The Week That Was #1

Foreign Policy Brief #160 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | December 19, 2022

Header photo taken from: The Associated Press / Andy Wong




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President Biden told dozens of African leaders gathered in Washington that the United States is “all in on Africa’s future,” laying out billions in promised government funding and private investment to help the growing continent in health, infrastructure, business and technology.

Photo taken from: The BBC / EPA

A new series to catch you up on the top stories that occurred around the world last week.

US-Africa Summit

President Biden hosted a US-Africa summit last week with 49 African leaders in Washington DC. It is the first such gathering in eight years, it comes after a strenuous time with African leaders’ relationships with former president Trump’s who alienated many leaders with controversial policy decisions and insulting comments. Africa, a continent with 1.2 billion people, only accounts for just over 1% of US foreign trade.

Biden announced billions of dollars in US support and investments in Afrian countries. The US is also set to sign a memorandum with the African Continental Free Trade Area, which would be one of the world’s biggest free-trade areas and open both the US and African markets to each other. President Biden also said he would back the African Union’s admission as a permanent member for the G-20, which would be a major step in recognition of the continent’s global importance. 

The summit is the US’ attempt to re-establish its influence and counter China’s growing investment and presence on the continent. President Biden spoke optimistically of improved links with Africa and telling those gathered that “when Africa succeeds, the United States succeeds”.

China’s Covid-19 Surge

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A woman wearing a face mask pushes a plastic covered stroller with a baby inside, as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China.

Photo taken from: Reuters

China is expecting a widespread Covid-19 outbreak as the country lifted its long-standing zero-Covid policy. The policy has been widely unpopular among  Chinese citizenry, even sparking protests where there were calls for the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to step down. The zero-Covid policy also meant that economic growth stagnated because as entire cities were shut down to keep the virus from spreading, people were unable to go to work, businesses were unable to open, and trade ground to a halt. China is now facing what will probably be the world’s largest surge of the pandemic as the zero-Covid policy gets lifted. 

China’s public health officials state that possibly 800 million people could be infected with the coronavirus over the next few months and predictions are that half a million people could die. The reason is that the population has very little immunity to the multiple strains of the virus and are now in danger of serious illness as the majority of people have never been infected and vaccination rates are low. 

Until recently China has focused on city wide quarantines, mass testing, and travel restrictions to keep the virus at bay. Thus, over the course of the pandemic, where much of the world got infected, most people in China were kept from getting sick with variants that have spread over the last three years and now pose a great threat to the Chinese public.

North Korea ICBM Test

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North Korea tests high-thrust solid-fuel engine for apparent ICBM development. Experts believe the engine can be used for a new ICBM.

Photo taken from: Reuters

North Korea last week tested a high-thrust solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Compared to liquid propellant missiles, those that use solid-fuel are quicker, more mobile, and can be launched with little to no preparation time. North Korea has conducted numerous missile tests this year, including an ICBM capable of reaching the mainland United States despite international bans and sanctions. The latest test came as International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Rafael Grossi, was in South Korea for talks with officials. During the talks, he vowed an all-out effort to stop North Korea’s nuclear programme. The ICBM tests come on the heels of growing tension on the peninsula. 

Earlier last month joint military drills between the US and South Korea angered the North and prompted more displays of military might. South Korean and US officials have also claimed that the North is likely working towards conducting a nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017 and poses serious threats to the environment and human health. 

The increased tests by North Korea has also led Japan to increase its military budget, its largest military buildup since the second World War. The five-year plan, once unthinkable in Japan which renounced military provocation following its defeat and atomic bombing in WWII, would make the country the world’s third-biggest military spender after the US and China.

Protests in Peru

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Demonstrators continue to protest despite a government proposal to bring forward elections following the overthrow of Peruvian leader Pedro Castillo, in Lima, Peru.

Photo taken from: Alessandro Cinque / Reuters

Recently ousted Peruvian president Pedro Castillo, who was impeached after he announced plans to dissolve congress and install an emergency government, has been sentenced to an extra 18 months of pre-trial detention. The office of Peru’s Attorney General said Castillo had been arrested for the alleged crime of rebellion, “for violating the constitutional order”. Castillo supporters have been gathering outside the jail where he is detained, holding up banners calling for the resignation of new President Dina Boluarte and for Congress to be closed.

Unrest from the protests has affected the country’s tourism industry. Around 5,000 tourists are stranded in Cusco after the airport was closed when protesters attempted to storm the terminals. Thus far, at least 15 people are reported to have been killed in clashes with police during a week of protests. Peru has suffered through years of political instability and recent events demonstrate the deadly nature of the turmoil.

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