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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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The geopolitics of the chips that make your tech work

Why may a drought in Taiwan perhaps screw up your next computer purchase?

For one thing, the island is one of the world's top producers of semiconductors, which bind the electrical circuits in the tech we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer chips. For another, Taiwan is now suffering its worst climate change-related dry spell in almost 70 years. This is a problem because Taiwanese chip factories consume huge amounts of water.

The wider issue, though, is a pandemic-fueled worldwide chip shortage that began way before it stopped raining in Taiwan, has wreaked havoc on entire sectors like the US auto industry, and is shaking up the increasingly contentious geopolitics of global supply chains.

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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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J&J vaccine review will cause hesitancy; Blinken warns China on Taiwan

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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What We’re Watching: China targets Taiwan, Palestinian election heats up, Russia-Ukraine border tensions

Chinese jets swarm Taiwan: This week, multiple Chinese warplanes penetrated Taiwan's airspace. While Beijing does this quite often to flex its muscles, this time the jets took a different route, and one even got close to the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located less than 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Taiwan. The maneuvers have been interpreted by experts as a direct warning from the Chinese to Japan not to overplay its hand. (It's worth noting that Tokyo could get dragged into a US conflict with China over Taiwan because, like Taiwan, it has a mutual defense treaty with the US.) More broadly, the flight patterns also indicate that China could surround Taiwan on three sides in an eventual invasion, cutting off the territory from US and Japanese military support. All this comes as the Biden administration has expressed serious concern (paywall) that Beijing is indeed planning to invade Taiwan in the very near term. With US-China relations getting hot, more rumblings over an invasion of Taiwan will surely turn the temperature even higher.

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Women in power — Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen

There is perhaps no woman in the world whom China fears more than Tsai Ing-en, president of Taiwan. When Tsai, an outspoken advocate of Taiwanese independence, campaigned for the presidency in 2016, Chinese state media questioned whether a woman could lead the self-governing island. She won, becoming Taiwan's first female leader.

Four years later, Beijing raised doubts about her not only because she is a woman, but because she is unmarried and has no children. She won again, this time in a landslide widely seen as a major blow to Beijing.

Today she is one of the region's most transformational leaders — pushing Taiwan to punch above its weight in global affairs, turning it into a beacon for gender equality in Asia, and overseeing one of the most effective responses to the pandemic. All of this, of course, while dealing with the growing threat that China, under Xi Jinping, will make good on its long-standing pledge to reunify Taiwan with the mainland — by force if necessary.

Here are a few aspects of Tsai's policies and approach that you should know.

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What We're Watching: Netherlands election, US election meddling, Taiwan's vaccine diplomacy effort

Netherlands votes: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is slated to win a fourth term in office as polls show his People's Party for Freedom and Democracy on track to win a clear victory. While Rutte has been caught up in a political maelstrom in recent months — his government was forced to resign in January amid a scandal over childcare benefits, while the Netherlands has also been rocked by sometimes violent anti-lockdown protests — polls showed that he was set to win around 36-40 seats (76 are needed for a majority), an even bigger win than he saw in 2017. But forming a coalition could be trickier. Rutte says he will not work with Geert Wilders and his anti-Islam and anti-immigrant Freedom party, the second largest force in parliament. As a result, Rutte will likely need to join forces with three other parties — drawing from the Christian Democrats (left wing), D66 (progressive liberal), Labour, Green Left and the Socialist party — to form a government, a process that could take many weeks given the ideological diversity of the political blocs.

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What We’re Watching: US pokes China on Taiwan, Yemeni rebels blacklisted, new Kyrgyz president

Embracing Taiwan and provoking China: Over the weekend, the Trump administration eased long-standing restrictions on US diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In essence, just as President Trump is preparing to exit the White House, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has lobbed a diplomatic Molotov cocktail toward Beijing and doubled down on the outgoing president's challenge to US orthodoxy on cross-Strait relations. In 1979, the US cut ties with Taiwan to open a new era in relations with China. Though Washington has continued to support Taiwan's security against possible Chinese attack, including by selling Taipei sophisticated weapons, Pompeo's directive goes much further in establishing new US-Taiwan ties — diplomatic and military — than any US administration in four decades. Although this isn't a complete break with the "One China Policy" and the US-Taiwan relationship remains "unofficial," we're watching now to see how the Chinese government will respond. It has good reason to wait to see what the incoming US president will say and do. That leaves Joe Biden with interesting problems, and Beijing wondering whether a future Republican president will push even harder on this hottest of hot-button issues.

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