China’s cardinal foreign policy imperative is to refrain from interfering abroad while advancing the proverbial good relations with key political actors – even when they may be at each other’s throats.Still, it’s nothing but gut-wrenching for Beijing to watch the current, unpredictable, Saudi-Qatari standoff. There’s no endgame in sight, as plausible scenarios include even regime change and a seismic geopolitical shift in Southwest Asia – what a Western-centric view calls the Middle East.And blood on the tracks in Southwest Asia cannot but translate into major trouble ahead for the New Silk Roads, now rebranded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Category Archives: Asia
The post-1945 order constructed by the US in Europe and East Asia has been fraying at the edges for some time now. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement has only hastened its unraveling.
For the first time since the early years of General Charles de Gaulle’s presidency in France, a major Western leader – German Chancellor Angela Merkel – has stated openly that Europe can no longer rely on US leadership. This might seem ironic, coming from a German and a confirmed Atlanticist, but it is actually fitting, because Germany, in its transformation from a murderous dictatorship into a peaceful liberal democracy, needed the US more than any country.
A suicide bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 90 people and injured over 450. Hidden in a tanker truck, the bomb is likely one of the largest ever set off in Kabul. It left a crater 13 feet deep, and broke windows over a mile away. Among those killed were two media workers, Aziz Navin of the 24-hour Afghan cable news channel TOLOnews, and Mohammed Nazir, a driver for the BBC. The death toll continues to climb as additional bodies are found, and some who were injured succumb to their wounds. Details of those killed are sparse. While the Manchester bombing nine days earlier garnered wall-to-wall coverage on the corporate news networks, with in-depth biographies of the victims, Kabul, with a death toll over four times as high, with hundreds injured, gets mentioned only in brief reports, the dead and injured listed as numbers rather than names.
There are no “I heart KBL” signs. No #jesuisbaghdad hashtags. No one is paying tribute to the rich cultural heritage and resilience of the targets. It is unlikely that we will come to recognise the names and faces of most victims. But the bombs that struck Kabul on Wednesday morningstruck Kabul yesterday morning and Baghdad late on Monday were as devastating to their residents as the attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester a week earlier. That should not need saying, of course; yet the insecurity that Afghans and Iraqis face can blur the impact of atrocities into a general impression of perpetual chaos and pain for outsiders. That terror strikes so often – and particularly in the month of Ramadan – does not dull its effect on those who experience it. Repeated suffering compounds trauma.
Three years after he was elected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi looms over India’s political scene like no other leader in the country’s recent history. And his critics must explain why his mass appeal seems unimpaired, despite his increasingly authoritarian ways and growing failures. Modi is far from realizing his promises of economic and military security. Pakistan-backed militants continue to strike inside Indian territory. The anti-Indian insurgency in Kashmir has acquired a mass base; Maoist insurgents in central India attack security forces with impunity. Industrial growth, crucial to creating jobs for the nearly 13 million Indians entering the workforce each year, is down, at least partly due to Modi’s policy of demonetization.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao on May 22. This came after a group of heavily armed men bearing the black flags of Islamic State stormed the mainly Muslim city of Marawi in the north of the island. They burned down a college, a hospital and prison, while taking hostages.The army’s slow progress in flushing out the militants and the alacrity with which Duterte seemed ready to suspend civil rights is a worrying sign of renewed instability in a part of the country that has been plagued by decades of war.
The explosion of a giant bomb in a sewage tanker close to the diplomatic quarter in Kabul is receiving much publicity because of the heavy loss of life and because so many foreign embassies were damaged. A BBC driver was killed and four BBC journalists were wounded by the blast.But, aside from spectacular incidents where foreigners are involved, the Afghan war has largely dropped off media and diplomatic agendas since direct foreign combat involvement ended. This has happened even though, over the past two years, the conflict has been escalating with the Taliban gradually gaining ground and the Afghan affiliate of Isis, also known as Khorasan Province and which holds far less territory, losing several of its strongholds in recent months. The number of civilian casualties last year was 11,000 of whom 3,500 were killed according to the UN, the highest number since 2009. The severity of the fighting also forced half a million Afghans to flee their homes.
On April 6, King Vajiralongkorn signed Thailand’s 20th constitution. Charters have come and gone in the country since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, often without much woe or jubilation. While the new constitution was met with similar general apathy, the unprecedented journey it went through offers a rare insight into the secretive new reign of King Vajiralongkorn and his developing leadership style.
“WHY DO THEY hate us?”
It’s a question that has bewildered Americans again and again in the wake of 9/11, in reference to the Arab and Muslim worlds. These days, however, it’s a question increasingly asked about the reclusive North Koreans.
Let’s be clear: There is no doubt that the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea both fear and loathe the United States. Paranoia, resentment, and a crude anti-Americanism have been nurtured inside the Hermit Kingdom for decades. Children are taught to hate Americans in school while adults mark a “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” every year (it’s in June, in case you were wondering).
Early one morning in January, under the veil of darkness, a team of undercover police from China quietly entered Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel and made their way into a luxurious residential suite. After sweeping aside the billionaire occupant’s private contingent of female bodyguards, they shrouded the man’s head in a white sheet and bundled him off in a wheelchair.Xiao Jianhua was one of China’s richest businessmen. He had built his fortune over the past two decades through deals involving the cream of China’s political elite, reportedly including close relatives of the president, Xi Jinping. Because of China’s opaque political culture, one can only speculate about the reasons for Xiao’s abduction, but it seems that he had taken careful steps to protect himself. Not only was he residing and conducting his business outside of China, his country of birth, he had a diplomatic passport from Antigua and Barbuda and had adopted Canadian citizenship, perhaps thinking that this might offer him some extra degree of legal or diplomatic protection.