CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Talking Trade With India

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, November 25, 2014
delhi-shopkeeper A shopkeeper speaks on his mobile phone in front of his shop selling iron pipes in the old quarters of Delhi on November 12, 2014 (Anindito Mukherjee/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s been a good month for trade talks with India. On November 14, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced that a four-month impasse with India concerning food security and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Bali trade facilitation agreement had been broken. A U.S.-India “agreement on trade faciliation” should at last allow the WTO Bali package to advance. It’s most welcome news, especially since India’s refusal to ratify the Bali agreement back in July had resulted in an existential crisis for the WTO. As Froman stated in his speech to Indian industry,  “Some have suggested that the India-U.S. breakthroughs—in Bali and again two weeks ago—may well have saved the multilateral trading system.” Read more »

Obama’s Rebalance to Asia In His Own Words: Where Does it Stand?

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, November 24, 2014
obama-g20-brisbane U.S. President Barack Obama waves after holding a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 16, 2014. The leaders of the United States, Japan, and Australia lined up together against Russia on Sunday, vowing to oppose Russian incursions into Crimea during a rare trilateral meeting held at the G20 summit in Brisbane (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

A version of this post also appeared as a Pacific Forum CSIS PacNet publication, and can be found here.

President Obama had a better than expected visit to Asia for annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), East Asia Summit (EAS), and G-20 gatherings, due largely to a productive summit with Xi Jinping. At the end of his trip in Brisbane, Obama gave his second major speech on the U.S. rebalancing policy to Asia, coming almost three years to the day following an address to the Australian parliament on his previous visit to Australia. A side-by-side reading of President Obama’s two major Australian speeches on the subject (he has yet to give a major policy speech on the rebalance in the United States) provides a useful benchmark for assessing the administration’s progress in implementing the policy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 21, 2014
China?s President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra November 17, 2014. China and Australia on Monday signed a declaration of intent on a landmark free trade deal more than a decade in the making, opening up markets worth billions to Australia and loosening restrictions on Chinese investment. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Australia following the G20 leaders summit which was held in Brisbane over the weekend. REUTERS/David Gray (AUSTRALIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's President Xi Jinping (L) listens as Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks after a signing ceremony for a free trade deal at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2014. (David Gray/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Japan slips into recession, dissolves lower house. New economic data released Monday morning showed that Japan had lapsed into recession, striking yet another serious blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vaunted economic recovery policy and leading some to ask if this is the end of Abenomics. In a bid to win popular mandate for his economic policies, Abe announced he would delay a planned increase to the national sales tax and dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament. On Friday afternoon, lawmakers in the house of representatives chanted “Banzai!” as they disbanded. Snap elections are expected to take place in mid-December, and while Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may lose a number of seats, they are overwhelmingly expected to maintain their majority and could potentially increase their power. Read more »

Obama Returns Home to Harsh Reality

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, November 20, 2014
obama at apec President Barack Obama pauses during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting at the International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing on November 11, 2014 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Reuters).

President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Asia has been described as a triumph by some observers as well as by the administration itself. On the trip, which included meetings with Chinese and Myanmar leaders and appearances at two Asian regional organizations, the White House announced a new climate agreement with Beijing that would commit both countries to meeting targets for cutting their carbon emissions. It also announced other supposed breakthroughs. The United States and China agreed to a new system of notifying each other of military movements in the region and agreed to cut tariffs on other IT equipment. Obama also declared that the Pacific nations were getting close to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Read more »

India and U.S. Higher Education: Strong Indian Presence in the United States, but Americans Studying in India Still Meager

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Second EducationUSA Fair, Kolkata 2014. Photo by Biswarup Ganguly licensed under CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original. Second EducationUSA Fair, Kolkata 2014. Photo by Biswarup Ganguly licensed under CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original.

