By Krithika Varagur
China’s brutal crackdown on its Muslims has attracted a global outcry and shows no signs of slowing in 2019. This extends to other faiths: Chinese Christians, Taoists, and Buddhists are also facing a new wave of repression. But while China is backtracking its accommodation of religious citizens within its borders, it’s doing the opposite outside them.
With an energetic, multibillion-dollar, transnational campaign, China wants to harness Buddhism for soft power across Asia. It calls Buddhism an “ancient Chinese religion” and has spent $3 billion to revive the birthplace of the Buddha, the Nepalese town of Lumbini. It has been holding World Buddhist Forums since 2006 with monks from all over the world. It is pouring in money to revive the Gandhara trail of Buddhist sites in Pakistan, linking heritage revival to its Belt and Road Initiative. It’s building a Buddhist center in Myanmar’s capital and funding the study and translation of Buddhist texts. …
By Antony Loewenstein
The founder of the military contractor Blackwater, Erik Prince, has a new project. He’s aiming to raise $500 million to invest in the discovery, exploitation, and delivery of resources required to produce electric car batteries. Minerals such as cobalt, lithium, and copper are mostly found in conflict zones such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.
Speaking recently to CNBC, Prince said that he aimed to end cobalt’s status as a “conflict mineral” in Congo, and his plans included regular jobs and incomes for artisanal miners who toil in in horrific conditions, in “loincloth,” according to Prince. The Congolese Chamber of Mines estimated in 2015 that there may be 2 million artisanal miners in the country digging for gold, diamonds, and minerals such as cobalt. Prince told CNBC that he wanted to create an “ethical mine” so businesses invested in his project could trace the source of the cobalt and know that it was coming from a location without any abuses. …
By Tanner Greer
Japanese anime has conquered China. In Chinese, the term “2D culture” (erciyuan wenhua) describes both the television shows, video games, anime (cartoons), manga (comic books), music, and movies inspired by Japanese pop culture and the millions of Chinese who consume these products every week. This “second dimension” is one of the fastest-growing industries in China — with more than 200 million consumers, the market is projected to reach more than $30 billion by 2020.
But the runaway success of Japanese pop culture among China’s youth has caused confusion, shock, and anger in a country still bitter over historical grievances. …
By Michael Hirsh
“I want a world of peace, freedom, and democracy,” new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro declared in his keynote speech at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday. The far-right leader then asked everyone in the audience — all his wealthy new friends — to come and invest in the “new Brazil.” He got a polite welcome.
It’s exactly the kind of feel-good nonsense we’ve come to expect from this strange annual gathering of the very rich, the very powerful, and the very clueless. At home, Bolsonaro — occasionally known as Brazil’s Donald Trump — has disparaged gays, women and blacks and waxed elegiac about his nation’s past military dictatorship. …
By Robbie Gramer and Elias Groll
The U.S. State Department is expected to stand up a new cybersecurity bureau this year as the government grapples with expanding foreign cybersecurity threats, according to current and former officials familiar with the plans. But the scope of that body’s work remains unclear amid squabbles with Capitol Hill over its responsibilities.
At a time when the United States and its adversaries are making major investments in offensive hacking capabilities, current and former officials say the bureau would fill a gap in the U.S. government’s diplomatic abilities.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is expected to announce the creation of the new bureau in a speech on the Trump administration’s cybersecurity strategy this spring, according to one official. The official added that plans are underway for the bureau to be run by a new assistant secretary of state but cautioned that nothing has been finalized. …
By Elias Groll
The computer scientist Jon Callas is a legend of the computer security world.
For the last two years, he worked at Apple, where his job entailed breaking into the company’s products to find holes in their security systems. Before that, he co-founded the companies Silent Circle and Blackphone — purveyors of secure communications technology. And earlier in his career, he served as the chief scientist at PGP, where he helped develop one of the world’s most widely used encryption standards.
So when Callas announced last year that he would be leaving Apple to take a two-year job as a technology fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it raised a few eyebrows. Why would this computer security expert be leaving a high-paying job with huge responsibility for a fellowship at a liberal NGO? …
By Kenneth Roth
In some ways these are dark times for human rights. Yet while the autocrats capture the headlines, the defenders of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are also gaining strength. The same populists who spread hatred and intolerance are spawning a resistance. The excesses of autocratic rule are fueling a counterattack. That reaction is increasing the cost of serious human rights violations, which ultimately is the best way to force abusive governments to curb them. …
By Stephen Paduano
“Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak and the couplings strain.
The pace is hot, and the points are near,
And sleep hath deadened the driver’s ear;
And signals flash through the night in vain.
Who is in charge of the clattering train?”
As Europe’s engines of war grew louder and hotter, it was this section from Edwin Milliken’s 1890 poem “Death and His Brother Sleep” that Winston Churchill thought of reciting, asking who was steering or stopping Europe’s fateful course. Nearly a century later, as Britain barrels hopelessly toward an exit from the European Union without a deal — a scenario that has been linked to a simultaneous food crisis, financial crisis, and border crisis — one of his grandsons, the Remainer and Conservative Member of Parliament Nicholas Soames, is asking the same. …
By Laurie Garrett
Nearly 600 people have contracted Ebola since last August in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, making the ongoing outbreak the second largest in the 43-year history of humanity’s battle with the deadly virus. And there is a genuine threat that this Congo health crisis — the 10th the African nation has faced — could become essentially permanent in the war-torn region bordering South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, making a terrible transition from being epidemic to endemic.
Despite having a tool kit at its disposal that is unrivaled — including a vaccine, new diagnostics, experimental treatments, and a strong body of knowledge regarding how to battle the hemorrhage-causing virus — the small army of international health responders and humanitarian workers in Congo is playing whack-a-mole against a microbe that keeps popping up unexpectedly and proving impossible to control. This is not because of any special attributes of the classic strain of Ebola — the same genetic strain that has been successfully tackled many times before — but because of humans and their behaviors in a quarter-century-old war zone. …
By Patrick M. Cronin
The Korean Peninsula is no longer on the brink of war, which seemed like a real possibility in 2017, and the memory of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric has faded. Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year set a different tone. But the geopolitical consequences of diplomatic failure, or so-called success — faux peace without real denuclearization — have not grown less terrifying as the prospect of a second summit looms.
After a year of high-level U.S. engagement with North Korea’s dynastic dictator, Pyongyang retains a formidable nuclear missile capability, while the historically ironclad U.S.-South …