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Asia Unbound

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

Thailand, Other American Partners Downgraded to Worst Ranking in New Trafficking in Persons Report

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 20, 2014
cambodian-migrants-from-thailand Cambodian migrant workers carry their belongings as they walk to cross the border at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaew on June 15, 2014. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that over the past week 100,000 Cambodians have poured over the border, as the military that seized power in a May 22 coup intensifies lax measures to regulate illegal labour. The military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) insists Cambodians are leaving of their own accord and said 60,000 had crossed the border as of Saturday (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

 

In the new State Department 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, officially released this morning by Secretary of State John Kerry, the administration pulls no punches. In previous years, some countries that had deserved being downgraded from a Tier 1 country to a Tier 2 country, signifying deteriorating progress in combating trafficking, or from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 country, the worst possible rating in the report, had been saved from downgrades. Usually, they were saved due to their close strategic ties with the United States and their effective lobbying of this administration and its predecessors. A ranking in Tier 3, according to the report’s definition, means a country “whose government does not fully comply with the minimum standards [in combating trafficking in persons] and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Countries that fall into Tier 3, the report notes, “may be subject to certain restrictions on bilateral assistance, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.…Governments subject to restrictions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions.” Read more »

Bangladesh: Behemoth Garment Industry Weathers the Storm

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, June 20, 2014
Employees work in a factory of Babylon Garments in Dhaka January 3, 2014 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters) Employees work in a factory of Babylon Garments in Dhaka on January 3, 2014 (Andrew Biraj/Courtesy: Reuters).

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to participate in an excellent conference focused on Bangladesh, its development, and its garment industry hosted by Harvard University. The organizers did a tremendous job convening the many diverse stakeholders on this issue—the Bangladeshi garment exporters associations, representatives from the Bangladeshi and U.S. governments, representatives from major buyers and retailers, fashion industry associations, labor rights advocates, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and scholars examining developments in global retail and labor. The background to the gathering, obviously, was last year’s tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka on April 24, 2013, which killed more than 1,100 and left more than 2,500 injured. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 20, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 20, 2014
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L), in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L), in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. China sends more oil rigs to already-tense South China Sea. Two rigs are now stationed between China and the Taiwan-occupied Pratas Islands, and one has been given coordinates to be towed just outside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang asked China to remove the rigs that are in disputed waters. China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands, all of which are off Vietnam’s coast, and is reportedly moving sand onto reefs and shoals to support buildings and surveillance equipment. Read more »

Sour Notes from China on the U.S. Rebalance to Asia

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, June 20, 2014
xi-jinping-cica Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech to the media during the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Shanghai on May 21, 2014 (Aly Song/Courtesy: Reuters).

I spent a week in China early this month on the heels of the Shangri-La Dialogue and amidst rising tensions in the South China Sea following China’s placement of an oil rig in disputed waters near Vietnam. Instead of spending time “inside the ring roads” of Beijing with America-handlers practiced at making careful judgments about the China-U.S. relationship, I visited a few regional cities where the Chinese views of the U.S. rebalancing policy that I heard were harsh and unvarnished. This mood parallels Liz Economy’s assessment last month of the growing misconnect in U.S.-China relations. Read more »

What Will Thailand’s Post-Coup “Democracy” Look Like?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, June 19, 2014
prayuth Thai Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives before a meeting to discuss the 2015 national budget at the Army Club in Bangkok on June 13, 2014. Prayuth was the head of the junta that seized power in Thailand last month (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

As an excellent piece in the Associated Press notes this week, Thailand’s junta appears to be entrenching itself for the long haul. Junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has named himself to Thailand’s Board of Investment. The junta is putting other cronies at the heads of major state-controlled companies, Prayuth has left the timetable for a total return to civilian rule purposefully vague, and the coup leaders also have refused to say exactly what that civil government will look like, or what Thailand’s next constitution will look like either. (The generals essentially ripped up the previous constitution after launching the coup in May.) Read more »

Podcast: A Conversation with Evan Medeiros

by Adam Segal Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode. Evan Medeiros, National Security Council, spoke on the importance of remembering how far the United States and China has come in their relationship since 1972 on March 28, 2014, at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute. (Paul Morigi Photography/Brookings Institute). This image has been resized. See license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

