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Given the state of U.S.-China relations these days, most observers had low expectations for Thursday’s call between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. The list of issues causing tensions is long, and the areas for cooperation have narrowed. Unsurprisingly, then, the call resembled a conversation from the terminal stage of a bad romance.

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to West Africa this week was billed by Paris as his latest effort to reshape France’s relations with its former colonies in Africa. But the visit’s short-term fanfare is unlikely to blunt deepening opposition to France or slow down its declining influence in the region.

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European Union officials are putting on a brave face as the bloc approves a plan to ration natural gas this winter to avoid an energy crisis should Russia make additional cuts to its exports. But the discussions leading up to the plan’s approval revealed cracks in their public display of solidarity.

A recent visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region marked Xi Jinping’s first notable public appearance since his trip to Hong Kong in late June. The visit’s choreography—from the emphasis on economic consumption and production to the racialized undercurrent of Han tourism in China—points to an unsavory truth.

Mohammed Shia al-Sudani speaks during a statement at the special session on Iraq of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi).

After more than nine months of deadlock following parliamentary elections last year, Iraq appears to be on the verge of forming a government. The Coordination Framework, a parliamentary bloc that includes Iran-backed Shiite militias, has nominated Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as its candidate for prime minister. The nomination of al-Sudani by the Shiite bloc could thread the needle, as analyst Hamzeh Haddad writes, by producing an Iraqi government stable enough to make tough but necessary policy decisions, but not so polarizing as to spark a renewed round of civil conflict between rival Shiite camps.

African heads of state gather for a group photograph at the African Union leaders’ summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 5, 2022 (AP photo).

Last week, 13 African heads of state and government attended the African Union’s Mid-Year Coordination Meeting, the principal forum for the AU and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, or RECs, to align their priorities and coordinate implementation of the continental integration agenda. This year’s meeting, the fourth since the format was launched in 2017 to replace a mid-year leaders’ summit, was focused on issues like the status of regional integration in Africa; the division of labor between the AU, its member states and RECs; a tripartite free trade agreement between the East African Community, The Common Market for Eastern and Southern […]

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi attends a debate at the Senate in Rome, July 20, 2022 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The news of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation is causing despondence in Brussels. The announcement will throw Italy into months of political turmoil and risks ushering in a new far-right government in the next general election, which is scheduled for this fall. Draghi’s resignation caps off a week of drama in Rome that kicked off when the Five Star Movement, or 5SM—the largest party in Italy’s parliament and the bedrock of the prime minister’s unity coalition—announced that it would not take part in a confidence motion last week, effectively torpedoing Draghi’s government. Draghi initially offered to resign the premiership […]

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Two weeks ago, I returned to Beirut for my first visit to Lebanon since an economic crash transformed the country into a perverse lab experiment on the limits of human tolerance for completely avoidable privation and abusive governance. The human impact of the crisis, which began in October 2019, has been thoroughly chronicled, but it’s still stunning to see it in person. Every individual and household in the country runs a daily obstacle course to secure what food, fuel and medicine is available. Meanwhile, the ultra-rich continue to live in style, packing into clubs and luxury shops in full view […]

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid address the media following their meeting in Jerusalem, July 14, 2022 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. President Joe Biden made his first presidential trip to the Middle East this week, stopping in Israel for a three-day visit that was refreshingly uncontroversial, before heading on to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that has raised hackles in Washington since it was announced several weeks ago. The contrasting atmospherics of the two legs of Biden’s trip serve to underscore how much has changed in the region in recent years, but also paradoxically how much has stayed the same. Coming a year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, […]

Chinese soldiers look at photographs of survivors of the Nanjing Massacre at the National Museum of China in Beijing, Aug. 12, 2005 (AP photo by Elizabeth Dalziel).

