U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent trip through East Asia was only the latest reminder of the growing economic and geopolitical influence of the region’s rising powers. Now more firmly installed, the governments in China, Japan and South Korea have each begun to put their stamps on their countries’ strategies, as each country confronts the challenges posed by its neighbors and by relations with the United States. This special report examines the dynamic geopolitics of East Asia through articles published in the past 18 months. Regional Perspectives China’s Slowing Growth May Help Rebalance Regional RoleBy Iain MillsAug. 12, 2013 Beating Expectations, […]

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia this past week seemed to push the “legacy” cliche button in the minds of editors everywhere. I’ve lost track of how many times I was asked about it, and, embarrassingly, the question took me by surprise the first several times. We’re still six months from the midterms, after all. For right now, at least, a more interesting question to ask might be: In national security and foreign policy, how has Obama set the stage so that he and his team can construct a legacy over the next two years? Presidential administrations always deny that […]

Earlier this month Kazakh Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov resigned unexpectedly after only 18 months in the post. In an email interview, Anthony Bowyer, senior program manager for the Caucasus and Central Asia at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, explained what led to Kazakhstan’s cabinet reshuffle. WPR: What was the context of the sudden replacement of Kazakhstan’s prime minister earlier this month? Anthony Bowyer: The main reasons for Akhmetov’s resignation had to do with the state of the economy. There were significant issues with the state budget, scandals surrounding taxes on automobiles and real estate, problems with the pension fund […]

By the numbers at least, there was plenty at stake in Indonesia’s April 9 parliamentary elections. On that single day, more than 200,000 candidates contested almost 20,000 seats in 532 legislatures across the country. But to what extent were these elections a referendum on the sitting government? What do the elections tell us about the July presidential election and Indonesia’s future political landscape? And what do they reveal about the state of democracy in Indonesia? The only significant loser on election day was Partai Demokrat (PD), President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party, which won approximately 9 percent of the national parliamentary […]

If a national security policy is to be worth more than the paper it is printed on, it needs to serve as a guide to making tough policy choices by outlining priorities and indicating where trade-offs may have to be made. But controversies around two long-standing U.S. strategic objectives show how poorly strategy is guiding current policy. These objectives are to develop a new and deeper partnership between the United States and India and to open up new sources of energy in the Western Hemisphere to decrease U.S. dependence on overseas sources. One secondary impact of these strategies would be […]

In an increasingly crowded and contested western Pacific, navies from more than 20 countries—including the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia—want to make sure that incidents at sea don’t unintentionally escalate to broader conflict. This week, they agreed on a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in Beijing. In a statement, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who attended the symposium, clarified that CUES “is not legally binding, but is an agreement upon which the participating nations have a standardized protocol of safety procedures, basic communications and basic […]

For this week at least, Russia’s revived aggression is dominating the news in the United States. Once the furor subsides, the conflict with al-Qaida will likely regain most of the attention from the media and national security experts. But in the long term, these issues pale in importance to the challenge of China’s rising power, however much it may have faded into the background today. As China’s economy took off in recent decades, the nation undertook a vast military expansion and became increasingly confident and assertive, shifting from a sullen, insular nation to a global power. The United States responded […]

When King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand celebrated the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne in June 2006, millions of Thais descended on Bangkok to join in the festivities. The king seemed to be at the height of his popularity. Beyond his considerable talents as a musician, painter and inventor, he had dedicated his reign to improving the welfare of the country’s most disadvantaged. Seeing the sight, foreign journalists had to concede the king was beloved by all Thais. In short, the legacy of Bhumibol’s reign seemed all but assured. Indeed, there was much to celebrate in mid-2006 not […]

Three decades after the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States continues to augment Taiwan’s military capabilities—recent discussions have raised the possibility of the U.S. helping Taiwan to acquire U.S.-made frigates and a new indigenous type of diesel submarines. But China’s rising military capabilities place the island in an increasingly vulnerable position. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would authorize the sale of four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Royce, called Taiwan “a beacon of hope and democracy in a part of the world that still yearns for the basic […]

