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What We're Watching: Australia-China tension rising

For Beijing, there is thunder Down Under. Tensions between Australia and China just keep rising. After China responded to Aussie requests for a COVID investigation by imposing devastating tariffs and unofficial bans on Australian exports in 2020, Oz is pushing back hard now. Canberra on Friday accused China of “economic coercion,” while cybersecurity officials publicly confirmed malicious attacks against Australia by Chinese spy services working with Chinese telecom giant Huawei. The Aussies also say Chinese intelligence vessels are snooping around in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. These accompany several clearly pro-American moves this year: the Aussies have signed on to AUKUS, an exclusive military club with Washington and London that gives them access to unprecedented weapons tech, are allowing the buildup of US military infrastructure (read, bases) on its soil, and joined America in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But the Australians are taking the tensions directly to China’s neighborhood, too. Canberra just signed a $770 million weapons deal with South Korea, including tech to build Howitzers — really, really big artillery guns. And even though the spat between the two continues, there is evidence that Australia, though heavily dependent on trade with China, is successfully pushing for diversity in trade partnerships.

Chile's President-elect Gabriel Boric celebrates with supporters after winning the presidential election in Santiago, Chile, December 19, 2021.

REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

What We’re Watching: Chile’s new prez, Manchin sinks Biden’s agenda, Russian NATO wishlist, Australia vs China, Afghan trust fund

Boric wins in Chile. In the end, it wasn’t even close. Faced with two diametrically opposed choices for president in Sunday’s presidential runoff, more than 55 percent of Chilean voters went with leftwinger Gabriel Boric instead of his far-right opponent José Antonio Kast. The ten-point gap was so wide that Kast conceded before the count was even done. Boric, 35, now becomes the youngest president of any major nation in the world. Elected just two years after mass protests over inequality shook what was one of Latin America’s most reliably boring and prosperous countries, Boric has promised to raise taxes in order to boost social spending, nationalize the pension system, and expand the rights of indigenous Chileans. But with the country’s legislature evenly split between parties of the left and the center-right, the new president will likely have to compromise on his sweeping pledge to make Chile the land where neoliberalism “goes to its grave.”

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Lukashenko’s Exploiting Migrants To Pressure EU Over Sanctions | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Belarus president exploiting migrants to pressure EU on sanctions

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What's the nature of the migration crisis between Belarus and Poland?

Well, it's not a migration crisis, really. It's a question of the weaponization of the misery of people. Lukashenko wants to, sort of, exert pressure on Poland and on the European Union because of the sanctions that are imposed upon him for his undemocratic behavior. And that is importing miserable people from the Middle East, flying them into Minsk, probably at great expense to them, and then effectively forcing them over the border to Poland. That has to be stopped, and a number of measures are underway to do that. It's really an unacceptable way of exploiting people.

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The great roe row: UK and France fight over fish... and other stuff

Fish are divisive. Their various odors are distinctive, and though some people enjoy them, others find their slimy exteriors off-putting.

They also can drive a wedge between longtime "friends" like France and the UK. In recent weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron have been at loggerheads over questions of fishing access in the English Channel. But is this latest row really about roe?

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What We're Watching: Biden on tour

Biden's Euro trip. President Joe Biden is on a crucial Euro trip. It began in Rome at the G-20 Summit, where his idea for a global minimum tax rate was broadly endorsed by the group. Biden also visited Pope Francis at the Vatican – a get-together that produced decidedly less scary photos than when his predecessor held a papal visit – and met with France's President Emmanuel Macron to try to smooth over strained relations after the AUKUS debacle, which he now says had been "clumsy." The US president also had a face-to-face with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just a week after Ankara threatened to expel the US ambassador. But there's a domestic component at play too: Biden was hoping to have passed two infrastructure bills, which include money for climate change, before he attended the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, which kicked off this weekend. Failure to close the deal on Capitol Hill would deal Biden's credibility a heavy blow just at the moment he wants to reinforce the US commitment to climate change reduction goals at this week's summit and to claim, yet again, that America is indeed back! But Democrats continue to wrangle over both what's in the bills and how to pay for them. Meanwhile, only a third of Americans now say that the US is headed in the right direction. Biden was hoping to have the wind at his back as he sailed into Europe. Instead, he is facing a strong political headwind.

Ian Bremmer: US & China's Changing Status Quo on Taiwan | Quick Take | GZERO Media

US and China's changing status quo on Taiwan

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

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Ian Bremmer Explains: Can Biden Gain Back the Trust of US Allies? | GZERO World

Can Biden gain back the trust of US allies?

After four long years of Donald Trump's bull-in-a-china-shop approach to foreign policy, Joe Biden says: America is back. But was it actually true? Some major foreign policy snafus so far have thrown America's renewed global standing into question. The French government had such high hopes for the Biden folks that AUKUS felt like such a betrayal. A botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan facilitated the near-instant Taliban takeover after 20 years of American occupation. The next true test to America's global standing will be COP26 , the most consequential climate summit since Paris in 2015, because leaders are now looking to avoid environmental catastrophe. China, the world's largest carbon emitter, must be on board. Ian Bremmer explores the question: is America's credibility irreparably damaged no matter what Biden, or any future president, says or does?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Biden's rocky start on foreign policy

Blinken Starts Mending Fences With France Following AUKUS Rift | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Antony Blinken mending fences with France following AUKUS rift

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is US Secretary of State Antony Blinken doing with his talks in Paris?

Well, seems to be fairly okay. He had a lengthy discussion with the Foreign Minister Le Drian and he was even received by the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron. There's a lot of fence-mending to be done, but a start has been done. And that's good.

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