A mobile phone screen showing the drawing of the red packets of the digital currency issued by China’s central bank, in Beijing, China, Feb. 16, 2021 (Photo by Jason Fan for FeatureChina via AP Images).

China’s central bank is currently conducting trials for its digital currency, which it hopes to have available for widespread use by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. But many privacy advocates are alarmed at the amount of data that Chinese authorities will be able to collect through the new digital yuan, and the resulting potential for abuse. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman discussed the implications of China’s new digital currency with Yaya Fanusie, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Listen to the full interview with Yaya Fanusie here: If you […]

A press center in China’s southern island province of Hainan shows Xi Jinping giving an online speech at the Boao Forum for Asia, April 20, 2021 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. In his keynote address to the annual Boao Forum last Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered one of the clearest statements to date of China’s ambitions on the global stage, rejecting hegemony, whether for China or any other power, and calling for an international order […]

A bank window panel displaying the security markers on the latest 100 Yuan notes in Beijing, China, Feb. 18, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Since last year, authorities in China have been conducting pilot programs for the country’s new digital currency. The project, which Beijing has been researching since 2014, is an example of what’s known as a central bank digital currency, which a number of other countries are experimenting with, but few of them are at as advanced a stage as China. A top official at China’s central bank recently expressed hope that the digital yuan would be ready for testing with foreign visitors and athletes during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Beijing’s progress on its digital currency has led some commentators […]

A Microsoft office in New York, Nov. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Swayne B. Hall).

The U.S. had barely begun its recovery from the SolarWinds compromise, when another large-scale, state-sponsored cyberattack came to light in January. Like the SolarWinds hack, the Microsoft Exchange Server data breach exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities and has been attributed to a nation-state. But unlike SolarWinds, while the Microsoft attack was initially a targeted attack, it went on to create widespread collateral damage, leading some commentators to characterize it as “reckless.” Microsoft has attributed the compromise to a Chinese state-sponsored espionage group called “Hafnium.” Recent U.S. sanctions against Russia, in part motivated by the SolarWinds attack, have given rise to an […]

Marla Ruzicka leads a demonstration calling for U.S. compensation to victims of the U.S. led military campaign in Afghanistan, outside of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, April 7, 2002 (AP photo by Suzanne Plunkett).

Last week, just two days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the humanitarian community commemorated the death of Marla Ruzicka, a humanitarian hero from the early years of the war there. A college student when the Twin Towers fell, Marla recognized that the U.S. invasion would weigh hard on civilians, and rather than watch from afar, she bought herself a ticket to Afghanistan to do something about it. Landing in Kabul, Marla set about making friends with U.S. soldiers, expatriate aid workers and local Afghans alike. More […]

U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, patrol west of Kabul, Afghanistan (AP photo by Hoshang Hashimi).

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept.11. After 20 years and two generations of American service members fighting there, America’s longest war will come to an end. What will the legacy of that war be for the U.S. military? And will it have a lasting impact on American society? In this week’s big picture Trend Lines interview, Andrew Exum joins WPR editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein to discuss those questions and more. Exum is a partner at Hakluyt & Company, a global advisory firm. He began his career as an officer […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, at a signing ceremony in Tehran, March 27, 2021 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

The recently finalized 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement between Iran and China has been referred to in the media as a “game-changer,” a “breakthrough” and a “major geopolitical shift,” but in reality, it is much ado about nothing. Signed with great fanfare on March 27, during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Tehran, the deal does provide Iran with a political and rhetorical win in the context of its ongoing negotiations over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Beyond the optics of the agreement with China, though, the substance follows the same playbook that Beijing and Tehran have developed […]

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in white, walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping after officially launching the Colombo Port City development, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sept. 17, 2014 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

China has undertaken countless infrastructure projects across the globe as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, but the plan to transform the iconic waterfront of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, was so consequential, so massive, that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally attended the 2014 launch. From the start, the plan sparked fierce public protests, but it moved forward. Now, the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City development has run into legal headwinds, once again making Sri Lanka one of the principal case studies of China’s effort to gain a strategic foothold in developing countries across the globe. This week, Sri […]

