CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Indonesian Legislative Elections: Muddled Results, Not Positive for Policymaking

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 11, 2014
A woman places a hand on a list of candidates for members of parliament at a polling station during voting for parliamentary elections in Jakarta on April 9, 2014. Indonesians voted for a new parliament on Wednesday in a poll that was dominated by the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), boosting the chances of its popular candidate in a presidential election three months from now (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters). A woman places a hand on a list of candidates for members of parliament at a polling station during voting for parliamentary elections in Jakarta on April 9, 2014. (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters)

In terms of logistics and the quality of the actual voting day, Wednesday’s legislative elections in Indonesia were of a very high standard, with few irregularities reported across the massive country. The election once again shows that, in terms of the election day itself, Indonesia has moved toward consolidating its democracy and can be trusted to hold fair and relatively well-run polls. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 11, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 11, 2014
india-electonic-voting-booth A voter looks at an electronic voting machine before casting his vote inside a booth at a polling station in Bhangel village on the outskirts of New Delhi on April 10, 2014. Around 815 million people have registered to vote in the world's biggest election—a number exceeding the population of Europe and a world record—and results of the mammoth exercise, which concludes on May 12, are due on May 16 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Indian election underway. With over 814 million eligible voters, India’s election is the largest democratic undertaking in history and will take place over a period of five weeks in nine phases—three of which were completed this week. On Thursday, constituencies were at stake in eleven of India’s states and three federally administered territories. India’s Election Commission reported impressive voter turnout in most regions, including over 60 percent turnout in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Read more »

Hunter Gross: Despite Cyber Espionage, U.S.-China Relations Are Business as Usual

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, April 10, 2014
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) shakes hands with Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan at the end of a joint news conference at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing on April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel (L) shakes hands with Chinese minister of defense Chang Wanquan at the end of a joint news conference at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing on April 8, 2014. (Alex Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Hunter Gross is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Just as U.S. president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping were set to meet in The Hague, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency installed backdoors in the computer networks of the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. Despite extensive U.S. media coverage and angry reactions from Chinese news sources such as Xinhua and the Global Times, this revelation follows the pattern of previous cyber-related disclosures; the issue first flares up, and then quickly fades until the next disclosure. Why does such a divisive issue neither strain U.S.-China relations or trigger significant actions to address the problem? Read more »

How to Spot A Shadowy North Korean Business

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, April 10, 2014
Workers are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship Chong Chon Gang docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. Panama detained the North Korean–flagged ship from Cuba as it headed to the Panama Canal and said it was hiding weapons in brown sugar containers, sparking a standoff in which the ship's captain attempted to commit suicide (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy: Reuters). Workers are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship Chong Chon Gang docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. Panama detained the North Korean–flagged ship from Cuba as it headed to the Panama Canal and said it was hiding weapons in brown sugar containers, sparking a standoff in which the ship's captain attempted to commit suicide (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy: Reuters).

The latest UN Panel of Experts report reveals that North Korean businesses connected with the illicit arms trade are most effective when they hide their North Korean colors and blend in to the international trading environment as nondescript entities. Their North Korean origins may be concealed by a web of false fronts, dizzying name changes, and layered ownership structures that distance them from their North Korean origins. In other cases, some North Korean companies may continue to operate openly despite having been sanctioned by the UN. Without sufficient due diligence, unwitting companies could be doing business with North Korean firms in violation of UN sanctions on North Korean nuclear, missile, and conventional arms traders. Read more »

Obama in Malaysia: A Strategic Partnership?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 8, 2014
najib-and-obama-in-2011 U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, on November 18, 2011 (Jason Reed/Courtesy: Reuters).

