CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 8, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 8, 2016
Poppy-field-soldier-Helmand British soldiers patrol past a poppy field in Musa Qala in Helmand province, March 26, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Corruption and combat thwart counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The first poppy harvest of the year is just beginning in Helmand, Afghanistan—by far the largest source of opium and heroin in the world—and very little can be done about it. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 8, 2016
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Future

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, April 7, 2016
Chinas-Future

China’s political, economic, and social prospects have all been the source of endless speculation for academics, journalists, and policymakers alike. This week I talk with David Shambaugh, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the China Policy Program at the George Washington University, who provides a concise take on these questions and introduces his excellent new book, China’s Future. Read more »

The Islamic State in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 6, 2016
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

After the attacks in Jakarta in January, in which a group of gunmen, apparently overseen by a man affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State, shot and bombed their way through a downtown neighborhood, Southeast Asian governments began to openly address the threat of Islamic State-linked radicals. The region’s intelligence agencies, and especially Singapore intelligence, had been warning for at least two years that Southeast Asian men and women were traveling to Islamic State-controlled territory for training and inspiration, and that the region’s governments had no effective way to track these militants’ return. Read more »

A Trilateral on the Mend

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 5, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama stands behind as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of their trilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington March 31, 2016 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS). U.S. President Barack Obama stands behind as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of their trilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington March 31, 2016 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS).

For the second time, President Barack Obama brought together President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. The first time in 2014 the president was facilitating a meeting the two leaders could not have on their own, but last week the improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo were obvious. While the United States has facilitated some of these improvements, ultimately it is North Korea and its provocations that brought the two U.S. allies back to the table. Whether the future of this trilateral can be bolder and more resilient remains to be seen. Read more »

A “Gut Check” on U.S.-China Policy

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, April 5, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters).

At the end of March, I testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the economic aspects of the “rebalance” to Asia.  I have testified before the commission several times, know a number of the commission members, and typically enjoy the experience. This time was no different. However, I was struck by the number of “gut check” questions, as one commissioner put it—questions where the answer appears clear, even obvious, but with a bit more pushing becomes less clear and less obvious. Here are some of the “gut check” questions that the commissioners asked that have made me take another look:

Read more »

Journey to the East: Why Facebook Won’t Make it in China

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (L) talks with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during a gathering of tech executives at Microsoft's main campus, September 23, 2015. (Ted S. Warren/Reuters) Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (L) talks with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during a gathering of tech executives at Microsoft's main campus, September 23, 2015. (Ted S. Warren/Reuters)

Lincoln Davidson is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ever since Facebook was banned in China following riots in Xinjiang Province, China, in summer 2009, there has been speculation that the company is trying to regain access to the market, fueled by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to build connections with the Chinese government and business community. Most recently, Zuckerberg made a highly-publicized visit to China last month, meeting with Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan. But despite Zuckerberg’s efforts, Facebook isn’t likely to be successful in the Chinese market, even if the government unblocks it. It’s not clear that Chinese consumers even want the product Facebook has to offer, and U.S. tech firms have had a particularly difficult time making it in the Chinese market. For a deeper dig into the challenges Facebook is likely to face, check out my blog post on Net Politics.

How China Sees THAAD

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Saturday, April 2, 2016
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In February, the United States and South Korea decided to begin official discussions on deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula. In response, Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong said that deployment of the system could destroy the Beijing-Seoul relationship “in an instant.” The floor leader of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri party, Won Yoo-cheol, calling Qiu’s remarks “rude,” said that they “disregarded the sovereignty and the security of the Republic of Korea.” While some analysts see China’s blunt position on this issue as a way to drive a wedge in the U.S.-Korea alliance, Beijing’s motivations are in fact defensive. China’s leadership is concerned about THAAD at the strategic level and sees the system as part of a broader U.S. strategy to contain China. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 1, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 1, 2016
Kolkata-collapse Firefighters and rescue workers search for victims at the site of an under-construction overpass after it collapsed in Kolkata, India, March 31, 2016. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Anger, grief, and questions linger over debris of collapsed overpass in Kolkata. The collapse of the a major overpass under construction in Kolkata, India, has left officials and citizens scrambling for answers. Located in a densely populated market area, more than one hundred people were crushed by falling debris, and at least twenty-five deaths have been confirmed. Read more »

How Will the Philippines Presidential Election Transform the Country?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 30, 2016
philipines-grace-poe Philippine presidential candidate Grace Poe speaks at International Women's Day rally by Gabriela Party List women's group in Manila on March 8, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

On May 9, the Philippines will hold its presidential election. Philippine presidents are limited to one, six-year term, which makes them powerful and weak at the same time. They enjoy a long term in office, removing them from the regular grind of campaigning that is common in many other democracies. But, as soon as they are inaugurated, they become a kind of lame duck. Read more »