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What We’re Watching: US Olympic boycott threat, Myanmar junta delays vote, US resumes aid to Palestinians

Will the US skip the 2022 Olympics? The Biden administration and its allies are reportedly discussing the possibility of a coordinated boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Although the State Department almost immediately tried to walk back its own previous statement, the move would be an act of protest over allegations of China's vast human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. Skipping the games is a big deal, symbolically at least. The last time the US did so was in 1980, when America boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan a year before. But practically speaking, do boycotts have a real effect on anyone besides the athletes who miss a shot at gold? That's a thornier question. Regardless, there are many ways to define "boycott" — the US could — and likely would — do as little as simply keeping its top diplomats from attending. China, for its part, has threatened a "robust response" to any efforts to snub the Beijing games.

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With its interests in flames, what will China do in Myanmar?

Over the weekend, protesters demanding the return of democracy in Myanmar burned down and looted Chinese-owned businesses in Yangon, the country's main city. China's embassy then asked the junta to restore order. In a few hours, the generals obliged: soldiers killed scores of demonstrators, and martial law was declared.

The anti-China riots add a fresh international dimension to Myanmar's political crisis. The protesters are angry not only at the military rulers, but increasingly at China's thinly veiled support for the junta. This backlash is a big test for Beijing. As a rising global power and regional heavyweight, is China going to simply look the other way as its interests in Myanmar literally go up in flames?

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A game of chicken in Myanmar

Defying a threat by the ruling generals to use lethal force to disperse them, anti-coup protesters again turned up across Myanmar on Monday to demand a return to democracy. The country's political crisis remains in flux since the military siezed power three weeks ago: a nationwide strike has ground the economy to a halt, while hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested, and at least four have been shot dead. But — to the surprise of many observers — the junta has yet to crack down as hard as it did against unruly students in 1988 and rebellious Buddhist monks in 2007.

It's a chicken-and-egg scenario: as the military shows more (unprecedented) restraint, its opponents feel emboldened to flock to the streets. Why is this happening, and what does it mean? Part of the answer lies in how Myanmar itself has changed over the past decade.

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What We're Watching: Myanmar protests test the generals, Haiti's political chaos, Netanyahu in the dock

Myanmar protests test junta's patience: It didn't take long for the Myanmar military junta to get an earful from the streets. Since staging a coup last week, in which they detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, they have been met with a growing protest movement in the capital, Naypyidaw, and other cities across the country. Flying the flag of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party and carrying images of Lord Buddha, the protesters say they are demanding an end to "dictatorship." The generals, for their part, have so far showed restraint, deploying water cannons against the protesters this time, rather than shooting them dead, as they ended up doing in 1988 and again in 2007. But the military has warned ominously that it won't tolerate actions that undermine "state stability, public safety, and the rule of law." With the world watching, will the generals change tack and crush the protests after all — in the end, who's to stop them?

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Myanmar generals turn back the clock

After weeks of saber-rattling, Myanmar's military took power on Monday. Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire leadership of her incumbent National League for Democracy party are now under arrest. The coup ends a five-year democratic experiment in a country where generals are used to calling the shots.

How did we get here, why was democracy so short-lived, and what happens next?

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