Leaders walk along the Volga embankment during the Caspian Summit, Astrakhan, Russia, Sept. 29, 2014 (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office photo).

The leaders of all five littoral states attended the fourth Caspian Sea summit in the Russian city of Astrakhan yesterday. The latest meeting was more significant than previous summits held in Turkmenistan in 2002, Iran in 2007 and Azerbaijan in 2010, as the parties reached important agreements on some issues. Yet, others continue to divide them, with implications that reach far beyond the Caspian. At yesterday’s summit, the five littoral state presidents—Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev—renewed their commitment to keeping non-Caspian countries from establishing a military presence on the […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Sept. 26, 2014 in Beijing, China (AP photo by Feng Li).

SHANGHAI—Since coming to power, the current Chinese government has steadily managed down both the rate of actual industrial expansion and expectations of future growth in the world’s second-largest economy, with a host of key economic indicators now at multiyear lows. Strikingly, however, in the face of what might be described as an industrial hard landing, job creation and income growth remain remarkably robust. There has never been a shortage of predictions of the impending collapse of the Chinese economy. But year after year, the country has defied the bears and continued its remarkable economic development faster than the majority of […]

Renminbi bank notes (photo by Flickr user faungg licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom and China announced the upcoming issuance of a U.K. government bond denominated in yuan, making the U.K. the first Western government to borrow in China’s currency. British and Chinese authorities noted that the funds raised by the bond will be used to add yuan to the U.K.’s foreign exchange reserves. While there was no indication as to how much London was looking to borrow, the move alone is a significant milestone for Beijing. Five years ago, the yuan had virtually no presence outside of China’s borders. But each year since, the currency has taken […]

A false killer whale performs in a tank at Okichan Theater of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, Japan, Sept. 18, 2013 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

At a conference in Slovenia last week, the International Whaling Commission voted against allowing Japan to hunt whales in the Antarctic. In an email interview, Atsushi Ishii, associate professor of international relations and sociology of science and technology at Tohoku University, discussed Japan’s whaling program. WPR: What role does whaling play in Japan, economically and culturally? Atsushi Ishii: The Japanese have been whaling since ancient times and whaling-related culture flourished in rural coastal areas. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, whale meat was almost the only protein source for the Japanese people and became part of the national cuisine. […]

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang, Hanoi, Vietnam, Sept. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Trean Van Minh).

On his visit to Vietnam in mid-September, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee assured his hosts that India would always be their “all-weather friend.” While some may read too much into the timing of that statement, delivered on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India, agreements signed by India and Vietnam on energy and defense during Mukherjee’s visit are certain to get Beijing’s attention. After all, they come at a time when China and Vietnam have renewed negotiations over their maritime disputes in the South China Sea and as India pushes back against China’s plans for maritime expansion across […]

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi moors alongside the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sept. 6, 2013 (U.S. Navy photo by Daniel Barker).

This month, the heads of the world’s navies and coast guards converged on the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, for the International Seapower Symposium (ISS). ISS assembles distinguished international naval leaders to enhance common bonds of friendship and to discuss challenges and opportunities, this time under the theme of “Global Solutions to Common Maritime Challenges.” This was the 21st iteration of ISS, which was first held in 1969. It was the first with Chinese attendance. After years of invitations that Beijing did not accept, coupled with last year’s cancellation of the event due to sequestration, the head of […]

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping before the opening ceremony at the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai, China, May 21, 2014 (AP photo by Aly Song).

Two Chinese warships paid a port call to Iran over the weekend, in advance of a four-day joint naval exercise with the Iranian navy that was reportedly to begin Monday. The visit highlights China’s ties with Iran, at a time when the outcome of international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program remains uncertain. As those negotiations resume, China seems to be the least concerned of all the parties about their outcome. This apparent indifference is understandable: Iran is physically distant from China; has not threatened China directly or through supporting terrorism targeting China; and is not China’s only source of Middle […]

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, left, toasts with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a dinner in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2014 (AP photo by Victor R. Caivano).

In July, just days before a New York court ruling put Argentina in default on a $539 million payment to creditors, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping whereby China would loan Argentina $11 billion worth of yuan, which the latter could use to either bolster its currency reserves or pay for imported Chinese goods. The first installment of $1 billion is expected by year’s end, according to the Buenos Aires daily La Nacion. The currency swap deal, as well as a secretive deal for a Chinese satellite-tracking station in Argentina, have drawn […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a joint news conference in New Delhi on Sept. 18, 2014, after their talks (Kyodo via AP Images).

