US-China relations all-time low; federal troops in Portland; Biden's pick

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US Politics In 60 Seconds - this week from in front of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., which is currently behind barricades because some protesters want to tear it down.

First question, with the tit for tat escalation of closing consulates between the US and China, are US-China relations at an all-time low?

Well, they're certainly not very good. And probably the most important marker was a really tough speech given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Nixon Center in California. Perhaps important for its symbolism, that this is an end of an era of engagement that began with President Nixon in 1969. You've got a lot of escalating factors. You've got these closing embassies, accusations of espionage by the Chinese, the potential banning of TikTok. And WeChat in the US. You've got the potential banning of Huawei. And, of course, you've got the ongoing trade war and sanctions. Now, the trade war may become less important as a factor, along with the other worsening parts of this relationship. The Chinese have retaliated so far proportionately. They don't want to be seen as the ones escalating this advance of a presidential election.


Next question, with the presence of federal troops in Portland, does this blur federal state authorities and what's the line here?

Well, the president is well within his rights and means to enforce federal law inside the United States. And that's what he claims he's doing by sending troops in to protect the courthouses in Portland. However, his tactics have been controversial. For one, there's the use of unnamed-unidentified police officers, unmarked police vehicles. There is also accusations that the executive order under which he's doing this target's constitutionally protected speech. And, of course, there's the fact that the Portland mayor doesn't want the federal support. However, this isn't the case everywhere. The president has announced he's sending federal support to Chicago and Albuquerque and probably later in the summer, you're going to see federal support show up in Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee, the three large cities in swing states. And this is an obviously important electoral issue as the president continues to try to make his pitch to suburban voters.

Last question, who will Joe Biden pick as his running mate?

Well, I think this really depends on if Biden thinks he needs to pick an African-American woman or not. If he does decide to pick an African-American woman, he's so far ahead in the polls right now that he probably just goes to someone safe. The safest bet is a well-known Senator, Kamala Harris, who already ran for president. He also is looking at Representative Karen Bass, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Susan Rice, President Obama's former national security adviser. That's less likely, though, because since 1972, there have been no running mates in the US that lack electoral experience, which she does not have. If he decides he doesn't need an African-American, then I think probably he goes with one of the governors that's available to him, Rhode Island and Michigan and perhaps New Mexico. These people have credible governing experience, could potentially run for president in four years, could step in if needed. But I think he's not going to do is pick a mayor or a progressive. Mayor because anything that happens in that major city becomes an issue on the campaign. He does not need that. And a progressive because that person is going to have a competing policy base inside the White House. And he knows as a former vice president, you've got to be on the same page.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

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