A couple walks through a popular shopping mall in Beijing, April 13, 2020 (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. China’s nearly half-century-long run of growth came to a screeching halt earlier this month, as data released by the Chinese government revealed that its once-booming economy shrank year-on-year during the first three months of 2020. It was one of the most remarkable signs of the destruction inflicted on the global economy during the COVID-19 pandemic: an end to an economic boom that had weathered calamities like the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the SARS epidemic of 2003 […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The relationship between the United States and China has waxed and waned over the years, but it has felt more like a roller coaster ride under President Donald Trump. China-bashing was a centerpiece of his election campaign, yet once in office, Trump hailed his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, saying they had “great chemistry.” More than two years later, after Trump had launched his damaging trade war with China and with no deal to resolve it in sight, Trump called Xi an enemy and “ordered” American firms to leave China. By January of […]

People watch a news program about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, April 21, 2020 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Steven Metz is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. On April 15, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to make his annual visit to Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang to celebrate the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who is interred there. In North Korea’s dynastic cult of personality, it was a shocking break from tradition, and sparked reports that Kim had undergone major heart surgery and might even be near death. The secretiveness of the North Korean regime always makes it difficult to know exactly what is going on inside the country or […]

A protester waves the Israeli national flag during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, Israel, April 19, 2020 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the deal struck between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nemesis over the past year, the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz, to form an emergency government. Gantz justified his decision to break his repeated promises to never form a government with Netanyahu by the need for national unity to tackle the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Judah, Elliot and Prachi also discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on recent elections in South Korea and the U.S., as well as its broader implications for […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends the ASEAN Plus Three virtual summit at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, April 14, 2020 (Blue House photo via AP Images).

Just six months ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was stuck in a downward spiral. His scandal-plagued justice minister had resigned after only five weeks on the job, prompting Moon to issue a public apology. The economy was sputtering, relations with neighboring Japan were at rock bottom, and Moon’s signature policy of détente with North Korea was going nowhere. In October, his approval ratings sank to a historically low 39 percent. It took nothing less than an unprecedented public health crisis to reverse Moon’s fortunes. Widespread approval of his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic led South Korean voters to […]

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Before the coronavirus struck China, the people of Hong Kong had launched a massive push to protect the territory’s partial independence from Beijing. Giant protests had filled Hong Kong’s streets for months last year, as pro-democracy activists inspired millions of residents to join in the demonstrations. But suddenly, everything changed. The outbreak started in Wuhan, then China shut down and the world followed suit. The coronavirus crisis seemed to do for the Chinese regime what months of threats and intimidation had failed to: halt the protests in Hong Kong. Now, with the rest of the world distracted and China reopening […]

Police test facial recognition technology in London, Dec. 17, 2018 (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor for Press Association via AP Images).

The growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in authoritarian countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which use it to monitor activists and suppress dissent, has raised increasing alarm among human rights advocates. Perhaps the most egregious example is in China, where the government has used facial recognition technology to racially profile Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that is concentrated in Xinjiang province, and forcibly lock them up in internment camps. But authoritarian countries are not alone: This technology is now being harnessed for law enforcement and surveillance purposes in many democracies. Last month, for example, India’s government […]

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at a White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, April 20, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

As a teenager, I watched in confusion as my father, a successful chest surgeon who specialized in infant care, went back to school to gain an advanced degree in public health. This required easing himself out of a job that had always impressed me with its heroics, often literally saving a life or two each week. When my father patiently explained the rationale, I gradually came to not only accept it but admire it, for its logic and even nobility. No matter how hard he worked, in the operating room he could only help a few people each week. But […]

A security guard stands next to shuttered shops in Beijing, China, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to mount, so does the economic wreckage. Millions more people are joining the already swollen ranks of the unemployed this week, and oil prices continued their historic rout. China’s GDP contracted for the first time in nearly half a century during the first three months of this year, and the International Monetary Fund predicts that the global economy will shrink by around 3 percent in 2020. Of course, governments and central banks around the world are doing whatever they can to contain the fallout. But will it be enough? For […]

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Martin Lee, second right, leaves a police station in Hong Kong, April 18, 2020 (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. Hong Kong police arrested 15 prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of illegal assembly last weekend, the biggest crackdown on the territory’s protest movement since anti-government demonstrations erupted last year. Among the detained was 81-year-old Martin Lee, a major architect of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement who helped found the Democratic Party, the third-largest party in the Legislative Council. Lee is often called the “Father of Democracy” in Hong Kong and helped draft the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Enacted in […]

Voters line up to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election, Milwaukee, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Morry Gash).

If the April 7 Democratic presidential primary vote in Wisconsin was a test of American democracy’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic, then by many accounts, it failed. The lead-up to the election was marred by last-minute partisan wrangling and poor communication with the public. Thousands of absentee ballots went missing or undelivered. And when people showed up to vote, they encountered crowded, under-resourced and under-sanitized polling stations. The state’s leaders have been widely condemned for forcing voters to choose between their health and their democratic rights. Wisconsin’s example shows that without proper preparation, voters across the country could face […]

A motorcycle taxi driver wearing a face mask waits for customers in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

Southeast Asian countries, already struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, are bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 cases. Most countries in the region, with the exception of Singapore and Vietnam, had sluggish initial responses to the virus. Most also are poor or middle-income states, which lack public health systems that can effectively track and trace coronavirus patients. Malaysia now has more than 5,000 known COVID-19 cases, although the true number is probably much higher, while the Philippines and Indonesia also have more than 5,000 known cases. With minimal testing in Indonesia, the region’s most populous country, […]

A property in Hampstead, north London, which is the home of Kazakh national Nurali Aliyev and is the subject of an Unexplained Wealth Order, March 12, 2020 (Photo by Ben Cawthra for Sipa via AP Images).

The United Kingdom has long been infamous as a money-laundering haven, with hundreds of billions of dollars in dirty money passing through its financial system just in recent years. In 2017, the British government decided to deal with all this dirty money by enacting the Unexplained Wealth Orders, a series of regulations allowing authorities to identify and seize assets related to potential corruption and money-laundering cases. But in their three years of existence, the government has pursued a grand total of just one case under the orders, against the wife of a prominent former banker from Azerbaijan, who had fallen […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping during the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Photo by Lintao Zhang for Getty Images via AP).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Governments across Africa lodged protests against Beijing this week after disturbing reports emerged from China, where Africans have been subjected to a xenophobic, racist campaign of harassment and mistreatment that is ostensibly aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. Some African residents in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou said they have been evicted from their apartments and barred from hotels and restaurants. Others reported being forced to self-quarantine and submit to coronavirus tests regardless of symptoms or […]

A subway passenger holds up a green code on their phone, which allows a person to travel freely, in Wuhan, China, April 1, 2020 (AP photo by Olivia Zhang).

Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. In a video uploaded to Twitter on March 16, Carol Yin talked through a white face mask as she explained to the camera what it was like to travel in a country that has turned cell phones into weapons to fight COVID-19. Yin, a Shanghai-based podcaster, described her trip to the nearby city of Wuxi, outside Shanghai, shedding light on how integral a phone’s location data has become […]

A monitor shows World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in Osaka, Japan, March 26, 2020 (Photo by Taketo Oishi for the Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

Jean Palou of the Chilean daily El Mercurio interviewed WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, by email last week for an article on the prospects for multilateralism and global governance institutions during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Grunstein outlined the challenges to the international system that predated the pandemic; why global governance still matters, even if it has been hampered; and the major questions going forward as the next phase of this global crisis unfolds. The following is the full transcript. El Mercurio: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the coronavirus pandemic the most challenging crisis since the organization’s founding after […]

Taiwanese army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant over a road in New Taipei City, Taiwan, March 14, 2020 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the odds were never in Taiwan’s favor. An island just 80 miles off the coast of China, it has extensive business and cultural ties with the mainland, where hundreds of thousands of its citizens live or work. The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan just before the Lunar New Year holiday, a busy travel season for millions of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. When researchers from Johns Hopkins University modeled the projected contagion of the virus in January, they assessed that Taiwan had […]

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