Pakistan soldiers patrol in Gwadar port, Gwadar, Pakistan, April 11, 2016 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

Editor’s note: This article is the first in an ongoing WPR series about China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative, also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, sometimes described as the “flagship project” of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, is proof that geo-economics is operating alongside geopolitics to push Beijing and Islamabad closer together. In an email interview, Arif Rafiq, president of Vizier Consulting and a fellow at the Center for Global Policy, explains how CPEC’s energy and infrastructure projects can benefit both countries and discusses hurdles […]

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies addresses troops participating in the Cobra Gold military exercises, Sattahip, Thailand, Feb. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Dake Kang).

When the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, made a rare visit last month to Thailand for this year’s Cobra Gold military exercises—Asia’s largest multinational drill—some saw it as the start of a thaw in an alliance that had frozen since a bloodless coup in Bangkok in May 2014. In fact, the visit of the highest-ranking U.S. official since the coup was part of an already ongoing effort by both Washington and the junta to improve bilateral ties, despite enduring political and strategic realities that continue to pose challenges for the relationship. Coups are not new to U.S.-Thailand […]

Carrie Lam poses after being named Hong Kong’s new chief executive, Hong Kong, March 26, 2017 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

On Sunday, Carrie Lam, the candidate preferred by Beijing, was chosen as Hong Kong’s next chief executive, a development that was widely seen as a setback for those worried about the preservation of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The following day, nine pro-democracy activists involved in protests in 2014 turned themselves into police, who announced they would be charged with causing a “public nuisance.” In an email interview, Michael C. Davis, a senior fellow at the University of Hong Kong’s Center for Comparative and Public Law, discusses what Lam’s election means for Hong Kong’s relationship with Beijing as well as possible next […]

A protest in the village of Mirijjawila against a planned Chinese deal to purchase private land for an industrial zone near the Hambantota port, Ambalantota, Sri Lanka, Jan. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

A battle for influence is underway in Sri Lanka between India and China, played out in rival infrastructure projects and financial lifelines to an island nation that is buried in a debt crisis and trying to balance competing interests in New Delhi and Beijing. In January, Sri Lanka’s minister for regional development, Sarath Fonseka, declared that his country and India were finalizing an accord to develop the strategically located but underutilized Trincomalee port in northeastern Sri Lanka. This was seen by some domestic Sri Lankan observers as an attempt by their government to appease India in the face of growing […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, step off of Air Force One as they arrive in West Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Wilfredo Lee).

A political storm is brewing in Tokyo over revelations last month that officials permitted the sale of government-owned land at a much-reduced price to a right-wing nationalist school group, Moritomo Gakuen. The head of the foundation, Yasunori Kagoike, was allowed to purchase the two-acre plot of land in Osaka for about $1.2 million—a figure far below its assessed value of approximately $8.3 million. The scandal has since snowballed with the release of information that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, was an honorary principal of the planned elementary school in Osaka and allegations that she donated 1 million yen—about […]

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Brussels, Belgium, March 21, 2017 (AP photo).

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with European Union leaders in Brussels this week, vowing to secure a free trade deal with the bloc as soon as possible. Negotiations over the deal began in 2013 and have run into a number of roadblocks. In an email interview, J. Berkshire Miller, a Tokyo-based international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the challenges that remain to clinching the deal as well as what the two sides stand to gain. WPR: What is the current state of economic and political ties between Japan and EU countries, how have they been […]

A Pakistani police officer on guard outside the Barri Imam shrine in Islamabad, following a suicide attack at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province, Feb. 17, 2017 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

During one week in mid-February, Pakistan suffered a series of terrorist attacks in all four of its provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In all, 200 people were killed across the country in just seven days. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, or JuA—a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP—claimed responsibility for the majority of the attacks, while the TTP and the self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed separate responsibility for others, including the Feb. 16 suicide bombing of a Sufi shrine in Sehwan that killed 90 people. The multiple assaults perpetrated by different militants have raised concerns about […]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, May 16, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Recent reports of Chinese security forces operating in Afghanistan have prompted speculation about whether China has crossed another important threshold in its policy and posture on overseas military activity. Claims of sightings of Chinese military vehicles in the Wakhan Corridor, the narrow strip of territory in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to the Chinese border, have been circulating since late last year. But it was only after a People’s Liberation Army press briefing in February that any activities were officially confirmed. The PLA spokesperson denied the involvement of the Chinese military proper, stating that it was “the law enforcement departments in […]

Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting, St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 26, 2016 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Kazakhstan’s parliament has approved reforms that would decentralize power in the Central Asian nation, potentially giving parliament and the Cabinet more control over key duties such as managing the economy. In an email interview, Marlene Laruelle, director of the Central Asia program at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, discusses what the reforms could mean for President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled since the fall of the Soviet Union. World Politics Review: What might the decision to devolve some presidential powers mean for Nazarbayev’s political future?Marlene Laruelle: Nazarbayev has announced political reforms at various points in […]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at a press conference in Seoul, March 17, 2017 (Pool photo by Jung Yeon-Je via AP).