China pledged investments worth $20 billion to India and the two neighbors signed more than a dozen agreements and committed to settling their contentious border disputes during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s maiden official visit to India, which began Wednesday and ends today. Over the next five years, China promised to help India upgrade its rail system and put in place high-speed train corridors. It has also promised to invest in roads and two industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra states, and to give more market access to products from India. The two nations called for better people-to-people ties and more […]

Photo: Protesters in Hong Kong, China, July 1, 2014 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Members of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement marched Sunday to demand universal suffrage for the election of the city’s chief executive. In an email interview, Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center, discussed the movement and its quest for greater democracy in Hong Kong. WPR: What are the Occupy Central movement’s objectives, and who are its main supporters? Robert Daly: Occupy Central’s goal is to ensure that the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, which is supposed to feature “universal suffrage,” offers voters a meaningful choice. The founders’ original […]

South Korean army soldiers patrol along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Cheorwon, South Korea, May 13, 2014 (AP photo by Lim Byung-shik).

Thanks to its comprehensive democratization and its “Miracle on the Han,” which transformed the Republic of Korea into a developed country, South Korea has realized its aspirations to become a major international player. Nonetheless, the persistent threat from a perennially belligerent North Korea, along with the challenge of having three of the world’s most powerful countries as neighbors, continues to constrain South Korea’s global opportunities. Foreign Policy Although South Korean foreign policy cannot ignore its northern neighbor, the absence of any real movement in bilateral ties has meant that Seoul’s relations with Washington, Beijing and Tokyo have seen the most […]

Heads of state at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Sept. 12, 2014. (AP photo from RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service).

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Sept. 12-13 may have been one of the organization’s most important. After years of stasis, the group’s heads-of-state summit finally agreed to consider expanding the organization’s membership, which has remained fixed since its foundation in 2001. They also adopted several other important measures promoting regional development, as well as a political declaration that lent support to Russian and Chinese positions in those countries’ disagreements with the U.S. and the West more broadly. But the SCO still faces several obstacles to expanding its role in Eurasia. After the instability engendered by […]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gives his opening remark during the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

China’s initiative to establish a “Maritime Silk Road,” which would connect China to Europe through new and upgraded ports and maritime infrastructure, received a boost this week when Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong backed the plan. In an email interview, Geoffrey Wade, visiting fellow at the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific, discussed China’s goals for the Maritime Silk Road initiative. WPR: What is the proposed route of China’s Maritime Silk Road, and how have potential partners responded to the plan? Geoffrey Wade: The “21st-century Maritime Silk Road” is a rhetorical construct promoted by China since […]

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha prays in front on the spirit house for good luck, before a meeting in the preparation for his cabinet meeting at the Government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Shortly after Thailand’s military took power in a coup in May and proclaimed the ruling junta the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), its leader, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, said he wanted to “reform the political structure, economy and society.” At the time, the burning question was under what terms will this reform take place—and who gets to decide? Three months after the coup, the answer appears clear: Prayuth and the NCPO have supreme power over all political developments. The interim constitution adopted by the junta on July 22 has produced a 200-member National Legislative Assembly, all of its members […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Toru Hanai).

A new love affair is blossoming in Asia. Like so many who have entered the rarefied air of romance, the protagonists, India and Japan, are starry-eyed and filled with expectations that theirs is a relationship of unusual depth, one that was meant to be. They may be right. There is one obstacle that remains a roadblock—differences over nuclear strategy—but that should not obscure the fact that relations between two of Asia’s major powers are growing closer, and there are many reasons to expect this to continue. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi just completed a visit to Japan, something of a […]

Afghan army soldiers get shooting instructions at a training facility in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2013 (AP photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

It seems the default policy recommendation of much of the U.S. foreign policy community these days to the outbreak of any sort of violence in another part of the world is for the United States to “train and equip” local forces. It is not difficult to see why this option is so attractive to Washington policymakers. It allows the U.S. to be seen as “doing something” to respond to far-off crises, but without having to cross the momentous political line of putting “boots on the ground.” Instead, “train and equip” pairs advanced U.S. military technology with non-Americans who are willing […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Toru Hanai).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan in the first week of September generated huge expectations in both New Delhi and Tokyo. During Modi’s first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent, Tokyo and New Delhi agreed to upgrade their annual strategic dialogue to the level of foreign and defense ministers. Tokyo also lifted its ban on six Indian firms involved in defense research and development, which dated back to India’s 1998 nuclear weapons tests, paving the way for the transfer of Japanese military technology to India. Japanese Prime Minister Abe also assured Modi that Japan will invest around $35 billion […]

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