A pedestrian crosses a bridge over a new 30-mile highway that was built by three Chinese companies and financed by the African Development Bank and the Exim Bank of China, leading north of Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 10, 2012 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Far more than they appeared to at first glance, two news stories in recent days have framed America’s position in the world at the outset of Joe Biden’s presidency in unusually stark and powerful ways. The first trumpeted a $400 billion investment agreement between Beijing and Tehran, with China vastly increasing its trade with Iran. It comes at a moment when the United States is hoping to force the Iranian government back to the negotiating table to reinstate and even broaden the international agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Trump administration withdrew from that deal, reimposing […]

An H&M clothing store at a shopping mall in Beijing, March 26, 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. The Chinese government has long denied any human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, even as an increasing number of reports shed light on its brutal repression of mostly Muslim Uyghurs there. But in the face of mounting international pressure and now sanctions, Beijing is going on the offensive to silence critics of all stripes. Shortly after the United States, United Kingdom, European Union […]

An Indian soldier looks toward the Pir Panjal mountain range from one of their forward posts at the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, Dec. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

In late February, India and Pakistan announced a cease-fire along their de facto border in the contested region of Kashmir. In a joint statement, the two countries’ military authorities said that there will be a “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing,” while also claiming they will seek to “address each other’s core issues and concerns” to ensure sustainable peace between the two long-time enemies. The announcement essentially revives a 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control, or LoC, as the de facto border is known. It was followed on March 18 by a speech by Pakistan’s […]

Supporters of India’s main opposition party protest Narendra Modi’s government in front of huge cut-outs of their leaders, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, in New Delhi, Dec. 14, 2019 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

For more than four months, tens of thousands of Indian farmers have gathered on the outskirts of New Delhi to protest a slate of new agricultural laws passed in September. Farmers say the new measures, which remove price guarantees for certain crops, will leave them at the mercy of large corporations, while at the same time removing paths for legal redress for land disputes. The protests are some of the largest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, have faced since winning their parliamentary majority in 2014. What’s more, the protesters come from […]

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, center, and foreign minister, Wang Yi, second from left, speak at the opening session of U.S.-China talks in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18, 2021 (pool photo by Frederic J. Brown via AP Images).

If anyone was still holding out any hopes that the change of administrations in Washington would cool down tensions with China, last week’s first meeting between the Biden administration’s two top foreign policy officials and their Chinese counterparts should put them to rest. In a no-holds-barred exchange of remarks in front of reporters before the private discussions began, both sides lambasted each other with a litany of grievances, perceived slights and criticisms. The Chinese delegation’s willingness to forcefully challenge the American side in such a public forum serves as further confirmation, if any were still needed, that the days when […]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, far right, speaks to China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, left, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second from left, in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18, 2021 (pool photo by Frederic J. Brown via AP).

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. Even the most optimistic observers had expected little to come out of last week’s U.S.-China summit in Alaska, where high-level officials from both sides met in person for the first time since President Joe Biden took office. But as the heated on-camera exchange that preceded the private discussions confirmed, not only will this rivalry remain, but relations that were strained under former President […]

A Huawei store in Beijing, May 20, 2019, (GDA photo by Lam Yik Fei via AP Images).

Last week, Samsung announced that the rollout of its new Galaxy Note smartphone would be delayed, warning of a “serious imbalance” in the chip industry. It’s just the latest impact of a global shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips, caused by a unique combination of the coronavirus, climate change and Donald Trump. Semiconductors are the brains of all things electronic. Like the brain, they perform different functions—memory, processing—and range in sophistication from standard, repetitive routines to high-performance chips that can support machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-end graphics. All things electronic these days are pretty much all things chips. […]

The French Navy ship Vendemiaire during a port call in Manila, Philippines, March 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

In early February, France revealed that one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines had completed a mission in the South China Sea. The rare announcement, two years after the passage of the frigate Vendemiaire through the Taiwan Strait, was a clear signal of a growing French, but also European, interest in the sensitive region. European awareness of its strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific is a slow train coming. Even for France and the U.K.—which, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear powers with a tradition of power projection, have long been interested in East Asia—there has been […]

Police charge forward to disperse protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, Feb. 20, 2021 (AP Photos).