This week the Institute for International Education (IIE) released the latest survey data on foreign students, study abroad, and U.S. higher education. The survey, Open Doors, comes out annually and draws on data collected from around three thousand U.S. colleges and universities. Indian students are a strong presence on U.S. campuses, contributing an estimated $3.3 billion to the U.S. economy as IIE reports, using U.S. Department of Commerce data. This year, the number of Indian students in the United States surpassed the 100,000 mark, ticking up to 102,673, keeping India the number two country of origin for foreign students in the United States. Read more »

Obama’s Visit to Myanmar: A Mixed Result

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, November 18, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

During President Obama’s visit to Myanmar last week, for the East Asia Summit, the president said some of the right things about Myanmar’s faltering political reform process. He noted the ongoing discrimination – some would say outright ethnic cleansing – against Rohingya in western Myanmar, as well as the precarious rule of law in much of the country. He expressed concern about the challenges of Myanmar’s elections next year, which will be held under a constitution designed to bar Aung San Suu Kyi from taking the presidency and which still reserves enormous powers for the military. The constitution, as it stands, will pose a danger to any future Myanmar civilian government, even if Suu Kyi’s party, as expected, wins control of Parliament next year. And much of the press coverage of the Myanmar visit focused on the president’s remarks about Myanmar’s political challenges. Indeed, Obama’s aides clearly briefed reporters covering the trip to emphasize that the visit was focused on pressuring the Myanmar leadership to reform, since several news articles picked up this theme. Read more »

Another Election in Tokyo

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Passers-by are reflected on an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei stock average and the Japanese yen's exchange rate against the U.S. dollar (top) at a brokerage in Tokyo, November 17, 2014. Japan's Nikkei share average tumbled 2.6 percent to a one-week low on Monday morning after Japan's economy unexpectedly slipped into recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that he will postpone a planned consumption tax increase in an effort to stimulate Japan's economy. (Courtesy Reuters) Passers-by are reflected on an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei stock average and the Japanese yen's exchange rate against the U.S. dollar (top) at a brokerage in Tokyo, November 17, 2014. Japan's Nikkei share average tumbled 2.6 percent to a one-week low on Monday morning after Japan's economy unexpectedly slipped into recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that he will postpone a planned consumption tax increase in an effort to stimulate Japan's economy. (Courtesy Reuters)

Snap elections are a staple of parliamentary democracy, and every now and then, ruling politicians decide that an election is needed to ensure that they continue to have a popular mandate if they change course. Prime Minister Abe has just announced he will dissolve the Diet on November 21, and hold a snap election in December to gain the Japanese public’s endorsement of his leadership of Japan’s economic recovery. Prompted by worse than expected economic results for the third quarter of this year, Abe has decided to postpone a second tax hike that would have raised the consumption tax to 10 percent, and instead focus on stimulating Japan’s economy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 14, 2014
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Obama and Xi strike deals at APEC summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum proved remarkably productive for U.S.-China relations this week. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced commitments to cut carbon emissions, and agreed to a reduction in tariffs on a range of technology products, to greater communication between their militaries in the Pacific, and to extend the duration of visas. Though these agreements are certainly a welcome change from years of stagnating relations, underlying issues still remain. China and the United States have fundamentally different visions of Asia’s security and trade architecture that are not easily reconciled. Read more »

Grading Jokowi’s First Month

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, November 13, 2014
Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta, October 20, 2014. Widodo took over as president of the world's third-largest democracy on Monday with supporters' hopes high but pressing economic problems and sceptical rivals set to test the former furniture businessman. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (INDONESIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the House of Representative building in Jakarta on October 20, 2014. (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters)

Slightly less than a month into Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s term in office, a few aspects of how Jokowi will govern are coming into focus. And since he promised major change in the first hundred days of his presidency, it is fair to analyze how he has done to this (short) point in time. Let’s run down how the former Jakarta mayor, who never held national office before, is doing in several key areas. Read more »

Obama’s Big China Win at APEC: Not What You Think

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, November 13, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, at International Convention Center at Yanqi Lake in Beijing November 11, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy Reuters)

Let’s be clear, the United States won big this week, but not for the reasons most people think. The media and China analysts have focused overwhelmingly on the climate deal, touting the new commitments from both the United States and China as exceptional, even “historic.” But this is missing the forest for the trees. The real win for U.S. President Barack Obama is keeping China in the tent or, in political science speak, reinforcing Beijing’s commitment to the liberal international order. Read more »