Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspect an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept. 6, 2019 (pool photo by Roman Pilipey via AP Images).

The European Union has struggled mightily in recent months to assert itself as a strategically autonomous and relevant actor in response to an increasingly aggressive China. In April, the EU drafted a report critical of Chinese disinformation efforts related to the spread of the novel coronavirus in Europe, but it bowed to pressure from China and removed most of the criticism leveled at Beijing that had been included in the initial draft, which leaked to the press. The subsequent public criticism led the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, to receive a tongue-lashing at a hearing of the […]

Doctors and nurses attend to COVID-19 patients at the Guillermo Almenara hospital in Lima, Peru, May 22, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Few governments acted more decisively to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic than Peru, whose president, Martin Vizcarra, mobilized the country’s resources even before the World Health Organization formally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By most objective measures, Vizcarra did almost everything right. Most importantly, and in contrast to other leaders, he took action early, something that epidemiological models confirm is vital for preventing widespread contagion. And yet, tragically, Peru still stands as one of the world’s COVID-19 hotspots today, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases in South America. Only Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has put on a […]

Municipality workers disinfect the grounds of the historical Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, May 26, 2020 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In a national address earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of a “normalization plan” to gradually ease restrictions on movement that had ground much of Turkey to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic. After spreading rapidly during March and April, infection and death rates have decreased recently in Turkey, which currently has nearly 160,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 4,400 deaths. Erdogan trumpeted his government’s success in tackling the public health crisis, but warned that “much harsher measures” will be required if cases spike again. Pro-government media outlets insist that Turkey’s fight against the […]

President Donald Trump listens during a session at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant, which is now manufacturing personal protection and medical equipment, Ypsilanti, Michigan, May 21, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Six months after the emergence of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and four months after it became a global outbreak, its political and economic fallout continue to take shape. As government policies adapt and evolve in real time to the changing features of the pandemic, so too do the geopolitical implications. So far, three scenarios have been advanced with regard to COVID-19’s potential impact on the international order. They can be broadly characterized as a change at the top, in which a triumphant and capable China replaces the bungling U.S. as the world’s dominant power; a descent into multipolar […]

A boy paddles a kayak down a flooded street in Midland, Mich., May 20, 2020 (Photo by Katy Kildee for Midland Daily News via AP Images).

Historic floods washed over swaths of Michigan after a dam breach earlier this month, just days after a major typhoon struck the Philippines. Last week, Cyclone Amphan slammed into eastern India and Bangladesh, killing dozens of people. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a busier-than-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which officially kicks off on June 1. The timing, obviously, couldn’t be worse. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Samantha Montano, an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, for a conversation about the challenges of preparing for, and responding […]

Peruvian Foreign Minister Gustavo-Meza Cuadra, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, Nov. 29, 2019 (pool photo by Florence Lo via AP).

The coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak across Latin America and the Caribbean, but China is already maneuvering to try and capitalize on the crisis and bolster its position and influence in the region. The heated blame game between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus’s origins will eventually fade from the headlines, and Chinese leaders are quietly working to ensure that when it does, the strategic ground will have shifted in their favor. At the heart of these efforts is a campaign for ideological supremacy, to show the moral equivalence and even the supposed superiority of the Chinese communist system […]

Sacristan Michael Seewar prepares the altar for a livestream Easter service at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, April 12, 2020 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

An article published earlier this month in the largest English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, the Daily Star, inadvertently revealed a lot about different perspectives on religion’s role in society, including during the coronavirus pandemic. The writer argued that religious actors play a “vital stabilizing role” during such global crises and can “offer a beacon of hope” amid “the ravages of this pandemic.” But in the comments, a reader took a starkly different stance with what he called “a rude question”—a few of them, in fact. First, can faith and science go together? Second, how can faith actors help when they fight […]

Muslim worshippers walk outside the Grand Mosque after noon prayers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, March 7, 2020 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Saudi Arabia announced harsh new austerity measures last week, including the suspension of a cost of living allowance for public workers and the tripling of its value added tax, from 5 percent to 15 percent. While the new policies are intended to plug a gaping hole in state finances amid the coronavirus pandemic and after a historic collapse in oil prices, they are risky for an absolute monarchy that has worked to guarantee affluent lifestyles for its citizens in exchange for their obedience. The government’s response appears to place a disproportionately heavy burden on everyday Saudis rather than the political […]

French President Emmanuel Macron listens to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint video press conference at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, May 18, 2020 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the abrupt firing of the U.S. State Department’s inspector general by President Donald Trump last week, and the allegations of misconduct by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that have since emerged. They also talk about a potentially game-changing proposal by France and Germany for the European Union to issue collective debt to finance post-pandemic economic recovery plans for its hardest-hit member states. Listen: Download: MP3 Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:The Future of Trump’s ‘America First’ Agenda […]

A woman wearing a face mask holds her child at a marketplace in the Nioko-2 suburb of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, May 14, 2020 (photo courtesy of Clair MacDougall).

