Coronavirus Politics Daily: Japan's PM clashes with Tokyo, China's beef with Australia, EU tries to reboot tourism

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Japan's PM clashes with Tokyo, China's beef with Australia, EU tries to reboot tourism
The prime minister vs the governor: Japan edition – Around the world, national and local leaders have been sparring over how to manage the coronavirus crisis. In Japan, long-standing political rivals, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo's Governor Yoriko Koike have been bickering over the national pandemic response strategy. Koike, for her part, has criticized Abe for his slow response to the outbreak, which she says cost the country precious time in curbing the virus' spread. While Abe dithered in his response to the pandemic, the governor's messaging has proved prescient, with recent reports revealing hospitals have turned away non-COVID-19 patients in need of urgent care because of a lack of beds, medical supplies, and staff, according to the Japanese Society of Emergency Medicine. A lag in testing, meanwhile, means that Japan has conducted a mere 1.8 tests per 1,000 people, making it impossible to know the real scope of the outbreak. (Consider that the US has conducted 28 tests per 1,000 people, while Germany has conducted 34 per 1,000.) Critics say that Abe's inconsistent messaging – he waited until mid April to declare a "state of emergency" that he insisted was "not a lockdown" – has not resonated with Japanese residents, an overwhelming majority of whom (some 74 percent) support a more aggressive response to the coronavirus crisis. This has also translated to the polls, where Abe's popularity has plunged in recent weeks. But Japan's next general election is not scheduled until October 2021, so the prime minister still has time to redeem himself.

China and Australia's coronavirus beef – The coronavirus crisis has exposed rifts between China and Australia, longstanding trade partners. For weeks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an international investigation into the origins and handling of COVID-19. His insinuation that China has something to hide sparked a firm response from Beijing, Australia's largest trading partner, with China threatening to slap tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Australian agricultural exports. Amid the war of words, China has already suspended purchases of red meat from several Australian abattoirs, sending agriculture industry leaders into a panic as China accounts for some 20 percent of all beef produced in Australia. The Australian government, which has long enjoyed a trade surplus with China, says it doesn't want a trade war with Beijing and hopes to deescalate the situation. China, meanwhile, responded with a statement that says, "mutual respect should be the basis for the development of good relations," before threatening Australia with additional tariffs.

The EU looks to open for tourism – As the summer tourism season approaches, the European Commission is urging EU states to carefully loosen coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Tourism is big business in Europe, accounting for about 10% of the bloc's overall GDP, with many countries more dependent than that: 13 percent of Italy's economy and 14 percent of Spain's depend on tourists. Fully, a fifth of Greece's GDP and a quarter of Croatia's depend on holiday-makers. Some EU countries have already begun selectively reopening their borders. Austria, where tourists contribute to 15 percent of GDP, is looking to reopen crossings with Germany and the Czech Republic in the coming days, while Germany will relax recent controls with France, Austria, and Switzerland. The three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) are creating a "travel bubble" of their own starting on 15 May. Looking further afield, the union's external borders are to stay shut until at least mid-June. But opening borders is one thing, changing minds is another. Even if people can travel again, how long will it take for them to do so in large numbers? Masked bargain-hunters now is your moment.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

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A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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