Asia/Africa update: December 19 2017



Two Kashmiri separatists and a civilian were killed Tuesday in a gun battle between the separatists and Indian forces in a village in southern Kashmir.


Myanmar authorities arrested two Reuters journalists a week ago on allegations that they violated the country’s Official Secrets Act somehow. Apart from the obvious implications for journalistic freedom, what’s truly worrisome about this story is that nobody outside the Myanmar government has any idea where these reporters are or what condition they’re in, and it’s been a week since they were detained.


Interestingly, one of the places where the response to Donald Trump’s Jerusalem policy change has been most heated has been in Indonesia, where regular protests have been going on since Trump’s announcement. Now the Indonesian government is trying to rein in calls for a boycott of American products, saying that on the technology front alone the country is too reliant on American stuff to go without.


Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared a unilateral ten-day Christmas ceasefire with the country’s Maoist New People’s Army rebels. The ceasefire will go into effect on December 24 and run through January 2.


Eurasianet’s Nathan Hutson writes that China is playing an expectations game with its One Belt One Road initiative, deliberately being obtuse about the specific details of individual OBOR projects, in order to keep all potential partner nations enthusiastic about the endeavor:

China’s Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative will have its winners and losers. But for now, Beijing is trying to bolster international support for the project, which will link its western provinces to Europe, by keeping some aspects of the specific routing of rail corridors ambiguous.


China has presented maps of the Belt and Road depicting the simultaneous development of many routes through different countries. This ambiguity of precisely where and when routes will emerge has been useful for keeping all countries in the region engaged. Yet, this strategy is unlikely to endure for long once the megaproject moves from the PR to the engineering phase.

OBOR’s reliance on rail in particular means that its benefits aren’t going to be felt equally throughout Eurasia, but China has to make as many countries as possible believe that they will benefit in order to keep things rolling along.

Meanwhile, China analyst Atman Trivedi says the potential for a US-China trade war is growing:

In the last few weeks, the Trump administration has unleashed what may be the initial salvo in a mutually destructive trade war with China.


In succession, it self-initiated a trade case for the first time in over 25 years to fight cheap Chinese aluminum imports, very publicly rejected China’s position that it should lawfully be considered a “market economy” in such cases, and apparently suspended the main official U.S.-China dialogue to bolster economic ties.  Now its new national security strategy identifies China as a “strategic competitor” and decries it and Russia as “revisionist powers.”


These signs of the White House’s growing impatience with China after months of stalemate on commercial and trade issues may be just the tip of the iceberg: the administration’s major investigation of China’s intellectual property practices appears to be winding down, and could result in a range of unilateral sanctions.

On the plus side, maybe, Beijing on Tuesday announced plans to open the world’s largest market for trading carbon credits. Initially, at least, the market will only cover China’s energy industry rather than its entire economy, so while it’s more ambitious than previous efforts at this sort of thing, it’s likely not ambitious enough to actually matter.


The Taiwanese government is investigating a small pro-China political party, the New Party, over national security concerns. Beijing is steamed and, to be honest, at this point it’s difficult to understand why the party is being investigated if not for political reasons.


The US has shared a draft UN Securituy Council resolution, calling for tougher sanctions against North Korea, with China. Assuming Beijing doesn’t have any serious objections, there could be a vote on it fairly quickly. The resolution likely calls for restricting North Korea’s oil imports, which is a step China has resisted in the past. The US is also asking the UN to add ten ships to its blacklist related to North Korean sanctions-busting. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is floating the idea of cutting back on joint US-South Korean military exercises in an effort to lower tensions in advance of next year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.



For those like me who aren’t exactly well-versed in Liberian politics, The Monkey Cage has a primer ahead of the December 26 presidential runoff:

This is an important milestone in Liberia’s democratic transformation since the end of civil war in 2003. The great challenge, as Liberian politician and academic Amos Sawyer noted in 2005, is shifting the country’s political mind-set from “zero-sum politics to one that embraces tolerance, accommodation and coalition-building.”


Neither candidate matches the gravitas of Liberia’s outgoing leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Africa’s first elected female president. Some wonder if Weah is under the sway of disgraced former president and rebel leader Charles Taylor after Weah selected Taylor’s ex-wife, Sen. Jewel Howard Taylor, as his running mate. To a lesser degree, Boakai has been tarnished by Sirleaf’s reluctance to campaign actively on his behalf.


South Sudanese peace talks are resuming in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but they’re likely to run into the same fundamental problem that’s doomed peace talks over Syria: the government is winning the civil war and thus sees no reason to compromise with the rebels, and the rebels see no reason to negotiate with a government that refuses to compromise. And the government is most likely winning–its army just captured the southwestern town of Lasu on Sunday, which had been the rebel SPLA-IO’s southern command center.


The University of Miami School of Law is suing US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement over this:

The lawsuit, filed by the University of Miami School of Law, stems from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s failed deportation flight on Dec. 7. The 92 Somalians left the US but never made it to Somalia. Instead, the plane landed in Senegal and then after about 48 hours returned to the US because of logistical problems.

“After about 20 hours, I stood up and asked what was going on and why we were waiting,” Farah Ali Ibrahim, an asylum seeker and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “An officer grabbed me by the collar and I fell to the floor. Officers began dragging me down the aisle and beating me.”

The lawsuit claims that for the duration of the almost 48-hour trip, ICE shackled the Somali immigrants at their wrists, waist, and legs. The plane sat on a runway in Senegal for 23 hours, during which ICE agents kicked, punched, choked, and dragged detainees down the aisle of the plane.


The Uganda parliament had to abruptly end its session on Tuesday during a debate over a measure that would lift the country’s presidential age limit and thereby allow President Yoweri Museveni to run for reelection in 2021. One legislator said that soldiers had entered the parliament building and pandemonium seems to have been the result, including politicians clashing with police.

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