Former Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa waves to supporters during a party convention held to announce the presidential candidacy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Populist politicians, who have been sweeping to power in countries across the globe, build their appeal partly on claims that they will base their policies on the needs and interests of the people. But once in power, their decisions, often ill-conceived, can create grave problems for the very voters they purport to champion. For proof, look no further than what has befallen the people of Sri Lanka. In recent months, life in the island nation has turned into a grinding, ever-worsening ordeal. What started as a government debt crisis has devolved into broader economic turmoil, marked by critical shortages of […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a gathering of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the Parliament House in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 22, 2022 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

China’s positioning with regard to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, and it is likely to be a central topic of discussion at the China-European Union Summit scheduled to be held this Friday. But for Beijing, which is seeking to mend fences and shore up ties with countries in South Asia, diplomacy closer to home remains a priority as well. Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi completed a six-day tour of the region, including unannounced stops in Afghanistan, India and Nepal. Wang began his trip in Islamabad, where he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran […]

State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi poses with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken following a meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, Jan. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

A civilian population comes under brutal attack by a heavily armed military force. What is the world to do? Amid Russia’s ongoing onslaught against Ukraine, this question has dominated the agendas of policymakers, monopolized headlines and taken over discussions on social media. But when Myanmar’s military, a perennial human rights violator, unleashed a scorched-earth campaign against the country’s Rohingya minority in 2016, the crisis was a secondary matter for most of the world. Now, six years later—and one year after Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, overthrew the country’s incipient democracy—the United States has finally formally designated that 2016-2017 campaign […]

Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

On March 9, after a long campaign and an even longer election night, South Korea finally elected a new president: Yoon Suk Yeol, of the conservative People Power Party. The 61-year-old career prosecutor, who won by less than 1 percent of the vote, may not have the strongest electoral mandate to work with. But he is nevertheless expected to make dramatic changes to the country’s foreign policy once he enters office on May 10. Since Yoon is new to politics, it’s hard to know what to expect of him once he takes over. That’s all the more true because public […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen on a live broadcast of the opening ceremony for the National People’s Congress, March 5, 2022, Beijing (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Not long after the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I wrote that for China, binding itself tightly to Moscow would do harm to Beijing’s long-term interests. That is because, I wrote, an alliance between a superpower like China and a far less dynamic country like Russia, whose economy is a small fraction of the former’s size, is not much of an alliance. This would especially hold true if Beijing’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin deepened European wariness of China and caused Europe and the United States to grow even closer, both of which now seem almost certain. Some object that […]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually from the Situation Room at the White House with Chinese President Xi Jinping, March 18, 2022, Washington (White House photo via AP).

A two-hour virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, failed to yield progress on efforts to halt the war in Ukraine, while leaving relations between Washington and Beijing locked in a stalemate. A month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has proven unable to convince Beijing to end its diplomatic tap dance around the conflict. But Beijing views its long-term rivalry with Washington as its chief geopolitical concern, making it unlikely to abandon Moscow, its new strategic partner, over the war. Xi spoke to Biden on Friday at the latter’s request, following a […]

A woman walks past the World Bank building in Washington, April 5, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In mid-February, the World Bank issued a warning: Many low-income countries hit hardest by the pandemic are now on the brink of serious debt crisis, complicating the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While worries about the accumulated burden of sovereign debt and the possibility of a debt crisis have been present for years, the pandemic has exacerbated an already precarious situation for many low-income countries, revealing fundamental flaws in the current architecture for sovereign debt restructuring. These flaws are likely to become more evident in 2022, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributes to higher global energy and food prices, […]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat speak at the State Department, Washington, March 11, 2022 (AP photo by Balce Ceneta).

The war in Ukraine might be distant from the African continent, but its effects are proving to be far-reaching. From skyrocketing fuel prices to disruptions in food supply chains, Africans are feeling the real-life consequences of a conflict many of them regard as peripheral to their concerns and believe has little to do with them. But in addition to exacerbating the myriad difficulties African populations are grappling with, the war is also threatening to hobble the international collaborations their governments are trying to develop to address those challenges. That dynamic was on display at last week’s eighth annual high-level dialogue between the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

As the war in Ukraine rages on and China faces growing pressure to end its diplomatic tap dance around the conflict, Beijing is increasingly shifting its attention toward providing humanitarian aid and brokering peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. But although Chinese officials continue to insist on Beijing’s neutrality on what it describes as “the Ukraine crisis,” China’s refusal to take a side may come at a high cost. At the moment, Western observers are even worried that China might begin to actively back Russia in the conflict. Russia has already turned to China for military hardware and aid in […]

