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An elderly woman walks past a poster encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against COVID in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Beijing gets China's first COVID vax mandate

Somewhat late to the party compared to many parts of the world, China introduced on Wednesday its first COVID vaccine mandate in Beijing. Starting next week, residents of the capital will need to show proof of vax to enter most public spaces as authorities scramble to contain a new outbreak of a more infectious omicron subvariant. Oddly enough for an authoritarian state, China shunned mandates early in the pandemic because most people agreed to get vaxxed on their own, which helped keep the virus under control until late 2021. While nearly 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, inoculation rates among the elderly — those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID — are lower because many older Chinese adults are wary of getting jabs. What's more, China's vaccines are not as effective as Western mRNA jabs against new variants, so perhaps the goal of Beijing's mandate is to keep the unvaccinated elderly at home without implementing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai. How will this affect Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy? If major outbreaks are reported, expect other big Chinese cities to follow Beijing's lead.

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Boris Johnson Is Going to Be Out, One Way or the Other | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Boris Johnson is going to be out, one way or the other

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60:

First, will Boris Johnson step down?

I certainly think it is getting likely. He's going to be out, one way or the other. The question is, is it as a result of a second in one month no-confidence vote that he loses this time around, or he reads the writing on the wall, knows he's going to get voted out and so decides to resign himself. If you made me bet, I think he's going to resign, but he might well just force them to do it. He's lost… a majority of conservative voters in the United Kingdom now want Boris Johnson to step down. He's had scandal after scandal after scandal, lied, been caught lying about so many of those scandals, and it's just a disaster, frankly. While the economy's doing badly, while Brexit has not played out the way he said it would, this is a man that has well passed his sell-by date and I don't expect he will be there as prime minister for much longer.

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Biden Wants Saudis to Increase Oil Production & Russia Out of OPEC+ | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Biden could get Saudis to push Russia out of OPEC+

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

What does Biden hope to come from his trip to Saudi Arabia?

Well, first he hopes he isn't smashed by progressives in his own party after saying when he campaigned that he wanted to make Saudi Arabia into a pariah internationally. Traveling to Saudi Arabia and visiting with Mohammed bin Salman doesn't do that, but of course, $120 plus oil doesn't do that either. Look, I think it's sensible for him to go. I'm glad he's actually making the trip. In particular, he wants to see the Saudis increasing their oil production beyond present announced quotas to reduce the price. It's impacting Americans at the pump with record levels right now. He'd love to see Russia thrown out of OPEC Plus. I think that's plausible and beyond that, the possibility that Saudi Arabia and Israel would formally open diplomatic relations, an extension of the Abraham Accords which was one of the biggest accomplishments in foreign policy of the Trump administration. Biden's completely aligned with that and I think he's going to try to push on that. So, I do think there will be some direct takeaways from this trip that'll be positive for the Biden administration.

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Chinese medical workers in protective suits wave at residents during a farewell ceremony in Changchun.

China Daily via REUTERS

China is in a tough spot

This week, the head of the World Health Organization warned that China’s “zero-COVID” policy, which has left tens of millions of people locked inside their homes, is not “sustainable.” The Omicron variant is too transmissible to effectively isolate, and the cost of China’s lockdown strategy, for the country’s economy and the mental health of its people, is too high, warns the WHO.

But … also this week, a report from the peer-reviewed international scientific journal Nature Medicine warned that lifting the zero-COVID policy without taking a series of specific steps to mitigate the damage could create a COVID emergency on a scale the world hasn’t yet seen. More than 1.5 million would die within six months, according to the study, and demand for intensive care would be nearly 16 times greater than China’s hospitals can handle.

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An armored convoy of pro-Russian troops moves along a road during in Mariupol, Ukraine.

REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov

What We’re Watching: Russian military on the ropes, panic-buying in Beijing, Nicaragua out of OAS

Depleted Russian forces?

As Moscow struggles to rack up battlefield wins — narrowing its focus to the Donbas and to building a land bridge to its forces in Crimea — it’s reasonable to wonder just how potent Russia’s military really is. Most media information on the war comes from the Russian and Ukrainian governments, both of which need to sell the idea of Russian military might. The Kremlin needs to maintain troop and civilian morale, and Ukraine needs to woo Western support. But independent military analysts stress the Russians’ current limitations. “Russian [battalions] have taken high casualties in the battle of Mariupol, are degraded, and are unlikely to possess their full complement of personnel,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. As for elsewhere in Ukraine? “Reporting on numbers of [battalions] without additional context and analysis of the combat power of these units is not a useful evaluation of Russian forces,” it said.

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Annie Gugliotta

EU-China "reset" in limbo

On Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang in their first virtual summit since June 2020. Originally, they’d planned to try and ease tensions after a rough two years for EU-China ties. But then Russia invaded Ukraine, and that has scrambled the EU’s priorities. We asked Eurasia Group analyst Emre Peker to explain.

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COVID Immunity Gap Could Spell Disaster for China — Global Health Expert | GZERO World

COVID immunity gap could spell disaster for China — global health expert

China’s homegrown COVID vaccines were once crucial — but they're not as effective against omicron as mRNA jabs.

What's more, with with local cases near zero for the better part of the pandemic, most Chinese have no natural immunity. That could spell disaster for Beijing as omicron surges.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the highly transmissible new variant will make zero COVID harder and harder to sustain.

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Ian Bremmer: The Future of the Chinese Communist Party | Quick Take | GZERO Media

The future of the Chinese Communist Party

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy Monday. Starting to bake in New York City in the summertime, but glad for it, given the alternatives.

And I thought I would talk a little bit about the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Big speech coming up from President Xi Jinping, a big historic plenary for the party. Already, a big meeting by Xi and a number of the senior leaders just a week ago at the new Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, reaffirmation of loyalty oaths to the party. At a time when Communist party membership, which had been flattening over previous years, is now growing in a robust way. Again, you've got almost a 100 million members of the Communist party across China and it's hard to get in. Only about 10% of applicants actually are accepted. It is increasingly seen as a way to be successful in core state-owned enterprises, opportunity, political access, economic access, you name it. If you're a young elite and you want to make a difference in China, having a party membership card and being seen to be loyal and having behaviors that are befitting a Communist party member are increasingly important.

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