Coronavirus Politics Daily: Argentina on the brink, Egypt's emergency law abuse, Hong-Kong's political fever

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Argentina on the brink, Egypt's emergency law abuse, Hong-Kong's political fever

Argentina's economy on the brink: Mired in economic crisis, Argentina is on the verge of defaulting on its international loans for the ninth time in its history. Years of economic mismanagement had pushed Argentina into a recession even before the government imposed one of the tightest coronavirus lockdowns in Latin America in late March. The country's already weak currency, meanwhile, has taken a further hit because of the health crisis, pushing up the cost of $500 million in interest due over the next few weeks. The country's leftwing government says that, given soaring healthcare costs and emergency financial aid being doled out to help Argentines weather the COVID-19 storm, it can't make the payment and has appealed to international creditors, including the World Bank and IMF, to delay or renegotiate about $65 billion in debt. Buenos Aires has the support of hundreds of respected international economists who have called on bondholders to take a "constructive approach" to Argentina's restructuring proposal. In normal times, Argentina would get little sympathy from international lenders fed up with its unreliability and political gamesmanship, but the global economic downturn could finally give the desperate country some leverage with economic heavyweights in Brussels and Paris.


Sisi tightens his grip: Egypt's authoritarian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is always ready to exploit a good crisis to tighten his grip on power. Last week, he amended the nation's expansive emergency laws to enhance the power of his government to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. While some of the amendments relate directly to the health crisis, others are more dubious, including laws allowing the state to restrict Egyptians from owning or exporting any goods and services, while also giving the government power to control prices. Critics say that Sisi has abused the emergency law in the past to crack down on journalists, dissidents, and political opponents. But even before last week's changes, Sisi had been using the pandemic as a guise for abuses, including the arrest of scores of Egyptians who criticized the government's response to the pandemic. Among the critics: medical professionals who complained on Facebook about a lack of protective gear. Egypt has so far registered just 9,400 cases in a population of 100 million, and only 500 deaths, but critics say the true numbers are likely much higher.

Hong Kong's political fever: The global pandemic has yet to break Hong Kong's political fever. In fact, large-scale protests have continued to erupt in response to proposed new laws that demonstrators say would restrict the right of citizens to speak their minds and fatally undermine Hong Kong's considerable autonomy from mainland China. On Friday, pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers ended up in a fistfight inside the Legislative Council building, a brawl that left at least one lawmaker on a stretcher and led police to force pro-democracy lawmakers out of the building. This follows the arrest of protest leaders late last month that again set the city on edge. Demonstrators in surgical masks have occupied shopping malls with the promise of more disruptions to come.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the first act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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