Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, James Marape, second from left, is welcomed to Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra, July 22, 2019 (AP photo by Rod McGuirk).

Nov. 13 began much like any other day in Waigani, the suburb of Port Moresby that houses Papua New Guinea’s unicameral Parliament. Much of the chamber sat empty while Prime Minister James Marape answered questions from the governor of Western Province about the national government’s plans to subsidize rubber production. Suddenly, former army captain Belden Namah, a longtime critic of Marape, swept into the hall to take his seat as opposition leader. He was flanked by a surprising array of senior lawmakers, including Marape’s own deputy prime minister, Sam Basil, and his foreign minister, Patrick Pruaitch—both of whom had expressed […]

A large crowd wearing masks commutes through Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, Japan, Mar. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Jae C. Hong).

For everyone around the world, in every country and continent, 2020 was dominated by a single story: COVID-19. For all of us, though the date may have varied, there was a definitive before and after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The thirst for thoughtful analysis of such a historic world event—from big picture articles examining the broad sweep of the pandemic’s global impact to more focused pieces detailing its implications for particular countries—is reflected in our list of this year’s most-read stories. Of course, WPR also closely covered the U.S. presidential election, the Black Lives Matter protests that spread […]

A man takes pictures at sunset in Sarajevo, Bosnia, May 6, 2020 (AP photo by Kemal Softic).

Perhaps no activity is more inherently human than the attempt to find meaning, whether in the circumstances of our lives or the broad sweep of history. As Viktor Frankl taught us in his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” with meaning comes purpose; understanding the “why” often helps us find the “how.” This seemingly hard-wired effort to discern the meaning of the events taking place around us begins with identifying important signposts and determining their significance. For us at WPR, the most obvious one we look for is crisis—whether political, economic or humanitarian; whether caused by social processes, natural phenomena […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, in Ankara, Turkey, May 6, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).

In response to strong bipartisan pressure from Congress, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Turkey earlier this month to punish it for purchasing a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system from Russia in 2019. The narrowly targeted sanctions include a ban on export licenses for Turkey’s main military procurement agency, as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on senior officials at the organization. Not surprisingly, Turkey, a major NATO ally, called the move a “grave mistake” and threatened to retaliate. The yearslong fracas over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, reportedly for around $2.5 billion, will go down […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

At the end of a tumultuous and disorienting year for the international community, it seems only fair to take stock of where we stand. The answer is clear: We are between storms. COVID-19 and climate change—the first a dramatic gale whipping the globe, the second a far deadlier gathering hurricane—have brought fresh urgency to international cooperation. The first injections of coronavirus vaccines have brought hope that the pandemic can be defeated soon, though we are far from out of the woods. Meanwhile, with the United Nations gearing up to take a bolder leadership role, a new U.S. president pledging a […]

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 22, 2020. (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

As the world watches the chaotic countdown to a new president in Washington, one anticipated policy shift after Joe Biden’s inauguration is causing anxiety in some quarters and optimism in others: the return of human rights to the global agenda. Donald Trump’s open disdain for human rights was one of the earliest signs that his presidency would look like no other in the White House. Defending human rights around the world has always required a complicated balancing act, often—though not always—with a tradeoff between American interests and values. Under Trump, values consistently took a back seat. The only time he […]

George Simion, right, and Claudiu Tarziu, the leaders of the far-right Alliance for Romanian Unity, in Bucharest, Romania, Dec. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

The results of Romania’s parliamentary elections earlier this month were thought to be something of a foregone conclusion, with a victory expected for the ruling center-right National Liberal Party, or PNL. However, record-low voter turnout of just 32 percent saw the leftist opposition pull off an upset, with the Social Democratic Party, or PSD, taking 30 percent of the vote to the PNL’s 25 percent. That makes the PSD the largest party in Parliament, with 110 seats in the lower house, though it will remain in the opposition, as the PNL have agreed to form a governing coalition with two […]

Former Google AI researcher Timnit Gebru speaks in San Francisco, California, Sept. 7, 2018 (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch).

Google sparked an uproar earlier this month when it dismissed Timnit Gebru, the co-leader of a team of researchers at the company studying the ethical implications of artificial intelligence. Google maintains that it accepted her “resignation,” but Gebru, who is Black, claims she was fired for drawing unwelcome attention to the lack of diversity in Google’s workforce. She had also been at loggerheads with her supervisors due to their request that she retract a paper she had co-authored on ethical problems associated with certain types of AI models that are central to Google’s business. On the Trend Lines podcast this […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the president of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia, Oct. 23, 2019 (TASS pool photo by Gavriil Grigorov via AP).

