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SnapshotsJul 1, 2020 | 19:50 GMT
What to Make of Hong Kong’s First Protests Post-Security Law
The Hong Kong protests carried out in spite of the new national security law showcase the volatile dynamic we expect to continue as authorities work to dishearten demonstrators and the broader pro-democracy camp. Following an official rejection of an application to hold rallies citing COVID-19 and past violent activity, pro-democracy demonstrators turned out by the thousands to mark the July 1 anniversary of the British handover of the city. While authorities arrested a relatively small number of protesters under the new law, how the detentions and trials proceed will indicate the legislation’s ability to truly dissuade protests in the future. There is also the possibility that further arrests will take place based on surveillance of protest activity.
SnapshotsJun 30, 2020 | 19:49 GMT
China's Security Law Ushers in a New and Uncertain Era in Hong Kong
The passing of China's new Hong Kong national security law marks the start of an uncertain and potentially volatile phase in the city's ongoing political crisis, as pro-democracy forces square-off with newly empowered city authorities backed by Beijing, increasing the risk of a sweeping crackdown on dissent that could also impact foreign institutions. Whether the next period sees tumultuous protests or a stifling of the pro-democracy camp will now depend on how Hong Kong authorities choose to apply their new sweeping powers and how the prosecution of such crimes proceed in the court system. Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp, for its part, will work to balance the need to maintain public furor against Beijing's ongoing erosion of the city's autonomy with the need to also save its strength for September legislative council elections, where it hopes to gain ground and challenge Beijing-aligned authorities.
AssessmentsMay 22, 2020 | 20:20 GMT
An anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019.
Mainland China's Imposition of Security Laws In Hong Kong Will Spark Protests
The Chinese central government's decision to circumvent the Hong Kong legislature and impose long-delayed national security laws in Hong Kong will provide a major rallying point as protests rebound following COVID-19. In terms of U.S.-China relations, an uptick in demonstrations and the high-profile erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy will provide another trigger that could derail the phase one trade deal, although the White House will be careful not to subordinate its China policy to a single issue such as Hong Kong.
AssessmentsApr 22, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
People wearing masks gather in a granite quarry in Antananarivo, Madagascar, for an Easter celebration while practicing social distancing on April 12, 2020. The capital city has been on lockdown since March 23 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Shakes Up Southern Africa’s Mining Sector
Current COVID-19 disruptions may provide only a short-term challenge for Southern Africa's lucrative mining operations. But they will come just ahead of a longer-term blow to revenue caused by the pandemic-induced global recession and the subsequent drops in demand for mineral resources. After soaring throughout 2019, platinum prices, for example, have already dropped roughly 20 percent since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, the world’s largest producer of platinum, South Africa, has been forced to shutter its massive mining sector in the hopes of containing its own fast-evolving outbreak. Some countries such as Tanzania and Namibia have managed to benefit from the new influx of export traffic afforded by South Africa’s COVID-19 crisis. But it may be only a matter of time before widespread outbreaks force more mining firms across the region to choose between securing their profit lines or the safety of their workers. Regardless of the direct health impacts, however, steep losses
AssessmentsFeb 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
An image of the Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh, the busiest seaport on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh's Congested Ports Risk Choking Its Economy
To maintain its status as one of Asia's most promising emerging markets, Bangladesh is pursuing an ambitious infrastructure overhaul -- and its powerful neighbors are champing at the bit to seize the new investment opportunities at hand. In recent years, Bangladesh has experienced explosive economic growth, thanks in large part to its booming garment industry. But the country's outdated infrastructure has struggled to keep up with demand, leading to long delays and higher shipping costs at the country's main seaport of Chittagong. With Bangladesh’s international trade expected to only grow in the coming years, so too will the need to build alternative ports that can lessen the load on Chittagong. And India, China and Japan have all shown they're more than willing to help, forcing Dhaka to delicately navigate around its suitors' vying strategic interests to secure the capital needed to boost trade revenue and take its economy to the next level.
AssessmentsJan 17, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hand with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the annual India-Japan summit on Sept. 14, 2017. Behind the two world leaders are their countries' respective flags.
With Act East, India Charts Its Ascent Into Southeast Asia
India's emboldened eastern push reflects its aspiration to become one of Asia’s key military and economic powers -- and the existential threat that China poses to realizing that dream. Beijing's growing influence, along with its increasingly forceful claims over disputed territories along India's border, is driving New Delhi to deepen its own political, economic and security relations in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific under its "Act East"{ policy. Shortly after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the government initiative, which also includes bolstering India's military presence and infrastructure development along its northeast border.  In addition to warding off China's imminent threat to India's territorial sovereignty, developing the country's northeastern wing -- whose border with Myanmar positions it as India's gateway into Southeast Asia -- has the potential to unlock new export markets for Indian trade, furthering the government's strategy of building a $5 trillion economy. Reaping those benefits,
AssessmentsJan 16, 2020 | 09:30 GMT
This photo taken on Oct. 2, 2019, shows fishermen boarding their boats at a small jetty on Made Island off Kyaukphyu in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
In Myanmar, Beijing Gets a Leg up on the Competition
For China, there's no time like the present to foster closer links with a key country on its frontier. Amid China's push for better transport connections, tighter border control and deeper energy security to the south, President Xi Jinping will begin a two-day visit to Myanmar on Jan. 17. Negotiations regarding some megaprojects have sparked significant concerns about China's looming presence -- and its strategic intentions -- in Myanmar, but the country may find its options to push back significantly curtailed. Indeed, with Myanmar facing Western isolation over its treatment of the Rohingya and struggling to forge national unity, China's assistance is more essential than ever if Naypyidaw is to fulfill some of its domestic priorities -- namely, advancing a peace process with ethnic armies along the northern border, managing the Rohingya crisis and developing the weak Myanmar economy. Such a situation, naturally, is bound to put China in a
AssessmentsJan 7, 2020 | 10:30 GMT
Lava rises to the top inside Erta Ale volcano in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian volcano is home to the world's oldest continuously active lava lake, known as the "Gateway To Hell."
Unlocking the Power of Potash in the Horn of Africa
Following their recent peace deal, Ethiopia and Eritrea are seeking to take advantage of the region's newfound foreign investment interest by tapping into long-ignored natural resources under their soil. One of the most promising resources is potash, a mined salt containing water-soluble potassium that is most often used in fertilizer. High-grade potash reserves split between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea are likely worth well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not much more. And with global fertilizer demand set to skyrocket in the years ahead, the opening of the region's market couldn't come at a more opportune time. But whether the two countries will be able to turn that promise into profit remains far from certain, as foreign investors may deem the countries' political futures too murky -- and the security challenges still too steep -- despite the possible returns.
Contributor PerspectivesDec 25, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
Whether and how people celebrate Christmas is clearly a complicated affair, bearing only a subtle relationship to Christianity itself.
The Geopolitics of Christmas
Whether and how people celebrate Christmas is clearly a complicated affair, bearing only a subtle relationship to Christianity itself. The contemporary, increasingly international version of Christmas is less a religious festival than a celebration of affluence, modernity, and above all Westernness. Without anyone willing it, Christmas has become part of a package of Western soft power.
AssessmentsDec 10, 2019 | 20:10 GMT
Myanmar army generals Tun Tun Nyi, Soe Naing Oo and Zaw Min Tun (left to right) discuss their intent to thwart constitutional changes by the governing National League for Democracy.
How Myanmar's Elections Could Dampen Its Investment Climate
In the months leading up to Myanmar's late 2020 elections, an atmosphere of political uncertainty and a risk-averse approach to reforms will combine to make it difficult for the country to attract foreign investment, even as it pushes to diversify beyond Chinese involvement. Myanmar's next government will likely be more divided and incoherent than the one now led by the National League for Democracy, with added complexity expected as ethnic minority, military-aligned and other parties jockey for position. More immediately, in the run-up to the election, the risks associated with spikes in anti-Muslim communal violence, stepped-up military offensives in ethnic border regions and a stagnating peace process with insurgents will rise. These factors, combined with the global trade slowdown, could limit Myanmar's economic growth. The 2020 vote, coming a decade into Myanmar's post-dictatorship period, will be a key test for the country's new political balance.
On SecurityNov 26, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (second from right) and his Venezuelan counterpart, Vladimir Padrino Lopez (second from left), hold a meeting in Moscow.
Could There Be a Cold War Reboot in Latin America?
South America is, once again, in flames. A wave of anti-government protests has ravaged the streets of Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia in recent months. Such chaos, of course, isn't new to the region. From the 1960s to the 1990s, terrorist and insurgent groups instigated a series of vicious Cold War proxy battles. But in this iteration, which I'm calling the "Cold War 2.0" in Latin America, it's not armed proxy groups at play but already existing social tensions that Moscow is adeptly weaponizing to sabotage Western power structures in the region.  Indeed, with threats to Russia's periphery more daunting than ever, it can be argued that the Cold War never really ended for Moscow. But regardless of whether Russia's current actions in Latin America constitute a second Cold War, or if they're instead merely a reinvigoration of the original struggle, it's apparent that many of the same actors are actively
AssessmentsOct 25, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
A view of the Hong Kong skyline on May 5, 2019. The protests are beginning to hurt Hong Kong's reputation as a safe business environment.
What You Need to Know Before Going to Hong Kong
Protests and clashes between demonstrators and police have become a fact of life in Hong Kong during the second half of 2019. And the situation has reached a political stalemate. Protesters continue to push their five demands (the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the release of all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into police actions, the removal of the term "riot" and universal suffrage), and the government insists that it must oppose protests in order to uphold the rule of law. The unrest isn't expected to end anytime soon, so business travelers and others need to be more cautious.
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