Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in central China’s Shanxi Province, Nov. 28, 2019 (AP photo by Sam McNeil).

2020 dawns with the multilateral system in crisis. The next 12 months will determine whether the world is capable of controlling nuclear proliferation, arresting runaway climate change and restoring faith in the United Nations. Some pivotal events will shape success or failure in the coming year. Preserving the Nuclear Regime. Of the several potential catastrophic risks confronting humanity, the specter of nuclear war remains the most terrifying. Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the world has escaped the horror of nuclear weapons. Much of the credit, beyond deterrence and plain dumb luck, goes to the Treaty on […]

A protester flashes the victory sign overlooking a huge anti-government rally in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Just like in 2017 and 2018, many of the most important stories around the world in 2019 were drowned out by the latest tweet, tirade or tantrum from U.S. President Donald Trump. In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Freddy Deknatel and Elliot Waldman talk about some of the big under-covered trends of the year, from the deterioration of U.S. alliances in East Asia to the fate of protest movements that rocked the Middle East. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter […]

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, and his wife Iriana, walk with his new Cabinet ministers and their spouses after the swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

Two months into his second term, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, has announced some bold new economic plans. He has vowed to push through major legislation on deregulation—modeled on the Trump administration’s agenda in Washington—and launch a staggering number of new infrastructure projects. It is all part of a push to attract foreign investment, which has provoked backlashes in Indonesia before, but which he said “no one should be allergic to” in a speech after winning reelection. Whether Jokowi can implement this economic agenda remains unclear. He has built a vast, 50-member Cabinet, including vice ministers, from […]

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).

Trade wars, territorial disputes, Donald Trump—those are just a few of the topics that attracted the interests of WPR readers in 2019. Many other stories overshadowed by the biggest international news were also on our radar, as always, and they found a dedicated audience online. In original reporting and analysis, we looked for the trend lines behind the headlines, from palace intrigue in Thailand to political reconciliation in the Horn of Africa. The list below of our most-read articles of the year is based on unique page views. What’s in store for 2020? Keep following and subscribing to WPR. 1. […]

U.S. Army soldiers hike past burning rubbish in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2011 (AP photo by David Goldman).

If there is one big takeaway from The Washington Post’s publication of thousands of pages of documents detailing the extent of policy failures in Afghanistan, it is the great lengths that it takes to wake the American public up to the costs of pursuing a war without a strategy. As The Post’s examination of interviews produced as part of a wide-ranging and years-long review of U.S. policy by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, clearly shows, few officials charged with leading the war effort were willing to openly admit that most of what […]

COP25 party members talk ahead of the closing plenary in Madrid, Dec. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up Sunday in Madrid, after nearly two weeks of wrangling. Despite a two-day extension that made this the longest round of U.N. climate talks ever, the meeting was a massive failure. Instead of setting more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, negotiators went home mostly empty-handed, having punted the most difficult climate-related questions to next year’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation & finance to tackle the climate crisis,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared in a tweet Sunday. The […]

A worker loads imported goods on a truck at a distribution company outside the container port in Qingdao, China, Oct. 14, 2019 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

President Donald Trump’s trade policy made a lot of headlines in 2019, particularly his trade war with China and his constant threats to impose tariffs on close U.S. partners and allies. But while America under Trump heads in a protectionist direction, 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific are putting the finishing touches on the world’s largest free trade area, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. RCEP, as the deal is known, is just one sign that the U.S. is increasingly “on the outside looking in” when it comes to multilateral trade agreements, according to former U.S. trade negotiator Wendy Cutler. […]

A computer screen shows images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The U.S. and China agreed to a long-anticipated “phase one” trade deal last Friday, pausing for now a trade war that has weighed down the global economy for more than a year. The agreement offers relief to both sides, but solutions to the deeper economic grievances that U.S. officials and businesses have long harbored toward China seem as far off as ever. Under the deal, which won’t be signed until January, the U.S. will reduce its tariffs on Chinese […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the BRICS summit at the Itamaraty palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Natural gas started flowing from Russia to China for the first time on Dec. 2 when Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, officially launched the initial phase of a huge new pipeline known as the Power of Siberia. Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, claims it is expected to generate $400 billion in revenue—its largest export contract ever. The potentially lucrative pipeline also has clear geopolitical undertones, accelerating the strategic entente between the world’s second-largest gas producer and Asia’s biggest economy at a time when both Russia and China are pushing back against the global influence of the […]

