CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in and Around Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters) Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the past year, Malaysia’s aviation industry has suffered an unprecedented number of tragedies. Although the odds of any person boarding a flight dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million, three Malaysia-based aircraft have apparently gone down, with no survivors. The latest, AirAsia Flight QZ8501, had been traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it vanished over the Java Sea.
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2014: The Top Ten Stories in China’s Health Sector

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters) Beijing, China. A resident walks along street on a polluted day. (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters)

1. China formally enters post-Global Fund era

By the end of 2013, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria officially closed its portfolio in China. Having approved $1.81 billion to support China’s fight against the three diseases, the Global Fund was the largest international health cooperation program in China. One decade of the Global Fund’s presence in China has left behind a mixed legacy. With the departure of the Global Fund, sustaining the existing level of achievement becomes a daunting challenge. Already, the government has eliminated one trademark of the Global Fund: the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM). Read more »

Sony Hack: North Korea’s “Toughest Counteraction” to Obama’s “Proportional” Response

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, December 24, 2014
the-interview-open General Manager Brandon Delaney looks up at the marquee sign after the announcement that the Plaza Theatre would be showing the movie "The Interview" beginning Christmas Day in Atlanta, Georgia on December 23, 2014. Sony Pictures said on Tuesday it will release "The Interview" to a limited number of theaters on December 25, less than a week after it canceled the comedy's release following a devastating cyberattack blamed on North Korea. (Tami Chappell/Courtesy: Reuters)

For most Americans and for President Obama, the turn of events over the last few days feels like a happy ending:  1) Sony and Seth Rogen have defended the American right to free speech, regardless of its quality; 2) the bad guys and their leader have been deprived of their internet connection for at least nine hours, plus the deplorable North Korean human rights record made its debut Monday on the agenda of the UN Security Council; 3) the Obama administration can claim victory for giving Sony and a few independent theaters some backbone while helping to formally expose North Korea’s human rights tragedy to the light of day. But, the North Koreans being North Koreans, it is unlikely that this story will end on Christmas Day. Read more »

The Top Ten Stories in South Asia, 2014

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres Photo credit: Alyssa Ayres

It was a busy news year in South Asia, with events that will have far-reaching consequences for the region. Between India’s historic election, a hard-won unity government in Afghanistan, and ongoing political turmoil in Pakistan combined with shocking terrorist attacks, South Asia made the front pages around the world for many different reasons. Like last year, I’ve tried to sift through the year’s developments and assess which will have lasting effects on the countries in the region and beyond. Herewith my personal selection of 2014’s most consequential stories in South Asia: Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia (Part 2)

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, December 23, 2014
petronas Motorists queue to fill up on natural gas at a Petronas station, with the company's headquarters at the landmark Petronas Twin Towers visible in the background, in Kuala Lumpur in this file photo from July 30, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following up from last week, I am now counting down my top five predictions for 2015. Read more »

Where to Look for the Next Jack Ma?

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers a keynote speech during the Cross-Strait CEO Summit in Taipei, December 15, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/ Courtesy: Reuters). Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers a keynote speech during the Cross-Strait CEO Summit in Taipei, December 15, 2014. (Pichi Chuang/ Courtesy: Reuters).

Where to look for the next Jack Ma? This is a trillion dollar question. According to a document released by the State Council (China’s cabinet) last October, by 2020 the size of China’s health service industry—which covers medical care, pharmaceutical products, healthcare products, medical devices, and health management—would reach 8 trillion RMB (or $1.3 trillion), up from less than 1.7 trillion RMB in 2012. This would mean an annual growth rate of 21 percent between 2012 and 2020. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 19, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, December 19, 2014
A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters). A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Pakistan engulfed in anger and grief after the Taliban kills 132 schoolchildren and sixteen teachers. Members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren and 16 teachers, many of them shot at point-blank range and some burned alive. The Taliban claimed that the attack was to avenge Pakistani military operations in the northwest Taliban haven of North Waziristan. Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, December 19, 2014
Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National League for Democracy Party's central committee meeting at a restaurant in Yangon on December 13, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

It’s that time of year again. Since I will be away between Christmas and the end of the year, this is the week for boldly making predictions about 2015 in Southeast Asia. At the end of 2015, just like this year, we can look back and see how many of my fearless predictions were right, and how many missed the mark. Read more »

The Interview and Its Challenge to North Korea’s Leadership

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, December 17, 2014
the-interview-premiere A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Courtesy: Reuters)

Today is the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, marking the completion of a traditional period of mourning for Korean leaders and the presumed consolidation of power under Kim Jong-il’s successor, Kim Jong-un. During the three-year mourning period following the death of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung in the mid-1990s, Kim Jong-il waged a struggle behind the scenes to overcome the Arduous March, a famine that decimated North Korea’s population. In 1997, Kim Jong-il emerged publicly as chairman of the National Defense Commission and as leader of a “military first [pdf]” policy. Read more »

The Senate Torture Report’s Global Ramifications

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, December 15, 2014
us embassy london A police officer patrols outside the U.S. embassy in London on December 9, 2014. Preceding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of a report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, U.S. officials moved to shore up security at American facilities around the world as a precaution (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy: Reuters).

The executive summary of the report released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal detention interrogation practices after 9/11 offers the most damning assessment of the Agency in four decades. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee, another Senate committee, issued reports that condemned the CIA for spying within the United States, attempting to assassinate foreign leaders, working with the Mafia on operations, and other abuses. Read more »