Trump won't back off TikTok ban; China may react against US tech firms

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Donald Trump, TikTok, and Microsoft. What's the story?

Well, the story is that this incredibly successful app that teenagers everywhere seem to really love is functionally owned by China, they are based in the Cayman Islands, registered there, but the Chinese government has itself said that TikTok is a Chinese firm. And that means that the United States, which is involved in a technology Cold War with China, has been looking to hit Chinese tech firms and make it much more difficult for them to act in the United States. I remember there was one Chinese firm that was trying to buy Grindr, which is this app where I think, you know, men can meet men for dating and whatnot, and the idea, in Congress especially, saying, "oh, my God, we can't possibly have China having data like that." Well, I mean, same sort of thing.


There is a national security issue, there is a political issue with Trump wanting to beat up on China and everyone, both Dem and Republican, finding that's a popular thing to do. And then there's the issue of reciprocity, that if China is not going to allow Facebook to operate in China, or Wikipedia, or Reddit, then why should the Americans allow TikTok? And other countries like India have already banned TikTok, the fastest growing app ever in India. So, no surprise that the Chinese are going to be forced to have to sell this to the US. But what's interesting is the Chinese government has responded very sharply to this move by the US. And assuming it goes through and I think there's no way that, you know, either it's going to be sold, which I think is more likely, or it's going to be shut down, it is going to go forward. I don't think Trump's going to back off. I think that this is going to lead to the Chinese taking serious steps among remaining US high tech firms in China. Not necessarily tariffs, but non-tariff measures. Some of them would be restricted in terms of what they can and can't do. You could even imagine executives being charged with some kind of illegal activity in China like they've done with a couple of Canadians, a former diplomat, the two Michaels they say, all of which has the potential to make this a much worse relationship. The next few months between the US and China in the run up to the election, very, very dangerous indeed.

Spain's former king is gone. What's happening?

Well, he's the Emeritus King Juan Carlos I and has been quite unpopular in Spain because of both tax fraud and money laundering inquiries. Big issues around his role in facilitating contracts with a high-speed rail that Spain was supposed to be building in Saudi Arabia between Mecca and Medina. There were other issues as well. He left Spain because of all of those problems. The decision to do that was actually facilitated with the existing Spanish government so as not to further damage the royalty in the eyes of the Spanish people. A smart move, a useful move collectively for the stability of the Spanish government. I don't think it's going to have a big impact on the existing coalition, shouldn't fall apart. Nor is it likely to have a lot of impact on the existing head of state.

What's interesting is that the King Emeritus does have immunity for any act conducted while in office. But whether or not some of these occurred after his abdication, I mean, that's something that we'll see as the cases continue. That could lead to making this up much bigger and more salacious story for the Spaniards going forward.

What can the US learn from Israel as back-to-school strategies are planned?

Well, Israel in the early days was seen as one of those that had most effectively hammered down the curve with very low transmission on the back of a very effective lockdown, and massive surveillance, and testing, and contact tracing in Israel. They then opened the schools, in part because there's a view that young people are not as likely to get the disease, they are not frequently vectors for transmission. Remember, we don't know a lot about this disease. Turns out that's probably wrong.

As you've seen, for example, a campground in Georgia and many dozens of campers end up getting the disease. Massive amounts of asymptomatic case transmission, which can put older people in a great deal of danger, those with preexisting conditions. So, what we're finding is that even in a country that's relatively small, with a lot of transparency, with incredible testing, very wealthy, good health care system, that Israel gets explosive cases because they bring the students in. And if they don't have massive social distancing and the kids aren't always wearing masks as they do, for example, in Taiwan, or in Thailand, or in South Korea, then you can get that explosive transmission. And that and the Israeli economy contracting this year, probably 5%-6% is leading to big demonstrations against Prime Minister Netanyahu, which, of course, as well, could lead to more explosive transmission in Israel. So, the United States surely is watching this. It's one of the reasons why you're seeing a lot of American political officials backing away from the idea that we can simply open all the schools if we don't have the conditions in place.

Finally, what is going on with Harry Potter inspired protesters in Thailand?

Well, Thailand actually has done a reasonable job of containing coronavirus, but a horrible impact on their economy, especially because they're so reliant on tourism, which is done for the foreseeable future. There's also been some corruption scandals and, of course, of government, which is functionally suspended democratic elections on the back of a military coup. And after the death of the last king, existing king in Thailand, nowhere near as competent, nowhere near as popular. What's interesting about these protests, aside the fact that they're Harry Potter inspired, so a bunch of people with wands and casting spells and holding photos of Voldemort, which, you know, makes it sound fun, but going after the monarchy is illegal. In fact, it is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. And there's never been a mass protest in Thailand that has directly criticized the monarchy before. Now, the prime minister is saying, let's calm this down, please don't be disruptive. They don't seem to be looking for reasons to arrest people for breaking these laws right now because it could make an unstable situation even worse, but that could also raise the question as to the position that the monarchy plays in Thailand. For so long a stabilizing feature, both economically, socially, and politically in that country. Maybe there are questions around how long it is fit to last.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, for instance, which is shut out from COVAX due to US sanctions imposed on the Maduro regime.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power — following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars — in a bid to exert its superpower bonafides.

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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:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

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