US President Donald Trump, 74, is running for reelection against former Vice President Joe Biden, who will turn 78 soon after the November election. They are the oldest candidates for president in US history — and both are more than 35 years older than the median age for Americans in 2020. So, is the White House unique in becoming a gerontocracy? We look at the age gap between country leaders (presidents and prime ministers) and their populations, across the G20 group of the world's largest economies.
As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.
Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.
The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.
The WTA, which wants to be able to interview Peng outside of China, says it’s putting principle above profit in a country where it reportedly has more than $100 million on the line. The NBA, by contrast, which has been famously reluctant to criticize China, has operations there worth some $5 billion. (Spot the difference?)
The decision by the WTA — the first major sports organization to ditch China over human rights questions — will add momentum to longstanding calls for a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, despite the International Olympic Committee’s “unanimous conclusion” that Peng is fine.
Until now, the Olympic boycott campaign has focused chiefly on China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. But Peng Shuai attaches name recognition, star power, and a courageous personal story to the issue in a way that could galvanize wider awareness and pressure. Influential global tennis superstars like Serena Williams and Novak Djoković have already praised the WTA's decision, and trending hashtags abound.
The Biden administration, for its part, says it is considering a “diplomatic boycott,” in which top officials would not travel to the Games. Britain and Canada have floated similar ideas, but to actually keep their athletes from competing would be a major escalation. The US hasn’t done so since boycotting the 1980 Moscow Summer Games over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier.
The boycott dilemma. Doubtless a boycott by the world’s largest economy — and perennial top medalist at the Games — would be a blow to China’s prestige. But in addition to considering the impact on athletes, Washington would also need to answer an important global political question: how many other countries — particularly smaller ones wary of angering a cash-flush China — would actually follow suit?
Biden wants the world to believe that “America is Back” — but if the US stands up with a boycott that few others follow, it could look like an own-goal.
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:
How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?
Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.
What's the turmoil in Sweden about governance?Hmm, that's a long story. It goes back to a very complicated parliamentary situation and the fact that the government, the coalition government, and the arrangement that kept in place collapsed. And then we had turmoil and turmoil. And we now have, we are first female prime minister, a very weak coalition government, the budget has been dictated by the opposition. It will survive until the September election. It can't get anything done, but it will survive. And then it's going to be the September election next year that decides the governors of Sweden in the years ahead.
Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?
Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?
Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
What are the DSA and the DMA?
Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.
Are these laws on the books yet?
Well, not quite yet. And I think this is where there might be some confusion. The news this week was that the rapid agreement among the ministers of member states was significant, and the European Commission had already presented its position. So now the three-way negotiations with them and the European parliament are next before the laws can be finalized and then have to be implemented across the EU. But the rapid adoption by ministers does show that updating laws for the digital economy is a key priority for European leaders.
Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:
What is happening to Roe v. Wade?
Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.
So, what happens if conservatives are successful in overturning Roe v. Wade? Well, first Democrats are unlikely to take control of the Supreme Court for at least a decade and perhaps longer. So, there's not really a point in challenging the new precedent through the courts. This means all the attention will turn to statehouses where both Republicans and Democrats will fight for pro-life and pro-choice legislatures who will be able to set new policies on both how long abortions are available to women once they're pregnant and what types of facilities are allowed to do abortions. Some states have already put in place restrictive laws that say abortions can only be performed in facilities with a very high standard of medical care, which in and of itself is a way of limiting access to abortions.
You're likely to see some states move to ban abortions immediately, a position that's going to be politically unpopular as a majority of Americans support abortions with some restrictions. About 60% of Americans say they support access to abortion in the first trimester, but only about 30% of Americans say they would support abortions in the second trimester, which starts at about 12 weeks, significantly below the current threshold set under Roe v. Wade. So, while some deep red states will ban it outright, there will probably be an even smaller number of deep blue states that go beyond the current viability standard. What they're likely to do is enshrine current law at the state level. Over time without Roe, some parts of the two parties' coalitions may shift as they attempt to moderate on the issue to attract political independence as this will now become an explicitly political issue where politicians at the state level will be expected to deliver. This is likely to lead to some new but unstable, political equilibriums with swing states and compromise measures that change with control of the state government.
However, some of these states are going to find compromised middle grounds that endure.
Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...
Tehran’s list of demands. Days into the resumption of nuclear talks in Vienna, Iran has a proposal for moving towards a new nuclear agreement. The list of Iranian “demands” likely includes the removal of US economic sanctions to get the ball rolling, which has so far been a non-starter for Washington. This development comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency said this week that Iran continues to enrich uranium at close to weapons-grade levels, including at the contentious Fordo site, which, under the terms of 2015 deal, is to be used only for research and development purposes. When asked Thursday about the state of negotiations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran’s recent behavior doesn’t inspire much confidence, but that the next few days would be crucial to move things forward. The Europeans are shuttling back and forth between the Iranians and the Americans, who aren't participating in the talks directly yet. And time is of the essence: according to some estimates, Tehran is already just weeks away from having enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon.
This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.
The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.
Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”
Let’s start with the most obvious obstacles to success. While many European governments support this effort, the US and China will want to weaken its provisions, though for different reasons.
In Washington, ratification of any treaty depends on a vote of the US Senate, a body historically unsympathetic to any plan that requires a surrender of US sovereignty to an international body like the WHO.
In Beijing, China’s tense relations with the WHO over access to COVID-related information suggests that officials won’t commit to provide outsiders with unfettered access to suspected sites of outbreaks, to politically sensitive information, or to the Chinese citizens who have that information.
Neither government wants to look like THE obstacle to progress on pandemic preparedness, so both will participate. But Washington and Beijing will each work to produce an agreement that lacks the “teeth” that proponents insist a treaty will need.
Even if the US and China were to agree to a document that’s legally binding, how much confidence can anyone have that rules will be observed in an actual emergency or that those who resist can be held to account?
This problem surely sounds familiar. We live in a GZERO world, one in which the most powerful states don’t share political values or priorities.
Everyone can agree that cyber security is a common problem, but the major powers won’t accept a truly binding set of rules on the use of cyber-weapons.
Governments of the world’s leading economies agree on the need to reduce carbon emissions to “net zero” as quickly as possible, but the US, EU, China, India and others don’t agree on how to share the sacrifices needed to reach that common goal.
Add the historically large and growing number of refugees crossing boundaries in every region of the world. Few governments are willing to shoulder the economic costs and domestic political risks that come with accepting responsibility for their fate. The inability to manage borderless problems like climate change and global inequality of opportunity means the number of migrants will continue to grow in coming years.
Unfortunately, every country now faces these urgent threats that aren’t bound by borders.
None of this means that pandemic conventions and climate summits are a waste of time. Incremental progress toward multinational problem-solving is far better than none at all, and today’s failures can point governments toward more effective, and easier-to-reach, solutions next year.
These gatherings themselves add public pressure on governments to take actions they might not otherwise take. They also bring together private-sector leaders, scientists, activists and others who can offer solutions in some areas that governments won’t go.The bottom-line: We should never expect grandiose political promises to be kept, but nor should we ignore the reality that incremental progress and new ideas can take on a life of their own.