Supporters of the opposition Kuomintang cheer in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Nov. 24, 2018 (AP photo).

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, suffered a historic defeat in local elections last weekend that were overshadowed by an extensive Chinese interference campaign. Taking responsibility for her party’s midterm drubbing, President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as DPP leader on Saturday night, casting doubt on her prospects for winning a second term in national elections set to take place in early 2020. Many observers had expected the opposition Kuomintang, or KMT, which favors closer ties with China, to make a comeback after losing both the presidency and a legislative majority in 2016. Anti-incumbency was in the air in the months […]

Ibrahim Solih speaks after being sworn in as the Maldives’ new president in Male, Nov. 17, 2018 (AP photo by Mohamed Sharuhaan).

The new president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Solih, was sworn in earlier this month, only to find that the state coffers had been “looted” by his autocratic predecessor, Abdulla Yameen. Solih has pledged to rein in corruption and realign the small island nation’s foreign policy, moving away from Yameen’s reliance on China and cultivating closer ties with India. But according to David Brewster, a senior research fellow at the Australian National University’s National Security College, that won’t be easy. In an interview with WPR, he explains why. World Politics Review: What were the factors that propelled Solih to victory in […]

China’s President Xi Jinping, center, U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Thomas Peter).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. As leaders from the Group of 20 begin their summit on Friday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, all eyes will be on President Xi Jinping of China and President Donald Trump of the United States, who have planned a much-anticipated face-to-face meeting over dinner Saturday night. The two leaders are embroiled in a damaging trade war, and the two countries’ broader bilateral relationship has deteriorated as well. Just last month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence laid out America’s “new approach […]

Garment workers sew clothes in a factory as they wait for a visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

What price should workers in Cambodia and Myanmar, two of the poorest countries in the world, pay because of their governments’ severe violations of human rights? The European Union is currently grappling with this question. Under its Everything But Arms trade preference program, the EU provides duty-free, quota-free market access for all imports, except weapons, from states designated by the United Nations as “least developed countries.” On paper, eligible countries are supposed to respect democracy and human rights; in practice, many do not. In Cambodia, the government of longtime ruler Hun Sen has squelched democracy, while in Myanmar, the military […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wave to the media following a welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 20, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Chinese President Xi Jinping returned to Beijing on Wednesday following a two-day state visit to the Philippines, the last leg of an Asia-Pacific tour that also included stops in Papua New Guinea and Brunei. Despite decades of mistrust and maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing, the two countries heralded a new “golden period” in relations last year. Ahead of Xi’s visit, Philippine observers wondered what gifts the Chinese president might bear as part of his effort to draw the […]

A rally organized in support of Saudi Arabia after lawmakers voted to support Riyadh in case of any threat to its territorial integrity, Karachi, Pakistan, May 8, 2015 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

LAHORE, Pakistan—When Muhammad Afzal awoke one August morning to go to his job at a textile mill in the industrial city of Faisalabad, he expected the day to unfold much like any other. But while he was at work on the factory floor, a man named Mohammad Shah approached him with an unexpected offer: How would he like to travel to Saudi Arabia? It was 2005, and Afzal—then in his early 30s—had never left Pakistan. He was immediately tempted. The son of poor farmers, he had no education, and he knew that his life in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third-largest city, was […]

A masked protester stands next to a banner depicting thousands of victims of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs during a protest rally in Quezon city, the Philippines, July 23, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

The slaying earlier this month of a prominent human rights lawyer in the Philippines who worked on behalf of poor suspects accused of drug-related crimes has sparked a renewed outcry over President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. The lawyer, Benjamin Ramos, was gunned down by two unidentified assailants on Nov. 6—the 34th lawyer to be killed since Duterte took office in 2016. In an interview with WPR, Imelda Deinla, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance, explains why Philippine lawyers are being targeted and how this wave of violence is affecting the […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a joint press conference, Darwin, Australia, Nov. 16, 2018 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

World leaders gathered in Singapore this week for the 13th annual East Asia Summit, the premier meeting for regional heads of state to discuss political and security issues. It comes amid rising tensions between Asia’s two largest powerbrokers, the United States and China. Their standoff has left Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a position to take the lead as the advocate for maintaining and even expanding a multilateral order in the region. His full-court press, at a time of trade wars and rising nationalism, is a litmus test for international rules and free markets. The Abe administration continues to […]

South Korean Lee Chun-sik, center, a 94-year-old victim of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before the end of World War II, arrives at the Supreme Court in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Japan’s relations with its neighbors have long been haunted by residual acrimony over atrocities and human rights abuses committed by the Empire of Japan during World War II. Politicians in China and South Korea maintain that Japan never properly atoned for its imperial transgressions, rankling Japanese officials. Those historical issues returned to center stage in recent weeks, due to a long-running case before the South Korean Supreme Court in which four Korean men sought damages from a major Japanese steelmaker that forced them to work without pay during World War II. On Oct. 30, the court ruled that the defendant, […]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, fifth from left, poses for a group photo with ASEAN leaders prior to the start of the ASEAN Plus China Summit in the ongoing 33rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, Singapore, Nov. 14, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region are in Singapore this week to kick off a series of summit meetings. In the absence of any major breakthroughs on trade or security, the focus is on the competition for influence between the United States and China—a narrative driven by dueling op-eds from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. “Our nation’s security and prosperity depend on this vital region, and the United States will continue to ensure that […]

The Financial Times Asia news editor, Victor Mallet, right, and Andy Chan, founder of the Hong Kong National Party, during a luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, Aug. 14, 2018 (AP photo).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. On Friday, Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was denied entry into Hong Kong, only a month after authorities there declined to renew his work visa, ostensibly in retaliation for Mallet’s involvement in hosting an event that featured a political activist who supports Hong Kong’s independence from China. In an interview with WPR, Cedric Alviani, the East Asia bureau chief for Reporters Without Borders, known as RSF, explains why journalists and observers are increasingly concerned about a push by Chinese […]

Ashraf Asim Jalali, second from left, leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan addresses a news conference with others regarding the acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 8, 2018 (AP photo by K.M. Chaudary).

Violent protests swept across Pakistan earlier this month in response to the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy. The multi-day protests, organized by the hard-line Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, or TLP, subsided only after the government agreed to prevent Bibi from leaving the country. In an interview with WPR, Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., discusses Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws and the impact of the Bibi case on […]

A Bhutanese child sits as adults in traditional costume stand in a queue to cast their votes for the nation’s parliamentary election outside a polling station at Rikhey, Bhutan, April 23, 2013 (AP photo by Anupam Nath).

The small Himalayan nation of Bhutan held national elections this fall for the third time since implementing multiparty democracy in 2008. As in the previous vote, in 2013, the incumbent party was ousted. Lotay Tshering, leader of the victorious Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa party, was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday. He will now seek to follow through on campaign promises to improve social services and tackle Bhutan’s growing income gap. On the foreign policy front, the new government is expected to try to reduce its reliance on neighboring India, even as China is looking to expand its influence in […]

Workers at the site of a Chinese-backed infrastructure project in Haripur, Pakistan, Dec. 22, 2017 (AP photo by Aqeel Ahmed).

At the opening of a huge new trade show in Shanghai on Monday, the inaugural China International Import Expo, Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to convince increasingly skeptical observers that China wants to “help friends from around the world to seize opportunities.” Xi is aiming to boost China’s trade involvement across the globe, even as the United States under President Donald Trump retreats into protectionism. Yet the notion that Beijing is a force for global prosperity is running into a wall of doubt as Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative—a trillion-dollar global infrastructure behemoth that launched in 2013 as “One […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Aug. 20, 2018 (Pool photo by How Hwee Young of European Pressphoto Agency via AP Images).

The shock election of 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad for a second stint as Malaysia’s prime minister last May generated a sense of unease in the corridors of power in Beijing. In tough rhetoric on the campaign trail, Mahathir had accused his predecessor, Najib Razak, of ceding Malaysia’s sovereignty to China by accepting billions of dollars in Chinese loans to finance large-scale infrastructure projects. Mahathir warned that Malaysia’s “freedom would be affected if we are going to owe such a large sum to any one country,” and he voiced fears that Najib appeared willing to “give up” the nation’s territorial claims in […]

North Korean students use computers in a classroom with portraits of the country’s later leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and his son Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall, Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 20, 2012 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

2018 has been the year of diplomacy for North Korea’s totalitarian government, with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un meeting with the leaders of South Korea, China and the United States, in addition to reportedly planning a visit to Russia. But behind this charm offensive, the regime in Pyongyang is continuing to develop its cyber warfare capabilities and conduct espionage campaigns against a wide range of targets. In an interview with WPR, Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, explains the motives and methods behind North Korea’s malign cyber activities and how the private sector is adapting […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony for the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Aly Song).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. President Xi Jinping’s opening speech to the first-ever China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Monday was loaded with promises and reassurances. Seeking to convince the world of China’s openness to foreign goods and services, Xi portrayed himself as a staunch advocate for globalization. The address was delivered to an audience that included political and business leaders from 172 countries, but it was just as notable for who was missing in Shanghai and what […]

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