China’s leadership has long vowed it will clean up the country’s bureaucracy and break up government monopolies. But the state apparatus has often seemed unwilling or unable to push through substantive implementation measures—until now. Under Xi Jinping, we are witnessing the most sustained and well-strategized attack on vested interests in at least 15 years. This campaign is unfolding at a pace and on a scale that is surpassing the expectations of most analysts and may yield substantive progress on critical issues, ultimately accelerating the marketization of the world’s second-largest economy. Commitments from senior Chinese officials to eradicate corruption, improve regulatory […]

The sheer magnitude of the elections taking place in India make them historic and worthy of international attention. But even if the contest had more familiar proportions it would still constitute a major event in world affairs. The choice of India’s next leader is sending nervous chills down some people’s spines. The next government in New Delhi will have the power to shake up the world’s largest democracy, the globe’s second-most-populous country and a nuclear-armed nation with a history of ethnic strife and a sense of unfulfilled economic potential. When election results are announced on May 16, they will most […]

Over the next few weeks, more than 800 million Indians will head to the polls to vote in a general election in the world’s largest democracy. Early signs indicate that Narendra Modi, the opposition candidate from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will beat the ruling Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi despite the latter’s ties to the powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. While this is testament to Congress’ poor performance during its decade in power, the eventual election outcome—whatever that may be—could in fact bring more continuity than change for India. When Congress defeated the BJP in an upset election in 2004 […]

Nepal is keenly watching India’s ongoing parliamentary elections, where the presumed victory of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi is raising questions about the future of the Himalayan nation’s transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular democracy. In 2006, Nepal agreed to abolish its 240-year-old Hindu monarchy as part of the Comprehensive Peace Accord ending a decade-long Maoist insurgency. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then the main opposition party in India and leader of the National Democratic Alliance, wasn’t happy with the change at the time, and BJP nostalgia for its neighbor’s official Hindu identity has lingered. “We used to feel […]

Russia is on the hunt again, determined to engulf another part of Ukraine and possibly more. Moscow’s complex, multidimensional offensive uses intimidation, misinformation and any organization or group that can serve its interests. As Ukraine teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, Russian President Vladimir Putin is tightening the economic screws by threatening to require advance payment for essential natural gas shipments. Pro-Russian separatists have launched demonstrations across eastern Ukraine, attempting to goad the government into an overreaction that could give Moscow an alibi for open invasion. Meanwhile, Russian and pro-Russian troops have seized government buildings and police stations, engaging in […]

On a 10-day trip through Asia that ended last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to build military ties with allies and partners involved in the U.S. rebalance to the region. He also reached out to China, the presumptive main U.S. competitor in the region, and announced the need for a “new model” of military-to-military relations between the two nations. As with other aspects of the U.S.-China relationship, military ties between the two countries are underdeveloped, and China remains wary of U.S. intentions. But the Obama administration, which has its own worries about China, appears to believe that […]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pulled off an impressive feat in Asia last week as he embarked on a tour of Japan, South Korea and China, forging free trade agreements and announcing closer security relations on each stop along the way. The conservative Abbott government came to power in 2013 declaring that Australia was “open for business” and promising to fast-track stalled free trade agreements with East Asia’s three economic powerhouses. Accompanied by an unprecedented delegation of more than 600 high-level Australian businesspeople and the premiers of six Australian states as well as the chief minister of the Northern Territories, […]

This month, four Iranian border guards were freed two months after being kidnapped and allegedly taken into Pakistan by an Iran-based Sunni militant group. In an email interview, Isaac Kfir, a senior researcher at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and a visiting assistant professor of law and international relations, explained the state of Iran-Pakistan relations. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of the Iran-Pakistan security relationship, particularly regarding their shared border? Isaac Kfir: Iran and Pakistan work together on some issues and compete on others. The two countries have good cooperation on drug interdiction, as both […]

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