This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
September 5 to 10, 2016
The scuffle on the tarmac at the G20 summit between American and Chinese officials – when President Barack Obama disembarked from his plane from a rarely-used exit, without a red carpet – may have made headlines, yet both countries formally ratified the landmark climate change agreement adopted in Paris in December last year, which aims to hold the increase in global average temperature below two degrees Celsius. An interesting observation: in democratic America, President Obama did not have to go through Congress for approval of this “executive agreement”, while in autocratic China its parliament reviewed and ratified the Paris agreement.
President Obama’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad G20 experience continued, as he failed to reach an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the violence in Syria, and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte reportedly targeted a “son of a bitch” curse at the American President. And according to “Foreign Policy” throughout his eight-year “pivot” to Asia – to engage China, to maintain a strong alliance with Japan, to address North Korea, and to re-evaluate free-trade agreements – he has been slapped down.
Follow my Facebook page to keep track of news and developments, or subscribe to this blog (by entering your email address in the sidebar) to be notified when a post is published.
- Presidential elections in DR Congo have been delayed, and in the interim – with a desire to remain in power – President Joseph Kabila and his government seem to be preparing for massive political unrest “in the wake of a delayed or stolen vote“. “Foreign Policy” also reported that new surveillance cameras, drones, anti-riot gear, water cannons, and tear gas have recently been imported.
- At the presidential election in Gabon last month, opposition candidate Jean Ping won decisively in nearly all of the country’s provinces. However his opponent, Ali Bongo Ondimba – son of founding father Omar Bongo, who ruled for 42 years through fiat at home and patronage abroad – carried his home province of Upper Ogooé with more than 96 per cent of the vote (with a 99.98 per cent turnout), raising his total vote count above Ping’s, 49.8 to 48.23 per cent. Following riots the government has shut down the media, and questions about France’s colonial legacy have also emerged.
- Despite decades of disagreements over wartime atrocities and maritime claims, President Xi Jinping told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – after the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China – that healthy bilateral relations would benefit both countries. A hotline for maritime and aerial communication could be set up.
- At Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) Election, the localists – who want to protect the city’s autonomy, culture, and identity – won seven seats in the 70-seat Legco. The pro-Beijing camp won 40 seats, short of the 47 needed to yield a two-third majority, while the pan-democrats won 23 seats, one short of the one-third needed to retain veto power.
- North Korea conducted a fifth – and its largest – nuclear test, resulting in a magnitude 5.3 earthquake near the country’s nuclear test site. China criticised the test but “is unlikely to follow up with strong action because its influence is limited and it believes the United States and South Korea share responsibility for growing tensions in the region“.
- Container carrier Hanjin Shipping – the biggest in South Korea and the seventh-largest in the world – filed for bankruptcy last week, and has caused shipping disruptions. “Reuters” maps out the ships which have been blocked from docking at ports.
- After using a curse in Tagalog which can be translated as “son of a bitch”, reportedly targeted at American President Barack Obama, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte said he regretted it, as President Obama cancelled a scheduled meeting in Laos.
- “I believe the fundamental decisions we made in the past months were right, but we have much to do to win back trust,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, after her party were beaten into third place – in an election in her political home-state – by the anti-immigrant and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany party. The refugee crisis has only deepened, with some predicting that the chancellor’s days are numbered.
- Following the death of a patient with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever – carried by ticks and fatal in 30 per cent of cases – in Madrid, Spain, 200 people are now closely watched by the authorities.
The Middle East
- Islamic fundamentalist political movement the Taliban claimed responsibility for a pair of coordinated suicide bombings in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing at least 24 people. The Afghan Defence Ministry was the target. “When people and security forces arrived for help [after the first bomber detonated his explosives], the second attacker blew himself up among the crowd“.
- Days later, Taliban insurgents too “were on the verge of overrunning the southern city of Tirin Kot“.
- Muslims from around the world are arriving in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual hajj pilgrimage, but tensions between the host nation and Iran have persisted, over a human crush last year which left more than 2,400 people dead. No Iranians will attend this year.
- Chlorine bombs were dropped in Aleppo, Syria, the second time this month that the city has been attacked by chemical weapons. Amidst the attacks and violence, many suffer from mental illnesses, with reports of attempted suicides too.
- Days later, Russia and the United States announced an agreement, starting with a “cessation of hostilities“.
- Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton may be nominees of their parties, but Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein “regularly combine for more than 10 percent of the vote in national polls“. Third-party voters are more likely to vote Democratic, potentially hurting Mrs. Clinton’s chances.
- Yet when Mr. Johnson was asked on television about Aleppo, Syria, he replied, “And what is Aleppo?“
- International banking company Wells Fargo fired at least 5,300 people and was fined S$250 million, after it was found that employees secretly issued credit cards, created fake email accounts, and set up sham accounts.
- Protesters jeered President Temer at the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a week after former President Dilma Rousseff was impeached for illegally using money to boost public spending.
- Mudslides caused by rain have killed at least nine people in Guatemala. Two people were also missing.