A US / European Rift Over 5G?

Speaking of trans-Atlantic rifts, we've written previously about the US pushback against Huawei, arguably the world's most geopolitically significant technology company. The Trump administration has been trying to convinceits European allies to ban the Chinese tech giant from their next-generation 5G information networks, citing national security risks. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even warned of consequences for countries that don't toe Washington's line on the issue.


Nevertheless, the US anti-Huawei push appears to be faltering. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Germany was leaning towards allowing the Chinese group to play some role in its 5G network plans. And over the weekend, The Financial Times said the UK government thinks the security risks of using Huawei gear are manageable.

So, why are US allies reluctant to ban Huawei? There are a few factors at play:

Shifting US arguments: At first, the US warned that the Chinese government could use Huawei equipment to spy on Western governments or sabotage their critical infrastructure. But skeptics counter that there's no evidence China has ever used Huawei for espionage and that critical infrastructure is already vulnerable in many other ways. So the US shifted its argument to focus on accusations that Huawei has stolen other firms' intellectual property while also making a broader argument that partnering with tech companies subject to influence by authoritarian governments is just a bad idea. That may be, but these shifting arguments from Washington provoke skepticism from allies.

A growing industry counter-narrative: The global mobile telecommunications industry was caught off guard by the US's anti-Huawei campaign. The US has long pressured its own telecom companies to avoid Huawei gear, but many network operators in other countries rely on the firm, and a global campaign against the company wasn't on the policy radar a year ago. Now that businesses are tallying the cost of removing Chinese gear from their networks, they're asking why such a drastic step is necessary. Building new 5G networks without Huawei is certainly possible, but doing so will be more expensive and take longer – adding a significant burden for companies that were already planning one of the most expensive and complex technology projects ever.

Pressure from China: Beijing isn't taking the threat against Huawei lying down. The Chinese government says Washington is just making up excuses to stunt China's rightful technological rise. And if the US and China are making their cases to countries around the world, China has clout: many European countries rely heavily on the company for their existing mobile networks. In regions like Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia Beijing has leverage with governments that rely increasingly on Chinese firms for trade, investment, and infrastructure.

Put it all together, and it's easy to see why some European countries might prefer a subtler approach – let Huawei into their networks, but under close scrutiny. So far there are no signs that the US is willing to back down from its hardline stance. If big European economies refuse to bend to the US pressure, it could erode the transatlantic relationship even further.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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With large parts of the American economy shuttered because of coronavirus-related lockdowns, the number of people filing jobless claims in the US last week exceeded 3.2 million, by far the highest number on record. Here's a look at the historical context. The surge in jobless claims, which may be an undercount, is sure to cause a spike in the unemployment rate (which tells you the percent of work-ready people who are looking for a job). At last reading in February, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. Economists warn that it could reach 5.5 percent in the near term. Even that would be far lower than the jobless rates recorded during previous economic crises such as the Great Depression or the Great Recession. Have a look.