Coronavirus update from Brazil, Hong Kong and Boris Johnson's UK

As economies reopen, what is the update with the pandemic?

We're no longer epicenter here in the United States or New York, it's now South America. It still feels like the epicenter is New York but no, we're moving along. Big challenges in terms of how those economies are going to respond to lockdowns as they move towards peak, are going to be much more impactful economically on those countries. They're going to need a lot more international support. It's going to be challenging for them to get it. In particular, Brazil, which is the new epicenter taking over from the United States. Has had some of the worst governance of any democracy in responding to this crisis. Massive infighting domestically between the president and governors, the blue state-red state issue, the president wanting to open up and cheerleading, and the governors who in Brazil are much more responsible for health care than they are for the economy in the eyes of the voters, they particularly, they want to actually keep lockdowns. The impact of all of this on individuals in Brazil is because they have a president who is saying this is all fake news, is they're not engaging in social distancing. That's led to a lot more people dying in Brazil. In fact, larger numbers of daily death count now in Brazil than the United States. It's why the US put the travel ban on non-Americans, of non-citizens, non-permanent residents coming back from Brazil.


As protests resume, what is happening in Hong Kong?

The Chinese government itself, mainland government, is going to have a new national security law. That will mean that Chinese intelligence and national security police can work on the ground in Hong Kong. They will be responsible for ensuring that there is no sedition against the mainland, defining any demonstrations or political opposition to the mainland. It basically undermines the one state-two systems agreement that mainland China and Hong Kong has had. There will be big demonstrations in Hong Kong as a consequence of this. A lot less tolerance on the part of the Hong Kong government and the mainland Chinese government to those demonstrations. You'll probably see more violence. You'll certainly see a lot more arrests. And the big point is you'll see the United States putting sanctions on China, maybe even ending the special trade regime that the United States has with Hong Kong. That really ends the ability of major financial institutions and others that rely on rule of law to use Hong Kong as their entrepot for business between China and the rest of the world. Some will go to Shanghai, many will go to Singapore, but Hong Kong will take a real beating. And they're middle class in the business community is going to get hurt.

What does a Dominic Cummings scandal mean for the UK and Boris Johnson?

I mean, if this were happening in the United States, it would be a one-day scandal. But in the UK, it is a much larger scandal. This is the chief adviser to Boris Johnson. He's the guy who was acting as prime minister when people thought Boris Johnson might die from coronavirus. But turns out, that despite the lockdown, he was traveling with his kids a couple of hundred kilometers, miles excuse me, a couple hundred miles to be with his family. Admitted to having done it and otherwise driven for another trip. Did not apologize. Said he didn't break the law. That apparently the governance guidance that comes from the UK, it applies to the little people, it doesn't apply to people like Dominic Cummings. And the opposition is pretty severe. It is certainly helping the Labour Party, who now has a much stronger leader than they did back when Jeremy Corbyn was in charge. And it's undermined Boris Johnson's approval rating quite a bit. The UK has handled getting into coronavirus lockdown pretty badly. They, of course, were some of the latest in Europe to engage in lockdown which led to a lot more people getting sick, a lot more people dying than other countries in Europe. And now they're having a hard time getting out because of this massive and very polemic fight over Boris Johnson and his chief adviser. He is standing by Cummings. Cummings is not resigning, nor is he apologizing. In the United States, that seems to work these days. Let's see how it works for the UK.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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