Asia Unscripted


The US-Asia Institute summer podcast series Asia Unscripted features diverse experts with firsthand knowledge of Asia, who introduce key stories of the day in 20-25 minutes. The series covers issues in East Asia and the Asia Pacific, with episodes on China, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, and the 10 countries of ASEAN. Please be reminded that the US-Asia Institute is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization with no policy agenda. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US-Asia Institute.

The music for this podcast is created by Lee Rosevere.

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John Zanni: Cyber Capacity Building in Singapore and ASEAN

In this episode, we hear from John Zanni, Chief Executive Officer at Acronis SCS, an independent, American company dedicated to providing secure backup, disaster recovery and cyber protection for the US public sector. Acronis SCS was formed by the spinoff of Acronis Inc.’s US public sector business, serving the federal government, federal systems integrators, state & local governments, education, and non-profit organizations. In these clips, John speaks about cyber capacity building in ASEAN, specifically discussing ASEAN’s need for Cyber Protection and Singapore’s leadership in cyber skills.

Quick Facts about Singapore

  • Capital: Singapore (city-state)

  • Type of government: Unitary dominant-party parliamentary constitutional republic

  • President: Halimah Yacob / Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong

  • Official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil

  • Religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism

  • Area: 279.0 sq mi (a little bigger than the state of Texas!)

  • Population: 5,995,991 (July 2018 est.)

  • GDP: $364.16 billion

  • Climate: Tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall; temperatures usually range from 77 to 95 °F (25 to 35 °C)

  • Major industries/sectors: Financial services, manufacturing, oil-refining, and tourism

  • Holidays: Lunar New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Hungry Ghost Festival, Deepavali, Hari Raya Haji, Vesak Day, Christmas, Good Friday, National Day (August 9)

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Gregory Poling: South China Sea and US-Philippine Relations

This episode features Gregory Poling, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, or AMTI, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. AMTI is an interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis, and policy exchange on maritime security issues in Asia. It aims to promote transparency in the Indo-Pacific to dissuade assertive behavior and conflict and generate opportunities for cooperation and confidence building. In this episode, Gregory speaks to Isabelle and Vivien about the South China Sea and U.S.-Philippine relations.


  1. We fully recognize that there are a variety of names used for the islands and maritime territories in the Indo-Pacific region, but will use the term South China Sea for the purpose of this podcast.

Quick Facts about the Philippines

  • Capital: Manila

  • Type of government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic

  • President: Rodrigo Duterte

  • Official languages: Filipino (Tagalog), English

  • Religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam

  • Area: 115,830 sq mi (a little bigger than the state of Arizona!)

  • Population: 106,651,922 (2018 est.)

  • GDP: $330.91 billion

  • Climate: Tropical climate with relatively high temperature, oppressive humidity, and plenty of rainfall; temperatures usually range from 78°F to 90°F (25°C to 32°C)

  • Major industries/sectors: Manufacturing, agribusiness, and tourism

  • Holidays: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Bataan Day, Independence Day (June 12), Ninoy Aquino Day, Christmas

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David Dollar: China’s Economy and the US-China Trade WAr

In this episode of Asia Unscripted, Vivien and Isabelle hear from David Dollar, senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution and host of the Brookings trade podcast, Dollar&Sense. David is a leading expert on China's economy and U.S.-China economic relations. From 2009 to 2013, he was the US Treasury’s economic and financial emissary to China, based in Beijing, facilitating the macroeconomic and financial policy dialogue between the United States and China. Prior to joining Treasury, David worked 20 years for the World Bank, serving as country director for China and Mongolia based in Beijing in his last five years. In the following clips, David discusses the Chinese economy and the ongoing US-China trade conflict.

Quick Facts about China

  • Capital: Beijing

  • Type of government: Unitary one-party socialist republic

  • President: Xi Jinping

  • Official languages: Standard Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Zhuang

  • Religions: The government promotes state atheism, but the culture is heavily influenced by Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam are also recognized by the state.

  • Area: around 3.7 million sq mi (around the size of the United States)

  • Population: 1.313 billion (2018 est., around four times the population size of the United States!)

