Xi Jinping tightened his grip on power in China by promoting allies to top government jobs. Wang Qishan, who has led Mr Xi’s crackdown on corruption, was made vice-president, a hitherto ceremonial position that may now be beefed up to oversee relations with America. Liu He, Mr Xi’s economic adviser, was named as one of four deputy prime ministers and given the brief of supervising the People’s Bank of China and other regulatory bodies. The PBOC, in turn, will be headed by Yi Gang, another new appointment, who, like Mr Liu, has studied in America. See article.
China’s aircraft-carrier entered the Taiwan Strait again. This was probably as a show of defiance to America, which has angered Beijing by passing a law that encourages contacts between American and Taiwanese officials. Taiwanese ships tracked the vessel.
The diplomatic effort to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula continued apace. Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, held open the possibility of three-way talks with America and North Korea if a summit planned for April between the South and North is productive. Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that South Korea and the United States will resume joint military exercises that were postponed during the Winter Olympics.
Myanmar’s president, Htin Kyaw, resigned with immediate effect. Rumours have swirled for months that he is in poor health. Htin Kyaw was the country’s first civilian president since the early 1960s and is a confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the de facto head of Myanmar’s government, even if the president is constitutionally in charge.
A suicide-bomber targeted crowds at a shrine celebrating the Persian new year in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, killing at least 31 people.
Out of captivity
Most of the 110 Nigerian schoolgirls who were recently abducted by Boko Haram in the town of Dapchi were freed. The government insists that it did not pay a ransom for their return. The jihadists warned the girls’ parents not to put them back in school. See article.
Dozens of African leaders signed an ambitious free-trade deal. All 55 members of the African Union negotiated the agreement, but 11 did not sign, including Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy. See article.
For the first time Israel admitted to bombing a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007. Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said the attack showed that Israel will prevent its enemies from developing nuclear weapons.
Turkey captured the northern Syrian region of Afrin after a two-month battle with Kurdish fighters. Meanwhile, Syrian government forces took back more territory in besieged Eastern Ghouta, the last rebel stronghold near Damascus. See article.
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned as Peru’s president after 20 months in office. The country’s congress was threatening to impeach him based on evidence that a company he founded had worked with Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company that bribed officials across Latin America. He had served as finance minister and prime minister in an earlier government that awarded contracts to Odebrecht. Mr Kuczynski will be succeeded by the vice-president, Martín Vizcarra. See article.
Tens of thousands of Brazilians protested against the execution-style murder of Marielle Franco, a left-wing city councillor in Rio de Janeiro. Ms Franco, who was black and gay, had accused the police of abuses and was a critic of the decision by Brazil’s government to put the army in charge of security in the state of Rio. See article.
America toughened sanctions against Venezuela’s authoritarian regime. It added four current and former officials to the list of 49 whose American assets are frozen. Donald Trump signed an executive order barring Americans from buying or selling the petro, a crypto-currency issued by Venezuela’s government. Only the most risk-hungry investors were buying it in the first place.
Cruel and unusual punishment
The sacking of Andrew McCabe at the FBI, where he was deputy director until January, was seen by many as an attempt to discredit him as a witness in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling. Mr McCabe was on paid leave and was fired for an alleged lack of “candour” in dealings with the media. He had been the target of much of Donald Trump’s invective. Last December the president tweeted that Mr McCabe was “racing the clock” to retire with a full pension. He was sacked 26 hours before he was due to receive that pension.
Congress hurried yet again to pass a bill that would avoid a government shutdown.
The suspect behind several explosive devices, mostly contained in packages, that left two men dead and injured several other people in or near Austin, Texas, blew himself up during a police chase. Police are investigating the motive.
Vladimir Putin easily won a fourth term as Russia’s president, taking more than 77% of the vote. However, there were widespread allegations of stuffed ballot-boxes, and the main opposition candidate, Alexei Navalny, was not allowed to stand. Despite this, Mr Putin was congratulated by Donald Trump and by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. See article.
Nicolas Sarkozy, a former president of France, was placed under formal investigation as part of a probe into allegations that he received millions of euros in illegal election funding from the regime of the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi.
In Slovakia,the government headed by Robert Fico collapsed in the face of widespread protests over the murder of a journalist who was investigating government corruption.
British and European Union negotiators approved the details of the Brexit transition proposals that were agreed in December. Britain will formally leave the EU in March 2019, but be bound by its regulations until the end of 2020. During the transition trade deals can be negotiated with other countries. But the Irish border question remains unresolved; the “backstop” solution that keeps Northern Ireland in the EU customs union is in the document, for now. In Britain Leavers said the deal betrayed the fishing industry, and threw fish into the River Thames outside Parliament in protest. See article.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”