President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens, in Washington, Nov. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Joe Biden took office last year during one of the most turbulent times the United States had experienced in decades. Though his administration has tackled important foreign policy issues, it has also faced multiple domestic crises, so the primary focus of this first year has been on the urgent matters at home. In 2022, though, the world is likely to demand more of Biden’s attention, even as the domestic challenges remain far from resolved. Some of the foreign policy issues are expected and already evident. To start, Biden will have to work to help the entire planet, including poor […]

Residents get tested for the coronavirus in a district in Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, May 30, 2021 (AP photo).

Last weekend, the number of new symptomatic COVID-19 cases in China hit a peak not seen since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The spike was seen as significant enough to warrant locking down Xi’an, a city of more than 13 million people. Here, as a writer, I feel a little ill-equipped to flesh out this news without some kind of dramatic accompaniment, so please imagine a drumroll. The reported new high for daily symptomatic cases in this country of 1.4 billion people was all of 164. Surface appearances make it difficult to assess news like this. Across broad […]

Public teachers shout slogans against Peruvian President Pedro Castillo to demand better labor conditions in Lima, Peru, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Guadalupe Pardo).

LIMA, Peru—Peruvian President Pedro Castillo may or may not be a socialist, but there is no denying that his political branding is rooted almost exclusively in his identification with Peru’s most marginalized citizens. His campaign slogan for the June presidential election, “No more poor people in a rich country,” was the least of it. What carried real weight with voters was his personal background as a campesino—a rural inhabitant usually with Indigenous heritage and ties to the land. For many, that made Castillo the living antithesis to the largely white Lima elites who have overseen a booming economy in a […]

A rehearsal of Vladimir Issaev’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” ballet, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dec. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Brynn Anderson).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart Patrick. The holiday season should be a good time to forget about work and take comfort in classic Christmas stories. Foreign policy analysts, with half an eye on events in Ukraine and Afghanistan, may struggle to relax this year. It’s hard to avoid noting echoes of world events. A few years ago, I rewrote the tale of the Three Wise Men and the baby Jesus as a parable about international negotiations for World Politics Review; a lot of the story revolves around the wise men haggling with Herod about […]

Gabriel Boric talks during his closing campaign rally ahead of the presidential run-off election in Santiago, Chile, Dec. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

In winning Chile’s presidential election on Dec. 19, Gabriel Boric set two new records. First, at the age of 36, he will become the youngest president in Chile’s history. Second, his tally of 4.5 million votes is the most ever for a Chilean presidential candidate.  These two new records are intimately related. Boric and his team represent a new generation of leadership, and as such, they were able to mobilize sectors of the electorate that had previously remained uninvolved in electoral politics. Since Chile’s transition to democracy in 1989, the country’s politics has been characterized by declining turnout levels. However, the […]

A woman passes by a display showing Evergrande’s domestic commercial projects, in Beijing, China, Dec. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Late in September, when stock markets around the world went into spasms of anxiety following news that Chinese real estate giant Evergrande might go bankrupt, the shockwaves reached all the way to Latin America, about as far from the Chinese mainland as one can get. In fact, South American markets dropped even more than those in the United States, even though Evergrande has had little, if any, contact with the region. That’s because Latin American economies are not just deeply entwined with China, but are increasingly dependent on its growth to sustain their own. The drama of Evergrande, with its […]

People wearing facemasks to curb the spread of coronavirus walk at the Mayor square in downtown Madrid, Spain, Dec. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced yesterday that theaters and cinemas in the country will close, while stopping short of imposing a  full lockdown, as is now the case in neighboring Netherlands.  Last week’s announcement of the full lockdown by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, just days after he clinched a deal to form a new government, came as a surprise to observers, given that the country generally adopted a more relaxed response in the early phases of the pandemic than its neighbors. Now it is the only country in Europe so far to have locked down in response to concerns over […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media after meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Pretoria, South Africa, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

If anyone was hoping for a post-pandemic renewal of international cooperation in a world still feeling the aftershocks from Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, trade wars and global supply chain disruptions, they would likely be disappointed today. International relations in 2020 were driven primarily by the politics of aid and mask diplomacy. The second year of the coronavirus pandemic has been all about vaccines, geopolitical competition and travel restrictions.  In a July edition of my Africa Watch newsletter, I noted that the rhetoric of renewed multilateralism heard at global summits and other international fora at the onset of the pandemic ultimately […]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to a reporter’s question during a press conference in Beijing, Dec. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

A record low 30 percent of the Hong Kong electorate voted in Sunday’s legislative elections, the first to be held since Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system to ensure that only “patriots” can run for public office there. The dramatic drop in voter turnout—as compared with 57 percent in the previous city-wide elections in 2016 and a record 71 percent in district council elections in 2019—reflects the “silent opposition” of the people of Hong Kong to the electoral changes, many activists in exile said. Described by the Hong Kong government as “improvements” over the previous system, the revamped rules curtailed […]

