British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with performers dressed as lions as he welcomes members of the British Chinese community for Lunar New Year celebrations in London, Jan. 24, 2020 (AP Photo by Matt Dunham).

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, delivered a speech in Parliament setting out measures to ensure that British businesses do not profit from what he called the “industrial scale” forced labor of minority Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. However, Raab’s remarks made no mention of imposing widely expected sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses. The omission generated confusion among journalists and some lawmakers, as the government’s prior press guidance had indicated the speech would include an announcement of sanctions under a law modeled on the Global Magnitsky Act in […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a press conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul,  Jan. 18, 2021 (pool photo by Jeon Heon-kyun via AP Images).

South Korean President Moon Jae-in began the year in dire need of a pick-me-up. His approval rating dropped to a record-low 37 percent last month as voters faulted him for failing to contain a third wave of COVID-19 and moving too slowly on vaccinating the population. Soaring housing prices and a damaging scandal at the Justice Ministry added to his government’s woes. Seeking a turnaround, Moon used the occasion of his New Year’s address to the nation on Jan. 11 to outline an ambitious, forward-looking agenda. He announced a phased rollout of free vaccinations for all South Koreans starting next […]

Missiles during a military parade marking the Eighth Party Congress of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 14, 2021 (Photo by Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP Images).

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party held its Eighth Party Congress earlier this month, followed by a big military parade—the second one since October. According to Duyeon Kim, a Seoul-based fellow with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, the series of well-publicized events were meant to project resilience at a time when North Korea is reeling from a “triple whammy” of economic sanctions, natural disasters and COVID-19. Kim joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to discuss the big takeaways from the party congress. Listen to the full interview with Duyeon […]

China’s Xi Jinping, top left, and European leaders during a video conference at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 30, 2020 (Pool photo by Johanna Geron via AP Images).

If “European strategic autonomy” were a hashtag, it would be trending. But it’s a phrase that has as many different meanings as there are people using it. At the most basic level, it refers to Europe’s ability to defend and advance its interests in a global arena increasingly characterized by strategic competition among great powers. How and in what areas it should do so, though, and to what ends, are the subject of a high-stakes debate still taking shape. The recently concluded investment agreement between the European Union and China highlights how the concept of European strategic autonomy has moved […]

A rally to celebrate the election of Kim Jong Un as general secretary of the Workers’ Party, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Jon Chol Jin).

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party has had a busy start to the year. Earlier this month, the Eighth Party Congress was held in the capital, Pyongyang: Eight days of meetings, including a 9-hour work report read out by leader Kim Jong Un himself. Just a couple days after those sessions wrapped up, Kim oversaw a celebratory military parade, the second one since October, featuring a new missile described by state media as the “world’s most powerful weapon.” New analysis of satellite imagery by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute suggests Pyongyang could be preparing for […]

A large video screen shows a government news report about the inauguration of President Joe Biden at a shopping mall in Beijing, Jan. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung 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. Beijing timed its parting shot perfectly, not wasting a second to serve its revenge on the outgoing Trump administration, with which it had sparred for the past four years. Less than five minutes after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, China’s Foreign Ministry announced sanctions targeting 28 members of Donald Trump’s Cabinet and […]

Afghan security personnel inspect the site of a bombing attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Afghanistan may not rank in the top tier of U.S. President Joe Biden’s policy priorities, given the host of pressing crises in the United States. But Afghanistan’s fate hinges in large part on how the Biden team decides to approach the country’s conflict and its tenuous, still-nascent peace process. Biden will be compelled to make critical decisions on Afghanistan during his first months in office that will affect the country’s conflict—and relationship with the U.S.—for years to come. Over the past year, the outgoing U.S. administration attempted to set a peace process in motion by signing a political agreement with […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a news conference with then-U.S. President Donald Trump in New Delhi, India, Feb. 25, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

President Joe Biden faces a slew of important foreign policy challenges. But with India, he has a historic opportunity to forge a strategic alliance to help build a stable balance of power in Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region. India has been a bright spot in U.S. foreign policy over the past two decades. Continuing a process set in motion by President Bill Clinton during the 1990s and accelerated by every succeeding administration, U.S.-India relations thrived during Donald Trump’s presidency. Not surprisingly, there is strong bipartisan support in both Washington and New Delhi for a closer partnership under Biden. The […]

Steel fencing and barbed wire surround the Capitol building ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Washington, Jan. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

In 1962, in the immediate aftermath of the most devastating famine and worst man-made disaster of the modern era, senior officials in the Chinese Communist Party sought to initiate a review of state policies that had just killed between 30 million and 40 million people in China. China’s ruler at the time, Mao Zedong, objected to any major change of course or even a frank assessment of the situation, and especially to anything that might tarnish his reputation or threaten his future legacy. But as the regime’s No. 2, Liu Shaoqi, warned, “If we fundamentally refuse to acknowledge that there […]

Supporters of a splinter group in the governing Nepal Communist Party gather to  demand the ouster of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and the reinstatement of Parliament, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Dec. 29, 2020 (AP photo by Niranjan Shrestha).

