President Donald Trump during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House, Washington, March 17, 2020 (AP Photo by Evan Vucci).

For three years, Americans, along with the rest of the world, have watched President Donald Trump run an administration unlike any other in U.S. history. He repeatedly broke norms, principles and traditions, upending the way all of his predecessors had governed. His many disruptions have taken their toll, but it took the emergence of a global pandemic to expose the full cost of Trump’s now-familiar patterns. As the coronavirus spread, and a global crisis loomed, Trump resorted to the flawed habits and measures that have been the hallmark of his presidency. He relied on the advice of unqualified acolytes. He […]

People walk by a giant TV screen at a shopping mall in Beijing showing China’s leader, Xi Jinping, talking to medical workers as he visited a hospital in Wuhan, March 10, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. As the rate of domestic coronavirus transmission in China continues to fall, the Chinese government declared last Thursday that the peak of its COVID-19 outbreak has passed. With the epidemic at home largely under control, Beijing is directing its attention to cases imported by infected travelers. It is also seeking to reshape the narrative of a global pandemic that originated in China. Wuhan, the city in central China at the epicenter of the outbreak, remains on lockdown. But the […]

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Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. In just a few months, the tightly connected systems of a globalized world have transformed the novel coronavirus from a handful of cases in China to a global pandemic. But we have yet to see an international response that matches the scale of the threat. The contrast with the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic crash is stark. Then, governments vastly upgraded the G-20 from a somewhat obscure forum of finance ministers […]

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with tourism industry executives about the COVID-19 pandemic, at the White House, Washington, March 17, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Three months after reports emerged of a novel coronavirus spreading in central China, it is safe to say that our world, and all of our individual worlds, have been transformed by what has become a terrifying pandemic. Governments around the globe are taking unprecedented steps to restrict movement and limit social contact among their populations to contain that virus’s spread. Growing numbers of the world’s inhabitants are now living in either voluntary or imposed isolation, or preparing to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic has been called the first truly global crisis since World War II. Arguably the climate crisis already […]

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

The coronavirus pandemic is, first and foremost, a global health emergency. But it is also having major economic effects—sinking stock markets and threatening to send the global economy into recession. The economic shocks outside China, where the outbreak originated, were relatively modest at first, as the authorities there—after initially trying to suppress any news of an epidemic—finally imposed strict containment measures that shut down major parts of the economy and disrupted supply chains globally. But those shocks grew rapidly as the virus spread around the world and countries took drastic steps to try and contain it. In the midst of […]

People watch a TV showing a live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, including President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to close the U.S. border to European travelers. They also discuss government responses to the crisis, the competing narratives that are emerging, and questions of solidarity and resilience—both within countries and among them. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free […]

A member of the Afghan security forces stands guard after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 6, 2020 (AP photo by Tamana Sarwar).

There have already been many military maneuvers, political pivots and plot twists since the U.S. inked a peace deal with the Taliban late last month. But the one development that could finally bring a measure of clarity to Afghanistan in the long term is the International Criminal Court’s decision on March 5 to approve opening a full investigation into allegations that U.S., Taliban and Afghan government forces committed systematic abuses during the nearly 20-year-long war. For Afghanistan, the ruling issued by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber reversed the court’s earlier, mystifying decision last April to deny the request of the ICC’s […]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot in parliamentary elections, in Tehran, Feb. 21, 2020 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP Images).

Iran’s parliamentary elections last month were an unmitigated success for conservatives and hard-liners. Aided by unprecedented low turnout and the disqualification of thousands of their opponents, they won 221 of the legislature’s 290 seats, while reformists and moderates took only 19—down from 121 in the 2016 elections. The outcome profoundly changed the balance of power in Tehran, which will have serious repercussions for Iran’s domestic and foreign policies. Forces loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are now well-positioned to consolidate power over Iran’s governing institutions and likely win the presidency in 2021, when Hassan Rouhani, a centrist who was first […]

Vice President Mike Pence and other U.S. officials take questions in the press briefing room of the White House, Washington, March 10, 2020 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

