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People gather for a vigil and hold white sheets of paper to protest COVID restrictions in Beijing, China.

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

What We're Watching: China losing on zero-COVID, "winning" in Taiwan

Chinese people vs. zero-COVID

Unprecedented protests against Xi Jinping and his controversial zero-COVID policy have hit the streets and college campuses across China. On Saturday, demonstrators in the financial hub of Shanghai, the country’s largest city, waved blank sheets of paper to show defiance and demanded the unthinkable: that the all-powerful Xi step down. Similar scenes were seen from Beijing to Nanjing.

Such widespread protests are extremely rare in tightly controlled China, especially against Xi. But zero-COVID, despite recent tweaks, has not only affected everyday life and the economy — it may also have been the cause of a recent fire that killed 10 people in Urumqi, the capital of the northwestern Xinjiang region. While the tragedy may have sparked the latest round of protests, for months snap lockdowns have been triggering clashes between residents and officials in other cities. China’s low vaccination rate, ineffective homegrown vaccines, and the high elderly population support Beijing’s insistence on zero-COVID. However, the policy isn’t working anymore, with case numbers now hitting record highs. Xi just got a third term as Communist Party boss, putting him on the path to likely rule as long as he wants. Will the recent protests — which so far have been met with strong police action — force him to rethink the policy, or double down on it?

On Monday, some big cities responded to the unrest by (slightly) relaxing COVID curbs. However, Beijing and Shanghai stepped up security in protest areas and national state media clarified that zero-COVID is here to stay.

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Annie Gugliotta

World leaders: Thanks for nothing!

This Thursday, many of our readers — particularly in the US — will celebrate Thanksgiving.

At worst, it’s a day to argue with your relatives about super-chill topics like climate change, racism, abortion, or cancel culture (here’s a useful guide for that.)

But at best, it’s an opportunity to take a moment, look around, and recognize the things you’re grateful for in this life.

And it’s not just you — our world leaders have much to be thankful for as well. Here, then, is a partial list of global gratitude:

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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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A newspaper front page reporting about Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit is pictured in Taipei.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

Symbolism matters — Taiwan's post-Pelosi politics

Now that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has left Taiwan, most of the attention will likely shift to how China responds, how the US responds to China's response, and how this all plays out in US domestic politics. But spare a thought for the self-governing democratic island of 23 million caught in the crossfire between Beijing and Washington.

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

As Pelosi tours Taiwan, China flexes its military muscle

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doubled down Wednesday on America’s support for Taiwan during her controversial visit to the self-governing island, to which China responded with the biggest show of military force since the last major US-China standoff over Taiwan 25 years ago.

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Taiwan's first female president has become a transformational leader for the self-governing island despite the growing threat from China. Here are a few things to know about Tsai Ing-wen, the woman in the world Beijing fears the most.

Gabriella Turrisi

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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Beijing rebuffs latest offer of talks from Taipei as a 'cheap trick'

January 03, 2021 5:00 AM

BEIJING • China has rebuffed the latest offer of talks from Taiwan, saying the government was engaging in a "cheap trick" and provocation, and noting that it has sought confrontation with Beijing at every turn.

Taiwan says faces daily threat as US notifies of new arms sale

December 08, 2020 10:36 AM

"Authoritarian forces consistently attempt to violate the existing norms-based order," President Tsai Ing-wen said.

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