A pedestrian crosses a bridge over a new 30-mile highway that was built by three Chinese companies and financed by the African Development Bank and the Exim Bank of China, leading north of Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 10, 2012 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Far more than they appeared to at first glance, two news stories in recent days have framed America’s position in the world at the outset of Joe Biden’s presidency in unusually stark and powerful ways. The first trumpeted a $400 billion investment agreement between Beijing and Tehran, with China vastly increasing its trade with Iran. It comes at a moment when the United States is hoping to force the Iranian government back to the negotiating table to reinstate and even broaden the international agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The Trump administration withdrew from that deal, reimposing […]

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 health worker pauses in the ICU unit for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital das Clinicas in Porto Alegre, Brazil, March 19, 2021 (AP Photo by Jefferson Bernardes).

As COVID-19 starts to loosen its grip on the world, it makes sense to ask what we’ve learned from this punishing experience, so that we can be better prepared when the next pandemic strikes—which it will. Although it will take years to absorb the plague’s many lessons, here are four insights from the past year that should inform multilateral pandemic preparedness in the months and years ahead. The planet is out of balance, endangering human health. This pandemic has been severe, but it should not have come as a surprise. The past half-century has seen a surge in zoonoses, or […]

U.S. soldiers patrol on the outskirts of Spin Boldak, near the border with Pakistan, about 63 miles southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Aug. 9, 2009 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

Have know-nothing civilian bureaucrats, lily-livered humanitarian do-gooders and misguided academics tied the military’s hands with increasingly restrictive norms that don’t correspond to the laws of war, let alone the rigors of battle and requirements of victory? That’s the premise of a new article in Military Review by Army Lt. Gen. Charles Pede and Col. Peter Hayden. Pede and Hayden write derisively of the three-decades-old shift in U.S. military doctrine toward enhanced civilian protection, exemplified by the population-centric counterinsurgency approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a danger, they argue, since troops trained in restraint and respect for […]

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, and Argentine President Alberto Fernandez during a ceremony marking Flag Day in Iguala, Mexico, Feb. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Eduardo Verdugo).

On everything from soccer to geopolitical issues, Argentina and Mexico have enjoyed a history of close ties. But today more than ever, their warm relationship is offering Latin America an alternative pole of power and influence, based on a vision of regional autonomy and solidarity. One indication of this was Argentine President Alberto Fernandez’s three-day trip to Mexico City last month, at the invitation of his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, widely known as AMLO. The summit was marked by a flurry of private meetings, official ceremonies, news conferences and effusive mutual praise. “A friend is nothing more than […]

Former President Barack Obama, center, speaks at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the State Department in Washington, Aug. 6, 2014 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

“Where the state is absent or weak, non-state actors, such as religious movements and institutions, traditional ethnic polities, militant organizations, or combinations of all three, take its place, some for better, some for worse.” Those are the words of former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, in his new book, “Nigeria and the Nation-State: Rethinking Diplomacy with the Post-Colonial World.” In it, he argues that U.S. diplomats should focus on working more with traditional, religious and local leaders—where real power often rests—and less with foreign ministries and weak heads of state. Campbell is currently Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa […]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, far right, speaks to China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, left, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second from left, in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18, 2021 (pool photo by Frederic J. Brown via AP).

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. Even the most optimistic observers had expected little to come out of last week’s U.S.-China summit in Alaska, where high-level officials from both sides met in person for the first time since President Joe Biden took office. But as the heated on-camera exchange that preceded the private discussions confirmed, not only will this rivalry remain, but relations that were strained under former President […]

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 […]

A Huawei store in Beijing, May 20, 2019, (GDA photo by Lam Yik Fei via AP Images).

