Hui ethnic minority farmers harvest potatoes in northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Oct. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese leaders have struggled with an age-old problem: how to feed a growing population with a small amount of arable land. Despite the country’s agrarian beginnings and the ideological importance of the farmer in Maoist thought, nagging concerns about efficiency, food security and sustainable agricultural development have never been fully resolved. Even as China has dazzled the world with its technological progress in cutting-edge fields like artificial intelligence, renewable energy and bioengineering, to the government’s dismay, China has been slow to make similar advances in farming despite boasting the […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in cross the military demarcation line in the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018 (Korea summit press pool photo via AP).

Is the United Nations finally adapting to an Asian century? This week, Security Council ambassadors are visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar to investigate the suffering of the Rohingya. In doing so, they are facing up to one of the U.N.’s most significant failures of recent years. Both U.N. officials on the ground and council members in New York vacillated over how to respond to the ethnic cleansing campaign of Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya Muslim minorities in mid-2017. This weekend, the council saw the results of that failure when they visited a refugee camp that houses half a million of the […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, flanked by top officials, attends a military parade during Russia’s Navy Day celebration, St. Petersburg, Russia, July 30, 2017 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The Kremlin has created a three-dimensional strategy involving intimidation, undermining the Western-engineered global order and creating and protecting markets for the sale of Russian weapons that is designed to strengthen the country politically and economically. Near the end of a recent report on the resurgence of both the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Libya was an almost offhand mention of Russian special operations forces active along the country’s border with Egypt, helping provide weapons to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose forces dominate eastern Libya. This seemingly minor fact is, in reality, emblematic of important trends in Russia’s revanchist foreign policy. When […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, April 24, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In his staunch defense of multilateralism delivered to the U.S. Congress earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his hope that the United States would not in fact leave the landmark Paris agreement on fighting climate change, as President Donald Trump has declared. Macron’s appeal to the need for active American leadership underscores only one of the obstacles to an effective global response to this urgent environmental threat. Some of these challenges are inherent in the mechanics of a long and overdue transition to lower-carbon forms of energy. Others are due to political decisions made by global economic powers, […]

Citizen science volunteers interview a forest ranger about environmental threats to Xuan Thuy National Park, Vietnam, Undated (Photo courtesy of Do Hai Linh/Pan Nature).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, and associate editor, Omar H. Rahman, discuss the state of trans-Atlantic ties, against the backdrop of Washington visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. For the Report, James Borton talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about how networks of “citizen scientists” are using technology to help raise awareness about the environmental costs of development in Vietnam. 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 […]

French billionaire Vincent Bollore arrives at the French Senate, Paris, June 22, 2016 in Paris (AP photo by Kamil Zihnioglu).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The arrest took place in a Paris suburb, but its ramifications may be felt most acutely thousands of miles to the south, in West Africa. On Tuesday, Vincent Bollore, the French billionaire and head of the Bollore Group, was detained in Nanterre for questioning over the circumstances under which the holding company obtained major port deals in Guinea and Togo. He was placed under formal investigation the following day. The allegations touch on the shady dealings that persist at […]

A masked protester walks between burning barricades, Managua, Nicaragua, April 20, 2018 (AP photo by Alfredo Zuniga).

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his inner circle have spent 11 years methodically securing their dominance over all the levers of power in Central America’s poorest country. It seemed that the aging former rebel leader, and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, had little cause to doubt their ability to maintain their grip. That’s why the events of the past few days came as such a shock. A relatively small protest by college students angry over changes to the social security system suddenly erupted into mass nationwide demonstrations and an explosion of violence that left dozens dead and included calls […]

Paraguay’s president-elect, Mario Abdo Benitez, addresses supporters during victory celebrations at the headquarters of the Colorado Party, April 22, 2018 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

On Sunday, Paraguayans picked a new president and vice president, along with every member in their country’s Congress. There was a lot at stake, starting with the credibility of the voting itself. Paraguay was mired in political turmoil last year after Congress considered expanding presidential term limits—a move that worried many people who had lived through Alfredo Stroessner’s 35-year dictatorship, which came to an end in a military coup in 1989. So the smooth electoral process on April 22, overseen by the Organization of American States and the European Union, should serve as reassurance, both to Paraguayans and to a […]

Liberian President George Weah at the opening ceremony of a summit meeting at the African Union, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In February, Liberia’s former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was awarded the prestigious $5 million Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, becoming the fifth winner since the prize was established in 2007. It was the latest in a long line of honors acknowledging her efforts to rehabilitate Liberia’s democracy after more than a decade of civil conflict. In the eyes of pro-democracy activists, however, Sirleaf’s record was far from perfect. One of the most commonly cited weak spots was her commitment to freedom of the press. Her time in office certainly represented an improvement over that of her predecessor, the […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina share a laugh after signing multiple agreements, New Delhi, India, April 8, 2017 (AP photo).

