BREAK THAT WISHBONE

After the Turkey's done, it's a Thanksgiving tradition for two people at the dinner table to grab hold of the y-shaped “wishbone" of the Turkey, silently make wishes, and then pull it apart – whoever gets the bigger piece of bone gets what they want. Here are three groups of world leaders who'd make nice pairs when it's time to make a wish…


DONALD TRUMP AND XI JINPING

Trump's wish: “The president of China, who is greatly respected by me, will agree to cut support for China's flagship economic development project, Made in China 2025."

Xi's Wish: “Mr. Trump is more vulnerable politically to a trade war, so let's run out the clock until he is gone and then deal with a more predictable successor."

China and the US clashed during last weekend's APEC summit of Asia-Pacific powers in Papua New Guinea – with US President Mike Pence warning countries not to embrace Beijing's commercial overtures, while China's President Xi Jinping floated the dangers of conflict between the world's two largest economies. Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi will meet later this month on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina, and the prospect of tamping down tensions look bleak.

The dispute is narrowly about trade and industrial policy – Trump wants Beijing to stop unfairly supporting Chinese firms while throwing up huge barriers to entry for American ones, and the Chinese want to preserve a wildly successful state-centric economic model that they now hope can catapult them to technological dominance. But it's also taken on an existential hue for both sides: the US increasingly sees China as a competitor, while Beijing bristles at the sense that America is trying to prevent China from assuming its rightful place as a global commercial and technological power.

JAIR BOLSONARO AND ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR

Bolsonaro's wish: “Right side of the wishbone."

Lopez Obrador's wish: “Left side of the wishbone."

Both Jair Bolsonaro, the rightwing president-elect of Brazil, and his leftwing Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, won elections by promising to make radical changes in countries plagued by violence and inequality. They share an almost messianic appeal among their supporters, and both have a strong nationalist streak. But the similarities end there.

Bolsonaro, who has spoken nostalgically of Brazil's military dictatorship, wants to solve Brazil's problems through a combination of business-friendly reforms and radically conservative social and security policies. Lopez Obrador, who idolizes the early Mexican revolutionaries and leftwing strongmen who ruled his native Tabasco State in the 1930s, wants to increase the government's role in the economy and has placed an amnesty proposal at the heart of his plans to deal with an epidemic of narco-violence.

Beyond their countries' borders, they also differ: Bolsonaro has outlined a Trump-friendly foreign policy that takes direct aim at the region's leftwing governments, particularly Venezuela and Cuba. Lopez Obrador, for his part, has invited Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to his inauguration, and he sees himself as a force for the renewal of a Latin American left tarnished by the recent debacles in Venezuela and Brazil. Watch this space closely: Latin America's two largest economies now have starkly different national and regional visions.

ANGELA MERKEL AND EMMANUEL MACRON

Macron's wish: “Money everyone can use."

Merkel's wish: “Money that everyone can use unless Germans are on the hook for it."

Both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel believe that integrating the European Union further is the only way to head off the challenges of populist nationalism both on the continent (Hungary, Poland, Italy) and outside it (“America First"). On the economic front, an important part of that vision is Macron's proposal to create a common budget fund that can be used to help out eurozone members who run into economic or financial troubles.

Merkel has agreed to such a thing in principle, true. But big hurdles remain in implementing such a plan: most importantly, disagreement over its purpose. Macron sees the fund as a kind of rapid response tool, offering direct budgetary support for countries facing economic crises. But Merkel and the leaders of other fiscally fastidious Northern European countries wonder that would simply leave them on the hook for other countries' poor choices.

Facebook unveiled plans for a new cryptocurrency and payment system on Tuesday. It's called the Libra, and it's not-so-modest goal is to "reinvent money," and "transform the global economy" so that "people everywhere can live better lives." Ambitious much, Zuck?

This is a huge political gamble, but the rewards could be enormous. Here's a quick look at the tradeoffs:

The risks: Facebook is asking its 2.5 billion users — and government regulators — to entrust it with something that's vitally important to people everywhere and a power that governments jealously protect: access to money. And it's doing so at a time when trust in Facebook and other big Silicon Valley companies is at a low ebb.

Whether it's a concern that Big Tech has become too powerful or that it's not doing enough to protect privacy or put a stop to fake news, it's a heck of a time to launch a new techno-utopian project that could give Silicon Valley much more power — including the ability to track not just what people say they like but how they spend their money.

