Asia Unbound

Asia Unbound

CFR fellows and other experts assess the latest issues emerging in Asia today.

Latest Post

A police officer checks a passenger's body temperature at a quarantine checkpoint amid the reimposed strict lockdown to curb COVID-19 infections, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, on August 5, 2020. Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

COVID-19 Batters Asia’s Already-Struggling Democracies

Over the past fifteen years, democracy across Asia has regressed. Although the region still has strong democracies like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, many other leading Asian democracies and countries with democratic potential have slid backwards, turning into near-autocracies or outright authoritarian states. While Thailand had been one of the freest states in Asia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it has suffered two military coups in the past decade and now is run by a parliamentary government that took power after a seriously flawed election in 2019. Read More

Southeast Asia
Indonesia’s Labor Protests and Omnibus Law: Some Progress, But Dangers Ahead
In early November, Indonesian president Joko Widodo approved a landmark, and controversial, omnibus bill. The bill, over one thousand pages long, is supposed to bolster Indonesia’s economy by reducin…
North Korea
Good Biden-Kim Relationship Necessary to Avoid a Nuclear Crisis
The incoming Biden administration will face a nuclear catastrophe unless it can build good relations with North Korea. The U.S. President-Elect can begin by sending the right signals to North Korean …
Southeast Asia
What Will a New Administration Mean for U.S. Southeast Asia Policy?
Although President Trump has not conceded the U.S. presidential election, and is mounting multiple legal challenges, former Vice President Joseph Biden already has begun planning for the transition. …
  • Southeast Asia
    COVID-19 Sparks Democratic Regression in South and Southeast Asia
    South and Southeast Asia have demonstrated mixed results in combating the coronavirus pandemic, yet COVID-19 has been a political boon for illiberal leaders in the region. In fact, South and Southeas…
  • Southeast Asia
    Crackdown Looming for Thai Protests
    Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Thais woke up on Thursday to breaking news: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had issued a st…
  • Trade
    The RCEP Signing and Its Implications
    Over the weekend, 15 Asian states, including China, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The deal provides a major signal to investors that the region is still committed to multilateral trade integration.
  • North Korea
    Why North Korean Provocations Toward a Biden Administration Will Fail
    A return to provocations as North Korea’s primary mechanism for drawing international attention would signal weakness, not the intended message of strength.
  • Transition 2021
    New Challenges and Potential for the U.S.-South Korea Alliance
    Biden's return to a conventional alliance management approach could shed light on cracks in the U.S.-South Korea alliance previously obfuscated by Trump's unconventional approach.
  • Southeast Asia
    Myanmar’s Election: NLD Seems to Win Sizable Victory
    On Sunday, Myanmar held its first national elections since 2015, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a smashing victory in the first free and fair national elections in th…
  • Southeast Asia
    The Thai King Sends Messages Presaging Conflict in Thailand
    Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Three months have passed and the protests in Thailand have intensified. One of the main mess…