Sri Lanka's new president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, greets his brother Mahinda after appointing him prime minister at the presidential secretariat in Colombo, Nov. 21, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Sri Lanka has a tendency to flow in and out of global headlines in one of two ways. After a decades-long civil war between the government and ethnic Tamil separatists ended in 2009, it has periodically burst into the news, usually as a result of a paroxysm of violence. The rest of the time, during periods of calm, Sri Lanka datelines tend to arrive with glossy stories about tourism to an island nation rich in natural beauty. Which Sri Lanka appears in headlines in the years to come will depend to a large degree on the ramifications of the recent […]

A man uses his smartphone as he stands near a billboard for Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Oct. 31, 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. The Financial Times reported this week that China has ordered “all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years.” The move, part of China’s broader push to reduce its reliance on U.S. technology, is a significant step toward the decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. The Communist Party directive was issued earlier this year. It is “the first publicly known instruction with specific targets given to Chinese buyers to switch to […]

People stroll in a park along the Caspian Sea in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, Sept. 17, 2019 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

Azerbaijan’s parliament voted to dissolve itself last week, triggering legislative elections on Feb. 9. Some observers speculate that the move sets the stage for President Ilham Aliyev to eventually hand over power to his wife, First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva. She has assumed a much higher profile on policy issues in the past few years, most recently highlighted by a six-day solo diplomatic mission to Moscow in late November. It is unclear why Aliyev would want to transfer power, but he has been in office for more than 15 years, and the opposition has peddled unsubstantiated rumors about his health. […]

The new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, addresses the media during a news conference in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

Rafael Grossi, a veteran Argentine diplomat, took the helm of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Dec. 3, promising to bring renewed vigor and a higher profile to the world’s nuclear watchdog after the illness and death of his predecessor, Yukiya Amano of Japan. Grossi, who has previously served as Argentina’s permanent representative to the IAEA and the agency’s effective chief of staff, most recently has been heading preparations for next year’s review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In a fall contest that stretched over several rounds, Grossi bested Romanian diplomat Cornel Feruta and two other competitors to win […]

A police officer watches over migrant workers as they wait for shuttle buses to take them back to their dormitories, Singapore, Feb. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Joseph Nair).

Amid a growing perception that immigrants are taking away jobs and eroding the city-state's cultural identity, immigration to Singapore has emerged as a hot-button political issue. Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series on immigration and integration policy around the world. Between 300 and 400 people organized a rare public rally in Singapore last month to protest the government’s immigration policies, which have historically been welcoming. But many Singaporeans blame immigrants, who make up 40 percent of the city-state’s population, for driving down wages and raising the cost of living. In an email interview with WPR, Leong […]

An aerial view of the Qingbaijiang Railway Port, where freight trains travel between China and Europe, in Chengdu city, Sichuan province, China, April 30, 2019 (Imaginechina photo by Yi Fang via AP Images).

Seven years into a sweeping and costly effort to rebuild Asia with itself at the center, China has a publicity problem with its Belt and Road Initiative. What has become the guiding macroeconomic centerpiece of Chinese foreign policy is in many ways stranded on shaky ground. Some of the Belt and Road Initiative’s trouble is superficial, like its unwieldy name, which had to be rebranded from its earlier form, “One Belt, One Road,” that itself was an abbreviation for two interrelated investment strategies called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. But fundamentally, Beijing’s problems […]

A display for 5G services from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

In 2003, just as I was arriving in China as a correspondent for The New York Times, tectonic changes were coming to the worlds of internet commerce, search and social media. But their rumblings were so deep beneath the surface that few could have predicted their long-term consequences. That year, Alibaba, a four-year-old web company that had started out of an apartment in Hangzhou, fended off an ambitious push by eBay into China’s e-commerce market by eliminating merchant fees for Taobao, Alibaba’s own e-commerce platform, even as it was losing money. The move helped put Alibaba on the road to […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Vice Premier Liu He attend a meeting with delegates from the 2019 New Economy Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 22, 2019 (pool photo by Jason Lee of Reuters 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. As U.S. and Chinese negotiators scramble to finalize a “phase one” trade agreement, uncertainty is rising over whether a deal can actually be reached. Beijing has responded angrily to recently passed legislation in the U.S. that targets China for human rights violations, and President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that he could wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election to complete a trade deal with China. Some observers on both sides of the Pacific see these developments as impediments […]