CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Upheaval in South Korea’s National Assembly: Expect More Surprises

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 18, 2016
Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool) Members of South Korean ruling Saenuri Party react as they watch a live TV broadcast reporting the results of parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Seoul April 13, 2016. (Reuters/Jung Yeon-je/Pool)

The first rule of watching South Korean elections is the same as the first rule for watching Korean TV dramas: be prepared to be surprised. In this respect, South Korea’s 2016 National Assembly electoral result delivered, as virtually no one predicted the magnitude of the failure of the ruling Saenuri party or its major standard bearers. The results left the former majority party in second place at 122 seats, well short of the 151 seats needed to exercise a majority in the 300-seat National Assembly. The first place Minjoo or Democratic Party of Korea, pruned by the departure of entrepreneur-turned-National Assemblyman Ahn Cheol-soo, who started his own People’s Party, captured 123 seats to become the largest party in the National Assembly. Ahn’s own start-up experience proved sufficient to lead the newly-established People’s Party to a better-than-expected thirty-eight seats, primarily centered in Korea’s southwestern Jeolla region. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 15, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
China-water-pollution A man walks by a pipe discharging waste water into the Yangtze River from a paper mill in Anqing, Anhui province, December 4, 2013. (William Hong/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China’s greatest pollution nightmare may be lurking underground. According to statistics released by the Chinese media on Monday, over 80 percent of water from 2,103 underground wells tested throughout the country is polluted to the point where it is no longer safe for drinking or bathing. Read more »

Podcast: The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue With China

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 15, 2016
Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) Demonstrators hold up portraits of five missing staff members of a publishing house and a bookstore during a protest in Hong Kong over the disappearance of booksellers, January 10, 2016. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

For almost three decades, the world has alternately encouraged and pressured China to reform its human rights practices. As part of this effort, the European Union has had an ongoing formal human rights dialogue with China since 1995. How successful has it been? This week’s Asia Unbound podcast features Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin and visiting professor at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, discussing her new book, The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits. Read more »

Anti-Nuclear Sentiment and Japan’s Energy Choices

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited's Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is pictured in Rokkasho village, Aomori prefecture, Japan, December 4, 2015 (Kentaro Hamada/REUTERS). Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited's Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility is pictured in Rokkasho village, Aomori prefecture, Japan, December 4, 2015 (Kentaro Hamada/REUTERS).

Daniel P. Aldrich is professor of political science and public policy and co-director of Northeastern University’s Security and Resilience Studies Program. Read more »

Troubling Early Signs in Myanmar’s New Government

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 12, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-htin-kyaw Myanmar's new president Htin Kyaw (L) and National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to parliament in Naypyitaw on March 30, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

The expectations for Myanmar’s new, National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government are almost impossibly high. After five decades under military or quasi-military rule, many Myanmar citizens expect the NLD government to make a decisive break with the country’s authoritarian past, while also promoting greater equality—and reforming the economy enough to foster stable growth that benefits more than just Myanmar’s elites. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of April 8, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 8, 2016
Poppy-field-soldier-Helmand British soldiers patrol past a poppy field in Musa Qala in Helmand province, March 26, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Corruption and combat thwart counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The first poppy harvest of the year is just beginning in Helmand, Afghanistan—by far the largest source of opium and heroin in the world—and very little can be done about it. Read more »

Thailand’s Junta Digs In

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 8, 2016
prayuth Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at a weekly cabinet meeting at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 2, 2016. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

In Washington last week to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure foreign policymakers that Thailand was indeed headed back to democracy next year. Three years after Prayuth launched a coup, he promised, in an interview with Voice of America’s Thai service, the generals would hand over power and hold an election. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Future

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, April 7, 2016
Chinas-Future

China’s political, economic, and social prospects have all been the source of endless speculation for academics, journalists, and policymakers alike. This week I talk with David Shambaugh, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the China Policy Program at the George Washington University, who provides a concise take on these questions and introduces his excellent new book, China’s Future. Read more »

The Islamic State in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, April 6, 2016
indonesia-islamic-state Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 14, 2016. (Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

After the attacks in Jakarta in January, in which a group of gunmen, apparently overseen by a man affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State, shot and bombed their way through a downtown neighborhood, Southeast Asian governments began to openly address the threat of Islamic State-linked radicals. The region’s intelligence agencies, and especially Singapore intelligence, had been warning for at least two years that Southeast Asian men and women were traveling to Islamic State-controlled territory for training and inspiration, and that the region’s governments had no effective way to track these militants’ return. Read more »

A Trilateral on the Mend

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, April 5, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama stands behind as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of their trilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington March 31, 2016 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS). U.S. President Barack Obama stands behind as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of their trilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington March 31, 2016 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS).

For the second time, President Barack Obama brought together President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. The first time in 2014 the president was facilitating a meeting the two leaders could not have on their own, but last week the improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo were obvious. While the United States has facilitated some of these improvements, ultimately it is North Korea and its provocations that brought the two U.S. allies back to the table. Whether the future of this trilateral can be bolder and more resilient remains to be seen. Read more »