Top of the Agenda: Scandal Spreads Over Chinese Power Couple
The Chinese government has removed Bo Xilai (WSJ), once a rising political star, from his prominent positions in the Politburo and Central Committee, as his wife, Gu Kailai, is subjected to a homicide investigation in connection with the death of British businessman Neil Heywood. Many analysts are describing the events as the biggest scandal to strike Beijing in decades. Mr. Bo was sacked as party leader of the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing last month. Chinese state news reported that while Ms. Gu was on "good terms" with Mr. Heywood, who served the family as a "trusted advisor," they did have a conflict over "economic interests." British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the investigation.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Jonathan Fenby writes, "the Bo affair is, essentially, a sideshow, a distraction from the essential challenges facing China under its changing leadership. Nobody can deny the country's huge material achievements, and individuals live far better and freer lives than they did under the Great Helmsman. But the economic model is out of date."
On CFR's Asia Unbound blog, Elizabeth C. Economy writes, "The case of Bo represents a marked improvement from traditional Chinese politics by bringing transparency, accountability, and perhaps even the rule of law into the political process. Of course the Party is already trying to use its handling of the scandal as an example of its respect for the 'sanctity and authority of law.' In doing so, however, the Party raises the expectations of the Chinese people that such transparency and accountability will continue."
China and Philippines in South China Sea Standoff
The Philippines requested China's ambassador in Manila after two Chinese ships prohibited a Philippine navy vessel from arresting Chinese fishermen in the South China Sea (al-Jazeera). The two countries contest sovereignty over some islands in the region.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Quake off Indonesia Prompts Tsunami Watch
An 8.6 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia has prompted a tsunami watch (WSJ) for much of the region, including India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Pakistan. A 9.1 quake in the same area in 2004 triggered a tsunami (LAT) that killed an estimated 230,000 people.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Premier Dr. Manmohan Singh reached a preliminary agreement that would allow traders from both countries to be issued multiple-entry visas (Dawn).
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country in this CFR Crisis Guide.
Annan in Iran to Discuss Syria Peace Deal
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan gained Iranian support for the peace process in Syria (al-Jazeera), but Tehran said that Syria's government must be given time to institute reforms. Annan said he has received assurances from Syria that the cease-fire deadline would be honored.
ISRAEL: Israeli and Lebanese navies have been cooperating in the Mediterranean as Israel prepares for a possible altercation on upcoming Nakba Day this month (Haaretz). As a result, analysts say that significantly fewer foreign vessels approach Israel's maritime border now.
Sudan-South Sudan Border Skirmishes
Sudan reported that South Sudan (AP) launched an attack on the oil-rich town of Heglig twice in the last twenty-four hours, and that border conflicts have broken out in the aftermath. The news raises fears of all-out conflict between the two newly partitioned nations.
NIGERIA: Nigeria's chief of army staff told his troops to consider themselves at war with Boko Haram (Vanguard), the militant Islamic group believed to be responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks that killed scores of people in parts of the country's north.
European Markets Stage Tentative Comeback
Following the worst one-day drop in over a month, European markets recovered some lost ground with Spanish and Italian stocks (FT) leading the way. Italy also managed to sell its target of $17.5 billion government bonds on Wednesday, but its borrowing costs rose sharply, highlighting market nervousness.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is a buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed.
RUSSIA: Russia's president-elect Vladimir Putin announced he would support a motion that prohibits a person from being elected president more than twice (AP). He added that such a law would not affect him, however, since it would not be retroactive.
Bolivia to Rescind Amazon Road Contract
Bolivian President Evo Morales announced he will cancel the contract of a Brazilian company that was set to build a controversial road through the Amazon rainforest (BBC). Morales accused OAS, the firm in question, of not complying with deal's terms.
MEXICO: Mexican President Felipe Calderon is set to travel to Cuba on Wednesday for a brief trip to improve relations with the communist nation and discuss business possibilities, including oil ventures (Reuters).
Obama Makes Case for Tax Hikes on the Rich
President Barack Obama doubled down on his economic case for a second term, which he explained favors boosting social programs that benefit middle-income Americans, in sharp contrast with Republicans' past and future proposals to spur growth with upper-income tax cuts.
The Senate is set to vote next week (Politico) on a change in tax laws that would set a 30 percent minimum income tax for Americans earning more than $1 million annually, known as the "Buffett Rule," which will be at odds with a House budget plan by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) "that cuts taxes on many Americans, with a particular emphasis on the rich."