Zambian President Edgar Lungu shakes hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Sept. 1, 2018 (pool photo by Nicolas Asfouri via AP).

With its economy in trouble from a high public debt burden as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, Zambia’s government recently suspended interest payments on some sovereign bonds. The country is already in arrears on some of its debt—including $183 million in official bilateral loans from other countries and $256 million from commercial banks—and has asked for a six-month suspension on interest payments from the holders of its $3 billion in Eurobonds, which are denominated in foreign currencies. These bondholders are due to make a final decision on Zambia’s request in mid-November, but a substantial portion of them have so far […]

Surveillance cameras near the portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong at the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, March 15, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. Last week, China’s National People’s Congress released the first draft of the Personal Information Protection Law, which would set up the first dedicated system to protect privacy and personal data in China. Having been in the works for well over a decade, it has been a wait. Personal information in China has been governed by a patchwork of regulations; some scholars […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, at Flavor First Growers and Packers in Mills River, N.C., Aug. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Nell Redmond).

President Donald Trump still just doesn’t get tariffs. On the campaign trail in Wisconsin recently, Trump again bragged—wrongly—about how China is paying for the higher taxes he slapped on imports over the past two years. He then touted the $28 billion in ad hoc payments that the federal government has doled out to farmers in that time to compensate for the hit they took when China retaliated against U.S. exports. What Trump doesn’t say is that it is American consumers and taxpayers who are footing the bill for his failed trade wars. Analysts project that American farmers will receive a […]

A worker burns cables and other parts of old electrical devices at the Agbogbloshie scrap yard in Accra, Ghana, June 12, 2018 (Photo by Gioia Forster for dpa via AP Images).

In Agbogbloshie, a commercial district in Accra, Ghana, around 10,000 of the poorest people in the country sort through much of the world’s electronic waste. With no other way of making a living, they use crude methods to dismantle electronic devices—burning them or dousing them in acid—which expose them to toxic emissions and substances that often lead to acute and long-term health problems. In 2014, Agbogbloshie was deemed one of the 10 most polluted places on Earth, with lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium found in the air, water and soil at concentrations 100 times higher than safe levels. Agbogbloshie has […]

An excavator works on a road construction project in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

As the United States prepares for a full withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, potentially as soon as next spring, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over its efforts to promote infrastructure development in Central and South Asia. Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, China has become a major player in the region, especially through the 2013 announcement of its Belt and Road Initiative, a major infrastructure program involving hundreds of billions of dollars in investments throughout Asia and beyond. The rise of Chinese spending and influence has overshadowed America’s efforts, inducing a kind of collective amnesia among many […]

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Oct. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Should Joe Biden win the American presidency on Nov. 3, the world will experience whiplash, as the United States performs a second about-face in its posture toward multilateralism in only four years. Although the U.S. has oscillated through cycles of internationalism and isolationism before, it has never executed such a swift and dramatic double-reverse. A Biden triumph would repudiate the “America First” platform on which Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and the hyper-nationalist, unilateralist and sovereigntist mindset that undergirds it. Such a stunning shift in America’s global orientation would have major implications for global cooperation on everything […]

Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the Google I/O conference, in Mountain View, Calif., May 17, 2017 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

It’s too early to say how the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit filed against Google this week will ultimately play out. It will undoubtedly go down in history as the opening salvo in a grinding, yearslong war of attrition between government regulators and Silicon Valley. Yet, as extraordinary as the antitrust case against the search engine giant is, it may do little to answer one of the most urgent questions roiling the global economy today. Can capitalism and democracy survive the lie that a product is free when consumers are compelled to surrender their privacy rights, and sometimes even […]

Delegates wait for the start of the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 21, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Following shutdowns of factories and lockdowns due to COVID-19, China’s economy shrank by 6.8 percent in the first three months of this year compared to 2019—its first economic contraction on record since 1976. But in the months since then, China seems to have bucked the trend of pandemic slumps hitting other countries, as it posted 4.9 percent year-on-year growth in the third quarter, according to data released Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics. China’s […]

Pro-Brexit demonstrators fly flags outside Parliament in London, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Over the past four years, as the United Kingdom has wrestled with the consequences of its narrow vote to leave the European Union, there has been little to no broader foreign policy debate in the country. Instead, Britons seem to have become caught between three temperaments. There are the catastrophists, who argue the U.K. has become completely irrelevant on the international stage as a result of Brexit; the nostalgics, who see a powerful Britain through the lens of a great colonial power; and the denialists, who refuse to accept that Britain must adapt to a changing global context. All are […]