Asia Unbound is proud to announce a new podcast series. Our first guest is Special Advisor to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Evan Medeiros. I spoke with him on U.S. policy in Asia and the Obama administration’s Asia rebalancing strategy on May 30, 2014. Listen to the podcast below. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 13, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 13, 2014
Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters) Planes are seen near a section of a damaged building (L) at Jinnah International Airport, after Sunday's attack by Taliban militants, in Karachi June 10, 2014. (Athar Hussain/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. After a six month suspension, CIA resumes drone strikes in Pakistan. Two U.S. drones struck Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region this week, killing several militants from Pakistani Taliban-allied factions, including the Haqqani network (which until recently held Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl hostage). The strikes came in the wake of the terrorist attack on the international airport in Karachi last Sunday; more than thirty people were killed including the militants. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for “the shelling and atrocities of the government.” Peace talks between the TTP and the Pakistani government have foundered and do not appear recoverable, and Pakistan is “mulling a new offensive of its own” against the militants. Although Pakistan has publicly condemned the U.S. drone strikes, anonymous government officials have admitted Islamabad gave the Americans “express approval” to carry out the strikes. Read more »

Prime Minister Modi to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, June 13, 2014
File photo: Prayer flags hang near the ParoTaktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in Paro district, Bhutan on October 16, 2011 (Adrees Latif/Courtesy: Reuters). File photo: Prayer flags hang near the ParoTaktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in Paro district, Bhutan on October 16, 2011 (Adrees Latif/Courtesy: Reuters).

Next week Prime Minister Narendra Modi will head to Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, on his first overseas visit, slated for June 14-15. There had been a great deal of speculation that his first visit abroad would be to East Asia, particularly to Japan, a country with which he developed a strong relationship as Gujarat chief minister. But the selection of Bhutan builds perfectly on Prime Minister Modi’s inaugural outreach to the South Asian region, and demonstrates an astute sense of the region’s critical importance to India’s economic dynamism and strategic strength. Read more »

Jokowi’s Plans?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, June 12, 2014
Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters). Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto (L) and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo hold their ballot numbers after drawing them at the Election Commission in Jakarta on June 1, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters).

Although Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has seen his lead in the polls shrink in the run-up to the July 9 elections, he still remains the overwhelming favorite. Jokowi has lost ground to Prabowo Subianto because of Prabowo’s effective social media and on-the-ground campaign apparatus. Still, Jokowi and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, performed well in the first presidential debate, hitting on Prabowo’s highly problematic human rights record and exposing Prabowo’s sharp, even crazy temper. Jokowi seems to have realized that he needs a better get-out-the-vote operation. He also has become more skilled in deflecting concerns that he will just be a tool of his PDI-P party and of party leader Megawati Sukarnoputri. Read more »

Chinese Cyber Espionage: We Know the Who, How, Why, and Why it Matters–We’re Missing the What to Do

by Adam Segal Wednesday, June 11, 2014
A demonstrator from the pro-China "Caring Hong Kong Power" group protests over claims from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked computers in the Chinese territory, outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong July on 9, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) A demonstrator from the pro-China "Caring Hong Kong Power" group protests over claims from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked computers in the Chinese territory, outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong July on 9, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Three documents that came out this week lay out the “who,” “how,” “why,” and “why it matters” of Chinese cyber espionage. Unfortunately, we still lack the “what to do.”

The “who” and “how” was contained in a new report, Putter Panda, by the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike [Full disclosure: CrowdStrike helps fund a speaker series at CFR]. The report, like the Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment of five hackers alleged to be part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Mandiant’s 2013 APT1 report, uses IP addresses, email accounts, and other forensic details to describe attacks on European and U.S. businesses and government agencies, with a particular focus on the satellite, aerospace, and communications sectors. CrowdStrike identified a hacker using the handle “cppy”, and through images posted on a picture sharing website and other clues linked the individual to PLA 3rd Department 12th Bureau Unit 61486 in Shanghai. Read more »