The Clock-Watchers: Xi, Kim, Khamenei

The Clock-Watchers: Xi, Kim, Khamenei

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump reached a trade truce with China, restarted nuclear talks with North Korea by taking an unprecedented step into that country, and then returned home to the news that Iran has officially exceeded the limits on uranium enrichment set by the 2016 nuclear accord that he ditched last year.

As Trump heads into the final 18 months of his (first?) presidential term, these three huge foreign policy challenges remain unresolved. Despite the ludicrous speed of the news cycle, 18 isn't long in global politics time. So if you're the leader of Iran, China, or North Korea, do you stall to run out the clock? Or do you take your best shot now to get what you want from Trump?

Put yourself in the shoes of these three men…

Ayatollah Khamenei: Trump wants you to sign on to a new, stricter nuclear deal, and he's been ratcheting up sanctions while blaming you for a spike in Persian Gulf shipping attacks. But he chose to hack rather than bomb you in retaliation when you shot down an American drone, which was nice of him. He says he wants to talk to you directly – he is probably salivating at the ratings it would deliver him -- but you aren't prepared to go from "Death to America" to "Welcome Donald Trump" quite so quickly.

Your best bet is probably to wait until 2020 to see if you can get a Democrat who is both more predictable and more favorably disposed to the original Iran deal.

Xi Jinping: Trump has agreed to postpone a massive new round of tariff increases in order to revive talks on a US-China trade deal. And he may even give a little relief to Huawei, your most important tech company. Still, Trump and his team want you to dismantle the state-powered economic system that Made China Great and which, you are certain, will make China the tech superpower of the future.

You are on the fence. If you wait out Trump, you might get a more conventional Democrat in 2020. But a new US president might work more effectively with US allies to lead a united front against your trade and tech practices. Then you'd really be in trouble.

Kim Jong-un: You already have nuclear weapons, and you aren't going to give them up altogether because they are your security guarantee – after all, you've had nightmares about what happened to Qaddafi. And you've balked at even partial concessions until Trump eases some of those crippling sanctions on your country. With a little economic help from China you can hang on for a long time like this. But, here's the thing: Trump seems to like you. To really, really like you. In fact, he likes you in a way that no other US president could have or will again. Shouldn't you leap at the chance to make some kind of deal now? If Trump loses, you might too. After all, as a wise man once said, "the waiting game sucks, let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos."

Beautiful powerful voice interlude: By the way, you may have seen that Trump praised Kim Jong-un's "powerful voice" voice at the DMZ. Whatever, Puppet Regime knew about the North Korean leader's vocal talents months ago when we penned a classic surf tune with him. Check it out here, losers.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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Colin Powell's legacy

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