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Supporters of opposition party KMT wearing t-shirts with the Taiwan flag at an election rally in Taoyuan.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

What We’re Watching: Taiwanese election, Trump's taxes, South African protests, ugly economic forecast

As Taiwan votes, China watches

Taiwanese go to the polls Saturday to vote in the first election since early 2020, when President Tsai Ing-wen won a second term in office right before COVID erupted. This time it’s only a local election, but as with anything political in Taiwan, China is paying close attention. Beijing is bullish on the pro-China KMT party, which is leading the polls in several key races. (Fun fact: the KMT mayoral candidate for the capital, Taipei, is the great-grandson of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the founder of modern Taiwan.) A good overall result for the KMT would mean two things. First, it would buck historical trends — and China's declining popularity among Taiwanese — if voters sour on the ruling anti-China DPP party just months after China responded with its biggest-ever show of military force to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island. Second, it raises the stakes for the DPP ahead of the presidential election in 2024, when the popular but term-limited Tsai needs a strong candidate for the party to stay in power. Alternatively, if polls are wrong and the DPP does well, expect fire and fury from across the Taiwan Strait.

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GZERO Media

What We're Watching: G7 summit, SCOTUS gun-rights ruling, Ramaphosa's bad optics

G7 meets as global fault lines deepen

Leaders of the world’s leading industrialized democracies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US — will gather in Bavaria this weekend to discuss ways to shore up support for Ukraine without slipping into a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. China’s “coercive economic practices” will also be on the agenda, according to US officials. With global geopolitical fault lines opening up as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, one key G7 guest to watch is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will attend just two days after taking part in a pivotal summit of the BRICS, where B(razil), I(India), C(hina) and S(outh Africa) all looked for ways to deepen ties with R(ussia.)

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Annie Gugliotta

BRICS vs. the West

Before the heads of the world's most "advanced" economies meet this weekend in Germany for the annual G7 summit, the leaders of the top five "emerging" ones — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, aka BRICS — are holding their own (virtual) summit in Beijing on Thursday.

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South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa.

REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Viewpoint: Is it a make-or-break year for South Africa’s president?

Eurasia Group's Africa Director Shridaran Pillay looks at the year ahead for President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is struggling to resolve numerous deep-rooted problems in South Africa: high unemployment, low economic growth, rolling electricity blackouts, and the wage demands of public-sector unions that continually threaten to derail public finances. But to effectively deal with these challenges, he first must shore up his own political position.

At the ruling African National Congress’s elective conference in December, Ramaphosa will try to obtain a new term as party president and place close allies in other important positions. That would allow him to unify a divided party, press ahead with needed economic reforms, and continue with an anti-corruption campaign aimed at reforming the ANC's image ahead of the 2024 election and sidelining opponents to his agenda.

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A man walks past Sinn Fein election posters along the nationalist Falls Road in Belfast.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

What We're Watching: Elections in Northern Ireland, South African president in trouble

Northern Ireland’s choice

On Thursday, voters across the UK head to the polls for local elections, but it’s the contest in Northern Ireland that might make history. Sinn Féin is expected to finish with the most seats in Northern Ireland’s assembly. Its victory would be more symbolic than immediately substantive, since power in the assembly must be shared between the two lead parties, and Sinn Féin has focused its campaign on today’s economic hardship, not on a century of Irish partition. But the symbolism matters. A Sinn Féin win would mark the first time in Northern Ireland’s 101-year history that the UK province is led by a party that supports reunification with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. It would make Sinn Féin the most popular party on both sides of the Irish border. And it would prove deeply embarrassing for UK PM Boris Johnson, who is fighting for his scandal-plagued political life at the moment and considering another battle with the European Union over Northern Ireland’s place in the EU’s single market.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Brendan Smialowski/REUTERS

Hard Numbers: Blinken leads migration summit, Rohingya tragedy in Malaysia, East Timor votes, South African leftists join Eswatini protests

20: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with representatives from 20 countries in Panama this week to try and form an agreement on mass migration in Latin America. Immigration is proving a headache for Biden ahead of midterm elections: Last month, US border officials apprehended more than 200,000 people at the Mexican border, the biggest monthly influx in over two decades.
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Russian troops arrive in Belarus for a joint response force exercise.

Russian Defence Ministry/TASS

What We’re Watching: Russia-Belarus drills, US inflation, Quad meeting, Libyan PM defiant, South African speech

War games in Belarus. On Thursday, more than 30,000 Russian troops, supported by surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets, begin 10 days of active military drills in Belarus. NATO says it’s the Kremlin’s biggest deployment there since the end of the Cold War, and it comes amid Putin’s military buildup on Ukraine’s doorstep. Western capitals worry the drills could be a smokescreen for action against Kyiv, though it’s unlikely Putin would bust a move that steals the spotlight from his pal Xi Jinping during the Winter Olympics. Still, with US troops deploying to the region and Russian warships steaming into the Black Sea, there’s a lot of firepower and room for error at a time when trust between Russia and the West is badly frayed. Any miscalculation could quickly spin out of control.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping stands next to Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez during their meeting in Beijing

Argentine Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

Argentina joins BRI, Azerbaijan releases prisoners, Australia set to reopen

23 billion: President Alberto Fernández has signed Argentina up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, hoping to secure $23 billion in investments from Beijing. Buenos Aires likely hopes this will offer more breathing room after years of its painstaking negotiations with the IMF aimed at refinancing outstanding debt.

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