Gabriella Turrisi

The White House announced on Friday that it plans to sell Taiwan $1.1 billion worth of new weapons, its biggest arms sale to the self-governing island since President Joe Biden took office. It's also the first since China upended the status quo in the Taiwan Strait in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's uber-controversial trip to Taipei.

For decades, the US has sold weapons to Taiwan over China's strong objections. While Beijing claims the island is part of the People's Republic of China, Washington does not take a position on the question of Taiwan's sovereignty, holding that the issue should be resolved peacefully by both sides — while supporting Taiwan's self-defense capabilities. But tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan have been rising as the US-China relationship deteriorates more broadly.

If China were to someday invade Taiwan — which it regards as a renegade province that sooner or later will be brought under mainland control — would the US come to the island's defense? A 1979 law provides "strategic ambiguity" on whether America would have to do so. In the meantime, US arms sales have bolstered Taiwan's defense deterrent while China's military budget has skyrocketed.

We take a look at US military sales to Taiwan compared with China's own defense spending since 1990.

Women make up just over half the human population, and yet the overwhelming majority of policymakers and political leaders in the world's governments are men. In fact, there are just three countries on earth where women make up more than 50 percent of the national legislature, and only 21 countries (out of 193 UN member states) in which a woman is either head of state or head of government. What's more, no G7 country currently has an elected female leader. While some countries have introduced controversial gender quotas at various stages in the electoral process as a bid to increase female participation, there's lots of progress still to be made. Here's a look at the facts and figures.

Gabriella Turrisi & Paige Fusco

Rebel soldiers have ousted Burkina Faso's democratic government in the first military coup of 2022. Last year, soldiers also seized power in Myanmar, Mali, Guinea and Sudan. But attempts around the globe in recent decades have become both less common and less successful. That's partly because the end of the Cold War diminished outside superpowers' interest in backing coups against governments they didn't like. Here's a look at the historical record.

Gabriella Turrisi & Ari Winkleman

Corruption is stagnating worldwide. But according to Transparency International, it's gotten worse mostly in countries with a poor human rights record, strengthening the link between authoritarianism and graft. Which nations were the most and least corrupt in 2021? We take a look.

For almost half a century, NATO and the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact alliance glowered at each other across the Iron Curtain. But after the USSR collapsed, NATO expanded eastwards by welcoming former Eastern Bloc members – a development Moscow viewed as a direct challenge to its sphere of influence. This dynamic has become a massive point of contention recently, as Moscow increasingly threatens Ukraine's sovereignty. Russia wants assurances from Washington that states like Ukraine, Finland, and Sweden won’t join NATO. Here's a look at the history of the alliance's expansion.

Gabriella Turrisi

This week, Malta became the first European country to legalize cannabis for recreational use, joining the ranks of pot-friendly countries like Canada, Mexico, and South Africa. But even as more places move to decriminalize or legalize weed, rolling a blunt in most of the rest of the world could still land you in hot water. We take a look at where it’s okay to grab some ganja, while Ian Bremmer breaks it down for us on GZERO World.

Half a dozen countries have now joined the US in a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, which kick off in February. China, for its part, is furious and says it will retaliate. Still, not sending government officials to attend the Games is not as weighty as governments banning their athletes from competing altogether. And there’s plenty of precedent for this — particularly during the Cold War era. We take a look at state-ordered athlete boycotts at the Olympics since 1950.

The Summit for Democracy, which the Biden administration has been playing up for months, kicks off Thursday. The invite-only event with representatives from 110 countries is Biden’s baby: it’s a chance for the US president to “rescue” democracy, which is in global decline. What’s less clear, however, is why some states with poor democratic records have a seat at the table, while others with better democratic bona fides don’t. Is this a real stab at strengthening democracy, or rather a naked attempt to alienate those who cozy up to foes like China and Russia? We take a look at a selection of invitees, as well as some who didn’t make the cut, and their respective democracy ratings based on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index.

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