CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Time to Fold SRAP into the SCA Bureau

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, July 2, 2014
A pin is seen on a world map on the wall of the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, where the Bergdahl family regularly attends, in Ketchum, Idaho on June 1, 2014 (Patrick Sweeney/Courtesy: Reuters). A pin is seen on a world map marking the border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan on June 1, 2014 (Patrick Sweeney/Courtesy: Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry formally announced today that the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), Ambassador Jim Dobbins, would retire from the position at the end of this month. His deputy, Dan Feldman, will succeed him as special representative. This is as good a time as any, given the reduced role of the United States and the changing international presence in Afghanistan today, not to mention in the coming years, to fold the special representative role back into the regional bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA). Doing so will permit better policy coordination within the State Department and across the U.S. government on South and Central Asia in the years to come. Read more »

Erwin Li: Better Together? Two Approaches to LGBT Activism in China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Shi tou (not her real name), a lesbian, is seen in front of a rainbow flag during a campaign to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in Beijing February 14, 2008. For a number of Beijing's gay and lesbian community, Valentine's Day is not just a day to celebrate loving relationships, but also an ideal time to campaign for same-sex marriages and the acceptance of homosexuality in China. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA) A lesbian woman is seen in front of a rainbow flag during a campaign to promote the acceptance of homosexuality in Beijing on February 14, 2008. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Erwin Li is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In just its sixth year, Shanghai Pride has emerged as a major celebratory event for China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The weeklong festival features art exhibits, panel discussions, and even a marathon-picnic—all of whose locations span across many of the city’s most popular areas. But there’s more to the celebration than just fun. Shanghai Pride aims to promote awareness about China’s sexual minorities by openly addressing the unique social and cultural challenges that they face. For example, this year’s film festival displayed works on transgender identity and homophobic violence, while a panel discussion asked parents and relatives of LGBT children to share their stories of support and acceptance. In a society still dominated by traditional views on gender, Shanghai Pride thus offers a rare chance for solidarity, and an avenue towards greater social acceptance. Read more »

Reinterpreting Japan’s Constitution

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, July 2, 2014
A protester raises a placard as they gather at a rally against Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014 A protester raises a placard as they gather at a rally against Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role in front of Abe's official residence in Tokyo June 30, 2014. (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar constitution to allow the military to use force alongside other national militaries, a right that postwar Japanese leaders have to date refused their Self-Defense Force (SDF). Japan’s decision will shape the way the SDF cooperates not only with the U.S. military but with other militaries in Asia, where relations are increasingly fraught. Japan has already expanded its security consultations with a variety of regional powers, including Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and India, and has relaxed restrictions on the transfer of military technology. Now, the SDF could play a role in building regional military coalitions. Read more »

Can Beijing and Seoul Become Strategic Partners?

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, July 1, 2014
park-xi-2013 South Korean president Park Geun-Hye (right) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 27, 2013. Park visited China in June 2013, and Xi will pay a return visit to Seoul this week (Wang Zhao/Courtesy: Reuters).

China’s President Xi Jinping will complete an exchange of state visits with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the space of a little less than a year. This is a remarkable intensification of the relationship between Seoul and Beijing, especially when one considers that Xi Jinping has yet to visit Pyongyang or receive Kim Jong-un. Likewise, routinized summits between Seoul and Tokyo have vanished as Seoul-Beijing relations have intensified, raising questions in Tokyo about whether Seoul might prefer Beijing over the United States and Japan. But despite a burgeoning trade relationship between Seoul and Beijing that is larger than the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan, what future can Xi and Park forge for China-South Korea relations going forward, and to what purpose? Read more »

Making Progress at the U.S.-China S&ED: Go Strategic or Stay Home

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, July 1, 2014
(L-R) Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington July 10, 2013. (L-R) Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, Chinese vice premier Wang Yang and U.S. treasury secretary Jack Lew leave after the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) Joint Opening Session at the State Department in Washington on July 10, 2013. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

