U.S. President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

America’s foreign policy establishment is at war with itself over the shape of the country’s approach toward a steadily rising China. For now, it is only an epistolary war. But as the debate deepens, its outcome will go far toward deciding how the United States responds to its most serious global rival for economic and geopolitical power for decades ahead. Among a slew of recent op-eds and policy papers about how Washington should manage the perceived challenge that China represents, two statements stand out as poles in the debate and, as such, deserve extended consideration. The first, which appeared in […]

Shohrat Zakir, chairman of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, speaks during a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing, July 30, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. On Tuesday, Chinese officials abruptly announced that most of the Uighur Muslims held in detention camps in the country’s western Xinjiang region had been released. The claim—which was not supported by any evidence and almost immediately challenged by inmates’ relatives, foreign governments and human rights groups—marks another step in China’s efforts to deflect international criticism of its repressive policies in Xinjiang, where at least 1 million Uighurs are believed to be incarcerated. Describing the detention facilities as “education and […]

South Korean students burn a banner of a Japanese rising sun flag and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a rally denouncing the Japanese government’s trade restrictions, Seoul, July 29, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Japan and South Korea are in the midst of a nasty diplomatic dispute, and Japan is using trade restrictions as a weapon to try and resolve it. Beyond the potential threats to American and regional geopolitical interests if the two countries remain at loggerheads, the nature of the spat is also disturbing. Japan’s use of trade restrictions to force South Korea to back down, while publicly justifying them as necessary for national security reasons, echoes U.S. President Donald Trump’s cavalier approach to trade rules and alliance relations. If the dispute is not resolved quickly, it could complicate efforts to deal […]

U.S. President Donald Trump, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, after signing an executive order to increase sanctions on Iran, at the White House, Washington, June 24, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. On July 18, in the Trump administration’s first punitive measure since Iran announced earlier this month that it would exceed the levels of enriched uranium permitted under the international nuclear deal, the United States expanded sanctions against Tehran to include a network of international companies it said were linked to procuring materials for Iran’s nuclear program. In announcing the sanctions, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department was “taking action to shut down an Iranian nuclear procurement network that leverages Chinese- and Belgium-based front companies […]

President Donald Trump during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office of the White House, July 22, 2019, Washington (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoyed a warm visit to Washington this week, with his hosts, from President Donald Trump to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Lindsey Graham, all affirming the importance in particular of cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan in Afghanistan. For a Pakistani government that viewed Khan’s visit as an opportunity to reset a relationship that suffered immensely during the early months of the Trump administration, it was an encouraging sign. The bilateral relationship has indeed come a long way since 2017 and 2018, when Trump threatened a harder line on Pakistan, tweeted angrily about […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Jan. 28, 2019. (Photo by the Afghan Presidential Palace, via AP)

If there’s still any question about whether President Donald Trump will actually deliver on his promises to “get out” of Afghanistan, the answer seems simple after this week. No, Trump won’t, not while he remains convinced that he could win the war there in 10 days by killing 10 million people and wiping Afghanistan “off the face of the earth.” Trump’s statement, made in a stomach-churning Oval Office meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on July 22, may have been shocking, but it wasn’t all that surprising. After 19 years at war, the bumbling that has passed for U.S. […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a press conference at the Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Tokyo, July 22, 2019 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

Unlike the torrid, slow-burning drama of Brexit in the United Kingdom or the head-spinning tweets that emanate daily from the Trump White House, politics in Japan has become staid and predictable. That was the unavoidable conclusion from last weekend, when Japanese voters went to the polls to elect members of the upper house of the Diet, the country’s legislature. As expected, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition retained its comfortable majority in the 245-seat House of Councillors, although it fell short of the two-thirds supermajority required to achieve Abe’s long-held goal of revising Japan’s constitution. The final tally showed Abe’s […]

A Chinese Coast Guard ship is seen west of the Philippines, in the South China Sea, May 14, 2019 (Philippine Coast Guard photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Since early July, Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have been engaged in a tense standoff over natural gas resources in waters off the coast of southern Vietnam. The ongoing confrontation is just one incident in a pattern of increasingly assertive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, and while no shots have been fired so far, it could provoke anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam. The South China Morning Post reported on July 12 that six “heavily armed” coast guard vessels—two Chinese […]

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a session at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Weeks after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in the U.S.-China trade war on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, negotiations remain on pause, and speculation is growing that neither side is particularly eager for a deal. Last week, reports emerged that American and Japanese negotiators are intensifying efforts to strike a smaller trade deal that Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could sign during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. The news hardly looks like a coincidence. Trump is desperate for a trade deal […]

The aftermath of the twin suicide bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines, Jan. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Nickee Butlangan).

