How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.
<p>Let's recap the latest drama between the world's two largest economies. In tech, after squeezing <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/can-huawei-go-its-own-way" target="_self">Huawei</a> over 5G, US President Donald Trump now wants to ban <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/what-were-watching-tick-tock-for-tiktok-netanyahu-loses-support-guyanas-new-president" target="_self">TikTok</a> and WeChat. Harsh words — backed up by sanctions — are still flying over China's crackdown on Hong Kong and its repression of the Uighurs. The US has also waded into the <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/us-now-rejects-beijings-south-china-sea-claims-so-what" target="_self">South China Sea</a> dispute, closed China's <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/houston-we-have-a-problem-with-china" target="_self">consulate in Houston</a>, and tweaked Beijing's nose by dispatching the highest ranking official to visit <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/09/asia/taiwan-us-azar-tsai-china-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">Taiwan</a> in more than 40 years. </p><p>Why is this all happening? Because <strong>each side, in its own mind, is winning.</strong></p><p>Trump's big swipes at China are good electoral politics: Americans' distrust of China is at an <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/07/30/americans-fault-china-for-its-role-in-the-spread-of-covid-19/" target="_blank">all-time high</a>, and one of the (very) few things that Democrats and Republicans <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/04/28/meet-new-bipartisan-consensus-china-just-wrong-old-bipartisan-consensus-china/" target="_blank">agree on</a> these days. What's more, Democrats can't really push back on Trump's China approach now that the US intelligence community has said it <a href="https://apnews.com/e98a8285f773403af163bc720d70fc2d" target="_blank">believes</a> Beijing prefers a Biden victory in November.</p><p>For Beijing, the US banning Chinese tech companies and slapping sanctions on Chinese officials over "internal" matters feeds President Xi Jinping's nationalist narrative that Washington is preventing China from taking its rightful place as a rising global power. It also explains why Beijing wants to <a href="https://www.heritage.org/asia/commentary/will-chinas-censors-bring-us-the-splinternet" target="_blank">break the internet</a>, and assert its dominance over all territories where China's rule is contested — including <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/when-strongmen-move-from-push-to-shove" target="_self">Taiwan</a>.</p><p><strong>However, there's one area they seem unlikely to mess with for now.</strong> Phase I of the <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/the-us-and-china-strike-a-deal" target="_self">US-China trade deal</a> signed in January was hardly a big win for either side, but it was enough to pause a rapidly escalating trade war that was <a href="https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2226" target="_blank">hurting</a> both US and Chinese businesses (and consumers).</p><p>And despite the increasingly bad blood between the two countries, neither wants to blow up that agreement. Trump knows that if Chinese reimposes its earlier tariffs on US agricultural goods, it could hurt him with key <a href="https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/17/trump-biden-battle-for-blue-collar-voters-will-revive-trade-debate-192270" target="_blank">US voters</a> whose support he needs to get reelected. China, meanwhile, certainly doesn't want a fresh round of US tariffs to kneecap its own economy, one of the few major ones that is <a href="https://time.com/5867556/china-becomes-first-major-economy-to-rebound-after-coronavirus/" target="_blank">actually growing</a> while the rest of the world suffers a pandemic-related recession.</p><p><strong>But tick, tock…</strong> No, not the app. The clock is ticking towards a moment when the current situation between the US and China could change more significantly: November 3, the date of the US presidential election.</p><p>Competition between the two powers is virtually assured no matter who comes out on top. But the winner will shape what that rivalry looks like at a critical moment.</p>A <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/biden-goes-to-china" target="_self">Biden presidency</a> is likely to be more predictable and diplomatic, sure — but also to cobble together a broad and effective global coalition that will stand up to China. If Trump wins, the president will probably feel vindicated by his policy so far, and emboldened to hit China even harder, though with less global help.
More Show less
Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal
A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.
The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.
But is Europe helping to make things better?
