CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Michael Levi: What the Big U.S.-China Climate Announcement Means

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, November 12, 2014
A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province September 16, 2013. China is pumping investment into wind power, which is more cost-competitive than solar energy and partly able to compete with coal and gas. China is the world's biggest producer of CO2 emissions, but is also the world's leading generator of renewable electricity. Environmental issues will be under the spotlight during a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will meet in Stockholm from September 23-26. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT) A worker inspects solar panels at a solar Dunhuang, 950km (590 miles) northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on September 16, 2013. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced new targets to cut climate pollution in their respective countries. My colleague and co-author Michael Levi explains the implications of this climate change agreement in a post on his blog, Energy, Security, and ClimateI have reposted it here. Read more »

India’s Brinkmanship at WTO Hurts It at APEC

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, November 10, 2014
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi walks on the red carpet during China's President Xi Jinping's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. Prime Minister Modi turned down an invitation from Xi to attend this month's APEC meeting in Beijing. (Courtesy Reuters/Ahmad Masood)

The annual APEC summit is underway in Beijing. Perhaps the most notable absentee is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who received an unprecedented invitation in July from Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the gathering. Despite growing to become the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms, India is not a member of APEC, and as a result would not normally attend the summit. But this year President Xi used his platform as the summit host to extend invitations to non-members India, Pakistan, and Mongolia. While Pakistan and Mongolia’s leaders made the trip to Beijing for APEC, Prime Minister Modi decided not to do so. It’s a missed opportunity for India’s economic diplomacy at a time it could use a boost. Read more »

What President Obama Should Bring to Beijing

by Elizabeth C. Economy Sunday, November 9, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague March 24 2014. Obama began crisis talks with his European allies on Monday after Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea, effectively yielding the region to Russian forces which stormed one of Kiev's last bases there. Obama, who has imposed tougher sanctions on Moscow than European leaders over its seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, will seek support for his firm line at a meeting with other leaders of the G7 - a group of industrialised nations that excludes Russia, which joined in 1998 to form the G8. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (NETHERLANDS - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets China's President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit, in The Hague on March 24 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

In a world of foreign policy resets, rethinks, and redoes, U.S. President Barack Obama’s China strategy is right on track. The Asia pivot or rebalance makes core U.S. interests—freedom of trade and investment, freedom of navigation, and human rights—clear to Beijing in an effective and compelling manner. And within this framework, the United States has engaged China on multiple fronts, including expanding the military-to-military relationship, restarting talks on a bilateral investment treaty (BIT), and supporting all manner of capacity building in the legal, environmental, and public health arenas. Read more »

Japan and China Get to Yes on an Abe-Xi Summit

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 7, 2014
Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool) Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L), chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 29, 2014. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo News/Takaki Yajima/Pool)

On November 7, Japan and China revealed they had reached an understanding on their differences that would allow for a resumption of diplomacy. After several years of a virtual shutdown in bilateral talks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to meet face-to-face at next week’s APEC meeting. Economic needs may be driving Xi, but strategic concerns are on the top of Abe’s agenda. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 7, 2014
Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing, November 4, 2014. Picture taken November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) CHINA OUT. Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for the opening of the APEC Summit in Beijing on November 4, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Leaders gather in Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. A wide range of issues are expected to be addressed throughout the week of APEC meetings, an agenda perceived as tailor-made for China. One of the most important topics is the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an initiative critics fear will take momentum from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. With the aim of rebooting Asia-Pacific growth, Chinese officials also announced a series of economic measures, including more bank credit for high-tech imports and quicker approvals for meat and seafood shipments. Other items on the forum agenda include an anti-corruption transparency network, climate issues, and regional support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Read more »

What a Republican-Controlled Senate Means for India

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters). The dome of the U.S Capitol is seen behind autumn leaves in Washington on November 5, 2014. Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent to seize control of the Senate, dealing a punishing blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his legislative agenda for his last two years in office (Kevin LaMarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

With the midterm elections in the United States decisively giving the Republican Party control of the Senate, and a stronger showing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, speculation in Washington now centers on what a Republican Congress means for policy. In The Water’s Edge, CFR’s James M. Lindsay argues that Republican control will change foreign policy, but less than many might think. In Foreign Policy, Bruce E. Stokes argues that a more aggressive foreign policy might be on the offing. In the Financial Times, Shawn Donnan reports that Republicans have already offered up trade as an area for cooperation with the White House. So what does Republican control of Congress suggest for India and the U.S.-India relationship? I’ll focus on the Senate here since leadership transitions will take place in January for every committee. Read more »

Obama, Asia, and Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, November 5, 2014
obama-najib U.S. President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speak at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center in Cyberjaya in this file photo from April 27, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy: Reuters).

It’s nice, in a way, to see issues one has worked on appear in major, globally important publications. This past week, just before President Obama’s trip to Asia, the Banyan column in The Economist, a column that focuses on Asia, detailed the Obama administration’s general disinterest in issues related to democracy and human rights in Asia. Banyan notes that President Obama has kept quiet as protests for suffrage have raged in Hong Kong. Banyan also writes that the Obama administration also has ignored a serious regression in political freedoms in Malaysia, maintained the close bilateral relationship with Thailand even as a military junta took over in Bangkok, and spent little time working on relations with the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, as authentic a democrat as you will get anywhere. Read more »

Myanmar Not Yet Attracting U.S. Companies

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, November 3, 2014
yangon-coca-cola-factory Staff work at a Coca-Cola factory during its opening ceremony outside of Yangon in this file photo from June 4, 2013. The facility was the first to locally bottle Coca-Cola in more than six decades and follows the U.S. company's re-entry into Myanmar in 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters).

As President Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar next week for the East Asia Summit, he will find less optimism not only about the political situation but also about Myanmar’s economic future. As I noted last week, when Obama first visited Myanmar in 2012, it was at the height of the country’s political reform process. Since then, the process of political reform has deteriorated, so much so that President Thein Sein last week held a kind of emergency summit with top civilian and military leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. This meeting was held in an attempt, I think, to get all top Myanmar public figures to at least paper over their differences during the East Asia Summit. Still, it has become clear that the military does intend to just easily hand power over to a truly civilian government, freedom of expression and press has been curtailed once again, and western Myanmar has exploded into inter-religious conflict, leaving over 100,000 Rohingya living in squalid camps that have been described by the Arakan Project as open air prisons.  It will not be easy to paper over these serious problems. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 31, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, October 31, 2014
A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters) A member of a military rescue team pauses during search operations at the site of a landslide at the Koslanda tea plantation near Haldummulla on October 30, 2014. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Vietnam and India strengthen defense and energy ties amid territorial disputes with China. The two nations signed a number of agreements following a meeting this week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Most notably, Vietnam agreed to further open its oil and gas sector to India, while India agreed to provide Vietnam with four off-shore patrol vessels. Prior to his two-day state visit, Dung called for a larger Indian role in the South China Sea, in spite of criticism from China. Both Hanoi and New Delhi are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing: Vietnam in the South China Sea and India along the Himalayas. Read more »