Members of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force aim their rifles towards the sky during a rehearsal ahead of a memorial ceremony commemorating those who died during World War II, as they sail past the Sulu Sea, June 28, 2019 (AP photo by Emily Wang).

In the wake of World War II, the U.S. helped Japan draft a new constitution that forever renounced the use of military force as a means of settling international disputes. Japan has nonetheless maintained a well-equipped military for the purposes of self-defense, even while largely relying on the security umbrella provided by U.S. forces in the region. In a book that came out in April, Sheila Smith, the senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, makes a compelling case that Tokyo is now reevaluating that security posture in response to a militarily ascendant China, a nuclear […]

Protesters use bamboo sticks as they face riot police during a protest in Hong Kong, Aug. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

One of the first things that clinched my interest in China—and this will inevitably date myself—was its fierce and utterly unique political language, the stuff of endless campaigns of denunciation and ideological warfare. Think the bloodcurdling epithets used to attack enemies during the late Mao period, like “running dog of imperialism” or “capitalist roader,” and, when that long era finally wound to a close, “gang of four.” Language like this has almost entirely disappeared from the rhetorical lexicon of the Chinese state. But there is one important form of it that has remained on the shelf, in two words found […]

Thai bomb squad officers examine the wreckage of a car after an explosion outside a hotel in Pattani province, southern Thailand, Aug. 24, 2016 (AP photo by Sumeth Panpetch).

At the height of the morning rush hour on Aug. 2, as Bangkok hosted foreign dignitaries attending a high-profile regional security summit, six small bombs exploded across the city, injuring four people. Thai police linked the blasts to southern insurgents, whose leaders denied responsibility. Two weeks later, reports emerged that the main rebel group leading that insurgency, the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or BRN, had met Thai government officials for secret talks. The rebels reportedly set out their demands for resuming formal peace negotiations, including “the release of all people detained over suspected links to the insurgency and a transparent investigation […]

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, holds a news conference with the leaders of Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, in Kolonia, Micronesia, Aug. 5, 2019 (pool photo by Jonathan Ernst of Reuters via AP Images).

Earlier this month, Mike Pompeo became the first American secretary of state to visit the Federated States of Micronesia, where he announced that Washington had begun negotiations to renew important security pacts that it maintains with several Pacific island nations. These agreements, known as Compacts of Free Association, grant the U.S. exclusive military access to the land, air and sea routes of Micronesia, as well as Palau and the Marshall Islands. China has recently tried to deepen its economic and diplomatic ties with these countries, which together are known as the Freely Associated States. In an email interview, Michael S. […]

The Yumo railway, which will connect Laos to China, under construction in Yunnnan province, China, May 26, 2019 (TPG photo via AP Images).

Is Laos on the edge of an economic boom, or a bust? Six of the 11 countries in Southeast Asia have an external debt higher than the developing world average of 26 percent of gross national income, according to a report last year by FT Confidential Research, an independent research service from the Financial Times. Laos was the worst offender, with an external debt of 93.1 percent of its GNI. Laos was also weakest when it came to its ability to repay loans. Its ratio of external debt to exports, an important indicator, was 327.9 percent. Foreign currency reserves are […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP photo by Evgenia Novozhenina).

Oct. 1 will mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. But even as they make plans to celebrate the country’s anniversary, Communist Party leaders face several big challenges: ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, an economic slowdown that is being exacerbated by a damaging trade war with the United States, and mounting international criticism over its abhorrent human rights record. Will officials in Beijing, starting with President Xi Jinping, make any efforts to change the country’s political, economic or human rights-related trajectories? And what other domestic and external challenges will affect China’s developmental path? For […]

Pro-China supporters wave a Chinese national flag to support police during a rally in Hong Kong, Aug. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.Facebook and Twitter took unprecedented action against China on Monday, taking down Chinese government-linked accounts that were being used to sow political discord in Hong Kong and turn global public opinion against anti-government protesters there. It was the first time either social media company had blamed the Chinese government for running disinformation operations. Twitter suspended more than 200,000 accounts that it suspected of being tied to a Chinese government-led influence operation. Following reports that Twitter and Facebook were promoting harmful […]

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, right, talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, in Beijing, Feb. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Edward Alden is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott this week. The trade war between the United States and China has entered a new and dangerous phase. Both countries have moved from using tariffs and other trade sanctions in a reasonably strategic fashion in order to try and strengthen their negotiating position into a series of punitive measures designed to inflict significant economic harm on the other. As markets signaled last week, with stocks taking a roller coaster ride and bond yields plunging, the risks of an unconstrained economic conflict have risen substantially. Like all wars, […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a toast at a summit on the country’s Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing, April 26, 2019 (Photo for Kyodo via AP Images).

