A woman with a baby entering a temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Panagiotis Balaskas).

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson left the hospital in April 2020 after having been treated for COVID-19, he released a widely viewed video address in which he thanked the nurses that had cared for him. In singling out two for special mention—Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal—he shone a spotlight on the critical role that migrants have played during the pandemic. Throughout the world, migrants work essential jobs. Migrant women in particular play significant roles in the health care and domestic support industries, caring for patients and the elderly. Women make up nearly half of international migrants, […]

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 […]

A sign asks people to stay 2 meters apart to reduce the spread of COVID-19, London, June 22, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

There were grim anniversaries last week, a year since the first coronavirus lockdown in the United Kingdom. This time last year, I had developed a strange, breathless cough that didn’t go away for eight weeks. But I was one of the lucky ones. More than 127,000 people in the U.K. didn’t make it. The U.K. may have been overtaken more recently by other European countries, like the Czech Republic and Hungary, for the unhappy distinction of having the highest COVID-19 death rate per capita in the world, but it’s still close to the top spot, as is the United States. […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, March 12, 2021 (AP photo by Peter Morrison).

In mid-March, the British government released its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, titled, “Global Britain in a Competitive Age.” This was followed a week later by a more focused defense review. The two documents represent the end products of an exercise conducted by the government every five years, a combination of stocktaking, horizon-scanning and threat assessment, with some new policy announcements thrown in. This one began in 2020, but its completion was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The headlines surrounding the latest review have focused on the announcements that the U.K. would increase the size […]

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan waves to supporters during a rally in Yerevan, Armenia, Feb. 25, 2021 (PAN Photo by Tigran Mehrabyan via AP Images).

After facing months of pressure to resign, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on March 18 that Armenia would hold snap parliamentary elections in June. The decision appears to be de-escalating tensions in the country, but it may not end months of political discord in which protesters have regularly taken to the streets calling for Pashinyan’s removal. They’ve been joined by all of Armenia’s former presidents, current President Armen Sarkissian, the powerful leadership of the Armenian church and the bulk of the military’s senior leadership. They all blame him for the country’s decisive loss in last autumn’s war with Azerbaijan, in […]

Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks with the media on the day of the Netherlands’ general election, The Hague, Netherlands, March 17, 2021 (pool photo by Eva Plevier via AP Images).

Dutch voters went to the polls last week and the results were, well, a bit muddled. Anyone claiming to have detected a dramatic and unequivocal message from the Netherlands is guilty of, at the very least, exaggerating the significance of an outcome that really was a mixed bag. Headlines like the one in The Washington Post—where, full disclosure, I’m a contributing columnist—declaring that the Dutch elections add to evidence of “the far right’s global retreat” betray wishful thinking. There’s a good chance that the far right is in an initial phase of a global retreat, but that was not in […]

A protest condemning the arrest of rapper Pablo Hasel in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

The arrest of the Spanish rapper known as Pablo Hasel in February sparked violent protests in his native Catalonia, but also across Spain. Judging from international news coverage, Spain’s young people had erupted in anger over a lack of free speech in the country, 46 years after its post-dictatorship transition to democracy. A closer look, however, reveals a more complex story about how the Catalan independence movement drove these protests, as well as a more nuanced debate about European versus American concepts of free speech, even as Spain forges ahead with an already-promised reform to its free speech law. The […]

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 […]

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 […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with young women during an event on the eve of Girls’ Day, at the chancellery in Berlin, April 25, 2018 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

BERLIN—Like all young Germans, Lilli Fischer has lived nearly all of her conscious life during Angela Merkel’s tenure as chancellor of Germany. Now 21 years old, Fischer was just a newborn in 2000, when Merkel took over leadership of Germany’s center-right party, the Christian Democratic Union or CDU; she was just 5 years old when Merkel became the country’s first female chancellor in 2005. Fast forward to today, and Fisher, too, has entered public life. Frustrated by the education policies of the state government in Thuringia, her home in the country’s east, she first got involved in politics while she […]

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 […]

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 […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 17, 2017 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

In retrospect, the early 2000s can be considered, if not the high-water mark, then the golden age of contemporary globalization. Liberalized trade had achieved a quasi-theological status, with the catalogue of its benefits—both real and anticipated—extending far beyond its strictly economic impact. Trade, it was argued, would allow countries in the developing world to lift their populations out of poverty and into the “global middle class.” With this new affluence would come greater expectations for effective governance, generating protean demands for accountability that would eventually lead to political liberalization in countries where authoritarianism was the rule. Meanwhile, the lowered barriers […]

Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and Kurt Pritz, its senior vice president, speak at a press conference, London, June 13, 2012 (AP photo by Tim Hales).

It’s been called a “coup” attempt at the British registry for .uk domain names, and it has broad implications for internet governance. You may not have heard of Nominet, the company in question. You may not have heard of ICANN, either—the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. But these two nonprofits are quite significant in the inward-looking world of internet governance. Nominet, a not-for-profit company, is owned by approximately 2,500 members—individuals and organizations, from GoDaddy to mom-and-pop shops, that are involved in domain registration and associated services, such as hosting, web design and email provision. Some of those members, […]

Georgian opposition activists attend a rally in support of the United National Movement party leader Nika Melia in Tbilisi, Georgia, Feb. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

In late February, police raided the party headquarters of the opposition United National Movement in Tbilisi, Georgia, to arrest its chairman, Nika Melia. The raid and arrest, which were live-streamed and video-recorded by observers, have thrown the country deep into political crisis. Given Melia’s longstanding role as a thorn in the side of the ruling Georgian Dream party, his detention appears to be a politically motivated show of force to intimidate the government’s critics. The move provoked outrage in Georgia, the European Union and the United States, where members of the U.S. Congress and human rights organizations have expressed concern. […]

A woman kneels in front of a riot police line as they block a rally of Belarusian opposition supporters in the center of Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 30, 2020 (AP photo).

A raging pandemic, an absent America and an emboldened China have exacerbated an ongoing global democratic recession. That is the message of “Freedom in the World 2021,” Freedom House’s latest status report on the fortunes of democracy. During 2020, democracy retreated for the 15th consecutive year, deteriorating in 73 countries and improving in only 28—a record margin according to Freedom House, which has been tracking these trends for more than 40 years. Reversing this decline will require established democracies to play both defense and offense, bolstering democracy where it is under siege and challenging the anti-democratic message of the world’s […]

Posters show candidates for Catalonia’s regional election, in Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

MADRID—Last month’s election in Catalonia underlined the deep and longstanding divisions in the region over whether to seek independence from the rest of Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party may have won the most votes, but separatist parties together won the most seats in the regional Parliament and are poised to form a government. However, the record-low voter turnout of just over 53 percent raises questions about how much of a mandate the new Catalan government will have. The rift between separatists and unionists has dominated both Catalan and Spanish politics for a decade, and the regional polls […]

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