CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Podcast: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, November 15, 2016
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters A rally held in North Korea’s Kim Il Sung square in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang (KCNA/via Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Robert Boynton, the author of The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea’s Abduction Project, takes us inside Pyongyang’s strange and sinister program to recruit spies and language teachers by seizing foreign nationals. More than a dozen Japanese citizens vanished from coastal cities without a trace in the 1970s and 1980s. Read more »

What is Happening in Western Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, November 14, 2016
western-myanmar-rohingya Men walk at a Rohingya village outside Maugndaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar on October 27, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Over the past month, the situation in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which has been extremely volatile since an eruption of violence in the early 2010s, has deteriorated once again. Following an attack on police outposts near the border with Bangladesh in early October, which killed at least nine policemen, the state is on edge. Some human rights groups have reported that the security forces and police, as well as individuals, are striking back at ethnic Rohingya, since militant Rohingya Muslims were believed to be behind the killings of the police. Read more »

Trump’s Asia, Delhi’s Smog, Park’s New PM, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 11, 2016
A member of student activist group, League of Filipino Students, displays an image of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as he chants anti-U.S. slogans during a rally outside the U.S. embassy in Manila, Philippines, on November 10, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters) A member of student activist group, League of Filipino Students, displays an image of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as he chants anti-U.S. slogans during a rally outside the U.S. embassy in Manila, Philippines, on November 10, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

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

1. Asia braces for Trump. On Tuesday night, as results from the U.S. general election poured in from polling places across America, Asian markets reeled at the prospect of a Trump presidency. By Thursday, U.S. markets stabilized and Asian markets had bounced back. But what will a Trump in the White House mean for Asia in the coming four years? At this point, even experts’ best guesses are still uncertain. Read more »

Securing Strategic Buffer Space: Case Studies and Implications for U.S. Global Strategy

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Monday, November 7, 2016
A world map from 1507 world map by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller is pictured in this handout image from the Library of Congress. The map shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the southern continent, a clearly-lettered name: "America", the first known recorded instance of the use of the name. The Library of Congress acquired the 1507 map in 2003 for $10 million. (Reuters/Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress/Handout) A world map from 1507 world map by cartographer Martin Waldseemuller is pictured in this handout image from the Library of Congress. The map shows two continents across the ocean from Europe, with a skinny isthmus between them, an embryonic Florida peninsula, a western mountain range on the northern continent, and on the southern continent, a clearly-lettered name: "America", the first known recorded instance of the use of the name. The Library of Congress acquired the 1507 map in 2003 for $10 million. (Reuters/Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress/Handout)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A series of geopolitical fault lines are coming apart today. There is a hybrid conflict in Ukraine, an arc of destruction from the Levant to Iraq, rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, and instability in the southern Caucasus, just to name a few. What these conflicts have in common is that they are taking place in strategic buffer zones, physical spaces caught between competing regional powers. To address these problems by drawing lessons from the past, my paper for the Center for the National Interest, completed in September and published in October, examines four major cases of strategic buffer space conflicts: the Belgian crisis of 1830-1831, Byzantine-Sassanid and Ottoman-Safavid wars, China-Japan-Russia competition over Korea during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the Balkan powder keg that led to World War I. A brief summary of the four case studies can be found in The National Interest. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of November 4, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 4, 2016
Choi Soon-sil (C), who is involved a political scandal, reacts as she is surrounded by media and protesters upon her arrival at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea, October 31, 2016. The banner (top L) reads "Arrest Choi Soon-sil, Call for Park Geun-hye to step down". REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji Choi Soon-sil (C), who is involved in a political scandal, reacts as she is surrounded by media and protesters upon her arrival at a prosecutor's office in Seoul, South Korea on October 31, 2016. The banner (top L) reads "Arrest Choi Soon-sil, Call for Park Geun-hye to step down". (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

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

1. South Korean president makes second public apology. On Friday, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea made a second public apology amidst rising domestic turmoil surrounding allegations that her close friend, Choi Soon-sil, acted as a kind of “shadow president” and improperly profited from her relationship with the president. Read more »

Podcast: The Changing Face of Myanmar

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 4, 2016
Porters wait for business in an older part of Yangon December 3, 2011. Hours after Hillary Clinton finished the first visit in more than half a century by a U.S. Secretary of State to Myanmar, property prices began to soar. The price hike reflects shoots of optimism among investors sizing up the resource-rich, former British colony following the most dramatic changes since the military took power in what was then known as Burma in a 1962 coup. To match Insight MYANMAR-INVESTMENT/ REUTERS/Damir Sagolj Porters wait for business in an older part of Yangon. Property prices in the city increased dramatically following Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar in 2011, with the price hike reflecting shoots of optimism among investors about the opening of the resource-rich, former British colony. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Richard Cockett, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the Economist and author of Blood, Dreams and Gold: The Changing Face of Burma, weaves a vivid narrative of Myanmar’s colonial past and its legacy for the nation today. As he brings to life the tumultuous history of Southeast Asia’s newest democracy, Cockett highlights the role of the “plural society,” a mercantilist jumble of ethnicities brought together under British rule to exploit local resources. Read more »

Scarborough Shoal Games and Deals

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, November 4, 2016
scarborough-shoal-philippines-china A fisherman look at the fishing boats that just returned from disputed Scarborough Shoal, as they are docked at the coastal village of Cato in Infanta, Pangasinan in the Philippines, on October 31, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

In a matter of months, the Philippines’ controversial leader, Rodrigo Duterte, has managed to recalibrate his country’s foreign policy, potentially revive frayed ties with China, and seemingly reduce tensions in the South China Sea, at least for now. Read more »

How Chinese People View Their Country’s Public Health Challenges

by Yanzhong Huang Friday, October 28, 2016
Petitioners are seen outside the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, in Beijing (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters) Petitioners are seen outside the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, in Beijing (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters)

Last week, Phoenix TV, the largest private-held television company in China, broadcast my forty-minute lecture (styled similarly to a TED talk) on China’s public health challenges (the video is available here). In the lecture, I contended that China’s international ascendance is being crippled by its tremendous public health problems, ranging from environmental health degradation to greater prevalence of non-communicable diseases and food safety issues. What was missing from the talk is how the Chinese people themselves view these challenges (the lecture was recorded in late September). Fortunately, a report released from the Pew Research Center on October 6 filled the void with a snapshot of how domestic challenges are viewed by the Chinese public.

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of October 28, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 28, 2016
quetta-police-academy-attack Pakistani troops deploy outside the Police Training Center after an attack on the center in Quetta, Pakistan, on October 25, 2016. (Naseer Ahmed/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Suicide attack in Pakistan leaves sixty-one dead. Late Monday night, three masked terrorists breached a police training college outside of Quetta, Pakistan, and fired on unarmed sleeping recruits. After a five-hour gun battle with security forces, during which one of the terrorists was shot, the remaining two detonated suicide vests. Read more »

Podcast: The Future of U.S. Statecraft in Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, October 27, 2016
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur December 13, 2012. Seen in the background is a display of traditional Malay "songket" fabric. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell speaks during a news conference at the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur on December 13, 2012. Seen in the background is a display of traditional Malay "songket" fabric. (Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters)

“The lion’s share of the history of the 21st century is going to play out in Asia,” states Kurt Campbell, the former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, on this week’s Asia Unbound podcast. Asia is now the top market for U.S. exports and home to 60 percent of the world’s top arms importers.

Read more »