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Eyes on Asia - August 2016

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August 2016

Eyes on Asia

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Dear Colleagues,

In last month’s Eyes on Asia, we featured the first of a series of essays on whether and how Japan should revise its decades-old constitution. Senior Fellow Sheila A. Smith introduced the debate, and four Japanese legislators shared their thoughtful—and, in some cases, starkly contradictory—perspectives.

This month, we present essays by six Japanese nationals, including an activist, two scholars, and three young students and professionals, for a complementary range of perspectives. It is particularly inspiring to see the conviction with which the young contributors advocate for open debate, bridging political divides, and claiming ownership of Japan’s political future. For more background on this month’s selection of essays, read Smith’s introduction and two posts on early postwar and modern-day attitudes toward this contentious and critical debate.

In other news, be sure not to miss Brad W. Setser’s musings on the economics of China’s mysterious tourism numbers; Adam Segal’s discussion of last month’s Democratic National Committee hack, and threats posed by Russian and Chinese hackers, on Charlie Rose; and Scott A. Snyder’s analysis of U.S. presidential candidates’ foreign policy positions and potential approaches to Asia on South Korean news. Finally, to close out another exciting season of summer Olympics, Alyssa Ayres explores India’s burgeoning Olympic tradition and chronicles the story of one of their unlikeliest competitors on Asia Unbound.

Best wishes,




Elizabeth C. Economy
C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?




Understanding the Importance of Article Nine
Naomi Takasu


Does the Japanese constitution’s Article Nine, which asserts that “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want,” deserve a Nobel Peace Prize? Naomi Takasu, an advocate of protecting the constitution, argues that Article Nine is a crucial part of the global effort to sustain peace. Read the essay »

The Constitution in Context
Shinichi Kitaoka


Shinichi Kitaokaa leading Japanese diplomatic historian, warns against extremes in today’s debate on constitutional revision and finds stubbornly pro-revision or anti-revision arguments very troubling. Read the essay »

Time for a Real Debate
Karin Koretsune


Karin Koretsune, a graduate student at Japan Women’s University and a member of the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy group, posits that a rich national debate is a necessity whether or not the constitution is revised. Read the essay »

Abe’s Revisionist Overreach
Keigo Komamura


Keigo Komamura, a Japanese constitutional scholar and vice president of Keio University, believes that Shinzo Abe’s reinterpretation of the constitution to allow collective self-defense, and his introduction of a contingency clause, are constitutionality questionable and irrational policy choices. Read the essay »

Public Opinion Is More Than “Yes” or “No”
Masatoshi Asaoka


Masatoshi Asaoka, a graduate student at Georgetown University and CFR intern, writes that constitutional revision should not be reduced to wholly pro or con positions. Rather, the only way democracy can thrive in Japan is through greater debate and increased understanding across political lines. Read the essay »

Our Constitution, Our Future
Ayumi Teraoka


Ayumi Teraoka, CFR research associate for Japan studies, suggests that Japan’s debate over its current constitution exemplifies a shaky sense of ownership over the country’s political future. To strengthen Japanese democracy, the Japanese people should claim ownership of their constitution, deficiencies and all. Read the essay »


Setser’s Take on the Chinese Economy

Setser’s Take on the Chinese Economy

In Follow the Money, CFR Senior Fellow and acting Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies Brad W. Setser unpacks trends in Chinese reserves, Chinese tourism numbers, and other aspects of Asian economies. Read some of his recent posts:
The 2016 Yuan Depreciation
China’s Ever More Mysterious Tourism Numbers
IMF Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation (In Asian Surplus Countries)
$3.2 Trillion (Actually a Bit More) Isn’t Enough? The Fund on China’s Reserves
China’s July Reserve Sales: Bigger, but Still Not That Big
China’s Reported Tourism Deficit Got Big, Fast



Adam Segal on the DNC Hack
Charlie Rose With Adam Segal


CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal recently appeared on Charlie Rose with Raj De, former general counsel at the National Security Agency, and others to unpack the July cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and discuss cyber threats from Russia, China, and elsewhere. Watch the interview »

Will the Japanese Let Emperor Akihito Retire?
Sheila A. Smith


After Japanese Emperor Akihito announced his intentions to abdicate the throne, Smith appeared on Bloomberg’s What’d You Miss? to discuss what to expect and what his plans mean for the future of Japan. Watch the interview »

Scott Snyder Parses Candidates’ Policy Approaches
Scott A. Snyder


CFR Senior Fellow Scott A. Snyder joined Park Ji-won of South Korea’s Arirang News to provide an assessment of the two U.S. presidential candidates’ foreign policy positions, especially regarding their possible approaches to Asia. Watch the interview »


Podcast: The State of China-Japan Relations

Podcast: The State of China-Japan Relations

Despite high levels of integration between the world’s second- and third-largest economies, China-Japan relations remain contentious and recent developments have heightened friction in the relationship. On a recent China Power podcast, Smith joins the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Bonnie S. Glaser to discuss historical ties, sources of regional tensions (especially in the East China Sea), and what the United States can do to build trust between the two countries. Listen to the podcast »




The Asia Unbound blog examines political, economic, and social developments in Asia and the region’s growing importance in global affairs.



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