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Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen

Reuters

President Tsai Ing-wen visits last African state that recognizes Taiwan's independence

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen is currently on a diplomatic visit to Eswatini, the country’s last remaining ally on the vast African continent. The southern African country is hardly a natural ally for democratic Taiwan: King Mswati III has ruled the landlocked country of 1.1 million with an iron fist since he assumed the throne in 1986 at age 18. It’s the region’s last absolute monarchy.

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Voter intention for Taiwan's presidential poll in 2024.

Ico Oliveira/GZERO Media

The Graphic Truth: Taiwan's surprising third-party challenger

Taiwan goes to the polls in January 2024 in what is likely the most consequential presidential election since the self-ruled island embraced democracy in 1996. As usual, the vote will be all about ... China.

Looking to replace term-limited President Tsai Ing-wen are VP William Lai, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, and Hou Yu-ih, a former top cop nominated by the opposition Kuomintang Party. The DPP and the KMT have always dominated Taiwanese politics, with the former taking a tougher line on relations with the mainland. But this time a third-party candidate wants to give them a run for their money.

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Russian reservists recruited during a partial mobilization of troops attend a ceremony before departing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict zone, in the Rostov region, Russia October 31, 2022.

REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What We're Watching: Russian draft goes online, abortion pill ruling, US inflation slows, Taiwan gets new presidential candidate, Biden bets big on EVs

Russia’s digital draft

If you’re a young male citizen of Russia, it just got harder for you to hide from the war in Ukraine. The State Duma, Russia’s parliament, approved legislation on Tuesday that allows the government to send a military summons online instead of serving the papers in person. The upper house swiftly passed it into law on Wednesday.

“The summons is considered received from the moment it is placed in the personal account of a person liable for military service,” explains the chairman of the Duma’s defense committee, though the Kremlin insists no large-scale draft is imminent. If the person summoned fails to report for service within 20 days of the date listed on the summons, the state can suspend his driver’s license, deny him the right to travel abroad, and make it impossible for him to get a loan.

The database that provides names of potential draftees is assembled from medical, educational, and residential records, as well as insurance and tax data. Thousands of young Russians have already fled their country. Many more may soon try to join them.

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Handout photo dated January 26, 2023 shows Air Force 33rd Search and Rescue Squadron preparing to land aboard an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) in the Philippine Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class RuKiyah Mack via Abaca Press via Reuters Connect

After China pretends to invade Taiwan, US & Philippines rehearse war against ... China

The US and the Philippines have held annual Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) joint military drills since 1991. But this year's exercise is a bigger deal than usual.

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US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: Tsai in California, Lukashenko in Moscow, no Easter in Nicaragua

After US speaker meets Taiwan's prez, all eyes on China

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday met Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in California, the last stop of her trip to the Americas. McCarthy is the most senior US official to meet a Taiwanese leader on American soil since 1979, when Washington officially recognized Beijing – rather than Taipei – as “China.”

The meeting was a bold move by the Taiwanese leader, given that China considers Taiwan part of its territory and is triggered by even the slightest hint of Americans normalizing ties with Taipei. And it definitely won’t help improve the US-China relationship. But so far, Beijing’s response has been more meow than growl.

Ahead of the tête-à-tête in California, China sent fighter jets and naval vessels near the Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. Beijing followed that up by dispatching an aircraft carries and announcing spot inspections of Taiwanese ships.

Still, it wasn’t quite the massive show of force put on by China right after Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last August. Blame bad timing: Xi Jinping likely doesn’t want to freak out French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who Xi is hosting this week at a very awkward time for China-EU relations.

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Finland joins NATO in face off against Russia
Finland joins NATO, bolstering Russia's strategic foes | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Finland joins NATO in face off against Russia

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

With Finland officially joining NATO, what does it mean for Russia?

Well, this is exactly what Putin did not want to have happen, right? Ostensibly, the reason for his invasion into Ukraine was because Ukraine was moving towards NATO and that was unacceptable. Of course, now you've got 800 additional miles of border with very well-defended Finland, part of NATO as of today, facing off against Russia. This is just one of many examples, but a very important, not just symbolic, one of how Putin made a very serious misjudgment in the way the West would respond to that invasion.

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Paige Fusco

Viewpoint: As an angry China looms, Taiwan’s president seeks support in the Americas

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will travel to the US, Guatemala, and Belize from March 29 to April 7 against a backdrop of deepening tensions with China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. In the US, Tsai is expected to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and in Guatemala and Belize she aims to shore up relations with two of the last 13 countries in the world that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. We asked experts at Eurasia Group to explain the motivations behind Tsai’s visit.

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French President Emmanuel Macron.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: A big day for Macron, Taiwan’s friend list, Russia droning on

A tense France waits

It’s a big day for French President Emmanuel Macron. After months of protests, strikes, and piling up trash, the National Assembly is set to decide on whether – and how – to vote on the president’s very unpopular pension reform plan, which would raise the national retirement age by two years to 64. (For a reminder of what’s at stake with this reform, why Macron says it is necessary, and why two-thirds of French despise it, see our explainer here.)

With only a slim majority in the lower house, Macron’s bloc needs support from at least some center-right lawmakers from Les Republicains to see this through, but it is still unclear if he’ll have the numbers, particularly since some of his own coalition members say they won't back the bill.

Macron now faces a very tough choice: call for a vote and risk losing the fight over his biggest domestic priority, which would see him turned into a lame duck president for the remainder of his five-year term. Or trigger a constitutional loophole that would rush the bill through without a vote but risk setting the streets on fire. If he chooses the latter, unions warn, his government will pay a hefty price...

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