Asia’s position at the center of U.S.-China geopolitical competition and ongoing tensions in hotspots such as the Taiwan Strait, the Korean Peninsula, and the South and East China Seas continue to pose daunting challenges to the region. Additionally, the regional architecture is shifting, as reflected by large-scale infrastructure investment initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, as well as two recent mega trade agreements: the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. U.S. policy toward Asia has also seen significant changes over time, most recently with the shift to “America First” under the Trump administration and now a likely return to multilateralism under the incoming Biden administration. What does the future hold for Asia, and what role should the U.S. play in ensuring the region’s continued stability and prosperity?
On Thursday, December 17, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings hosted a panel of experts to discuss the major drivers of change and sources of stability in Asia. They offered views on how the next U.S. administration should formulate its Asia policy to ensure engagement and leadership. This webinar marked the conclusion of a two-year project launched in 2019 by the Foreign Policy program called Sustaining the East Asian Peace.
Viewers submitted questions via email to email@example.com or via Twitter to @BrookingsFP using #FutureOfAsia.
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.