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COVID-19 in US, Emerging Markets; US-China Blame Game; Venezuela Coup?

What is the coronavirus update? Have emerging markets been spared so far?

The biggest news is that the US might have a lot more mortality from coronavirus than previously expected in the models. Particularly as we start seeing opening of economies. The US is a federal system and states don't necessarily listen to each other. They don't follow the federal government, and people don't necessarily pay attention to what state governments say. Put all that together, expect to see a lot more people get sick. Whether that is 3,000 or 800 deaths a day, two wildly different models, for the next month. What I've seen so far makes me feel a bit more optimistic, because opening up economies isn't people in full engagement. Big difference in what government says and what people do.


Have emerging markets been spared so far?

Not at all. But, it is hitting emerging markets a little later. Also, numbers of cases are suppressed by the fact that they're not doing as much testing. In some cases, also suppressed by the fact that maybe there is reduced transmission with much warmer weather. I hope that's the case, but the doctors aren't agreed. Either way, the developing world is focusing more on keeping economies open than at extended lockdowns. For some of the poorest countries, like in sub-Saharan Africa, where average age can be under 20, and economies aren't as globalized, in many cases, focused more on agriculture, the fact that they are as underdeveloped as they are is ironically buffering and protecting them from the worst of the coronavirus crisis.

What are the consequences of US-China blame game over coronavirus origins?

The most important consequence is that we'll see more confrontation and less interdependence between the two economies. The Americans will be investing less in China, reducing supply chain footprint, allowing Chinese to invest less in the United States, much more scrutiny. Some key American allies will be doing the same. In the wealthier European states. In Japan, for example. But the Americans are not getting coordination from allies. In part, that's about Trump. In part, that's about the way they've decided to engage in blame. Particularly the last couple days, saying this came from a lab in China and the secretary of state and President Trump saying there is conclusive evidence, strong, very strong evidence that that is the case. The Americans have shared that intelligence with key allies and the allies are saying this is all open source. There's nothing conclusive and we don't buy it. Even Australia, which can't stand the Chinese right now, getting into a big fight, not supporting the Americans. Really overplaying their hand. There's no reason why the Americans can't focus on, there was a cover up, it came from China, we're blaming the Chinese for that. But by going too far, it's like the weapons of mass destruction moment that Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, had in the Bush administration on Iraq. The Americans lose more credibility hitting the Chinese on this.

Finally, what's going on in Venezuela?

According to the Venezuelan government, there was an effort to invade and stage a coup against Mr. Maduro, that included two Americans, former Green Berets, they are saying. The Venezuelan opposition are denying. The American government is denying. We have no idea what the truth is. You can't imagine the American government saying, that was us, if that was indeed the case. But the Venezuelan government has even less credibility than the US and the opposition. It would not surprise me at all if there were a couple of Americans involved in a military incident. That doesn't mean that it was supported directly or indirectly by the US government. They could be mercenaries for hire. They could be ideologically aligned. They could be dual nationals, Venezuelans or Colombians. There's been a lot of talk, but no one in the Trump administration, now that Bolton is gone, actively interested in a military solution for Venezuela. In fact, Trump was resistant for Bolton's hard line. He was undermining Bolton both privately and publicly. So, I'm deeply skeptical of that, as I'm deeply skeptical of most things that come out of the Venezuelan government these days.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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