Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia, Nov. 16, 2014 (Flickr photo by user blogplanalto licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has exhibited a more forceful and direct style of governance than his predecessor. That has included an unprecedented domestic anti-corruption campaign, a renewed push at corporate sector reform and a more strident posture in many aspects of foreign policy. Some foreign commentators have interpreted these moves as an attempt to recentralize political power and even re-establish the “cult of personality” around political leaders that prevailed in China for much of the 20th century. An alternative interpretation is that Xi’s government has acknowledged fundamental problems within the Chinese political economy and […]

South Korean farmers hold signs reading “Block, the FTA between South Korea and China” during a rally opposing a free trade agreement with China in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 20, 2014 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Earlier this month, China and South Korea reached a free trade agreement (FTA). In an email interview, Tony Nash, global vice president of Delta Economics, discussed the implications of the China-South Korea FTA. WPR: How comprehensive is the FTA with China compared to other high-profile FTAs South Korea has signed recently, and what explains any differences? Tony Nash: China and South Korea have studied and discussed this agreement for over a decade. The concept of the FTA is quite comprehensive, with more than 90 percent of goods covered as well as interesting modalities around online purchases and government procurement, which […]

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Aug. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Diego Azubel).

Chinese investment and engagement now touches almost every aspect of Africa’s economy, including infrastructure, transport and logistics, trade, manufacture, agriculture, telecommunications and, of course, resource extraction. Because of the vastness of this engagement, commentators frequently fall back on catchall concepts, including an assumption that Africa is essentially passive in this relationship. The reality is much more complicated. Instead of simply imposing Chinese approaches on African realities, Chinese actors frequently try to attain their goals by partially adapting to specific African systems, with varying degrees of success. This article provides examples of this process by looking at China’s relationships with three […]

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu listens during a security conference in Moscow, Russia, May 23, 2014 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

On Nov. 20, Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu visited Islamabad along with dozens of other Russian officials and signed an unprecedented Russian-Pakistan defense cooperation agreement. While in Islamabad, Shoigu also engaged in wide-ranging discussions with his Pakistani counterpart, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, on Afghanistan, regional security, arms sales and other issues. In so doing, Shoigu became the first Russian defense minister to visit Pakistan since 1969, when the Soviet government made an unsuccessful effort to mediate tensions between Pakistan and India. Since then, relations between Moscow and Islamabad have been atrocious, in part due to the close and enduring defense […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to Mali President Boubacar Keita on the sidelines of the U.N. Chief Executives Board meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 21, 2014 (U.N. photo by Eskinder Debebe).

Does it matter who runs the United Nations? There was a frisson of excitement at U.N. headquarters at the start of this month when a consortium of advocacy groups launched a campaign to overturn the “outdated and opaque” process for selecting the secretary-general. But at a time when increasing global divisions threaten to reduce the U.N. secretariat’s ability to improve international cooperation, there are questions about how much impact the post can really have. The current secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, steps down at the end of 2016. As I have previously argued, Ban took far too long to find his feet […]

Then-Mongolian Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag speaks during the International Labor Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, June 9, 2014 (AP photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott).

Last week, Mongolia’s parliament appointed Chimed Saikhanbileg prime minister, two weeks after Norov Altankhuyag lost a no-confidence vote. In an email interview, Julian Dierkes, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, discussed Mongolian politics. WPR: What factors explain the recent no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag? Julian Dierkes: Surprisingly, Norov Altankhuyag was the longest-serving prime minister from the Democratic Party (DP). However, during the two and a half years that he was in office, Mongolia came to face an economic crisis that was largely government-made through strict foreign investment regulation and poor fiscal decisions. Altankhuyag did not […]

Smoke rises from burning garbage as an Indian woman looks for recyclable material at a dumping site on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Anupam Nath).

The United States and China surprised other G-20 members when they announced a new agreement last week on curbing greenhouse gas emissions just a few days prior to the group’s summit in Australia. But the G-20 member who perhaps noted this development more than others is India, currently the world’s fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter. India was taken off guard by what amounts to China’s first step back from its previous ironclad refusal to make any binding commitments on limiting overall emissions. New Delhi is now preparing to fend off greater pressure directed its way to make similar pledges in the […]

Vietnam People’s Navy honor guard at the ASEAN defense ministers meeting, Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 12, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

As China attempts to assert maritime claims against neighboring Vietnam, Vietnam in turn has been expanding its navy and courting new allies, such as India. In an email interview, Abhijit Singh, a research fellow at India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, discusses the capabilities of the Vietnamese navy, known as the Vietnam People’s Navy. WPR: What is Vietnam’s naval capacity, and how operationally prepared is its navy? Abhijit Singh: Vietnam’s navy has modernized from a small coastal patrol force with limited capacity in the 1980s into a seagoing, fairly competent, combat-worthy navy. Equipped with old Soviet-era hardware and an […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 12, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

