President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens, in Washington, Nov. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Joe Biden took office last year during one of the most turbulent times the United States had experienced in decades. Though his administration has tackled important foreign policy issues, it has also faced multiple domestic crises, so the primary focus of this first year has been on the urgent matters at home. In 2022, though, the world is likely to demand more of Biden’s attention, even as the domestic challenges remain far from resolved. Some of the foreign policy issues are expected and already evident. To start, Biden will have to work to help the entire planet, including poor […]

Residents get tested for the coronavirus in a district in Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, May 30, 2021 (AP photo).

Last weekend, the number of new symptomatic COVID-19 cases in China hit a peak not seen since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The spike was seen as significant enough to warrant locking down Xi’an, a city of more than 13 million people. Here, as a writer, I feel a little ill-equipped to flesh out this news without some kind of dramatic accompaniment, so please imagine a drumroll. The reported new high for daily symptomatic cases in this country of 1.4 billion people was all of 164. Surface appearances make it difficult to assess news like this. Across broad […]

A woman passes by a display showing Evergrande’s domestic commercial projects, in Beijing, China, Dec. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Late in September, when stock markets around the world went into spasms of anxiety following news that Chinese real estate giant Evergrande might go bankrupt, the shockwaves reached all the way to Latin America, about as far from the Chinese mainland as one can get. In fact, South American markets dropped even more than those in the United States, even though Evergrande has had little, if any, contact with the region. That’s because Latin American economies are not just deeply entwined with China, but are increasingly dependent on its growth to sustain their own. The drama of Evergrande, with its […]

Seiji Osaka, Junya Ogawa, Kenta Izumi and Chinami Nishimura attend a leadership debate of the Constitutional Democratic Party, Tokyo, Nov. 22, 2021 (photo by the Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

On Nov. 30, the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party, or CDP, Japan’s leading opposition party, elected 47-year-old Kenta Izumi to succeed CDP founder Yukio Edano as party leader. Izumi inherits a party reeling from an unexpectedly large defeat in Japan’s Oct. 31 general election, in which the CDP won fewer than 100 of the lower house’s 465 seats. Right up until the final days of the campaign, polls suggested that a united opposition bloc led by the CDP could flip dozens of seats held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito coalition. But the coalition limited its losses to only a dozen […]

An aerial view of the Siachen Glacier, which traverses the Himalayan region dividing India and Pakistan, northwest of Jammu, India, Feb. 1, 2005 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

In 2004, with the aid of a hardy villager who joined me in one of the most arduous physical experiences of my life, I hiked for four hours high in the mountains of Tibet with a group of Chinese scientists who were studying the alarming retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas. At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, we reached a formidable ice sheet the scientists had been studying for some time. There, at the receding edge of a steep glacier, had formed a river, newborn in geological time, and yet already raging in a ferocious torrent less than 100 […]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to a reporter’s question during a press conference in Beijing, Dec. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

A record low 30 percent of the Hong Kong electorate voted in Sunday’s legislative elections, the first to be held since Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system to ensure that only “patriots” can run for public office there. The dramatic drop in voter turnout—as compared with 57 percent in the previous city-wide elections in 2016 and a record 71 percent in district council elections in 2019—reflects the “silent opposition” of the people of Hong Kong to the electoral changes, many activists in exile said. Described by the Hong Kong government as “improvements” over the previous system, the revamped rules curtailed […]

Climate activist Vanessa Nakate, third right, and other activists stage a protest at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

Though many of us hoped that 2021 would bring some relief after the trials and tribulations of 2020, this year has been a bumpy ride. On Jan. 6, just one week into 2021, supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington—an international beacon of liberal democracy. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year. Everywhere, anti-democratic, misogynistic and racist forces made gains; in particular, the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan this summer left many despondent about the country’s future. And all the while, the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc, especially on the lives of those who are victims of global vaccine inequity. In the middle of all this chaos, though, […]

A billboard seeking information on persons involved with the assault at the Capitol is displayed at a bus stop in Washington, Jan. 17, 2021 (AP photo by David Goldman).

As the coronavirus pandemic continued into its second year, its impact on terrorist attacks worldwide was palpable—and positive. In a report on terrorism from July, the United Nations stated that “in non-conflict zones … the threat remains suppressed by limitations on the ability of operatives to travel, meet, fundraise and identify viable targets.”  Nevertheless, though terrorism, like almost every other human activity, has been constrained by the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped evolving in the past year, shaped by several key developments. As more widespread distribution of vaccines allows parts of the world to begin opening up, there is growing concern that counterterrorism practitioners […]

Afghans wait in front of a bank as they try to withdraw money in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

As 2021 comes to a close, the international community faces several emerging humanitarian and security catastrophes—even beyond the global pandemic that has gripped the world for two years. Ethiopia is undergoing a complex and multifaceted civil war that has spurred a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions, with nearly 1 million people now living in conditions approaching famine. Meanwhile, Russia has been building up its military presence on its border with Ukraine, increasing tensions with the West and prompting fears that there will be yet another attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. And in the Taliban’s Afghanistan, more children are expected to die this winter from starvation than […]

