A worker tries to remove the plaque next to a Chinese paramilitary policeman from outside the United States Consulate in Chengdu, China, July 26, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Plummeting relations between the United States and China hit a new low after the tit-for-tat closures of consulates in Houston and Chengdu last week. Though the closures are mostly symbolic, any détente between Washington and Beijing looks even more unrealistic now. With the U.S. presidential election just months away and President Donald Trump suffering in the polls, it has become increasingly difficult to guess what comes next. When the Trump administration ordered China to shut its consulate in Houston […]

Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray holds up a sign showing Vladimir Putin’s face outside Parliament in London, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Neil Bhatiya is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott, who will return next week. Two developments last week, in the United Kingdom and the United States, highlighted how their common adversaries are still exploiting the global financial system, using long-known loopholes to raise and move illicit money in order to undermine international security and the rule of law. While American and British authorities have often been slow to realize the full magnitude of this threat, their recent actions suggest they may finally be taking it more seriously. First, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released […]

A nearly empty beach in the usually crowded resort town of Ayia Napa, Cyprus, July 20, 2020 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

Earlier this year, as the effects of a deadly new virus rippled across the world, international travel was thrown into a frenzy. Images of frantic business travelers, passengers on cruise ships and study abroad students all scrambling to return home filled the news. But these were soon followed by images of quite a different nature: silent streets in Barcelona, deserted piazzas in Rome, empty beaches in Greece and Thailand, vacant airport terminals in Boston and Singapore. Eventually, international travel ground to a halt. Reservations for hotels, resorts and Airbnb stays evaporated. International flights were canceled, borders were closed, and museums, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, left, next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping right, during a summit in Qingdao, China, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Dake Kang).

At the opening of the World Health Assembly in mid-May, Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced his country would spend $2 billion over two years to help other countries fight the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, had already announced the U.S. would halt funding to the World Health Organization. His administration began the process of withdrawing from the WHO in early July. A week after Xi’s announcement, a 14-person medical team from China arrived in Tajikistan, which has had over 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 56 deaths. The Chinese squad brought 9 tons of medical equipment, bringing its total […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron prepare to address the media at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Elliot Waldman and Prachi Vidwans talk about the implications of the European Union’s new seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, which were agreed after four days and nights of contentious negotiations in Brussels. They also discuss the Trump administration’s sudden decision to shut down China’s consulate in Houston, and what that could mean for the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Is the EU’s COVID-19 Response Losing Central and Eastern Europe to China?The U.S. Can No Longer Ignore […]

An exiled Tibetan breaks down during a march to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, in New Delhi, India, March 10, 2019 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Over the past several months, China watchers have been closely following as Beijing tightened its grip on Hong Kong and continued its steady strangulation of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang. But the regime successfully avoided international attention and opprobrium as it carried out what could prove to be its most devastating push elsewhere, in Tibet. Years ago, Tibet had more success capturing the world’s attention. Under the leadership of the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibetans pared down their demands from China, from full-blown independence to genuine autonomy. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and […]

A man opens the social media app TikTok on his cell phone, in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

When the Trump administration began publicly bandying about the idea of barring the popular Chinese social media app TikTok from the American market a couple of weeks ago, the mere possibility of it happening sent shock waves through Chinese society. One might have expected that most of the attention, including lots of predictable fury, would have centered on nationalist sentiments—which are easily aroused in China nowadays—about the alleged unfairness with which the country is being treated by Western competitors, none more so than the United States. Unbeknownst to Americans, who mostly see it as an almost addictive platform for distracting […]

Chinese soldiers march in formation during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Oct. 1, 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. China is expanding its amphibious military capabilities with an aim to “project power far from home,” Reuters reported this week, posing a challenge to America’s naval dominance. For decades, China’s main aspiration for its military was to secure its borders and dominate its coastal waters. But recent evidence suggests that under the ambitious leadership of Xi Jinping, Beijing’s military ambitions are going global. In the past year, China has launched two new Type 075 amphibious assault ships. Akin to […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Saudi Arabian King Salman during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, China, March 16, 2017 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Foreign ministers from China and the Arab world held their ninth meeting of the biennial China-Arab States Cooperation Forum earlier this month, at which they pledged to “deepen cooperation in various fields, and embrace new prospects in building a China-Arab community with a shared future,” according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua. The meeting is sure to renew debates over the nature of Chinese influence in Gulf Arab states. China hawks in the United States often overemphasize China’s economic power in the region by focusing on the threats posed by companies like the telecommunications giant Huawei or BGI Group, a […]

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, wave during a party convention in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Authoritarian populism has returned to Sri Lanka. Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the country’s seventh president last November, he has, as many feared, brought back the repressive and undemocratic policies of his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was president from 2005 to 2015. In the first few months of Gotabaya’s presidency, the Rajapaksas—Sri Lanka’s most prominent political family—moved swiftly to centralize power, with Gotabaya immediately appointing Mahinda as prime minister. The two other Rajapaksa brothers, Chamal and Basil, hold important political positions as well; the former is a Cabinet minister, and the latter is both Gotabaya’s “chief strategist” and the national […]

A Rohingya Muslim refugee at a camp in Bangladesh shows a mobile video of a massacre in the village of Gu Dar Pyin in Myanmar, Jan. 14, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

As Americans have risen up in protest against police brutality, attention has understandably focused on the racist incidents of police killing Black Americans and their implications. How these outrages have come to light, however, remains underappreciated. They might never have been exposed without new technologies like smart phones and social media, whose use for accountability is transforming human rights. Until recently, documenting human rights abuses was a time-consuming and often imprecise activity. As a law student in the early 1990s, I worked on a United Nations project, led by the international legal scholar M. Cherif Bassiouni, to document war crimes […]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, Feb. 10, 2020 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled his country’s updated defense strategy earlier this month, his remarks mentioned China only in passing. But according to Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, Beijing’s mounting military prowess is becoming an increasingly serious concern for Australia’s national security community. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Roggeveen joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman from Canberra to discuss the Morrison government’s recent strategic reset in the context of China’s rise and the relative decline in the United States’ influence in the Asia-Pacific. Listen to the full conversation here: And if […]

Australian naval officers walk past the HMAS Canberra, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 29, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

In a recent speech outlining his government’s national defense and regional strategy, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasized the need to “prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly.” But the coronavirus pandemic is not the only challenge confronting Australia. A rising China appears increasingly willing and able to project power in East Asia and the South Pacific. Meanwhile, as President Donald Trump’s administration has shown, Australia may not always be able to rely on its No. 1 ally for support. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman […]

A worker speaks on the phone in a Huawei store in Beijing, July 15, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. The “tech war” between the United States and China has shifted to Europe, where the United Kingdom this week announced, in an abrupt reversal, that it would ban the use of equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in its high-speed wireless network. The British government’s decision is a major victory for the Trump administration, which has been campaigning to steer countries away from China as they develop their 5G infrastructure. Europe has been one of Huawei’s key markets as […]

A Kashmiri man waits for customers behind a half-closed shutter during a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus, in Srinagar, Kashmir, May 16, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a harsh light on the long-standing structural weaknesses of global labor markets and of the protections available for workers. The estimated 2 billion people worldwide toiling away in the informal sector—in jobs that are not backed by contracts or institutions, and that are not monitored or taxed by governments—are the new economically vulnerable. Across the globe, in developing and developed economies alike, these often-overlooked workers are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and its accompanying economic depression, and will continue to even when economies start to recover. Because many of these employees work off the books […]

Armed police officers wearing face masks block an area in Almaty, Kazakhstan, March 19, 2020 (AP photo by Vladimir Tretyakov).

In April, the Kyrgyz news outlet Kloop posted a video on YouTube showing a new app called STOP COVID-19. Developed by the government of Kyrgyzstan, it allows the authorities to follow the whereabouts of those exposed to the coronavirus. The video shows the movements of two individuals being tracked by combining their digital profiles and phone locations with their government-issued IDs. In theory, STOP COVID-19 is a valuable tool in the government’s efforts to track and trace confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients. But the app goes much further than most Kyrgyz citizens would likely be comfortable with. In addition to […]

American forces and Afghan commandos patrol Pandola village, near the site of a U.S. bombing, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 2014 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

With public pressure growing on the Trump administration to take action in response to the reported Russian scheme to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan, a natural question to ask is, “What is to be done?” Much of the congressional attention for now will inevitably focus on who in the White House knew what and when about intelligence on the Russian plot. But the reality is that Washington has a limited range of policy options to manage an escalation of tensions with Moscow, and this Congress isn’t likely to do much months before an election. […]

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