CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Review of “The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam” by Christopher Goscha

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, October 10, 2016
vietnam-a-modern-history Tourists visit the Victory Monument in Dien Bien Phu city on May 26, 2011. The Dien Bien Phu siege lasted for 56 days in 1954 and is considered one of the great battles of the 20th century. The French defeat led to the signing of the Geneva Accords on July 21, 1954. (Kham/Reuters)

In forty years, the relationship between the United States and Vietnam has swung about as widely as is possible. In 1975, the United States cut diplomatic ties with the country after the end of the Vietnam War—or, more formally, the Second Indochina War. Now, though Hanoi remains a repressive, one-party, nominally communist state, it has become one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Indeed, Vietnam, which fears China’s growing maritime power, is perhaps the closest U.S. strategic partner in its region, other than Singapore. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of October 7, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 7, 2016
joshua-wong-thai-expulsion Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong shows a notice of expulsion offered by Thai immigration besides Demosisto Chairman Nathan Law (L), after Wong arrived at Hong Kong Airport in Hong Kong, October 5, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Thailand detains Hong Kong democracy activist. Thai authorities detained Occupy Central organizer Joshua Wong for twelve hours earlier this week and denied him entry to the country. Wong, who is nineteen, was visiting Thailand to address students in Bangkok. Following his return to Hong Kong, Wong claimed that the Thai government had detained him because it had been directed to do so by the Chinese government. Read more »

North Korea: Ten Years After the First Nuclear Test

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, October 7, 2016
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters) A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters)

A decade has passed since North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon, on October 9, 2006. It conducted its fifth nuclear test last September, and there are rumors that a sixth will come within weeks or months. The United States has tried to both negotiate with and sanction North Korea while strengthening deterrence with South Korea and conducting shows of force to underscore the U.S. commitment to South Korean defense, but these measures have not halted, much less reversed, North Korea’s nuclear program. Read more »

How Much Damage Can Duterte Do to the U.S.-Philippine Relationship?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, October 7, 2016
duterte-us-philippines Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (C) clenches fist with members of the Philippine Army during his visit at the army headquarters in Taguig city, metro Manila, Philippines on October 4, 2016. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Over the past decade, the United States and the Philippines have bolstered what was already a strong strategic and diplomatic relationship with deep historical roots and a 65-year treaty alliance. During the George W. Bush administration, after 9/11, the U.S. launched a training and assistance program for the Philippine armed forces, designed to help combat terrorist networks based in the southern Philippines, especially Abu Sayyaf. For a time, a significant detachment of U.S. Special Forces was based there, training Philippine soldiers. Read more »

Podcast: Young Lives in New China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, October 5, 2016
young-lives-new-china A student gestures as she walks out of a school among other students after taking the final test of the national college entrance exams in Huaibei, Anhui province, June 8, 2014. (China Daily/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Alec Ash, author of Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China, gives of glimpse of today’s China through the varied stories of its young adults. Ash beautifully profiles six of his Chinese peers born in the late 1980s and 90s—such as Fred, the patriotic daughter of an official, and Lucifer, an aspiring superstar—who are only children with no memories of Mao or Tiananmen. Ash describes a generation with lofty ambitions and the energy and confidence to shape their own destinies. Yet at the same time he finds their lives are also constrained by a kind of powerlessness. Read more »

South and Southeast Asia—The Islamic State’s New Front?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, October 4, 2016
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Over the past year, as the Islamic State (ISIS) has suffered multiple losses in Syria and Iraq, the group has clearly been looking to widen its impact, taking the fight to countries outside of the Middle East. Increasingly, ISIS leaders have used social media to call on Islamic radicals to stage attacks in countries in the West like France and the United States, where the Orlando gunman, the San Bernardino gunmen, and the Nice attacker, among others, have publicly identified themselves with ISIS. Read more »

Duterte Shakes Up Philippine Foreign Policy

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, October 3, 2016
duterte-foreign-policy-2 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao city, southern Philippines on August 21, 2016. (Lean Daval Jr/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

The Philippines’ controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, has once again grabbed global headlines with his inflammatory statements. This time, he reportedly invoked Hitler to underscore his commitment to continuing a ‘shock and awe’ campaign against illegal drugs, which has provoked global outcry. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 30, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 30, 2016
pyongyang-womencrossdmz Female activists from around the world representing the group WomenCrossDMZ arrive at Pyongyang airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken and released by Kyodo, May 19, 2015. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Women activists urge Ban Ki-moon to formally end Korean War. Over 100 women activists from thirty-eight countries are putting pressure on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to formally end the Korean War prior to the end of his tenure on December 31, 2016. Read more »

Malaysia’s Parties Prepare for 2018 Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, September 30, 2016
mahathir-ibrahim Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (center L) meets with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (center R) in a high court in Kuala Lumpur on September 5, 2016. (Lawyers for Liberty/Handout via Reuters)

Two days ago, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak told reporters that he would not call national elections until 2018, when his parliament’s term runs out. As The Diplomat recently reported, some Malaysian observers thought that Najib would hold elections earlier—even as early as the middle of next year—because his party’s grip on power will wane in the face of a newly emboldened opposition. As The Diplomat noted, “The idea of holding early elections rests on the idea that Najib and his supporters perceive his political position as being stronger now than it will be within the next year or two.” Read more »

Podcast: India and China’s Brave New World

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 29, 2016
modi-xi-g20 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the West Lake State Guest House ahead of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. (Wang Zhao/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Anja Manuel, cofounder and partner at RiceHadleyGates and author of This Brave New World: India, China and the United States, offers her prescription for how the United States can understand and engage with Asia’s two largest rising powers. Manuel compares and contrasts Indian and Chinese history, leaders, and trajectories, ultimately arriving at a pair of distinct national ambitions: China aims to regain its long-lost place on center stage, and India wishes to re-engage with the world after being relatively isolated since independence. Read more »