Mark Zuckerberg understands this — the Facebook founder is setting up Libra as a Swiss-based non-profit that will be governed by an "association" of 28 tech and financial companies and non-profits of which Facebook is just one member. He's also promising that Facebook will not mix personal data with payment information, and to cooperate with regulators.

But this will always be Zuckerberg's baby, and by launching Libra, he's painting a big new political bullseye on his own back.

The payoff: If Libra can survive the inevitable political and regulatory storm (and convince its billions of users that they can trust the underlying technology and financial stability of the new cryptocurrency) the upside could be enormous.

How enormous? The Libra website claims that more than 30 percent of the world's population — about 1.7 billion people — currently lack access to traditional bank accounts. Many more pay steep fees to transfer money using traditional payment services. Libra, by contrast, promises access to anyone in the world with a simple smartphone — and to make payments as inexpensive as sending a text message.

Plug those capabilities into a social network whose user base is roughly double the population of the biggest country in the world, and the results could be revolutionary — not just for billions of people who would gain new access to financial resources, but for Facebook's business model, and for central banks and governments that have traditionally sought to control the flow of money through their economies.

That would be a techno-utopian dream come true, but it's a power that governments won't willingly surrender.

Does the leader of Hong Kong appear weaker withdrawing the extradition bill?

Well as we'd say in Australia, "Is the Pope a Catholic?" Of course. This means that Carrie Lam's authority within the Hong Kong SAR is reduced and her standing in Beijing is reduced as well. But I think the bottom line is that China will resist any efforts to remove her from office, despite local pressure.

Is the US – China trade war coming to an end anytime soon?

Depends Dr. Bremmer on what your definition of "any time soon" happens to be. My prediction is simply this: once they get to the G20 meeting in Osaka Xi Jinping and President Trump will agree to reboot the negotiations process but then it's a question of the substance of the deal. My prediction is A) there will be a deal sometime between now and the end of the year. And secondly, the nature of the deal will be America yielding on the questions of tariffs to the Chinese and China yielding to the Americans on the amount that President Trump expects in the purchasing order of future American goods by the Chinese. That's my bottom line. Both countries need the economic outcome. Both countries therefore have a deep interest in securing a deal. Doesn't mean the end of the economic war however, technology reigns supreme.

If Willis's story on Tuesday about Argentina being plunged into darkness after a nationwide power failure didn't get you packing a flashlight and checking that your car has a full tank of gas, this one should. Over the weekend, the New York Times said anonymous US officials had revealed a US campaign to plant "potentially crippling malware" inside Russia's power grid "at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before."

Quick thoughts:

This is a big provocation. It's the cyber equivalent of mining a harbor — an aggressive move that falls short of actual conflict but sends an unmistakable message: mess with us, and we'll mess you up.

The leak was probably intentional. The campaign fits with the new US strategy, launched under the Trump administration, of trying to deter cyber adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran from hacking its critical infrastructure. By disclosing the US campaign, US officials are effectively telling Russia (and by extension China and Iran), that they've got a loaded gun cocked and pointed at their economies.

That's dangerous. People — and governments — may not always behave rationally when a gun is pointed at their heads. Russia might be even more inclined to lash out. And unlike more conventional forms of conflict, cyber isn't a domain where the US can be sure it has an overwhelming advantage if push comes to shove.

It gets worse. The Times said US cyber officials described a "broad hesitation" to go into details of cyber operations against Russia with President Donald Trump because they feared he might cancel it or tell other governments about it. Among other things that are disturbing about this story, a lack of communication between the President and US cyber warriors could send mixed signals that further embolden US adversaries.

It's no secret that cyberattacks are becoming more commonplace. But where do most of them originate and what countries do they target most? The graphic above shows the most significant offenders and victims since 2006. Hackers in China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea account for three-quarters of all major attacks. Nearly a fifth of attacks, meanwhile, have targeted institutions or companies in the United States.

(At least that we know of: this chart highlights known attacks on government agencies, tech companies, and other operations that caused more than $1 million in economic damage. But many cyberattacks are never disclosed, and some countries are more transparent than others, so consider this a cross-section of a much bigger — and more disturbing — picture.)