CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Thailand’s Next Year: Meet the New Boss…

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 10, 2016
prayuth-referendum Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha casts his ballot at a polling station during a constitutional referendum vote in Bangkok, Thailand on August 7, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

After the junta-managed referendum was approved by voters earlier this week, Thailand plans to hold elections in November 2017, according to the military regime. As I wrote earlier, the charter contained numerous provisions that seem designed to weaken the power of the two biggest political parties, the Democrat Party and Puea Thai. The new charter will potentially make the lower house of parliament nearly unmanageable, and possibly pave the way for the unelected upper house, the judiciary, the military, and the bureaucracy to wield the real levers of power in the kingdom. Read more »

Getting Rid of the Ghosts in Our Constitutional Debate

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Article Nine (to the edge of left) is seen on the replica of an official original copy of the Constitution of Japan, during a photo opportunity at National Archives of Japan in Tokyo on May 21, 2013 (Issei Kato/REUTERS). Article Nine (to the edge of left) is seen on the replica of an official original copy of the Constitution of Japan, during a photo opportunity at National Archives of Japan in Tokyo on May 21, 2013 (Issei Kato/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Read more »

China’s Limited Retaliation Options Against the THAAD Deployment in South Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, August 8, 2016
China-limited-response-to-THAAD Seoungju residents protesting against the government’s decision on deploying a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit in Seongju, South Korea. The banner reads “Desperately oppose deploying THAAD.” (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

The Chinese Ambassador to South Korea gave a rather dramatic warning to the leader of South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party on February 25 that a decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would put China–South Korean relations at risk. Thus, it should not be surprising that threats of Chinese retaliation toward South Korea would surface following the July 8 U.S.-ROK announcement that the governments had decided to deploy THAAD in South Korea in response to North Korea’s growing missile threats. Despite emotional assertions that South Korea has compromised Chinese interests by pursuing self-defense against North Korea’s growing missile capabilities, China does not have the capability to punish South Korea without damaging its own economic and strategic interests on the Korean peninsula. Read more »

At China’s G20, G Stands For Green

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 5, 2016
G20-finance-meeting-flowers G20 finance ministers and central bank governors pose for a group photo during a conference held in Chengdu in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, July 24, 2016. (Ng Han Guan/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the second part of a series on China’s role in international development. Read the first part here.

One month from today, leaders and policymakers from the world’s largest economies will be rubbing shoulders in Hangzhou for the eleventh annual Group of Twenty (G20) summit. For China, which presides over the group in 2016, the event is the culmination of nine months of diplomatic hard work to realize broad goals like “breaking a new path for growth” and fostering “inclusive and interconnected development.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 5, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, August 4, 2016
Yurike-election-victory Yuriko Koike (R) and her supporters celebrate her win in the Tokyo governor election in Tokyo, Japan, July 31, 2016. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Tokyo elects first female governor. On Sunday, Yuriko Koike was elected as the first female governor of Tokyo with 2.9 million votes, nearly one million more than her closest competitor. Although she is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), she ran as an independent when the LDP endorsed rival candidate Hiroya Masuda instead. Koike has previously been mocked for lack of commitment to a given political party, earning her comparisons to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant or migratory bird. Read more »

A Nobel Peace Prize for Article Nine

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Thursday, August 4, 2016
The audience listen as President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso delivers a speech during the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at City Hall in Oslo December 10, 2012 (Suzanne Plunkett/REUTERS). The audience listen as President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso delivers a speech during the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at City Hall in Oslo December 10, 2012 (Suzanne Plunkett/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Read more »

Bangladesh and Global Terror

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, August 4, 2016
Relatives and friends leave after attending the funeral prayer of the victims who were killed in the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 4, 2016 (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS). Relatives and friends leave after attending the funeral prayer of the victims who were killed in the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 4, 2016 (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS).

News continues to emerge about the terrorist threat in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country of 160 million, and it is alarming for two reasons: one, the apparent international dimension, more significant than previously imagined, and two, the profile of the terrorists themselves. Read more »

What Happens After Thailand’s Referendum?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 4, 2016
Thai-protestor-referendum A student activist is detained during a silent protest in Bangkok after Thailand’s election commission filed charges against a group for posting “foul and strong” comments online criticizing a military-backed draft constitution, April 27, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

On August 7, Thais hold a national referendum on a new charter. As I noted in my previous blog post, Thailand has had twenty different constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. Constitutions have been shredded by military governments after coups, rewritten during times of political upheaval, and even (as in the mid-1990s) written with thought and considerable public input and implemented under elected governments. Now, the junta, which took power in May 2014, has stage managed the drafting of a new proposed charter. Read more »

Thailand’s August 7 Referendum: Some Background

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Thai-student-elephants-referendum A Thai student holds posters in front of elephants during a campaign ahead of the August 7 referendum in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

On August 7, Thailand will hold an up or down national referendum on a proposed new constitution. Drafting new charters are hardly unusual in the kingdom, which has had twenty constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. (One famous Thai joke told to me by many friends involves a Thai student visiting a library to read a copy of the current constitution, only to be told to check in the periodicals section.) This charter has been drafted by a group of pro-military/royalist former officials, and stage managed by the junta, which took power in May 2014 after months of destabilizing street protests against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. Read more »

A Debate on the New Philippine Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, August 1, 2016
Duterte-State-of-the-Nation Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a copy of his speech as he speaks before the lawmakers during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Over email, Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University in Manila and CFR Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick discussed some of the potential effects—both positive and negative—of the administration of new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Richard Javad Heydarian: By many indicators, Rodrigo Duterte is emerging as the Philippines’ most powerful president since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship three decades ago. Fresh into office, and after months of aggressive campaign rhetoric, the new president enjoys excellent trust ratings, has amassed super-majority support in the Philippine Congress, and is set to appoint a majority of Supreme Court justices in coming years. The Ombudsman office, which has been waging a relentless campaign against corrupt officials, also enjoys close and cooperative relations with Duterte. Read more »