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint press conference at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

President Donald Trump likes tariffs, regardless of their target. While China gets most of the attention, he hasn’t hesitated to attack America’s friends and allies as well. His Democratic rival for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden, has his own concerns about Chinese trade practices and has been vague about whether he would roll back Trump’s tariffs on China, so trade tensions between Washington and Beijing are likely to remain high no matter who wins in November. The situation is different for European policymakers, since the election could determine whether an escalation in trade tensions is coming, or a […]

Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar joins a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

Nearly a decade into Libya’s grinding civil war, it seems next to impossible to imagine stability, let alone a political settlement. The country is as torn as ever between the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli, which is backed militarily by Turkey, and the rival forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s breakaway Libyan National Army, backed by a motley crew of Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France. Libya, which before the war was among the world’s top oil-exporting countries, with billions in hydrocarbon reserves, is today oil-rich, revenue-poor and teetering on the brink of irretrievable collapse. The […]

A man walks by a money exchange shop decorated with Chinese yuan banknotes and other countries currency banknotes, in Hong Kong, Aug. 6, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. In a further round of sanctions last week, the U.S. blacklisted virtually all of Iran’s financial sector. Perhaps in anticipation, Iran’s central bank announced that it had adopted the yuan, also known as the renminbi, as its main foreign reserve currency, replacing the U.S. dollar. With a 25-year strategic partnership with China under discussion, Iran will have a guaranteed market for its oil and gas exports, and with renminbi reserves, it will be able to […]

A woman sits overlooking Columbia University’s nearly empty campus, in New York, March 9, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

On university and college campuses, it’s been a back-to-school season like none other. COVID-19 outbreaks have forced entire residence halls and sports teams to quarantine, and, for some institutions, could prompt a premature end to the semester. Other campuses are ghost towns, as instruction has moved completely online. The pandemic has transformed teaching and learning, how research is conducted⎯the very rhythms of campus life. The contagion’s impact on international education has been especially acute. With closed borders, shuttered consulates and airline restrictions, study abroad and foreign exchange programs have been canceled, while the United States is all but off-limits for […]

Members of the House of Representatives walk down the steps of Capitol Hill after passing a coronavirus rescue package, Washington, March 27, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The global economy is gradually healing from the economic blows dealt by the coronavirus pandemic, but the recovery remains fragile and halting. Reduced trade is more a symptom than a cause of those trends—and what governments do in terms of additional fiscal stimulus will do far more to determine the shape of the recovery in the United States and other countries. Still, trade policy could be a factor, supporting or undermining the nascent recovery. President Donald Trump’s trade wars have already complicated the direct response to COVID-19 infections—by making imports of some critical products more expensive or harder to find—and […]

Sweden’s then-foreign minister, Carl Bildt, at a press briefing in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 8, 2014 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

“On foreign and defense policy, absolutely, there is an ambition to be more united, and that vision is shared by all of the member countries,” says Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, about the European Union. “Then in practice, as you’ve seen, there are divergences, and they are more or less clear in different areas.” Those divergences have frustrated advocates of a more forceful EU that operates on the world stage with “strategic autonomy,” a phrase Mr. Bildt finds “confuses more than it clarifies.” But he adds, as someone who has “been watching these things for a […]

A man casts his vote in a local election in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region, in Ethiopia, Sept. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Ethiopian lawmakers voted to sever ties with leaders of the northern Tigray region this week in a move that one Tigrayan official called “tantamount to a declaration of war.” The decision by the upper house of Ethiopia’s national parliament, the House of Federation, is the most severe in a series of tit-for-tat provocations between Tigrayan leaders and federal officials and puts Tigray at risk of losing up to $281 million in federal budget subsidies. Tensions between the two sides arose early in […]

Sweden's then-foreign minister, Carl Bildt, during a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 5, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

Strategic autonomy has long been a recurring refrain for advocates of a more forceful European Union on the global stage. Upon taking office in December 2019, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that hers would be a “geopolitical commission.” The sense of urgency has only grown since then. Ongoing tensions with Russia over its role in Eastern Europe and new ones with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean have called attention to the threats the EU faces in its own neighborhood. Managing strained ties with the United States and defining the new terms of relations with the post-Brexit United […]

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