To prominent Asia watchers and policymakers, making sense of the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has involved going beyond the man himself to reflect on the politics of the Asia he envisioned. In practice, that means that not only has Abe the man been mourned, but his legacy lauded, too. Matt Pottinger, the former White House coordinator for Asia policy under then-U.S. President Donald Trump, summed up the general sentiment in an op-ed that described Abe as having popularized the idea of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” among regional states wary of China’s rise, turning it into a unifying […]

President Joe Biden walks to the Oval Office of the White House after stepping off Marine One, June 13, 2022, in Washington (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

I had planned this week to write about my impressions of Beirut from my first visit there in more than three years. But I’ll save that for next week’s newsletter, because U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the Middle East is screaming out for corrective analysis. The problem with the trip is not so much the fact of its occurrence, but the framing of its purpose by U.S. officials, which appears to be based on an outmoded understanding of how foreign influence works in the region’s functional but eroding system of states. Biden is scheduled to make stops in […]

Then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers a question during a press conference in Tokyo, March 14, 2020 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

The news of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s assassination yesterday was shocking on a number of levels. First, for reasons specific to Japan, given that gun violence is almost nonexistent in the country, and political violence, though it occurs, is exceedingly rare. Second, because of the ways in which national leaders, even in democracies, take on the trappings of divine incarnation, making an assassination akin to deicide. Abe no longer held office, but as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and in the absence of a convincing successor, he still possessed the aura of leadership. It’s easy to forget, too, that […]

A demonstrator protests the police murder of George Floyd in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 8, 2020 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

I often like to say that my relationship with World Politics Review has come full circle from reader to employee. I have been a WPR reader for almost as long as the publication has existed. Two years ago, Judah Grunstein, WPR’s editor-in-chief, and I made contact on Twitter, and he subsequently invited me to contribute two articles, which we both thought turned out nicely. That’s why when the opportunity to join WPR’s editorial team arose, it was a no-brainer for me, not least because a core part of my responsibility would be to write a weekly newsletter about African affairs. […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to media outside 10 Downing Street in London, July 7, 2022 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

After having survived months of seemingly unending controversies and scandals, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that he is stepping down as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party. Until just days ago, Johnson appeared to be untouchable. But a sex scandal in which he was not personally involved led to new revelations of his having lied about what he knew and when, becoming the straw that broke the camel’s back. The big question for the Tories now is, Who will succeed Johnson as party leader and prime minister? Before Johnson’s resignation, the U.K. spent the better part of […]

A woman wearing a face mask rides a bicycle past a large television screen displaying Chinese President Xi Jinping, Hong Kong, July 1, 2022 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Chinese President Xi Jinping toured Wuhan last week in what amounted to a victory lap, triumphantly walking through production facilities and industrial sectors in the city that was the coronavirus pandemic’s Ground Zero when it emerged in December 2019. Xi’s visit was significant for two key, if distinct, reasons. One was to inspect “Optics Valley,” a burgeoning technology hub that symbolizes China’s ambitions to develop home-grown innovation and boost self-reliance. As with many of his visits to manufacturing facilities and incubators for critical technology sectors across China, Xi took photos with key personnel at the manufacturing sites and spoke about […]

A video is displayed on a screen at a hearing of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, June 21, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

One of the defining features of the United States is expressed by its Latin motto, e pluribus unum—out of many, one. This historical fact, that the nation was not born a solitary whole, but became one by merging its discrete parts, often hides in plain sight, even in the grammar used to describe the country: Though the states that make it up are plural, the United States is singular. And it is further obscured by an assumption, cooked into the national imaginary, that this resulting whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And yet, when the reality of […]

Migrants climb the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, Spain, June 24, 2022 (AP photo by Javier Bernardo).

International condemnation is growing against Morocco and Spain as more details emerge about the violent deaths of at least 37 migrants during an attempt last week to cross Morocco’s border with the Spanish enclave of Melilla. According to media reports, more than 2,000 people attempted to enter the enclave from the Moroccan city of Nador. Moroccan authorities initially claimed that the migrants died in a stampede or as a result of falling from the high, barbed-wire fence that separates Melilla from Moroccan territory. But human rights groups threw cold water on those claims, and video footage quickly emerged and circulated on […]