Last week, Samsung announced that the rollout of its new Galaxy Note smartphone would be delayed, warning of a “serious imbalance” in the chip industry. It’s just the latest impact of a global shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips, caused by a unique combination of the coronavirus, climate change and Donald Trump. Semiconductors are the brains of all things electronic. Like the brain, they perform different functions—memory, processing—and range in sophistication from standard, repetitive routines to high-performance chips that can support machine learning, artificial intelligence and high-end graphics. All things electronic these days are pretty much all things chips. […]

Workers cover a glacier with oversized plastic sheets meant to keep it from melting during the summer months, on the peak of Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, May 10, 2011 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

Humanity’s collective failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is driving the world inexorably toward geoengineering, or the intentional, large-scale human manipulation of Earth’s climate system. Facing runaway global warming, individual nations will surely develop and deploy new technologies to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and the planet’s exposure to solar radiation. Playing with the environment and the atmosphere, however, is playing with fire. Without adequate rules, geoengineering will create massive, unintended consequences, deepen geopolitical rivalries and hasten the world’s division into climate winners and losers. To avoid these fates, the world must create a robust multilateral regime to govern the research, […]

People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus ride an escalator at a shopping and office complex in Beijing, July 16, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The last time the global economy cratered, in the fall of 2008 in the wake of an American banking crisis, it was China that set the pace—both in insulating itself from most of the damage, and in generating enough new demand in its own economy to prevent a far worse downturn than the already terrible recession suffered in much of the rest of the world. Even now, years later, the scale of China’s response back then is poorly understood. As the economic historian Adam Tooze recounted in his 2019 book, “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World,” […]

Female soldiers of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic parade near Tindouf, southern Algeria, Feb. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

Three months after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s startling decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, President Joe Biden’s own policy regarding this long-disputed territory remains undefined. Yet he may be forced into action soon, as there are signs the conflict is heating up: Renewed fighting between Moroccan forces and the pro-independence Polisario Front broke out in November, ending a 30-year cease-fire. Washington seems to be in no hurry, given that the fighting is so far low in intensity. U.N. sources say they have so far only confirmed the deaths of two Moroccan soldiers, though neither side acknowledges any […]

The Nancy Foster, a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship, travels over Gray’s Reef, about 20 miles off the coast of Georgia, Aug. 7, 2019 (AP Photo by Robert F. Bukaty).

As President Joe Biden’s administration moves to restore U.S. global leadership on the environment, it cannot afford to ignore the health of oceans. It must spearhead the successful conclusion of negotiations on a U.N. high seas biodiversity convention, which are currently adrift. To bring this treaty into port, the United States will need to forge global agreement on several contentious issues. It will also need to temper its neuralgic opposition to legally binding multilateral commitments, recognizing that the treaty poses no threat to U.S. sovereignty and is deeply in American interests. Although not entirely lawless, the high seas are poorly […]

A soldier stands guard as firefighters work at the site of a bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, stands between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Faced with the fact that the United States has lost patience with the Afghan government’s dithering negotiations with the Taliban, Ghani now has little choice but to orchestrate a deal that will likely end his presidency—and almost certainly result in a destructive civil war. Whether Washington decides to honor a bargain struck with the Taliban under the Trump administration, which calls for the exit of 2,500 American troops by May 1, or whether the Biden administration extends their mission by another 90 or 180 days, is almost […]

A Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, Nov. 8, 2011 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

The Pentagon confirmed this week that President Joe Biden has imposed new, temporary restrictions on counterterrorism drone strikes outside of active battlefields, making them subject to review by the National Security Council. According to The New York Times, which first broke the news, the rules were quietly put in place on Biden’s first day in office, as a stopgap measure while his national security team conducts a broader review of U.S. counterterrorism operations. According to Charli Carpenter, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst specializing in the laws of war, the Biden administration’s review is a long-overdue opportunity to rein […]

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 […]

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2010 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

On its first day in office, the Biden administration quietly placed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes outside of active battlefields. According to the New York Times, which first broke the news last week, the new restrictions are intended as a stopgap while Biden’s national security team conducts a broader review of U.S. counterterrorism operations overseas—including whether to reverse policies put in place by the Trump administration that expanded the use of drone strikes. In light of the Biden administration’s more cautious stance on drone strikes and its renewed focus on multilateralism, some analysts have argued the U.S. should be […]

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