Whenever a U.S. president’s party experiences major losses during a midterm congressional election, there is always pressure to fire members of his team. In this particular cycle, pundits have urged President Barack Obama to consider replacing his national security adviser, Susan Rice, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, among others, as part of an effort to change course and find a new direction for his last two years in office. But staffing questions do not lie at the heart of the Obama administration’s problems. Rather, the administration has fallen short in its ability to define U.S. strategic priorities and to […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls a snap election for December during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo, Nov. 18, 2014 (AP photo by Shizuo Kambayashi).

Having returned political stability to Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today called snap elections for next month to secure a verdict on his already implemented economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” as well as a mandate to continue applying his strategies to expand the economy. The general elections, scheduled for mid-December, will come roughly two years after Abe was elected in a sweeping victory in December 2012. His current tenure, Abe’s second as prime minister, has been defined mainly by his efforts to jumpstart Japan’s long-beleaguered economy, focusing on a “three-arrow approach” to restore growth and confidence through increased stimulus, quantitative easing […]

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently announced a pair of important initiatives, one to restore the Defense Department’s troubled nuclear enterprise to health and another to spur innovation within the department. The two initiatives are necessary, if incomplete, but achieving both goals will difficult. Hagel’s proposed overhaul of the Defense Department’s management of its nuclear weapons enterprise is long overdue. The U.S. nuclear command’s core components, besides the actual warheads, include the Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines as well as the supporting infrastructure for the entire system. It also […]

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 13, 2014 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Mexico’s recent decision to cancel a high-speed rail contract with the China Railway Construction Company (CRCC) is the latest example of the unsettled relationship between two of the largest emerging economies. In an email interview, Matt Ferchen, associate professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, discussed China’s economic ties with Mexico. WPR: How have Mexico’s economic relations with China developed in recent years, particularly since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001? Matt Ferchen: The takeoff in China-Latin America commercial and diplomatic relations began just about a decade ago in […]

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar President Thein Sein, Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Nov. 13, 2014 (AP photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe).

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Myanmar, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit as well as meet with national leaders. The visit comes less than two years after Obama’s first to the Southeast Asian nation, which was also the first ever by a sitting U.S. president. Obama’s 2012 Myanmar trip was “a symbolic visit to reinforce the message that reform needs to be consolidated. It is a mark of appreciation, a reward if you like, and at the same time it is a measure to press for further […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Greg Baker).

Inside the United States, supporters of President Barack Obama have all sorts of explanations for the defeat handed the Democratic Party in last week’s midterm elections, which not only increased the Republican majority in the House of Representatives but also gave the GOP control of the Senate. Democrats’ failure to mobilize their traditional voters to turn out at the polls; accusations of voter-suppression techniques, which disproportionally impact those more likely to cast ballots for the Democratic Party; and the Republicans’ successful efforts at playing up anxieties about the economy, Ebola and the so-called Islamic State (IS) have all been put […]

A demonstration to support Pakistan’s army in Karachi, Pakistan, April 26, 2014 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Last week, Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar took over as head of Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In an email interview, Frederic Grare, senior associate and director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s South Asia program, discussed the evolution of ISI. WPR: How have ISI’s strategic priorities changed over the past decade as a result of the changing security and political realities in Afghanistan and India? Frederic Grare: This kind of question is difficult to answer for two reasons: The internal functions of intelligence systems around the world are opaque by necessity, and the ISI is no exception; and […]

Pro-Russian rebel military vehicle with Russian flag on top of it rolls towards Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Nov. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

There were signs of easing tensions in some parts of the international system last week, but warnings of deepening crises on other fronts. It emerged that U.S. President Barack Obama had sent a private letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging greater cooperation in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. China and Japan agreed to step back from confrontation over the Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyu. But Ukraine accused Russia of new military incursions on its territory, increasing the chances that the parlous cease-fire in the east of the country will […]

Sunset in the Arctic, Oct. 14, 2011 (photo by Flickr user MarineBugs licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

In a bid to protect its own interests in the Arctic, and wary of NATO’s growing attention to the region, Russia is set to reactivate former Soviet-era bases around the North Pole. But the Kremlin would do well to monitor the actions in the Arctic of its occasional partner and possible future rival, China, rather than those of its trans-Atlantic adversary. With global warming melting ice and making northern sea routes more passable, both Arctic and non-Arctic nations are competing for access to the mineral, hydrocarbon and fishing resources estimated to lie under the North Pole. The race is on, […]

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