The streets are quiet in Myanmar. The "destructive elements" are in jail. The international outcry has faded. The junta's grip on power seems firm.
Two months after they cracked down on huge anti-government demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, the generals who rule Myanmar have reason to feel relief.
It seems they have ridden out their most difficult challenge in two decades and are set to maintain control through force and fear, offering only small concessions to the demands of their critics abroad.
If change is coming in Myanmar, experts say, it is likely to be a long process and to emerge from within the power structure.
Diplomats and human rights groups say that an unknown number of protesters and monks remain in prison today, that many monasteries in the main city, Yangon, have emptied out and that new arrests are reported almost every day.
"This is the soft continuation of the crackdown of August and September," said David Mathieson, an expert on Myanmar for Human Rights Watch, which released a report on the uprising on Friday.
During the crackdown, the report said, security forces fired into crowds, beat marchers and monks and arbitrarily detained thousands of people.
The report documented 20 deaths in Yangon, but said it believed the toll was much higher.
"Without full and independent access to the country it is impossible to determine exact casualty figures," it said.
The government admits to only 15 deaths.
Meeting with reporters here last week, the top US diplomat in Myanmar, Shari Villarosa, said the continuing repression "raises questions about the sincerity of the military in pursuing what we will consider to be a genuine dialogue leading to national reconciliation."
In what seems to be a sign of Washington's waning clout in the region, China, India and Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbors have brushed aside Washington's calls for an economic embargo and the diplomatic isolation of the junta.
As the attention of the world shifts elsewhere, the generals have made it clear that they intend to follow their own course, as they have through a half-century of self-imposed isolation.
On Monday, they signaled their defiance by announcing that a constitutional drafting committee had begun its work and was not going to listen to outside voices. The constitution is one step on what the junta calls a "road map to democracy." Many analysts call it a dodge to evade genuine reform.
"The road map will, of course, lead to a military-dominated civilianized government, which will perpetuate themselves in power," said David Steinberg, a leading expert on Myanmar at Georgetown University in Washington.
As it has in the past when it has faced international pressure, the junta has offered small gestures of compliance. But analysts say that whatever happens, the generals are not about to give real ground to the demands of the UN.
In one of these concessions, UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari will visit Myanmar this month for the third time in an attempt to nudge the government toward a dialogue with its opposition.
He follows in the footsteps of a half a dozen other UN envoys over the past 17 years who have failed to moderate the behavior of the junta.
In another concession, a government official has held three meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest. The official, Minister of Labor Aung Kyi, said on Monday that more meetings were planned, though he was vague about the time frame.
"We need to consider what to discuss and why," he said. "We are choosing what and why. So we will take where, how and when into consideration in the future."
It was possible to read, in this dismissive comment, a note of confidence that the generals hold the upper hand in their dealings with the outside world.
"This is not what the Security Council has called for -- a genuine process to heal the country," a Western diplomat said by telephone from Yangon.
"The name of the game is for them to barrel on regardless, see off every challenge and pretend there's no problem," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At a briefing for diplomats and reporters on Monday, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan belittled the protests as the work of a few agitators and dissident monks who were acting with the support of foreign powers.
"Actually, the August/September protests were trivial for the whole country and in comparison to other events in other countries," the information minister said.
They dissolved "because the general public did not take part and our security forces were able to make pre-emptive strikes."
The monks who took part "were not in touch with worldly affairs" and fell victim to the fabrications and instigation of anti-government groups, he said.
The crackdown, witnessed abroad in smuggled photographs and on videotape, drew condemnation and warnings from around the world.
Notable among all of the critics was ASEAN, whose sharp words suggested a real hardening of world opinion against Myanmar, which is one of its members.
In a statement by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, ASEAN said the videos and photographs "have evoked the revulsion of people throughout Southeast Asia and all over the world."
But this mood seems to have passed.
A meeting of all 10 members in Singapore last month offered an occasion to join hands with the US to bring pressure on the junta. Instead, the association seemed at pains to accommodate the generals.
At Myanmar's request, ASEAN canceled an invitation to Gambari, the UN envoy, to address the meeting. It also changed the language of a much-trumpeted new charter to weaken its section on human rights.
As if nothing had happened in Myanmar in recent months, ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong said: "We don't want to come across as being too confrontational in a situation like this."
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a
Asked whether he declined to impose sanctions against China, US President Donald Trump said: “Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal... [W]hen you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot.” It was not a proud moment for Trump or the US. Yet, just three days later, John Bolton’s replacement as director of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, delivered a powerful indictment of the Chinese communist government and criticized prior administrations’ “passivity” in the face of Beijing’s contraventions of international law