GZERO Summit: Geopolitics in a post-pandemic world

What major geopolitical trends are in store for 2021, when a new US president takes over and will face not only the mammoth task of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic but also the fallout from the G-zero world that the Trump presidency accelerated? Who will most benefit and suffer from a leaderless global landscape?

It may be a bit too soon to see clear winners and losers, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer said during the panel discussion on post-COVID geopolitics at the 2020 GZERO Summit in Japan.


The US, he explained, stands to win by exercising its hard power on tech, banks and vaccine production, but so far it's been a loser on political division and overall management of the pandemic under Trump. China, for its part, has its economy growing again but is now mistrusted a lot more by the world.

In Asia, it's time to pay close attention to Japan, a reliable US ally and traditional China rival that is undergoing a political transition after the departure of Shinzo Abe as prime minister. Under new PM Yoshihide Suga, Japan will be closely monitoring the incoming Biden administration's initial moves on rebuilding the liberal international order that Trump shunned, noted Taro Kong, Japan's minister in charge of administrative reform.

The US-Japan alliance remains strong, he said, but the US has not been a reliable partner for the past four years, and a single alliance is not enough to ensure Asia's security amid an increasingly aggressive China.

For Jane Harman, head of the US-based Wilson Center think tank, the problem is that Biden's foreign policy ambitions may be hobbled by a Republican-controlled Senate if the Democrats don't win both races in Georgia's runoff election in early January. Biden, she said, can govern by executive order but the scope of what he can accomplish beyond that could be severely hampered without a Senate majority.

Moreover, she anticipated that Trump will continue to wield significant influence over the Republican Party, and probably prevent it from supporting Biden even if what he wants to do serves US foreign policy interests.

Indeed, the persistence of Trumpism will be a key constraint to more US globalism, said Bremmer, who added that Americans are now less supportive now of the US being the global policeman. With that in mind and with COVID recovery as Biden's top priority, the new president's success or failure may ultimately depend on whether the US is able to vaccinate its citizens fast enough to fend off possible vaccine competition from China in other parts of the world.

For Bremmer, Biden understands that the US must pivot again to Asia and that China is a clear rival. In that regard, his China policy won't be that different to Trump's except when it comes to climate change, where Biden thinks the US can both cooperate with China but also compete on green technology.

Right now, and despite US political divisions, the ball is in America's court on what it wants to do in Asia and with China, said Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister and current president of the Asia Society Policy Institute. One positive development is that Biden will probably not mess with Taiwan, an immensely sensitive issue that Trump would often use to provoke Beijing's ire.

Beyond Taiwan and the South China Sea, Rudd commented that China is concerned about Biden because he will probably reverse four Trump trends that China was quite pleased with on democracy, allies, trade, and multilateralism. At the end of the day, China understands power, and knows that the US was less powerful with a president who stood up to China but on his own, without the allies that together have the combined power to really challenge China's regional superpower status.

Watch the above video to learn more insights from our panelists.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Iran was involved in two naval incidents in the Gulf of Oman in recent days. The US, UK, and Israel have blamed Iran for a drone attack that killed two European nationals. Iran has rejected the accusations. Iran is also suspected in the "potential hijack" of a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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Does alcohol help bring the world together?

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