Earlier this month, India’s new foreign secretary, Vijay Kashev Gokhale, visited neighboring Bangladesh for meetings on issues ranging from Rohingya refugees to the sharing of water supplies. New Delhi and Dhaka also signed a memorandum of understanding to build an 80-mile oil pipeline that would allow oil to be exported to Bangladesh. India’s efforts to deepen ties with Bangladesh are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious “neighborhood first” foreign policy initiative. In an email interview, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, discusses […]

Commuters wait for a train in front of an advertisement discouraging the dissemination of fake news, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 2, 2018 (AP photo by Vincent Thian).

On April 3, Malaysia became the first country in the world to approve specific legislation criminalizing the dissemination of “fake news.” The new law includes penalties of up to six years in prison and fines of up to 500,000 Malaysian ringgit—approximately $128,000—for anyone who “maliciously creates, offers, publishes, prints, distributes, circulates or disseminates any fake news.” The move came just days before Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved parliament, paving the way for general elections now scheduled for May 9. The election will mark a key test for Najib, who has been hounded by a massive corruption scandal involving a state […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron take a break on the balcony of Merkel’s office after a meeting, Berlin, Germany, April 19, 2018 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

With French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel staging back-to-back visits to Washington this week, many observers have commented on the stark contrast in the two European leaders’ respective relationship with Donald Trump. But the visits also highlight an emerging intra-European dynamic: A strong France and a weak Germany at the heart of the European Union. Coverage of the two visits has been dominated by close attention to the interpersonal dynamics between each leader and Trump, and the major policy differences that both Macron and Merkel will try to bridge with the U.S. president. Through a deft blend […]

Supporters of the FARC wave flags to protest the arrest of former rebel Jesus Santrich, Bogota, Colombia, April, 9, 2018 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

On April 9, Colombia’s government fired the head of the Colombia in Peace Fund, a $500 million, donor-financed entity tasked with supporting post-conflict programs tied to the country’s 2016 peace accord with the Marxist guerrilla group known as the FARC. The move came after donor countries, including Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, complained to the government about funding delays and a lack of transparency. The implementation of the Colombian peace agreement has faced a number of stumbling blocks so far. In an email interview, Adam Isacson, a senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America, discusses […]

A poster of Fidel Castro and Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, April 18, 2018 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

For a man stepping down after half a century at the apex of Cuba’s government—first as the island’s longtime defense minister and vice president, then as president—Raul Castro was in good humor last week, looking relaxed and happy as he handed the presidency to his designated successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel. Departing from the prepared text of his valedictory speech in Havana, Castro cracked jokes, reminisced about the revolution and quipped that he planned to travel more, “since I’m supposed to have less work to do.” There were no big surprises at the National Assembly meeting that installed Diaz-Canel as the first […]

Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton poses with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Yoon Soon-gu during a meeting, Seoul, South Korea, April 23, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you probably already know that next month, international attention will be on the world’s two acute nuclear weapons cases: Iran and North Korea. May 12 is the deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide if he will continue to waive sanctions against Iran as part of the seven-nation nuclear agreement signed in 2015. And all month long, teams in Washington and Pyongyang will be planning an unprecedented summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with the North’s nuclear program the main item on the agenda. There are at least two ways […]

Vietnamese activists protest to urge Formosa Plastics Corporation to take responsibilitiy for an environmental clean-up in Vietnam, Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 10, 2016 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

In early April 2016, fishermen in Vietnam began noticing something alarming: Dead fish were washing up on the shores of several provinces. Days turned into weeks, and the dead tuna and mackerel kept coming, joined by clams and even one whale. It turned out to be the largest environmental disaster in Vietnam’s history. Fishermen lost their livelihoods, and some people fell ill after eating fish that had apparently been poisoned. But at first the government kept quiet about the cause of the mass fish kill. Authorities limited coverage of it on state media and arrested hundreds of people who participated […]

A man surveys the wreckage on his property after the passing of Hurricane Irma, St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, Sept. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Johnny Jno-Baptiste).

On March 21, the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda held snap elections less than a month after they had been called by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, and 18 months before the constitution required them. Browne’s Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party routed the opposition, paving the way for the prime minister to continue with an ambitious reform program that aims to turn Antigua and Barbuda into an “economic powerhouse in the Caribbean.” The election also overturned a centuries-old communal land ownership system on Barbuda, opening the door to private ownership and development on an island that was devastated by Hurricane […]

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