<p><a href="https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/27977/europe-has-spent-years-trying-to-prevent-chaos-in-the-sahel-it-failed?utm_source=WPR+Free+Newsletter&utm_campaign=bb8bcbed26-071720-insight-nonsubs&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6e36cc98fd-bb8bcbed26-64573333&mc_cid=bb8bcbed26&mc_eid=1400fb4cc1" target="_blank"><u><strong>The backdrop</strong></u></a><u><strong>:</strong></u> The Sahel is a band of countries at the southern edge of the Sahara that stretches across Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. For many years, fighters from the Sahel country of Mali worked for Muammar Qaddafi's security services in Libya, and the collapse of that regime in late 2011 sent large numbers of heavily armed men back to Mali. There, they used their weapons and training to capture territory for themselves in the north of that country. </p><p>Before long, the violence spread south, toppling Mali's government. Chaos prevailed as Islamist groups, terrorists, separatists, ethnic militias, and criminal gangs competed for turf. </p><p>Enter France, the region's former colonial power. The French military managed to restore Mali's government and some of its stability in 2013, but violence in the north continued. </p><p>The area of turmoil then began to expand beyond Mali into neighboring Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. In 2014, the governments of these four countries plus Mauritania formed the <a href="https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/security-disarmament-and-non-proliferation/crises-and-conflicts/g5-sahel-joint-force-and-the-sahel-alliance/" target="_blank">G5 Sahel</a> organization to manage the common threat to their stability. Together, they have a fast-growing population of <a href="https://issafrica.org/iss-today/the-g5-sahel-region-a-desert-flower" target="_blank">more than 80 million</a> people and a median age of just 16. </p><p>In 2017, having felt the shockwaves of Syria's collapse, European leaders moved urgently to avoid state collapse in the Sahel. A G5 Sahel Joint Force, with backing from the UN, the African Union, and France began military operations against armed groups operating in the region. </p><p>European leaders have launched a <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/MEMO_18_6670" target="_blank">comprehensive approach</a> to the region. Over the past two years, nearly two dozen European countries have contributed troops, trainers for local soldiers and police, peacekeepers, and billions of development Euros to the G5 Sahel countries. </p><p>Unfortunately, the violence has only <a href="https://acleddata.com/dashboard/#/dashboard" target="_blank">gotten worse</a>. A recent report from World Politics Review notes that there were 413,000 internally displaced people in the G5 Sahel countries at the end of 2019, and more than 5 million people now need humanitarian help. </p><p><strong>Why aren't the combined efforts of G5 Sahel and European leaders working?</strong> </p><p>First, critics warn that Sahel government forces are often unable or unwilling to distinguish between different armed groups and their motives—and civilians are dying in the crossfire. </p><p>Second, the European commitment is half-hearted. European leaders, fearful of the political fallout that comes with military casualties, are not engaging hostile forces aggressively enough to turn the tide. </p><p>Third, some locals resent the presence of Europeans, particularly French troops, inside their countries because they believe, not without reason, that they care much more about heading off refugees than about helping Africans. <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/mali-forgotten-war-20149691511333443.html" target="_blank">Others</a> wonder whether Europeans are there mainly to steal their natural resources. </p><p><strong>But the biggest challenge for the Sahel extends far beyond terrorists and militias.</strong> <a href="https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2019/results" target="_blank">Corruption</a> and incompetence plague national and local governments. Ramshackle infrastructure hobbles economic opportunity. And the impacts of climate change on agriculture and COVID-19 on public health are making things worse. </p><p><strong>Bottom line:</strong> Stability depends not just on the absence of violence, but on the presence of good governance and economic opportunity. Without them, neither citizens of the Sahel nor European leaders will reverse this dangerous momentum toward turmoil. </p>
More Show less
Ian Bremmer's QuickTake:
It's Monday, coronavirus still going on. Plenty to talk about.
I mean, I guess the biggest news in the United States is the fact that we still don't have any stimulus going forward. I mean, now, keep in mind, this is on the back of an exceptionally strong initial US economic response, over 10% of GDP, ensuring relief for small businesses, for big corporations, and most importantly, for everyday American citizens, many of whom, large double digit numbers, lost their jobs, a lot of whom lost them permanently but didn't have to worry, at least in the near term, because they were getting cash from the government. Is that going to continue?
