CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Amid Spectacle of Malaysia Infighting, Democratic Slide Continues

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, April 30, 2015
najib-razak-malaysia Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks during the opening ceremony of the 26th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 27, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Courtesy: Reuters)

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. Read more »

Mr. Abe Comes to Washington

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 28, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington April 27, 2015. Abe is on a week-long visit to the U.S. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington April 27, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

With hundreds of well-wishers at his side, President Barack Obama welcomed Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House this morning. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day, and smiles were in abundance for this first of many meetings during Abe’s official visit. In private, the president and the prime minister had a full agenda of alliance priorities to discuss, and afterwards, issued a new Vision Statement for the alliance, suggesting that the U.S.-Japan partnership was turning an important corner. Read more »

Abe’s Best Strategic Play Is South Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 27, 2015
abe kennedy library tour Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband Edwin Schlossberg in Boston on April 26, 2015. (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS.

Since taking office in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown himself to be a strong political leader and a keen strategic thinker. Agreement on new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines, scheduled to be reached next week, and a deal with Washington on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will further strengthen his reputation and standing. But Abe’s most prudent geostrategic move is the one that he has not yet made: reconciliation with America’s other close ally in Northeast Asia, South Korea. Read more »

Nepal Quake: Governance Matters

by Alyssa Ayres Saturday, April 25, 2015
People work to rescue trapped people inside a temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015 (Navresh Chitrakar/Courtesy: Reuters). People work to rescue trapped people inside a temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015 (Navresh Chitrakar/Courtesy: Reuters).

Several years ago, I went on an “Earthquake Walk” in downtown Kathmandu, a walk designed to raise awareness about the city’s vulnerability to a major earthquake. As we ducked into a traditional courtyard, winding our way through a low narrow corridor before emerging into an open square surrounded by high traditional homes, we saw a big stick propping one edge of a building up against another. I’ve thought a lot about that stick today—its inadequacy, its fragility—as news of Nepal’s quake poured in. Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 24, 2015
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 24, 2015
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

The Anti-Corruption Drive and Risk of Policy Paralysis in China

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, April 24, 2015
China's Politburo Standing Committee members (2nd row from bottom, L to R) Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng (bottom row, 2nd R) sing Chinese national anthem at the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters) China's Politburo Standing Committee members (2nd row from bottom, L to R) Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng (bottom row, 2nd R) sing Chinese national anthem at the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters)

Like it or not, President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is extremely popular among Chinese people. According to an online survey, “combating corruption” trails “income distribution” as the top two concerns of the Chinese public. There are already reports suggesting that the campaign has helped reduce the transaction cost for ordinary people to get things done in China. Read more »

How South Korea Can Take Advantage of Nuclear Cooperation With the United States

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, April 22, 2015
shin-kori The Shin Kori No. 4 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (255 miles) southeast of Seoul, in this file photo from 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. A version of this article also was published in Korean in Dong-A Ilbo on April 22, 2015. Read more »

What Does Thailand’s Article 44 Mean for Thailand’s International Relations?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 21, 2015
prayuth-medvedev Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (R) speak during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok on April 8, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/ Courtesy: Reuters)

Thailand’s ruling junta now has replaced martial law, which had been in force since the coup in May 2014, with legislation under Article 44 of the interim constitution. This shift has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations, many foreign countries, and some Thai media outlets. Human Rights Watch has called the shift to operating under Article 44 an attempt to give Prayuth “unlimited powers without safeguards against human rights violations.” Read more »

The U.S. Presidential Race: Marco Rubio’s Surprising Interest in India

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters). Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Among the Republican field, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has a well-known interest in foreign policy. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He has made his voice heard especially in the debate over policy toward Cuba, from where his parents fled. What’s lesser known, and a bit more surprising, is this: the junior senator from Florida also has a declared interest in India. Read more »