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Here's a pro-tip for companies seeking to do business in China: Don't make fun of Chinese people eating with chopsticks. Not even if you are an irreverent Italian fashion house that has always loved controversy. Today's China is having none of it.

Luxury couture brand Dolce & Gabbana learned this lesson the hard way last week, when it was forced to cancel a major Shanghai show after a backlash against the event's marketing campaign.

It all began with a video ad that mocked, with a touch of sexual innuendo, a Chinese model's inability to eat various Italian foods with chopsticks. Chinese social media lit up with understandable complaints that the ad was condescending and offensive, prompting D&G to pull it from some local platforms. But when critics came at D&G's impetuous co-founder Stefano Gabbana on Instagram, things went haywire fast: after first defending the ad, Gabbana then appeared to let loose a barrage of demeaning and profane posts about Chinese people and culture.

He and D&G later apologized, claiming his account was hacked. But the damage was already done: the story (quite possibly with help from China's official internet influencers) quickly spread on line, and dozens of Chinese A-listers pulled out of the show. As a result, D&G cancelled the event just hours before it was set to begin.

On the one hand this is a story about an incredibly stupid and tin-eared marketing decision. But it's also a story about how an increasingly wealthy and powerful China is now able to set the conditions of engagement even with the West's biggest brands. The country's massive middle class – the world's largest – is an indispensable market for most global companies. Access to that market increasingly comes on China's own terms. In some cases that's about the government forcing foreign firms to hand over technology or recognize China's position on Taiwan. But in this case, it's about a public Chinese backlash against a case of cringe-worthy (and costly) Western arrogance. Capisci?

Empathy and listening are key to establishing harmonious relationships, as demonstrated by Callista Azogu, GM of Human Resources & Organization for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), an Eni subsidiary in Abuja. "To build trust is very difficult. To destroy it is very easy," says Callista, whose busy days involve everything from personnel issues to union relationships. She sees great potential for her native Nigeria not only because of the country's natural resources, but because of its vibrant and creative people.

Learn more about Callista in this episode of Faces of Eni.

For the world's wealthiest nations, including the United States, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine has been rocky, to say the least. And as a result, much of the developing world will have to wait even longer for their turn. Part of the challenge, World Bank President David Malpass says, is that "advanced economies have reserved a lot of the vaccine doses." Malpass sat down with Ian Bremmer recently to talk about what his organization is doing to try to keep millions around the world from slipping deeper into poverty during the pandemic. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Saturday will mark the beginning of an historic turning point for European politics as 1,001 voting members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, hold an online conference to elect a new leader.

Here are the basic facts:

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For the first time in twenty years, extreme poverty around the world is growing. How does the developing world recover from a pandemic that has brought even the richest nations to their knees? David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, is tasked with answering that question. He joins Ian Bremmer on GZERO World to talk about how his organization is trying to keep the developing world from slipping further into poverty in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Joe Biden wants to move into the White House, but the coast isn't clear. He may need some bleach.

Watch more PUPPET REGIME here.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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