the big airport bear hug, chuckles over tea, and first-name informality (well, at least on Modi’s part) on a joint radio program. Read more »