CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Assessing Myanmar’s New Cabinet

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 28, 2016
myanmar-nld-cabinet National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the parliament building after a meeting with members of her party in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on March 28, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last week, Myanmar announced the first Cabinet proposed by its NLD-dominated government. Although a handful of important ministries, like defense, were reserved for the armed forces, the NLD took most of the other important posts. In fact, Suu Kyi herself decided to take four ministerial posts, including the foreign ministry. Read more »

Prevent the Destruction of Scarborough Shoal

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, March 28, 2016
Boats at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12, 2016. The head of U.S. naval operations, Admiral John Richardson said the U.S. military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal in the northern part of the Spratly archipelago, about 125 miles (200 km) west of the Philippine base of Subic Bay. REUTERS/Planet Labs/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Boats at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12, 2016. The head of U.S. naval operations, Admiral John Richardson said the U.S. military had seen Chinese activity around Scarborough Shoal in the northern part of the Spratly archipelago, about 125 miles (200 km) west of the Philippine base of Subic Bay. (Courtesy Reuters/Planet Labs).

Captain Sean R. Liedman currently serves as the U.S. Navy Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Previously, he was the commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven operating the P-8A and P-3C maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. He has twice served in the Air Warfare Division on the Chief of Naval Operation’s staff and also as the executive assistant to the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.  The conclusions and opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government.

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Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of March 25, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 25, 2016
Jakarta-ride-app-protests Taxi drivers take part in a protest rally to demand that the government prohibit ride-hailing apps in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 22, 2016. (Garry Lotulung/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indonesians protest ride-hailing apps. Traffic in notoriously congested Jakarta came to a near standstill this week when approximately ten thousand taxi drivers protested popular ride-hailing apps like Grab, Go-Jek, and Uber, which have driven down taxi fares in the city. Some of the protesters turned violent and attacked other taxis not participating in the protests, leading to the arrest of eighty-three individuals. Read more »

Thailand’s State Capitalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Thaksin-red shirts A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group (C) holds a picture of ousted Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as she gather with others during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, on April 5, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Though former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose family originally came from the northern suburbs of Chiang Mai, has lived in exile for years, in the Chiang Mai area, until the spring of 2014, it was almost as if he never left. Cab drivers displayed his photo on their dashboard right next to Buddha images and pictures of ancient Thai royals. Community radio stations broadcast his speeches from exile, and vendors in nearby villages sold posters of the politician grinning and T-shirts bearing his image. Billboards featuring Thaksin and other local politicians from his party dominated the landscape on the sides of roads. Read more »

Podcast: The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Who’s on Top?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Chinese-military-parade Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of China arrive on their armored vehicles at Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

The superiority of the American military relative to that of any other country in the Asia Pacific has long been a defining feature of the region’s security landscape. Yet, as China continues to invest heavily in its military while U.S. investment contracts, America’s relative advantage is diminishing. What would happen if the United States and China came into conflict over Taiwan or the Spratly Islands? What is the relative likelihood that China would unleash a cyberattack on infrastructure targets in the United States? Read more »

State Capitalism and its Threats

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Thaksin-red shirts-2 A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group gestures and holds a picture of ousted Thai prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, on May 11, 2014. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

State capitalism poses five types of threats to democracy, global security, and the global economy.

One of the fears about state capitalism is that the state’s control of the economy, in democratic nations, will inexorably lead to state control of politics and a reduction in democratic freedoms. These fears are not totally misplaced. But when Western writers, politicians and other opinion leaders examine state capitalism, they tend to take an undifferentiated approach, treating all state capitalists alike, rather than examining each country in some more detail. Read more »

Pharmaceutical PPPs and China’s Contribution to Global Health Security

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Shelves displaying medicines are seen at a pharmacy in Shanghai, China, November 27, 2015. China may more actively participate in global health innovation if it takes up more pharmaceutical public-private partnerships. Picture taken November 27, 2015. (Aly Song/Reuters) Shelves displaying medicines are seen at a pharmacy in Shanghai, China, November 27, 2015. China may more actively participate in global health innovation if it takes up more pharmaceutical public-private partnerships. Picture taken November 27, 2015. (Aly Song/Reuters)

One of the major challenges in developing new medical countermeasures against threats to global health security—be it a new flu pandemic or rapid spread of a neglected disease—is the lack of an underlying commercial market to support the financial investment needed for expeditious drug development and scale-up. This challenge was demonstrated at the outset of the 2014 Ebola outbreak: even though the lethal virus was known for nearly forty years, there was no cure or vaccine on the market. Paradoxically, while political attention to global health issues has revved up since the Ebola outbreak, funding is as short as ever when it comes to research and development (R&D) to address novel or neglected diseases. The funding shortage could be exacerbated by competing global challenges such as the need to raise money for funding the initiatives of the COP21 and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of March 18, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 18, 2016
Bangladesh-bank-theft Maia Santos Deguito, branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), rubs her eyes as she testifies during a Senate hearing of money laundering involving the theft of $81 million from the U.S. account of the Bangladesh Bank, at the Philippine Senate in Manila, March 17, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Bangladeshi bank chief resigns after $101 million cyber theft. The governor of Bangladesh’s central bank stepped down in the wake of a financial heist involving hackers, casinos, and multiple Asian nations. In early February, $81 million were transferred electronically from Bangladesh’s Federal Reserve Bank of New York account to the Philippines, mainly to accounts at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. The funds were eventually laundered through casinos, which are not required to adhere to some of the nation’s money-laundering regulations. Read more »

Myanmar’s Transition and the U.S. Role

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 17, 2016
myanmar-democratic transition Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (L), Myanmar's commander-in-chief, shakes hands with National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi before their meeting in Hlaing's office at Naypyitaw on December 2, 2015. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Last November, Myanmar held its first truly free national elections in twenty-five years. In the months leading up to the vote, members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), foreign diplomats, and many Myanmar voters worried that, no matter who actually received the most votes, the results would somehow be invalidated. After all, Myanmar’s military had ruled the country since 1962, when it first took power in a coup, and had only given way, in the early 2010s, to a civilian government that was led by a former top general, President Thein Sein. Read more »

Who is Htin Kyaw, Myanmar’s Presumptive President?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Htin Kyaw-myanmar Htin Kyaw (C), the National League for Democracy (NLD) nominated presidential candidate for the lower house of parliament, arrives at Parliament in Naypyitaw on February 1, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Htin Kyaw, who is almost surely going to be the new president of Myanmar, was so unknown to the international media that when he was nominated last week for president by the National League for Democracy (NLD), stories about him were riddled with mistakes. Some news reports suggested that he had attended Oxford University (his father actually attended Oxford, while Htin Kyaw studied at the defunct University of London Institute of Computer Science), while other reports suggested he had been Suu Kyi’s chauffeur, a rumor strenuously denied by NLD spokespeople. Read more »