China is no stranger to using social media networks to influence public opinion. But as Chinese foreign policy becomes increasingly assertive, they are doing a lot more to win foreign hearts and minds on Facebook and Twitter. A joint investigation by the AP and the Oxford Internet Institute has revealed how Chinese diplomats and state media outlets are coordinating on social media to strategically amplify messages from Beijing — which are then further amplified by an army of fake accounts that Facebook and Twitter keep playing whack-a-mole with. We take a look at China's public diplomacy activity, reach, and engagement on Facebook and Twitter over the span of a few months since mid-2020.
Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.
In a frank (and in-person!) interview, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.
No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.
Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?
Look to its history. After a bloody and destructive 13-year fight, Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue, won independence from France in 1804. This was the first successful slave rebellion in the modern world, and that accomplishment unnerved leaders in Europe and the newly created United States, who feared slave uprisings in their own countries.
As a result, a land that had once supplied colonial master France with enough sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton, and indigo dye for sale across Europe to constitute half of France's gross national product was then faced with an international economic boycott.
The resulting economic crisis forced the new nation's leaders to accept French demands for payment of some $21 billion in reparations for lost colonial property. The Haitian government had little choice but to pay, and it borrowed heavily from French, German, and American banks to finance the debt.
Fears that Haiti would default led the newly expansive United States to respond to political upheaval in 1915 by sending in Marines. This began an occupation of the country that lasted until 1934. Washington kept control of Haiti's finances until the debt was fully repaid in 1947.
During the Cold War, the United States guarded against Communist influence in Haiti, which became an even higher priority after the revolution in neighboring Cuba brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, by supporting the dictatorship of François, and then Jean-Claude, Duvalier from 1957-1986. The anti-Communist father and son killed tens of thousands of Haitians and stole hundreds of millions of dollars.
For decades, elites backed by outsiders controlled most of Haiti's productive land and stole much of the aid money sent to alleviate poverty and help the country recover from disasters.
And there are plenty of disasters to recover from, because Haiti, caught between North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, is prone to earthquakes. In 2010, a large quake killed 220,000 people and displaced 1.5 million.
The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, is also situated in "hurricane alley," an area of warm Caribbean water that forms an ideal path for deadly hurricanes.
Haiti is far more vulnerable to natural disasters than the DR and other of its neighbors because crippling debt and political corruption have left little money for investment in the kind of physical infrastructure that can withstand those disasters or for the government to spend to rebuild.
Haitian politics is mostly a fight to control access to money entering the country and the land that produces wealth via agricultural exports. Haiti doesn't have revolutions; it has coups. Reformers who threaten vested interests become targets for deadly violence.
Not surprisingly, a number of academic studies over the years have found that "brain drain," the exodus of the nation's best and brightest to other countries in search of better opportunities, has further stunted Haiti's development.
It's the accumulation of all these problems that leaves Haiti, now home to 11 million people, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and a land in perpetual crisis. And there's little public support in other countries for the large-scale investment — and the commitment of troops needed to protect it — that Haiti would need for decades to come.
For now, Haiti's turmoil continues.
For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.
Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?
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Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.
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"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman
The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.
So as leaders prepare to take the podium both in person and virtually, as well as hustle on the sidelines — where they can chat sans bullet points or cameras — what are some of the key issues on the agenda?
Vaccinating the world. Inoculating low-and middle-income countries is still the most pressing issue on the UN's radar. High-income countries are rolling out vaccines at a rate almost 20 times faster than low-income states. Collectively, the 52 poorest countries have access to just 3 percent of global vaccine stocks.
The global rollout has been lopsided, and this has been highlighted recently as wealthy states like Germany, the UK, the US, and Israel have rolled out booster shot campaigns. Indeed, this has sparked a global debate as the World Health Organization, a UN agency, says that booster schemes are further obstructing poorer countries from accessing vaccine supplies. WHO's director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called on wealthy countries to pause boosters until at least the end of September, but against the backdrop of the highly contagious Delta variant, there's no sign that wealthy countries are willing to listen. (The UN is also working overtime to get vaccine-producing nations, like India, to lift export restrictions.)
The Biden administration, for its part, has recently pushed back, saying that the argument of boosters vs donating shots is "a false choice," because the US is doing both, having given more than 120 million doses to over 80 countries. As the US grapples with the twin problem of surging outbreaks and vaccine skepticism (80 million eligible Americans still refuse to get the shot) this is likely to remain a hot-button issue at UN headquarters in the upcoming weeks.
Sharing the climate burden. Just six weeks out from COP26, the UN climate summit billed as "the last chance" to mitigate fossil fuels' worst effects on the environment, influential global players are trying to chart a mutually agreed-upon path forward.
John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate change, recently flew to India to press Delhi to make more ambitious goals to get to Net Zero emissions by 2050. Moreover, Beijing recently rebuffed calls from the US to deepen its emission goals, including cutting coal consumption, prompting UN Secretary-General António Guterres to warn China and the US — the world's two largest carbon emitters — not to let bilateral friction get in the way of a last-ditch effort to address the climate crisis.
And today, President Biden is gathering some world leaders on Zoom to try and get more big methane emitters (hello China, Russia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia) to sign onto the US-EU's new plan to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of the decade. Indeed, this all comes weeks after a damning new report by the IPCC said that it's not too late to avoid the worst consequences of climate change if the world acts now.
Troubleshooting crises. There's an abundance of human rights and political crises with global resonance sweeping the world right now: civil war in Ethiopia, widespread instability in Afghanistan; post-coup repression in Myanmar; economic and political implosion in Haiti — the list goes on.
Dealing with these crises at the UN — whose core mission of dispute resolution is undercut by big power rivalries — is only becoming more difficult as the chasm between Western states and rogue countries like China, Russia and Iran grows more pronounced.
As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.
One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.
"We need a common international standard and system for measuring carbon production and a ledger system, so that we can look back to our supply chain and people we supply can look to us," says Frank, who fears we're putting a lot more carbon into the air than we currently think.
Watch the above video for more insights from Frank, who sat down with Tony Maciulis, GZERO Media's chief content officer, as part of our ongoing Global Stage partnership with Microsoft.
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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.
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