The “Arab Spring” that started early in 2011 has shaken the entire Middle East. Rulers who had reigned for decades have been toppled; power has changed hands; and the few regimes that are resisting changes are still undergoing tumultuous unrest. Beijing has been forced to face the rapidly changing developments and make adjustments both to monitor the potential repercussions at home and to protect its growing commercial interests in the region. Beijing has responded to the events in the Middle East with tentative policy adjustments aimed at securing domestic stability and minimizing economic losses resulting from the unforseen and sudden […]

After a groundswell of anti-government protests enveloped many corners of North Africa a year ago, observers around the world began to wonder how far this democratic contagion would spread. In particular, many wondered whether northern Africa would inspire its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, which share many of the same demographic characteristics found in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including a large percentage of unemployed young people, high food prices and years of oppression and unrealized opportunity at the hand of often-brutal dictators. At the time, political commentators in several corners of Africa seemed optimistic that the Arab Spring […]

The death of around a dozen people over the weekend in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, follows months of reported strikes, bombings and other violence in the western part of the country. The exact reasons for the disturbances are unclear. Labor disputes, clan rivalries and resurgent Islamist militancy all seem to be at work. Whatever the causes, Kazakh authorities should heed the warning represented by the violence and ensure that the country’s upcoming legislative elections are free and fair. On Nov. 16, President Nursultan Nazarbayev dissolved Kazakhstan’s national legislature and established Jan. 15, 2012, as the date for the next parliamentary elections. Since […]

With Russia embroiled in mass demonstrations following surprisingly tough and contested Duma elections, the breakaway republic of South Ossetia gripped by ongoing political confusion following its own controversial presidential poll, and separatist Abkhazia coming off recent fiercely contested elections, it may be time to re-evaluate more than a few political tropes in Eurasia. The developments are all the more noteworthy in that they come as Georgia, long portrayed by Western supporters as the region’s consummate reformer, faces an unexpected political showdown that is casting the ostensibly democratic republic’s autocratic contours into sharp relief. In a stunning rebuke to Russian Prime […]

The most striking image from last weekend’s demonstrations in Moscow against the regime of former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is that of protesters holding up iPads and iPhones over their heads, broadcasting the momentous events live over the Internet. The sight of young Russians, bundled up against the Moscow cold, speaking out for democracy via social media brings to mind the wave of political protests that have defined 2011 — from the Arab uprisings in the Middle East, to the Occupy movement in developed economies, and now in Russia. And it raises the question of just how […]

This week in the small Western Saharan town of Tifariti, delegations are arriving for the 13th Conference of the Polisario Front, the United Nations-recognized group that has fought since the 1970s for Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco. The gathering, to be held Dec. 15-20, is expected to draw some 1,500 people from the region, as well as from Asia, Europe and Latin America. It will broach a topic that has otherwise gone largely overlooked in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings that have swept the Middle East and North Africa in the name of greater representation and government accountability: […]

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In a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama and a speech made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the administration on Tuesday unveiled a plan to “promote and protect” the human rights of gay people around the world. In addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Clinton acknowledged that the “obstacles standing in the way” of protecting gay rights “rest on deeply held personal, political, cultural and religious beliefs.” According to Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, that suggests that Clinton has anticipated the tensions that will surely arise with the promotion of a global gay rights […]

Last week’s historic visit to Myanmar by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton represents the culmination of the Obama administration’s policy shift toward the pariah state. Launched in September 2009 to establish a new starting point in the relationship between the two countries, the engagement with Myanmar is part of the broader U.S. effort to play a primary role in the fast-evolving Asia-Pacific region. By contrast, the European Union seems unable to keep up with the economic and political changes taking place in Asia, and instead appears simply to follow Washington’s lead without needed policy debates within the union. EU […]