The threat from North Korea to the United States, the Asia-Pacific region, and the global economy is growing rapidly. For decades the dynasty of Kim family dictators has used military provocation to fend off external pressure. Over the past decade, this took a particularly ominous turn as Pyongyang added a nuclear capability to its massive conventional military force. Today the erratic aggression of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s current dictator, is pushing the danger to ever greater heights, backed by a growing nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile capability. When North Korea first tested an atomic device in 2006, the United […]

A model of a new Egyptian capital on display at an investment conference in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, March 14, 2015 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

On Feb. 7, officials in Egypt’s Ministry of Housing abruptly announced that a Chinese company had backed out of a $3 billion agreement to construct the first phase of a new Egyptian capital in the desert 30 miles east of Cairo. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), a government-backed general contractor that has taken on megaprojects around the world, had secured a loan to cover the costs of building the wildly ambitious new capital, which has been criticized as a boondoggle. But it was unable to agree with the Egyptian government on an exact price per square meter to […]

Ballistic missiles on display during a massive military parade to mark the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party, Pyongyang, North Korea, Oct. 10, 2010 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Last week, The New York Times reported that the United States had secretly stepped up cyber attacks against North Korea’s missile program during President Barack Obama’s second term. The attacks were initially a success, according to the Times. “Soon a large number of the North’s military rockets began to explode, veer off course, disintegrate in midair and plunge into the sea.” Whether or not a series of test failures in recent years were the direct result of U.S. cyber interference, as the Times suggested, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is a prominent target for U.S. cyber warfare—and President Donald Trump […]

Chinese female troops marching near a billboard showing President Xi Jinping and Communist Party slogans, at a camp on the outskirts of Beijing, Aug. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Xi Jinping is midway through his tenure as China’s president, and the systemic economic reforms he pledged are nowhere to be seen. The economy is increasingly reliant on debt-fueled investments, while bloated state-owned corporations and banks have yet to be trimmed. All the while growth continues to slow. In other countries, this would be a vulnerable time for the top leadership. Long periods of dramatic growth followed by stagnation or decline have historically been a backdrop for dissent, and even revolution, as the political scientist James Davies first described in his J-curve theory in 1962. And even though China continues […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping with other ministers at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Beijing, April 28, 2016 (AP pool photo).

Is China going to pass up an opportunity to reshape the international order? Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. appears to be distancing itself from its established role as leader of the global system. Many excitable pundits and even sober diplomats have speculated that Beijing could fill the vacuum America is creating. I have to confess to being one of the excitable ones. I argued in December that Chinese President Xi Jinping could counter Trump “by seizing the initiative on issues including climate change and free trade.” At the time, Trump—then the president-elect—threatened to punish the United Nations for a […]

Members of the honor guard stand at attention during a ceremony to mark Myanmar's 69th anniversary of its independence, Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Jan. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

Last month, Myanmar inked 16 different business deals with neighboring Thailand, ranging from cooperation in infrastructure to banking and agriculture. Myanmar’s fourth-largest foreign investor, Thailand hosts many migrant laborers from Myanmar, mainly in Bangkok and in the northwest along the border. But Thailand is not the only country Myanmar is forging investment ties with. Singapore led with $4.3 billion in investment last year, followed by China, the country’s largest trading partner, with $3.3 billion. Last fall, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $7.7 billion in development assistance. As recently as 2011, China was Myanmar’s largest investor by a factor of […]

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Foreign policy thinkers from several Asian countries are trying to focus on the positive elements of U.S. President Donald Trump’s worldview. They see a chance to expand Asian ownership of the regional agenda, and anticipate a break from American preaching about democracy and human rights. The downsides are Trump’s views on trade and the possibility of being left alone to deal with a more assertive China. During recent travels in three Asian capitals—New Delhi, Singapore and Bangkok—the evolving views of Asian elites on the Trump administration and its implications for Asia were on display. There’s a fascination with Trump and […]

South Korean lawmakers and members of opposition parties hold signs reading, "President Park Geun-hye, Impeachment!," during a rally at the National Assembly, Seoul, Dec. 7, 2016 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

South Korea’s Constitutional Court must rule by June on whether to uphold the impeachment of beleaguered President Park Geun-hye. South Korea has been embroiled in scandal for months over Park’s alleged collusion with an unsanctioned adviser, her controversial friend Choi Soon-sil. If the court backs the National Assembly’s vote in December to impeach Park, who was accused of bribery, extortion and abuse of power, South Korea will have to hold an election within 60 days of the ruling. Most analysts and legal experts in Seoul have indicated that the court will likely decide to remove Park from office, potentially as […]