Politics Goes To The Beach

Politics Goes To The Beach

It's August. And you, a worldly and dedicated reader of Signal, are finally on vacation at your favorite beach getaway. The out-of-office reply is on, your phone is off, the sun is out, and the waves are rolling in. A gentle breeze ruffles the corner of your towel, seagulls wheel overhead, you gaze out at the sea.

Look, there on the horizon, the slate gray silhouette of a container ship inches ever so slowly across the ocean. How beautiful. How peaceful. How soothing.

How impossible… not to wonder if that ship might be headed for trouble in the Strait of Hormuz.. Wait, wait, maybe it's plying its way to the Arctic, to cross those new, hotly contested trade routes through the melting polar ice…

Or, hang on second, how much of the stuff on that cargo ship is affected by the US-China trade war? The two sides have put tariffs on $360 billion worth of each other's goods already. And now Trump says he'll slap a 10% duty on another $300 billion of Chinese exports starting September 1st! He's not happy with the slow pace of US-China trade talks. He's annoyed that the Chinese aren't buying more American products like they said they would. Now he wants to really turn the screws on Xi Jinping, especially since the Chinese economy is slowing and...

No, no, back to the beach, you say to yourself. Relax. Zen. This is your vacation. Chill. The beach is where people go to tan, relax, read, sip goofy frozen drinks, play ridiculous "sports" like paddleball, and also discuss the strategic options available to the world's second largest economy. Oh, yes. China's entire leadership, you now remember, will soon retreat to the secretive beach resort of Beidahe for their annual policy confab.

This year the conversation over the Beidahe early bird buffet sure will be something: Xi Jinping and his advisers not only have to craft a response to Trump on the trade war – fight back, wait him out, or cave? -- but they also need to decide how to handle the Hong Kong protests, which are now increasingly targeting Beijing's control over the territory itself.

Enough! You dip your toes into the sand, close your eyes. This is your time off. Your time away from thinking about global politics. You've even managed to swear off reading Signal for a few days. If possible.

Lulled by the susurrant rush of surf, you are dozing in your chaise longue when suddenly you are jolted awake by a shrill chirping sound. A few feet away, a man rolls over on his beach blanket, cursing under his breath. He plunges his hand into a tote bag and pulls out a cell phone, and you notice that it's made by … Huawei!

You cannot escape.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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