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

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Carbon neutrality is rarely discussed within China. At the U.N. General Assembly last week, however, Xi Jinping made a high-profile pledge that China’s emissions would peak before 2030 and that the country would go carbon neutral by 2060. Ultimately, the pledge fits into a fundamental domestic objective in Beijing: energy security. Debate over energy policy in China centers around the country’s resilience against supply chain uncertainties. This year, for the first time, two Chinese ministries […]

A man uses his smartphone in front of portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, right, in Pyongyang, May 5, 2015 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Before his arrest, Virgil Griffith had a reputation as a “cult hacker,” a “tech-world enfant terrible.” A 2008 profile in The New York Times Magazine, published when he was 25, called him the “Internet Man of Mystery,” and cast him as “a troublemaker … A twerp. And a magnet for tech-world groupies,” drinking White Russians and “revel[ing] in the attention of his female fans.” Griffith had become notorious the year before, when he launched WikiScanner, a website that used IP address databases to expose the anonymous editors of Wikipedia entries. The site’s release brought on a wave of news coverage, […]

A man walks past a poster for the Disney movie “Mulan” at a movie theater in Beijing, Sept. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The first stirrings of controversy emerged for Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” more than a year ago, when the film’s lead actress, Liu Yifei, shared a post on the Chinese social media app Weibo that praised the Hong Kong police. The territory’s massive pro-democracy protests were in full swing at the time, and opposition to the security forces’ brutal tactics had become one of the demonstrators’ central organizing principles. Liu’s post quickly went viral, and the hashtag #BoycottMulan trended in response. Disney was not the only business to draw criticism over the Hong Kong protest movement. Last fall brought boycotts […]

A Taiwanese Air Force F-16, in the foreground, flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force H-6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan, Feb. 10, 2020 (Republic of China (Ministry of National Defense photo via AP Images).

Recent Chinese military maneuvers were a stark reminder that the Taiwan Strait remains one of the world’s most dangerous flash points. After months of saber-rattling near Taiwan, China’s air force sent dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Sept. 18 and 19, across the median line in the Taiwan Strait that both sides have long tacitly acknowledged as an unofficial border. Days later, and amid further incursions by Chinese aircraft, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied the existence of any “so-called median line,” raising concerns of further escalation by Beijing. Although several factors account for this belligerence, […]

A live broadcast showing Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China April 26, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

After a series of setbacks, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a multibillion-dollar assortment of infrastructure projects that constitutes the Pakistani component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, is poised for a resurgence. Or is it? Last month, the Pakistani investigative news site FactFocus published a damning expose about Asim Bajwa, the head of a government body overseeing CPEC. It claims that Bajwa’s family developed an extensive overseas business empire, without declaring many of those assets. The allegations come at an inconvenient time for Islamabad, just as it tries to right CPEC’s ship. Launched in 2015, CPEC is a logical partnership for […]

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, deliver statements at the 11th BRICS Summit, in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019 with the goal of aligning Brazil’s foreign policy with Western democracies and ending the economic dependence on China that grew markedly under his predecessors in the left-wing Workers’ Party. In his presidential campaign, Bolsonaro positioned himself as a candidate of the right, speaking out against “socialism” and “communism,” with pointed references to neighboring Venezuela, and openly identified with the right-wing populist message of U.S. President Donald Trump. So far, Bolsonaro’s attempt to reorient Brazil’s foreign policy toward the U.S. has met with mixed success, in part because China’s leaders have outworked their counterparts […]

Suga Yoshihide stands after being elected as Japan’s new prime minister, in the lower house of parliament, Tokyo, Sept. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Koji Sasahara).

After Abe Shinzo’s abrupt announcement last month that he was stepping down as prime minister of Japan due to health issues, three senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced they would compete in an intraparty election to replace him. They held press conferences and campaign events. Media outlets organized televised debates. Opinion polls gauged each candidate’s popularity. It had all the trappings of a normal election. Yet for anyone paying attention, the result was a foregone conclusion. Suga Yoshihide, Abe’s longtime right-hand man, had a virtual lock on the votes needed to win. Even before Suga officially declared […]

Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat displayed on a smartphone, Beijing, China, Aug. 6, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. TikTok was set to be taken off U.S. app stores this past weekend, but the news that the Chinese-owned app struck a tentative deal with Oracle and Walmart allowed it a one-week reprieve from President Donald Trump’s ban. The deal still must be formally reviewed by the Trump administration, and the Chinese government will need to approve it, too. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian has branded the ban, and other moves against […]

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He before signing the “phase one” trade agreement, at the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Edward Alden is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott. The World Trade Organization is dying. We’ll miss it when it’s gone, for many reasons. But one stands out in particular: The WTO helps keep national leaders from doing economically harmful things for domestic political reasons. Without that constraint, we can expect governments to take more and more actions that are politically popular but harmful to both their national economies and to the global economy. The decision last week by a WTO dispute settlement panel that ruled against the Trump administration’s tariffs on China is a sign […]

American astronaut Christopher Cassidy, left, and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner appear before their trip to the International Space Station, in Star City, Russia, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

In mid-July, a Russian satellite moved uncommonly close to a U.S. government satellite in low-Earth orbit, before quickly rendezvousing with another Russian satellite nearby. The Kremlin initially insisted that this satellite was part of a routine program to monitor its own assets in space. But a week later, U.S. Space Command, which oversees American military operations in space, deemed Russia’s maneuver a non-destructive test of an anti-satellite weapon—a sophisticated counterspace tool that could threaten U.S. space assets and national security. U.S. officials had raised similar concerns twice before, earlier this year and in 2018, about abnormal Russian satellite behavior in […]

The National Security Administration campus, where the U.S. Cyber Command is located, in Fort Meade, Md., June 6, 2013 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

The United States gets a lot right about its strategic approach to cyberspace, but the steady stream of reporting on the relentless wave of adversarial cyber campaigns waged by Russia, China and Iran against the U.S. show that it also still gets plenty of things wrong. Some in Washington may be comforted by the idea that the Pentagon will act as a “backstop” against foreign cyber campaigns aimed at influencing the upcoming elections. The fact that a militarized response seems to be the only arrow in America’s quiver, though, is seriously troubling. More than half a century after the Pentagon’s […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Reciprocity has become the watchword for the Trump administration’s increasingly confrontational approach to China, from imposing limits on the movement of Chinese diplomats and journalists within the U.S., to banning Chinese-owned social media and messaging platforms TikTok and WeChat. The immediate goal is to impose costs for Beijing’s similar restrictions on the activities of American diplomats, journalists and tech companies in China, while insulating the U.S. from the potential security risks of Chinese tech companies that officially operate in the private sector but remain in thrall to the ruling Communist Party. Beyond that, however, it is unclear what President Donald […]

Students leave a testing site for China’s national college entrance examinations, in Nanjing, China, July 7, 2020 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Lavender Au is China Note’s new lead writer, curating the week’s top news and expert analysis on China every Wednesday with WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm. More than 1,000 Chinese students and scholars have had their visas to the United States revoked recently under a new Trump administration program that claims to target security risks and guard against espionage. The affected students largely hail from China’s seven major national defense colleges, which are directly subordinate to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, receive funding from the military and work on military projects. But to call […]

Members of the Workers’ Party of Korea gather at the plaza of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

North Korea’s young dictator is not known for issuing mea culpas. Yet, when Kim Jong Un announced last month that the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea will convene for its eighth congress in January 2021, he also acknowledged that the regime’s current economic strategy is not working. The party will thus adopt a new “five-year plan for national economic development” when it meets next year. In one sense, this is a hopeful signal, given that such pragmatic admissions of failure are rare for North Korean leaders. But the announcement also underscored the depth of the country’s economic troubles. It is […]

The remains of the World Trade Center following the terrorist attack in New York, Sept. 11, 2001 (AP photo by Alexandre Fuchs).

In the 19 years that have passed since I watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse, not a single moment of that day has faded from memory. It was my second day on the job as a cub reporter for the New York Daily News, and I am still a bit embarrassed to admit I was running a little late that morning. I had stopped at the elementary school polling station near my apartment in Queens to cast my vote in the mayoral primaries at around 9 a.m. A few minutes later, as I hustled to catch […]

Then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a campaign launch in Brisbane, Australia, Sept. 1, 2013 (AP photo by Tertius Pickard).

“What we’ve seen is an infinitely more assertive China,” says Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former prime minister of Australia, in assessing the country’s evolution under Xi Jinping. As a result, Mr. Rudd is not surprised by how rapidly the consensus view of China has shifted, with strategic competition having replaced win-win cooperation as the buzzword in the capitals of Western and Asian democracies. “The principle dynamic here has been China’s changing course itself,” he says, as well as China’s emergence as a global power. “We have a new guy in charge who has decided […]

Then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attends the 52nd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Andreas Gebert).

Over the past five years, and accelerating amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new consensus on China has emerged and consolidated in the capitals of many Western and Asian democracies. The hope that China’s integration into the global economy will gradually result in a softening of its posture abroad and political liberalization at home has faded, particularly under the rule of Xi Jinping. China has shown little willingness to remedy the unfair trading practices it has long used to tilt the playing field in its favor during its rise as an economic power. And under Xi, the Chinese Communist Party has […]

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