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—Residents in the capital of this small, West African country rejoiced last weekend as their beloved corner bars, known as maquis, reopened seven weeks after the government had ordered them closed to curb the spread of COVID-19. In a maquis in the suburb of Wemtenga on Sunday evening, beer bottles clinked and chairs sidled closer together as patrons smoked and swayed to Ivorian music under drops of colored light pouring from a plastic disco ball. That same day, authorities had called on citizens to respect an earlier government order to wear masks—an edict that many Burkinabe, including those […]

Security officers wearing face masks stand guard outside before the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, May 21, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

From the moment Chinese leaders belatedly recognized that a deadly new pathogen was spreading rapidly in the city of Wuhan and beyond, it became apparent that the coronavirus would play a defining role in shaping the image and power of China and its regime for years to come. Beijing has been working overtime ever since not just to contain the virus at home, but to shape the narrative of the pandemic there and abroad, seeking to portray China and its rulers as wise, efficient, powerful and generous. China’s ultimate goal is to emerge from this crisis as a more powerful […]

Dr. Joseph Ballinger gives Marjorie Hill, a nurse at Montefiore Hospital in New York, the first vaccine for the H2N2 virus to be administered in New York, Aug. 16, 1957 (AP photo).

Months into the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that countries that recently dealt with other outbreaks of infectious diseases have been more successful in containing COVID-19. From East Asia and the Pacific to West and Central Africa, authorities have made good use of epidemiological expertise they acquired from tackling outbreaks of SARS, MERS, Swine flu and Ebola to quickly roll out containment measures. Yet even governments lacking such experience should have been able to foresee the destructive potential of COVID-19. President Donald Trump may insist that “there’s never been anything like this in history,” but the history of the […]

Chinese sailors at a concert featuring Chinese and foreign military bands in Qingdao, China, April 22, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to monopolize the attention of leaders around the world, some observers have concluded that China is attempting to exploit the crisis for geopolitical gain. From its disputed western border with India to the contested waters of the South China Sea, an increasingly common narrative is that Beijing has stepped up its assertive behavior against its neighbors to settle old scores. Targets of China’s recent provocations include Taiwan and Hong Kong—which Beijing would like to see integrated with the mainland—as well as Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Yet this narrative is exaggerated. The reality is that […]

A billboard encouraging people to wear face masks is installed on an apartment building in Cape Town, South Africa, May 16, 2020 (AP photo by Nardus Engelbrecht).

From the moment the novel coronavirus burst out of China and began to spread around the world, many commentators quickly took for granted that Africa would become the pandemic’s biggest and deadliest target. Yet the continent has so far dodged those dire predictions. In retrospect, few things were more predictable. For decades, the convention in Western media coverage has been to treat Africa with a casual scorn that plays up its problems—pretending wrongly, for example, that its wars are unusually brutal by the standards of our times, or that its politicians, sneeringly dismissed as “Big Men,” are uniquely power hungry […]

A nurse injects an elderly woman with an influenza vaccine in Lima, Peru, March 17, 2020 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

The global quest for a coronavirus vaccine is heating up. Moderna, a Masschusetts-based biotechnology company, announced promising results this week from a limited early trial of its vaccine candidate. And last Friday, President Donald Trump unveiled “Operation Warp Speed,” a new public-private partnership that aims to make a vaccine available in substantial quantities by the end of the year. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Paul Offit, a physician and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, to discuss what it will take to safely manufacture—and fairly distribute—a […]

A government propaganda poster showing Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the words “China Dream” in Wuhan, China, April 2, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

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 speech Monday to the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for international cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular for greater support for the developing world. Xi’s remarks were a bold assertion of Chinese leadership at the WHO and in global efforts to contain the coronavirus, carefully designed to deflect international criticism of Beijing’s handling of the initial outbreak. At the annual meeting of […]

A man fishes near docked oil drilling platforms, in Port Aransas, Texas, May 8, 2020 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

Oil demand has fallen precipitously in recent months due to lockdowns and other measures that governments around the world have undertaken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Energy Agency reckons that oil demand will fall by a record 9.3 million barrels per day in 2020, erasing nearly a decade of growth. With the crisis having rattled oil markets that were already struggling to adapt to structural challenges on both the demand and supply side, the world should brace for the geopolitical impacts of historically low demand for oil. It will take years before demand returns to pre-coronavirus levels […]

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