Hard Numbers

7,329: A high-profile arm of China’s anti-corruption campaign, run by the oddly Orwellian-sounding Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, set an all-time monthly record by disciplining 7,329 party members in December.


China’s campaign to deal with graft has been a key pillar of Xi’s success and popular appeal to date. As he look to solidify control ahead of a possible third term as president, expect more heads to roll in the Communist Party.

1,400: A former employee of Russia’s now-infamous Troll Factory, which conducted the social media campaign meant to sow division in the US ahead of the 2016 presidential election, says he got a paycheck of $1,400 a week for his labors. To put that in context, the average salary in St Petersburg in early 2016 was just $740 a month. Trolling democracy is good work if you can get it.

87: When dictators die in office, their cliques retain power 87 percent of the time, says a Washington Post study. And even when a death at the top does change things, it leads to democracy only 30 percent of the time. A reminder that nothing is inevitable, least of all liberal democracy.

45: The percentage of Americans who are happy with the US position in the world has hit a 13-year high of 45 percent, according to Gallup. In fact, America’s mood has improved over the past year when less than a third of Americans felt good about position of the US globally. A reminder that for all the international handwringing about US leadership, a significant bloc of voters at home just isn’t concerned.

43: A survey shows that 43 percent of Ital­ians think im­mi­grants rep­re­sent a dan­ger to pub­lic or­der and peo­ple’s safety, up ten points since 2015. This coincides with a rising number of migrants reaching Italian shores. There’s just one problem: the crime rate in Italy has actually fallen by 17 percent in the last two years, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry. Perception is reality at election time these days, and fear is a powerful emotion as Italians head to the polls.

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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