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What We’re Watching: Military pushback against Bolsonaro, new HK “election” rules, Catalan separatists bicker

Bolsonaro reshuffles, brass revolts: For the first time in Brazil's history, the heads of the army, air force, and navy all resigned at once on Tuesday. The move came in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's decision a day earlier to force the resignation of his defense minister, along with half a dozen other top officials, in a bid to reassert his leadership amid a chorus of criticism over his disastrous handling of the pandemic and soaring COVID deaths. Bolsonaro, a former army captain himself, is famously nostalgic for Brazil's dictatorship, and his armed forces chiefs reportedly took exception to the president's attempts to establish excessive personal influence over the military himself. Bolsonaro is now facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, with his approval rating plummeting and threats of impeachment circulating anew. Meanwhile, the pandemic — which he has repeatedly downplayed in terms ranging from merely smug to dangerously incompetent — is claiming more lives in Brazil daily than anywhere else in the world.

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China overhauls Hong Kong elections; Brazil & Turkey under pressure

Ian Bremmer discusses Hong Kong's election changes, Bolsonaro's latest cabinet reshuffle, and Turkey's economic problems on World In 60 Seconds.

China has overhauled elections in Hong Kong. Now what?

Well, now nobody that would be in the democratic opposition would really want to run for election in Hong Kong because it's just a titular body that serves mainland China. There is no more one state, two systems policy in Hong Kong. The UK, the United States are angry about it. We've put some sanctions on individual leaders, but that's about it. And China increasingly integrates the small Hong Kong economy into the mainland, and it's considered a domestic sovereign issue. Sorry, it kind of sucks if you're from Hong Kong, and there's not much work we can or are going to do about it.

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What We're Watching: Biden's immigration dilemma, "illiberals" sue EU, China tramples on HK democracy, Lego sales soar

Immigrants flock to the US-Mexico border: President Biden has already undone many of the Trump administration's harsh immigration programs, saying that he is ushering in more "humane" policies. Since then, an influx of migrants mainly from Central America has flocked to the US-Mexico border in the hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. The number of children and families reaching the border increased by more than 100 percent between January and February 2021, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Importantly, the number of children arriving on their own has also surged 60 percent in that time, presenting a particular challenge for the US president, who campaigned heavily against Trump's policy of detaining unaccompanied minors. The Biden administration says that the recent surge is linked to a renewed sense of "hope" after Trump's hardline immigration stance, but this development puts Biden in a massive bind: he wants to stay true to his image as a humane and compassionate leader, while also not opening the floodgates on immigration — still a hot button issue in the United States. Indeed, this problem is only going to get worse in the months ahead.

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US-China relations can be improved under Biden, but geopolitical rivalry & human rights can't be ignored

In their latest op-ed for Project Syndicate, Javier Solana and Eugenio Bregolat stress the importance of the US and China not becoming staunch enemies - but the piece also avoids some uncomfortable truths about the US-China competition. Ian Bremmer, along with Eurasia Group analysts Michael Hirson and Jeffrey Wright, grabbed The Red Pen to clarify a few points re the US-China relationship.

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Xi Jinping's WEF speech on China's global leadership falls flat; Italy PM resigns over stimulus

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Quick Take: Biden's challenge and Navalny's courage

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and it is the last full day of the Trump administration. Extraordinary four years, unprecedented in so many ways. I guess the most important feature for me is how much more divided the United States is, the world is, as coming out of the Trump administration than it was coming in. Not new. We were in a GZERO world, as I called it well before Trump was elected president. The social contract was seen as fundamentally problematic. Many Americans believed their system was rigged, didn't want to play the kind of international leadership role that the United States had heretofore, but all of those things accelerated under Trump.

So perhaps the most important question to be answered is, once Trump is gone, how much of that persists? It is certainly true that a President Biden is much more oriented towards trying to bring the United States back into existing multilateral architecture, whether that be the Paris Climate Accord, or more normalized immigration discussions with the Mexicans, the World Health Organization, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, some of which will be easy to do, like Paris, some of which will be very challenging, like Iran. But nonetheless, all sounds like business as usual.

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The world believes the US can do better but its ability to lead diminishes

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Sum up the world's response to the US Capitol riots.

I'd say two things. The leaders I've spoken to around the world in the last few days, the first is disappointment, shock that something like this could happen in the United States. I mean, on the one hand, really depressing. On the other, a lot of people that really do expect and believe that the United States can do better. And I think that's still the case. I think there is still a lot of belief that the United States is better than what is being reflected in the international news right now, from the activities that are happening in Washington and perhaps across the country over the coming days. The second is people want to know what's going to happen as a consequence. And when I say what's going to happen, I mean, first and foremost, what are the consequences of the behavior that's been taken of President Trump, of all of these members of House and Senate that have been putting forth this disinformation and calling for this insurrection? And on that front, I don't have anything very good to say. I mean, there is no question in my mind that tomorrow Trump will be impeached for a second time. It will be largely a party line vote. People are getting excited because maybe 10 or 20 Republicans will vote their conscience and vote in favor of impeachment. The vast majority of sitting Republicans will vote against, which is an extraordinary thing and sends a very strong message to other countries around the world that impeachment is no longer a part of rule of law in the United States, which of course really diminishes the balance of powers in the US and allows the executive, if the executive controls the legislature, to get away with basically whatever they want.

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What We’re Watching: Hong Kong crackdown, Maduro tightens grip in Venezuela, WHO out of Wuhan

China cracks down (again) on Hong Kong democracy: In the largest crackdown since China introduced its Hong Kong security law six months ago, police arrested 53 members of the city's pro-democracy movement. The detainees — who had helped organize an unofficial primary vote for opposition candidates ahead of elections later this year — are accused of trying to overthrow the city's pro-Beijing government. One of those jailed is a US lawyer and American citizen. In the same operation, police also raided the home of Joshua Wong, a prominent activist who is already serving a one-year prison term for standing up to China's takeover of Hong Kong. China says the activists are backed by foreigners who want to use Hong Kong as a base to undermine China's stability and security, while the opposition argues that China is just using the new law to silence legitimate dissent. Now, with most pro-democracy figures behind bars or in exile, the mass street protests that prompted the passage of the security law are unlikely to return, and the future of democracy in the city is bleak.

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