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!
December 31, 2018 to January 5, 2019
In the same week China landed a lunar probe on the moon and Canada said that 13 of its citizens have been detained in China, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Taiwan to follow the “one country, two systems” model for unification. The president said that “Taiwanese independence should not be tolerated” and urged the start of democratic consultations between the two countries. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, however, said Taiwan will never accept the model, even as Mr. Xi proposed two options: First, military force; or second, the aforementioned “one country, two systems” model.
Later in the week, China’s landing of a lunar probe marked “the world’s first expedition to a lunar region that never faces the Earth”. And in Canada, following the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, the government said that 13 of its citizens have since been detained in China. At least eight of the 13 have been released.
- DR Congo has been facing its worst Ebola outbreak. There are now 602 probable patients with 366 deaths.
- An operation against Boko Haram has killed at least 280 militants in Niger.
- The ruling party in Bangladesh won a third consecutive term for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, amidst “widespread reports of irregularities, voter intimidation, and violence” during the parliamentary elections.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping called on Taiwan to follow the “one country, two systems” model for unification. Mr. Xi said “Taiwanese independence should not be tolerated” and urged the start of democratic consultations between the two countries. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, however, said Taiwan will never accept the model.
- Mr. Xi proposed two options: First, military force; or second, the aforementioned “one country, two systems” model.
- China also landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon. The lunar mission “marks the world’s first expedition to a lunar region that never faces the Earth“.
- India’s supreme court had previously lifted a ban “on women worshipping at Sabarimala temple in Kerala state“. Conservatives, however, have continued to block women of menstruating age (10 to 50 years old) from entering the temple, and the entry and worship of two women in the past week has sparked protests.
- Landslides in Indonesia killed at least 15 people.
- A clash with militants in Pakistan left four paramilitary soldiers killed. “No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Baloch separatist groups and Islamist militants have attacked security forces in the province in the past“.
- Landslides and flash floods triggered by torrential rain in the Philippines killed at least 22 people. The death toll later increased to 68. Tropical depression Usman also affected nearly 130,000 people.
- An explosion outside a shopping mall in the Philippines killed at least two people.
- The partial collapse of a building in Russia – possibly caused by a gas leak – killed at least three people. The death toll later increased to at least 37 people.
- Russia detained an American citizen, Paul Whelan, over accusations of spying.
- In Thailand, a man shot and killed six family members before killing himself.
- An accident involving a passenger and a freight train in Denmark killed at least six people.
- Against the background of the yellow vest street protests against French President Emmanuel Macron, three-quarters of his people are unhappy with him and how his government is running the country.
The Middle East
- An attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan left at least 27 members of security forces dead. This comes a week after President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of half of the 14,000 American troops in the country.
- Israel, together with the United States, officially quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, over accusations of anti-Israel bias.
- Prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, and Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has formally requested the death penalty for five suspects. No new information about the murder, the suspects, or the investigation was provided.
- Following the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, Canada said that 13 of its citizens have since been detained in China. At least eight of the 13 have been released.
- A crash involving multiple vehicles in Florida left at least seven people dead.
- Following a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, Mr. Kim expressed willingness to meet with Mr. Trump again.
- Democrats assumed control of the House of Representatives, as Representative Nancy Pelosi of California was elected speaker. She is the first woman to hold the post and is the first person in more than 60 years to reclaim the speakership after losing it.
- In Brazil, far-right former army captain Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as the first right-wing president since the end of military rule 30 years ago. “He vowed to tackle corruption, crime and economic mismanagement“.
- On his first day, Mr. Bolsonaro made it difficult for new lands to be identified and demarcated for indigenous communities and also removed LGBTQ concerns from the responsibilities of the human rights agency without naming another agency to do so.
- Cuba celebrated the 60th anniversary of its revolution. It however faces “increasing isolation in a region dominated by a resurgent right“, in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.