CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Podcast: Everything Under the Heavens

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, April 13, 2017
A worker looks through the fence of a construction site that is decorated with pictures of the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing, China, September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter A worker looks through the fence of a construction site that is decorated with pictures of the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing, China on September 1, 2016. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

One of the first things any student of China learns about is the country’s illustrious five thousand years of history. While those millennia were replete with accomplishments in science and philosophy, they were also characterized by territorial expansion and the coercion of surrounding nations into shows of deference. On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Howard French, associate professor of journalism at the Columbia Journalism School and author of Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power, explores the relationship between domestic narratives of China’s history and geopolitical realities. Read more »

A Menu of Imperfect Strategic Options for South Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 10, 2017
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se (R) talks with Wu Dawei (L), China's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, during their meeting in Seoul, South Korea April 10, 2017. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae (Jacky) Park, research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. This post originally appeared on East Asia Forum, is an abridged adaptation of the authors’ CFR discussion paper, The Korean Pivot: Seoul’s Strategic Choices and Rising Rivalries in Northeast Asia, and highlights some of the main themes of Snyder’s upcoming book, South Korea At the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers. Read more »

The Trump Administration and H-1B Visas (So Far)

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, April 7, 2017
Then-U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks as (2nd L to R) PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel, Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook and Oracle CEO Safra Catz look on during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

During his campaign, President Donald J. Trump made a number of comments about the H-1B visa program—the visa for highly-skilled workers. At different moments he was against the program, then in favor of tightening it up. In the early days of his administration, a rumored executive order concerning the H-1B program circulated, causing some alarm among different interest groups, but it has not been issued yet. Read more »

Some Reasons for New Tensions Over Cambodia’s Debt

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 5, 2017
hun-sen-debt Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smiles as he arrive at the National Assembly of Cambodia during a plenary session, in central Phnom Penh, on February 20, 2017. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

In recent months, the issue of Cambodia’s Indochina War-era debt to the United States, for which the U.S. government still demands repayment, has resurfaced once again. A recent lengthy New York Times article outlines the current situation, which has also been covered by Southeast Asian media. The Cambodian government is asking Washington to forgive a loan made to the Lon Nol government to buy essential items, at a time when U.S. bombing and the growing civil war in Cambodia had driven large numbers of refugees into Phnom Penh. Read more »

A Note to President Trump: What NOT to Do in Mar-a-Lago

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, April 5, 2017
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach is seen from West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., as Trump prepared to return to Washington after a weekend at the estate, March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo President Donald J. Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach is seen from West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet at Mar-a-Lago on April 6 and April 7, 2017. (Reuters/Joe Skipper)

There are many people who have ideas about what should happen at the Xi-Trump summit. Almost as important, however, is what should not happen. Here are my suggestions for the top five things President Donald J. Trump should NOT do at his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago. Read more »

Podcast: What to Expect When Trump Meets Xi

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, April 4, 2017
A Chinese magazine poster showing U.S. President Donald Trump is displayed at a newsstand in Shanghai, China March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song A Chinese magazine poster showing U.S. President Donald Trump is displayed at a newsstand in Shanghai, China on March 21, 2017. U.S. and Chinese citizens are anticipating a summit between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping this week. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Two days from now, U.S. President Donald J. Trump will welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a historic summit between two of the world’s most powerful leaders. On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, former Deputy National Security Adviser to the Vice President Ely Ratner cuts through the flurry of anticipation surrounding the summit and analyzes the key issues at stake. Ratner, who now serves as the CFR Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow in China studies, argues that even before Xi’s plane touches down, the meeting is already off to a bad strategic start. Read more »

Japanese Offense, Tencent Meets Tesla, North Korean Hackers, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 31, 2017
Japan-SDF A Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) official is silhouetted during an air show at the annual SDF ceremony at Asaka Base, Japan, on October 23, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lorand Laskai, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. LDP eyes offensive push for Japan. A policy research group in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is pushing for the adoption of new long-range offensive capabilities. Consisting primarily of former defense ministers, former deputy defense ministers, and former parliamentary vice ministers, the LDP group urged the government to begin considering a change to Japan’s military stance, citing a “new level of threat” from North Korea. Read more »

Not the Right Time for a U.S.-China Summit

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Friday, March 31, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before their meeting at at the Great Hall of the People on March 19, 2017 in Beijing, China. (Reuters/Lintao Zhang/Pool)

Hochang Song is a former member of South Korea’s national assembly and is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping are expected to hold their first summit in early April. Among many other items, the international community will be watching to see if the summit might produce a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. But the current political situation in the United States, China, and the Korean Peninsula dims such expectations. Northeast Asia is currently in unprecedented turmoil and transformation. Although Korea is the biggest issue on the agenda, it is not the right time for a U.S.-China summit. Read more »

Podcast: A Conversation With Qingguo Jia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 31, 2017
Attendees leave the Great Hall of the People after a plenary session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China, on March 9, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Dr. Qingguo Jia, dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies and member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), offers his take on U.S.-China relations and explains the inner workings of the CPPCC. Jia makes predictions for next week’s Trump-Xi summit in Florida and argues in support of stronger sanctions on North Korea and the value of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Jia also sheds light on Chinese domestic politics, shares his own experience at the annual CPPCC gathering in mid-March, and explains the process by which delegates debate and propose thousands of policy recommendations for the year ahead. Read more »

What Happens to Congressional Southeast Asia Policy Under a New U.S. Administration?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 21, 2017
congress-southeast asia U.S. Democratic Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (front C) and Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang (3rd R) pose for a photo with other U.S. representatives and officials after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on March 31, 2015. (Kham/Reuters)

Unlike many regions of the world, where U.S. foreign policy has in recent decades been dominated by the executive branch, since the end of the Cold War Congress has played a major role in policy toward much of Southeast Asia. In mainland Southeast Asia, in fact, Congress has often been the dominant foreign policy actor, in part because successive U.S. administrations—throughout the 1990s and 2000s—placed a relatively low priority on mainland Southeast Asia. Read more »