CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Review of Benedict Anderson’s “A Life Beyond Boundaries”

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, July 5, 2016
indonesia Storm clouds gather over Central Jakarta, Indonesia on July 5, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

It is a common scene among the community of Southeast Asia specialists in Washington. At a talk, or a visit by a leading Southeast Asian politician, the conversation inevitably comes around to the same mantra. Why is the audience relatively small? Why do we know everyone in attendance? Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, July 1, 2016
A family member pays homage to the body of a Nepali national who was killed when a suicide bomber struck a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 22, 2016. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters) A family member pays homage to the body of a Nepali national who was killed when a suicide bomber struck a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 22, 2016. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, and Gabriella Meltzer look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Nepalis seeking employment in Afghanistan face severe risks. Faced with a faltering economy and few job opportunities following the devastating April 2015 earthquake, thousands of Nepalis have sought employment in Afghanistan as security contractors at foreign missions, military bases, and embassies. Read more »

Joining the Club: India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, July 1, 2016
A member of Denmark's delegation (C) takes a picture with his phone while seated next to India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi (R) at the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 1, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters). A member of Denmark's delegation (C) takes a picture with his phone while seated next to India's Prime Minister Narenda Modi (R) at the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 1, 2016 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Last week the forty-eight “participating governments” of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) met in a plenary session in Seoul. Among the subjects of discussion: how to consider for membership countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Discussion of membership for non-NPT signatories was the result of India’s application for membership, an application the United States has vocally supported. Read more »

When Will the Jury Be In on the AIIB?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, July 1, 2016
Delegates wait for the opening ceremony of the first annual meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. (Jason Lee/Reuters) Delegates wait for the opening ceremony of the first annual meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the first part of a series on China’s role in international development.

Less than six months after its official launch, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is already doing a brisk business. This past weekend the China-backed institution held its first annual meeting in Beijing, hosting the AIIB’s Board of Governors and delegates from all fifty-seven member nations. Read more »

Duterte Isn’t Going to Change

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, June 30, 2016
rodrigo-duterte-inaugeration President Rodrigo Duterte takes his oath before Supreme Court Justice Bienvenido Reyes as his daughter Veronica holds the bible, during his inauguration as President of the Philippines at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on June 30, 2016. (Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

It doesn’t look like there is going to be a more presidential Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao made his name on the campaign trail for his blunt rhetoric, which often offended many civil society activists, journalists, and other Filipinos. He had a reputation, as mayor of Davao, for both effective management and for allegedly condoning extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects. He had a highly testy relationship with the press. Read more »

Cambodia’s Turn Toward Authoritarianism (Again)

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at an event to celebrate Children's Day in Phnom Penh on May 31, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Over the past year, any hopes that Cambodia, where national elections almost led to a change in government three years ago, was headed toward a democratic transition, have been fully dashed. Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are again taking complete control of the kingdom. In fact, as the country prepares for the next national elections, to be held in 2018, Hun Sen appears to be resorting to his usual combination of repressing opposition politicians and co-opting a small number of his opponents. These harsh but skillful tactics have helped him become the longest-serving non-royal ruler in Asia, surviving one of the most tumultuous political environments in the world. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 24, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 24, 2016
Wukan-protest Villagers carrying Chinese flags protest at Wukan village in China's Guangdong province, June 20, 2016. (James Pomfret/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Smoldering discontent rekindles protests in Wukan, China. Nearly five years ago, popular protests erupted in the small fishing village of Wukan, Guangdong province, over illegal land grabs by the local government. The “Siege of Wukan,” as it was later known, set a precedent for diffusing tensions on the local level through democratic means, as villagers were allowed to elect new leaders after protesting for three months. Read more »

Asia Summer Reading

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 21, 2016
bookstore A passenger takes a book in a bookstore at Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2016. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

It’s that time of year again—when Washington cooks, the public transport goes on extended holiday, people head to the beach, and I offer some thoughts on books to take with you on vacation if you have an interest in Asian history, Southeast Asian politics, and Southeast Asian culture. Keep in mind that none of these books are exactly traditional “beach reads”—light page-turners that you can flip through while also watching your kids bury themselves in sand. Read more »

Namaste, World! India Amps Up its Yoga Diplomacy

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, June 20, 2016
Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters) Students practice yoga during a training session ahead of World Yoga Day in Ahmedabad, India, June 16, 2016. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Tuesday, June 21, marks the second year of “International Day of Yoga,” a UN designation enacted in December 2014 through a General Assembly resolution introduced by India. It came about after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s September 2014 address to the assembly, where he spoke about yoga as a potential solution for many of the world’s challenges, including climate change. Since then, Modi has continued to reference yoga’s benefits in a variety of speeches, including most recently his address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress. While this concern might appear esoteric to outsiders, Modi, and the government he leads, is one hundred percent serious about expanding the framework in which people around the world think of yoga and its role. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 17, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 17, 2016
Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters) Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe bows deeply as he delivers his resignation speech at Tokyo metropolitan government assembly session in Tokyo, Japan on June 15, 2016. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Ayumi Teraoka, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Prominent Chinese lawyer facing possibility of lifetime imprisonment. The Chinese police have recommended prosecution on a charge of “subverting state power” for Zhou Shifeng, director of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm whose arrest last summer invigorated a campaign to discredit and dismantle networks of rights-focused defense lawyers who have attempted to challenge the government. Zhou’s law firm took on many contentious cases about legal rights, representing the likes of dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Uighur academic Ilham Tohti. Read more »