The outbreak of COVID-19 initially looked like a gift to autocrats around the world. What better pretext for a state of emergency than a pandemic? It was a golden opportunity to close borders, suppress civil society, and issue decrees left and right (mostly right). Donald Trump in the United States, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Rodrigo… Continue reading COVID-19 and the End of Autocrats
Japan and South Korea have very close alliances with the United States. They also have had diplomatic relations with each other for 50 years, not to mention considerable trade back and forth during that time. At a popular level, many Japanese are wild about Korean bulgogi and soap operas while many Koreans love Japanese sushi… Continue reading Japan and South Korea: A New Beginning?
Island disputes are a big thing in Asia. Japan and China both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan and South Korea tussle over Dokdo/Takeshima. Japan and Russia still haven’t definitively sorted out who owns the Kuriles/Northern Territories. You’d think that these existing island disputes are a sufficient headache. But no: Countries in the region are making… Continue reading Asia: On the Rocks
It wasn’t long ago that certain pundits were predicting war in Asia. Back in the spring, the conflict over the South China Sea was heating up as China sparred with Vietnam over an oil exploration rig and with the Philippines over disputed reefs. Japan and China, meanwhile, were butting heads over a string of uninhabited rocks in… Continue reading Asia Smiles for the Cameras
Last month I visited Ningxia province, in China’s northwest. It is a relatively poor region, with a large Muslim population, a considerable stretch of desert, and a growing petrochemical industry. It is far from the unrest of Xinjiang province to the west and the maritime disputes of the South China Sea to the east. Ningxia… Continue reading Is China’s Rise Still Peaceful?
President Barack Obama’s recent tour of Asia was an opportunity to reenergise his foreign policy after a series of setbacks in the global arena. The four countries on the week-long tour — Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines – have all been eager to upgrade their relationships with the United States in light of… Continue reading Obama’s Half-Pivot to Asia
The oldest Chinatown in the world is not in New York or San Francisco or even Yokohama. It is in Manila, a fact that comes up often when Beijing talks about its longstanding connection to the islands that lie about 600 miles to the southeast. Similarly, China boasts of its three Confucius Institutes in the… Continue reading When Soft Power Fails
We won our independence from the British in a hard-fought revolutionary battle. Today, no hard feelings: the Anglo-American alliance is strong, we all love Downton Abbey, and our skirmishes are largely confined to disputes over which version of The Office is funnier and how to spell and pronounce the word “aluminum.” We fought the Germans, the Japanese, and the… Continue reading Frenemies