During his upcoming late April trip to Asia, President Obama will visit two nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to stops in Northeast Asia. The White House already has been briefing reporters on the overall messaging of the trip, and the specific themes the president plans to hit in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, it appears from several news reports and from speaking with several administration officials, President Obama will add to the Malaysian government’s self-promotion that Kuala Lumpur is a successful and democratic nation, an example of other Muslim-majority countries, and a force for moderation in the world. The president apparently plans to hit these themes despite the regional anger at Malaysia’s handling of the Malaysia Airlines vanished plane, which exposed to the world many of the problems with Malaysia’s governance. Read more »

What Briefing Chinese Officials on Cyber Really Accomplishes

by Adam Segal Monday, April 7, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and China's President Xi Jinping talk during a family photo at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Doug Mills/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and China's President Xi Jinping talk during a family photo at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Doug Mills/Courtesy Reuters)

David Sanger wrote an interesting article in the New York Times about Washington’s efforts to prevent escalating cyberattacks with Beijing. According to Sanger, U.S. officials have tried to allay the concerns of their Chinese counterparts about the buildup of Pentagon capabilities through greater transparency. They have briefed them on the “emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States—and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.” We should, however, be clear about their real purpose. These briefings have more to do with deterring China than assuring it. Read more »

The Indian Elections—What the BJP Has to Say About Foreign Policy

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, April 7, 2014
BJP manifesto Narendra Modi (2nd R), the prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, addresses a gathering after releasing their election manifesto in New Delhi on April 7, 2014 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections

Earlier today, on the first day of India’s five-week-long national elections, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at last released their 2014 campaign manifesto. With the ruling Congress Party having released theirs on March 26, and the drumbeat of poll results showing the BJP with a commanding lead on the eve of elections, the platform’s absence had become the subject of much speculation. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 4, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 4, 2014
Residents cover their faces as they ride a motorcycle along a street after tear gas was released by police to disperse a protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guandong province, China on March 31, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Residents cover their faces as they ride a motorcycle along a street after tear gas was released by police to disperse a protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guandong province, China on March 31, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea exchanged artillery fire across a disputed martime border off the peninsula’s western coast on March 31. Neither side aimed at land or military installations, but 100 of the 500 rounds from North Korea fell south of the boundary, followed by 300 South Korean artillery shells shot into the northern side of the boundary. The incident occurred not far from Baengnyeong Island, where in March 2010 North Korean torpedoes sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan. Read more »

The Indian Elections—What the Congress Party Has to Say About Foreign Policy

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, April 4, 2014
Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi holds her party's manifesto for the April/May general election in New Delhi March 26, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi holds her party's manifesto for the April/May general election in New Delhi on March 26, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections.

With India’s national elections about to kick off on April 7, politics dominates the media and private conversations alike. Most of the conversation focuses on the poll horse race, at this point heavily favoring the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win more than 200 of the 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament and form a coalition government. (Click here to learn three things to know about the upcoming elections). Read more »

Beijing’s Arctic Play: Just the Tip of the Iceberg

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 4, 2014
A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk October 17, 2012. By a remote fjord where icebergs float in silence and hunters stalk reindeer, plans are being drawn up for a huge iron ore mine that would lift Greenland's population by four percent at a stroke - by hiring Chinese workers. The $2.3-billion project by the small, British company London Mining Plc would also bring diesel power plants, a road and a port near Greenland's capital Nuuk. It would supply China with much needed iron for the steel its economy. With global warming thawing its Arctic sea lanes, and global industry eyeing minerals under this barren island a quarter the size of the United States, the 57,000 Greenlanders are wrestling with opportunities that offer rich rewards but risk harming a pristine environment and a traditional society that is trying to make its own way in the world after centuries of European rule. Yet a scramble for Greenland already may be under way, in which some see China trying to exploit the icebound territory as a staging ground in a global battle for Arctic resources and strategic control of new shipping routes. Picture taken October 17, 2012. To match Insight GREENLAND/ REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton (GREENLAND - Tags: BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A whale dives into sea off the coast of Greenland's capital Nuuk on October 17, 2012. (Alistair Scrutton/Courtesy Reuters)

If you pay attention, Chinese foreign policy rarely surprises. Of course there is the odd moment when Beijing catches the world unaware: for example, its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea in late 2013. Generally speaking, however, the Chinese telegraph their long-term strategic intentions through their smaller tactical maneuvers. It is just that the rest of the world sometimes misses the signals or doesn’t know what to do with the information. Such is the case with China’s emerging play in the Arctic. Read more »