Seiji Osaka, Junya Ogawa, Kenta Izumi and Chinami Nishimura attend a leadership debate of the Constitutional Democratic Party, Tokyo, Nov. 22, 2021 (photo by the Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

On Nov. 30, the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party, or CDP, Japan’s leading opposition party, elected 47-year-old Kenta Izumi to succeed CDP founder Yukio Edano as party leader. Izumi inherits a party reeling from an unexpectedly large defeat in Japan’s Oct. 31 general election, in which the CDP won fewer than 100 of the lower house’s 465 seats. Right up until the final days of the campaign, polls suggested that a united opposition bloc led by the CDP could flip dozens of seats held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito coalition. But the coalition limited its losses to only a dozen […]

An aerial view of the Siachen Glacier, which traverses the Himalayan region dividing India and Pakistan, northwest of Jammu, India, Feb. 1, 2005 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

In 2004, with the aid of a hardy villager who joined me in one of the most arduous physical experiences of my life, I hiked for four hours high in the mountains of Tibet with a group of Chinese scientists who were studying the alarming retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas. At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, we reached a formidable ice sheet the scientists had been studying for some time. There, at the receding edge of a steep glacier, had formed a river, newborn in geological time, and yet already raging in a ferocious torrent less than 100 […]

Climate activist Vanessa Nakate, third right, and other activists stage a protest at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

Though many of us hoped that 2021 would bring some relief after the trials and tribulations of 2020, this year has been a bumpy ride. On Jan. 6, just one week into 2021, supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington—an international beacon of liberal democracy. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year. Everywhere, anti-democratic, misogynistic and racist forces made gains; in particular, the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan this summer left many despondent about the country’s future. And all the while, the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc, especially on the lives of those who are victims of global vaccine inequity. In the middle of all this chaos, though, […]

Illegally cut logs lay on the bank of the Putaya River between the Ashaninka Indigenous communities of Saweto and Puerto Putaya, Peru, March 17, 2015 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

Peru’s portion of the Amazon jungle accounts for more than half the country’s land area and, at 13 percent of the Amazon’s total territory, the second-largest share of the rainforest after Brazil. While the rate of deforestation of Peru’s Amazon forests lags that of Brazil’s, it is the country’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing concerns over both deforestation’s contribution to climate change and its impact on the region’s Indigenous peoples have now led the Peruvian government to increase its focus on combatting the phenomenon.   Though Peru is not a significant producer of greenhouse gases, it is likely to suffer immensely from climate change and has already […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

What is the U.S. up to in the Middle East? How does the granular reality of developments as seen from the region square with Washington’s strategic assessment? Last week, a senior Biden administration official offered some answers to those questions in a briefing for journalists on the White House’s plan for a realistic, downsized Middle East policy. (Though the official remained anonymous, it sounds an awful lot like Brett McGurk ). Whether or not this plan will work—and I’m not so sure that it will—the administration’s description of its own approach sounds accurate, and that’s a welcome change. It does away […]

Several thousand supporters of the party of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gather to demand his release from prison due to ill health, in Tbilisi, Russia, Oct. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

TBILISI—On a chilly mid-November evening in Tbilisi, the scene outside of Georgia’s Parliament looked like a bit like rock concert: Huge speakers stood tall on either side of a broad stage; camera crews were lined up and ready to shoot; and spotlights glared out over the thousands of people massing on Rustaveli Avenue. The chants, though, were not for a rock star, but for “Misha”—that is, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who despite living in exile for eight years, was evidently still able to draw a crowd. Saakashvili had returned to Georgia on Oct. 1 and was immediately detained by […]

Annalena Baerbock, Robert Habeck, Olaf Scholz and Christian Lindner, prior to unveiling the coalition government accord between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP, Berlin, Germany, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

On Dec. 8, former Chancellor Angela Merkel officially passed the baton to her successor, Olaf Scholz, after 16 years as Germany’s leader. Scholz now heads the three-party coalition between his center-left Social Democrats, or SDP, the pro-environment Greens, and the pro-market Free Democrats, or FDP. Known as the Ampelkoalition—or “traffic light coalition,” in reference to each party’s official colors, which correspond to the color sequence of a traffic light—this heterodox configuration’s “Dare More Progress” coalition agreement offers a roadmap to confront the challenges facing the German people. Domestic issues such as digitalization, the phasing out of coal and increasing the minimum wage […]

Scientists from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund hold kelp that naturally grew on a buoy line in Washington state’s Hood Canal, part of an experiment on whether a seaweed farm can help combat ocean acidification, April 8, 2016 (AP Photo by Manuel Valdes).

Could the oceans—where life once evolved—help save the planet and humanity from climate catastrophe? A new report suggests they might. Released on Dec. 8 by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, the study explores tantalizing possibilities for drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it in the oceans through a mix of nature-based solutions and technological innovations. Getting these climate interventions to scale will of course be a significant challenge. But another challenge may be just as difficult to solve: reconciling these solutions with international law and state obligations. Notwithstanding incremental progress at last month’s United Nations climate […]

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