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What We're Watching: Latin America's vaccine shortage, Juneteenth a new national holiday, China cracks down on HK free press

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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What We're Watching: Russia backs Belarus, Biden warns Ethiopian PM, Hong Kong approves Beijing's overhaul

Russia wades into EU-Belarus row: Now that the European Union and Belarus are at loggerheads over the brazen hijacking of an EU flight to arrest a dissident journalist, Vladimir Putin wants a piece of the action. In response to Brussels encouraging EU airplanes to avoid Belarusian skies, Russia says it will block those airlines from Russian airspace. It's unclear whether Putin is doing this to support his frenemy, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, or to sow division within the bloc after it approved unusually swift, albeit limited, sanctions against Belarus. Putin may be guessing that Brussels won't go much further because the EU is dependent on Russian oil and gas that transits through pipelines in Belarus. Either way, Putin's move will likely put more pressure on the EU to decide whether it doubles down on tougher sanctions against Lukashenko, or backs off a bit. And it demonstrates that Russia's leader, channeling his inner Rahm Emanuel, never lets a good crisis go to waste.

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Would China really invade Taiwan?

The cover story of The Economist declares that Taiwan is "The most dangerous place on Earth," because China might finally be ready to plan an invasion of the island. But are the consequences of such a move worth the many risks to China and its President Xi Jinping? Ian Bremmer breaks out the Red Pen to to explain why a US-China war over Taiwan is unlikely.

We are taking our red pen to a recent article from The Economist. The Economist, you ask, how could I? I love The Economist, I know, I know. But you'd lose respect if I give this piece a pass. In fact, it was the magazine's cover story this week, so I had no choice. The image and headline say it all. Here it is, Taiwan is now "the most dangerous place on earth" as US/China relations continue to sour in the opening months of President Biden's administration.

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A gentler US approach to China wouldn't fix their relationship

Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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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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