President Donald Trump, with members of his coronavirus task force, speaks during a news conference at the White House, Washington, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about global efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. They also discuss the ways in which governments’ responses—whether in China, Iran or the U.S.—have highlighted the tensions between political narratives and medical expertise in addressing the crisis. 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 the week, plus three more […]

Paramilitary policemen wear face masks as they march in formation near Tiananmen Square, Beijing, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

When Xi Jinping convened a teleconference meeting Sunday of 170,000 government and Communist Party officials around China to discuss the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, his message was both grim and resolute. China, he said, was facing “a crisis and a big test” with “the fastest spread” and “the widest scope” of any epidemic that has struck his country since the Communist Party took over in 1949. There had been, the Chinese leader admitted, “obvious shortcomings in the response.” But after saying that officials had to “learn lessons” from their mistakes, Xi nonetheless went on to boast that the emergency response had […]

A person reads a news report about Facebook on their mobile phone, Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec. 20, 2018 (AP photo).

When Singapore’s government enacted a law aimed at cracking down on fake news last fall, activists, academics and free speech advocates warned that it was a pretext by the ruling People’s Action Party to censor voices critical of the government. The Protection of Online Falsehoods and Manipulation law, or POFMA, allows the government to force social media platforms and users to issue corrections or remove any offending posts. Failure to comply can result in steep fines or even a jail sentence Since it was passed, the law has been invoked several times against opposition figures and media outlets critical of […]

Freed Hong Kong bookseller Lam Wing-kee stands next to a placard with a picture of Gui Minhai, Hong Kong, June 18, 2016 (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. A court in eastern China on Monday sentenced a Chinese-born Swedish bookseller to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing intelligence” to overseas parties. Gui Minhai’s case drew international attention to the lengths that Beijing is willing to go to silence criticism, even from abroad, while souring ties between China and Sweden. Gui was part-owner of Mighty Current Media, a Hong Kong-based publishing house known for its politically sensitive books about top Chinese Communist Party leaders. In 2015, he […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In what has been called a “protection racket” and a “blatant shakedown,” President Donald Trump is again pressuring South Korea to increase its contribution to the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country. The mafia-esque terminology employed by commentators seems apt given Trump’s shocking initial demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s share of American basing costs, from around $900 million per year to nearly $5 billion. While U.S. negotiators have reportedly climbed down from that position, the two sides have yet to find common ground after six rounds of negotiations, heightening fears of a lasting standoff that […]

A man prays inside the Minor Mosque in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Valeriy Melnikov for Sputnik via AP Images).

Last November, a gunfight at a security checkpoint along Tajikistan’s border with Uzbekistan left 15 masked assailants and five Tajik security forces dead—at least according to the government’s official account. The Tajik authorities immediately blamed the Islamic State for the attack, which it said originated from Afghanistan. Some journalists with longtime experience in the region remained cautious and skeptical. But other outlets and news agencies with far bigger readerships uncritically relayed the government’s narrative, while adding wildly exaggerated estimates of the number of Central Asians fighting with the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Only later, after the international media had turned […]

Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea, Feb. 24, 2020 (Newsis photo by Lee Jong-chul via AP Images).

The Wuhan coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19, reveals how vulnerable humanity remains to virulent pathogens. A century after the devastating Spanish flu pandemic, public health officials are scrambling to prevent this latest plague—which as of Feb. 24 had infected more than 79,000 people in at least 29 countries, most of them in China—from becoming another pandemic. As they do, it’s worth taking a step back to consider the stubborn staying power of infectious disease. Far from an anomaly, this outbreak is the shape of things to come. Humanity is currently experiencing its fourth great wave of infectious disease. The first […]

An amphibious assault vehicle carries American and Philippine troops during a joint military exercise in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, the Philippines, April 11, 2019 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Last week, after hinting at it for some time, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would terminate a key military pact with the United States. The Visiting Forces Agreement, in place for two decades, allows Washington to keep rotations of American soldiers in the Philippines. As Richard Heydarian has noted, the deal also provides a legal basis for the numerous annual joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippines forces. Tearing it up is the biggest break in bilateral relations at least since Manila forced Washington to give up its Philippine bases in 1991 and 1992. Some analysts, like Heydarian, go […]

