Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong announce at a press conference that Wong will be the next prime minister, Singapore, April 16, 2022 (Singapore Press photo via AP Images).

When Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong named Finance Minister Lawrence Wong—his chosen successor—deputy prime minister as part of a Cabinet reshuffle on June 6, he asked Singaporeans to give their “full support to this important transition.” His request spotlighted a significant inflection point for Singapore, with the country simultaneously confronting a series of domestic and global challenges while it manages a critical leadership transition that will shape its future. Singapore is deservedly heralded for its success in turning itself from a tiny so-called third-world country after the country’s independence in 1965 into a first-world city state under the leadership of its […]

A pregnant woman looks at her smartphone near a logo marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party in Beijing, July 8, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion since 1973, has brought the question of state involvement in reproductive rights issues on both sides of the Pacific into sharp focus. Abortion is not overtly central to debates about China’s One Child policy, a mass-scale reproductive control infrastructure introduced in 1980 that is now being gradually rolled back. But as in the post-Roe U.S., the Chinese state’s encroachment on individual autonomy and family planning choices nonetheless looms large when it comes to reproductive rights. Forced intrauterine devices, or […]

A delivery driver wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus waits at an intersection in Beijing, Nov. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

For millions of Chinese citizens, delivery drivers have been key to surviving Beijing’s “zero COVID” coronavirus strategy. Amid rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions, e-commerce couriers have served as lifelines to communities under confinement, from massive cities like Shanghai and Chengdu to smaller provinces like Shenyang, all of which have implemented the strict isolation measures mandated under Beijing’s strict pandemic response. Under these conditions, in which leaving one’s residence for reasons unrelated to getting tested is impossible, access to food and other daily essentials has been scarce. Enter the gig worker. Delivery drivers, by and large, work under contract with courier […]

Thai crime scene investigators inspect the site of a bomb explosion in Yala, southern Thailand, March 17, 2020 (AP photo).

After a two-year hiatus in talks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first half of 2022 has seen quantifiable progress in the peace dialogue between Thailand’s government and separatist rebels based in the country’s Muslim-majority south. Since the beginning of the year, two rounds of formal negotiations have been held in Kuala Lumpur, in a Malaysia-facilitated process that has seen the government’s Peace Dialogue Panel, or PDP, meet face-to-face with leaders of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or BRN, the most powerful rebel group in southern Thailand. The latest meeting, which concluded on April 1, led to a 40-day truce that […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, listens to Chinese President Xi Jinping during press statements at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 5, 2017 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a once-hesitant Germany was shocked into reorienting its national security posture. In response to Moscow’s aggression, Chancellor Olaf Scholz proceeded to announce the creation of a 100-billion-euro supplemental fund for the German military, halt the approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and support international sanctions and energy embargoes against Russia. This same sensibility, in which crisis and opportunity converge, has also reinvigorated the long-standing debate in Germany over the country’s dependence on trade with China. Various factions within the Ampelkoalition, or the “traffic light coalition” government made up of […]

Protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest condemning President Joe Biden's decision on frozen Afghan assets in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2022 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

On Feb. 11, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order that proposed a plan for the $7 billion of frozen Afghan reserves that have been locked up in U.S. financial institutions since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Half was to be placed in a trust that would benefit the Afghan people, with the rest remaining frozen until a U.S. court rules as to whether it could be used to settle the Taliban’s legal debts with the families of 9/11 victims. The president did not determine whether that latter portion could in fact be used for 9/11 reparations—but […]

Afghan farmers harvest poppy in Nad Ali district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 1, 2022 (AP photo by Abdul Khaliq).

In April, the Taliban announced a blanket ban on drug production and use in Afghanistan. There are a number of potential reasons for the move, which would cause considerable financial pain to many of the group’s core constituencies, as well as to the Taliban itself. But the timing of the announcement suggests that the ban will not go into effect immediately, and even if the Taliban are serious about implementing it, they will face obstacles in doing so. One reason for announcing the ban could be to portray the Taliban as being in a position to control the lucrative opium […]

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the launch event for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, in Tokyo, May 23, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Just before the White House launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, in Tokyo last month, Taro Kono, the former Japanese foreign and defense minister, offered a blunt recommendation: Deriding the IPEF as the “Indo-Pacific Economic whatever,” Kono urged the U.S. to “forget” it and rejoin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP. During his press conference with U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida welcomed the IPEF but echoed Kono’s advice, stressing the strategic significance of a U.S. return to the CPTPP, which is essentially the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that then-President Barack Obama effectively […]

Supporters hold banners as they wait for of Zhou Xiaoxuan outside at a courthouse in Beijing, Dec. 2, 2020.

