CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Thai Junta Seems Ready to Put Elections Off Longer

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, March 13, 2015
Prayuth Chan-ocha-thailand-elections Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha toasts during a luncheon organized by Keidanren, Japan Business Federation, in Tokyo on February 9, 2015. (Toru Hanai/Courtesy: Reuters)

In a recent letter to the Washington Post, Thailand’s new ambassador to the United States insisted that despite the May 2014 coup, continued martial law, crackdowns on activists of all types, and an unclear path to election, Thailand remains a democracy. “Thailand has not wavered in its commitment to democracy…progress is being made,” the ambassador insisted. His letter was written in response to a Washington Post editorial entitled “Thailand’s Ineffective Rule by Force,” which argued that the generals are holding hundreds of political prisoners, have mismanaged the Thai economy, have failed to bring stability to the country, and are trying to “permanently hobble democracy” in Thailand. Read more »

IMF Worried About Bangladesh’s Growth

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Women work at Goldtex Limited garment factory inside the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar on April 11, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters). Women work at Goldtex Limited garment factory inside the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar on April 11, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Bangladesh has been wracked by political protests over the past two years. Paradoxically, despite the country’s dysfunctional politics, its economy has done well. Last year, the all-important garment sector defied the odds and actually grew around 14 percent between July 2013 and May 2014. This insulation of the economy from the country’s toxic politics may be coming to an end, however. Since early January, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has led street protests (hartals) along with transportation blockades. For the last two months, the daily strikes and protests have continued, keeping the country at a low boil, and resulting in the death of more than 120 people. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part III

by Yanzhong Huang Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A Ministry of Public Health official holds blood test slides taken from children, who live in the Thai-Myanmar border, at a malaria clinic in the Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26, 2012. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters) A Ministry of Public Health official holds blood test slides taken from children, who live in the Thai-Myanmar border, at a malaria clinic in the Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26, 2012. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the previous blog post, I discussed how China’s efforts to promote its artemisinin-based drugs in the global market have ended up placing their pharmaceutical firms at the lower end of the supply chain. Not all Chinese pharmaceutical companies were content with this arrangement. In 1994, Beijing Holley-Cotec became the first Chinese manufacturer to export dihydroartemisinin (“Cotecxin”), one of the artemisinin derivatives that the company developed with an original Chinese brand. Read more »

Some Goals for Timor-Leste’s New Prime Minister

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 10, 2015
east timor-Rui-Maria-Araujo East Timor's new Prime Minister Rui Maria Araujo smiles at his inauguration ceremony at the President's office in Dili on February 16, 2015. (Lirio Da Fonseca/Courtesy: Reuters)

In February, Xanana Gusmao, Timor-Leste’s prime minister and by far its leading national figure, stepped down. In a decision that would be unthinkable in many countries, he gave way to allow a member of the opposition party, Rui Araujo, to be his successor as prime minister. The new prime minister is from a different generation of Timorese—he is two decades younger than the former guerilla fighter. What’s more, Rui Araujo has won respect from members of all Timorese parties for his previous work as health minister and as a senior advisor to Timor’s Finance Ministry. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part II

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, March 9, 2015
A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters) A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I described how artemisinin-based drugs were discovered in China in the 1970s and 1980s. Given their potency for the treatment of malaria, one would expect that Chinese made artemisinin-based drugs quickly became the first choice medicine in the global fight against malaria. Much to the chagrin of Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not list a single one of China’s antimalarial drugs on its procurement list until 2007.

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 6, 2015
A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters). A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea attacked in Seoul. A South Korean man identified as Kim Ki-jong, a fifty-five-year-old South Korean with a record of violent activism, slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife across the face and hand on Thursday morning local time. Lippert received eighty stitches on his face, from chin to cheek and is reported to be in good condition as of Friday. The assailant told reporters he attacked the ambassador to protest regular U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. U.S. diplomats have varied levels of security details, and though Seoul is considered a “low-threat” post, a security team was accompanying Lippert at the time of the attack. Lippert, who took up his post in Seoul in October 2014, has taken a proactively friendly approach toward his post, taking his dog Grigsby on regular walks in the city, maintaining an active Twitter account, and giving his son, born in Seoul in January 2015, a Korean middle name. Read more »

A Chinese Environmental Call to Arms Goes Viral and Then Not

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 6, 2015
Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube). Chai Jing is seen presenting in her documentary "Under the Dome" (Courtesy Youtube).

In late February, former CCTV reporter Chai Jing released a gripping video, called Under the Dome, on the sources and devastating impact of pollution in China on the environment and the health of the people. The video mixes hard facts, personal emotional appeals, and interviews with local officials to present a shocking portrait of the decades of environmental abuse that the Chinese people have suffered. Chai presents her talk TED Talk-style—strolling back and forth across the stage in front of a large, clearly captivated audience of Chinese young people. Read more »

Shocking Reminder of Korea Tensions

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, March 5, 2015
support for lippert Activists from a conservative and pro-U.S. civic group hold banners bearing messages to wish U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert a speedy recovery in front of a hospital where he is admitted to, in Seoul on March 5, 2015. Lippert underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery after he was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist, Kim Ki-jong, in an attack at a forum held in Seoul on Thursday to discuss Korean reunification, officials said. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post originally appeared on CNN and can be found here.

The attack on Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, allegedly by a knife-wielding Korean progressive activist at a breakfast meeting in Seoul, was a rare and shocking reminder of the ongoing conflict that continues to divide the Korean Peninsula. Read more »

Jokowi’s Fall

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 4, 2015
indonesia-jokowi-cabinet Indonesia's President Joko Widodo leads a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, on March 4, 2015. (Antara Photo Agency/Courtesy: Reuters)

It has been less than a year since Joko “Jokowi” Widodo won the Indonesian presidential election, calling on his vast support on social media and from young activists to defeat the better funded and better managed campaign of Prabowo Subianto. Although Jokowi blew a huge lead in the polls before the vote and then rallied to win the election, he still came into office shouldering extraordinarily high expectations from many Indonesians. Read more »

The Indian Budget: Cautious But Resolute

by Alyssa Ayres Sunday, March 1, 2015
A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a country whose media exists in a perpetual fever-pitch of excitement, a consensus has formed around the first full-year budget of the Narendra Modi government presented on February 28, 2015: No big bang reforms. For those who have not been following this closely, here are the highlights, along with links to primary sources for further reading. Read more »