  • GDP: $13.608 trillion

  • Climate: Differs from region to region because of the country's highly complex topography

    • Northeast (includes Beijing): Hot and dry summers, freezing cold winters

    • North and central (includes Chengdu): Frequent rains, hot summers, cold winters

    • Southeast: Semi-tropical summers and cool winters with abundant rainfall

  • Major industries/sectors: Manufacturing, services, agriculture

  • Holidays: Chinese New Year, Qingming Festival (Tombsweeping Festival), Dragon Boast Festival, Labor Day (May 1), Children’s Day (June 1), Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day (October 1)

Alicia Campi: Democratization and geopolitics in Mongolia

In this week’s episode of Asia Unscripted, Isabelle and Vivien hear from Dr. Alicia Campi, current Vice President and President Emeritus of The Mongolia Society. Dr. Campi is a China and Mongolian specialist and was a US State Department Foreign Service Officer for 14 years, serving in Asian posts in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Mongolia. Since 2013, she has also been a Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In these clips, Dr. Campi gives a comprehensive perspective on the democratization of Mongolia following the Cold War, geopolitics in Northeast Asia, as well as US-Mongolia relations.

Quick facts about Mongolia

  • Capital: Ulaanbaatar

  • Type of government: Semi-presidential republic

  • President: Kaltmaa BATTULGA

  • Official languages: Mongolian, Turkic, Russian

  • Religions: Buddhism, non-religious, and Islam

  • Area: 603,909 sq mi (around 1/6 of the area of the US!)

  • Population: 3,103,428 (July 2018 est., roughly the same amount of people that live in Iowa)

  • GDP: $39.73 billion

  • Climate: Desert; continental with a large range of daily and seasonal temperatures

  • Major industries/sectors: Construction, mining, cashmere and natural fiber manufacturing, processing of animal products

  • Holidays: Naadam, July Constitution Day

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Courtney Weatherby: Energy Planning and Sustainability in Cambodia

In this week’s episode of Asia Unscripted, Isabelle and Vivien hear from Courtney Weatherby, research analyst with the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia and Energy, Water, & Sustainability programs. Her research focuses on sustainable infrastructure and energy development challenges in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific, particularly food-water-energy nexus issues in the Greater Mekong Subregion. In these clips, Courtney discusses sustainability and energy initiatives in Cambodia and the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Quick facts about Cambodia

  • Capital: Phnom Penh

  • Type of government: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

  • Chief of State: King Norodom SIHAMONI/ Prime Minister:Prime Minister HUN SEN

  • Official languages: Khmer

  • Religions: Buddhism, Islam, and Christian

  • Area: 181,035 sq km (1.5 times the size of Pennsylvania)

  • Population: 16,449,519 (July 2018 est)

  • GDP: $64.21 billion

  • Climate: Tropical; rainy monsoon season and dry season

  • Major industries/sectors: Agriculture (rice, rubber, corn, vegetables), tourism, garments, construction, fishing

  • Holidays: Independence Day (November 9)


Craig Allen: Understanding Brunei

We have on this episode of Asia Unscripted Craig Allen, President of the US-China Business Council and the former Ambassador of the US to Brunei Darussalam. Prior to his time in Brunei, Craig had a long, distinguished career in US public service, notably working for the US Department of Commerce in Taiwan, Beijing, Tokyo, and Johannesburg. Craig was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam on December 19, 2014, and he served there until July 2018, when he transitioned to President of the US-China Business Council. In the following clips, Craig speaks to Isabelle and me about the economic prosperity and political stability that he observed during his time in Brunei.

Quick facts about Brunei

  • Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan

  • Type of government: Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy

  • Chief of State: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

  • Languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese

  • Religions: Sunni Islam (official; 79%), Christian (9%), Buddhist (8%)

  • Area: 2,225.88 sq mi (a little smaller than Delaware)

  • Population: 450,565 (July 2018 est.)

  • GDP: $13.567 billion (2018 est.)

  • Climate: Tropical rainforest climate

  • Major industries/sectors: Petroleum, petroleum refining, liquefied natural gas, construction, agriculture, aquaculture, transportation

  • Holidays: Chinese New Year, National Day (Feb 23), Ramadan, Hari Raya, Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday (Nov 9)

Ambassador Aung Lynn: Nation Building in myanmar

This episode of Asia Unscripted features Ambassador Aung Lynn, the current Ambassador from Myanmar to the United States. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador in 2016, Ambassador Aung Lynn held leadership positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar’s ASEAN Affairs Department, the Myanmar consul in Hong Kong, the Department of Protocol, the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations, and at the Myanmar Embassy in South Africa. In this episode, Ambassador Aung Lynn speaks to Vivien and Isabelle about nation building in Myanmar.