When Zhou Xiaoxuan, a former intern at China’s state broadcaster, was groped by Zhu Jun, a prominent news anchor, in 2014, she was told by police to keep quiet about her ordeal and consider his status as a national “positive energy” icon. Simply put, Zhu’s value as a newscaster was deemed by law enforcement to be more important than justice for Zhou. Zhou, who also goes by the nickname of Xianzi, later filed a civil suit in 2021 to seek damages, a move that turned out to be unsuccessful. Though her civil suit was dismissed a year prior to the Johnny Depp-Amber […]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support, March 16, 2022.

On the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, amid the cacophony of war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he heard the “sound of a new Iron Curtain” falling across Europe. That message resounded loudly in Washington and across Europe, where ever since the West has framed the war in ideological terms: Autocratic Russia, they explain, is waging a brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, because the latter aspired to follow the Western model of liberal democracy. As such, the world must help Ukraine to defend itself—or risk imperiling the entire “free world.” This strategic narrative has been very effective in mobilizing the United […]

Students at the China Executive Leadership Academy listen to a classroom lecture in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi province, April 9, 2021.

Discussions in Washington and Beijing about U.S.-China decoupling, both potential and actual, often focus on diplomacy, technology and trade. But while the growing tensions between the two strategic rivals are most visible in these areas, decoupling is also taking place in other, often-overlooked dimensions of the relationship, including in the academic and intellectual realm. In late May, China’s Ministry of Education and the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department jointly released an action plan to develop a distinctly Chinese approach to the academic disciplines of philosophy and the social sciences in China’s higher education. A report in the state-run People’s Daily newspaper explained that the plan […]

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump upended what was once a relatively staid global economic and trade system. For all of the upheaval he created, though, Trump left office with only one clear-cut accomplishment: an updated NAFTA deal. And even as Trump sowed chaos in America’s trade relationships, most of the world reinforced its commitment to trade liberalization.

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou speaks during a press conference at the Executive Tower in Montevideo, Uruguay, April 7, 2021 (AP photo by Matilde Campodonico).

In the run-up to the troubled ninth Summit of the Americas taking place this week in Los Angeles, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, whose center-right government has been one of the most consistently aligned with U.S. policies in the region, strongly criticized the Biden administration, asserting that it lacks a vision for Latin America and mistakenly sees the hemisphere’s diverse countries as all having the same problems and needs. Lacalle Pou’s candid remarks demonstrate the principled consistency of a government that is often overlooked by, but increasingly important to Washington, at a time when Latin American governments are increasingly turning to partners that are […]

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace, in Tokyo, May 23, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In an age of rapid news cycles, when controversies often emerge and fade away in hours, if not days, U.S. President Joe Biden’s declaration in late May that the United States would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China might seem like ancient history. But given the weightiness of the topic, recent calls for creating a “Pacific NATO” and the heightened focus in recent months on a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the remarks, which caused quite a stir at the time, warrant a second look. At a joint press conference with Japanese […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks as part of a visit of the Joint Operations Command of the German armed forces, in Schwielowsee near Berlin, Germany, March 4, 2022 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

Last week, Germany’s lower legislative chamber, the Bundestag, held a historic vote to amend the country’s constitution to allow for a massive expansion of its military forces. The vote tally—567 to 96, with 20 abstentions—was one more sign that when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he upended not only the architecture of global security, but also, in some cases, fundamental, long-established beliefs about national defense. In the case of Germany, one of the most significant effects of Russian aggression has been the blow it dealt to the notion of pacifism that has guided the country’s defense policies since World War […]

A protester lights candles to mark the anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests, outside the Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2021 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

The events of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square were part of a distinct moment in time. At the heart of what took place there that day was a question of succession hovering over Deng Xiaoping, the then-paramount leader whose stewardship of the Chinese Communist Party stood at a crossroads following the death of Hu Yaobang, the CCP’s former general secretary. June 4 was an opportunity for the protesters in Tiananmen Square to communicate not only to their political leaders, but also to Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-leader of the Soviet Union who was visiting China at the time. The square […]

An officer on board a Vietnamese coast guard vessel films a Chinese coast guard vessel sailing in the waters claimed by both countries in the South China Sea, May 15, 2014 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

Ukraine’s successes in resisting and even turning back an invasion by a numerically superior Russian force has raised expectations in East Asia that smaller nations in the region could conceivably fend off an attack from a large military like China’s. Taiwan, of course, has long struggled with executing such a defense strategy, but since its strategic considerations are in many ways unique, other countries nominally threatened by China may not be able to draw as many lessons from Taipei’s experience. Ukraine’s performance in its war against Russia, on the other hand, may look to them like a more relevant model—for […]

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