CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Indian Politics: From Identity to Governance

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Election Commission of India India's Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath (C) listens to a reporter's question during a news conference to announce election dates, in New Delhi March 5, 2014. India's mammoth parliamentary election will start on April 7 (Anandito Mukherjee/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is part of a series on the Indian elections.

In the fall of 1990, I got off an Air India flight and landed in Delhi for the first time. I was taking part in a college semester abroad program, and was ready to learn about the world’s largest democracy. Little did I know how much there would be to learn. Read more »

Why Malaysia Will Say Almost Nothing About the Missing Flight

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 12, 2014
malaysia-flight Department of Civil Aviation director general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman looks on during a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on March 10, 2014 (Edgar Su/Courtesy: Reuters).

With an international team of investigators still seemingly baffled about what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared over the weekend, relatives of the passengers and diplomats from countries touched by the mishap have vented their frustration with the Malaysian government. For days, it seems, Malaysian officials and the state-owned carrier have released almost no information about the flight or working theories of why it vanished. Malaysia Airlines did not even inform relatives for fifteen hours that the plane had disappeared, sending the distraught families to a hotel in Beijing to wait, and Kuala Lumpur’s envoys still have mostly kept the relatives in the dark days later. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 7, 2014
Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Mass stabbing in Kunming, China, leaves thirty-three dead and 130 injured. Eight people armed with knives attacked travelers in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on Saturday. Four attackers were shot dead, one was wounded and captured, and three other attackers were apprehended near the border with Vietnam. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, called “China’s 9/11” by Chinese media, early signs suggest that Uighur separatists are the perpetrators. Read more »

Should Thailand be Downgraded to Tier 3 in Trafficking in Persons Report?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, March 7, 2014
Rohingya-Thailand-detention-center Rohingya Muslims gather at the Immigration Detention Center during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Kanchanaburi province in July 2013. The stateless people arrived in Thailand in early 2013 after fleeing a bloody conflict between the Buddhist and Muslims in Myanmar's western Rakhine State. A Reuters report claims Thailand has clandestinely been removing Rohingya migrants from detention centers to deliver them to human traffickers (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report likely will be released in June. Despite warranting a lower rating, Thailand has barely escaped being downgraded to Tier 3, the lowest possible rating in the report, for five years now. Although Thailand almost certainly has deserved to be put in the lowest tier, because of the massive amount of human trafficking routed through Thailand and the complicity of Thai government officials. Thailand has been exempted from the downgrade for years because of close ties between the United States and the kingdom, including cooperation on many other issues. Washington basically did not want to offend Thailand’s government by lumping it in at the bottom of the report, in Tier 3, alongside countries like Congo (DRC), Mauritania, and Sudan. Countries in Tier 3 are states “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards [on combating trafficking in persons] and are not making significant efforts to do so,” according to the definition provided by the TIP report. Read more »

Japan’s Painful Choice on the Ukraine Crisis

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow April 29, 2013. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Gazprom is ready to help Japan with construction of new facilities for gas imports, but stopped short of offering Tokyo concrete participation in gas projects in Russia. REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS ENERGY) - RTXZ3HU Russia's president Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow April 29, 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Alyssa Ayres.

The Russian decision to send military forces to the Ukraine has created a painful set of choices for Tokyo. Like some in Europe, Japan’s energy dependence on Russia makes the idea of sanctions troubling. Yet Tokyo too is particularly sensitive these days to the international community’s willingness to oppose the use of force to seize territory. With China increasingly challenging its sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea, Japan can hardly hesitate to stand up for others around the globe who are challenged by great power land grabs. Read more »

China’s Soft “Nyet” to Russia’s Ukraine Intervention

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, March 5, 2014
China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) China's President Xi Jinping ( C) and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich inspect honour guards during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on December 5, 2013. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Alyssa Ayres and Sheila Smith.

Russia’s de facto assertion of military control in Ukraine’s Crimean region has put China in a bind. Moscow’s actions fly in the face of one of China’s longest held tenets of foreign policy: “no interference in the internal affairs of others.” Yet China is loathe to criticize publicly one of the few countries that never criticizes it. So what is Beijing to do?

Read more »

Ukraine’s Lessons for Asia

by Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, March 5, 2014
A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 (Courtesy Reuters/Adnan Abidi). A signboard is seen from the Indian side of the Indo-China border at Bumla, in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, November 11, 2009 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Sheila Smith.

The most significant international crisis in recent years—Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine—has left global and western institutions scrambling to respond. What lessons do these events offer thus far for Asia? Read more »

What Money Failed to Buy: The Limits of China’s Healthcare Reform

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A man walks past Chinese national flags tied to iron fences at Chaoyang Hospital. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks past Chinese national flags tied to iron fences at Chaoyang Hospital. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

In 2009, China unveiled plans to invest $124 billion to launch its healthcare reform. Four years later, the government has actually spent more than $371 billion. The central government has spent $100 billion on funding programs related to healthcare insurance, public health, public hospitals reform, and strengthening community healthcare institutions alone. Read more »

Doctors without Borders Kicked out of Rakhine State; Hatred Rising

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 3, 2014
A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters) A nurse walks past as a child sitting at Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland's clinic in Yangon on March 3, 2014. (Minzayar Minzayar/Courtesy Reuters)

News this past weekend that the Myanmar government appears to have kicked Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) out of Arakan/Rakhine State is just another disturbing piece of news suggesting that inter-religious hatred in the country is rising, and the Myanmar government continues to deny this powder keg is close to exploding. Doctors without Borders had been working across Arakan/Rakhine State,  where it has treated thousands of people. The organization has been working in Myanmar for two decades and, in addition to its work in Arakan/Rakhine State, where over 100,000 people have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the past three years, Doctors without Borders also has been a central part of Myanmar’s anti-HIV strategy and treatment for years. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 28, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 28, 2014
Journalists and editors from Ming Pao hold up front pages of their newspaper during a protest against violence in Hong Kong February 27, 2014, after Wednesday's attack on their former chief editor Kevin Lau. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Journalists and editors from Ming Pao hold up front pages of their newspaper during a protest against violence in Hong Kong February 27, 2014, after Wednesday's attack on their former chief editor Kevin Lau. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Hong Kong editor attacked. Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Ming Pao Daily News, was slashed three times in his back and legs by an attacker and accomplice on a motorbike. The attack on Mr. Lau sparked protests and an offer of a one million Hong Kong dollar reward from Ming Pao for any information leading to the arrest of the attacker. Mr. Lau was the center of controversy last month when removed from his editorial role. Hong Kong journalist associations are concerned that Mr. Lau’s removal, alongside the firing of a radio talk show host, are encroachments upon press freedom. Read more »