CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Where Should Donald Trump Begin in South Asia?

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters) Barack Obama meets with Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Donald J. Trump will assume the U.S. presidency at a time of flux in South Asia. Afghanistan appears at risk of greater instability, Pakistan continues to harbor terrorists that attack its neighbors, India-Pakistan tensions have increased, and India’s growth story has hit a speed bump. China has escalated its involvement in the region, with extensive infrastructure development plans for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The Trump administration’s national security and international economic teams will enter office with both near-term tactical as well as long-term strategic decisions to make about how to approach the region. Read more »

Looking Ahead in Asia, With Our Allies

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, November 30, 2016
United States Navy Admiral Scott Swift greets Japan Maritime Defense Force Rear Admiral Koji Manabe before a press conference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam about the multi-national military exercise RIMPAC in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 5, 2016 (Hugh Gentry/REUTERS). United States Navy Admiral Scott Swift greets Japan Maritime Defense Force Rear Admiral Koji Manabe before a press conference at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam about the multi-national military exercise RIMPAC in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 5, 2016 (Hugh Gentry/REUTERS).

The United States will face a variety of challenges ahead in the Asia-Pacific. It will need diplomatic supporters, economic partners, and military allies. Japan and our Asian allies are all of these, and more.

Today’s Asia is complex, but tomorrow’s Asia will be fraught if the United States fails to look ahead. It will be vital for the Trump administration to consider the longer game, aiming for a vision of Asia that in the end serves U.S. interests. Read more »

Managing U.S.-China Relations in Uncertain Times

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, November 30, 2016
xi-g20-speech Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at a Paris Agreements climate event ahead of the G20 Summit, at West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The electoral victory of Mr. Donald Trump has placed U.S.-China relations in a dicey situation. While ordinary Chinese—most of whom dreaded a Hillary Clinton presidency—were delighted that their wishful thinking came true, political leaders in Beijing appeared to be caught off guard by Mr. Trump’s stunning defeat of his Democratic opponent. They are concerned about the “improper” remarks made by the president-elect and the lack of experience of his foreign policy team. Memories are still fresh of 1993–1994 when Bill Clinton, whose party had been out of power for twelve years, brought the relationship to a low ebb by establishing the link between progress in human rights and the “most favored nation” tariff treatment for China. Read more »

Moving Forward in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, November 30, 2016
duterte-speech-airport Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks after arriving from Malaysia at Davao International airport in Davao city in southern Philippines, November 11, 2016. (Lean Daval, Jr./Reuters)

Although Southeast Asia was not mentioned often during the presidential campaign, the new U.S. administration will face several imminent regional challenges. For one, the relationship between the United States and the Philippines has deteriorated significantly since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year. Duterte has publicly blasted U.S. officials and U.S. policy in the region, suggested he wants to move Philippine foreign policy closer to China, and threatened to scale down joint military exercises. Duterte expressed seeming approval of Trump’s election, presenting a possibility to restore closer ties, but the fact that Trump—a figure with some similar characteristics as Duterte—was elected will probably not change the Philippine president’s underlying anti-American worldview. Read more »

For Clues About Trump, Look Around the World

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, November 29, 2016
trump-1 U.S. President elect Donald Trump reacts to a crowd gathered in the lobby of the New York Times building after a meeting in New York, U.S., on November 22, 2016. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, many American political analysts are arguing that his presidency has virtually no precedent, and so it is impossible to know how he might govern. Unlike all presidents since Dwight Eisenhower, Trump was never an elected politician, and even Eisenhower had extensive experience with government and public policy. Trump has few clear views on most policy issues, and has repeatedly disdained the norms of American politics. Even within the Republican Party leadership, which now wields more power in Washington than any one party in decades, there is deep confusion over how the president will lead. Read more »

Podcast: Fifteen Minutes With Joshua Wong

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, November 22, 2016
joshua-wong-demosisto Student leader Joshua Wong celebrates after candidate Nathan Law won a seat in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, September 5, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

When Hong Kong police cleared the streets of Umbrella Movement protestors in December 2014, many feared for the fate of the city’s democracy movement. But two years later, in September’s elections, a handful of those same protestors won triumphant victories in Legislative Council elections. Joshua Wong, the twenty-year-old secretary general of the political party Demosistō, sat down with me last week to stress the importance of this moment to his shared fight for self-determination. Will democracy advocates be able to accomplish their aims through their new positions? And how far is Beijing willing to go in order to intervene in Hong Kong affairs and suppress democratic activities? Read more »

The U.S.-ROK Alliance and the Trump Administration

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, November 22, 2016
A woman takes a photograph of her friend with a cut-out of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump during a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) A woman takes a photograph of her friend with a cut-out of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump during a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

South Korea’s unfolding domestic political crisis has been all-consuming, with daily revelations by an unrestrained Korean media into multiple scandals that have created the likelihood of a prolonged political vacuum and implicated President Park Geun-hye. Despite the biggest Korean political scandal in decades, however, Koreans have been focused on seeking explanations and assurances from American visitors following the election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States. Read more »

Rakhine Lockdown, Hong Kong Disqualifications, Choigate, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 18, 2016
rohingya-children Rohingya Muslim boys stand in U Shey Kya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar, October 27, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

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

1. Rohingyas suffer under Rakhine lockdown. Myanmar’s Rakhine State, home to roughly 1.1 million stateless Muslims self-identified as Rohingya, has been on military lockdown since October 9 following attacks on three border security posts. Government officials claim that the perpetrators were members of a jihadist organization, and that military exercises are counterterrorism measures. The military’s goal is to eradicate the presence of the group Aqa Lul Mujahidin, which is reportedly linked to the Organization for Rohingya Security, an armed group active during the 1990s. Read more »

No, India Doesn’t Need a Hukou System

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 18, 2016
Labourers work at the site of a commercial building under construction in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi December 13, 2013. India's biggest cities face a worsening shortage of migrant manual labourers. While India has long suffered from a dearth of workers with vocational skills like plumbers and electricians, efforts to alleviate poverty in poor, rural areas have helped stifle what was once a flood of cheap, unskilled labour from India's poorest states. Struggling to cope with soaring food prices, this dwindling supply of migrant workers are demanding – and increasingly getting – rapid increases in pay and benefits. Picture taken December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee Laborers work at the site of a commercial building under construction in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi. India's biggest cities face a worsening shortage of migrant manual laborers. While India has long suffered from a dearth of workers with vocational skills like plumbers and electricians, efforts to alleviate poverty in poor, rural areas have helped stifle what was once a flood of cheap, unskilled labor from India's poorest states. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the first part of a series on migration trends in China and India.

Each minute, an estimated thirty Indians migrate from the countryside into cities. By 2050, as a result of this migration, Indian cities will house more than 800 million residents, many of them young people in search of work. However, the Indian government is ill-prepared to absorb this burgeoning youth population into cities and address their needs. Read more »

Abe’s Trump Test

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 18, 2016
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 17, 2016 (CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE). Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 17, 2016 (CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE).

Like many around the globe, Japanese are stunned by the election outcome and worried about what this means for the United States’ role in the world. Of particular concern, of course, are the comments Candidate Donald J. Trump made on the campaign trail about Japan, about trade, and about U.S. alliances. But what matters now is what President-elect Trump will do to reassure Tokyo that he values the U.S.-Japan strategic partnership. Read more »