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 January 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 22, 2016
Bacha-Khan-protest Civil society members take part in protest against the attack on Bacha Khan University at a demonstration in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 21, 2016. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Terrorists kill twenty-one in attack on Pakistani university. On Wednesday, gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district, killing twenty-one people and injuring dozens more. Four attackers were killed in an hours-long gun battle with security guards, local police, and the army in the attempt to secure the campus. Read more »

Can Suu Kyi Break Myanmar’s Ceasefire Deadlock?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, January 21, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-negotiations-speech Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during talks between the government, army and representatives of ethnic armed groups over a ceasefire to end insurgencies, in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party will control Myanmar’s next parliament, participated for the first time in the government’s ongoing peace negotiations with ethnic minority insurgencies. As the Associated Press reported, Suu Kyi declared that she would push for a complete peace accord, one that includes the insurgent groups that did not sign an initial peace framework last autumn. Read more »

What Indonesia Knows About Blocking the Islamic State

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Indonesian policemen with weapons and an armored vehicle guard in front of a Starbucks cafe at Thamrin business district in Jakarta, on January 14, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters) Indonesian policemen with weapons and an armored vehicle guard in front of a Starbucks cafe at Thamrin business district in Jakarta, on January 14, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

In the wake of the attacks last week in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the archipelago, the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world, is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings. The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist and Facebook pages, and Islamic State has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort. Read more »

Podcast: Pivotal Countries, Alternate Futures

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, January 20, 2016
A man looks at the Pudong financial district of Shanghai, November 20, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Reuters) A man looks at the Pudong financial district of Shanghai, November 20, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Uncertainty is at the heart of China today: uncertainty over its economic reforms, over its political situation, and over its ultimate foreign policy objectives. In this podcast, I interview New York University professor Michael Oppenheimer about his new book, Pivotal Countries, Alternate Futures, in which he outlines a set of scenarios for the future of China and the implications of those scenarios for U.S. policy. Listen to our discussion for his fascinating assessment of where Beijing is, where it is likely to go, and what he thinks the United States ought to do to ensure that its interests are advanced whatever the future trajectory of China. Read more »

What’s Next for Japan-Taiwan Relations

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (L) and vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen greet supporters as they take the stage during a final campaign rally ahead of the elections in Taipei, Taiwan, January 15, 2016 (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang). Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (L) and vice presidential candidate Chen Chien-jen greet supporters as they take the stage during a final campaign rally ahead of the elections in Taipei, Taiwan, January 15, 2016 (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang).

Ayumi Teraoka is research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Taiwan’s presidential and Legislative Yuan elections on Saturday were closely monitored in Japan, where deep historical, cultural, and social ties with Taiwan remain. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) released its official statement congratulating Tsai Ing-wen on her victory and assuring her that the Abe government would work toward “further deepening cooperation” with Taiwan. Japan’s strategic opportunities with Taiwan lie in further economic cooperation, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s statement of support this Monday for Taiwan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a step in a welcome direction for Tokyo-Taipei relations in 2016 and beyond. Read more »

Indonesia’s Education Gap

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits an elementary school in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan October 31, 2015. President Widodo this week cut short an official trip to the United States due to a haze crisis caused by raging peat fires in the Southeast Asian country. After weeks of hazardous air caused by haze-producing forest fires, people on Indonesia's southern Sumatra and Kalimantan islands have finally found respite after three days of persistent rain significantly improved the air quality and quelled many of the raging forest fires, according to the national disaster agency on Friday. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits an elementary school in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan on October 31, 2015. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

Jake Thomases is a public policy analyst at the Risk Analysis Research Center.

Investors in Indonesia let out a small sigh of relief when Heri Sudarmanto, the director of foreign workers, announced on October 19 that foreign workers would not be required to pass Indonesian language tests after all. Just three days earlier, an official with the manpower ministry told reporters that such a test would be implemented. The language requirement, which has been proposed and rescinded more than once, is just the latest attempt to shield sectors of the Indonesian economy from outside competition. Such measures are puzzling and counterproductive given President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s pleas for infrastructure investment dollars during every state visit he makes. Against the backdrop of economic protectionism, such pleas come across as: “Bring us the money and we’ll tell you how to spend it.”

Read more »

North Korea’s H-Bomb and the Costs of American Indifference

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, January 19, 2016
People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo) People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo)

The White House moved quickly to debunk North Korea’s exaggerated claim that a Jan. 5 “artificial earthquake” at the site where Pyongyang had conducted three previous nuclear tests was a breakthrough detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The size of the blast was similar to that of North Korea’s January 2013 test and had a yield thousands of times lower than the yield expected of a hydrogen blast. But in downplaying North Korea’s claim so as not to feed Kim Jong-un’s cravings for international attention, the Barack Obama administration risks underplaying the growing danger posed by North Korea’s unchecked efforts to develop nuclear and missile capabilities needed to threaten a nuclear strike on the United States. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 15, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 15, 2016
Taiwan-elections Supporters of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) react as the chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen addresses the crowd during a final campaign rally ahead of the elections in Taipei, Taiwan, January 15, 2016. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Taiwan takes to the polls. Tomorrow, the island’s citizens will choose between the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen, the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Eric Chu, and the People First Party’s (PFP) James Soong when they turn out to vote for a new president. Tsai, who lost the 2012 presidential race to incumbent KMT president Ma Ying-jeou, is expected to win with a significant margin this year. Read more »

Pivot Missteps

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, January 15, 2016
xi-jinping-speech China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 4, 2015. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

When officials in China announced they would open an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to primarily fund big construction projects across the Pacific, they launched a slow-motion freak-out in Washington. As they went around the world inviting governments to join, Obama administration officials pressured their allies in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world not to. The AIIB, headquartered in Beijing, would allow China to expand its influence throughout Asia, the White House fretted. Read more »

Democracy’s Continuing Struggles

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, January 15, 2016
putin-speech President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a concert of the Children's Choir of Russia in Moscow, Russia, on December 25, 2015. (Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin)

After the end of the Cold War, experts who closely studied trends in democratization believed that democracy was destined to sweep the globe. With the Soviet Union gone, there was no clear ideological force opposed to democracy, and no obvious model for economic growth under an autocratic government. Democracy had sunk roots in every corner, including in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, disproving some theorists who once believed political freedom only worked in wealthy countries. Read more »