These are humbling times to be American, or at least they should be. They are humbling times to be an American journalist, too, especially one of my generation, who spent a career spanning the 1980s to the end of the aughts traveling the wide world as a foreign correspondent. America, of course, had problems back then, indeed very real problems. But one function of America’s immense wealth and power during this period was the illusion, which foreign correspondents could sustain without too much difficultly, that the world was innately more interesting than their own country, because the world was where […]

Trash collectors pick up plastic bottles in New Delhi

In September 2018, after years of modeling and development, the Ocean Cleanup project launched System 001, a floating barrier designed to scoop up plastic debris from an area in the Pacific Ocean that, because of prevailing currents, had become a natural repository of ocean-borne plastic waste. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as the area the size of France became known, was first discovered in 1988, but it gained prominence after a public awareness campaign in 2008. Although System 001 ultimately failed to hold onto the plastic debris it collected, Ocean Cleanup announced late last year that a modified prototype known […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a press conference in Tehran, Feb. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international deal designed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, the time it might take Tehran to build such a weapon if it so chooses has dropped from more than a year to just a few months. The world now has much less time to react if that happens—and no good options in response. After Washington, to the dismay of its allies, reimposed economic sanctions and demanded that Iran do more to change its behavior, there have been no new negotiations and no clarity on exactly what the Trump […]

The Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

As Democratic voters in America enter a decisive stage in determining who should face Donald Trump in the November presidential election, Freedom House has issued an alarming report on the status of representative government worldwide. The annual report, titled “Freedom in the World 2020,” makes for sobering reading. For the 14th consecutive year, democracy lost ground to tyranny in 2019. Authoritarian regimes are emboldened. Long-established democracies are slipping. And attacks on religious minorities and other vulnerable populations are surging. The human yearning for freedom remains powerful, as evinced by recent protest movements in Hong Kong, Algiers, Khartoum and Tehran. Unfortunately, […]

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, meets U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 1, 2019 (Pakistan Press Information Department photo via AP Images).

The United States and the Taliban signed an agreement in late February that sets a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The negotiations leading up to the deal were long and fraught, and they almost fell apart last September, after President Donald Trump suspended talks and canceled a planned summit with Taliban leaders at Camp David. But as difficult as the talks were, they pale in comparison to what lies ahead: launching, sustaining and successfully concluding a formal intra-Afghan peace process between the government in Kabul and the Taliban, as well as other Afghan political leaders. Questions abound […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet at Hyderabad House, New Delhi, India, Feb. 25, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first official visit to India last week was meant to highlight the strength of the U.S.-India partnership and the high priority that Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi place on the relationship. Trump ingratiated himself with his hosts by refusing to publicly criticize the controversial citizenship law that has unleashed mass protests across India. As deadly communal riots raged in Delhi, Trump and Modi stayed on script, enthusiastically declaring that the state of the U.S.-India relationship is strong. Lending credence to that message, the two leaders signed important deals on defense, energy and counterterrorism during […]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Kevin Hagen).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. In a setback for Beijing’s efforts to raise its profile at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations, a Chinese candidate failed to win a leadership contest for the U.N.’s intellectual property agency on Wednesday. Wang Binyang’s bid to head the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, had been opposed by the United States due to concerns about China’s respect for intellectual property rights. Fifty-five out of 83 countries on WIPO’s steering committee voted in favor of Daren Tang, […]

The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a developmental test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 5, 2020 (Photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear for U.S. Air Force via AP Images).

The U.S. military recently confirmed that it has fielded controversial low-yield nuclear warheads on certain submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Plans for the new warhead were included in President Donald Trump’s 2018 nuclear posture review, and its explosive yield is roughly a third of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. Trump administration officials argue that the new warhead will serve as a deterrent for Russia’s so-called tactical nuclear weapons, but experts fear that the prevalence of these low-yield nuclear weapons will make an eventual conflict more likely. The news of their deployment comes amid broader scrutiny of […]

Police officers wearing face masks patrol at a container port in Qingdao, China, Feb. 19, 2020 (Chinatopix photo via AP Images).

Toward the end of his second term in office, former U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Atlantic that “we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China.” It would be hyperbole to claim that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will create the weakened, threatened China that Obama warned about. But it could give us a glimpse. The draconian measures China took to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province, seem to have prevented a worst-case scenario for now. But […]

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