CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Thailand’s August 7 Referendum: Some Background

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Thai-student-elephants-referendum A Thai student holds posters in front of elephants during a campaign ahead of the August 7 referendum in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, Thailand, August 1, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

On August 7, Thailand will hold an up or down national referendum on a proposed new constitution. Drafting new charters are hardly unusual in the kingdom, which has had twenty constitutions since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. (One famous Thai joke told to me by many friends involves a Thai student visiting a library to read a copy of the current constitution, only to be told to check in the periodicals section.) This charter has been drafted by a group of pro-military/royalist former officials, and stage managed by the junta, which took power in May 2014 after months of destabilizing street protests against the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government. Read more »

A Debate on the New Philippine Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, August 1, 2016
Duterte-State-of-the-Nation Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds up a copy of his speech as he speaks before the lawmakers during his first State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Over email, Professor Richard Javad Heydarian of De La Salle University in Manila and CFR Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick discussed some of the potential effects—both positive and negative—of the administration of new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Richard Javad Heydarian: By many indicators, Rodrigo Duterte is emerging as the Philippines’ most powerful president since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship three decades ago. Fresh into office, and after months of aggressive campaign rhetoric, the new president enjoys excellent trust ratings, has amassed super-majority support in the Philippine Congress, and is set to appoint a majority of Supreme Court justices in coming years. The Ombudsman office, which has been waging a relentless campaign against corrupt officials, also enjoys close and cooperative relations with Duterte. Read more »

Japanese Public Opinion on Constitutional Revision in 2016

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Monday, August 1, 2016
School girls pose for a selfie in the trendy Harajuku district in Tokyo, Japan, November 11, 2015 (Toru Hanai/REUTERS).  School girls pose for a selfie in the trendy Harajuku district in Tokyo, Japan, November 11, 2015 (Toru Hanai/REUTERS). 

This blog post is co-authored by Masatoshi Asaoka and Ayumi Teraoka, an intern and a research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of July 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, July 29, 2016
Xi-Putin-meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony in Beijing, China, June 25, 2016. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Reuters)

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

1. China and Russia to hold “routine” naval exercises in the South China Sea. China’s Ministry of National Defense announced on Thursday that China and Russia have scheduled cooperative naval exercises in the South China Sea for September. While China also stated that the naval exercises will be aimed at strengthening Russian-Chinese cooperation and are not directed at any other country, the announcement comes at a time of intensified strain between China and other Asian nations due to rival claims in the South China Sea. Read more »

Early Postwar Attitudes on Constitutional Revision

by Sheila A. Smith and Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Thursday, July 28, 2016
Option-C-Japanese_family_me

This blog post is co-authored with Ayumi Teraoka, research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Read more »

Japanese Public Opinion on Constitutional Revision

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, July 27, 2016
A girl looks on as her mother casts her ballot for Japan's upper house election at a polling station in Tokyo, Japan July 10, 2016 (Issei Kato/REUTERS). A girl looks on as her mother casts her ballot for Japan's upper house election at a polling station in Tokyo, Japan July 10, 2016 (Issei Kato/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Read more »

Q&A on Cambodia with Sophal Ear

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, July 25, 2016
hun-sen-cambodia A Cambodian Muslim supporter takes a selfie with President of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen (C), after a ceremony at the party headquarters to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the party in Phnom Penh on June 28, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Last week, I spoke via email with Sophal Ear, Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs at Occidental College, and author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, about the current crisis in Cambodian politics. After a brief truce following elections in 2013, in which the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) shocked the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) by nearly winning control of the National Assembly, any semblance of détente has broken down. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, July 22, 2016
Loretta-1MDB U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announces the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB in Washington, July 20, 2016. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

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

1. Justice Department announces action against 1MDB. The ongoing scandal surrounding Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB took a dramatic turn this week when the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to seize $1 billion in assets as part of an investigation into money laundering and funds improperly taken from 1MDB. While the fund was intended to boost Malaysia’s development, some of the money appears to have instead gone toward enriching Prime Minister Najib Razak, his stepson, and other associates. Read more »

Podcast: The Dictator’s Dilemma: The Chinese Communist Party’s Strategy for Survival

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, July 21, 2016
CCP-90th-celebration Participants wave flags of the Chinese Communist Party as they sing revolutionary songs during a celebration for the Party's upcoming ninetieth anniversary, on a square in Chongqing municipality, March 28, 2011. (Stringer/Reuters)

Are Chinese citizens unhappy with their government? Media coverage of corruption, pollution, and censorship might lead outsiders to believe that they are. But on this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Bruce Dickson, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University, offers evidence to the contrary. Read more »

Satsuki Eda: Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Thursday, July 21, 2016
(Democratic Party) (Democratic Party)

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. In our final essay by Japan’s legislators, Satsuki Eda, chair of the Democratic Party’s research commission on the constitution, argues against allowing the Abe cabinet to prevail in its effort to revise the constitution. Eda served four terms in the Lower House and is currently serving his fourth-term in the Upper House, representing Okayama prefecture. In Japan’s political alignment of the 1990s, Eda left the Socialist Democratic Federation and after various party mergers, was associated with the New Frontier Party (NFP). He left national politics to run in the 1996 Okayama gubernatorial election, but returned to the Diet in 1998 as a member of the former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Throughout his career, Eda has been an influential voice in Diet debates over the reinterpretation and the possible revision of Japan’s constitution. Read more »