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What We're Watching: Australia-China row escalates, COVAX falling behind, Mexico's crackdown on "foreign agents"

Australia takes China to the WTO: Amid a deepening diplomatic and trade dispute with China, Australia has upped the ante by taking its case to the World Trade Organization to probe what it calls China's "discriminatory [trade] actions." The complaint relates to Beijing's decision to slap an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, which has been pummeling Australian growers and producers. (China accuses Australia of "dumping" barley at a discounted rate; Australia says that's nonsense.) Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sparred with Beijing over a range of issues, such as human rights, national security, and telecommunications. But what irked the Chinese the most was when Australia led the charge in calling for a global investigation into China's handling of the pandemic earlier this year, which prompted Beijing to slap tariffs on a host of Australian goods including wine, beef, barley, and coal that threaten about $20 billion worth of Australian exports. While the WTO filing is mostly symbolic, and the dispute could take years to adjudicate, the move is a significant escalation — and a risky one for Australia, which relies on China for 30 percent of its annual exports.

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Australia’s tricky China problem

"China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy." This was the message recently conveyed by a Chinese government official on the intensifying row with its Asia-Pacific neighbor, Australia.

China-Australia relations, steadily deteriorating in recent months over a range of political disputes, reached a new low this week when Beijing posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. Beijing's decision to post the fake image at a hypersensitive time for Australia's military establishment was a deliberate political provocation: beat Canberra while it's down.

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What We're Watching: Ethiopia's ongoing ethnic tensions, Australia-China spat deepens, Bolsonaro rejected

Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.

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Studying in a pandemic: The plight of international students in Australia

Travel restrictions. Loss of work, and the move to online classes have impacted students across the globe. But international students face an added obstacle as well as an impending decision: Stay in their adopted country and grit it out or return home, potentially forfeiting all they've worked for. In Australia, where more than half-a-million international students fill both campus housing and university coffers, the decision affects both institutions and students alike.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Stanford's president: College in the COVID age

What We’re Watching: Australia-HK extradition, Ivorian PM dies, WHO reviews itself

Australia ends extradition with Hong Kong: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would suspend an extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's new security law, which severely compromises the city's autonomy. Morrison also said Canberra would give around 10,000 Hong Kong students and visa holders in Australia a path to permanent residency. Australia-China ties have been deteriorating in recent months — in response to Morrison's calls for an investigation into China's handling of the pandemic, Beijing slapped fresh tariffs on Australian goods in May. Australia's latest move follows a similar one by Canada last week, while Britain has also condemned China's draconian security law and said it will offer 3 million Hong Kongers a path to citizenship. We're watching to see whether the international blowback will have any effect on Beijing's policy.

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