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Asia Unbound

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

Is Peng Liyuan China’s Evita?

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, March 21, 2014
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, pose for a photograph as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, pose for a photograph as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/Courtesy Reuters)

Dean of the People’s Liberation Army Art Academy. Goodwill Ambassador of the World Health Organization. Renowned Soprano Singer. Practitioner of Buddhism. China’s anti-smoking ambassador. Member of the China’s upper house (CPPCC). It is rare to see a Chinese first lady wear so many hats and be defined in so many ways, but Peng Liyuan, who is hosting U.S. first lady Michelle Obama in her visit to Beijing, can be described as such. Read more »

The Indian Elections and Indian Foreign Policy: What Tamil Nadu Parties Have to Say

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, March 20, 2014
Jayalalithaa File photo: J. Jayalalithaa, current chief minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazhagam (AIADMK), greets her supporters from the balcony of her residence (Babu Babu/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections

Campaigning for India’s national elections is in full swing. Parties have begun nominating candidates and 543 races for the lower house of parliament are on. But despite the election fever pitch, the two major national parties—the ruling Congress Party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party—have not yet released their election platforms, or “manifestos,” as they are called. This leaves voters and observers playing a parlor guessing game on the domestic and foreign policy priorities each will formally prioritize. This year’s manifesto writing process even has a new crowdsourcing twist: Both Congress and BJP are accepting suggestions on the web. Read more »

Lauren Dickey: Is Taiwan the Next Democracy in Crisis?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, March 20, 2014
Protestors in Taiwan’s legislature in Taipei hold a banner, “Seventy-five percent of Taiwanese people demand item-by-item review,” on March 19, 2014. (Patrick Lin/courtesy Reuters) Protestors in Taiwan’s legislature in Taipei hold a banner, “Seventy-five percent of Taiwanese people demand item-by-item review,” on March 19, 2014. (Patrick Lin/courtesy Reuters)

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

Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party (KMT) has caused quite the kerfuffle. On Monday, March 17, the KMT retreated from an agreement with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to push through a service trade pact with mainland China. The two parties had previously agreed to conduct an itemized review of the trade pact, an agreement the KMT has now chosen not to uphold over claims that the DPP is actively blocking “official business” between the island and Beijing. The KMT’s move may come back to affect domestic politics and haunt cross-strait relations. Read more »

Behind the Chong Chon Gang Affair: North Korea’s Shadowy Arms Trade

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, March 19, 2014
uden-oh-snyder The United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea released their final report on compliance with sanctions on March 6, 2014. CFR Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Scott Snyder (far right) joined (from left) UN Panel of Experts on North Korea coordinator Martin Uden, Foreign Press Association president and panel moderator, David Michaels, and ROK Mission to the UN in New York representative Ambassador Oh Joon, to discuss the report’s findings and implications at a press conference on March 18, 2014, at the ROK mission to the UN in New York (Courtesy: FPA).

Buried within the annexes of the latest United Nations report by experts impaneled to investigate North Korean efforts to circumvent sanctions placed on the country following its 2009 nuclear test is a tale of subterfuge worthy of a Hollywood thriller. Read more »

Can Malaysia Restore Its Public Image?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 19, 2014
malaysia-flight-family-briefing Relatives of passengers onboard missing flight MH370 complain to an official from Malaysia Airlines after the company's briefing to family members at a hotel in Beijing on March 19, 2014. Investigations into the mystery of the missing Malaysian jet appeared to be at a deadlock on Wednesday, with an exhaustive background search of the passengers and crew showing nothing untoward and no sign that the plane could be quickly found (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters).

The Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone else in the country’s nearly sixty years as an independent nation.

Of course, for most of those six decades until the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 the country received little international attention. If Malaysia made the news at all, it tended to get a relatively favorable image as a peaceful and multi-ethnic nation that had witnessed some of the strongest economic growth in Asia. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 14, 2014
International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Missing Malaysia Airlines flight leaves the fate of 239 passengers shrouded in mystery. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared Saturday, and its fate has still not been determined nearly a week after it vanished from radar screens. The most recent information indicates that the plane was deliberately flown off course, making a sharp left and flying hundreds of miles toward India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar islands. Read more »

Michelle Obama’s China Choice: Public Diplomacy vs. Politics

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 14, 2014
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) participates in a language class with teacher Crystal Chen for pre-school students at the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School ahead of her upcoming trip to China, in Washington on March 4, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) participates in a language class with teacher Crystal Chen for pre-school students at the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School ahead of her upcoming trip to China, in Washington on March 4, 2014. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

Public diplomacy matters, but it is no substitute for policy. As First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to travel to China, she should consider weaving some policy into what appears to be almost entirely a week-long public diplomacy push. With her mother and two daughters in tow, the first lady will be visiting educational institutions and historical sites and discussing education in the United States and China. As media have reported, Mrs. Obama will “talk to young people about the power of education to help them achieve their aspirations,” speak with them about their lives, and tell them “about America and the values we hold dear.” Read more »

Indian Politics: From Identity to Governance

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Election Commission of India India's Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath (C) listens to a reporter's question during a news conference to announce election dates, in New Delhi March 5, 2014. India's mammoth parliamentary election will start on April 7 (Anandito Mukherjee/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections.

In the fall of 1990, I got off an Air India flight and landed in Delhi for the first time. I was taking part in a college semester abroad program, and was ready to learn about the world’s largest democracy. Little did I know how much there would be to learn. Read more »

Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Flight

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 12, 2014
malaysia-flight Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman looks on during a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for fifteen hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 7, 2014
Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Mass stabbing in Kunming, China, leaves thirty-three dead and 130 injured. Eight people armed with knives attacked travelers in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on Saturday. Four attackers were shot dead, one was wounded and captured, and three other attackers were apprehended near the border with Vietnam. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, called “China’s 9/11” by Chinese media, early signs suggest that Uighur separatists are the perpetrators. Read more »