CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 10, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 10, 2016
Vietnam-fish-protests Demonstrators, holding signs, say they are demanding cleaner waters in the central regions after mass fish deaths in recent weeks, in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 1, 2016. (Kham/Reuters)

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

1. Poisoned Vietnamese fish fuel popular discontent. A massive die-off of fish has occurred along 120 miles of coastline in Vietnam, where hundreds of residents in traditional fishing villages have fallen ill from eating the poisoned catch. Read more »

Podcast: The Life and Death of John Birch

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 10, 2016
John-Birch-A-Life

When most Americans hear the name John Birch, they immediately think of the John Birch Society: an anticommunist, right-wing advocacy group that flourished in the 1950s and 60s. But who was John Birch, and what did the society have to do with him? On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Terry Lautz, visiting professor at Syracuse University, about his new book, John Birch: A Life. Read more »

Reforming the International Military Education and Training Program

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, June 8, 2016
balikatan-2015 Filipino soldiers take positions as a U.S. military helicopter CH-47 takes off during the annual "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games at a military camp, Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in northern Philippines on April 20, 2015. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

The International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which provides U.S. government funds to members of foreign militaries to take classes at U.S. military facilities, has the potential to be a powerful tool of U.S. influence. IMET is designed to help foreign militaries bolster their relationships with the United States, learn about U.S. military equipment, improve military professionalism, and instill democratic values in their members. For forty years, the program has played an important role in the United States’ relations with many strategic partners and in cultivating foreign officers who become influential policymakers. Read more »

Podcast: Environmental Degradation and Political Change in China

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Air-pollution-shanghai A woman wears a mask as she takes pictures on the Bund on a hazy day in Shanghai, China, March 7, 2016. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous social costs.  In December 2015, as levels of PM2.5—the deadliest airborne particles—were forecast to be more than twenty times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization, the Beijing municipal government issued its first-ever red alert for pollution (the most serious on a four-tier system), closing schools and restricting the number of cars on the road. Read more »

India, Global Governance, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, June 6, 2016
Supporters of India's Congress party celebrate the approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear energy deal in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on September 6, 2008 (Amit Dave/Reuters). Supporters of India's Congress party celebrate the approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear energy deal in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on September 6, 2008 (Amit Dave/Reuters).

On the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Washington for a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, the New York Times published an editorial that weighed in on a subject certain to feature on the leaders’ agenda: India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The Times opined that the United States should not support India’s membership bid as, “Membership would enhance India’s standing as a nuclear weapons state, but it is not merited until the country meets the group’s standards.” The editorial advised Obama to “press for India to adhere to the standards on nuclear proliferation to which other nuclear weapons states adhere.” It added that the 2008 U.S.-India civil-nuclear agreement had “encouraged” Pakistan to expand its nuclear weapons program. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of June 3, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 3, 2016
A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. Picture taken September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer A man points to water and soil which turned red after being contaminated by industrial waste from a closed dye factory, amid heavy rainfall at a mountain in Ruyang county, Henan province on September 15, 2014. According to the local government, the dye factory was operating without proper licenses and was shut down by the authority last year after an explosion which caused dye leakage and polluted the underground water. The Chinese government released a new action plan to address soil pollution this week (Stringer/Reuters)

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

1. China releases ambitious plan to clean up polluted soil. In 2014, the Chinese government disclosed that approximately 20 percent of its arable land was contaminated, primarily with heavy metals and agricultural chemicals from industry and farming. This Tuesday, the central government released a long-awaited action plan as a first major step to control and remedy the widespread problem, known as the last of the “three big campaigns” in Chinese environmental protection along with air and water pollution. The plan aims to stabilize and improve soil quality so that 90 percent of contaminated sites are safe for use by 2020, and 95 percent by 2030. Read more »

Duterte’s Policies Take Shape

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 3, 2016
rodrigo-duterte-economic Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte answers questions during a news conference in Davao City, southern Philippines on May 31, 2016. (Lean Dava/Reuters)

The new president-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, came into office without a clear policy platform. On the campaign trail, Duterte had vowed to get tough on crime, duplicating his efforts as mayor of Davao on a national level. He had made vague promises of changing the Philippines’ political system to reduce the power of entrenched elites, and he had offered contradictory, sometimes confusing statements on the Philippines’ major security challenges—the ongoing threat of militant groups in the southern Philippines, and the growing contest with China over control of disputed parts of the South China Sea. Read more »

Forty-Five Minutes With Joshua Wong

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, June 3, 2016
Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong October 1, 2014. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday, some of them jeering National Day celebrations, and students threatened to ramp up demonstrations if the city's pro-Beijing leader did not step down. REUTERS/Carlos Barria Joshua Wong, leader of the student movement, delivers a speech as protesters block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong on October 1, 2014. Since the Umbrella Revolution, Wong has gone on to found the new political party Demosisto. (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

Four years ago, when he was just fifteen years old, Joshua Wong launched a campaign to prevent Beijing from enforcing its own version of history in Hong Kong schools. Along with other student activists involved in his “Scholarism” group, he managed to rally one hundred and twenty thousand people in protest and eventually beat back the government’s initiative. During that effort, Scholarism raised one million Hong Kong dollars in just one day—with 25-40 year olds as the most supportive demographic. For Wong, it was a signal that young people really could achieve change. (Less well known, perhaps, is that Wong cut his activist teeth protesting against a high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and the mainland when he was only thirteen years old.) Since then, of course, Wong has become world-renowned for his effort in helping lead the Occupy Central movement, which called for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. For his actions, he has been vilified by the Chinese government, assaulted, and arrested—all by the age of eighteen. Read more »

The Global Democratic Regression and Wealthy Democracies

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, June 2, 2016
donald-trump-2 U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sacramento, California, U.S. June 1, 2016. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

As the presidential election moves into general mode, Donald Trump’s blowtorch style has led many critics to accuse him of bringing dangerous 1930s-style politics to America. But in reality, Trump’s rise does not signal a return of fascism, and his political style does not exactly parallel that of Mussolini. Instead, Trump is part of a modern-day, worldwide democratic retreat, one that has been going on for a decade now in the developing world—and is now making its way to America and Western Europe. Read more »

Podcast: How State Capitalism is Transforming the World

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, June 2, 2016
State-Capitalism-Kurlantzick

In this week’s Asia Unbound podcast I speak with Joshua Kurlantzick, CFR’s senior fellow for Southeast Asia, about his new book, State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World. Kurlantzick explains that although state capitalism has been around for more than two decades, it has entered a new era of popularity. Read more »