CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Grading Jokowi’s First Month

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, November 13, 2014
Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta, October 20, 2014. Widodo took over as president of the world's third-largest democracy on Monday with supporters' hopes high but pressing economic problems and sceptical rivals set to test the former furniture businessman. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta on October 20, 2014. (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

Slightly less than a month into Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office, a few aspects of how Jokowi will govern are coming into focus. And since he promised major change in the first hundred days of his presidency, it is fair to analyze how he has done to this (short) point in time. Let’s run down how the former Jakarta mayor, who never held national office before, is doing in several key areas. Read more »

Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, November 13, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Let’s be clear, the United States won big this week, but not for the reasons most people think. The media and China analysts have focused overwhelmingly on the climate deal, touting the new commitments from both the United States and China as exceptional, even “historic.” But this is missing the forest for the trees. The real win for U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping China in the tent or, in political science speak, reinforcing Beijing’s commitment to the liberal international order. Read more »

Michael Levi: What the Big U.S.-China Climate Announcement Means

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, November 12, 2014
A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province September 16, 2013. China is pumping investment into wind power, which is more cost-competitive than solar energy and partly able to compete with coal and gas. China is the world's biggest producer of CO2 emissions, but is also the world's leading generator of renewable electricity. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight during a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will meet in Stockholm from September 23-26. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on September 16, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced new targets to cut climate pollution in their respective countries. My colleague and co-author Michael Levi explains the implications of this climate change agreement in a post on his blog, Energy, Security, and ClimateI have reposted it here. Read more »

India’s Brinkmanship at WTO Hurts It at APEC

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, November 10, 2014
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood)

The annual APEC summit is underway in Beijing. Perhaps the most notable absentee is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who received an unprecedented invitation in July from Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the gathering. Despite growing to become the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms, India is not a member of APEC, and as a result would not normally attend the summit. But this year President Xi used his platform as the summit host to extend invitations to non-members India, Pakistan, and Mongolia. While Pakistan and Mongolia’s leaders made the trip to Beijing for APEC, Prime Minister Modi decided not to do so. It’s a missed opportunity for India’s economic diplomacy at a time it could use a boost. Read more »

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 »