CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Electoral Landslide With an Ambiguous Mandate

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, December 12, 2014
A staff member of an election campaign prepares for their stumping for Japan's upcoming Dec. 14 lower house election, at a election candidate's campaign office in Tokyo December 11, 2014. The words written on white paper read, "Pray for Victory". (Courtesy Reuters/Issei Kato) A staff member of an election campaign prepares for their stumping for Japan's upcoming Dec. 14 lower house election, at a election candidate's campaign office in Tokyo December 11, 2014. The words written on white paper read, "Pray for Victory". (Courtesy Reuters/Issei Kato)

This Sunday, parliamentary elections in Japan are widely expected to return Prime Minister Abe and his ruling coalition to power. Japanese media polling data point to a victory for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of over 300 of the 475 Lower House seats, and with an additional 30 or more seats expected for the Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, this would give the current government a comfortable basis from which to govern. It is even possible that Mr. Abe’s government will retain its two-thirds majority, allowing his next government broad legislative support for his policy agenda. Read more »

India and Bangladesh Poised to Resolve Border Dispute

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, December 11, 2014
Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura August 11, 2014. India commemorates its Independence Day on August 15. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey (INDIA - Tags: ANNIVERSARY MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura on August 11, 2014. (Jayanta Dey/Courtesy Reuters)

After nearly seventy years, it appears that India and Bangladesh may at last resolve their border issues, a legacy of the partition of India in 1947. Following the failed effort of the previous Indian government to ratify a Land Boundary Agreement negotiated with the government of Bangladesh, announced in 2011 but never passed by the Indian parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced his support. As I argue in the Indian Express this week, what may appear to be a local, low-profile regional development actually has significant impact for India and its role in the world. Read more »

What the Turmoil in Thailand’s Palace Means for Thai Politics (Perhaps)

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is accompanied by royal consort Princess Srirasmi as he presides over the Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok in this file photo from November 9, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part two of a series on Thai leadership.

As I noted last week, Thailand has been consumed by recent news that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appears to be on the verge of divorcing his third wife, Srirasmi, and erasing all remnants of her and her family from his life and from the royal palace. Of course, no Thai media are openly reporting this news, since saying almost anything at all about the crown prince or any other leading member of the royal family (or even about royal events that allegedly took place hundreds of years ago) can get one slapped with harsh lèse-majesté charges. Still, the Thai media have reported on the decisions taken by the crown prince, while delicately dancing around the implications of these decisions or how they affect the royal succession and Thai politics in general. Read more »

Zuckerberg’s Love Affair With Xi Jinping

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, on April 4, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently stirred up controversy by advising his employees to read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China, because he wants them to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The book appeared prominently placed on his desk during a recent visit from China’s Internet czar Lu Wei, and he apparently has bought a number of copies to share with others. (To be clear—and I am assuming Mr. Zuckerberg realizes this—Xi’s book is not a book that he, himself, wrote; it is a collection of his speeches and interviews.) For the free publicity he is providing the Chinese leader, Zuckerberg has been widely condemned on the Chinese Internet. Given Zuckerberg’s position as the CEO of one of America’s leading technology firms, it is worth exploring whether such criticism is deserved. Read more »

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 »