CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

What Does the Rise of State Capitalism Mean for the World?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, April 25, 2016
petrobras Workers repair a tank of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company in Cubatao, Brazil, on April 12, 2016. (Paulo Whitaker/Reuters)

In just the past year, major scandals have erupted at several of the world’s most influential state-owned companies, with repercussions going far beyond the boardrooms. In Brazil, graft scandals centered on state-owned petroleum company Petrobras have triggered waves of arrests and played a role in the ongoing impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Meanwhile, in Malaysia investigations continue into allegations of massive irregularities in state fund 1MDB, allegations that have shaken the government of Prime Minister Najib tun Razak and reportedly triggered investigations into 1MDB in Singapore, Switzerland, the United States, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia. Read more »

Beijing’s Squeeze Play on Taiwan

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, April 25, 2016
Supporters of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen celebrate her victory in Taipei, Taiwan, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris Supporters of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen celebrate her victory in Taipei, Taiwan on January 16, 2016. (Olivia Harris/Reuters).

In late April, I spent several days in Taiwan as part of a Council on Foreign Relations delegation. We met with a wide range of officials from the major political parties, including President Ma Ying-jeou, President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Legislative Yuan Su Jia-Chyuan, and Kuo Chang-huang, a first-term legislator. It is a period of political transition from eight years of Kuomintang (KMT) leadership under President Ma to a government led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with Tsai at the helm. And waiting in the wings is the brand new New Power Party (NPP), which was born out of the 2014 Sunflower Movement, and earned itself five seats in the most recent Legislative Yuan elections. Read more »

Taiwan and the European Union’s Fight Over the Death Penalty

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 22, 2016
A pro-death penalty supporter holds a white rose during a rally in front of Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu A pro-death penalty supporter holds a white rose during a rally in front of Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, April 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters).

Pei-Yu Wei is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, the country’s highest lawmaker, is set to debate an addition to the Criminal Code that would subject people who are found guilty of killing children under the age of twelve to a mandatory death sentence, or in exceptional cases, such as severe mental illness, to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. This proposal came on the heels of a horrific crime that rocked the island in late March, in which a four-year-old girl was decapitated in front of her mother by a thirty-three-year-old unemployed man, who authorities suspect was under the influence of drugs. The tragic incident was the third murder of a child to happen in Taiwan in five years. In both of the previous cases, the suspects were unemployed men who were able to avoid death penalty sentences. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 22, 2016
India-drought Buffalos graze in dried-up Chandola Lake in Ahmedabad, India, March 30, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

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

1. Nearly a quarter of India’s population affected by drought. After two years of weak monsoons, over 330 million Indians are suffering from the debilitating effects of an intense drought. In some locales, forecasts predicted temperatures climbing to over 113 degrees—their highest seasonal levels in over a hundred years—and across the country reservoirs are at 29 percent of their storage capacity. Read more »

How Has the Rebalance Affected Security Assistance to Southeast Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 22, 2016
ash-carter-philippines U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honor guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise dubbed "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 15, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited the Philippines, an increasingly important U.S. security partner. In the Philippines, where he observed the annual Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises, Carter made several important announcements. He revealed that the United States and the Philippines are, and will be, conducting joint patrols in the South China Sea. Carter also offered specifics on new U.S. assistance to the Philippines as part of the new U.S. Maritime Security Initiative for Southeast Asia, a program conceived by the Senate Armed Services Committee and designed to provide U.S. aid to Southeast Asian nations to bolster their maritime capabilities. Read more »

Podcast: What China’s Militarism Means for the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 22, 2016
PLAN-guard-South-China-Sea Soldiers of China’s People's Liberation Army Navy stand guard in the Spratly Islands, known in China as the Nansha Islands, February 10, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, I chat with Dr. Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the provocative new book Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World. Read more »

Brunei Desperately Looks to Diversify its Economy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Sultan-Hassanal-Bolkiah U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuter)

The tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei remains almost totally dependent on petroleum for its growth, to provide its lavish social welfare programs—and to help reduce any possible opposition to the ruling sultan. Today, about 95 percent of Brunei’s exports are either oil or in some way related to oil, according to the Diplomat. Brunei’s oil has helped make it the fourth-richest country in the world by GDP per capita. But with low global oil prices, and Brunei’s oil reserves predicted to run out within the next three decades, the sultanate is desperately looking for ways to diversify its economy. Read more »

Upheaval in South Korea’s National Assembly: Expect More Surprises

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 18, 2016
Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool) Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool)

The first rule of watching South Korean elections is the same as the first rule for watching Korean TV dramas: be prepared to be surprised. In this respect, South Korea’s 2016 National Assembly electoral result delivered, as virtually no one predicted the magnitude of the failure of the ruling Saenuri party or its major standard bearers. The results left the former majority party in second place at 122 seats, well short of the 151 seats needed to exercise a majority in the 300-seat National Assembly. The first place Minjoo or Democratic Party of Korea, pruned by the departure of entrepreneur-turned-National Assemblyman Ahn Cheol-soo, who started his own People’s Party, captured 123 seats to become the largest party in the National Assembly. Ahn’s own start-up experience proved sufficient to lead the newly-established People’s Party to a better-than-expected thirty-eight seats, primarily centered in Korea’s southwestern Jeolla region. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
China-water-pollution A man walks by a pipe discharging waste water into the Yangtze River from a paper mill in Anqing, Anhui province, December 4, 2013. (William Hong/Reuters)

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

1. China’s greatest pollution nightmare may be lurking underground. According to statistics released by the Chinese media on Monday, over 80 percent of water from 2,103 underground wells tested throughout the country is polluted to the point where it is no longer safe for drinking or bathing. Read more »

Podcast: The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue With China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

For almost three decades, the world has alternately encouraged and pressured China to reform its human rights practices. As part of this effort, the European Union has had an ongoing formal human rights dialogue with China since 1995. How successful has it been? This week’s Asia Unbound podcast features Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin and visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, discussing her new book, The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits. Read more »