December 29th, 2011
03:30 PM ET

The top ten events that shook Asia in 2011

Editor's Note: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies, is an expert on Chinese domestic and foreign policy, and U.S.-China relations. Adam Segal is the Ira A. Lipman Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Elizabeth Economy and Adam Segal,

If there were one word to describe Asia in 2011, it would likely be tremors—not only the physical ones that devastated Japan, but also the political ones that reverberated throughout the region shaking India, China, and Thailand, waking up Burma, and further unsettling North Korea.

1.  So Long Earthlings

After a stroke in 2008 and years of poor health, Kim Jung-il was not long for this world. Yet few anticipated that the Dear Leader’s 17-year ruinous reign would end in December 2011 due to the “great mental and physical strain caused by his uninterrupted field guidance tour” while sitting on a train. With his platform shoes, puffy hair, and love of film, he was an easy target for others’ mockery (see Greetings, earthlings, a classic cover from The Economist). Yet he consistently managed to outmaneuver Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul - testing nuclear devices, launching missiles, and demanding food and energy aid - all the while impoverishing his country. It is too early to predict whether Kim Jung-un, Kim Jong-il’s inexperienced and untested son and heir, will do anything differently - the rest of the world and the North Korean people, in particular, can only hope. FULL POST

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Topics: Asia
China's growing water crisis
China said that more than 24 million people were short of drinking water in 2010 because of a crippling drought, the worst to hit the country in a century. (Getty Images)
August 10th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

China's growing water crisis

Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of World Politics Review. For more from WPR, sign up for a free trial of their subscription service, get their weekly e-mail, or follow them on Twitter.

By Elizabeth Economy, World Politics Review

What is the biggest challenge that China faces?

Corruption, the gap between the rich and poor, and the rapidly aging population often top the list of answers to this question.

Yet a closer look suggests that the greatest threat may well be lack of access to clean water. From "cancer villages" to violent protests to rising food prices, diminishing water supplies are exerting a profound and harmful effect on the Chinese people as well as on the country's capacity to continue to prosper economically.

While much of the challenge remains within China, spillover effects - such as the rerouting of transnational rivers and a push to acquire arable land abroad - are also being felt well outside the country's borders.

China's leaders have acknowledged the severity of the challenge and have adopted a number of policies to address their growing crisis. However, their efforts have fallen woefully short, as they fail to include the fundamental reforms necessary to turn the situation around. Meanwhile domestic pressures, as well as international concerns, continue to mount.


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Topics: China • Water