<p>Well, the Democrats and Republicans didn't get it done, at least not yet. And so, we have President Trump with four executive orders. Now, that's something that will probably push back on any eviction notices, it allows a delay in the payment of payroll taxes, and most importantly, it provides ongoing unemployment support, $300 instead of $600 for people, and another $100 that hopefully comes from states, though states under massive stress right now and need aid themselves, probably not going to happen. So, let's say its half the unemployment support they were getting. That means they're under a lot more stress. But, you know, also these executive orders and President Trump knows this, questionable legality, will be challenged in some courts, though the Democrats don't want to be seen as blowing up a lifeline to American citizens slash voters in the run up to the election, but everyone knows this is nowhere close to enough for all of these people that are very seriously suffering, will face evictions, will not have jobs, aren't going to have the ability to take care of themselves and their kids. And many of their schools are also not going to be restarting up in just a few weeks' time. </p><p>So, all of that implies to me that we are going to get a deal. Is it going to be three plus trillion dollars that the Democrats have been arguing for? No. And the reason, by the way, why this hasn't come together to begin with is because the Democrats, who are pretty well aligned, more so than the Republicans are right now on relief and stimulus, understand that the Republicans are highly incented to accept money, even if it's increasing the deficit when the economy is still in freefall, and elections are coming up in less than three months, all make sense, except that meant the Democrats were going to play hardball and demand everything they wanted, compromise much less with what the Republicans were talking about. And keep in mind that not all the Republicans in the Senate are actually up for reelection in November, it's only a third of the Senate that comes up every two years. So, that, the polarization, the hatred for Trump, the dysfunctionality, you name it, has meant that so far, no deal. And that probably means that when the deal comes, it will be less efficient, less effective, and smaller than it otherwise would have been. </p><p>So, the one part of the US coronavirus response that has been strongest, the economic piece, and has been bipartisan, I mean, Pelosi and Mnuchin were working quite well together in the initial weeks and months of the pandemic to ensure that the American government was getting cash to everyone that needed it, even if it was overkill in some cases and inefficient in others. Still, it meant that people felt whole. That's not where we are over the next few months. And the economic squeeze is going to be a lot worse. The good news is that at least that's happening when coronavirus is starting to get managed a little bit better. That is better treatment. That is more awareness on the part of local governments, as well as the people themselves about mask wearing, about social distancing, about what is and isn't safe to actually do. That education does matter no matter how political the virus treatment is being right now in an election period. And the fact that vaccines continue to move forward. You might have seen Bill Gates over the weekend saying that by the end of 2021, he thinks the coronavirus in the wealthy world will be largely managed. I don't know if I'm quite that optimistic because I think the politics will interfere with it, but still, we clearly have passed a tipping point because we're learning so much more. The scientists, the governments, the people. And all of that does really matter. The danger the coronavirus is putting in place for the average citizen around the world is less today than it was six months ago, and that is the ingenuity of humanity playing out. </p><p>The other thing I would mention is that the US-China relationship is bad, bad, bad, and it's getting worse. The funny thing is, you know, I've been talking to a lot of Chinese over the last couple of days and their focus has been overwhelmingly Taiwan because this is the highest level visit by a cabinet secretary of Health and Human Services, Azar, that the US has had to Taiwan since 1979. And because Taiwan is an issue of sovereignty, it's a red line, it's critical national security for China, they think that the United States is suddenly prioritized changing Taiwan policy when, of course, the United States, it's not even in the top five of issues between the Americans and Chinese. That would be technology, Huawei, TikTok, Hong Kong, you know, the trade deal, coronavirus, the Uighurs. I mean, Taiwan isn't even close, but they're very deeply worried about that. </p><p>I mean, the good news is that I don't actually see President Trump trying to provoke the Chinese any further on Taiwan. That's why you sent Azar as opposed to Pompeo to give a big speech, who's been leading the China policy on the more hawkish side, or even more problematically, say, Vice President Pence or Secretary of Defense Esper. They didn't do that. And that's not just because they're saving further escalation before November, it's also because there are people in the Trump administration that understand that if you really rattle them on Taiwan, you could end up with military confrontation on your hands. You don't actually want that. But on every other front, US-China relations are getting a lot worse. You're seeing expanded sanctions on Chinese officials, including the Hong Kong chief executive around the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong. You have by far the most important sanctions taken against the Chinese so far, with the Xinjiang Construction and Production Company, it's the most important economic entity in Xinjiang, which is, of course, where the Uighurs are based and where all that repression systematically has occurred on the hands of the Chinese government. That's a very big sanction from the US. And you have coming down the banning of TikTok and WeChat, which would force the Chinese to spin those off to American companies in the next 45 days. </p><p>Big issue, Nancy Pelosi over the weekend saying that she's even tougher on China than Donald Trump. In an election period where everyone is saying we're beating on the Chinese and where the Chinese are also escalating vis-a-vis the US and internationally, let's keep in mind the Hong Kong national security law wasn't the American idea and just today, Jimmy Lai, major media mogul in Hong Kong, arrested along with many of his colleagues and lots of material taken out of his offices. Big escalation coming from the Chinese on Hong Kong, not making it any easier in this relationship. </p> So, that's what we're looking at right now. The geopolitics continuing to become a lot more problematic in the backdrop of this pandemic crisis.
