Hui ethnic minority farmers harvest potatoes in northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Oct. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese leaders have struggled with an age-old problem: how to feed a growing population with a small amount of arable land. Despite the country’s agrarian beginnings and the ideological importance of the farmer in Maoist thought, nagging concerns about efficiency, food security and sustainable agricultural development have never been fully resolved. Even as China has dazzled the world with its technological progress in cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence, renewable energy and bioengineering, to the government’s dismay, China has been slow to make similar advances in farming despite boasting the […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in cross the military demarcation line in the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018 (Korea summit press pool photo via AP).

Is the United Nations finally adapting to an Asian century? This week, Security Council ambassadors are visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar to investigate the suffering of the Rohingya. In doing so, they are facing up to one of the U.N.’s most significant failures of recent years. Both U.N. officials on the ground and council members in New York vacillated over how to respond to the ethnic cleansing campaign of Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya Muslim minorities in mid-2017. This weekend, the council saw the results of that failure when they visited a refugee camp that houses half a million of the […]

Citizen science volunteers interview a forest ranger about environmental threats to Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam, Undated (Photo courtesy of Do Hai Linh/Pan Nature).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss the state of trans-Atlantic ties, against the backdrop of Washington visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. For the Report, James Borton talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about how networks of “citizen scientists” are using technology to help raise awareness about the environmental costs of development in Vietnam. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina share a laugh after signing multiple agreements, New Delhi, India, April 8, 2017 (AP photo).

Earlier this month, India’s new foreign secretary, Vijay Kashev Gokhale, visited neighboring Bangladesh for meetings on issues ranging from Rohingya refugees to the sharing of water supplies. New Delhi and Dhaka also signed a memorandum of understanding to build an 80-mile oil pipeline that would allow oil to be exported to Bangladesh. India’s efforts to deepen ties with Bangladesh are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious “neighborhood first” foreign policy initiative. In an email interview, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, discusses […]

Commuters wait for a train in front of an advertisement discouraging the dissemination of fake news, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 2, 2018 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

On April 3, Malaysia became the first country in the world to approve specific legislation criminalizing the dissemination of “fake news.” The new law includes penalties of up to six years in prison and fines of up to 500,000 Malaysian ringgit—approximately $128,000—for anyone who “maliciously creates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news.” The move came just days before Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved parliament, paving the way for general elections now scheduled for May 9. The election will mark a key test for Najib, who has been hounded by a massive corruption scandal involving a state […]

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton poses with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Yoon Soon-gu during a meeting, Seoul, South Korea, April 23, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you probably already know that next month, international attention will be on the world’s two acute nuclear weapons cases: Iran and North Korea. May 12 is the deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide if he will continue to waive sanctions against Iran as part of the seven-nation nuclear agreement signed in 2015. And all month long, teams in Washington and Pyongyang will be planning an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the North’s nuclear program the main item on the agenda. There are at least two ways […]

Vietnamese activists protest to urge Formosa Plastics Corporation to take responsibilitiy for an environmental clean-up in Vietnam, Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

In early April 2016, fishermen in Vietnam began noticing something alarming: Dead fish were washing up on the shores of several provinces. Days turned into weeks, and the dead tuna and mackerel kept coming, joined by clams and even one whale. It turned out to be the largest environmental disaster in Vietnam’s history. Fishermen lost their livelihoods, and some people fell ill after eating fish that had apparently been poisoned. But at first the government kept quiet about the cause of the mass fish kill. Authorities limited coverage of it on state media and arrested hundreds of people who participated […]

A South Korean news magazine features front cover photos of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul, South Korea, April 23, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Peace processes are always excruciatingly complex, in part because peacemaking is rarely just a matter of making peace. Power politics almost always gets in the way. Two particularly difficult cases that currently loom over international politics are heading in strikingly different directions. Multilateral efforts to end the Syrian war are grotesquely stalled. North and South Korea, by contrast, are hurtling toward peace with an almost indecent haste. The two cases offer very different visions of the future of major power cooperation and conflict, and above all the continuing role of America as a global peacemaker. Since the end of the […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a news conference at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla., April 18, 2018 (AP photo by Lynn Sladky).

