CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

How Has the Rebalance Affected Security Assistance to Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 22, 2016
ash-carter-philippines U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honor guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 15, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the Philippines, an increasingly important U.S. security partner. In the Philippines, where he observed the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises, Carter made several important announcements. He revealed that the United States and the Philippines are, and will be, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Carter also offered specifics on new U.S. assistance to the Philippines as part of the new U.S. Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia, a program conceived by the Senate Armed Services Committee and designed to provide U.S. aid to Southeast Asian nations to bolster their maritime capabilities. Read more »

Podcast: What China’s Militarism Means for the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 22, 2016
PLAN-guard-South-China-Sea Soldiers of China’s People's Liberation Army Navy stand guard in the Spratly Islands, known in China as the Nansha Islands, February 10, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, I chat with Dr. Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the provocative new book Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World. Read more »

Brunei Desperately Looks to Diversify its Economy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Sultan-Hassanal-Bolkiah U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuter)

The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei remains almost totally dependent on petroleum for its growth, to provide its lavish social welfare programs—and to help reduce any possible opposition to the ruling sultan. Today, about 95 percent of Brunei’s exports are either oil or in some way related to oil, according to the Diplomat. Brunei’s oil has helped make it the fourth-richest country in the world by GDP per capita. But with low global oil prices, and Brunei’s oil reserves predicted to run out within the next three decades, the sultanate is desperately looking for ways to diversify its economy. Read more »

Upheaval in South Korea’s National Assembly: Expect More Surprises

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 18, 2016
Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool) Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool)

The first rule of watching South Korean elections is the same as the first rule for watching Korean TV dramas: be prepared to be surprised. In this respect, South Korea’s 2016 National Assembly electoral result delivered, as virtually no one predicted the magnitude of the failure of the ruling Saenuri party or its major standard bearers. The results left the former majority party in second place at 122 seats, well short of the 151 seats needed to exercise a majority in the 300-seat National Assembly. The first place Minjoo or Democratic Party of Korea, pruned by the departure of entrepreneur-turned-National Assemblyman Ahn Cheol-soo, who started his own People’s Party, captured 123 seats to become the largest party in the National Assembly. Ahn’s own start-up experience proved sufficient to lead the newly-established People’s Party to a better-than-expected thirty-eight seats, primarily centered in Korea’s southwestern Jeolla region. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 15, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
China-water-pollution A man walks by a pipe discharging waste water into the Yangtze River from a paper mill in Anqing, Anhui province, December 4, 2013. (William Hong/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China’s greatest pollution nightmare may be lurking underground. According to statistics released by the Chinese media on Monday, over 80 percent of water from 2,103 underground wells tested throughout the country is polluted to the point where it is no longer safe for drinking or bathing. Read more »

Podcast: The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue With China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

For almost three decades, the world has alternately encouraged and pressured China to reform its human rights practices. As part of this effort, the European Union has had an ongoing formal human rights dialogue with China since 1995. How successful has it been? This week’s Asia Unbound podcast features Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin and visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, discussing her new book, The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits. Read more »

Anti-Nuclear Sentiment and Japan’s Energy Choices

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited's Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is pictured in Rokkasho village, Aomori prefecture, Japan, December 4, 2015 (Kentaro Hamada/REUTERS). Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited's Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is pictured in Rokkasho village, Aomori prefecture, Japan, December 4, 2015 (Kentaro Hamada/REUTERS).

Daniel P. Aldrich is professor of political science and public policy and co-director of Northeastern University’s Security and Resilience Studies Program. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 12, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 8, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 8, 2016
Poppy-field-soldier-Helmand British soldiers patrol past a poppy field in Musa Qala in Helmand province, March 26, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Corruption and combat thwart counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The first poppy harvest of the year is just beginning in Helmand, Afghanistan—by far the largest source of opium and heroin in the world—and very little can be done about it. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 8, 2016
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »