Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, James Marape, second from left, is welcomed to Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra, July 22, 2019 (AP photo by Rod McGuirk).

Nov. 13 began much like any other day in Waigani, the suburb of Port Moresby that houses Papua New Guinea’s unicameral Parliament. Much of the chamber sat empty while Prime Minister James Marape answered questions from the governor of Western Province about the national government’s plans to subsidize rubber production. Suddenly, former army captain Belden Namah, a longtime critic of Marape, swept into the hall to take his seat as opposition leader. He was flanked by a surprising array of senior lawmakers, including Marape’s own deputy prime minister, Sam Basil, and his foreign minister, Patrick Pruaitch—both of whom had expressed […]

A large crowd wearing masks commutes through Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, Japan, Mar. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Jae C. Hong).

For everyone around the world, in every country and continent, 2020 was dominated by a single story: COVID-19. For all of us, though the date may have varied, there was a definitive before and after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The thirst for thoughtful analysis of such a historic world event—from big picture articles examining the broad sweep of the pandemic’s global impact to more focused pieces detailing its implications for particular countries—is reflected in our list of this year’s most-read stories. Of course, WPR also closely covered the U.S. presidential election, the Black Lives Matter protests that spread […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The waning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency must feel like victory laps in the Kremlin. As Trump keeps trying to subvert the results of November’s election, with wild calls to impose martial law now coming up in paranoid White House meetings, he is also downplaying a huge cyberattack on America’s most critical computer networks, widely attributed to Russia. Moscow’s greatest nemesis and former arch-rival is laying coat after coat of fresh muck on the once-shiny patina of its international reputation and prestige. They were built on notions that once seemed almost unshakable: universal-seeming values of democracy and the rule of […]

A riot police officer hits a journalist’s microphone during a protest at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: China Note will be off for the holidays next week. It will return Jan. 6. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. It has been a bad year for foreign journalists in China, to say the least. The year began with the expulsion of three reporters from The Wall Street Journal after the headline of an opinion piece referred to China as “the real sick man of Asia.” By March, more than a dozen journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post had been expelled […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sign “phase one” of a U.S.-China trade agreement, in the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

One of the great traditions in U.S. trade policy circles is the semiannual gathering of former U.S. trade representatives. Started two decades ago by Sherman Katz at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and carried on by William Reinsch, who holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at CSIS, the meetings bring together many of the former top U.S. trade officials to share insights on current economic issues. It is a unique event that pools the accumulated wisdom of several decades; there are no similar gatherings of former U.S. secretaries of state or defense. This year’s version—held online, of […]

Containers are loaded on a cargo ship at the port in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 3, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

Capping eight years of tough, on-and-off negotiations, representatives from 15 countries across the Asia-Pacific gathered in a virtual meeting last month to sign a gargantuan new free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Encompassing all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, RCEP will cover around 30 percent of both the world’s population and GDP, making it the world’s largest trading bloc. While its trading rules and market access provisions are not as far-reaching as the other main multilateral agreement in the region, the Comprehensive and Progressive […]

Taliban prisoners peer through a door after an ISIS-claimed attack on a prison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

On a Tuesday in late October, an Afghan cleric, Sheikh Raheemullah Nangahari, was giving a speech in his madrassa in Peshawar, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, when a blast ripped through the prayer hall, injuring him and killing eight others. It was the latest attack in a deadly rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State’s faction in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which calls itself the Khorasan Province. Raheemullah, a senior Taliban official, is believed to have been targeted by the Islamic State because of his work spreading propaganda against the extremist group. In written tracts and speeches, the sheikh has […]

Photo by 692 Productions, courtesy of Dambisa Moyo.

“It’s very easy for us to forget that things in the global economy and geopolitically were already somewhat precarious before COVID hit in earnest,” says Dr. Dambisa Moyo. “As we start to think about what a post-pandemic recovery looks like, I think it’s very important to have that context in mind.” This is why, for Dr. Moyo, “COVID is an accelerator to the challenged environment that was already occurring.” Dr. Moyo is a widely acclaimed economist and author of four New York Times bestselling books, most recently, “Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth—and How to […]

Kairat Abdrakhmanov, then serving as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, at a meeting in Beijing, April 24, 2018 (pool photo by Madoka Ikegami for Kyodo, via AP Images).

For the first time, an official from a former Soviet country has been named to a senior position at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Kairat Abdrakhmanov, a well-regarded diplomat who served as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister from 2016 until 2018, was appointed earlier this month as the OSCE’s new high commissioner for minorities. His job will be to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in the OSCE’s 57 member states—part of a broad commitment to protecting human rights that was enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which stabilized relations between the Soviet bloc and the West at the […]

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian during a briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. WPR contributor Rachel Cheung wrote the lead story in China Note this week. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. There is no end in sight, it seems, to the diplomatic fallout between China and Australia, as both countries race to win new partners in the Asia-Pacific to blunt the impact of their own worsening ties. After China imposed harsh tariffs on many Australian goods, Australia has been eyeing Taiwan as an alternative market […]

A man watches TV screens showing North Korean weapons systems, top right, in Seoul, South Korea, May 10, 2019 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

After more than two years at the forefront of the international agenda, North Korea denuclearization efforts have faded from view, leaving little progress to show for it. Critics say the Trump administration took a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China didn’t help. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer. Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts moved to the forefront of the international agenda soon after U.S. President Donald Trump took office in 2017, and stayed there for more than two years. But despite a period of improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face […]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators during a news conference to highlight their proposal for a coronavirus stimulus bill, Washington, July 27, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Early this year, when the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic were beginning to sink in, the governments and monetary authorities of the world’s largest economies were challenged to respond. To prevent the worst from occurring, economic rescue packages needed to meet three key criteria from the time-tested, crisis-fighting playbook: speed, size and sustainability. At the time, the policy responses could only be judged on the first two of those characteristics. On both counts, they scored quite well. Collectively, from the United States to Europe to Japan, policymakers’ efforts to address the economic fallout of the pandemic were impressive and historic […]

Indonesian workers protest against the controversial omnibus bill, in Tangerang, Indonesia, Oct. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

In early November, Indonesian President Joko Widodo approved a controversial omnibus law that is meant to bolster Indonesia’s economy by reducing regulations and bureaucracy in areas from mining to forestry and labor to business licensing. Jokowi, as the president is known in Indonesia, has touted such reforms for years; he has claimed the new, landmark Job Creation Law, which clocks in at nearly 1,200 pages, will “create an additional 1 million jobs a year and increase worker productivity, which is below average in Southeast Asia.” Indonesia certainly does need a reduction in red tape, which has long hindered domestic and […]

Zhou Xiaoxuan, center, walks by her supporters upon arrival at a courthouse in Beijing, Dec. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: China Note is being published on Thursday this week, but will be back to its usual Wednesday schedule next week. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. Last week, 27-year-old Zhou Xiaoxuan headed to Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing to have her case of sexual harassment heard. The defendant, Zhu Jun, a TV star in China, didn’t turn up for the trial. But around 100 supporters and friends were there, waiting outside in the chilly weather. They carried posters saying “#MeToo,” and other slogans like “Go Xianzi,” referring to Zhou’s […]

Chinese naval cadets march in formation at Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, Sept. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

In 1998, during a year at the University of Hawaii on a language fellowship as I prepared for a career shift from West Africa to East Asia, I sat in a darkened room one afternoon to take in a briefing about big, looming changes in the western Pacific. The scholar who made the presentation used a projector to dramatic effect as he argued that in the decades ahead, it was almost certain that China—then very far from a peer competitor with the United States, whether in military or economic terms—would eventually make it impossible for American aircraft carriers to operate […]

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a news conference with President Donald Trump at the White House, in Washington, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

Australia’s government had a minor meltdown last week, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling an impromptu press conference to demand an apology for a “repugnant” Twitter post by a Chinese government spokesperson that contained a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child’s throat. The image, which Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted from his verified account, had a caption that read, “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace.” Zhao’s accompanying text in the Twitter post expressed shock at the death of Afghan civilians and prisoners at Australian hands, calling for […]

An employee of Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinovac works in a lab at a factory producing its vaccine for COVID-19, Beijing, Sept. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Lavender Au and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. The global race for COVID-19 vaccines has serious implications for how soon countries will be able to return to something resembling pre-pandemic normality. China has struck deals with more than a dozen countries to develop vaccines, including many with which it has close trade ties, amid questions about the vaccine trials and their eventual rollouts. Billions of doses are needed, and one of […]

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