Quick facts about Myanmar

  • Capital: Rangoon (Yangon), administrative capital in Nay Pyi Taw

  • Type of government: Parliamentary Republic

  • Chief of State: President WIN MYINT, State Counsellor: State Counselor AUNG SAN SUU KYI

  • Languages: Burmese, minority ethnic languages

  • Religions: Buddhist (87.9%), Christian (6.2%), Muslim 4.3%, Animism, other

  • Area: 676,578 sq km (a little smaller than Texas)

  • Population: 55,622,506 (July 2018 est.)

  • GDP: $329.8 billion (2018 est.)

  • Climate: Tropical monsoon

  • Major industries/sectors: Agriculture, agricultural processing, wood, metals, pharmaceuticals, oil and natural gas

  • Holidays: Independence Day (January 4), Union Day (February 12)

Michael Green: Security, Defense, and Politics in Japan

This episode of Asia Unscripted features Dr. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for the Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and host of the CSIS podcast Asia Chessboard. Dr. Green is also the director of Asian Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. From 2001 through 2005, Dr. Green served on the National Security Council in director positions for Asia, and has also held positions at the Council on Foreign Relations, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In the following clips, Dr. Green speaks about Japan’s security and defense policies, as well as Japan’s relations with the United States and South Korea. To learn more about security and strategy in Asia, check out Dr. Green’s Asia Chessboard podcast at

Quick facts about Japan

  • Capital: Tokyo

  • Type of government: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

  • Chief of State: Emperor NARUHITO, Prime Minister: Prime Minister Shinzo ABE

  • Languages: Japanese

  • Religions: Shintoism (70.4%), Buddhism (69.8%), Christianity (1.5%), other (6.9%)

  • Area: 377,915 sq km (a little smaller than California)

  • Population: 126,168,156 (July 2018 est.)

  • GDP: $5.443 trillion (2017 est.)

  • Climate: Varies, tropical in the south, cool and temperate in the north

  • Major industries/sectors: Motor vehicle production, electronic equipment, metals, machinery, agriculture

  • Holidays: Birth of Emperor Naruhito (February 23)

Ernie Bower: Business, investment, and Economies in Southeast AsiA

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In this episode, Isabelle and Vivien speak to Ernie Bower, one of the world’s leading experts on the Asia-Pacific. Ernie is the founder and CEO of BowerGroupAsia, a business advisory firm that translates expertise, passion, and trust into value for the world’s premier companies in the Asia-Pacific. BowerGroupAsia applies local expertise to help clients implement tailored, market-based strategies that see them expand their business, overcome challenges and attain results in Asia. In these clips, Ernie discusses business, investment, and economic growth in Southeast Asia.

Don Lam: The Rise of Vietnam’s Economy

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In this episode of Asia Unscripted, Isabelle and Vivien are joined by Mr. Don Lam, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of VinaCapital, which is one of the leading fund managers in Vietnam. Before founding VinaCapital, Mr. Lam was a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Vietnam, where he led the Corporate Finance and Management Consulting practices throughout the Indochina region, which includes Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. With more than 12 years of experience in Vietnam, Mr. Lam is an authority on investments, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, and privatisations. He is a frequent speaker at international investment seminars and was featured as Vietnam’s “Mr. Wall Street” in Fortune magazine.

Quick facts about Vietnam

  • Capital: Hanoi

  • Type of government: Communist State

  • Chief of State: President Nguyen Phu TRONG, Head of Government: Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan PHUC

  • Languages: Vietnamese (official), English, French, Chinese, Khmer, mountain area languages

  • Religions: Buddhist (7.9%), Catholic (6.6%), Hoa Hao (1.7%), Cao Dai (0.9%), Protestant (0.9%), Muslim (0.1%), none (81.8%)

  • Area: 331,210 sq km (a little larger than New Mexico)

  • Population: 97,040,334 (July 2018 est.)

  • GDP: $648.7 billion (2017 est.)

  • Climate: tropical in south, monsoonal in the north

  • Major industries/sectors: agriculture, garments, machine-building, mining, coal

  • Holidays: Independence Day (September 2)