As the full contingent of U.S. cabinet secretaries, other senior officials, and support staff prepare for the sixth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) (to be held on July 9-10 in Beijing), it is not unreasonable to ask whether all the fuss and muss is worth it. Despite all the focus on this bilateral relationship, it often appears that for every problem addressed, ten more mushroom in its place. In the weeks leading up to the S&ED, a plaintive cry can be heard emanating from DC: Are we getting it right? What more can we do? I have two answers in response: batten down the hatches and get ready for the long haul; or stay home. Read more »

Thai Junta Plans Election for Autumn 2015

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, June 30, 2014
Prayuth Chan-ocha Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a meeting with Thai ambassadors at the Royal Thai Army Headquarters in Bangkok on June 11, 2014 (Chanat Katanyu/Courtesy: Reuters).

Over the weekend, Thailand’s junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced a firmer roadmap toward civilian rule than the army had previously revealed. Prayuth went on Thai television and announced that a drafting committee will write a new permanent constitution, to replace the 2007 version the army junked in its May coup. The committee will finish drafting by the middle of next year, Prayuth announced, and then by the fall of 2015, Thailand can hold national elections again. In the meantime, Thailand will operate under an interim constitution that the junta draws up. The junta will pick some civilian ministers to help run the country. Read more »

Ashlyn Anderson: In Iraq, Modi Finds His First Foreign Policy Test

by Guest blogger for Alyssa Ayres Monday, June 30, 2014
Relatives hold up photographs of Indian workers, who have been kidnapped in Iraq, after their meeting with India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on June 19, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). Relatives hold up photographs of Indian workers, who have been kidnapped in Iraq, after their meeting with India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on June 19, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson is a research associate for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stunned the world with its recent victories over the Iraqi army, seizing large swaths of territory, including the cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul, Al-Qaim, and three other western Iraqi towns. But ISIS’s violence has affected countries well beyond Iraq’s borders, including India. With its large expatriate population in Iraq, unquenchable energy needs, and the threat of spillover into South Asia, India is grappling with its first foreign policy crisis. Read more »

Susan Hubbard: East Asia Regional Cooperation on Global Health

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Monday, June 30, 2014

Susan Hubbard is a senior associate at the Japan Center for International Exchange where she focuses primarily on global health and human security issues.

In the spirit of the current World Cup mania, I am reminded of the historic decision that Korea and Japan made to combine their competing bids to host the 2005 World Cup. By doing so, they successfully won the bid, and the World Cup was cohosted by two countries for the first and only time in its history. The idea for combining the bids was originally proposed in 1995 at a meeting of the Korea-Japan Forum, a track 2 dialogue organized by the Japan Center for International Exchange and the Korea Foundation. The decision came at a time when the two countries were in a fierce battle over issues dealing with history and territory. But the games allowed the people of both countries to turn their attention away from geopolitical tensions and focus instead on their shared interests. Read more »

How China Becomes a Cyber Power

by Adam Segal Monday, June 30, 2014
Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters) Employees work inside a LCD factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, on May 8, 2013. Chinese flat screen makers, once dismissed as second-class players in the global LCD market, are drawing envious looks from big names such as LG Display Co Ltd and Samsung. (China Daily/Courtesy Reuters)

One of the justifications for the creation of the Chinese leading group on cybersecurity and information technology was the need to move China from a “big” network country to a “strong” cyber power (从网络大国走向网络强国). While China has the world’s largest number of Internet users and a vibrant domestic market, policymakers and outside analysts seem to have significant concerns about Beijing’s technological prowess, the coherence of its international strategy, and its ability to respond to the growing sophistication of cyberattacks. It is one thing to be big, it is another to be powerful.
Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 27, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 27, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while in Tokyo on April 23, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while in Tokyo on April 23, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Abe fires the “third arrow” of his growth strategy Abenomics. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced the “third arrow” of his economic reform policy this week. The third arrow, experts say, is important but difficult, and seeks to address issues of tax reform, population decline, and immigration, as well as trade and agricultural reform. This phase follows the first (a fiscal stimulus) and the second (massive quantitative easing to provide a monetary boost). “Abenomics” claims to address the large challenges threatening Japan’s economy, including one of the biggest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world and an ageing society. Read more »