CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

How Much Can We Learn From Taiwanese Inauguration Speeches?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, June 2, 2016
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen walks on the podium before addressing during an inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen walks on the podium before addressing during an inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan on May 20, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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

The inauguration speech of Tsai Ing-Wen, the new president of Taiwan, on May 20, drew much attention from audiences both at home and abroad who hoped to glean information about the future path that Taiwan’s China policy might take. Tsai, the island’s first female president, is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party known for its more independent stance vis-a-vis China, and Beijing has so far regarded her rise with wariness. But how indicative are Taiwanese inaugural speeches of policies down the line? Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 27, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 27, 2016
Obama-Vietnam-speech Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L-R), Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 25, 2015. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Pei-Yu Wei, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Obama offers subtle criticisms in Vietnam. Much of the coverage of U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Vietnam this week centered around the lifting of the lethal weapons ban and tensions in the South China Sea. However, Obama also used his visit to address concerns surrounding human rights violations and autocratic governance in Vietnam. Read more »

A Personal Reflection on Today in Hiroshima

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, May 27, 2016
President Barack Obama, flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, talks with atomic bomb survivor Sunao Tsuboi (Toru Hanai/REUTERS). President Barack Obama, flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, talks with atomic bomb survivor Sunao Tsuboi (Toru Hanai/REUTERS).

I woke up early this morning, before 4 a.m. in fact, to head to NPR to be live when President Barack Obama spoke in Hiroshima. As I drove across a dark and quiet Washington, DC, the president was already beginning what has to be his most moving speech to date. As my city was waking up, the entire Japanese nation was listening to our president, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the atomic bombings. If you have not heard it, you should take a moment to read it here. Read more »

China’s Surprising New Refugee Debate

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, May 26, 2016
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders waiting to cross into Jordan, walk at a camp, after a group of them crossed into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, at the Hadalat area, east of the capital Amman, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed Syrian refugees walk at a camp as they wait to cross into Jordan on May 4, 2016. In a new survey from Amnesty International, Chinese respondents were the most willing to personally host refugees, suggesting that perhaps China could resettle more Syrian refugees. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

Rachel Brown is a research associate in Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China ranks first in many things – population, greenhouse gas emissions, foreign treasury holdings – but openness toward refugees is one arena in which it has not traditionally been considered a leader. It therefore came as surprise when China ranked first in Amnesty International’s recently released “Refugees Welcome Index,” a survey that polled over 27,000 people in twenty-seven nations on their attitudes toward refugees. This put it ahead of nations such as Germany and Canada that have already taken in thousands of Syrian refugees. Read more »

The Final Normalization of U.S.-Vietnam Relations

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Obama-Vietnam-trip U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 23, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

After a period of broken diplomatic ties following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the United States and Vietnam re-established formal diplomatic relations in 1995. Since then, the two nations have built increasingly close strategic and economic ties, to the point that Hanoi is now one of the United States’s closest security partners in Asia. With a professional military and a highly strategic location, Vietnam is gradually becoming as important to U.S. security interests in the region as longtime allies and partners like Thailand and Malaysia. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta and the Southern Insurgency

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, May 23, 2016
prayuth-chan-ocha-2 Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 16, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Earlier this month, Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha lamented the ongoing bloodshed in southern Thailand and implicitly criticized his own government’s feeble attempts to restart talks with the insurgents. In his weekly address in early May, Prayuth lamented the “sad and terrible waste of lives” in fifteen years of fighting in the south. More than 6,500 people have reportedly been killed in the southern insurgency since 2001. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of May 20, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, May 20, 2016
Sri-Lanka-floods Villagers pull a boat with people after rescuing them on a flooded road in Biyagama, Sri Lanka, May 17, 2016. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Sri Lanka reeling from massive flooding and mudslides. Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its heaviest rains in twenty-five years, leading to flooding and landslides that have devastated twenty-one out of the country’s twenty-five districts. The death toll as of today has reached nearly seventy people, over 300,000 have been displaced from their homes, and 220 families are still reported missing beneath the mud, which in some places reaches up to thirty feet. Read more »

Demystifying Rodrigo Duterte

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, May 20, 2016
rodrigo-duterte- President-elect Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte speaks during a news conference in his hometown Davao City in southern Philippines, on May 16, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila. His latest book is “Asia’s New Battlefield: The US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

The Philippines’ new president, former Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, won last week in a five-way vote. His tough-talking style, effective social media campaign, and vows to reduce the power of the country’s elite and crack down on crime resonated enough to deliver him the win. Read more »

Obama and the Vietnam Arms Embargo

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, May 19, 2016
obama-vietnam U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong after they spoke to reporters following their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington July 7, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This weekend, President Obama will travel to Vietnam, making the third U.S. presidential visit to the country since the end of the Vietnam War. Obama’s trip, which will also include a stop in Japan, will encompass several priorities. He will try to reassure allies that the United States remains committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though the deal has stalled on Capitol Hill and could be rejected in Congress entirely. (For more on the TPP’s current fate, see this new Bloomberg piece.) He will become the first president to visit Hiroshima, where he will likely reaffirm his commitment to reducing nuclear proliferation without making a formal apology for the use of nuclear weapons in World War II. Read more »

Podcast: The Hacked World Order

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Hacked-World-Order-Segal-2

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with my longtime colleague Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies and director of the digital and cyberspace policy program here at CFR, about his new book, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age. In our discussion, Segal clearly and concisely deconstructs the framework of U.S.-China cyber relations and describes the global implications of the geopolitics of cyberspace. Read more »