CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

What President Obama Should Bring to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy Sunday, November 9, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague March 24 2014. Obama began crisis talks with his European allies on Monday after Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea, effectively yielding the region to Russian forces which stormed one of Kiev's last bases there. Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7 - a group of industrialised nations that excludes Russia, which joined in 1998 to form the G8. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague on March 24 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a world of foreign policy resets, rethinks, and redoes, U.S. President Barack Obama’s China strategy is right on track. The Asia pivot or rebalance makes core U.S. interests—freedom of trade and investment, freedom of navigation, and human rights—clear to Beijing in an effective and compelling manner. And within this framework, the United States has engaged China on multiple fronts, including expanding the military-to-military relationship, restarting talks on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and supporting all manner of capacity building in the legal, environmental, and public health arenas. Read more »

Japan and China Get to Yes on an Abe-Xi Summit

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 7, 2014
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool) Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool)

On November 7, Japan and China revealed they had reached an understanding on their differences that would allow for a resumption of diplomacy. After several years of a virtual shutdown in bilateral talks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to meet face-to-face at next week’s APEC meeting. Economic needs may be driving Xi, but strategic concerns are on the top of Abe’s agenda. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 7, 2014
Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing, November 4, 2014. Picture taken November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) CHINA OUT. Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing on November 4, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Leaders gather in Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. A wide range of issues are expected to be addressed throughout the week of APEC meetings, an agenda perceived as tailor-made for China. One of the most important topics is the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an initiative critics fear will take momentum from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. With the aim of rebooting Asia-Pacific growth, Chinese officials also announced a series of economic measures, including more bank credit for high-tech imports and quicker approvals for meat and seafood shipments. Other items on the forum agenda include an anti-corruption transparency network, climate issues, and regional support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Read more »

What a Republican-Controlled Senate Means for India

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters). The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

With the midterm elections in the United States decisively giving the Republican Party control of the Senate, and a stronger showing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, speculation in Washington now centers on what a Republican Congress means for policy. In The Water’s Edge, CFR’s James M. Lindsay argues that Republican control will change foreign policy, but less than many might think. In Foreign Policy, Bruce E. Stokes argues that a more aggressive foreign policy might be on the offing. In the Financial Times, Shawn Donnan reports that Republicans have already offered up trade as an area for cooperation with the White House. So what does Republican control of Congress suggest for India and the U.S.-India relationship? I’ll focus on the Senate here since leadership transitions will take place in January for every committee. Read more »

Obama, Asia, and Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, November 5, 2014
obama-najib U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speak at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center in Cyberjaya in this file photo from April 27, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s nice, in a way, to see issues one has worked on appear in major, globally important publications. This past week, just before President Obama’s trip to Asia, the Banyan column in The Economist, a column that focuses on Asia, detailed the Obama administration’s general disinterest in issues related to democracy and human rights in Asia. Banyan notes that President Obama has kept quiet as protests for suffrage have raged in Hong Kong. Banyan also writes that the Obama administration also has ignored a serious regression in political freedoms in Malaysia, maintained the close bilateral relationship with Thailand even as a military junta took over in Bangkok, and spent little time working on relations with the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, as authentic a democrat as you will get anywhere. Read more »

Myanmar Not Yet Attracting U.S. Companies

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, November 3, 2014
yangon-coca-cola-factory Staff work at a Coca-Cola factory during its opening ceremony outside of Yangon in this file photo from June 4, 2013. The facility was the first to locally bottle Coca-Cola in more than six decades and follows the U.S. company's re-entry into Myanmar in 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters).

As President Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar next week for the East Asia Summit, he will find less optimism not only about the political situation but also about Myanmar’s economic future. As I noted last week, when Obama first visited Myanmar in 2012, it was at the height of the country’s political reform process. Since then, the process of political reform has deteriorated, so much so that President Thein Sein last week held a kind of emergency summit with top civilian and military leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. This meeting was held in an attempt, I think, to get all top Myanmar public figures to at least paper over their differences during the East Asia Summit. Still, it has become clear that the military does intend to just easily hand power over to a truly civilian government, freedom of expression and press has been curtailed once again, and western Myanmar has exploded into inter-religious conflict, leaving over 100,000 Rohingya living in squalid camps that have been described by the Arakan Project as open air prisons.  It will not be easy to paper over these serious problems. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 31, 2014
A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters) A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Vietnam and India strengthen defense and energy ties amid territorial disputes with China. The two nations signed a number of agreements following a meeting this week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Most notably, Vietnam agreed to further open its oil and gas sector to India, while India agreed to provide Vietnam with four off-shore patrol vessels. Prior to his two-day state visit, Dung called for a larger Indian role in the South China Sea, in spite of criticism from China. Both Hanoi and New Delhi are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing: Vietnam in the South China Sea and India along the Himalayas. Read more »

Hun Sen’s Cambodia: A Review

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, October 31, 2014
hun sen Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen arrives at the Royal Palace during commemorations for the second anniversary of late king Norodom Sihanouk's death in Phnom Penh on October 15, 2014 (Samrang Pring/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although the Vietnam War, including the “sideshow” war in Cambodia, has been the subject of thousands of books, post-war Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos have gotten relatively little treatment from Western writers. This despite the fact that Cambodia suffered one of the worst genocides in history, Vietnam fought another war in 1979 against China and then remade itself into a strategic and economic power, and Laos remains one of the most authoritarian states in the world. Read more »

What Beijing Wants From APEC

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 31, 2014
A man (bottom) takes pictures of workers installing lighting on an APEC sign post at the financial district in Beijing, October 28, 2014. Countries at an Asia-Pacific summit in Beijing pledged to pursue "flexible" fiscal policies to support the world economy and job creation, their finance ministers said in a joint statement on Wednesday. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS SOCIETY) Workers install lighting on an APEC sign post at the financial district in Beijing on October 28, 2014. (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters)

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is just around the corner, and Beijing is pulling out all the stops. Elegant Chinese limousines will ferry the region’s leaders to and fro. The Gods—or maybe just the Communist Party, in this case—have preordained clear skies (since all factories within polluting distance will be shut down and each day half of all cars will be banned from the road). And Beijing is working hard to patch up political rifts with neighbors such as Vietnam and Japan to ensure that a spirit of collaboration rather than confrontation prevails. Read more »