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Biden's vaccine diplomacy and US global leadership; US-China bill gets bipartisan support

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

What's the significance of the US-China bill, competition bill that passed the Senate earlier this week?

Well, the bill is a major investment in American technology, research and development, semiconductor manufacturing, and it's designed to push back on the China Made in 2025 push that lawmakers have become increasingly worried about in recent years. The opinion in Washington has shifted from seeing China as a strategic competitor to a strategic rival. And you're seeing what's now likely to be one of the only bipartisan bills in Congress now pushing back on that. Significant money for semiconductors in this bill, even though some of it was set aside for automotive purposes. That money's not going to come online fast enough to really make a difference to the current global semiconductor shortage, but it will help build up US long-term spending capacity and manufacturing capacity in semiconductors.

Other aspects of the bill, banned the application TikTok from going on government devices out of security concerns, created new sanctions authorities around Xinjiang and Hong Kong for human rights abuses, and mandated a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, which is probably going to happen anyway once the Biden administration is able to align with its allies. Let the athletes play. Don't let any high level delegations go. This is probably the only bipartisan bill to happen this year, yet still, half of Senate Republicans voted against it because they were opposed to the kind of industrial policy they think this represents, but it does show the area where there's bipartisan agreement in a city that's very, very divided right now. China is the bad guy and Congress is moving in that direction.

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Biden-Putin summit: US wants predictability; G7's strong COVID response

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

What topics will be in focus at the G7 summit?

Well, most importantly is the collective response to coronavirus. 1 billion vaccines, repurposed, and tens of billions of dollars in financing from the G7 to lower income economies around the world. It is by far the most significant show of leadership displayed since the pandemic started and it's coming from the United States and its allies. That is meaningful, especially given the direction that the world has been heading, this G-Zero world over the course of the past decades. It's nice to see. Lots of other issues being discussed. It's only 60 seconds. I can't go that far.

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What We’re Watching: China’s vaccination blitz, Nicaraguan opposition crackdown, Dems/GOP vs China

China goes big on vaccination: China is now vaccinating about 20 million people a day against COVID, accounting for more than half of the world's daily shots. Following a sluggish initial rollout, Chinese vaccine makers have scaled up production in recent months. That's good news for the world, particularly for developing countries that rely on vaccines distributed through the COVAX global facility, which now includes China's WHO-approved Sinopharm and Sinovac jabs. It's also good news for China's government, which for months has struggled to make its production capacity match its ambitious vaccine diplomacy program (though it has already supplied a whopping 350 million doses to more than 75 countries). And finally, it's good news for the Chinese people, who can travel without restrictions, both inside and outside China, once they're vaccinated. It's not good news for India, which earlier this year had a window of opportunity to compete with the Chinese on doling out jabs to low-income countries but then had to suspend exports in order to address its own COVID crisis.

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What We’re Watching: US vaccine patent U-turn, right wins big in Madrid, Biden weighs in on Russia-Ukraine

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

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America’s “narcissism pandemic”: Tom Nichols, author of "Our Own Worst Enemy"

Is America's real problem a "narcissism pandemic"? According to Tom Nichols, an Atlantic contributor and author of "Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within On Modern Democracy,," the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the degree to which Americans expect things to come easily to them. "There is a real selfishness and self-absorption and narcissism that has come with living in a country that is peaceful, prosperous, affluent, super high standards of living—technological innovations that we now just take for granted that things just work." Ian Bremmer asks Nichols to suggest some solutions to the problem in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

The urgent need for doses—not dollars—in the global vaccination race

600 million people worldwide have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but about 75% of those doses were given in only ten countries. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, explains why the pandemic will not effectively end even in the world's richest nations until it is curtailed in its poorest. "A new variant that is less susceptible to the immunity that's brought about by vaccines or that's more transmissible or makes people more ill could easily then spread, in fact, to people in parts of the world where there have been large numbers of people vaccinated and where they think that they are then immune." Dr. Swaminathan discusses the urgent need to distribute vaccines worldwide in an interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

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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Can India vaccinate everyone it wants to?

As the global vaccination race heats up, the most populous country in the world is trying to do three very hard things at once.

India, grappling with the second highest confirmed COVID caseload in the world, recently embarked on what it called "the world's largest" coronavirus vaccination campaign, seeking to inoculate a sizable swath of its 1.4 billion people.

That alone would be a herculean challenge, but India is also making hundreds of millions of jabs as part of the global COVAX initiative to inoculate low-income countries. And as if those two things weren't enough, Delhi also wants to win hearts and minds by doling out millions more shots directly to other countries in its neighborhood.

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