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What We’re Watching: Xinjiang at the Beijing Olympics, Boris in deep(er) trouble, Indonesia’s new capital

Selling Xinjiang. Xi Jinping — a man well known for both his grand vision of China’s future, and for his willingness to get large numbers of people to do things they might not otherwise do — said in 2018 that he wanted 300 million Chinese people to participate in winter sports. The Chinese government announced this week that this goal has been met in honor of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open in China’s capital on February 4. Multinational companies are consistently impressed by the commercial opportunities created when 300 million people decide to try new things. But it’s an inconvenient truth that most of China’s most abundant snow and best ski slopes are found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a place where Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Beijing of imprisoning more than one million minority Uyghurs in re-education camps. In these prisons, critics say inmates have experienced “torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.” As China’s government opens new profit opportunities in Xinjiang, multinational corporations will face pressure from multiple directions not to invest there.

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Boris Johnson's days are numbered as UK PM; Blinken, Biden, Putin & Ukraine

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week, discussing Boris Johnson's tenuous status as UK PM, US Secretary of State Blinken's visit to Ukraine, and the volcano eruption in Tonga:

Will Boris Johnson resign?

It certainly looks that way. He's hanging on by his fingernails. He's losing members of Parliament. He's giving shambolic media interviews. In fact, I think the only people that don't want him to resign at this point is the Labour Party leadership, because they think the longer he holds on, the better it is for the UK opposition. But no, he certainly looks like he's going. The only question is how quickly. Is it within a matter of weeks or is it after local elections in May? But feel pretty confident that the days of Boris Johnson are numbered.

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No progress after US/NATO-Russia talks, Boris Johnson in trouble

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

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The Graphic Truth: Boris on the ropes

Boris Johnson is a political animal. He's also famous for being impervious to scandal, often emerging from a new controversy stronger than before. But recently the British PM has been caught in so many political scandals that most Brits — and his own Conservative Party — have now turned their back on him, perhaps for good. We take a look at Johnson's approval ratings over the past year, highlighting a few of the dramas that have eroded his popularity.

What We’re Watching: BYOB Boris, Kim Jong Un’s new toys, China will lend less to Africa

“Bring your own booze.” It’s an old story: the damaging reveal that the political elite holds the public to a different standard than it holds its own leaders to. News emerged on Tuesday — courtesy of Dominic Cummings, the UK prime minister’s former political adviser turned bitter political foe — that Boris Johnson’s private secretary had invited more than 100 people to a "bring your own booze" party at the PM’s official residence… in the middle of a coronavirus lockdown in May 2020. Johnson and his wife have not denied they were there. To be clear, this is not the same party that his staff was caught on video laughing about during another lockdown over Christmas in 2020. Is the political ineptitude even more damaging than the hypocrisy? Either way, Johnson’s government is now in real trouble. The PM faces a parliamentary grilling on Wednesday, and may not survive a leadership challenge from within his Conservative Party later this year. At a time of bitterness over his handling of COVID and consumer pain from rising prices, this was not the story Britain’s prime minister needed.

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What We’re Watching: Biden's omicron woes, a Tigrayan withdrawal, UK's new Brexit chief

What’s Biden omicron plan? The omicron variant has set up shop in the US, and COVID cases nationwide have risen 20 percent in the past two weeks. New York City is a hotspot with more than 20,000 new cases per day. President Biden will address the nation on Tuesday to detail the steps his administration will take to try to curb the spiraling outbreak. It’s already clear that he plans to double down on a messaging strategy centered on vaccines and boosters – having recently released a strongly worded warning that the unvaccinated should prepare for a “winter of severe illness and death.” But will Biden address — and rectify — more immediate challenges like testing capacity, which is buckling under the pressure of a surging caseload? What guidance will he give Americans about holiday travel just four days before Christmas? Biden promised to bring an end to the pandemic and get the US back to normal. With public confidence in his competency at a record low, public perception of his ability to manage this latest outbreak could make or break the Democratic Party’s electoral prospects in 2022 and beyond.

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What We’re Watching: Robocop calls Tunisian referendum, Boris on the ropes, gloomy Iran nuclear talks

Tunisian constitutional referendum. Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has called a constitutional referendum for July 25, 2022 — the one-year anniversary of when he seized almost all executive power in the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring. Saied says his intervention was necessary to put an end to political corruption and economic stagnation, while critics say it was a coup. The president — a former constitutional law professor known as "Robocop" for his monotone speech delivery — will appoint a committee of experts to draft a new charter ahead of the plebiscite, and then hold legislative elections by the end of next year, but parliament will remain suspended until then. Saied knows he needs to make democratic reforms in order to gain access to badly-needed international credit. Tunisia's ailing economy faces a perfect storm of sluggish growth, a huge budget deficit, a pile of IMF debt, and rising inflation. Although his takeover was welcomed by many Tunisians tired of corruption and mismanagement, things could get very dicey for Robocop if he’s not able to fix the economy soon.

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What We're Watching: Johnson's big mouth, US withdrawing from Afghanistan, back from the brink in Somalia

Boris Johnson's big mouth: Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversy over crazy things that he's said — his perilously off-the-cuff style is part of his political brand. But the British PM is currently under fire over reports that he told advisers last fall he was prepared to "let the bodies pile high in their thousands" rather than impose another lockdown in the UK. Johnson denies it, but the BBC journos who reported the story are standing by it. The flap comes right as Johnson is also being accused — by his estranged former chief advisor Dominic Cummings — of having used campaign donations to refurnish his Downing Street residence. The clash between Johnson and Cummings, who is still influential among Johnson's own Tories, centers on Cummings' accusation that the PM's handling of the pandemic was incompetent. A swift vaccine rollout has helped the polarizing Johnson claw his way back to 51 percent approval rating in recent weeks — whether these latest antics and scandals will hurt his support remains to be seen.

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