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 16, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 16, 2015
Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila January 16, 2015. Pope Francis called on the Philippine government on Friday to tackle corruption and hear the cries of the poor suffering from "scandalous social inequalities" in Asia's most Catholic country. The Pope arrived the Philippines on Thursday for a five-day visit, the second and last leg of his week-long Asian tour. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini ( PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION POLITICS SOCIETY) Pope Francis waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives for a meeting with Filipino families in Manila on January 16, 2015 (Stefano Rellandini/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Pope Francis visits Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The pope made his second trip to Asia in less than two years, a sign of his “interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent,” visiting Sri Lanka and Philippines (which have Catholic populations of 6 percent and 81 percent, respectively). His first stop was Colombo, where he preached peace and reconciliation and said that Sri Lanka must heal divisions from the country’s twenty-five year civil war. After holding mass in the capital, Francis traveled to Tamil territory in the north to visit the Our Lady of Madhu shrine, a Catholic pilgrimage site. It was the first visit by a pope to the region. In the Philippines, Asia’s only predominately Christian country, the pope denounced corruption and reasserted the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception. Francis will hold three masses in the capital of Manila and in Tacloban, the province most affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Read more »

Maxine Builder: Antibiotics in China’s Rivers – An Emerging Health Threat

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 16, 2015
An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, April 8, 2013. Picture taken April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, on April 8, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

On December 25, state-run China Central Television (CCTV) reported excessive amounts of antibiotics—up to four times the legal limit in the United States—in the Yangtze, Yellow, Huangpu, Liao, and Pearl Rivers, as well as in tap water from cities in Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. Two culprits were named: run-off from poultry farms along the waterways and waste from Shandong Lukang Pharmaceutical, one of China’s four largest producers of antibiotics. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Constitution Becomes Clearer

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 13, 2015
thai military Thai soldiers stand guard at the police boat T813 tsunami memorial in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province on December 25, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Although much of the negotiations within Thailand’s constitutional drafting committee, hand picked by the Thai military, will go on without public input, the outlines of the next constitution are becoming clearer as the drafting committee has begun to meet. In recent weeks, some aspects of the drafting have been covered – and even occasionally criticized – by the Thai media, and it is clear that, despite being picked by the military, a few drafters have concerns about the opaque drafting process and the possible rollback of democratic institutions in the next constitution. Read more »

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 »