President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The relationship between the United States and China has waxed and waned over the years, but it has felt more like a roller coaster ride under President Donald Trump. China-bashing was a centerpiece of his election campaign, yet once in office, Trump hailed his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, saying they had “great chemistry.” More than two years later, after Trump had launched his damaging trade war with China and with no deal to resolve it in sight, Trump called Xi an enemy and “ordered” American firms to leave China. By January of […]

Outside view of a U.S. passport service center in New York City, April 21, 2020 (photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Late on the night of April 20, President Donald Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that he would “temporarily suspend immigration to the United States” as the toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to rise. Trump cast the decision as a response to COVID-19 and its economic devastation—“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” as he tweeted. The move, which caught his own administration off guard, elicited fevered commentary over his legal authority to do so, and its potential economic costs. After an outcry from […]

People watch a news program about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, April 21, 2020 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Steven Metz is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. On April 15, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to make his annual visit to Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang to celebrate the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who is interred there. In North Korea’s dynastic cult of personality, it was a shocking break from tradition, and sparked reports that Kim had undergone major heart surgery and might even be near death. The secretiveness of the North Korean regime always makes it difficult to know exactly what is going on inside the country or […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Before the coronavirus struck China, the people of Hong Kong had launched a massive push to protect the territory’s partial independence from Beijing. Giant protests had filled Hong Kong’s streets for months last year, as pro-democracy activists inspired millions of residents to join in the demonstrations. But suddenly, everything changed. The outbreak started in Wuhan, then China shut down and the world followed suit. The coronavirus crisis seemed to do for the Chinese regime what months of threats and intimidation had failed to: halt the protests in Hong Kong. Now, with the rest of the world distracted and China reopening […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, April 20, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

As a teenager, I watched in confusion as my father, a successful chest surgeon who specialized in infant care, went back to school to gain an advanced degree in public health. This required easing himself out of a job that had always impressed me with its heroics, often literally saving a life or two each week. When my father patiently explained the rationale, I gradually came to not only accept it but admire it, for its logic and even nobility. No matter how hard he worked, in the operating room he could only help a few people each week. But […]

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, […]

A worker folds medical gowns at Echota Fabrics, Inc., in Calhoun, Georgia, April 8, 2020 (photo by Alyssa Pointer for Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP).

President Donald Trump’s aggressive unilateralism on trade appears to be driven by his belief that making imported goods more expensive will lead multinational companies—foreign and domestic, but especially American—to relocate production facilities to the United States. There is nascent evidence that Trump’s trade war with China has caused some reshuffling of supply chains, but mainly to other parts of Asia, not to America. Now, though, some trade hawks in the administration appear to view the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to encourage firms to move their supply chains to the U.S., no matter the cost. The Trump administration is not […]

President Donald Trump after speaking at a White House news conference about the coronavirus, Washington, March 14, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

For those still curious about the meaning of gaslighting, look no further than President Donald Trump’s verbal assault on the World Health Organization last week. In a flagrant attempt to divert attention from his own poor performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump excoriated the WHO for alleged delays and dysfunction in its global response. Beyond its immediate details, the episode offered a textbook example of how conservative U.S. politicians curry favor with their sovereignty-minded constituencies by treating multilateral organizations as pinatas and scapegoats during crises. To recap, the president unloaded on the WHO on April 7, first on Twitter and […]

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque, the site of a mass shooting, in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

In this current age of American dystopia, it can sometimes be hard to believe there is any part of Washington that still functions, let alone finds consensus on U.S. national security priorities. So the State Department’s designation this week of the ultranationalist, white supremacist Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization came as a pleasant surprise. As counterterrorism experts have been warning for years about the threat posed by the proliferation of white supremacist groups, the move to classify the St. Petersburg-based outfit as a transnational threat is a welcome, if overdue, step in the right direction. The U.S. terrorism […]

A member of the Maryland National Guard sits in a Humvee outside a COVID-19 testing facility in Landover, Md., March 30, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The arrival of two U.S. Navy hospital ships to New York and Los Angeles last week provided dramatic images of the changing role of the U.S. military during the coronavirus pandemic. The USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy usually call on ports in Africa or around the Indian Ocean to provide basic health services to underserved populations. During conflicts, they provide emergency medical care to American troops. This time, the symbolism is quite different, as their intended beneficiaries inhabit the two largest cities in the world’s wealthiest country. The U.S. military and other armed forces around the world are now […]

Cuban doctors and medical professionals pose with a photo of Fidel Castro before departing for Italy to assist with the coronavirus outbreak in the country, Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2020 (AP photo by Ismael Francisco).

Cuba has long promoted its high-quality health care system by sending medical professionals to treat patients in other countries, “a show of soft power that also earns billions in badly needed hard currency,” as the Associated Press recently put it. While some right-wing governments in Latin America have sent their Cuban doctors packing in recent years, Havana is seeing a new surge in demand for its help as a result of the spread of COVID-19. In an email interview with WPR, John Kirk, a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, discusses Cuba’s […]

China’s reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, May 11, 2015 (Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo for European Pressphoto Agency 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. Vietnam lodged an official protest with China after a Chinese coast guard ship collided with a Vietnamese fishing boat near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on Thursday. Hanoi accused the Chinese ship of ramming and sinking the Vietnamese boat before capturing and detaining its crew of eight fishermen on a nearby island. Vietnamese state media reported that two other Vietnamese fishing boats attempted to rescue them, but were also detained. China, however, claimed that the […]

Stockpiles of medical supplies at the Javits Center in New York, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by John Minchillo).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, countries should be using every available tool to expand production of critical medical supplies and cooperating to avoid complete chaos. But instead, they are increasingly fighting over pieces of a too-small pie and going it alone. With dire, heartbreaking shortages of personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses and ventilators for the desperately ill, some governments have responded by restricting their exports. A few major grain exporters have begun restricting food exports. More inexplicably, some countries continue to collect duties on imports of essential medical supplies, though that is finally starting to change. […]

A Turkish military convoy in Idlib province, Syria, Feb. 22, 2020 (AP photo by Ghaith Alsayed).

With the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crash dominating the headlines, the civil war in Syria has faded into media obscurity. But there is more bad news there that warrants the world’s attention. Turkey is engaged in a military campaign in Syria’s northwestern ldlib province that risks a conflict with Russia, protects radical Islamist rebels and prolongs the civil war, all at the expense of the civilians Turkey claims to protect. Meanwhile, the limited cease-fire deal that Ankara recently negotiated with Moscow only delays further bloodshed. Washington, which provides military aid to Turkey both bilaterally and through NATO, should […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen to a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House in Washington, March 31, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Rather than introducing a new world order, the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are reinforcing recent trends of strategic competition among the United States, Europe and China. As the potential magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear in March, there was a lot of immediate speculation about just what its impact would be. Many of those initial predictions announced a radically transformed world order. A triumphant China, some declared, would capitalize on its success in containing the outbreak to emerge as the new global leader. A closer look at the subsequent responses to the pandemic by governments around the world […]

A U.S. Marines’ gunner mans a turret in an amphibious assault vehicle during a U.S.-Thai joint military exercise on Hat Yao beach, Thailand, Feb. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

When Gen. David H. Berger took over as commandant of the United State Marine Corps last summer, he proposed a radical restructuring of the 244-year-old force. His plan, details of which were announced last week, calls for pivoting away from fighting protracted conflicts in the Middle East in order to bring the Marines in line with the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, which focuses on great power competition with Russia and China. In this case, the emphasis is on China. The Marines are reinventing themselves as a naval expeditionary force focused on countering Beijing’s rising military prowess in the Asia-Pacific […]