CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Japan’s Infra Bet on India Shows U.S. Constraints

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, September 5, 2014
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (front L) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo on September 1, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (front L) shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo on September 1, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to Japan was a resounding success. Both the Indian and Japanese press have lauded the visit and its accomplishments—notably, the elevation of the India-Japan relationship to a “special” strategic and global partnership, and the big-ticket investments in Indian infrastructure announced to the tune of U.S. $35 billion in assistance over five years. From a Washington perspective, the India-Japan relationship is a positive development and one that the United States has fully supported. What the visit also shows, however, is the way the state-directed economic policy tools countries like Japan (and China as well) are mobilizing to further their relations with India substantially exceed comparable U.S. approaches. Read more »

State Capitalism Stays in Control

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, September 5, 2014
bank-of-china A man is silhouetted in front of a Bank of China's logo at its branch office in Beijing in this file photo from July 14, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters).

Over the past year, leadership changes in many of the world’s biggest emerging markets have created vast hopes—both among citizens of these countries and among foreign investors—of dramatic economic liberalization in India, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, and other countries with new presidents and prime ministers. In some cases, as in India and China, many local analysts and investors believe that the new men in charge—Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Chinese president Xi Jinping—are potentially once-in-a-generation economic reformers who could streamline even the biggest, most lumbering economies, slashing state enterprises and drastically reducing waste. Read more »

What Will Prayuth Do as Prime Minister?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 4, 2014
prayuth chan-ocha Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha waits for his cabinet members for a group photo session after an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Government House in Bangkok on September 4, 2014. Thailand's new military-stacked cabinet met King Bhumibol in Bangkok on Thursday, marking the formal start of an administration that will spend at least a year overhauling the Thai political system before calling a fresh election (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy: Reuters).

To the surprise of few Thai observers, in August Thailand’s legislative assembly, packed with military men and military allies, chose coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to be the prime minister, until elections supposedly to be called late next year or early in 2016. Prayuth thus became the first Thai coup leader in decades to take the job as prime minister in Thailand, rather than finding a fig leaf civilian as interim prime minister, solidifying the notion that this was indeed a “hard” coup more similar to the draconian authoritarian rule in Thailand in the 1950s and 1960s than the “soft” coup that took place in 2006. The military, Bangkok elites, and the royal family supposedly learned from the 2006 “soft” coup that only a “hard” coup could really wipe out Thaksin Shinawatra’s organization in Thailand and entrench elite rule for at least another generation. The 2006 coup was followed by a new constitution and then elections that resulted in a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra party winning power again,  thus defeating–in the minds of Bangkok elites–the very purpose of the coup. Read more »

Human Rights Watch Reports Thailand Indefinitely Detaining Thousands of Migrant Children

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 2, 2014
rohingya-in-thailand Rohingya people from Myanmar, who were rescued from human traffickers, are kept in a communal cell at the Songkhla Immigration Detention Centre in Thailand near the border with Malaysia in this photo from February 13, 2014 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters).

As if Thailand’s international image hadn’t suffered enough, with a coup government trying to turn the clock back forty years, the country’s seafood industry being exposed as one of the worst examples of human trafficking and outright slavery in the world, and even neighboring Myanmar’s politics looking good by comparison, Human Rights Watch today released a lengthy report on the detention of migrant children in Thailand. The report is available here. Read more »

Japan’s Pivot to India

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, September 2, 2014
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo September 1, 2014.  (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy Reuters) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo September 1, 2014. (Shizuo Kambayashi/Courtesy Reuters)

India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, made his first geostrategic move in Asia’s complex new dynamics this week, and together with Prime Minister Abe, catapulted the Japan-India relationship into a “special strategic and global partnership.”  Two goals focused their attention: bolstering their national economies and contending with China’s growing influence. Read more »

Chinese Drop-Off in U.S. Graduate Schools Triggers False Alarm

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Bo Guagua, son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, receives his masters degree in public policy from Senior Lecturer John Donohue (R) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government during the 361st Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 24, 2012. Bo graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government on Thursday, capping a tumultuous academic year that also placed him in the center of his homeland's biggest leadership crisis in two decades. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS) Bo Guagua, son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, receives his masters degree in public policy from Senior Lecturer John Donohue (R) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government during the 361st Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 24, 2012.

The Chronicle of Higher Education blog first sounded the alarm on August 21: a just-released survey by the Council of Graduate Schools reported that graduate school admission offers to Chinese students had plateaued. As a result, the Chronicle made clear: “Chinese appetite for American higher education may have finally hit a saturation point. That could spell trouble for American universities who have come to rely on students from China, who account for one in three foreign graduate students….” Read more »

Darcie Draudt: The Sewol Controversy and Parliamentary Deadlock in South Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, August 27, 2014
sewol-response Police officers stand guard at a pier, as yellow ribbons dedicated to missing and dead passengers on board the capsized Sewol ferry are tied to its handrails, at a port in Jindo on April 28, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters).

Darcie Draudt is a research associate for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s main opposition party, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), began a sit-in in support of a controversial bill that aims to organize an investigation into April’s Sewol Ferry incident. The bill, proposed in July by NPAD representative Jeon Hae-cheol, stipulates compensation for victims and their families. This bill also includes plans for an investigatory committee that would be comprised of civilians, which the ruling Saenuri Party argues is unconstitutional. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 22, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 22, 2014
Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters). Thailand's newly appointed prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha (front), reviews honor guards on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 21, 2014 (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed prime minister. In a 191-0 vote on Thursday, Thailand’s rubber-stamp legislature named as prime minister the general who in May led the military coup of Thailand’s elected government. General Prayuth awaits an expected endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Read more »

The Substance of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Style

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, August 18, 2014
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi on August 15, 2014 (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy: Reuters). Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the historic Red Fort during Independence Day celebrations in Delhi on August 15, 2014 (Ahmad Masood/Courtesy: Reuters).

On Friday, August 15, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi delivered his maiden Independence Day speech [video here]. Many commentators have already noted his earthy delivery and direct ex tempore style, his campaign-like rhetoric, his deeply democratic authority, and his willingness to remind citizens of “all the things we like to disregard.” Read more »

Park Geun-hye’s “Correct View of History” With Japan

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, August 18, 2014
park-geun-hye-8-15 speech South Korean president Park Geun-hye speaks in Seoul on August 15, 2014, during a ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule (Ahn Young-joon/Courtesy: Reuters).

The August 15 anniversary of the end of World War II—when the Korean peninsula gained independence from Japanese colonial rule—is not just a time of reflection on  the legacy and costs of that war; it is also a perennially sensitive diplomatic moment in Northeast Asia.  The festering political disconnect between Park Geun-hye and Shinzo Abe, allies of the United States who have been thus far unable to meet each other bilaterally heightens the importance of such a moment. Read more »