China overhauls Hong Kong elections; Brazil & Turkey under pressure

Ian Bremmer discusses Hong Kong's election changes, Bolsonaro's latest cabinet reshuffle, and Turkey's economic problems on World In 60 Seconds.

China has overhauled elections in Hong Kong. Now what?

Well, now nobody that would be in the democratic opposition would really want to run for election in Hong Kong because it's just a titular body that serves mainland China. There is no more one state, two systems policy in Hong Kong. The UK, the United States are angry about it. We've put some sanctions on individual leaders, but that's about it. And China increasingly integrates the small Hong Kong economy into the mainland, and it's considered a domestic sovereign issue. Sorry, it kind of sucks if you're from Hong Kong, and there's not much work we can or are going to do about it.


Why did Bolsonaro just replace six of his cabinet ministers?

Well, because his popularity is decreasing, because the economy is in tough shape, because lockdowns are required, given the fact there are more than 3,000 deaths a day happening right now in Brazil. They're the new epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and Bolsonaro's been mishandling it. There is the potential for impeachment against him. He also has elections next year, and former President Lula has been ruled okay to stand for election. He was under house arrest before. This is all bad for Bolsonaro and he's doing everything he can to consolidate power around him. I'd be most concerned, I mean, they got rid of the foreign minister and others, but I'd be most concerned about consolidation of key defense ministers. Because at the end of the day, even though Brazilian institutions are strong, they are not as strong and independent as those in the United States. So tail risk of a true Brazilian political crisis are becoming more likely.

What the heck is the Erdogan doing and what does it mean for Turkey?

Well, this is kind of like in Brazil. It is another leader of a developing market that is truly mismanaging his country. In this case, less of a coronavirus, more about the economics. Bolsonaro on his fourth healthcare minister since the pandemic started, Erdogan on his fourth central bank governor in the last two years. And massive capital flight, inflation, getting difficult for them to handle their fiscal balances. He doesn't want to go to the IMF because the conditionality would be required, be massively unpopular for him domestically. He's getting squeezed really badly. He's trying to make the second-largest opposition party in the country illegal. That's one way to be able to win elections going forward. A lot more pressure on Erdogan going forward too. Am worried about that, watching it pretty carefully.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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