Welcome to the weekend, and welcome to East Asia! Let’s catch up on some headlines from (in alphabetical order): China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan.
A key component of Xi Jinping’s increasingly totalitarian style of rule is a crackdown against people perceived to be less loyal to Beijing. This has been applied most brutally to the Uighur people, who are distinct in both language and religion from the majority Han people.
And of course the same goes for Hong Kong. So far, they’ve been in a better position to prevent mass imprisonment and forced disappearances.
A South Korean court ordered a Japanese company to pay compensation to its wartime forced laborers. The Japanese government really wants the South Korean government to take care of this problem – meaning they want the decision nullified. They’re sabotaging their own trade relationship to South Korea, and being super-rude about it, in pursuit of that outcome.
Mongolia has a system that divides power between a president, currently Battulga Khaltmaa, and parliament. The two have been gridlocked for years, and there’s a lot of popular support for structural changes. Battulga wouldn’t mind being a strongman type, but it’s far from clear that things will go his way – the Mongolian people might elevate parliament instead.
North Korea doesn’t exactly have internal politics as we understand the term. Instead, they have noted psychopath and Trump bestie Kim Jong Un. Here’s a story about him doing his usual act, which is threatening the annihilation of his enemies.
South Korea, as you may deduce, lies immediately to the south of North Korea, and therefore requires a large army to defend itself. A two-year term of military service is mandatory for young men. Pretty straightforward so far. Here’s where it goes wrong: being gay is a crime for soldiers. So if you’re gay, and you’re obligated to serve in the military, you should… what? Up until now, the government’s answer has been, “Go to jail.” Under public pressure, recent jail sentences have generally been suspended. It remains to be seen whether that pressure will be enough to decriminalize gays serving in the military.
Taiwan just bought of a bunch of weapons from the US. Over the last few years, the Trump administration has repeatedly provoked Beijing by openly recognizing the US relationship with Taiwan – remember, mainland China and Taiwan still claim to be the legitimate rulers of each other. China has always threatened retaliation for ignoring that fiction.
Keep it civil in the comments please, and no threats against anybody. Plus a little editorial comment here: It’s a big world! The White House is not the only interesting place in it. Feel free to talk politics, policy, and current events from any place, at any scale from local to global.