An unidentified missile that analysts believe could be the North Korean Hwasong 12 is paraded in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

For reasons that readers of this column will certainly be aware of, the world seems consumed with Ukraine right now. In the face of what one Chinese scholar recently called the most important conflict since World War II, other important issues have been falling off the radar, starting with what has the ominous appearance of a mounting crisis of COVID-19 infections in China itself, after two years of success in containing the virus. The rest of the world is not standing still because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of course, whatever appearance the headlines may give. Just beneath the surface, […]

Activists from the Bersih movement show a placard reading “Clean Elections” during a rally against corruption in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

Although widely overlooked outside the country, Malaysia recently experienced what is arguably the biggest shake-up to its electoral politics since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957, thanks to a law passed in 2019 that took effect on Dec. 15. The legislation, which lowers the voting age from 21 to 18, will see 5.8 million new voters added to the electorate ahead of the next general election in 2023. Perhaps even more importantly, it represents a rare and encouraging victory on the part of Malaysian progressives, who have had very few wins to celebrate in recent years. The campaign to lower […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a press conference after the signing ceremony for India’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems in New Delhi, India, Oct. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, India—which is currently a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council—has drawn scrutiny for having abstained multiple times on votes in the Security Council, U.N. General Assembly and U.N. Human Rights Council on resolutions criticizing the Russian aggression. Instead, the Indian Mission at the United Nations issued a nuanced statement calling for an “immediate cessation of violence” in Ukraine, without publicly condemning Russia’s actions—a move that pleased neither its Western partners nor Russia. The Russian-Ukraine war puts India in a difficult position. On the one hand, India wants to avoid antagonizing the U.S., a long-time […]

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

Scarcely more than a week ago, Chinese social media and the country’s internet were ablaze with quick takes from both prominent commentators and ordinary folks praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s armed bid to subdue Ukraine, as well as with fervent celebrations of what many in China saw as a toothless reaction from the West. The responses from Chinese voices like these, more emotional and nationalistic than lucid and analytical, saw in Putin’s defiance of the United States and Europe more evidence of the unstoppable rise of authoritarian states like their own, and of the longed-for decline of the West. Although […]

Patients in hospital beds wait in a temporary holding area outside Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, March 2, 2022 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

After two years of controlling the coronavirus pandemic with stringent border restrictions and social distancing measures, Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy has collapsed under the weight of the omicron variant. In the past few months, the city has experienced its largest outbreak of coronavirus cases to date, with tens of thousands of daily infections and a total of over 500,000 recorded cases as of Tuesday. The fatality rate has also soared, as the coronavirus ravages nursing homes in the city and afflicts its large population of undervaccinated elderly residents. Medical experts have attributed the spike in cases to a series of […]

People watch a TV showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch, Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 20, 2022 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Just three months into 2022, North Korea has already engaged in an intensive series of missile tests, including two more last week, that have advanced the country’s development of hypersonic glide vehicles, a rail-based missile regiment, cruise missiles and even missile technology claimed to be related to reconnaissance satellite development. This pace of testing, reminiscent of 2017, raises questions about the country’s motivations and messaging. Some observers have suggested that North Korea simply wants attention or is attempting to raise the stakes ahead of a new “charm offensive” toward the United States. But the broader security context in which this […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao, China, June 10, 2018 (AP photo by Dake Kang).

In recent weeks, there has been much speculation about the depth of China and Russia’s strategic alignment. Since early February, when the two sides released a joint statement during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, the argument that Moscow and Beijing are not merely aligned but in an overt alliance against the U.S. and the West more broadly has gained traction. However, on closer examination, China’s actions in the leadup to and immediate aftermath of the invasion paint a mixed picture as to the extent of the bilateral relationship. There is […]

Presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung, left, of the ruling Democratic Party and Yoon Suk Yeol of the main opposition People Power Party pose for photos before a televised debate, in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2022 (Photo by Yonhap via AP).

With less than a week before voting on March 9, the race for who will become South Korea’s next president is unusually close. After a brief campaign season marked by mudslinging and endless scandals, the choice between the two leading candidates—Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party, and Yoon Suk Yeol of the conservative People Power Party—will likely be decided by a highly unpredictable bloc: young voters. Whoever wins will replace President Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party, who, after running a hopeful campaign in 2017 promising to tackle corruption and inequality, is ending his five-year term with a relatively […]

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