U.S. President Joe Biden listens as he meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Nov. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

As the Biden administration prepares to release its National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, observers are searching for clues on how those reviews will grapple with the framework of “great-power competition” that anchored the previous administration’s high-level policy documents. That framework has achieved substantial bipartisan traction in the intervening four years among government officials, lawmakers and scholars, in part because it is rooted in three judgments with which most analysts would agree, even if they disagree about how those core premises should guide U.S. foreign policy. First, interstate competition, which has been a core aspect of world affairs since the Treaty […]

A Chinese honor guard member walks past a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping near the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

China’s “coercive economic policies” took center stage at last weekend’s G-7 foreign ministers’ meeting, after an eventful week that saw Nicaragua break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing and China upping the ante in its retaliation against Lithuania, after the Baltic country permitted a Taiwanese Representative Office to open in Vilnius last month. Nicaragua announced Friday that it would sever long-standing ties with Taiwan, further reducing the number of countries that still recognize the self-governing democracy as a sovereign nation to 14. (Honduras’ incoming president, Xiomara Castro, had made a similar pledge during her campaign, though she has […]

A U.S. soldier walks past armored vehicles and tanks as they are unloaded at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, on their way to take part in military exercises in Eastern Europe, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

Russia’s ongoing military buildup along its border with Ukraine has cast into sharp relief the debate about how the United States, and its allies, can most effectively ensure security in the no man’s land lying beyond NATO’s eastern perimeter. Meanwhile, China’s mounting campaign of military pressure and intimidation against Taiwan is leading some observers to question the strength of U.S. commitments to the island. Though coordination between Russia and China on these efforts is likely limited at best, their attempts to bully Ukraine and Taiwan raise a common dilemma for Washington, one liable to become more pronounced and widespread in […]

An Afghan man walks at the Afghanistan-Iran border crossing of Islam Qala, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

More than 22 million Afghans, many of them children, are at risk of starvation and exposure to cold this winter, The New York Times reported this week. Afghanistan was already experiencing food insecurity prior to the United States’ withdrawal, due to drought and harvest failure, but now, according to the United Nations Development Program, more than 8 million are facing famine.  Poor governance by the Taliban and their restrictions on women have contributed to general insecurity. But the country’s dire economic situation—which saw millions of dollars of foreign aid, constituting 43 percent of its gross domestic product, disappear overnight—has also dramatically worsened due to three […]

A U.S. soldier directs armored vehicles and tanks of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Calvary Division as they are unloaded at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

There are any number of ways to measure one of the great secular transformations of our time: the decline of the United States’ power relative not only to a rising rival like China, but to the rest of the world generally. From 1960 to the present, the American share of global economic output has declined from 40 percent to less than a quarter in recent years. And compared even to the fairly recent past, say during the presidency of Barack Obama, the influence and prestige of the American political model has withered under the corrosive effects of Trumpism as well as […]

Employees walk past the logo for Alibaba Group during an Internet Technology Expo in Beijing, April 30, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Nearly a year since Chinese authorities brought the Ant Group’s initial public offering, or IPO, to a halt, the domestic tech industry is still reeling from a relentless crackdown that has since broadened to include other sectors of the economy. In its latest reshuffling, the Alibaba Group replaced its chief financial officer and reorganized its sales team. The decision is part of the tech giant’s continuing restructuring efforts to make the company “more agile” by devolving power to the leaders of each business line. Elsewhere, ride-hailing giant Didi announced its plan to back out of the New York Stock Exchange and aim for a […]

Youths demonstrate in Paris after French unions called for strikes and protests to demand more government aid for those struggling financially because of the pandemic, Feb. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

Young people across the world are struggling to find work. Even before the pandemic hit, young people were three times more likely to be unemployed than those over the age of 25. And one in five met the criteria for what the international system characterizes as NEET—for “not in education, employment or training”—meaning they weren’t gaining experience in the labor market, receiving an income from work or enhancing their education and skills.  Now, the pandemic has demonstrated that in a crisis, young workers are also among the first to lose their jobs. More than one in 10 young people—aged 16 to 25—were forced to […]

Muslim devotees shout slogans during a protest over an alleged insult to Islam, outside the country’s main Baitul Mukarram Mosque in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Mahmud Hossain Opu).

On Oct. 13, as Bangladesh’s Hindu community celebrated a five-day religious festival, an image circulated on Facebook that showed a Quran placed on the statue of the Hindu deity Hanuman. The photo, which was taken at a shrine in the southeastern city of Comilla, was seen by some social media users as evidence of an act of blasphemy against Islam, and it inspired a mob to attack the shrine and several Hindu temples nearby. The incident became the opening salvo of one the deadliest periods of religious violence Bangladesh has seen in recent memory. Since then, mobs have torched and […]

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