CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 29, 2016
Rajib-speech Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Malaysian prime minister evades corruption charges. Malaysia’s attorney general announced Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak did not commit a crime in accepting a $680 million donation from the Saudi royal family in 2013. Najib has been under investigation for corruption since July, when investigative journalists unearthed documents alleging the prime minister had taken $680 million from a state development fund he had created. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Coming War with Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 29, 2016
Chinese-army-actors Actors dressed as Red Army soldiers perform at a gala show to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Jonathan Holslag, professor of international politics at the Free University of Brussels, in his terrific new book China’s Coming War with Asia puts forth the provocative thesis that war between China and Asia is inevitable. Driven by four grand aspirations—integration of frontier lands, popular support of the Party, international recognition of Chinese sovereignty, and recovery of lost territories—the Chinese leadership has embarked on a journey from which it will not deviate. Read more »

Violence Flares in Laos

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, January 29, 2016
laos-violence-2016 Officials attend the Communist Party Congress in Vientiane, Laos January 21, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Despite its reputation for placidity, and its popularity as a backpacker tourist destination, Laos remains one of the most repressive and politically opaque countries in the world. It is consistently ranked as “not free” by Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Index, and unlike neighboring Thailand, Cambodia, or even Myanmar during junta rule, Laos has no organized opposition party. In fact, even small public protests in Laos are quickly suppressed, their leaders going missing for years afterward. Read more »

THAAD: The Moment of Decision Has Arrived

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Friday, January 29, 2016
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Courtesy REUTERS/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Courtesy REUTERS/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Korean Pivot and the Return of Great Power Politics in Northeast Asia. Read more »

China’s Nuclear Ambitions Go Global

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, January 27, 2016
China-nuclear-global-ambitions A worker looks on as the dome roof of a generator unit is lifted to be installed, at Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant, in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, September 26, 2015. (Stringer/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators Laurent Stricker suggested that “overconfidence” could undermine the safety of nuclear power plants. While the Chinese nuclear industry may not necessarily be overconfident, its ambition is undeniable: the country has brought nearly twenty reactors online in the past decade and has around two-hundred proposed or planned in an all-out push to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. And after twenty-five years of developing nuclear power domestically, Chinese companies are now seeking to export their technology abroad. Read more »

Is the Islamic State Making Gains in Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 26, 2016
indonesia-islamic state Indonesian police stand guard at the site of a militant attack in central Jakarta, Indonesia on January 16, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Over the past three weeks, several events have dramatically highlighted the growing appeal of the Islamic State based in Southeast Asia. First, on January 14, a group of militants reportedly run by an Indonesian man who had traveled to Syria carried out an attack in a busy neighborhood in Jakarta, leading to at least seven deaths. Several weeks before the attack, the Indonesian police had made a string of arrests of other Indonesian cells linked to the Islamic State. Read more »

The Fits and Starts of China’s Economic Reforms

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, January 25, 2016
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after unveiling a sculpture during the opening ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, January 16, 2016. (Mark Schiefelbein/Reuters)

Over the past several months, it has become more than a full-time job trying to figure out what is going on in the Chinese economy. There have been many good efforts to make sense of all the disparate numbers that are coming out of Beijing and to tell people what to look for moving forward (including from George Magnus, Gabriel Wildau, and Eswar Prasad), but it is challenging. One thing that should not be—but often is—forgotten in the sea of numbers is the politics of the reform process. The political dimension can provide some much-needed context as to the problems Beijing is facing. Let me suggest three political factors that may be contributing to Beijing’s disjointed and seemingly sub-optimal economic decision-making process. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 22, 2016
Bacha-Khan-protest Civil society members take part in protest against the attack on Bacha Khan University at a demonstration in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 21, 2016. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Terrorists kill twenty-one in attack on Pakistani university. On Wednesday, gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district, killing twenty-one people and injuring dozens more. Four attackers were killed in an hours-long gun battle with security guards, local police, and the army in the attempt to secure the campus. Read more »

Can Suu Kyi Break Myanmar’s Ceasefire Deadlock?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, January 21, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-negotiations-speech Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during talks between the government, army and representatives of ethnic armed groups over a ceasefire to end insurgencies, in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party will control Myanmar’s next parliament, participated for the first time in the government’s ongoing peace negotiations with ethnic minority insurgencies. As the Associated Press reported, Suu Kyi declared that she would push for a complete peace accord, one that includes the insurgent groups that did not sign an initial peace framework last autumn. Read more »

What Indonesia Knows About Blocking the Islamic State

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Indonesian policemen with weapons and an armored vehicle guard in front of a Starbucks cafe at Thamrin business district in Jakarta, on January 14, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters) Indonesian policemen with weapons and an armored vehicle guard in front of a Starbucks cafe at Thamrin business district in Jakarta, on January 14, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

In the wake of the attacks last week in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the archipelago, the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world, is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings. The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist and Facebook pages, and Islamic State has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort. Read more »