Finance ministers from fifty-seven countries met in Beijing in October 2014 and signed a memorandum to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which will focus on funding infrastructure to boost economic development in the Asia Pacific region. The Articles of Agreement were opened for signature on June 29, 2015 and must be ratifed domestically by December 31, 2016.
The Japan-South Korea relationship steadily improved in advance of parallel ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic relations on June 22. In recent weeks, ministerial-level bilateral contacts resumed between economic and defense ministers, and the top leaders made positive remarks about prospects for the relationship.
Authors: Colin I. Bradford, Toby Dalton, Brendan Howe, Jill Kosch O’Donnell, Andrew O’Neil, and Scott A. Snyder
South Korean opinion leaders have increasingly investigated the idea of the ROK as a middle power as a primary framework for evaluating the opportunities and constraints arising from its emerging international role. The essays commissioned in this volume provide an initial evaluation of South Korean efforts to make substantive contributions to the international agenda as a middle power.
Although China’s increasingly “assertive” international conduct has naturally stirred widespread concern in both Asia and the US, especially regarding the South China Sea, an overview of Beijing’s foreign policy suggests a less alarming perspective. In some major subjects, such as environmental pollution and climate change, there are good prospects for Beijing’s cooperation with the United States and other nations.
As China’s global power grows, Beijing is learning that its image matters. For all its economic and military might, the country suffers from a severe shortage of soft power. According to global public opinion surveys, it enjoys a decidedly mixed international image.
Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East.
Since the start of its post-Mao reforms in the late 1970s, the communist regime in China has repeatedly defied predictions of its impending demise. The key to its success lies in what one might call “authoritarian adaptation”—the use of policy reforms to substitute for fundamental institutional change.
It is clear by now that China’s economy is set to slow in the years to come, although economists disagree about how much and for how long. Last year, the country’s GDP growth rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest in almost a quarter century, and many expect that figure to drop further in 2015. Plenty of countries struggle to grow at even this pace, but most don’t have to create hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade, as China will.
In September 2008, when Chinese President Hu Jintao got word that Lehman Brothers, then the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, was on the verge of bankruptcy, he was traveling by van along the bumpy roads of Shaanxi Province. Surrounded by policy advisers and members of the Politburo, Hu asked them how China should respond to the inevitable spillover.
At a conference on the Chinese economy in 2012, Cai Fang, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, issued a dire warning: “There’s now no doubt China will be old before it is rich.” He was expressing a view widely held by economists and China watchers. Over the past 65 years, life expectancy in China has more than doubled, from 35 years to roughly 75, as the fertility rate has plunged. Many fear that if these trends continue, China’s population will age faster than the country can accommodate.
What does it mean to be Chinese? A strong tradition in premodern China held that it meant thinking, behaving, and living in a society in accord with heaven-sanctioned principles exemplifying the best way to be human.
In a series of speeches he delivered shortly after taking office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping cast corruption as not merely a significant problem for his country but an existential threat. Endemic corruption, he warned, could lead to “the collapse of the [Chinese Communist] Party and the downfall of the state.”
For all the tremendous change China has experienced in recent decades—phenomenal economic growth, improved living standards, and an ascent to great-power status—the country has made little progress when it comes to the treatment of its ethnic minorities, most of whom live in China’s sparsely populated frontier regions.
In past years, Andrew Krepinevich, Jr., has argued for a U.S. military operational concept in the Pacific theater called “Air-Sea Battle.” This concept relies heavily on preemptive deep strikes in the early stages of a conflict and would have been highly escalatory.
In his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Jerome A. Cohen argues that China would benefit at home and abroad by demonstrating increasing respect rule of law, while the United States, by striving harder to set a good example, could do much to improve not only its own society but also its standing in China and the world.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya are fleeing persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. This Backgrounder explores the plight of the Muslim ethnic minority group and the deepening migration crisis in Southeast Asia.
For more on the complex challenges that lie ahead for the world's largest and most rapidly changing continent, visit the Asia Program.
CFR Experts Guide
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »