Chinese naval officials stand in front of the ship Daqing, San Diego, Calif., Dec. 7, 2016 (AP photo by Gregory Bull).

While the United States Navy struggles to figure out if, how and when it can expand the size of its combat fleet by 47 ships—a 15 percent increase—China continues to crank out around a dozen new large warships a year. In May, the busy shipyard in the port city Dalian put to sea China’s second aircraft carrier, following up on that milestone two months later by simultaneously launching two Type 055-class cruisers. With the U.S. Navy being the only other fleet to operate a large number of vessels of such size and capability, the pace and scale of production at […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates, after his arrival in Abu Dhabi, July 19, 2018 (Photo by Mohamed Al Hammadi for Emirates News Agency via AP Images).

As dusk fell in Abu Dhabi on July 20, the LED screen affixed to the face of the 65-story headquarters of the emirate’s national oil company presented a peculiar sight: a photograph of Chinese President Xi Jinping stretching over 1,000 feet high, looming over the Persian Gulf. In nearby Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, was lit from top to bottom in the colors of the Chinese flag. Even by the standards of a country with little use for subtlety, the United Arab Emirates went all out to mark Xi’s state visit. At a time when China seems […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his swearing-in ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Yam G-Jun).

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—As Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, from 1981 to 2003, Mahathir Mohamad oversaw crackdowns on the free press. He sought to undermine the country’s independent judiciary. And he arrested and jailed political opponents. Today, however, the 93-year-old Mahathir is not only back in the prime minister’s office, he’s the face of a once-opposition party now being hailed as Malaysia’s great democratic hope. It’s hard to overstate the current level of optimism in Malaysia about the country’s political future. In the eyes of many Malaysians, life changed on May 9, when the opposition won a surprise electoral victory and ousted […]

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a press conference during a meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bankers, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22, 2018 (AP photo by Gustavo Garello).

Officials from the European Union are headed to Washington this week for trade talks with the Trump administration, but nobody is optimistic. If the talks don’t go well, President Donald Trump has already said he is prepared to follow through on his threat of imposing further tariffs, as high as 25 percent, on cars and car parts imported from the EU. “If we don’t negotiate something fair, then we have tremendous retribution, which we don’t want to use, but we have tremendous powers,” Trump told reporters at the White House last week. “Including cars—cars is the big one.” However the […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk, right, after their joint press conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2018 (AP photo by Koji Sashara).

Earlier this month, Japan and the European Union concluded a mega-free trade deal that, when ratified, is expected to provide significant benefits to both sides. But as important as the economics of the deal is its symbolism, demonstrating a commitment to an international trade regime that has been passing through a zone of turbulence over the past year, largely due to arcane protectionist measures from the Trump administration. The U.S. has imposed large tariffs and threatened more on a wide range of products and countries, including allies such as Japan, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Washington’s turn to protectionism […]

Soldiers from Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion stand guard during a raid on suspected drug dealers, Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 26, 2018 (AP photo by Mehedi Hasan).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about national drug policies in various countries around the world. In the first two months of an anti-drug campaign launched in May, Bangladeshi police arrested 16,000 accused dealers, leading to cases that resulted in 4,000 convictions, according to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The campaign had also resulted in 138 deaths as of early July, and the death toll has grown since then, alarming human rights activists and spurring comparisons to the brutal anti-drug crackdown in the Philippines. In an email interview, Ali Riaz, distinguished professor of political […]

Protesters shout slogans while marching with a Philippine flag toward the Chinese consulate in Manila, Philippines, July 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s time in office has shown how a charismatic, populist leader can recalibrate a country’s foreign policy almost single-handedly. Under his watch, the Philippines has pursued an “independent” foreign policy, one that is less hostile to China and less dependent on the United States, the Philippines’ sole treaty ally and former colonizer. As a result, the Philippines’ relations with China have entered a new “golden age,” in Duterte’s words. At the same time, his popularity does not give him unilateral power over the Philippines’ foreign and defense policy—at least not yet. His aggressive push to reorient Philippine […]

Technical intern trainees from the Philippines work at a construction site, Tokyo, June 5, 2018 (Photo by Eri Konno for Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

In its annual economic and fiscal policy guidelines issued last month, the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a decision to create a new residency status for low-skilled foreign workers. The measure could be implemented as soon as next year following expected approval by the legislature this fall, and the administration hopes to bring in 500,000 foreign workers by the year 2025. This represents a major shift in Japanese policy, as the country’s official stance until now was to allow only foreign workers with specialized skills. However, the new policy was formulated with the narrow objective of addressing […]

President Donald Trump speaks before signing a memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China, Washington, March 22, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

For decades American presidents pursued multilateral trade agreements and supported international institutions that bolstered liberal trade policies around the world because they believed it was in the United States’ interest to do so. Yes, multilateral trade rules and institutions are relatively more beneficial for smaller, less powerful countries that cannot take on the United States or European Union on their own. And, yes, the rules under the World Trade Organization, or WTO, constrain the United States’ freedom of action, as did the predecessor arrangement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT. Yet U.S. presidents going back to Harry […]

A motorist looks at charred vehicles burned by protesters at a fire and police station in Binh Thuan province, Vietnam, June 12, 2018 (AP photo).

Last month, nationwide protests laced with anti-Chinese sentiment erupted in Vietnam in response to the government’s plans to offer long-term foreign leases in three special economic zones. More than 100 people were arrested in the demonstrations, which once again exposed a fundamental challenge for the Communist Party of Vietnam in managing public opinion over its relationship with China. This is hardly a new issue for Vietnam. Its giant northern neighbor dominated it for nearly a millennium of imperial Chinese rule, and they have fought multiple wars in more recent centuries. Given that long, contested history, along with its proximity to […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (AP photo by Saul Loeb).

America’s trade war with China is back on. But where it is headed, no one knows. Just after midnight on July 6, the United States began collecting 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in imports from China. Beijing immediately retaliated with similar duties on U.S. exports. President Donald Trump has already ordered tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese exports for later this summer, after the comment period on the American list closes, and China will retaliate again. Assuming that happens as planned, the Trump administration will have levied tariffs on over $100 billion in imports into the United States. […]

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 25, 2018 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

More than four years after Thailand’s military seized power in a coup—the 19th coup or coup attempt since the end of absolute monarchy there in 1932—the country still seems far from a return to civilian rule. Since his putsch, junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has repeatedly promised that elections will be held, only to put them off again and again. Most recently, the junta allowed political parties to register earlier this year and suggested that new elections would be held by February 2019 at the latest. However, in recent weeks the military has again waffled on that date, and is now […]

President Donald Trump and John Bolton, the national security adviser, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Washington, April 9, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Recent American history is full of mistakes in security policy, and yet for some reason, policymakers in Washington are chronically bad at learning from them. Too often, the United States is burned by a deeply flawed policy in some part of the world and resists repeating it for a few years, only to later try the same thing somewhere else. This propensity to forget strategic lessons may be infecting the Trump administration today. Take the belief that second-tier adversaries can be cowed into submission by economic sanctions and the threat or actual use of U.S. military power, even when they […]

Young supporters of Imran Khan, head of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, during a campaign rally in Karachi, Pakistan, July 3, 2018 (AP photo by Shakil Adil).

Driving past the presidential palace in Islamabad these days, one is confronted by the sight of cargo containers haphazardly lying around its perimeter, looking like a child’s forgotten toy blocks. But the containers, which the government uses as barricades against street protesters and other security threats, have a more serious message. They are a sign of a nation braced for unrest as political factions vie for primacy in the run-up to Pakistan’s general elections on July 25. Pakistan’s restive capital is used to political demonstrations and even large-scale riots, many of which have recently been driven by youth organizations asserting […]

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed at the airport on Ouvea Island, New Caledonia, May 5, 2018 (AP photo by Theo Rouby).

NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA—In early May, French President Emmanuel Macron touched down in the tropical archipelago of New Caledonia following a two-day visit to Australia, the islands’ closest major neighbor, some 750 miles west across the South Pacific. Macron was more than 10,000 miles from the Elysee Palace in Paris. Famed for its diving sites along an expansive barrier reef, New Caledonia is a French overseas territory that has enjoyed a special, semi-autonomous status for the past two decades, with certain powers gradually being transferred from France to local officials. Yet Paris retains control over critical governance areas such as foreign […]