Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan
In the broader context of the upcoming election, waves of public opinions on current politics have been expressed and demonstrated, specifically on the issue of Taiwan independence and efforts to affirm its place in the international community.
With the upcoming election in mind, Tsai’s administration has been attempting to consolidate the support for her political party and distance herself from radical positions that may turn the general public opinion against her administration. For instance, there will be a protest tomorrow calling for an official referendum on Taiwan’s independence status hosted by radical pro-independence groups and Tsai publicly prohibits her candidates and officials from participating. Additionally, after the Vatican-China talks, Tsai attempts to bring Vatican City to affirm their relationship with their official ally. Tsai also stresses the importance of bolstering Taiwan’s resilience and strengthening ties with the U.S.
Things to watch: What further actions will the Tsai’s administration take to strengthen the international position and consolidate the support for her party and how will Beijing react.
The dispute between Poland and the EU remains unsolved. The EU decided to sue its most influential Eastern European member state Poland for intervening the Polish independent judicial branch. The new Polish law lowered the retirement age of all Polish Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65, making 27 judges (out of 72) at the risk of forced to retire. The EU commission asked the EU Court of Justice to suspend such law until the law follows the EU principle of judicial independence. The resurgence of the Polish Law and Justice party (PIS) has been causing a series of ideological and political conflicts with the EU. As a right-wing populist conservative party, many of its policies and visions are not shared by its Western European colleagues. The same situation applies to Hungary as well. Although most Eastern European states have joined the EU, attitudes toward policies and governance remain differential. A divided Europe is visible, and this could cause not only new ideological conflict but also could give leverage power of EU’s biggest enemy-Russia.
Speaking of Russia, the country had some exciting developments this week. Firstly, in response to Constantinople’s recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s independence from the Moscow Patriarchate, officials from the Russian Orthodox Church have announced that the church is severing relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church’s departure from Constantinople is seen as one of the most significant schisms in Orthodox Christianity in almost a thousand years. Members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, however, celebrated their independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. Meanwhile, in Crimea, at least 19 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in a shooting at a college. Although Russian authorities had changed the status of the school attack from “terrorism” to “murder”, many questions regarding the shooting in Crimea remains unresolved. Some Crimean residences and Russian officials question the ability of a single student to shoot so many people with just a rifle. Nonetheless, the attack will drive Russia to tighten up its internal security throughout the country. It is possible that a limit on foreign tourism in Crimea will be placed. Through these two events, one may conclude that Russia is facing a significant degree of external and internal pressure right now.
Things to watch: whether Poland would agree to cancel its “judicial reformation”, progress on Brexit, development of Russia’s Schism with Constantinople, follow up on the Crimean school shouting.
In this week, South Korea was seeking help on the North Korean issue besides the regular assistance from the US. On Monday, Moon Jae-in met French President to seek for France’s support on easing the sanction on North as well as rebuilding the railway. On Oct. 18th, Moon delivered Kim’s request to meet the Pope on the second stop of his European trip — Vatican. Keeping peace with North was definitely the top concern of Moon Jae-in. More importantly, the South believes that Kim’s regime is in big terrible due to the economic sanction, and believes it is dangers to push them to the limit.
Regarding North Korea, on Oct. 16th, Putin invited Kim to visit Russia again in a congratulatory telegram with Kim Jong-un, after he made a similar invitation in May. The time gap between the two invitation suggests that Russia is now prepared to meet with Kim to talk over the joint interests in the region. At the same time, North Korea, commonly regarded as a country where religious practices are discouraged, publicly invited Pope Francis to visit North Korea and asked the South Korean president to deliver the invitation. North Korea’s strategy might be to call for international attention on its humanitarian conditions and hope to receive humanitarian help from more countries, in order to alleviate its social and economic problems. as the US has been pushing the denuclearization process by banning US aid workers to enter the country and keep economic sanctions.
Things to watch: whether Pope Francis will formally accept North Korea’s invitation, whether Kim Jong-un will visit Russia, French’s future diplomatic strategy regarding North Korea
The Middle East
The disappearance and death of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has caused huge sensation internationally and intensified the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. President Trump sent Secretary Mike Pompeo to meet and discuss with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman specifically about the investigation. Trump earlier this week vowed that if Saudi Arabia is behind the death of the journalist, the US will have actions to “penalize” Saudi Arabia. However, as the investigation goes on, the Saudis may conclude that “rogue killers” are responsible for the case. Trump’s attitude gets ambiguous of whether the US would “penalize” the Saudis. The US and Saudi Arabia have traditionally been partners. Saudi Arabia has a $110 billion arms deal with the US, and the US supports Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war. All of these may be reasons for Trump’s ambiguous attitude toward this incident, and as the midterm elections come up, Trump is in a politically sensitive situation, and he would want fewer troubles against him. On Thursday, Treasury Mnuchin canceled his trip to a conference in Saudi Arabia, which gives possible ways of sanctions that the US may put on Saudi Arabia. From the chaos caused by this incident, Turkey is definitely the winner. President Erdogan seized this opportunity to improve Turkey’s relationship with Washington and challenge Saudi Arabia’s regional aspirations.
At the same time, British citizen Matthew Hedges, a Ph.D. student, stands accused by the UAE of “spying for a foreign country, jeopardizing the military, political and economic security of the state”, UAE attorney general said late Monday. Currently, Hedges is in solitary confinement in a UAE prison. Hedges’ family has requested Britain to assure the UAE that he is innocent; however, Britain has only stated that they do not comment on intelligence matters. The UAE and Britain have historically had good relations. Additionally, it is very rare for the UAE to detain any students from western countries. Because of these two reasons, many suggest Hedges might be guilty. The UAE has been accused of committing war crimes in Yemen so perhaps Hedges was arrested because the UAE believed he was trying to uncover information regarding this sensitive topic.
As for Iran, South Korea has been the third largest buyer of Iranian oil. The only two countries purchasing more are China and India. South Korea did not import any oil from Iran in September. South Korea is halting oil imports from Iran before U.S. sanctions take effect in November. South Korea is complying with U.S. demands in order to maintain a positive relationship with President Trump. South Korea has also increased imports of U.S. oil fivefold this year in order to further enhance their relationship with the Trump Administration. Because South Korea is complying with U.S. policy regarding Iran, it raises the question of whether other countries will as well. It also appears that President Trump is using these sanctions to increase the sale of U.S. oil.
Things to watch: The truth of Khashoggi’s death (US response to the truth), international responses, whether more countries would stop buying Iranian oil, the fate of the arrested British student.