A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen west of the Philippines, in the South China Sea, May 14, 2019 (Philippine Coast Guard photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Since early July, Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have been engaged in a tense standoff over natural gas resources in waters off the coast of southern Vietnam. The ongoing confrontation is just one incident in a pattern of increasingly assertive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, and while no shots have been fired so far, it could provoke anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam. The South China Morning Post reported on July 12 that six “heavily armed” coast guard vessels—two Chinese […]

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series on food security around the world. In the short term, it is critical to respond to the immediate food shortages being caused by persistent African drought conditions. But the search for more lasting solutions may actually mean looking back to traditional systems. Persistent drought conditions across large swaths of Africa have left tens of millions in need of food assistance, particularly in the semi-arid eastern and southern regions of the continent. These areas are on the forefront of the fight against global climate change and will be increasingly hard-pressed to […]

Women work at a textile factory in Kigali, Rwanda, Aug. 28, 2018 (Photo by Kristin Palitza for dpa via AP Images).

Leaders from across Africa gathered in Niamey, the capital of Niger, earlier this month to officially launch the African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA. The sweeping agreement, which covers 54 out of 55 African Union members, is designed to boost intra-African trade and eventually create a single African market for goods and services. It has been called a potential “game changer” for Africa, but member states must now complete the hard work of implementing the deal and negotiating specific reductions in tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade. In an email interview with WPR, Trudi Hartzenberg, the executive director of […]

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the Prime Minister’s Residence, in New Delhi, India, June 26, 2019 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

After the U.S. announced in May that it was ending sanctions waivers for countries to purchase oil from Iran, India, like many other major oil-importing countries, has been forced to diversify its suppliers. U.S. sanctions have also affected other aspects of India’s economic ties with Iran, making the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran a significant irritant in U.S.-India relations. In an email interview with WPR, Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London and director of studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, explains how the Trump administration’s hard line is […]

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington and a Democratic presidential candidate, unveiling part of his climate change policy at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, Washington, May 16, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott this week. A little more than two years since he announced in the Rose Garden that the United States was “getting out” of the Paris climate change agreement, President Donald Trump was in Japan, the sole leader at the G-20 summit to disagree with a modest communique once again committing the international community to taking on climate change. It laid bare America’s isolation under Trump on an issue that much of the world—and indeed more and more of the American public—consider increasingly dire. Climate change has hardly […]

Researchers from the University of Haifa look for sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Hadera, Israel, Jan. 21, 2019 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

Quietly but steadily, the most important environmental treaty that most people have never heard of is taking shape. Late last month, a United Nations committee released the draft text of a new, legally binding international convention to protect the “marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.” The so-called BBNJ treaty will promote the “conservation and sustainable use” of marine resources and living organisms in the high seas, an expanse encompassing 50 percent of the planet’s surface and all the water below. The high seas are the quintessential global commons. Lying beyond any nation’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, which extends […]

Chinese inspectors walk past piles of rare earth on a quay at the Port of Lianyungang in Jiangsu province, China, May 22, 2016 (Photo by Wang Chun for Imaginechina via AP Images).

As its trade war with the United States goes on, China in recent months has raised the possibility of weaponizing its control over 80 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that are used in a wide array of important industrial and consumer products. In response, Washington wants to partner with other countries to help develop their mineral reserves to diversify the global supply chain, and even boost its own domestic supplies. But while that may sound sensible on paper, it is based on an unrealistic portrayal of the threat posed by China’s near-monopoly supply of rare earths, […]

Farmers transplant rice seedlings in a field in Chongsan-ri, Kangso district, Nampho, North Korea, May 12, 2019 (AP photo by Cha Song Ho).

A prolonged drought in recent months on top of harsh economic sanctions have made already lean times in North Korea especially dire, with the United Nations warning in May of a “hunger crisis.” Last year’s harvest was the worst in 10 years, and more than 10 million people are facing food shortages as a result. The U.N. also noted that agricultural inputs like fuel, fertilizer and heavy machinery are in short supply due to sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations Security Council in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The lack of fuel, in particular, […]