US-CHINA: A TWEET, A SWIPE, AND A BARBED OVERTURE

US-CHINA: A TWEET, A SWIPE, AND A BARBED OVERTURE

The past few days have been a mini-roller coaster for those of us watching the increasingly fraught relationship between the US and China. Late last week, President Trump announced that he’d had a good chat with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, bolstering hopes of a breakthrough on trade when the two men get together at the G20 meetings in Argentina later this month.


Then, over the weekend, Mr. Xi took an implicit swipe at the US, warning against its “law of the jungle” approach to global trade. Yesterday, Mr. Xi's top adviser Wang Qishan struck a softer tone, telling the Bloomberg New Economy Forum that China is open to working things out with Washington. But with a catch: China, he said, would not be "bullied and oppressed by imperialist powers."

As a reminder, over the past several months, China and the US have slapped tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of each other's goods. Trump is prepared to up the ante further if the Chinese don't agree to key demands, such as cutting support for Chinese firms and ending the squeeze of sensitive technologies from Western ones.

The trouble is that China isn't in much of a mood to capitulate. President Trump is, of course, on (very) firm ground when he says that China has, for many years, gotten away with unfairly supporting its own state companies while extracting technology from foreign ones as the price of entry into China's massive market.

But from Beijing's perspective, as Mr. Wang's comments make clear, what's at stake here isn't just the narrow issue of trade, industrial policy, or technology. It's about something bigger: China's rise as a world power. In Washington's attempts to change a state-backed economic model that has made China powerful, the Communist Party leadership sees a replay of old Western attempts to stifle China's bid to "take center stage globally" as President Xi put it last year.

Few issues in global affairs are as pressing today as the question of whether the world's two largest economies can reconcile what appear to be increasingly divergent national interests. To quote one seasoned observer not given to hyperbole – their failure to do so would "destroy hope for the world order."

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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