Rusting mine machinery at the Panguna mine, central Bougainville, Oct. 2019 (Photo by Catherine Wilson).

ARAWA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea—In late October, under overcast skies, a reggae band played to a crowd of several hundred people of all ages at an outdoor stage in Arawa, an old mining town framed by rainforest-covered mountains in the center of Bougainville Island. The crowd gradually grew as people, laden with bags of fresh produce, walked over from the large fruit and vegetable market situated directly opposite. The scene could have been confused for a music festival, but the band was only a warm-up act for the day’s main event: a political rally in favor of independence for Bougainville, […]

Pro-democracy supporters celebrate after pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho lost his election in Hong Kong, Nov. 25, 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. Voters in Hong Kong came out in droves Sunday to hand pro-democracy candidates a resounding victory in local elections and deal the pro-Beijing camp a staggering defeat. Amid escalating protests and unrest, hopes were higher this year for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in the district council elections—a vote that the pro-Beijing establishment has dominated in recent years. But this landslide victory still caught Beijing off guard. With more than 70 percent voter turnout, 3 million Hong Kongers cast ballots […]

Workers peel shrimps at factory of Thai Union, a major seafood supplier, in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, Aug. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

In late October, the Trump administration announced the suspension of more than $1 billion in trade preferences for Thailand’s fishing industry due to rampant violations of human rights, particularly among migrant laborers who work in the sector. Thailand is one of the world’s largest seafood exporters, but its fishing industry has long been dogged by reports of slave labor, trafficking and other human rights abuses. While Thailand has made some progress in addressing these issues, it still has not implemented necessary reforms, says Steve Trent, founder and executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, a British watchdog organization. In an […]

Smoke rises during a protest after authorities raised gasoline prices, in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, Nov. 16, 2019 (AP photo).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Frederick Deknatel talk about the widespread popular protests in Iran, and what the regime’s violent crackdown on demonstrators reveals. They also discuss U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s visit to South Korea, where he pressed Seoul to massively increase its share of covering the costs of U.S. troops based in the country, and what the visit says about U.S. policy in Asia. 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 our uncompromising […]

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney, March 18, 2018 (pool photo by Mark Metcalfe of Getty via AP Images).

One of the enduring mysteries in recent years is what happened to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Somehow, some way, the woman known as “the Lady of Burma”—who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after she spent 15 years under house arrest in Myanmar for her democratic activism—seems to have lost her soul. Her drive to the top of Myanmar’s political hierarchy and quest to burnish her political legacy have been relentless, but also devastating for all those who once hailed her commitment to democracy and nonviolence. Since she became the de facto civilian head of Myanmar’s government following […]

A protest against overfishing organized by the World Wildlife Fund, Brussels, Belgium, May 13, 2013 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Since 2001, member states of the World Trade Organization have held on-and-off negotiations on an agreement to end harmful subsidies to fisheries that are contributing to the depletion of fish stocks around the world. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that in 2015, only two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks were being harvested at sustainable levels, down from 90 percent in 1974. Although the WTO is close to an agreement, it won’t meet a year-end deadline proposed by the U.N. In an email interview with WPR, Daniel Skerritt, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Fisheries Economics Research Unit […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo hold a joint press conference at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2019 (pool photo by Jung Yeon-je of AFP).

The Trump administration’s pandering to North Korea is finally reaching its limits, with implications beyond the Korean Peninsula. At a press briefing Sunday in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that the U.S. and South Korea were postponing a major and long-scheduled air exercise as “an act of good will” toward the North for the “advancement of peace.” This wasn’t the first time the Trump administration had cancelled or postponed readiness drills in South Korea, where the United States has long maintained a large military presence, recently estimated at 28,500 troops. But a pattern is […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping seen on a video wall in the western Chinese city of Kashgar, Nov. 8, 2018 (Photo by Simina Mistrenau for dpa 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. A recent report in The New York Times provides an unprecedented behind-the-curtain look at the mass detention of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang autonomous region of western China. Based on 403 pages of internal government documents that the paper obtained from a source described as “a member of the Chinese political establishment,” the report reveals the origins and implementation of China’s brutally repressive policies in Xinjiang. Human rights groups and foreign reporters have already exposed many […]

President Donald Trump meets with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Oct. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

If all had gone as planned this past weekend, President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping might have signed the “phase one” trade agreement that Trump billed as “the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country.” The two leaders had been scheduled to meet and discuss the deal in Santiago, Chile, during the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. But with street protests over economic policy and inequality rocking Chile, President Sebastian Pinera canceled the summit late last month, citing the “difficult circumstances” in the country and the priority of […]

Pro-democracy protesters gather outside the campus of the Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong, Nov. 13, 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. “Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown,” Hong Kong’s senior police superintendent, Kong Wing-cheung, told reporters Tuesday, amid a week of citywide paralysis due to strikes and heightened violence. Street clashes between police and protesters turned deadly last week, when a student protester died after falling from a parking garage amid a standoff with police. But the death, the first of a protester after months of antigovernment demonstrations, has only further inspired the pro-democracy […]

A man paddles a boat through a flooded village in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 31, 2018 (AP photo by Manh Thang).

Rising seas will endanger more than 300 million people in the next 30 years, according to a startling new study published in late October in the journal Nature Communications. By 2050, the impact of rising sea levels will be much more severe than previously thought, “threatening to all but erase some of the world’s great coastal cities” in low-lying areas from Egypt’s Nile Delta to southern and eastern China to Southeast Asia, as The New York Times put it. One of those cities is Ho Chi Minh City, the economic hub of Vietnam, which could be underwater along with the […]

Anti-government protesters try to cross the al-Shuhada bridge in central Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Frederick Deknatel talk about Iraq’s ongoing protests and what makes them different than those seen in previous years. They also discuss French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China and why the EU has such a hard time maintaining a united front in dealing with Beijing. 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 our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every day of […]

A bottle of fentanyl pharmaceuticals in Anyang city, central China’s Henan province, Nov. 12, 2018 (Photo by Chang Zhongzheng for Imaginechina via AP Images).

If someone had mentioned fentanyl to you 5 or 10 years ago, you might have scratched your head. But today, this synthetic opioid has become a household word in the worst sense imaginable. It’s cheap and easy to manufacture, while being 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. And it’s the most commonly identified drug in fatal overdoses in the United States. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Ben Westhoff, a journalist who spent the past few years chronicling the rise of fentanyl for a new book, […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Nov. 6, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. European leaders reportedly fear that the anticipated “phase one” trade deal between the United States and China could harm the interests of the European Union. “We don’t want Europe to be a collateral victim of a U.S.-China trade deal,” a French government official told Politico, as President Emmanuel Macron traveled to China this week for a two-day visit that included a stop in Shanghai for the China International Import Expo and a state visit to Beijing, where he signed […]