President Donald Trump surprised almost everyone, including his closest economic advisers and both free trade advocates and protectionists in Congress, when he announced last week that the United States would consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the huge Pacific Rim trade pact that he withdrew from days after taking office. Trump had heavily criticized the TPP, the signature economic deal of the Obama administration, even calling it the “rape of our country” during the 2016 presidential campaign. In light of such statements, most observers believed the Trump administration intended to pursue only bilateral free trade agreements, if any at all. As […]

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ma Zhaoxu, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, New York, April 13, 2018 (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

The 105 cruise missiles that the United States, France and the United Kingdom fired at Syria late last week, in response to another suspected chemical weapons attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, deepened the divide between Western powers and Russia over how to approach the next stage of Syria’s war. But amid divisions playing out both at the United Nations and on the ground in Syria, China sits in a precarious and uniquely advantageous position. As an actor that strictly denounces the use of chemical weapons and upholds the principle of nonintervention, Beijing condemned both the chemical attack outside Damascus […]

Kashmiri activists hold torches and march in a protest against the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl, Kashmir, India, April 14, 2018 (AP photo by Dar Yasin).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about religious minorities in various countries around the world. On April 13, two lawmakers from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, resigned amid nationwide blowback over their public support for a group of Hindu men accused of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl. The party’s leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, broke his silence on the episode the same day, saying “no culprit will be spared.” The high-profile case has raised concerns about worsening intercommunal tensions in India under the right-wing, Hindu nationalist BJP. In January, Human […]

Supporters of Philippine Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno gather outside the House of Representatives in Manila, Philippines, March 6, 2018 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Over the past three decades, since the end of the era of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines has often combined corrupt and semi-authoritarian electoral politics with strong cultural and institutional checks on its elected leaders. Among the most powerful checks have been the Philippines’ vibrant media and highly active civil society, including NGOs, unions and other actors. The Catholic Church, at times, has pushed back against politicians’ graft and amassing of power. This active civil society, sometimes buttressed by a judiciary asserting its independence, has been essential to keeping the Philippines from deteriorating democratically, including in the 2000s when it […]

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks with a Japanese officer as he inspects a PAC-3 interceptor missile system with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Tokyo, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Toru Hanai).

On March 27, Japan announced an extensive reorganization of the main branch of its military, known as the Ground Self-Defense Forces. The government described it as the most sweeping revamp since the forces were founded in 1954. The restructuring includes integrating the five regional armies that make up the Ground Self-Defense Forces under a single command. While Japan’s postwar constitution restricted the country’s military capabilities, escalating threats from China and North Korea have raised concerns for Tokyo, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken steps to loosen the constitutional constraints. In an email interview, Michael Green, the senior vice president […]

Rohingya refugees watch a Malaysian delegation visiting their refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Jan. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

When the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis barreled into a sleepy coastal town in southern Bangladesh last August, the prime minister in Dhaka pledged that her impoverished country would go without food if that was what it took to help the Rohingya fleeing violence from the army in Myanmar. Almost nine months later, that welcome is starting to wear thin as the exodus far exceeds past influxes of Rohingya refugees and settles into a prolonged, seemingly intractable situation, taxing one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. Bangladesh, no stranger to the Myanmar military’s paroxysms of ethno-nationalist violence, has […]

Location manager Lee Erwin unloads corn from a trailer at the Heartland Co-op in Redfield, Iowa, April 5, 2018 (AP photo by Charlie Neibergall).

After a relatively quiet first year in the White House, President Donald Trump is delivering on his campaign promises to get tough on trade, especially with China. In 2017, the Trump administration launched a number of investigations into foreign trade practices but took little action beyond abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama administration had negotiated with 11 Pacific Rim countries. Trump also threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement if Canada and Mexico did not bow to his demands to renegotiate the deal. NAFTA talks are still ongoing. But then, in just the first few months […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with former Pakistani adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, Islamabad, Pakistan, March 12, 2018 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

In mid-March, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Islamabad for a three-day visit, heading a 30-member Iranian delegation. During talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Zarif pledged to increase bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan from around $1.16 billion today to $5 billion by 2021. They also discussed other areas of cooperation. In an email interview, Payam Mohseni, the director of the Iran Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, discusses how Iran and Pakistan’s mutual desire for a deeper relationship must contend with regional rivalries. WPR: What is the […]

Vietnamese protesters hold national flags and an anti-China banner during a rally near the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, July 24, 2016 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Late last month, Vietnam suspended ongoing work on a major oil drilling project in disputed waters between it and China in the South China Sea, reportedly under Chinese pressure. The incident revealed the ongoing challenge Vietnam faces in protecting its interests in the vital waterway as Beijing continues to aggressively assert its maritime claims. Vietnam is no stranger to this kind of Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. For Hanoi, the disputes are just part of a wider, centuries-old problem of managing ties with its giant northern neighbor, which occupied it for nearly a millennia and with which it […]

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