China and US economic interdependence hasn't lessened

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the China-US economic relationship, North Korea's missiles tests, and the New York Times' investigation of the US drone strike in Afghanistan.

China owns more than $1 trillion US debt, but how much leverage do they actually have?

I mean, the leverage is mutual and it comes from the enormous interdependence in the economic relationship of the United States and China. And it's about debt. And it's about trade. It's about tourism. It's about sort of mutual investment. Now. There is some decoupling happening in terms of labor, increasingly moving domestic in terms of the China five-year plan, dual circulation focusing more on domestic economy, and in terms of data systems breaking up, the internet of things, being Chinese or American, but not both. And indebtedness is part of that. But I don't see that unwinding anytime soon. And certainly, the Chinese knows if they're going to get rid of a whole bunch of American debt, they wouldn't be as diversified in global portfolio. Not as great, it's much riskier. And also, the price of those holdings, as they start selling them down would go down. So, I don't think there's a lot of leverage there, frankly. I think the leverage is interdependent.


North Korea tested new long-range cruise missiles. What message is Pyongyang trying to send?

Well, they're medium-range missiles. They don't have the ability to hit the United States. And if you remember in the early Trump days, that was the red line. It also started reprocessing at Yongbyon, again their facility; that is, they had stopped that. I mean, clearly this is a couple of incidents where Kim Jong Un is angry that he's not getting engagement in any sanctions reduction from the Biden administration. Certainly no bilats, and so he's pushing a little bit. He wants more attention and he's going to get it from the Biden administration, but I don't think he's going to get much of a negotiating stance change. And in that regard, I would expect at some point more saber-rattling from Kim Jong Un. Maybe that could be more destabilizing. But what we're seeing right now are very early days.

What was revealed in the New York Times' investigation of the US drone strike in Afghanistan?

Well here, this is an ugly one. I mean, this is 10 Afghan civilians who were killed in this drone strike by the United States. President Biden, and seniors in the administration, and the Joint Chiefs, Milley, and others said that this was a strike that got a suicide bomber who was about to attack the United States and Afghan civilians at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. That was not the case. That information was faulty. The trigger finger was too quick. And as a consequence, the last act on the ground of the Americans at a 20-year war in Afghanistan was killing a bunch of civilians. It's horrible. Certainly, accountability needs to be made. The New York Times did a fantastic job of forensic investigating on the scene. They had to be applauded. Surprised it hasn't gotten more news, frankly, more coverage. Broadly though, now the US troops are all gone in Afghanistan, we are not spending as much time talking about it. So, but we still will, here at GZERO.

In a new episode of That Made All the Difference, Savita Subramanian, head of ESG Research, BofA Global Research, explains why ESG factors are critical to why some companies succeed and some fail.

"I think 10 years from now, we won't even call it 'environmental, social and governance,' or ESG investing. We won't call it sustainable. It'll just be part of investing," she says.

Link to the episode here.

Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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

How are Democrats going to finance their $2 trillion spending bill?

Well, I don't know. And the Democrats don't know either. The original idea was to undo a lot of the Trump tax cuts from 2017. This is a very unpopular tax bill that every Democrat voted against, but moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema told the White House earlier this month that she's against any and all tax rate increases. This takes the top individual income tax rate going up off the table. And it takes the top corporate rate going up off the table. And it probably takes capital gains rates going up off the table. So, now the Democrats are scrambling to backfill that revenue that they can no longer raise through rate increases with other ideas. One of those ideas is a tax on the unrealized gains of billionaires.

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The US is the world's largest economy. It's also the only one among the top 10 that has no national paid parental leave scheme. If you or your partner have a baby in the US the message is clear: you're on your own. Compare that to many European countries, which offer cushy paid leave schemes for new parents – more generously for women. Even countries that don't have a robust social safety net offer paid parental leave in some form. We take a look at how the US stacks up on paid parental leave (or lack thereof) compared to the world's largest economies.

From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

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How can we go from "fine words" to "fine deeds" at the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow? For Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Program, it's actually quite simple. The world's top 20 economies, she says, are responsible for over three-quarters of global carbon emissions, so if they "make the requisite shifts, frankly we are out of the climate crisis." Watch her interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

On 30-31 October, the world's top leaders will gather in Rome for this year's G-20 Summit. After the pandemic forced them to meet last year by videoconference, the heads of state will once again be attending in person, allowing for the type of parallel, one-on-one meetings that have proven more productive in the past. Still, many critics of the G-20 have come to see the forum as a talk shop, a place where a lot is said but nothing really happens. Will this year be any different, given the long list of challenges the world faces, from COVID to climate change? We talked with Eurasia Group expert Charles Dunst to set the stage and find out where things are going.

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