Midday on June 28, a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint outside a military camp in the town of Indanan, on the restive southern Philippine island of Sulu. Moments later, a second bomb exploded. The attack killed three Philippine soldiers and three civilians, as well as the two bombers. The local military commander quickly blamed an ISIS-affiliated faction of Abu Sayyaf, the extremist group that has been active in the southern Philippines for decades. Within hours, the Islamic State released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, marking the second time this year it has linked itself to a twin suicide […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, March 20, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block President Donald Trump’s effort to bypass Congress and complete major arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The resolution will almost certainly be vetoed by Trump, but it nonetheless demonstrates an emerging consensus in Washington on the need to reevaluate close U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies in the wake of human rights abuses like the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. How durable might this shift be? And how else is the U.S. foreign policy consensus evolving in the Trump era? In this week’s […]

South Korean small and medium-sized business owners stage a rally calling for a boycott of Japanese products in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, July 15, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

As China’s trade war with the United States casts a pall over the global economy, a separate dispute between two of China’s neighbors—and two American allies—is adding to the gloomy outlook. Earlier this month, Japan curbed exports to South Korea of three materials that are necessary for the production of semiconductors and display screens, threatening to upend South Korea’s technology industry and throw a wrench into complex global supply chains for smartphones, televisions and other popular consumer devices. The move is only the latest escalation in an ongoing standoff, rooted in deep historical grievances, that has regional observers and officials […]

A man walks past China’s central bank, or the People’s Bank of China, in Beijing, March 10, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Economic data published Monday revealed China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace since at least 1992, when modern record-keeping for quarterly growth began. Official figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed the economy grew 6.2 percent between April and June, compared with a year earlier. Though it still looks like a brisk pace, it represents a slowdown for China, where the previous quarter’s growth rate was 6.4 percent. A slump in trade was a main reason for […]

President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 15, 2019 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

During the Cold War, American policymakers frequently pushed nonaligned countries to take sides. The Central Intelligence Agency fomented coups against governments that flirted with communism and the Soviet Union, or that just drifted too far to the left for comfort. The State Department threatened to cut aid flows to countries that voted too often against U.S. priorities at the United Nations. Could sub-Saharan Africa find itself caught in the middle again if a cold war with China breaks out? In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last December, President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a new […]

Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor-Viorel Melescanu, center, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, second left, and other delegates at an EU-ASEAN meeting in Brussels, Jan. 21, 2019 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

In the early years of this century, there were suggestions that the European Union could play the role of a “quiet superpower,” and even speculation that Brussels might become a hegemonic rival to the United States. Now, with the rise of China and talk of a new Cold War brewing between Washington and Beijing, the EU’s place in the world is looking dramatically less imposing. For some experts and observers, the EU continues to be a “civilian power,” given its nonmilitary capabilities, or a “normative power,” referring to its historical role in helping to shape global norms on human rights […]

Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest at Unchiprang refugee camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Dar Yasin).

Last month, the United Nations released a blistering report about its own recent track record in Myanmar, the source of one of the world’s worst refugee crises. Written by an independent investigator but commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the report documented the “systemic failure” by U.N. agencies in dealing with the humanitarian suffering caused by Myanmar’s state crackdown on minority Rohingya Muslims. That failure continued even as abuses escalated over the past five years, ultimately resulting in such atrocities that the U.N.’s own fact-finding mission has called for Myanmar’s top military leaders to be investigated on charges of genocide […]

Smoke rises from a garbage incineration plant in Wuhan, China, Jan. 9, 2015 (Photo by Dong Mu for Imaginechina via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The central Chinese city of Wuhan put a garbage-burning power plant on hold this week after days of protests against the project. Following a police crackdown, local officials, apparently caught off guard by the protests, have pledged to consult with residents before moving forward. The demonstrations highlight the recurring failure of local authorities in China to provide transparency and address safety and environmental concerns over government projects. Waste-to-energy incineration plants like the one proposed in Wuhan are especially controversial. […]

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