Keith B. Richburg

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Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, right, with vice-presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka in Jakarta Nov. 14. (Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo — known as Jokowi — is barred from running for a third term next year. So far, he is officially neutral on a successor but has signaled that he is leaning toward his defense minister and erstwhile rival, Prabowo Subianto.

The reason? Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is Prabowo’s vice-presidential running mate. And Gibran’s presence on the ticket heralds the emergence of a new political dynasty in the world’s fourth most populous country and third-largest democracy.

It also heralds a worrisome development for not only Indonesia but also the other developing democracies of Southeast Asia. As democracies around the globe face growing threats — including in the United States and Europe — the world hardly needs more democratic backsliding.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center left, and Premier Li Qiang, center right, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Andy Wong/AP)

A few months ago, China’s foreign minister went missing; soon reports emerged that he had been sacked for improprieties, reportedly including an extramarital affair. The powerful defense minister recently also disappeared from public view, and is allegedly under investigation for corruption. And a few weeks ago, the entire top leadership of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees the country’s nuclear arsenal, was replaced.

This rolling upheaval at the top echelons of China’s ruling Communist Party can mean only one thing. The problem is that the community of outside analysts known as China-watchers can’t quite agree on which one thing it is.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators sing "Glory to Hong Kong" during a rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on Oct. 26, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Can a song endanger the national security of China and threaten to subvert the power of the ruling Communist Party?

You read that correctly — a song.

Hong Kong officials seem to fear it can, as they are seeking an injunction against a protest anthem called “Glory to Hong Kong”. Officials have asked a court to ban the song from being performed, broadcast, distributed, displayed, sold, printed or published by any means and on any platform.

Not just the lyrics but also the melody. Under the government’s sweeping request, even humming it on the subway or street could violate the city’s draconian national security law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto during a campaign rally in Bali on March 26, 2019. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP via Getty Images)

Indonesia was in chaos and in danger of splitting apart.

When President Suharto stepped down on May 22, 1998, after more than three decades in power, the autocratic ruler left behind an economic crisis, an outbreak of lawlessness and a heavily centralized, deeply corrupt political system.

Hungry Indonesians were pillaging food warehouses and shrimp farms and occupying golf courses to plant crops to eat. The country’s ethnic Chinese population, which had become the target of mob attacks, were fleeing in droves. Separatist insurgencies were raging in East Timor, Papua and Aceh, and sectarians clashes broke out between Christians and Muslims on the island of Ambon.…  Seguir leyendo »

People visit a bar in Hong Kong on Thursday. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

The people of Hong Kong are greeting New Year’s Eve with a mixture of excitement, relief and a fair degree of uncertainty. The government is finally lifting most covid-related restrictions after nearly three seemingly interminable years.

Starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, workers began removing the ubiquitous vaccine QR code scanning machines, which had verified people’s vaccine status (proof of vaccination was required for entry to most premises during much of the pandemic). Then the WhatsApp messages and questions began flying on the group chat of the Club Managers' Association (which represents more than three dozen of the private members' clubs in Hong Kong): “Can we open saunas and steam rooms?”…  Seguir leyendo »

People hold white sheets of paper in protest of covid-19 restrictions, after a vigil for the victims of a fire in Urumqi, China, on Nov. 27. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The coronavirus pandemic, which exploded around the world in early 2020, was a boon to authoritarian governments looking to expand their power — and none more so than the Chinese Communist Party. But now the party’s power grab in reaction to that virus has fostered the most serious threat to its rule in more than 30 years.

From the onset of the virus, first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, China’s rulers censored anyone who dared question the government’s response. They largely locked down the country to foreign visitors and deepened their already pervasive surveillance of citizens through an intrusive health-monitoring app — all in the name of protecting public health.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pedestrians walks past an election board displaying the national flag in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Monday. (Vincent Thian/AP)

There’s been so much bleak news about the global rollback of democracy in recent years that it makes sense to pause and take note of some positive — and perhaps overlooked — signs.

