GZERO Media logo

Hong Kong: Checkmate or stalemate?

Hong Kong: Checkmate or stalemate?

Six months after pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters began marching against an extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts, things in the semi-autonomous territory feel on the brink. The question is, the brink of what?

Rather than a sudden break that resolves the crisis one way or another – either a government capitulation or crackdown by Beijing – Hong Kong may instead be facing a prolonged, violent, and costly stalemate. Here's why:


The protests have taken on a life of their own. The Beijing-backed chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, has already scrapped the extradition bill that sparked the protests back in March. The pro-democracy activists have made other demands, including the right to democratically elect Hong Kong's leaders, but with protesters and police locked in a deepening cycle of retribution against each other's latest actions, there's little Lam can offer to defuse tensions short of full capitulation and democratic reforms. And her masters in Beijing certainly won't allow that: it would send a message that protests, particularly in territories beyond the mainland, can work against the government.

But Beijing is also wary of intervening directly: Sending in troops to clear the streets would further inflame the popular backlash against Beijing's control over the former British territory. A crackdown could exact a steep financial toll by causing the US to cancel its tentative trade deal with China or slap damaging sanctions on Chinese firms. It could also spark a mass exodus of foreign workers, firms, and capital from Hong Kong which is a major financial hub for China and for Asia more broadly. For these reasons, barring a major loss of life or a total collapse of public order, Chinese president Xi Jinping will try hard to stay on the sidelines, lending less obvious support to Lam and her police force behind the scenes.

So where does that leave Hong Kong? Choking on tear gas for the foreseeable future, as police and protesters continue their confrontation with no clear path to a resolution. The basic problem is that each side feels it can wait out the other, but both are fearful of a huge escalation.

That deadlock might not exact as immediate a financial and human toll as a full-fledged crackdown. But Hong Kong's economic vitality will slowly seep away as businesses and expats move their money to other, more stable cities that offer access to the mainland and wider Asia.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

More Show less

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

"The jury is out" European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde says when asked if things in Europe will get economically worse before they get better. "All I know is that it's going to be a journey, and probably a long journey." Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of a new GZERO World episode.

UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal