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What We're Watching: Deadly clashes in Pakistan, Xi Jinping's calendar app, Parisian courts vs Macron

Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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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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Why John Kerry’s trip to China matters for all of us

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Will the US and other Western countries really boycott the Beijing Olympics?

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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So, are we in a new Cold War or not?

Top diplomats from the US and China will sit down on Thursday for their first face-to-face since Joe Biden took office as US president. Amid deepening tensions over trade, human rights, and technology, the encounter is certain to be a frosty one — and not only because it's in Alaska. Each side will size up the other, make clear its positions, and leave, perhaps without even so much as a closing joint statement.

You'll probably hear and see lots in the next few days about whether the US and China are slipping into a new "Cold War." Well, are they?

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Bill Maher is wrong on China

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, I've got your Quick Take to start off the week. And today I thought I would address the question, has China won? My friend Bill Maher made news in his always fun and entertaining and quite enjoyable show with a serious rant this past Friday, saying that "we're not a serious people in the United States, we can't do anything, we can't build anything, while China builds their economy and takes over the world. We lost. We just don't know it yet." Here, take a look.

Bill Maher: In two generations, China has built 500 entire cities from scratch. Moved the majority of their huge population from poverty to the middle class, and mostly cornered the market in 5G and pharmaceuticals. It's got to be something between authoritarian government that tells everyone what to do, and a representative government that can't do anything at all.

Now I got to say this, lots of good stuff in there and it's worth a watch, but I don't agree. And yes, I will say so next time I'm on the show.

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What We’re Watching: Italy invests in women, Libya’s unity government, Quad vs China

Closing Italy's gender gap: Mario Draghi, Italy's new prime minister, says that increasing female employment will be a priority as Rome spends the nearly $250 billion in COVID relief funds from Brussels. Barely over 50 percent of Italian women are employed, a rate that lags the EU average by nearly 20 points, and female representation at the highest levels of government has traditionally been weak. Early in the pandemic the government came under fire for forming an all-male coronavirus task force, despite the fact that women make up a majority of healthcare professionals, and women currently hold only 8 out of 23 positions in Draghi's own cabinet. Over the past decade, new laws have pushed large Italian corporations to make major strides in female representation on their boards, but small businesses have lagged — as has the government, where even in professions where women prevail, they rarely reach the top ranks, according to the FT (paywall). As 2021 brings us closer to the end of a pandemic in which women have disproportionately suffered the economic and social fallout, will gender inequality figures be the focus of other countries' rebuilding plans too?

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What We're Watching: Status of COVID in the US, China wants a reset, Indian vax-makers under pressure

Making sense of 500,000 COVID deaths in America: The US was on track to pass another grim milestone Monday, as it nears half a million deaths from COVID-19, the highest total death toll in the world. (To put that in bleak perspective: carrying 500,000 people would require a caravan of buses that would stretch 94.7 miles, the Washington Post finds.) Still, while the grief is being felt across the entire country (President Biden and VP Harris planned a moment of silence to mark the milestone), there's also some good news on the horizon: cases across the US are at their lowest level since the fall, while hospitalization rates are also plummeting (there's been a 50 percent decline in just over a month). The US vaccine rollout has also picked up steam, though recent volatile weather disrupted the rollout in many parts of the country. While some analysts say that the worst of the pandemic has now passed in the US — with some even suggesting herd immunity could come by April — others urge caution, saying that complacency could usher in a dreaded fourth wave.

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