Following Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s approval last month of a new naval base to be built on Sudan’s Red Sea coast, official Kremlin statements have billed the facility as a logistics center that will be defensive in nature—for principal use as a resupply station for Russian warships. In spite of these assurances, Russian media outlets have touted the base as Moscow’s gateway to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, widening the reach of its naval forces. The basing agreement’s terms, which were released on Dec. 8, appear to support this latter view: In exchange for military aid, Sudan will […]

A building at Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

Earlier this month, Timnit Gebru, the co-leader of a team of researchers at Google specializing in the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, was unceremoniously ousted from her position. Some of the circumstances that led to her departure are disputed, but Gebru—a Black woman in a field that is overwhelmingly white and male—claims she was forced out for drawing unwelcome attention to the lack of diversity in Google’s workforce. She also claims she was “silenced” for her refusal to retract a paper that she had co-authored on ethical problems associated with certain types of AI models that are central to Google’s […]

A riot police officer hits a journalist’s microphone during a protest at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: China Note will be off for the holidays next week. It will return Jan. 6. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week. It has been a bad year for foreign journalists in China, to say the least. The year began with the expulsion of three reporters from The Wall Street Journal after the headline of an opinion piece referred to China as “the real sick man of Asia.” By March, more than a dozen journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post had been expelled […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony in the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The waning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency must feel like victory laps in the Kremlin. As Trump keeps trying to subvert the results of November’s election, with wild calls to impose martial law now coming up in paranoid White House meetings, he is also downplaying a huge cyberattack on America’s most critical computer networks, widely attributed to Russia. Moscow’s greatest nemesis and former arch-rival is laying coat after coat of fresh muck on the once-shiny patina of its international reputation and prestige. They were built on notions that once seemed almost unshakable: universal-seeming values of democracy and the rule of […]

Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine shows a photograph depicting a victim of recent electoral violence, at the Electoral Commission in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 2, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Kabuubi).

A crowd of supporters was swelling around Ugandan presidential candidate Bobi Wine during a rally late last month in the eastern Luuka district, when security forces in riot gear began firing tear gas, pepper spray and bullets into the crowd. The popular singer-turned-parliamentarian was bundled into a police van and thrown in jail, accused of violating COVID-19 guidelines. “Be nonviolent,” he shouted as he was arrested. “We want freedom.” Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is running against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking a sixth term in next month’s elections. At 38, Wine is half his opponent’s […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sign “phase one” of a U.S.-China trade agreement, in the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

One of the great traditions in U.S. trade policy circles is the semiannual gathering of former U.S. trade representatives. Started two decades ago by Sherman Katz at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and carried on by William Reinsch, who holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at CSIS, the meetings bring together many of the former top U.S. trade officials to share insights on current economic issues. It is a unique event that pools the accumulated wisdom of several decades; there are no similar gatherings of former U.S. secretaries of state or defense. This year’s version—held online, of […]

Containers are loaded on a cargo ship at the port in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 3, 2020 (AP photo by Hau Dinh).

Capping eight years of tough, on-and-off negotiations, representatives from 15 countries across the Asia-Pacific gathered in a virtual meeting last month to sign a gargantuan new free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Encompassing all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, RCEP will cover around 30 percent of both the world’s population and GDP, making it the world’s largest trading bloc. While its trading rules and market access provisions are not as far-reaching as the other main multilateral agreement in the region, the Comprehensive and Progressive […]

Taliban prisoners peer through a door after an ISIS-claimed attack on a prison in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

On a Tuesday in late October, an Afghan cleric, Sheikh Raheemullah Nangahari, was giving a speech in his madrassa in Peshawar, near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, when a blast ripped through the prayer hall, injuring him and killing eight others. It was the latest attack in a deadly rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State’s faction in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which calls itself the Khorasan Province. Raheemullah, a senior Taliban official, is believed to have been targeted by the Islamic State because of his work spreading propaganda against the extremist group. In written tracts and speeches, the sheikh has […]

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi briefs reporters on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Nov. 13, 2020 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Buried within the annual National Defense Authorization Act that overwhelmingly passed Congress this month is a measure that will strengthen American anti-money laundering and anti-corruption rules. Most notably, the NDAA, as the bill is known, will require the Treasury Department to begin collecting beneficial ownership information on companies registered in the U.S., effectively banning anonymously owned companies, including shell companies that are often used as fronts for dirty money. Assuming Congress overrides President Donald Trump’s threatened veto of the law, as expected, this is a game-changer for global efforts to fight graft. The U.S. has long lagged behind other countries […]

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