Since the Obama administration announced a strategic “pivot” to Asia in October 2011, since recharacterized as a “rebalancing,” U.S. policy in the region, and the world, has been seen through the prism of the much-anticipated Asian Century. With an eye to China’s rising influence, Washington has been strengthening its ties with regional allies and partners. At the same time, China’s neighbors have been shoring up relations and creating new partnerships among themselves to respond to the shifting landscape. This WPR Special Report reviews the strategic shift to Asia. The View From Washington U.S. Must Put Words Into Action in Asia-PacificBy […]

BEIJING — After much fanfare and stagecraft, China’s leadership transition, the most prolonged and pored-over in more than 30 years, ultimately ended with a distinct sense of anticlimax. The seven men who will rule China are, as reported by the South China Morning Post two weeks before the event, largely older, conservative cadres. Their identical suits and coiffures, as well as their stiff demeanor amid the stifling Stalinist décor, underscored the apparent dislocation between them and the society they have been anointed to lead. This is a group unlikely to implement the kind of accelerated reforms to China’s politics, economy […]

Over the weekend, photos and video surfaced of China’s newly commissioned aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, conducting carrier aircraft operations for the first time. The development marked a major milestone in the rapid modernization of China’s armed forces. Across the Taiwan Strait several weeks prior, however, another notable development occurred to less fanfare: Taiwan conducted tests of a new “carrier killer” anti-ship missile that many speculate was intended as a not so subtle signal to Beijing. The missile, according to multiple sources, was tested by the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology and is thought to be an advanced version […]

Although Russia and China are the only countries that have the capability to conduct a large-scale ballistic missile attack on the U.S. homeland, neither one is the focus of U.S. ballistic missile defense efforts, due to the unlikelihood of such an attack. Nevertheless, both Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly expressed their concerns that U.S. missile defenses will negatively impact their own strategic capabilities and interests. While China shares some of Russia’s concerns and responses regarding U.S. missile defenses, Beijing’s objections also differ in certain respects. Both countries fear that U.S. BMD systems threaten to weaken their nuclear deterrents and undermine […]

When Air Force One touched down at Yangon’s Mingaladon Airport on Nov. 19, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar. Though the visit only lasted six hours and was bookended by longer stops in Thailand and Cambodia, it was critical not only for maintaining Myanmar’s momentum toward reform but also for solidifying its place in the U.S. regional strategy in Asia. Despite the symbolism, the Obama administration insisted that the president’s visit was not intended as a premature “victory lap” to celebrate Myanmar’s reforms, as critics claimed it risked being perceived, but only to sustain a […]

Turkmenistan announced earlier this month that it would begin production on its Galkynysh gas field, the world’s second-biggest, next year. In an email interview, Luca Anceschi, a lecturer at La Trobe University and the author of “Turkmenistan’s Foreign Policy: Positive Neutrality and the Consolidation of the Turkmen Regime,” discussed Turkmenistan’s energy sector. WPR: What is the state of Turkmenistan’s energy sector in terms of outputs, estimated reserves and infrastructure? Luca Anceschi: Natural gas represents the core of the Turkmenistani energy sector. At the end of 2011, Turkmenistani gas reserves were estimated at approximately 8.4 trillion cubic meters, or 11.5 percent […]

A series of major political developments on the Afghan front this month all point toward new cooperative efforts by Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. to bring the Taliban leadership into the negotiation process. The renewed push for a negotiated settlement to the conflict comes against the backdrop of the looming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Though major questions remain as to whether the effort will bear fruit, it represents what many fear is the last chance to avert a bloody fight for control of Kabul once foreign troops have left the country. On Nov. 14, during the […]

China’s restriction of global access to its deposits of rare earth elements starting in 2010 changed the status of these materials in the global economy, creating new diplomatic alliances across Asia and increasing the importance of mining in trade agreements. A series of trade agreements in Central and Southeast Asia, announced over the past month, reveal the ways manufacturers and mining conglomerates are coping with potential shortages two years after China’s rare earth consolidation. Nevertheless, difficulties inherent to extraction and processing mean that delays will hamper access to new sources of rare earth supplies even when supported by strong investments. […]