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide walk from the Oval Office to speak at a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 16, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Last Friday’s summit in Washington between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide was one of the most closely watched diplomatic events of the year, for good reason. It was Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since taking office, having conducted most of his engagements virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our commitment to meet in person is indicative of the importance, the value we both place on this relationship,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Suga at the White House. For both leaders, it was a valuable opportunity to restore a sense of […]

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, April 15, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s hard to deny that Donald Trump is a tough act to follow. As much as the return to calm since he left office—and more importantly, since his Twitter account was suspended—has been welcome, the drama and unpredictability he brought to the American presidency was as transfixing as it was unprecedented. This was perhaps truer in the realm of foreign policy than elsewhere due to the outsized autonomy U.S. presidents enjoy in the conduct of diplomacy, but also because of the impact Trump’s disregard for conventional wisdoms and established protocols had on America’s national interests […]

Anti-coup protesters hold up a three-fingers salute, a symbol of pro-democracy resistance, during a demonstration in Thaketa township, Yangon, Myanmar, March 27, 2021 (AP photo).

In the weeks since the Feb. 1 coup that overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government, civilians have responded with relentless, organized outrage, mobilizing street protests, general strikes and other disruptive forms of nonviolent resistance. Ousted lawmakers have formed a parallel administration, called the National Unity Government, in defiance of the military regime. The Tatmadaw, as the armed forces are known in Myanmar, has countered with an escalating crackdown, killing over 700 demonstrators and injuring or detaining thousands more. The rest of the world, meanwhile, has issued statements of condemnation and piecemeal sanctions that have had little impact on a country descending […]

An array of solar panels in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, northwestern China, Oct. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at a top story as well as a roundup of the rest of the week’s news and commentary from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wednesday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The United States and China struck a rare cooperative tone in a joint statement issued after two days of meetings between John Kerry, the Biden administration’s climate envoy, and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, in […]

A U.S. Army carry team transports the remains of a Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Dec. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision last week to fully withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he justified it in part by pointing to an agreement signed by the Trump administration committing the U.S. to withdrawing by May 1. But he spent more time highlighting the disconnect between the original reasons the U.S. deployed its military to Afghanistan and the reasons now being used to justify its continued presence. “War in Afghanistan,” he said, “was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.” And yet, as Biden acknowledged in his speech, that is just what the […]

A woman walks past a Nike store in Beijing, March 25, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

China has a long history of wielding its immense market power as a tool of economic coercion. During the first half of the 20th century, it fought back against colonial powers by organizing boycotts of goods from the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. Nearly a century later, China is again using the boycott as a weapon against what it views as unwanted outside interference—in this case, criticism from foreign officials and businesses over allegations of human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. Yet despite its $14 trillion economy—the world’s second-largest—the threat of a Chinese boycott […]

President Joe Biden visits Arlington National Cemetery after announcing the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, in Arlington, Va., April 14, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

After two decades of a war that started out with what he called clear objectives and a just cause, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he would withdraw the last remaining American troops from Afghanistan. In a 15-minute speech from the White House Treaty Room, where then-President George W. Bush informed the nation in October 2001 of the first U.S. airstrikes against al-Qaida training camps, Biden declared, “I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.” How he inherited the […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 26, 2021 (Photo courtesy of Modi’s Twitter account).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Bangladesh last month may not have led to any big-ticket announcements, but it was high on symbolism. Modi was honored as the chief guest during celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence on March 26, as well as the birth centenary celebrations of the country’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Both Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, Rahman’s daughter, used the visit as an opportunity to commemorate India’s role in supporting Bangladesh’s war of liberation from Pakistan in 1971 and highlight the deep cultural and historical linkages between the two countries. […]

Young Muslim boys wait for traditional Friday prayers to begin at a mosque in Kano, northern Nigeria, Feb. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

For anyone interested in understanding the global economy of the recent past or in projecting the shape of things to come in world affairs in the near future, there are few fundamentals that condition the lives of nations more powerfully than population dynamics. The past 50 years have served up this lesson repeatedly, most recently with the rise of China. Riding on the back of a dramatic bulge in the number of freshly educated young people who teemed onto the workshop floors of the innumerable industries that were just then being thrown together, China turned itself into the so-called factory […]

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