CHINA SENTENCES OLYMPIC DISSIDENT — Two events that occurred within hours of each other on March 24 highlighted a disconnect between the spirit of the Olympic Games and China’s human rights record. Shortly before dignitaries gathered to light the Olympic torch in Olympia, Greece, and launch the flame’s around-the-world journey to Beijing, a Chinese court sentenced human rights campaigner Yang Chunlin to five years in prison. Yang was convicted of subverting state authority. The unemployed factory worker’s crime was to have circulated a petition in 2007 protesting government land seizures that included the statement: “We want human rights, not the […]

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It went largely unnoticed, but another nuclear domino just tipped over in the broader Middle East, with Algeria signing two agreements with China last week, one to build a nuclear reactor and the other to train their nuclear technicians to operate it. In addition to the concerns this raises about the entire region pursuing a civil nuclear hedge against an Iranian bomb, this particular deal is problematic for two other reasons. The first is China’s history of nuclear exports, which have included deals with Pakistan (to build a reactor despite Pakistan’s non-NPT status) and Iran (which included allegations of weapons-related […]

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Thomas Barnett says of the WaPo article describing recent American missile strikes against Taliban targets inside Pakistan: Scary combination: we step up unilateral strikes inside another nation because we fear their new leadership will back away from such commitments. Does that sound sustainable to you? The obvious answer is, No. But this also brings into stark relief the tension between the two pillars of President Bush’s Pakistan policy, namely national security/counter-terrorism on the one hand, and democracy promotion on the other. You’ll recall that it’s in the name of these two policy goals that President Bush was authorized by Congress […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — Despite high hopes for Nepal’s “historic” April 10 vote, the early campaign period has indicated that elections will not be free, will not be fair and certainly won’t be fast. Instead, expect ongoing violence between political parties, widespread voter intimidation and a result around, say, two months after election day. That’s not to say the months of planning and millions of dollars will be a complete waste, but the vote probably won’t herald the birth of a “New Nepal,” as so many have hoped for after 10 years of civil war and half a decade of dubious […]

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In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Congress granted the President the authority to exempt Pakistan from prohibitions on foreign aid to countries where the elected head of state has been deposed by military coup. The bill, subsequently renewed each year since, stipulates the conditions under which the power be invoked: if the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that such waiver — (A) would facilitate the transition to democratic rule in Pakistan; and (B) is important to United States efforts to respond to, deter, or prevent acts of international terrorism. Yesterday, President Bush once again invoked the […]

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Turkish President Abdullah Gul met with Turkmenistan President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov yesterday, and while both leaders expressed their “. . .mutual will for improving bilateral economic and commercial relations between the two countries,” no agreement was announced on whether or not Turkmeni gas will feed the proposed Nabucco pipeline that would make Turkey a gas hub connecting Central Asia with Southern and Central Europe. For Today’s Zaman (Turkey), that meant the two countries “agree to boost economic cooperation.” For RIA Novosti, citing a Turkish-language paper, that meant “Nabucco trans-Caspian gas pipeline in jeopardy.” WPR contributing editor John Rosenthal recently wrote about […]

The victory of Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou in Saturday’s presidential elections in Taiwan has been greeted with much behind-the-scenes rejoicing among Chinese and American policymakers. Chinese leaders likely worried that their harsh crackdown in Tibet could have sparked a backlash in Taiwan, decreasing support for Ma, who was seen as more open to cooperating with Beijing than his opponent, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting. Hsieh is a former prime minister who belongs to the same political party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), as President Chen Shui-bian. Taiwan’s constitution had prohibited Chen from seeking a third consecutive four-year presidential term. Ma […]

TOKYO — With stock markets around the world in turmoil, a rapidly appreciating currency, millions of pension records lost and signs the Japanese economy is slowing, now hardly seems a propitious time to have a vacancy at the head of the central bank of the world’s second largest economy. Yet Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party of Japan apparently begs to differ. Last Wednesday, the opposition-dominated upper house of the Diet rejected the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s second nominee, Japan Bank of International Cooperation Gov. Koji Tanami, to replace outgoing Bank of Japan chief Toshihiko Fukui, whose term expired the same […]