More Show less
What We're Watching: Lebanon without a government, Belarus after the "election," Taliban prisoner release
August 10, 2020
Lebanon's government resigns: Lebanon's government resigned on Monday over last week's twin explosions at Beirut's port, which killed at least 160 people and shattered much of the city's downtown areas. After promising a thorough investigation into why dangerous explosives were stored at the port so close to civilian areas, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would step down in solidarity with the people." The people in question are furious. Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets in recent days demanding "revolution" and the resignation of a political class whose corruption and mismanagement had plunged the country into economic ruin even before last week's blasts. The international community, meanwhile, held a conference on Sunday and pledged $300 million in humanitarian aid to rebuild battered Beirut, with aid distribution to be coordinated by the UN. But the attendees, which included US President Donald Trump, the European Union, and the Gulf Arab states, said that the funds would not be released until the Lebanese government reforms its bloated, inefficient, and corrupt public sector. So far, Beirut's power brokers have resisted change. As rage on the streets intensifies — with angry protesters swarming the city center and setting public property and government buildings ablaze even after cabinet members resigned — it remains unclear who will run Lebanon going forward and guide the country's rebuilding process.
<p><strong>Belarus gets robbed, Russia gets ready:</strong> Despite weeks of mass demonstrations against his efforts to rig the presidential election, Belarus' strongman president Alexander Lukashenko <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/10/world/europe/belarus-election.html" target="_blank">claimed</a> he won more than 80 percent of the vote over the weekend, prompting a<a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/belarus-protesters-vs-psycho-3" target="_blank"> fresh wave of unrest</a>. The EU <a href="https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/08/10/how-the-world-has-reacted-to-belarus-presidential-vote-a71102" target="_blank">panned</a> the improbable results as an affront to freedom and democracy. China and Russia, for their part, coolly congratulated Lukashenko and toasted to closer partnerships with Minsk. After 25 years of grim stability, Belarus is now in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/10/new-leader-or-new-crackdown-belarus-has-entered-a-new-era" target="_blank">uncharted </a>waters. If the protests don't subside, Lukashenko will have to decide whether he has the resolve, and the military support, to crack down harder. If he falters, no one knows what would happen next, but we're keeping a close eye on Russia. Vladimir Putin has had a rocky relationship with fellow alpha-dog Lukashenko over the years, but the last thing the Kremlin wants is upheaval that would bring a "western-backed" government into power next door.<br/></p><p><strong>Taliban prisoner release: </strong>After months of political impasse, Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani has <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/10/asia/afghan-release-taliban-prisoners-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">agreed</a> to release several hundred Taliban prisoners still in government jails, opening the way to peace talks with the Taliban under a deal that the <a href="https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-taliban-peace-deal-agreement-afghanistan-war" target="_blank">US brokered directly with </a>the militant group earlier this year. Until now, the Afghan government has refused to release these prisoners, many of whom are high-profile Taliban members, particularly as Taliban violence has surged throughout the country. But President Ghani may have caved in recent days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that US financial aid could be cut off if direct intra-Afghan talks don't move ahead in the near term. For the Trump administration, any political progress in Afghanistan will make it easier to follow through on its promises to reduce the number of US troops in the country after nearly two decades of conflict. </p>
More Show less