Hard Numbers: Tuesday, April 17

10,000: Tomorrow, China will hold live-fire naval drills in the Taiwan Strait that include 10,000 people, 48 ships and submarines, and 76 fighter jets. The drills, China’s largest ever, are sure to further inflame already-rising tensions with Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing considers part of China.


5,000: Venezuela’s acute political and humanitarian crisis is now driving out some 5,000 refugees a day, according to the UN. At that rate, some 1.8 million people — or more than 5 per cent of Venezuela’s population — will depart this year. They are straining the ability of neighboring countries like Brazil and Colombia to cope, in ways that could become politically significant soon.

68: Back in the late 1980s, some 68 percent of Americans polled said they thought that the world’s leading economic power was… Japan. Only a quarter said the US was top dog, even though the US economy was almost twice as large as Japan’s at the time. Today, 44 percent of Americans give that title to China, while 42 percent say the US still rules the roost (Japan clocks in at a modest 4 percent.)

11: The share of Russians who view the US positively has fallen 11 points to just 26 percent since Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Despite early hopes that Trump would improve US-Russia ties, his administration and Congress have hit Moscow with several rafts of fresh sanctions. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Russians view China positively.

2: Only two subgroups of voters currently favor President Trump’s threatened tariffs on China: non college-educated whites and rural voters, according to a new poll. Trade policy is always about tradeoffs — and Trump’s tariff approach is designed to appeal directly to the base of voters that put him in office and who, he hopes, will keep him there in 2020.

Last week, in Fulton, WI, together with election officials from the state of Wisconsin and the election technology company VotingWorks, Microsoft piloted ElectionGuard in an actual election for the first time.

As voters in Fulton cast ballots in a primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates, the official count was tallied using paper ballots as usual. However, ElectionGuard also provided an encrypted digital tally of the vote that enabled voters to confirm their votes have been counted and not altered. The pilot is one step in a deliberate and careful process to get ElectionGuard right before it's used more broadly across the country.

Read more about the process at Microsoft On The Issues.

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing. A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its "technological sovereignty" by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.

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Communal violence in Delhi: Over the past few days, India's capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades. This week's surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims and the law's Hindu nationalist defenders. Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday. We're watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government responds – Delhi's police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.

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Ian Bremmer's perspective on what's happening in geopolitics:

What are the takeaways from President Trump's visit to India?

No trade deal, in part because Modi is less popular and he's less willing to focus on economic liberalization. It's about nationalism right now. Hard to get that done. But the India US defense relationship continues to get more robust. In part, those are concerns about China and Russia.

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27,000: The Emir of Qatar has decreed a $27,000 fine and up to five years in prison for anyone who publishes, posts, or repost content that aims to "harm the national interest" or "stir up public opinion." No word on whether the Doha-based Al-Jazeera network, long a ferocious and incisive critic of other Arab governments, will be held to the same standard.

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