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 January 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 9, 2015
A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, with Shanghai's Pudong financial district in the background, January 6, 2015. Chinese state media and the public criticised the government and police on Friday for failing to prevent the stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and dented the city's image as modern China's global financial hub. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER BUSINESS) A bouquet of flowers is pictured at the site of a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident last Wednesday during a New Year's celebration on the Bund on January 6, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. New  Year’s Eve stampede in Shanghai. A deadly stampede broke out among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Shanghai’s Huangpu River waterfront on New Year’s Eve, resulting in thirty-six deaths and forty-nine hospitalizations. This past Wednesday, grieving loved ones gathered in memorial of those lost. Ahead of the festivities, the government feared overcrowding and went so far as to cancel a planned light show along the Bund; predicting smaller crowds than in previous years, five thousand fewer officers were posted during the celebration, and those on duty were unable to control the crowds.  Read more »

Sri Lanka’s Victory for Democracy

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, January 9, 2015
Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters). Sri Lanka's newly elected president, Mithripala Sirisena, waves at media as he leaves the election commission in Colombo on January 9, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a stunning upset today, Sri Lanka’s Maithripala Sirisena defeated ten-year incumbent strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sirisena is a former member of President Rajapaksa’s cabinet who defected, with more than twenty other members of parliament, to lead an umbrella opposition coalition just two months ago. Rajapaksa conceded with the vote count still underway; at the time of his concession early on Friday morning, the election results posted showed a nearly 52 percent lead for Sirisena against almost 47 percent for Rajapaksa. Read more »

The Shanghai Stampede and Xi Jinping’s Lost Opportunity

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, January 8, 2015
A woman lights a candle during a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident during a New Year's celebration on the Bund, in Shanghai January 2, 2015. The stampede killed at least 36 people, authorities said, but police denied reports it was caused by people rushing to pick up fake money thrown from a building overlooking the city's famous waterfront. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: DISASTER SOCIETY) A woman lights a candle during a memorial ceremony for people who were killed in a stampede incident during a New Year's celebration on the Bund in Shanghai on January 2, 2015 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of the New Year’s Eve stampede along the Bund in Shanghai that resulted in the death of almost forty people, Chinese President Xi Jinping wasted no time calling for hospitals to treat the injured and for an investigation to determine responsibility for the tragedy. Yet beyond that, his response, and that of the rest of the Chinese leadership, has been tone deaf, missing an important opportunity to demonstrate real leadership through compassion and understanding. Read more »

Cybersecurity, Nuclear Safety, and the Need for a Security Regime in Northeast Asia

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, January 8, 2015
EAS summit Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye, Myanmar's President Thein Sein, and China's Premier Li Keqiang hold hands as they pose for a photo before the ASEAN Plus Three Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw November 13, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

The U.S.-DPRK tit-fo-tat over the Sony hack has continued into the new year, with the Obama administration announcing sanctions on three organizations and ten individuals on January 2 and North Korea responding with indignation two days later. But the media focus on the Sony hack obscures a potentially much more dangerous hacking incident that has also been attributed to North Korea involving release of personal information of over 10,000 employees of the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company (KHNP), which operates twenty-three nuclear reactors in South Korea. Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, January 8, 2015
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Reforming Indonesia’s Aviation Safety Procedures

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 6, 2015
airasia search A crew member of an Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out a window during a flight with Muslim clerics to offer prayers for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ 8501, over the Java Sea off Pangkalan Bun on January 6, 2015. (Achmad Ibrahim/Courtesy: Reuters)

The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, though tragic, was not an enormous surprise to anyone who follows aviation in Indonesia, or who has flown repeatedly in Indonesia. This is not to say that AirAsia has a poor safety record; the airline had never had a fatal accident prior to this one, and AirAsia management has responded admirably to the crash. Senior management, including AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, have reached out to families of the survivors, trying to keep them updated about information on the search and rescue operations and personally consoling relatives of people who were on Flight 8501. Read more »

Why Can’t Bangladeshis Protest Peacefully?

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, January 5, 2015
[STOCK PHOTO] Police officers stand guard in front of the office of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during a strike in Dhaka on October 28, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters). [STOCK PHOTO] Police officers stand guard in front of the office of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) during a strike in Dhaka on October 28, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Today, one year following national elections in Bangladesh, at least four people died in violence following political protests in Dhaka and other cities across the country. The proximate reason: the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) took out protests, which the ruling Awami League government had banned, to mark a “Murder of Democracy Day.” Despite the ban on protests, press reports indicate that members of the Awami League “outnumbered” the opposition on the streets of Dhaka. Read more »

Some Good News For a Change: Mark Clifford’s The Greening of Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Mount Kinabalu appears through the clouds over Kota Kinabalu, capital of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, in this March 8, 2002 aerial photograph. Known as "aki nabalu" or "home of the spirits of the dead" to the Kadazan Dusun locals, Kinabalu is Southeast Asia's highest mountain, standing at 4,095 metres (13,432 feet). Picture taken March 8. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad Mount Kinabalu appears through the clouds over Kota Kinabalu, capital of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, in this March 8, 2002 aerial photograph. (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters)

Picking up a copy of Mark Clifford’s new book The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency (Columbia University Press, forthcoming March 2015) is a good way to start the New Year. Clifford, the executive director of the Hong Kong–based Asia Business Council, offers an in-depth look at how entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies in Asia are making important contributions to energy, land, and water conservation and efficiency through technological and policy innovation. Coming on the heels of the recent U.S. and Chinese pledges to do more to address climate change, the book adds to the sense that there is real potential to change the world’s environmental future for the better. Read more »

Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in and Around Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters) Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the past year, Malaysia’s aviation industry has suffered an unprecedented number of tragedies. Although the odds of any person boarding a flight dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million, three Malaysia-based aircraft have apparently gone down, with no survivors. The latest, AirAsia Flight QZ8501, had been traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it vanished over the Java Sea.
Read more »

2014: The Top Ten Stories in China’s Health Sector

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters) Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters)

1. China formally enters post-Global Fund era

By the end of 2013, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria officially closed its portfolio in China. Having approved $1.81 billion to support China’s fight against the three diseases, the Global Fund was the largest international health cooperation program in China. One decade of the Global Fund’s presence in China has left behind a mixed legacy. With the departure of the Global Fund, sustaining the existing level of achievement becomes a daunting challenge. Already, the government has eliminated one trademark of the Global Fund: the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). Read more »