Since seizing power in a coup in early February, Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, has increasingly cracked down on civil society and the political opposition. In recent weeks, it has shuttered most independent media outlets; arrested many members of the former ruling party, the National League for Democracy, or NLD; declared martial law in parts of the country; and unleashed security forces on pro-democracy demonstrators. By one estimate, at least 200 people have been killed since protests began against the coup last month, and thousands of people have been detained. The real number of deaths is probably much higher, […]

Somali women walk past a destroyed building after a suicide car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, May 22, 2019 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Colin P. Clarke is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. Rumors began swirling last fall that al-Qaida chieftain Ayman al-Zawahiri had died of natural causes. With no confirmation, counterterrorism analysts and long-time al-Qaida watchers weighed in with various assessments of what it would mean for the terrorist organization if it had indeed lost its leader. Just last week, al-Qaida’s official media arm, al-Sahab, released a video perhaps intended to quell reports of Zawahiri’s demise, with audio clips of Zawahiri addressing the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. But because those messages failed to reference any […]

Members of the Korean K-pop group BTS attend a meeting during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 24, 2018 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

When BTS performed its smash hit “Dynamite” for the first time at MTV’s Video Music Awards in August, the seven-member South Korean pop group was unable to fly to New York City for the ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it intended to film its part of the show outdoors, to “show everyone the scenery in Seoul,” one of its vocalists, Jin, told Vogue. But summer rain got in the way of that plan, so it ended up recording its performance in front of giant green screens. Seven months later, still unable to visit the U.S., the group finally […]

Nursing staff administer COVID-19 vaccines to frontline health workers in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

As wealthy Western countries carefully guard their national stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, raising concerns about “vaccine nationalism,” China and Russia have moved aggressively in the opposite direction—toward vaccine diplomacy. Moscow and Beijing have used their homegrown formulas as powerful diplomatic tools, enabling them to curry favor with poorer nations that have largely been left out of the race to inoculate the world. Vaccine diplomacy, however, is not the exclusive domain of major powers. Aspiring regional powers, including some smaller countries, are increasingly stepping into the ring too, garnering goodwill by selling or donating vaccine doses. The result is a global […]

People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus ride an escalator at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, July 16, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The last time the global economy cratered, in the fall of 2008 in the wake of an American banking crisis, it was China that set the pace—both in insulating itself from most of the damage, and in generating enough new demand in its own economy to prevent a far worse downturn than the already terrible recession suffered in much of the rest of the world. Even now, years later, the scale of China’s response back then is poorly understood. As the economic historian Adam Tooze recounted in his 2019 book, “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World,” […]

An employee walks past the logos of Ant Group and Alibaba Group at the Ant Group office in Hong Kong, Oct. 23, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

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. As China raises the heat on tech giants, one behemoth is taking most of it. Chinese regulators are reportedly mulling a series of measures to rein in the Alibaba Group, from a record fine to potential divestiture of its media assets, as the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership grows wary of its influence. Alibaba is one of, if not the largest, online commerce companies […]

An aerial view of the outlying Atoll National Park of the Dongsha Islands, southwest of Taiwan, Sept. 15, 2010 (AP photo by Peter Enav).

Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine prompted much international outrage but little meaningful action. President Vladimir Putin was able to forcefully redraw his country’s borders, shrugging off the international sanctions that the United States and European Union imposed in response. Putin’s success augmented “the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way,” as U.S. President Barack Obama put it at the time. Given Crimea’s location in a small country—and the complex, often ethnically tinged territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia—the world was not willing to fight for it. History may not […]

A map of the United States shows cyberattacks in real time at the headquarters of BitDefender, a leading Romanian cybersecurity company, in Bucharest, Romania, March 5, 2015 (AP Photo by Octav Ganea and Mediafax).

Over the weekend, something extraordinary happened. A working group within the United Nations, comprising all 193 of its member states, adopted a consensus report on norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace. The report itself represents fairly limited progress, in terms of its contents, although there are some shiny objects for the cyber nerds like me who have been following this process closely. What is most significant is that there is consensus among all U.N. member states in a field that has been wrought with division and contention, especially for the past five years. Most surprisingly, this process originated from […]

A firefighter manages a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby, Jan. 8, 2020 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

There was a time when it was widely asserted that the onset of climate catastrophe would shove society out of its complacency and into aggressive support for action to address climate change. Once the consequences of burning so many fossil fuels were felt not just by those least responsible for the bulk of emissions, in the Global South, but in wealthier countries too, the argument went, the problem would shift from being an abstract warning from scientists to a clear and present danger. The season of bushfires that raged in Australia from December 2019 to February 2020—known locally as the […]

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