CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, April 9, 2015
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. Read more »

Joyce Dong: China’s Reactions to Assessments of the PLA’s Weaknesses

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, April 8, 2015
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing on July 22, 2014 (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters).

Joyce Dong is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent publications such as the RAND Corporation’s report “China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)” and Dennis Blasko’s article “Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern Warmark a significant shift away from the usual narrative that China’s economic rise has led to an increasingly militarized and powerful PLA. While the PLA’s military budget continues to grow at double-digit rates, these reports suggest that the “China threat” has been overhyped. Read more »

Is There Such Thing As a Thai-Style Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Prayuth-Chan-ocha-Thailand Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pays respect in front of Buddhist monks as he attends the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

This past week, Thai prime minister—and junta leader—General Prayuth Chan-ocha ended martial law, which had been in place since the May 2014 coup, and replaced it by invoking an article of the interim constitution that gives him nearly-absolute powers. This shift did not necessarily mean Thailand is moving any closer to a return to democracy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 3, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 3, 2015
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters) Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Thailand lifts martial law and puts in place a “new security order.” Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved a request from the country’s junta to lift martial law on Wednesday and trade it for a so-called new security order. Most experts agree this choice was a cosmetic one, not substantive, that was an attempt to improve the appearance of Thailand to the outside world while maintaining absolute power for the junta. Read more »

Japan’s Adjustment to Geostrategic Change

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, April 3, 2015
China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing November 10, 2014. Xi and Abe held formal talks on Monday for the first time since the two leaders took office, a breakthrough in ending a two-year row between Asia's biggest economies over history and territory. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy of Reuters).

In this post, I look at recent events in Japan-China relations, and explain how they relate to my argument in my book, Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China. This post originally appeared on the Columbia University Press blog and can be found here.

Adjusting to the rise of China is not simply a task for diplomats or strategists. Rather, the adjustment to new centers of global economic and political influence involves a broad array of social actors. Read more »

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 »