CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Trump and Chinese Investment, Pakistan’s Missiles, Indian Lychee Illness, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 3, 2017
Trump-Ma U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma speak with members of the news media after their meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, January 9, 2017. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

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

1. Trump doesn’t like China, but does he like Chinese money? President Donald J. Trump will soon face some important decisions on Chinese investment in the United States. Trump will need to decide whether to approve a plan by Alibaba’s Paypal-like subsidiary Ant Financial to buy U.S. payment processor MoneyGram, or block the acquisition on national-security grounds. Read more »

India Hopes Donald Trump Will Solve the Pakistan Problem

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, February 3, 2017
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (3rd R), a UN- and U.S.-designated terrorist, openly leads a rally against India and in support of Kashmir, in Karachi, Pakistan, December 18, 2016. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

For those of us in Washington, the days since President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration have been head-spinning. The executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entry into the United States produced mass protests across the United States. A rejig of the National Security Council has raised questions about its politicization. Angry tweets on Mexico, Australia, Iran, Berkeley, Democrats, Chicago, numerous corporations, and many other targets have ushered in a high-speed news cycle centered on Twitter, and disrupted the more sedate pace of both foreign and domestic policy that many of us had grown used to. (Disclosure: I supported the Hillary Clinton campaign.) Read more »

SecDef Mattis’s Mission in Northeast Asia: Provide Reassurance from the Trump Administration

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, February 2, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) shakes hands with South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn (R) prior their meeting at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea February 2, 2017. (Reuters/Song Kyung-Seok/Pool)

Northeast Asia is facing profound political uncertainty: South Korea is immobilized by a political scandal that has resulted in the impeachment of its president, Park Geun-hye, and ensnared top business elites; Japan has been left high and dry after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguably the country’s best chance at growth; and North Korea is getting closer and closer to becoming a nuclear power. Read more »

Assessing U.S. Policy Options Toward North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Newspapers with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressing the ruling Workers' Party congress are placed inside one of halls of the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea May 9, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

On January 31, 2017, I testified together with Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute before the Senate foreign relations committee on policy toward North Korea. My opening statement appears below, and my written testimony and a video recording of the hearing can be found here. Read more »

Podcast: A Great Place to Have a War

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, January 30, 2017
A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva A Buddhist monk poses on September 3, 2016, next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang in Laos. The United States dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos in the course of the war. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

While Vietnam and Cambodia loom large in American memories of the Vietnam War, neighboring Laos recedes into the background. But during the 1960s and 1970s, the tiny, landlocked nation was the site of the CIA’s transformation from a loosely organized spy agency to a powerful paramilitary organization. Read more »

How the Laos War Transformed the CIA

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Book jacket photography by John Quintero/Getty Images.

From 1961 until the early 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency undertook, in Laos, what remains the largest covert operation in the history of the United States. Tiny Laos, which had not even existed as a coherent entity twenty years earlier and which had a smaller population than Los Angeles, suddenly was propelled to the center of U.S. foreign policy universe, only to vanish completely from that radar fifteen years later. Read more »

The CIA Isn’t Necessarily Going to Lose Out in the New Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, January 23, 2017
trump-3 U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia U.S. on January 21, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

During the transition period between November and January, President-elect Donald Trump developed perhaps the most publicly antagonistic relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies of any incoming president in at least decades. He compared the intelligence agencies to Nazis, repeatedly disdained their reports as fake, and dismissed their assessments of foreign interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal last Monday, outgoing CIA director John Brennan called Trump’s allegations “repugnant.” Other intelligence officials have reportedly expressed a sense of dread about what’s to come. Read more »

Samsung Scandal, Chinese Coal, Islamic State in Asia, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 20, 2017
jay-lee-samsung Chief of Samsung Group Lee Jae-yong is surrounded by media as he arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

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

1. Sprawling influence-peddling scandal spreads to Samsung leadership. Last week, the de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, faced a twenty-two-hour interrogation regarding allegations that Samsung paid, and promised to pay, a total of 43 billion won (roughly $36.4 million) in bribes to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the government-controlled National Pension Service’s support of a contentious 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Read more »

Abe’s Mission Impossible in Manila

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, January 18, 2017
duterte-abe President Rodrigo Duterte joins Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) as he interacts with the pupils waving the Japan and Philippine flags before entering the Malacanang presidential palace in metro Manila, Philippines on January 12, 2017. (Malacanang Photo/ Handout via 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.

As electoral shocks overhaul the Asian geopolitical landscape, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is on an all-out charm offensive. When Donald Trump Jr. pulled off a surprising electoral victory on the back of a populist, anti-globalization rhetoric, the Japanese leader immediately scrambled to secure a meeting with the president-elect. Read more »

Chinese Carrier in the Strait, Philippine Birth Control, $100 Billion SoftBank Fund, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 13, 2017
liaoning-training-drill China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of the South China Sea, in this undated photo taken December 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

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

1. China’s aircraft carrier sails through Taiwan Strait. Early Wednesday morning, China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed into the Taiwan Strait, leading Taipei to scramble F-16 fighter jets and ships to “surveil and control” the movement of the Liaoning and its accompanying five warships. Read more »