For a man who regularly receives disturbing reports from war zones, last week was a particularly bad one for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As fighting escalated in Gaza and rebel forces launched new offensives in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo — where U.N. peacekeepers are on the front line — Ban also had to manage the fallout from an internal report (.pdf) on the U.N.’s performance during the final phase of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. The report tells an appalling story. U.N. officials in Sri Lanka, the report shows, avoided confronting the government over the fierce […]

When assigning homework exercises for a survey course that I teach on American foreign policy, I tell my students that no matter how strong the arguments they use to defend their positions, if they neglect to examine how demographic trends will affect their proposals, they will get an F. What is true for my students is true for global policymakers: Demographic trends will shape our future in a much more profound sense than most of the developments we see on the front page of the New York Times. Four major demographic trends in particular will shape the global security landscape […]

Commentary on generational conflict and the radicalism of youth goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks — from the tragedies of Oedipus to the comedies of Aristophanes, we find the younger generation contesting the power and morals of their elders. Such conflict is probably always present to some degree in every family and every generation. Yet the coalescence of individual youthful impatience with the ways of the older generation into social movements of rebellion or revolution is something that happens more rarely and only when certain economic, political and social conditions prevail. It is far too simple, […]

In a speech at the Asia Society in New York this September, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar laid out a foreign policy agenda that she described as Pakistan’s “regional pivot” within Asia. Khar explained that Pakistan would now pay more attention to building and stabilizing relations within its immediate region. In arguing that Pakistan was on the path to normalizing relations with its neighbors, Khar pointed to Islamabad’s pursuit of policies that privileged enhanced trade relations and energy cooperation over zero-sum security competitions. For many in attendance the speech was both surprising and intriguing. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party […]

This week’s high-level U.S.-Australia defense and security consultations, which saw U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and their Australian counterparts, Bob Carr and Stephen Smith, meet in Perth Wednesday and Thursday, took place against the backdrop of domestic debate in Australia over defense procurement and the primacy of the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) alliance in Australia’s strategic calculus. In a November 2011 visit to Australia, U.S. President Barack Obama announced increased military cooperation between the two nations as part of the United States’ wider repositioning in Asia. The Australian government is unwavering […]

The Chinese Communist Party’s ability to manage public opinion is second only to the strength of economic development in determining the survival of the regime. As China officially unveils its next generation of leaders, the experience of the past decade shows a party-state struggling to adapt to a fast-changing media landscape. Throughout the reform era, the CCP has promoted the media’s role of guiding public opinion in both theory and practice. The speeches of China’s top officials concerning the media emphasized its role in providing “guidance.” Meanwhile, the party-state increased the status and responsibility of the Central Propaganda Department (CPD). […]

While Japan has backpedaled on its initial post-Fukushima plan to phase out nuclear energy entirely by 2040, it remains on the path to wean itself off atomic power in direct response to last year’s nuclear disaster. With public anti-nuclear fervor showing little sign of abating since March 2011, policymakers continue to be under attack for not moving aggressively enough to shut down reactors more quickly and permanently. Yet even the gradual phase-out of nuclear power could be fatal to Japan’s economic as well as political future, as the country grapples with regaining its foothold in the global economy. One major […]

A rare earth plant that is a joint venture between Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. and Kazakhstan’s state-owned Kazatomprom opened in Kazakhstan last week. In an email interview, Timur Dadabaev, an expert on Central Asia at Tsukuba University in Japan, discussed Japanese relations with Central Asia. WPR: What is the recent history of Japan’s diplomatic and trade relations with Central Asia? Timur Dadabaev: Japanese engagement in Central Asia has evolved from former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s 1990s-era Eurasian diplomacy toward the formation of the current Central Asia Plus Japan (CAJ) initiative. Hashimoto’s policy of engagement was continued by his successor, Keizo […]

At the Chinese Communist Party’s once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle currently taking place in Beijing, outgoing party General Secretary and Chinese President Hu Jintao warned party cadres that the CCP’s very survival depended on its ability to rein in corruption. But on the party’s “core interest” of Taiwan, Hu displayed noticeably less urgency. Hu’s approach to Taiwan policy, which has combined opposition to independence with an outreach to all sectors of the island’s civil society, led to spectacularly improved ties between the former arch enemies. In his address to the party congress last week, Hu reiterated calls for peaceful unification, military confidence […]

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