U.N. URGES AFGHAN ACTION ON RIGHTS — United Nations officials are urging Afghanistan to address rampant human rights abuses and an accompanying culture of impunity for those who commit them. “At a minimum, there needs to be the space for a national dialogue that acknowledges the injustices and suffering that have occurred. The voices of victims need to be heard,” Norah Niland, chief human rights officer for the U.N.’s Afghan mission, said March 18. “Building an environment that is conducive to respect for human rights is fundamental to a peaceful and democratic society.” A top priority, U.N. officials said, is […]

SEOUL, South Korea — Reclusive North Korea this week announced its interest in continuing talks with the United States on its nuclear weapons program. Last week in Geneva, Washington’s envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, met for eight hours of negotiations aimed at getting the stalled Six Party talks moving again. “The two sides decided to continue direct discussions on ways to resolve problems in implementing the Oct. 3 agreement,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported. The Oct. 3 agreement, reached during the last formal round of the Six Party […]

Last month, a remarkable transformation occurred in the controversial Nabucco gas pipeline project — or at any rate in the public perception of the project in the English-speaking world. As recently as last fall, in fact, there was barely any public perception of the Nabucco project in the English-speaking world because there was barely any coverage of the project in the English language media. (For a rare exception, see “Iran-Turkey Gas Deal Gives New Hope for EU Nabucco Pipeline” on World Politics Review.) In the central European press, on the other hand, the project was widely heralded as a crucial […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — The founder of modern Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah, famously described the country as “a yam between two boulders” — China and India. Now, as the biggest protests in 20 years unfold in the Chinese-controlled Tibetan Autonomous Region, China appears to be leaning on Nepal to quash protests in Katmandu and to clear Everest during the Olympic torch rally in May. Nepal is home to at least 20,000 Tibetan refugees and each year a further 2,000-3,000 Tibetans make the dangerous journey across the Himalayas to Nepal, en route to the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama in Dharamasala, […]

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Since independence, Malaysia has been the kind of feeble democracy where elections have been held regularly, but where it is usually quite clear beforehand who will win — and win big. However, the latest vote, on March 8, surprised everyone, with the opposition gaining 37 percent of parliament’s 220 seats and winning control of five of the federation’s 13 states — namely Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, Penang and Selangor. After the previous election, held in 2004, the opposition controlled only Kelantan and had just 9 percent of the seats in parliament. Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto leader of […]

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To get a sense of just how badly things are going for NATO in Afghanistan, consider the following. Just over two weeks from now at the alliance’s summit in Budapest, about the only pieces of good news likely to be announced are that the French will deploy more boots on the ground to ease the strain on Canadian forces, and the Russians will allow logistical supplies to transit its air and ground space. You got that right: France and Russia are coming to NATO’s rescue. Of course, it’s not the threat of a military defeat, but that of a political […]

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It looks like the Nabucco gas pipeline project just took another hit. Russia just announced an agreement with the ‘Stans (Khazak-, Turkmeni-, and Uzbeki-) raising its purchase price of their gas to European market rates, thereby appropriating one of the major attractions of the U.S.-EU offer. As this analysis points out, though, the deal is something of a trade-off for Russia, since it complicates their South Stream pipeline project by reducing marginal profits that pipeline would have offered its southern European partners. That, more than the dissolution of the Serbian parliament, might be what motivated remarks by Serbia’s parliamentary speaker […]

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In a major surprise out of China, President Hu Jintao suffered a stunning electoral reversal and lost 9 votes out of 2,965 cast by China’s parliament members. Hu will remain in office, but with only a 99.7% mandate, doubts were raised about his effectiveness as a lame-duck president. On a more serious note, the election of Xi Jinping as Vice-President as heir apparent seems to be the significant news coming out of this election. He replaces a Jiang Zemin ally, definitively signalling the end of the Jiang era. The election caps a meteoric rise for Xi, who first showed up […]

The harsh words and hard feelings that chilled transatlantic relations in January, when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the mistake of stating the obvious about NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, will not be on the agenda during NATO’s Bucharest Summit the first week of April. But the source of Gates’ frustration that, in his words, most of the allies “are not trained in counterinsurgency” or doing enough in Afghanistan, should dominate the agenda — and so should the solution. In many ways, NATO’s necessary but nettlesome mission in Afghanistan is a microcosm of its post-Cold War shortcomings: Every member recognizes […]

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