A monkey sits on a billboard welcoming President Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Ahmedabad, India, Feb. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Ajit Solanki).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to India, and why his camaraderie with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been enough to overcome tensions between the world’s two biggest democracies. They also discuss the historical roots of India’s reluctance to join a U.S.-led coalition to contain China, even as defense cooperation between New Delhi and Washington has expanded over the past decade. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our […]

The American flag flies near the national emblem of China outside the Bayi Building in Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017 (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. When China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters from the country this week, it justified the move as a response to an op-ed in the Journal that Beijing deemed racist. But the day before the journalists’ press credentials were revoked, the State Department placed new restrictions on the activities of Chinese state media outlets in the United States. Under the surface of this apparent tit-for-tat is a growing unease in Washington over the lack of reciprocity in the U.S.-China […]

Afghan Army commandos attend their graduation ceremony at a training center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

By all accounts, the U.S. and the Taliban are poised to sign the initial stage of a peace deal in Afghanistan, and it may only be a matter of weeks before President Donald Trump takes the first serious step toward ending America’s longest war. But can a White House this mercurial really usher in a sustainable political settlement in Afghanistan? The short answer is no. Under the right circumstances, however, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his administration may be able to get the job done. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that Trump has signaled his approval for […]

People wearing masks attend a vigil for Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, in Hong Kong, Feb. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Within weeks of taking power in late 2012, Xi Jinping reportedly began giving versions of a closed-door speech in which he urged members of the Chinese Communist Party to reflect on the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse, 21 years earlier. The purpose was unmistakably cautionary, and Xi, whom many observers then still believed might lead China as a liberalizing reformer, brought his own theory to the case: “Why did the Soviet Communist Party lose its power?” Xi asked, according to Francois Bougon in his book, “Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping.” “One of the main reasons is that the […]

Visitors look at a display from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing, Sept. 26, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

One of the most contentious elements of the U.S.-China relationship today is over the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and its outsized role in the development of next-generation 5G telecommunications infrastructure around the world. The Trump administration argues that Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government make it a national security risk. Last summer, the Commerce Department added Huawei to a blacklist that prevents American companies from doing business with it, although it has subsequently granted some limited reprieves. U.S. officials have urged other countries to avoid Huawei as well, but in a blow to those efforts, the United Kingdom recently […]

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center, attends a meeting with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Jan. 18, 2020 (Photo by Nyein Chan Naing for European Pressphoto Agency 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 death of a Chinese doctor who was silenced by authorities for sounding the alarm about the coronavirus has triggered a level of public anger toward the government that is rare in China. After he tried to warn of an outbreak in December, Li Wenliang succumbed to the virus last week. The fierce public outcry over his death raises the possibility that the epidemic could have a lasting impact on the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party and its […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, right, and president of the People’s Justice Party, Anwar Ibrahim, during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 1, 2018 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Malaysia’s veteran 94-year-old prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, returned to power in May 2018 after promising voters that his archfoe-turned-ally, Anwar Ibrahim, would succeed him partway through his five-year term. Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan coalition agreed on the succession plan ahead of its upset victory over Najib Razak’s scandal-plagued government in the 2018 elections. Mahathir himself said shortly after being sworn in that he would lead for an “initial stage, lasting one or two years,” before stepping down. Yet as the two-year mark approaches, no date has been set for that handover and calls for a transition are growing louder. Mahathir’s proposed […]

President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper with a headline that reads “Trump acquitted” during an event in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Feb. 6, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the political and economic impact of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, and the challenge of addressing transnational threats at a time when securing borders has become such a hot-button issue around the world. They also discuss the implications of President Donald Trump’s impeachment and Senate acquittal for America’s democracy-promotion credentials abroad. 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 […]

Commuters wearing masks at a metro station in Taipei, Taiwan, which has recorded 13 cases of coronavirus, Jan. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

The fast-spreading new coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan is, at its most immediate level, a public health crisis. But it is also much more than that. As governments struggle to contain the epidemic, the virus is already having economic ramifications in China and around the world. That’s the second level of its impact. And as the epidemic threatens to become a pandemic, and the speed of the contagion exceeds the number of cases of the 2003 SARS outbreak, there is a third level of consequences that has received far less attention: This coronavirus could leave a […]

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