I’m not talking about the defeat of extremist candidates and election deniers in the U.S. midterms, or the loss of extremist president and climate-change denier Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, though those were both welcome developments. I’m talking about other promising green shoots of democracy that may have gone unnoticed in the cascade of daily news.

Let’s start in Kenya, where I was The Post’s bureau chief in the early 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shuttered storefronts on Wing Wah Lane in Hong Kong. (Keith B. Richburg for The Washington Post)

For a snapshot of Hong Kong’s economic malaise, walk through the once-heaving entertainment district of Lan Kwai Fong and count the number of boarded-up restaurants and bar fronts. At the end of Wing Wah Lane, where property was once at a premium, most of the establishments are shuttered and plastered with “For Lease” signs.

Hong Kong’s stocks hit a 13-year low this week, with markets unimpressed by Beijing’s new leadership lineup for President Xi Jinping’s third term and spooked by bad economic news from China. The city is in a recession after two consecutive quarters of contraction, and analysts are concerned that the year-on-year growth figure will be flat at best.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arriving travelers line up for coronavirus tests at Changshui International Airport in Kunming, China, on Aug. 8. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed its covid guidelines, dropping recommendations for quarantining, social distancing and regular daily school testing. Thailand has downgraded the coronavirus to the same category as the flu. The European Union has ended its emergency phase of the pandemic, and restaurants and bars are packed again. Australia and New Zealand have fully opened to tourists.

The pandemic might not be over, but most of the world is moving on. Yet there is one conspicuous exception: China.

Other countries are shifting to living with the virus, but China’s Communist rulers are sticking to their strict anti-epidemic policy known as “dynamic zero covid”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Lipa, Batangas province, Philippines, on April 20. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters)

When Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos landed in Hawaii in 1986 after being toppled in Manila’s “People Power” revolution, he and his entourage brought with them everything that was left to plunder.

They came with $300,000 in gold bars, bearer bonds worth another $150,000, countless pearl strands, a $12,000 jewel bracelet with the price tag still attached, and 22 crates of freshly minted Philippine pesos, at the time valued at around $1 million. On top of this were documents — a treasure trove of 2,000 pages outlining the extent of Marcos’s mass looting, including hidden ownership of at least four Manhattan skyscrapers and properties in Long Island and New Jersey.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping casts his vote during the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 11. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

This was supposed to be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s year of triumph.

A successful Winter Olympics were staged in Beijing. China’s economy was set to come roaring back following the pandemic. July marks the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, and Xi was widely expected to make a celebratory visit to the territory. And capping it off this fall would be the Communist Party congress and his reappointment to an unprecedented third term.

But now China is grappling with its worst covid-19 outbreak since 2020 and its first reported virus deaths in a year, precipitating a series of lockdowns in Jilin province and the economic powerhouse cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Podría haber parecido una buena idea que el 4 de febrero, justo antes del inicio de los Juegos Olímpicos de Invierno de Pekín, el presidente chino, Xi Jinping, firmara un nuevo acuerdo de amistad “sin límites” con su homólogo ruso, Vladimir Putin.

Después de todo, los dos países comparten un enemigo que perciben como común: Estados Unidos. También comparten el temor a una amenaza similar: por parte de Putin, el “cerco” de la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN) y, por parte de Xi, los intentos de “contención” de China por parte de la alianza Estados Unidos-Reino Unido-Australia, conocida como AUKUS.…  Seguir leyendo »

Election workers empty a ballot box to count votes at a polling station for the legislative elections in Hong Kong on Dec. 19. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Lately, there have been two contradictory messages coming out of China. They have both been used to explain the Chinese leadership’s view of the country’s rivalry with the United States and the political makeover underway in Hong Kong, which just held carefully controlled elections for a new pro-Beijing local legislature.

The first message is that Western democracy is dead or dying and that China’s top-down, centrally directed socialist system is the model of the future. According to this view, democracies of the West have proved to be messy and chaotic, and fraught with violence, racism, rule by wealthy elites and rampant individualism.…  Seguir leyendo »