Ian Bremmer: Health, Financial, Political Response to COVID-19

Governments of the developed world are finally responding with due sense of urgency, individually in 3 different ways.

1st, stand health care systems up so they won't get overwhelmed (late responses). The private & public sector together, building additional ICU beds, supply capacity and production of medical equipment and surge medical personnel in the US, Canada, across Europe & the UK. Unclear if we avoid a Northern Italy scenario. A couple days ago, Dr. Fauci from the NIH said he was hopeful. Epidemiologists and critical care doctors don't feel comfortable. Not in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans. In Europe, particularly London, Madrid, Catalonia, Barcelona, might be significantly short.


We'll see in 2-4 weeks. If responses are adequate, caseload will still explode, but mortality will be dramatically lower by 80 or 90%. The US caseload now is highest in the world. China lies about cases, but the US dramatically under-tests. On balance, the US has a larger outbreak than China at the peak. But the likelihood of a lot of American deaths looks lower. The key variable is, do we get the health care system surged adequately in the next few weeks? It's a race against time.

Dramatic response from the developed world on the monetary & fiscal side. On the monetary side, central bankers are reading from the 2008-2009 playbook. We had a financial crisis. Regulations ensured that the banks became more robust. On fiscal policy: US $2 trillion stimulus is 10% of American GDP. The Fed is able to leverage that with additional loans; a functional equivalent of $4 trillion, 20% of GDP - should be enough relief to get through 1/5 of the year, 2 months. No one thinks supply and demand is coming back in the next 6, 8 weeks.

The fiscal stimulus appears sufficient; market response has been positive so far. Congress members believe we will need more stimulus in 2 months. What kind? How big? Another $2-4 trillion, or more? The closer to elections, the more challenging.

Emerging markets need the same scale of stimulus, but don't have the cash. India on lockdown, done state by state. A few states, Punjab, Kerala, Maharashtra, look like they're doing a decent job. Other states, not. Net 80 to 90% of the Indian economy is informal - the way you get money to people has to be direct. Source of money has to be external. IMF, international financial institutions, US, Europe, others have to step up. I'm skeptical.

Emerging markets are going to experience bigger crises and crash- don't have governance resilience or coordination, need money. Turkey has a steep curve of cases, problem with social distancing. Different from the Nordics or Japan. Cultural features play in why cases explode in Italy and Spain - large numbers of people spend more time in close proximity, lead to many more cases. That's a problem for Turkey.

The Brazilian president refuses to shut down or call for social distancing. He's going after the governors that are shutting down the economy. If an explosion doesn't happen in Brazil and the economy's in decent order, he'll look like a hero. I think Bolsonaro is going to be in trouble.

Better story on US-China. After Trump has been saying the China virus, & the G-7 couldn't come up with a joint statement because Secretary of State Pompeo was saying it's got to be the Wuhan virus and no American allies agreed. Trump yesterday has a conference call with Xi Jinping. Tweets about it. Calls it the coronavirus. Is that because Trump doesn't have a willingness to talk honestly to Xi Jinping's face? Is he scared or is he actually backing away from a cold war? I think it's more the latter than the former. Trump doesn't want the economy to take a bigger dive from starting a fight with the Chinese. He's backing away. Good news.

Will it stick? Depends on how Trump's numbers do, as the election gets closer and it's harder to give a good story. This story is going to shift from numbers to people. A couple weeks ago, none of us knew people that died of coronavirus. Few knew people that had it. Now, a lot of us know people that have it. Some know people that died. Trump's lack of human empathy is going to be more challenging. I worry that we end up in a much more confrontational stance of the Americans vis-a-vis the Chinese.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the first act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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