In the midst of deep crisis, cooler heads rarely hold sway — at least in the public discourse. Thus it was that just a year ago, we heard from many experts — and joyous activists — that globalization was on its deathbed: The global economy was on the verge of a great and permanent unraveling. It was to be an inexorable and exact reversal of everything that defined the go-go globalization of the 1990s, replete with social and political unrest of the highest order. In effectively re-enacting the Great Depression of the 1930s, we even faced the incredible prospect of […]

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Taiwanese Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Sheng-chung said today that Taiwan might delay the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, which was originally slated to be ready for a June deadline. In an e-mail interview, Eurasia Group associate Nicholas Consonery explains Taiwan-China trade relations and the likely impact of the ECFA.WPR: What is the status quo in terms of the regulation and extent of trade between Taiwan and China? Nicholas Consonery: The total volume of trade between Taiwan and China has increased precipitously since Taiwan lifted a long-standing ban on direct trade and transport links […]

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The U.S. announced plans to conduct naval exercises off the Korean peninsula in response to the sinking of a South Korean vessel two months ago. Former State Department Official Balbina Hwang and Center for International Policy’s Selig Harrison debate the possible ways forward that could both save face for North Korea and avoid military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. Having trouble viewing this video? Click here to watch.

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Earlier this week, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak announced that his country will suspend all trade with the communist North — a move that could cost the North up to $200 million a year. This measure will be paired with an appeal to the international community to show its disapproval of the North’s actions. China, arguably the nation with the most clout in Pyongyang, has strategically disapproved of the situation without directly blaming North Korea.

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Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama has moved passed stalled negotiations by agreeing with an American base proposal. Though the decision is the first progress toward a resolution that the base dispute has seen, it has opened up new fights with Okinawan residents and some members of Hatoyama’s government. The Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo Bureau Chief Jacob Shlesinger discusses the fate of the base and of Hatoyama’s leadership.

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When the Iranian revolution against the Shah Reza Pahlavi reached critical mass in late-1978, the United States found itself with very limited political leverage in Iran because of a longstanding U.S. commitment to ignore the country’s opposition politicians. Washington had considered this precondition an acceptable price to pay for the shah’s support of the West during the Cold War. But it backfired when the shah found himself facing a tidal wave of mullah-led unrest. The Carter administration, fearing the shah’s displeasure, simply waited too long to press him to replace his autocratic rule with a reformist government. In 1979, desperate […]

Much ink has been spilled discussing the nuclear fuel swap deal that Brazil and Turkey brokered with Iran last week. The pundits have focused on whether the deal will resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, or whether Tehran is simply playing for time, as well as what the deal says about the growing prominence of Brazil and Turkey. Yet the real meaning of the nuclear deal has gone largely overlooked: The dominant trend of the early 21st century is the rise of democratic powers to positions of regional and even global influence. Of course, the most prominent rising power, […]

As somebody who voted for President Barack Obama, I am surprised to find myself believing that he is slated to be — and more so, should be — a one-term president, a possibility that Obama himself has already broached publicly. It’s not any one thing he has or hasn’t done that has led me to this admittedly premature conclusion. Rather, it’s a growing realization that everything Obama brings to the table in terms of both deeds and vision suggests that history will judge him to be a transitional figure. He is a much-needed leveling-off from Bush-Cheney’s nosebleed-inducing foreign policy trajectory, […]

The curtain rose on yet another act in the Iran drama this week. It began with the “diplomatic breakthrough” achieved by Brazil and Turkey: an Iranian agreement in principle to the fuel swap proposal, by which uranium is sent out of the country, turned into fuel rods, and returned for peaceful, civilian use. The plot thickened with the announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — and in particular Russia and China — had agreed to bring to the table for discussion a draft resolution imposing a fourth set […]

A mysterious crop disease has torn through the poppy fields of southern Afghanistan, leading Antonia Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, to decrease the projection for the 2010 opium harvest by an astonishing 2,600 metric tons, or one-third of the national output. Scores of Afghan farmers have supported Costa’s claim, indicating that the opium harvest currently taking place in Afghanistan’s five main opium producing provinces will result in meager yields. The socioeconomic impact of the failed harvest comes at a precarious time, as thousands of international and Afghan troops are preparing to pacify the […]

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Recent statements by the Indian Army have shown a softened stance toward the ongoing dispute with China along the Line of Actual Control — an area that has long been a source of tension for the two countries. In an e-mail interview, Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains the current situation along the China-India border. WPR: What are the core unresolved issues regarding the India-China border? Douglas Paal: The principal disputes are over territory. The Sino-Indian territorial dispute is one of China’s few remaining border disputes after a decade of resolving tough […]

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An incident earlier this month in which a Chinese survey vessel chased off a Japanese coast guard vessel in the East China Sea is putting further strain on longstanding territorial disputes between China and Japan, despite diplomatic efforts to resolve them. In an e-mail interview, Brookings Institution Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies Director Richard C. Bush III explains the current state of Japan-China maritime disputes.WPR: What are the current territorial disputes between Japan and China in the East China Sea? Richard Bush: Japan and China have one territorial dispute: That concerns islands north and east of Taiwan that China […]

A bus carrying around 60 passengers, including at least 20 local policemen, was winding through a thick forest in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday when it suddenly exploded. At least 30 people were killed. Most of the rest were injured. Indian authorities were quick to pin the bomb attack on the country’s four-decade-old Naxalite-Maoist rebellion, named for Naxalbari, the town where the group first attacked government security forces in 1967. Naxalite fighters have been known to target security checkpoints along bus routes, and have warned bus operators not to allow police on board their vehicles. The Naxals, […]

For the first time since American and Soviet missiles silently faced off across the vast, icy expanse of their northernmost Arctic territories during the Cold War, the Arctic is again becoming a strategic concern. As global climate change forces both permanent and seasonal sea ice to recede, the world is gaining what amounts to a brand new ocean — one that has never been fished, rarely navigated, and has waters that are thought to be rich with natural resources. In 2009, the United States Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic contains over 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic […]

A subtle evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations is underway. If the first of these missions kept an agreed-upon peace, and later missions sought to make peace, several countries now use these operations to advance their foreign and economic policy agendas, and raise their global profile. This shift, selective as it is to date, may potentially raise the standard of conduct in U.N. peacekeeping operations increasingly fraught with charges of criminal behavior, corruption, lack of accountability, and general ineffectiveness. However, there are significant downsides to this approach. The global movement of people, information, goods, and services creates new opportunities, but […]

When Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt two years ago, he forgave the rebel leader behind it. Similarly, he has struck a conciliatory tone with Indonesia, despite its violent 1975-1999 occupation of Timor-Leste, and focused on the growing political and economic ties between the two countries. His leadership has emphasized the value of moving beyond the past. But in this interview, Ramos-Horta, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his nonviolent work toward independence, reflects on the successes and failures of the U.N.’s 1999-2002 peacekeeping mission and of subsequent international aid in Timor-Leste. The U.N., he […]

Photo: The Nine Dragon Screen, Datong, Shanxi, China (Photo by Wikimedia user Doron, licensed under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 Attribution).

China's complicated attitude towards its past appear to be evolving. From a modern geostrategic viewpoint, however, the era of colonial China, above all others, plays a significant role in shaping Beijing's intentions and behaviors on the international stage. BEIJING—The current wave of restoration of historical sites across China, such as the reconstruction of the 14th-century city walls at Datong, is sometimes seen as evidence of the country's changing attitude towards its past: The destructive tendencies of the Mao years have been replaced by a new curiosity and respect for the Middle Kingdom's long history. This interpretation, however, fails to capture […]

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