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Customers shop at a supermarket in Qingzhou, Shandong province, China.

CFOTO/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

China waiting for Mr. Stimulus

Chinese economic growth slowed down in May, with both industrial output and retail sales coming in below expectations. Does this mean the end of the economic rebound that China has enjoyed since ditching its draconian zero-COVID restrictions? Not so fast.

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Visitors attend a night market in Shanghai, China


Hard Numbers: China’s post-zero bump, diamonds for Hezbollah, Gershkovich bail bust, seafloor surprise

4.5: China’s economy grew at a 4.5% annual clip in the first quarter this year as the world’s second-largest economy dropped its “zero-Covid” restrictions and roared back to life. This beat analyst expectations but still fell short of President Xi Jinping’s 5% growth target for 2023. That rustling sound you hear is millions of Chinese bureaucrats and businesses scrambling to figure out how to close that half-point gap before December.

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Xi Jinping's zero-COVID reversal |
Xi Jinping's Zero-COVID Reversal | Top Risks 2023 | GZERO Media

Xi Jinping's zero-COVID reversal |

If Xi Jinping had a theme song in China right now, for Eurasia Group analyst Anna Ashton it would be Canadian rapper Drake's "0 to 100." That's pretty much how fast he reversed course on zero-COVID.

And that explains why "Maximum Xi" — one man with total control over China — is Eurasia Group's No. 2 geopolitical risk for 2023.

The risk basically boils down to "maximum impunity and maximum potential mistakes," Ashton noted in a GZERO Live conversation about Eurasia Group's Top Risks 2023 report. In other words, China's leader is so powerful he won't be blamed for anything, even if he messes up badly.

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President Joe Biden walks along the border fence during his visit to the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

What We’re Watching: Biden at the border, Three Amigos Summit, China’s reopening

Biden goes to El Paso

President Joe Biden on Sunday visited the US-Mexico border for the first time since taking office and at a time when he's getting flak from all sides for his immigration policies. Biden did the usual stuff: He toured a busy port of entry, walked along the border fence, and met with officials like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who chided the president for taking so long to show up — feeding into the Republican narrative that blames Biden for the surge of migrant arrivals in recent months. But the president has also upset the left wing of his Democratic Party after failing to deliver on many of his promises to undo the Trump administration's harshest immigration curbs — especially by being wishy-washy on ending Title 42, a Trump-era rule that allows US authorities to expel asylum-seekers on public health grounds that the Supreme Court is now sitting on. What's more, last week Biden announced that migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela would be required to apply from outside the US and be punished if they don't. While the president is otherwise benefiting from the GOP's civil war in Congress, his immigration headache won't go away anytime soon.

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2022's geopolitical twists and turns:  Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tom Nichols discuss
2022’s Geopolitical Twists and Turns: Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tom Nichols Discuss | GZERO World

2022's geopolitical twists and turns: Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tom Nichols discuss

From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the blink-of-an-eye tenure of British PM Liz Truss, political power is fleeting.
Just look at Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

Putin, who started 2022 as one of the most powerful leaders in the world, in many ways has now become a global pariah. Zelensky, a former comedian few trusted with a crisis, is now TIME Magazine's Person of the Year.

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer looks back at 2022 and forward to 2023 with frequent guests of the show: New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter and The Atlantic staff writer Tom Nichols.

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A woman in a protective suit walks past a shop as COVID outbreaks continue in Shanghai, China.


What We're Watching: China's COVID shenanigans, Oz olive branch, Peru vs. Mexico, Twitter succession

Counting China’s COVID deaths

In recent weeks, China has announced an abrupt about-face on its zero-COVID policy, which imposed tough (and economically costly) restrictions on freedom of movement inside China for the past three years. Despite predictions that a sudden end to existing COVID rules could contribute to one million deaths, the state has lifted lockdowns, ended many testing and quarantine requirements, and halted contact-tracing systems. For a government that works hard to persuade its people that it protected them from the COVID carnage in Western democracies, it’s a big risk. How to keep the number of COVID deaths down? Just redefine what counts as a COVID death. Going forward, only those with COVID who die of pneumonia or respiratory failure will be counted as COVID fatalities. (The US counts any death to which the virus contributed as a COVID death.) China’s change will make it much harder for Chinese health officials to properly allocate resources to respond to COVID spikes, and more infections will create mutations that generate new variants that cross borders. Officials in many countries, including the US, have argued over how to define a COVID death, but the question is especially sensitive in an under-vaccinated country of 1.4 billion people.

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Argentina's Leo Messi lifts the World Cup trophy alongside teammates in Qatar.

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

What We’re Watching: Argentine soccer ecstasy, Chinese COVID cover-up, Brits on strike

World Cup victory brings Argentina much-needed good vibes

In arguably the best final in the tournament's history, Argentina won its third soccer World Cup in Qatar on Sunday, beating France on penalties after drawing 3-3. The nail-biter saw Les Bleus come back twice from behind against LaAlbiceleste, with GOAT Leo Messi finally lifting the trophy as captain. In a country where soccer is religion, Argentine fans erupted in joy — eager to have something to celebrate and take their minds off the deep economic crisis that has pushed their economy to the brink of collapse, with an annual inflation rate of 100% and poverty rate above 40%. For once, except for a brief controversy involving former President Mauricio Macri, Argentine politicians stopped bickering and united behind the national team. Still, and unlike French President Emmanuel Macron, who went nuts cheering in the stands, Argentina's President Alberto Fernández stayed away so as not to jinx it for Messi & Co. and watched from home instead. But don’t count on a World Cup bump that'll give Fernández a shot at reelection in 2023: His approval rating is now below 20%, and once the party is over, Argentines will return to complaining about the economy.

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Podcast: Not infallible: Russia, China, and US democracy with Tom Nichols & Anne-Marie Slaughter


Listen: From the largest European land invasion since World War II in Ukraine to the essential “coronation” of the world’s most powerful person in Beijing, to one of the biggest political comebacks for Democrats in Washington, 2022 has been quite the year. Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, and Tom Nichols, staff writer at The Atlantic, join Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to look back at the remarkable power shifts of 2022 and what it might mean for the year ahead.

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