Of the many paradoxes surrounding China today, the trajectory of its massive Belt and Road Initiative has become one of the most puzzling. Even as the expansive plan has become essentially synonymous with Chinese foreign policy in general, it remains increasingly difficult to nail down with precision what, exactly, it is. The Belt and Road Initiative today is most readily identifiable as an infrastructure development program, since media coverage tends to focus on flagship projects like ports and power plants, as well as the fallout when some of them go awry. But while Chinese Communist Party leaders hail the scheme […]

Explore how U.S.-China relations have evolved in the Trump era. Download your FREE copy of U.S.-China Rivalry in the Trump Era today. Integrating China into the liberal trade order was expected to have a moderating effect on Beijing. Instead, under President Xi Jinping, China has asserted its military control over the South China Sea and cracked down on domestic dissent, all while continuing to use unfair trade practices to boost its economy. Download U.S.-China Rivalry in the Trump Era today to take a deeper look the relationship, the Trump administration’s policy, and a glimpse at what the future may hold. […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

It’s too early to say what India’s breach of the status quo in Kashmir will mean for long-term stability in South Asia. There are, of course, many fears of where revoking the semiautonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir could lead—from another retaliatory insurgency by militants in Kashmir backed by Pakistan, or worse still a destabilizing war between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Ultimately, though, it is China—not India or Pakistan—that will likely tip the balance in a region teetering yet again on the brink. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party view downgrading Kashmir’s status from […]

Chinese police officers walk by a U.S. flag on an embassy car outside a hotel in Shanghai, July 30, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Frederick Deknatel and Laura Weiss talk about President Donald Trump’s decision to postpone a new round of tariffs on China, and what it says about his subordination of U.S. foreign policy to the needs of his reelection campaign. They also discussed the challenges facing newly elected Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s faltering attempt to force new elections in Italy. 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 […]

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, speaks at a seminar on the sidelines of the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, June 8, 2019 (pool photo by Kiyoshi Ota via AP Images).

Christine Lagarde took over the top spot at the International Monetary Fund eight years ago in the midst of two crises. The first was an internal crisis of leadership: Her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Khan, had just been forced to step down amid sexual assault allegations, only four years into his tenure. The second crisis was external: Europe’s economy was reeling after an initial bailout of Greece hadn’t resolved its debt crisis and political tensions between Athens and Brussels threatened to upend any future deal. Now, Lagarde is leaving the fund to become the likely next chair of the European Central Bank. […]

Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s No. 2 leader, at a hearing of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 16, 2018 (Photo provided by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia via AP Images).

He died in a hospital in Phnom Penh, 93 years-old and still portraying himself as a Cambodian hero. Nuon Chea was the senior-most surviving member of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, having served as Brother No. 2, as he was known, under its leader Pol Pot. He was widely seen as one of the major planners of the regime’s rapid, brutal overhaul of Cambodian society from 1975 to 1979, which included emptying Phnom Penh of citizens, murdering a sizable portion of the population, and torturing and killing some 14,000 people at an infamous prison called Tuol Sleng. Nuon Chea was also […]

Myanmar military officers march during a parade to mark the 74th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2019 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

Last week, the United Nations’ independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar released a new report that documents the economic interests of the Myanmar military and the global network of countries and companies that are financing the country’s genocidal “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority. The report urged U.N. member states to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar and financial sanctions on the country’s military-owned companies. But according to David Scott Mathieson, a Yangon-based independent analyst who focuses on a range of human rights, conflict and peace issues in Myanmar, the mission’s findings are unlikely to significantly alter […]

Police officers take part in a drill in Shenzhen city, Guangdong province, China, August 6, 2019 (ImagineChina photo via AP Images).

A drive to the airport in Shanghai from an outlying suburb earlier this week revealed an entirely new city to me. Brand new high-rise apartments rose in thick clusters in the near distance, as new access roads zigged, zagged and looped around new train and subway stations. Mine was not the usual surprise of newcomers to this city, but rather that of someone who had lived there for six years, up until 2009. Shanghai was already plenty big and new and physically impressive then. But to look at the way entirely new zones—from Pudong in the east to the southwestern […]

A protester shows a sign to stranded travelers during a demonstration at the airport in Hong Kong, Aug. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. “After months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted.” The contrite message, part of a lengthy apology sent to reporters Wednesday and signed “from Hong Kong protesters seeking democracy and freedom,” came after four days of demonstrations at Hong Kong International Airport that caused hundreds of flight cancellations and several violent incidents. The protests were largely peaceful until Tuesday, when scuffles broke out between passengers and demonstrators, who had blocked the departure gates. Later that evening, protesters […]

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