CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Inter-Korean Exchange of Fire Yields to Marathon Talks at the DMZ

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, August 24, 2015
Kim Jong un North Korea South Korea Fire North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 21, 2015 (KCNA/Reuters).

The South Korean injuries incurred on August 4 from land mines allegedly planted by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has set off an inter-Korean rollercoaster ride punctuated by rising tensions: the first South Korean propaganda broadcasts toward the North in over a decade beginning August 10, an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ on August 22, an ultimatum from the North demanding that South Korea stop the broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. on August 24 or face all-out war, and finally an agreement hours in advance of the North’s deadline to pursue over thirty hours (thus far) of marathon talks, led by senior military and civilian officials of the two governments at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 21, 2015
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »

Bangladesh’s Descent into Chaos

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 20, 2015
bangladesh-protests Activists of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League shout slogans as they try to attack the lawyers loyal to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami during a protest in front of the Supreme Court in Dhaka on December 30, 2013. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters)

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Bangladesh, which for years had been an international symbol of poverty and catastrophe, seemed to have reached a kind of stability. The country’s economy, powered by its garment industry and low-end manufacturing, was posting some of the highest growth rates in Asia, and grabbing textile jobs from China, Cambodia, and other countries. The Bangladesh government announced that Bangladesh could become a middle-income country by 2021. Read more »

The Implications of Thura Shwe Mann’s Removal

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, August 18, 2015
shwe-mann-parliament Shwe Mann, speaker of Union Parliament, attends a parliament meeting at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw on August 18, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) party leader Thura Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, was abruptly removed as party chief, only months before Myanmar’s much-awaited national elections. The USDP is the party of President Thein Sein and is currently in control of government, although it is expected to suffer massive losses in the November election, provided the polls are held freely and fairly. Read more »

Economic Growth and India’s Global Rise

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, August 17, 2015
Australia's batsman Aaron Finch plays a shot as India's captain and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni watches on during their Cricket World Cup semi-final match in Sydney, March 26, 2015 (David Gray/Reuters). Australia's batsman Aaron Finch plays a shot as India's captain and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni watches on during their Cricket World Cup semi-final match in Sydney, March 26, 2015 (David Gray/Reuters).

Indians just celebrated their sixty-eighth year of independence, but the mood has dampened since last August 15. Last year, the excitement of a newly-elected government, one with a single-party majority, created a sense of opportunity ahead for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his soaring ambitions for the nation. This year’s speech, in contrast, more resembled the report cards of previous prime ministerial addresses, with an accounting for the nation of what the government had accomplished in its new agenda over the past year. On the heels of a parliamentary session in which opposition parties stymied the government’s reform agenda through ongoing disruptions—the upper house had a woeful 9 percent productivity rate—the overall mood has become one of right-sizing reform expectations due to the rough-and-tumble of Indian politics. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 14, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 14, 2015
Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters) Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson,  Lauren Dickey, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s central bank allows currency to devalue. The renminbi (RMB) declined by more than 4 percent this week as the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the currency’s daily benchmark lower for several days in a row. The drop may help strengthen the domestic economy, which has faltered in recent months; the PBOC’s willingness to allow the currency’s market rate to drop may suggest that the Chinese economy is doing even worse than some indicators suggest, which could spell trouble for countries that rely on China’s commodity imports. Read more »

Abe Focuses on Japan’s “Lessons Learned”

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, August 14, 2015
People watch Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a screen as he gives a statement in Tokyo August 14, 2015 (Thomas Peter/Reuters). People watch Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a screen as he gives a statement in Tokyo August 14, 2015 (Thomas Peter/Reuters).

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo today presented his statement on the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II (WWII). Much anticipated and debated, this Abe Statement included the language of statements made on the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries by former prime ministers Murayama Tomiichi and Koizumi Junichiro. But Abe took a different tack from his predecessors, identifying the lessons of that war and defeat, and articulating their link to Japan’s current and future ambitions. Read more »

Malaysia’s Leadership Crisis

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 13, 2015
najib-razak-1MDB scandal Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 4, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Since early July, when the Wall Street Journal and the Sarawak Report, an investigative website focusing on Malaysia, both reported that embattled Malaysian state fund 1MDB had allegedly transferred funds into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, Malaysia’s normally placid politics have exploded. Along with a battle within the ruling coalition between the prime minister and supports of longtime former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Najib is now apparently fending off challenges from some top leaders within the governing coalition. Read more »

Southeast Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 12, 2015
myanmar-beach-fishing A fishing boat is seen against the setting sun on Maungmagan beach near the town of Dawei in southern Myanmar on November 19, 2011. (Staff/Reuters)

Summer is winding down. In the Washington area, the brick oven heat of late July and early August is giving way to that late August feeling of merely living in a sauna. School forms are due. And it is time to review the Southeast Asia books I had a chance to read this summer. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 7, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 7, 2015
A customer shops at an Alibaba rural service center in Zhejiang province, China, July 20, 2015. While Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba estimates the potential rural market for online shopping at 460 billion yuan ($74 billion) by next year, new regulations on Internet payment tools may limit that. (Reuters/Aly Song) A customer shops at an Alibaba rural service center in Zhejiang province, China, July 20, 2015. While Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba estimates the potential rural market for online shopping at 460 billion yuan ($74 billion) by next year, new regulations on Internet payment tools may limit that. (Reuters/Aly Song)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, William Piekos,  Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China to embed Ministry of Public Security units in Internet companies. Cybersecurity police units will soon be posted within major Internet companies in China, in order to more quickly and effectively prevent criminal activities such as fraud, online theft, and rumormongering. The move is especially direct for a government that largely expects companies to comply with censorship regulations and already employs millions of microblog monitors. Read more »