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 April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 10, 2015
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Rotenberg and Di: Ali Health Offers a Revolutionary Moment for China’s Healthcare Industry

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Friday, April 10, 2015
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma gestures during a talk by Our Hong Kong Foundation in Hong Kong, February 2, 2015. The head of China's commerce regulator met with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd chairman Jack Ma last Friday to discuss combating fake products, the official Xinhua news agency reported, with the two adopting a conciliatory tone after a row over illegal business on the Internet company's platforms. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate for U.S. Foreign Policy, and Peng Di is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Private sector actors in China, first and foremost Alibaba, are taking significant steps to do what they believe will earn a handsome profit in the growing Chinese healthcare industry. With a market estimated to reach one trillion dollars by 2020, companies are working fast to secure their slice of the expanding Chinese healthcare pie. Read more »

Little Mention of Southeast Asia in Secretary of Defense’s Rebalance Speech

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, April 9, 2015
ash-carter-rebalance U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. military personnel during a meeting near an F-16 fighter jet at Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a speech at Arizona State University earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter laid out a kind of relaunch of the Obama administration’s rebalance to Asia—a plan for moving the rebalance forward over the final years of the president’s second term. Carter hit many key points that the administration hopes to emphasize: the importance of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership both for the region’s economic future and for America’s own strategic interests; the growth in maritime partnerships with longtime allies like Australia and Japan; the increase in training programs for partner militaries in the Asia-Pacific region. Read more »

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, April 9, 2015
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. Read more »

Joyce Dong: China’s Reactions to Assessments of the PLA’s Weaknesses

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, April 8, 2015
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing on July 22, 2014 (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters).

Joyce Dong is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent publications such as the RAND Corporation’s report “China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)” and Dennis Blasko’s article “Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern Warmark a significant shift away from the usual narrative that China’s economic rise has led to an increasingly militarized and powerful PLA. While the PLA’s military budget continues to grow at double-digit rates, these reports suggest that the “China threat” has been overhyped. Read more »

Is There Such Thing As a Thai-Style Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Prayuth-Chan-ocha-Thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays respect in front of Buddhist monks as he attends the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

This past week, Thai prime minister—and junta leader—General Prayuth Chan-ocha ended martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, and replaced it by invoking an article of the interim constitution that gives him nearly-absolute powers. This shift did not necessarily mean Thailand is moving any closer to a return to democracy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 3, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 3, 2015
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters) Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Thailand lifts martial law and puts in place a “new security order.” Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved a request from the country’s junta to lift martial law on Wednesday and trade it for a so-called new security order. Most experts agree this choice was a cosmetic one, not substantive, that was an attempt to improve the appearance of Thailand to the outside world while maintaining absolute power for the junta. Read more »

Japan’s Adjustment to Geostrategic Change

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, April 3, 2015
China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing November 10, 2014. Xi and Abe held formal talks on Monday for the first time since the two leaders took office, a breakthrough in ending a two-year row between Asia's biggest economies over history and territory. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

In this post, I look at recent events in Japan-China relations, and explain how they relate to my argument in my book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China. This post originally appeared on the Columbia University Press blog and can be found here.

Adjusting to the rise of China is not simply a task for diplomats or strategists. Rather, the adjustment to new centers of global economic and political influence involves a broad array of social actors. Read more »

Murdering the Idea of Bangladesh

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, April 3, 2015
People attend a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organizing demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka on February 16, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters). People attend a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organizing demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka on February 16, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Earlier this week, a young blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death outside his Dhaka home. This is the third such attack— gruesome butcherings by machete—in the past two years, and all three have targeted “atheist bloggers.” With a third murder, we can no longer see these as purely isolated incidents; rather, they now form a chilling pattern. Read more »

Will Thailand’s Prime Minister Amass Even More Power?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Prayuth-Chan-ocha Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) gestures in a traditional greeting after a speech at the Stock Exchange of Thailand in Bangkok on February 26, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Over the past month, the Thai press has repeatedly suggested that the junta-installed government will soon remove martial law. Martial law has been in place since the May 2014 coup. (Some provinces in the south had martial law long before 2014.) And indeed, this week the Thai government does appear ready to lift martial law. Coup leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government may be making this move since many foreign governments and rights organizations have specifically criticized martial law, holding it up as a sign of serious restrictions on rights and freedoms. Read more »