GZERO Media caught up with Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN Kimihiro Ishikane during the 2020 UN General Assembly. In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Ishikane talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined, and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable." He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications.
UK's new COVID restrictions: In a last-ditch effort to avoid another national lockdown, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday sweeping new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country that could last up to six months, including limits on the number of people that can attend social gatherings. Warning that the country has reached "a perilous turning point," Johnson said that similar measures would soon be extended to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The PM's announcement comes as his government struggles to battle what he now admits is a second wave of the coronavirus. The UK now has the fifth highest death toll in the world and a steadily rising caseload. The new restrictions represent an about-face for the British government, which has been criticized for walking back its earlier calls for workers to return to the office. Will Johnson's move be enough to flatten the (second) curve?
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Over the past eight days, the US-China relationship got notably hotter. None of the new developments detailed below is big enough by itself to kill hopes for better relations next year, but collectively they point in a dangerous direction.
US jabs over Hong Kong: On September 14, the US State Department issued a travel warning for the city because of what it calls China's "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" by police. The US is closely monitoring the case of 10 people detained by China while attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. China's response to US criticism of its new security law in Hong Kong remains muted. That could change if relations deteriorate further.
Hackers (again) target US election: Hackers affiliated with the Russian government have reportedly tried to break into the servers of a US strategy and communications firm that is advising Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign. Microsoft evidently detected the suspicious activity and informed the company, SKDKnickerbocker, before any data were compromised. Moscow denies any involvement, but the attempt is consistent with US intelligence community findings that Russian hackers (and others) have tried, are trying, and will continue to try to influence the outcome of the US election. Microsoft says the attacks are affecting hundreds of firms on both sides of the political divide. The extent to which Russian meddling can affect the final result is debatable (and almost certainly minimal, in the grand scheme of things) — but that's not really the point: From the Kremlin's perspective in particular, sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the result is at least as big a prize as actually altering it. Only 53 days until Election Day!
Wang Xiangwei is an editorial adviser for the South China Morning Post. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Carlos Santamaria: What are, in your opinion, two or three issues that people in Hong Kong and China are concerned about regarding the upcoming US election?
WX: As you know, China and the US are now engaged in a rising confrontation. In this part of the world, we are watching the unfolding presidential election with keen interest. Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has ordered an end to Hong Kong's special status, and also signed legislation that sanctions the Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for cracking down on political dissent in the city. To me, it is very sad to see that Hong Kong has become the battleground where the two great powers have been at each other for political influence.
Secondly, here in Hong Kong lots of people are wondering what else Trump will do to hurt Hong Kong in his efforts to compete with China in the next few months, in the run-up to the presidential election. Also, in China there is a great concern that these two great powers are not only heading for a Cold War — there is an increasing worry that there could be a hot war over the South China Sea, over Taiwan.