Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on US politics.
Where are US-China relations in this battle over TikTok and what is happening?
Well, this may seem like a minor deal. It's a video sharing app that the president has given 45 days to sell to a US entity or get banned in the United States. But along with WeChat, these are two of China's most successful technology companies that the US has now banned from entry into the United States and potentially banned from being used on operating systems that rely on US software inside China. So, this is a huge escalation in the geotech war between the United States and China. China for a long time has not allowed Google and Facebook and other American applications to be fully operative inside their borders. And now the US is stepping up against Chinese technology companies. The reason is that there's concerns among the US government about these tech, these apps data security practices. Members of the military, high ranking government officials aren't allowed to have these on their phones because there's concern about what China does with the data that they can harvest from those phones. This is a real warning sign to other Chinese technology companies that they may not be welcome inside the American market unless they can prove in some way, they are totally independent from the Chinese government and the Chinese military. Expect a lot of escalation in this area over the coming months and years.
As November 3rd nears, what can we expect to hear from US intelligence officials about the possibility of campaign interference in the US election?
Well, the intelligence community is hoping to depoliticize information around election interference in this election cycle. They've designated the head of counterintelligence in the US, a guy named William Evanina, to be the front man and the face of all information campaigns surrounding foreign interference. He said he's going to give regular updates to Congress and to the public. Democrats have been skeptical of these efforts. Republicans seem much more willing to wait and see. So far, what he's told us is that Russia has stepped up their disinformation campaigns in particular around the coronavirus. Expect to see regular updates out of him. And this may become a household name as we get closer to the election if you see the levels of foreign interference in the 2020 cycle that you saw in 2016.
This past week, Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act. What is it?
Well, President Trump hasn't exactly been known for his environmental conservation efforts during his administration. And what this act does is dedicate billions of dollars to ongoing maintenance of public lands and in particular, the National Park Service. This bill has been out there for a while. What drove its final passage into law is two things: one is the reelection needs of a couple of vulnerable western Republican senators, and two, the relative lack of concern over the deficit in the Trump administration, which has been one of the hallmarks of this administration. And the deficit in the past, was one of the things that kept this bill from passing into law. So, this could be one of President Trump's most important, lasting environmental legacies. And in 10 years, could make a huge difference to the quality and accessibility of public lands in the US.