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What We’re Watching: Biden-Xi on Zoom, Cuban protest, Duterte family drama, Qaddafi junior for prez, Steele Dossier skewered

US-China virtual summit. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will meet face-to-face (virtually) on Monday for the first time since Biden became US president last January. The two have a lot to discuss: trade wars, the 2022 Beijing Olympics — which Biden won't attend, but probably won't boycott — and how to deliver on the joint US-China pledge on climate made at COP26. But the elephant in the Zoom room is Taiwan, an ultra-sensitive issue for China. Xi is seething at the Biden administration's recent public support for the self-governing island, which the Chinese regard as part of their own territory. The Americans insist they are simply doing what they've always done since 1979 — pledging to help Taiwan defend itself. Can Biden and Xi navigate these issues in a calm, cool way? It may help that the two leaders have known each other for more than a decade, when they were both VPs. With US-China relations getting chillier by the day, the stakes are high.

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What We're Watching: The streets of Cuba

Cuban protest. For months, Cuban activists and dissidents have been planning a fresh, island-wide, anti-government protest. Well, the day is November 15, and the stakes are high. The Cuban regime, which has refused to issue permits for any marches, says it will not tolerate any unrest, and has accused the US of being behind the demonstrations. Back in July, you might remember, Cuba witnessed the biggest anti-government protests in decades, as popular anger over shortages, poverty, and political repression boiled over into the streets. Since then some 1,200 people have been arrested, with roughly half of them languishing in jail while awaiting trial on charges of sedition or sabotage that carry sentences of up to 25 years. We're keeping an eye not only on what happens in Cuba, but also on how the Biden administration responds. The US president will be under immense pressure from the powerful Cuban-American constituency in Florida, as well as Republicans more broadly, to impose tougher sanctions on the island. But there's an argument that the interests of the Cuban people might be better served by doing just the opposite.

What We're Watching: Cuba's internet crackdown, Erdogan woos Ethiopia, Merkel's Russia-Ukraine tour

Cuba's internet crackdown: Just weeks after Cubans used social media to mobilize the biggest anti-government protests in decades, the communist regime will now criminalize using social media to criticize the government. The new law states that Cubans cannot use any telecommunications to undermine the country's "public order," and that internet providers must monitor users' activities and even shut down service when deemed necessary. Clearly, this move is a guise for the government to crack down on all dissent, and to codify what they've already been doing. But many emboldened Cubans, who only got online on their smartphones in 2018, say they will not back down on criticizing the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel for lack of food, medicine and general economic stagnation that's thrust millions into poverty. During recent mass protests, the government staged a brutal crackdown and shut down the internet, prompting the Biden administration to sanction Cuban officials and the police force for human rights abuses. The US has also said that it's looking for alternative ways to provide internet access to Cubans, possibly through VPN technology, a workaround solution that could not be penetrated by the draconian Cuban regime. But they are not there yet, the Biden administration says.

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Biden’s Caribbean surprises

All elected leaders face two problems: crises that weren't on the agenda will strike from unexpected directions, and all possible responses are less than ideal.

Hey, Joe Biden, Cuba's on line one, and Haiti's holding on line two.

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Cuba internet censorship amid protests; pressure grows against Huawei

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cuba has curbed access to messaging apps amid protests. How controlled and censored is Cuba's internet?

Well, any debate and criticism is tightly controlled in Cuba, including through information, monitoring and monopoly. But activists such as blogger Yoani Sánchez have always been brave in defying repression and making sure that messages of Cubans reached others online across the world. Now mobile internet has become accessible to Cubans since about two years, but accessing it remains incredibly expensive. But the fact that the regime in Cuba once again seeks to censor people through shutting down internet services actually shows it is its Achilles' heel. As Yoani has said, the Castros have lost the internet.

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Biden and Merkel will talk China strategy; Cuban economic crisis

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week from Washington, DC, with a look at the upcoming Biden/Merkel meeting, Haiti in crisis, and the ongoing protests in Cuba.

Biden is hosting Angela Merkel in Washington this week. What's on the agenda?

Most important is going to be China. That's not what the headlines are right now. They're all talking Nord Stream and cybersecurity and all that. But the reality is Biden wants to coordinate China policy with his top allies. He's had a lot of success with Japan. He's had success with South Korea. Those are the first two leaders to have been invited to Washington. He's probably going to have some success with Angela Merkel as well, because there is increasingly backlash against Xi Jinping and his efforts to consolidate a Chinese model, vaccine nationalism, lack of transparency on origins of the crisis, and all this kind of stuff. Technology hits, not allowing companies to IPO abroad. The Germans are angry too. And I think that is going to be the top issue they discuss.

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A rare revolt in Cuba

On Sunday afternoon, thousands of Cubans did something remarkable in a police state: take to the streets in the biggest protest against the government in almost 30 years. Yet only dozens were arrested the next day. They are all risking lengthy jail terms to demand access to scarce food, medicine, and COVID vaccines.

How did we get here, and what might come next?

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Protests in Cuba. How will the US respond?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your week. A little Quick Take. Thought I would talk about Cuba, not a country we talk about all that often. Communist state, Raúl Castro just stepped down, and the biggest demonstrations across the entire country in decades. Talking about absence of vaccines, problems in healthcare, but also anger at the poverty, the economic mismanagement, the reality of the lack of liberty of living in a communist regime.

The Trump administration had put pretty significant sanctions back on after Obama tried to loosen up. I expect that this is going to make Cuba a bigger issue for lots of folks in the United States that would like to see the back of this Cuban regime. The question is, how does the United States try to address it? Does it shut the Cubans down even harder, make the country pay economically for the fact that they are treating their people so badly or does it use this as an opportunity to open up? I'll tell you.

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