The aftershocks of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision last month to dissolve the lower house of Nepal’s Parliament and call for early elections are still being felt throughout the country. Oli’s controversial move, designed to thwart growing demands for him to leave office, has been widely criticized—including within his own Nepal Communist Party, or NCP—for contravening Nepal’s 2015 constitution. His insistence on maintaining power marks a potentially dangerous juncture along Oli’s drift toward authoritarianism, and could reverse democratic gains Nepal has made since its 10-year civil war ended in 2006. The latest episode in Nepal’s roiling politics was entirely […]

Lawyer Daniel Wong, center, is escorted by police outside his office in Hong Kong, Jan. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung 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. After months of petitioning, Xu Yan just saw her husband for the first time in three years. A prominent human rights lawyer in China, Yu Wensheng was seized by a dozen police officers, including a SWAT team, on a January morning three years ago, when he left his apartment in Beijing to walk his 13-year-old son to school. Yu, who was nominated for […]

A man walks past a money exchange shop at Central, a business district in Hong Kong, June 10, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Daniel McDowell is filling in this week. The dollar’s status as the global reserve currency is in grave danger—at least that’s what a growing chorus of pundits and observers are saying. The U.S. government has embarked on a debt-driven spending spree as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic repercussions. This explosion of U.S. borrowing, combined with more “money printing” by the Federal Reserve, has led mega-investors, hedge fund managers, economists and elite financial institutions to sound the alarm in recent months. America’s fiscal and monetary policy efforts to prop up the economy […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, center left, enter a hall for talks, in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The last time China’s most famous billionaire, Jack Ma, was seen in public was October. It was an appearance that did not please the regime in Beijing. The founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba—something of a Chinese Jeff Bezos—may have grown too confident and too powerful for the Chinese Communist Party, which may have decided it was time to not just silence him and limit his power, but to send a message to other potential critics with wealth and influence. It would not be the first time that China has used repressive tactics to put elites in their place. And it […]

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba, during a panel discussion at the China Development Forum in Beijing, March 19, 2016 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung 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. Speaking at a financial conference in Shanghai last fall, Jack Ma, China’s most famous entrepreneur, started his speech with a disclaimer: “If you think my advice doesn’t make sense, just forget about it.” But Beijing never forgets and certainly does not forgive. The charismatic billionaire proceeded to dish out advice at the Bund Summit, as he loves to do in public speeches. He […]

Nathalie Tocci at the Munich Security Conference, February 2019 (Photo by Mueller/MSC).

The trans-Atlantic relationship has suffered during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, largely due to Trump’s hostility toward the European Union, which he saw as a trade competitor, and toward the NATO alliance, which he saw as a costly liability. The tensions that have arisen under Trump have made the debate in Brussels and across the EU over European strategic autonomy all the more urgent, especially in the past year. With the arrival in the White House of President-elect Joe Biden, many observers expect the return of smoother relations between the U.S. and its European allies. But what will […]

Maori canoeists mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, at a march in Waitangi, New Zealand, Feb. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Nick Perry).

New Zealand’s police don’t carry guns. But after a white supremacist armed with semiautomatic weapons killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in March 2019—the worst mass shooting in the country’s history—some New Zealanders thought they should. “The operating environment has changed,” the former New Zealand police commissioner, Mike Bush, said in a statement several months after the massacre. “Police must ensure our people are equipped and enabled to perform their roles safely and to ensure our communities are, and feel, safe.” In October that year, the national police announced a project that would see […]

Former Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a briefing in Beijing, Sept. 4, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

In early December, amid rising tensions between Australia and China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a statement on the Chinese social media platform WeChat to voice his outrage at an incendiary tweet from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson. Within a day, WeChat, which routinely polices sensitive content on its platform, had blocked Morrison’s post, ostensibly for violating the company’s policies. It was not the only instance of a foreign official being censored on a Chinese social media platform. The most prominent offenders are WeChat—the largest social media site in China, with over 1 billion active users—and Weibo, a microblogging platform […]

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