CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Murdering the Idea of Bangladesh

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, April 3, 2015
People attend a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organizing demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka on February 16, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters). People attend a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organizing demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka on February 16, 2013 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Earlier this week, a young blogger, Washiqur Rahman, was hacked to death outside his Dhaka home. This is the third such attack— gruesome butcherings by machete—in the past two years, and all three have targeted “atheist bloggers.” With a third murder, we can no longer see these as purely isolated incidents; rather, they now form a chilling pattern. Read more »

Will Thailand’s Prime Minister Amass Even More Power?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Prayuth-Chan-ocha Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) gestures in a traditional greeting after a speech at the Stock Exchange of Thailand in Bangkok on February 26, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Over the past month, the Thai press has repeatedly suggested that the junta-installed government will soon remove martial law. Martial law has been in place since the May 2014 coup. (Some provinces in the south had martial law long before 2014.) And indeed, this week the Thai government does appear ready to lift martial law. Coup leader-turned prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his government may be making this move since many foreign governments and rights organizations have specifically criticized martial law, holding it up as a sign of serious restrictions on rights and freedoms. Read more »

Lauren Dickey: China’s Myanmar Quandary

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Children queue for food at a refugee camp in the Kokang region of Myanmar, near the border with China, on February 21, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters) Children queue for food at a refugee camp in the Kokang region of Myanmar, near the border with China, on February 21, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters)

Lauren Dickey is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Violence along the border between China and Myanmar, in the ethnically Chinese-populated Kokang region, has left Beijing with the dual challenges of refugee outflows and instability along its border.  For the last seven weeks, armed conflict between the Myanmar Army and Kokang rebels, under the banner of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), has sent at least thirty thousand people across the porous border between Myanmar and China’s Yunnan province. In response, Beijing has increased its military presence along the border with Myanmar, and has even been accused of supplying the rebel forces with weapons and supplies. Read more »

The Future of U.S.-ROK Nuclear Cooperation

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, March 30, 2015
kori-power-lines Power transmission towers are seen near the plant of new Shin Kori No. 3 reactor and No. 4 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) in Ulsan, about 255 miles southeast of Seoul, in this photo taken September 3, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

South Korean and U.S. negotiators are on the verge of concluding a new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement to replace the current outdated one, which has been in place since 1974. This new agreement undoubtedly will be criticized by some in South Korea because it does not give Seoul unconditional approval to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. But such narrowly-focused criticism is misplaced, for it overlooks the importance of the agreement to Korea’s energy security and the future of its nuclear program. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 27, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 27, 2015
Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters) Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, dies. Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore into one of Asia’s wealthiest and least corrupt countries during his time as founding father and first prime minister, died on Monday. Lee was prime minister beginning in 1959, after Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990. While his leadership was often criticized for suppressing freedom, his advocacy of “Asian values” and development models succeeded in making Singapore an international hub of business, culture, and finance. Read more »

Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s Future

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 24, 2015
lee-kuan-yew-singapore Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew makes a speech during the 12th International Conference on 'The Future of Asia' in Tokyo on May 25, 2006. (Kiyoshi Ota/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the wake of the death of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, many obituaries lauding Lee’s role in transforming the city-state also have argued that Singapore faces high hurdles to continuing Lee’s revolution. As Forbes’ Joel Kotkin writes, Lee’s achievements during his three decades as prime minister were extraordinary, but in Singapore today the “durability of his legacy is in question.” Read more »

South Korean Middle Power Diplomacy and the U.S. Rebalance

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, March 24, 2015
march-2015-wang-yun Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) is greeted by his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 21, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

The U.S. rebalance to Asia, the post–Sunnylands U.S.-China discussion of a “new type of great power relationship,” and most recently the emergence of an apparent Chinese challenge to U.S. global economic leadership through the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have naturally focused attention on U.S.-China relations. But the AIIB question in particular has highlighted the question of how countries caught between Washington and Beijing, including South Korea, will respond to increasing pressure from each great power on specific issues. The AIIB case also raises the question of whether South Korea’s own interest in middle power diplomacy will ultimately reinforce or conflict with the U.S.-ROK alliance. Read more »

Thailand’s Teflon Economy Finally Seems to Be Cracking

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 23, 2015
thailand-tourism-campaign Performers take part in a parade during the "2015 Discover Thainess" campaign, an event held to promote tourism, in Bangkok on January 14, 2015. (Chaiwat Subprasom /Courtesy: Reuters)

For nearly fifteen years in the 2000s and early 2010s, Thailand’s economy, once one of the fastest-growing in the world, survived the effects of near-constant political turmoil, natural disasters, and worries about the country’s future in the wake of a looming royal succession. Even after the massive floods in the monsoon season of 2011 that destroyed much of the industrial estates north of Bangkok, home to auto parts, disk drive, and other key manufacturing plants, Thailand’s economy rebounded strongly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 20, 2015
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. South Korea warns China against interfering amid missile defense debate. On Tuesday a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson asked Beijing to not interfere in its defense policy, an unusual request with an increasingly close regional partner. Washington has been asking Seoul to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea. Read more »

Growing Political Crisis in Malaysia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 18, 2015
nurrul-izzah-kuala lumpur-rally Nurul Izzah, daughter of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, speaks to the crowd during a rally to protest against his imprisonment in Kuala Lumpur on March 7, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

The jailing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in February, though called “politically motivated proceedings under an abusive and archaic law” by Human Rights Watch, appeared to some Malaysian politicians and observers like a challenge to the country’s political opposition. With no one leader ready to completely replace Anwar, the opposition alliance, which has deep internal divisions over social and economic policy, seemed poised to fracture before the next election. Read more »