CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Allen Grane: Combating the African Wildlife Trade in China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, December 8, 2014
A herd of elephants confronts a hippopotamus at a watering hole in Hwange National Park October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. Picture taken October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW) A herd of elephants drinks at a watering hole in Hwange National Park on October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Allen Grane is a research associate for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recently, the Animal Planet aired a documentary entitled “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming.” The show, developed in conjunction with the environmental non-governmental organization WildAid, depicts Yao meeting with wildlife conservationists to discuss the future of African elephants and rhinoceroses. The documentary is part of an increased information campaign that includes other celebrities such as the Duke of Cambridge, David Beckham, and Jackie Chan. Read more »

New Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, December 8, 2014
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 »

Better Planning This Time for Philippine Typhoon

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, December 8, 2014
Typhoon-Hagupit Children look out of a window at an evacuation center set up for the coastal community to shelter from Typhoon Hagupit, near Manila, on December 8, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos began to return to their homes battered by a powerful typhoon over the weekend, but the nation collectively breathed a sigh of relief as a massive evacuation plan appeared to minimize fatalities (Cheryl Gagalac/Courtesy: Reuters).

As of Sunday night on the U.S. East Coast, Typhoon Hagupit had made landfall in the Philippines and moved across parts of the country. The typhoon had weakened and appears to not pack the force of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines last year. Still, Hagupit already has caused significant damage. Casualty and damage figures remain incomplete, but initial estimates suggest that at least 20 people have been killed and thousands of homes have been destroyed by Typhoon Hagupit, with the damage yet to be tolled from the storm’s movement over Metro Manila. Typhoon Hagupit also may have set back some of the reconstruction that has taken place in areas hit by Haiyan last year. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: The Top Five Stories for the Week of December 5, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, December 5, 2014
China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 14, 2012. China's senior leadership has agreed to open a corruption investigation into Zhou, one of China's most powerful politicians in the past decade, stepping up its anti-graft campaign, the South China Morning Post reported on August 30, 2013. Picture taken March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Zhou Yongkang arrested. Former head of China’s domestic security Zhou Yongkang was expelled from the Communist Party and arrested earlier today on charges including accepting bribes, helping family members and associates access government assets, disclosing state secrets, and leaking official secrets, Chinese state news service Xinhua announced. The decision was made by the Communist Party Politburo, comprised of the twenty-five most powerful officials in China, meaning that it is very likely that Zhou will be convicted. Read more »

Thailand’s Royal Succession Battle Comes Into (Slightly) More Open View

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, December 4, 2014
thai-royal-guard-king's-birthday-2014 Thai Royal Guards ride their horses in front of the Grand Palace during a military parade as a part of a celebration for the upcoming birthday of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in Bangkok, on December 2, 2014. The revered king, the world's longest reigning monarch, will turn 87-years-old on December 5 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part of a series on Thai leadership.

The past ten years of political turmoil in Thailand have revolved around several contentious challenges. A growing, politically empowered, and vocal working class in Thailand’s provinces has clashed with traditional Bangkok elites. Shifts in Thailand’s constitutions have led to a two-party system, rather than the old multi-party politics, but the two-party system has struggled to effectively represent the interests of a majority of Thais. The Thai military, once thought to be under civilian control, has reasserted its power throughout the past decade, while other institutions have failed to control the military’s resurgence. Violent street protests have emerged as a weapon to bring down governments, with no consequences for the violent demonstrators, a development that only fosters more violent protests. Read more »

Alisha Sud: China’s Investments in Brazil Spark Public Concern

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, December 4, 2014
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attend the official photo session for the meeting of China and CELAC at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia July 17, 2014. Brazil hosts the meeting of China and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). REUTERS/Sergio Moraes (BRAZIL - Tags: POLITICS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attend a meeting of China and CELAC at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia on July 17, 2014. (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

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

In October, Baidu, China’s top search engine, bought Peixe Urbano, Brazil’s largest internet marketplace for local commerce. According to the Peixe Urbano website, the deal “represents one of the most important acquisitions to date in the Brazilian internet and technology sector.” Earlier in July, Baidu even launched a Portuguese version of the site. The goal is to capitalize on the increasing number of internet users in Brazil; it is projected that upwards of 43 million Brazilians will be online within the next three years. Read more »

Lauren Dickey: Taiwan’s Local Elections and a New Challenge for Beijing

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Supporters wave flags after Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je won the local elections, in Taipei on November 29, 2014 (Pichi Chuang/Courtesy: Reuters). Supporters wave flags after Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je won the city's election on November 29, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party experienced an unprecedented electoral defeat last Saturday, the “biggest defeat since 1949,” according to local media. Nearly 20,000 candidates ran for 11,130 political offices in Taiwan, with 18.5 million eligible voters casting ballots for nine levels of government across the island. Beyond the sheer scope of holding nine different elections on one single day, the electoral outcome sends a resounding signal to Beijing. After the spring Sunflower Movement protesting the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement with mainland China, and the ongoing Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, these elections offered an opportunity for many voters to voice discontent with the pro-China, pro-business policies of the ruling KMT party. Read more »

How the Pivot Is Adding to Democracy’s Woes in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, December 1, 2014
thai-may-protest-3 A protester against military rule holds a sign in front of soldiers deployed to the Victory monument in Bangkok where protesters gathered on May 26, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Throughout much of the 1990s and early 2000s, Southeast Asia was one of the world’s bright spots for democracy. Even Myanmar, long one of the most repressive nations in the world, seemed to be changing. In 2010 and 2011, the xenophobic leadership of the Myanmar army, which had ruled the country since 1962, began a transition to civilian government by holding elections that ultimately helped create a partially civilian parliament. The country seemed poised for free elections in 2015 that would solidify its democratic change. Since the early 2010s, however, Southeast Asia’s democratization has stalled and, in some of the region’s most economically and strategically important nations, it has even reversed. Over the past decade, Thailand has undergone a rapid and severe democratic regression and Malaysia’s democratic institutions and culture have regressed as well. While less drastic, there have also been troubling developments in a number of other countries. Read more »

The Anticorruption Campaign and Rising Suicides in China’s Officialdom

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Yang Dacai, a former provincial official, listens to a verdict at a court in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, September 5, 2013. The court jailed Yang for 14 years on Thursday for corruption after pictures of him grinning at the scene of an accident and wearing expensive watches went viral online, earning him the nickname "watch brother". A picture of the rotund Yang Dacai smiling while inspecting the scene of a bus accident in which 36 people died last year provoked outrage, and criticism grew when pictures of him wearing high-end watches were then posted on social media sites. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA Yang Dacai, a former provincial official convicted of corruption, listens to his verdict at a court in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on September 5, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

On November 13, the deputy commissar of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Vice Admiral Ma Faxing, committed suicide by leaping from a building at a naval complex in Beijing. In the same month, at least two other important officials took their lives. They were among the more than forty officials who have killed themselves since January 2014, more than double the total in all of 2011. Read more »

Jokowi’s Maritime Doctrine and What it Means

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, November 25, 2014
jokowi-at-eas Indonesia's President Joko Widodo listens to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech (not pictured) at the 17th ASEAN-Japan Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw on November 12, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Despite coming into the Indonesian presidency as a man with minimal foreign policy experience, Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has attempted to launch a bold new foreign policy doctrine. Since the end of the Suharto dictatorship, Indonesian presidents have slowly rebuilt the country’s clout in regional and international affairs, which diminished greatly in the chaotic post-Suharto era. Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, though considered mostly a failure as a domestic reformer, did restore Indonesian leadership of ASEAN and play a significant role in helping mediate several regional conflicts. Read more »