{{ subpage.title }}

What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

Read Now Show less

What We’re Watching: Russia vs US/NATO, Twitter back in Nigeria, Syrian war crimes verdict

US/NATO-Russia talks. Did this week’s flurry of high-level diplomacy in Europe make any significant progress to stop war in Ukraine? Depends on who you ask. The Russians say the talks were unsuccessful, insomuch as Washington has not agreed to the Kremlin’s demands for NATO to not further expand into former Soviet territory. What’s more, Moscow is now threatening to send Russian troops to Cuba and Venezuela — two of its allies in Washington’s own geographical sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere — if the Americans don’t cave. The US and NATO admit “significant differences” remain between both sides, but want to keep talking. Meanwhile, Poland has warned that the risk of war in Europe is the highest it’s been since the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Read Now Show less

What We're Watching: Angela out, omicron in

Exit Angela, enter omicron. Social Democrat Olaf Scholz will officially take over this week as German Chancellor, leading a coalition with the Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats. His government has already laid out plans to accelerate Germany's transition to carbon neutrality, to bolster European sovereignty in the face of rising challenges from Russia and China, and to rein in fiscal spending – not only in Germany but across Europe – as the pandemic recedes. But one immediate challenge is that the pandemic isn't actually receding yet. Scholz will take office just as cases are surging. The current 7-day average of new cases in Germany is more than twice as high as the previous peak which was a year ago, before vaccines were rolled out. With the evidently more transmissible omicron variant already spreading, Scholz has said he favors making vaccines obligatory, even as blowback against mandates has been rising in Europe.

What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

Read Now Show less

What We’re Watching: Global Gateways vs Belt and Road, US-Russia tit-for-tat, Germany’s COVID challenge

The EU rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The European Commission has unveiled its Global Gateways plan, which aims to invest €300 billion globally in infrastructure projects by 2027. Indeed, Brussels is positioning its plan as a better alternative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This announcement comes as Beijing has been steadily upping its investment in the Global South, including a pledge this week to supply Africa with an additional 1 billion COVID vaccine doses over the next three years, as well as doling out $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports. But European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen points to several advantages for the European plan. One, Global Gateway focuses both on physical infrastructure – like fiber-optic cables, transportation, healthcare and clean energy resources – as well as investment in research and education. And unlike Beijing’s plan, which saddles recipient countries with debt, the EU will provide cash “under fair and favorable terms.” Its plan will also include buy-in from Europe’s robust private sector. Beijing has not commented on the development, but the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday was likely intended to signal Beijing’s enduring commitment to the region.

Read Now Show less

What We're Watching: Europe's anti-lockdown protests, Chileans vote, a shaky deal in Sudan, German negotiations in the home stretch

Europe anti-lockdown protests get violent. Pockets of unrest spread across Europe in recent days as tens of thousands gathered in several cities across the continent to protest government measures aimed at curbing a fast-spreading wave of COVID-19. Violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police in The Hague and Rotterdam where Dutch cops opened fire at an increasingly aggressive crowd protesting the tightening of restrictions. Meanwhile, more that 35,000 people turned out in Brussels, while large crowds rocked Vienna, protesting fresh lockdowns that initially targeted only the unvaccinated, as well as new vaccine mandates. The state of the pandemic in Europe is not good. Germany recorded more than 48,000 new cases Sunday, the highest on record, prompting new lockdowns in the lead-up to Christmas, while deaths across the continent are also rising since the summer months, though they remain well below pre-vaccine levels. What's more, far-right groups, like Austria's Freedom Party, are taking advantage of COVID fatigue and anti-vaxx sentiment to encourage people to defy government rules and sow chaos.

Read Now Show less

What We're Watching: Germany's next government taking shape

Who's going to run Germany? With coalition negotiations now reportedly in the home stretch, we could know what the next German government looks like as soon as Monday or Tuesday. Following elections that were held back in September, the center-left SPD, headed by Chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz, has been hammering together a three-way coalition with the progressive Greens and the fiscal hawks of the Free Democrats Party. One big question mark is whether the spendthrift Greens or the tighter-pursestrings FDP will get the powerful finance ministry portfolio. Meanwhile, Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock is expected to become Germany's first female foreign minister, part of Scholz's larger pledge to ensure that the cabinet is split 50:50 between men and women.

What We’re Watching: German coalition talks, India’s power woes, Oz closes PNG migrant facility

German kingmakers make their pick: Despite fears of a drawn-out process that could take months like in 2017, the Greens and the pro-business FDP have taken less than two weeks to decide whom they want to team up with in a three-way coalition government. The two parties are now talking to the left-of-center SPD, which narrowly won the September 26 federal election. Good news for those hoping to have a new government in place before Christmas, since it'll be easier for the SPD to agree on stuff with its two junior partners than for the Greens and the FDP to find common ground themselves. Bad news for the conservative CSU/CDU, which has governed Germany for 16 years under Chancellor Angela Merkel but is likely headed to the opposition after achieving its worst election result ever.

Read Now Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

Latest