What We're Watching: Biden-MBS fist bump, Xi in Xinjiang, Kenya-Somalia thaw
Biden’s Saudi trip fallout
Engagement with would-be pariahs may cost you politically, but it's necessary for the national interest. Over the weekend, US President Joe Biden got panned — mostly by fellow Democrats — for fist-bumping with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, during Biden's controversial Middle East trip. (The CIA believes MBS ordered the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.) Still, the White House said the president returned from the region with some important agreements, such as progress on ending the war in Yemen or making a joint pledge with Israel to stop Iran from getting nukes. But did he really achieve much else? Riyadh announced that it'll increase oil production, but not enough to tame rising gas prices and inflation in America before the November midterms. The Saudis are also nowhere near joining the Abraham Accords, and peace between Israel and the Palestinians remains as elusive as it was under Biden's predecessors. So, why go at all then? The short answer is: as long as the US wants to continue being a player in the Middle East, you simply can't afford to ignore the Saudis, or MBS himself.
Xi Jinping "inspects" Xinjiang
China's President Xi Jinping wrapped up a surprise visit to Xinjiang on Friday, his first in eight years, in a bid to demonstrate national unity in a region where Beijing has been accused of systematically violating the human rights of the Uyghur ethnic minority. Xi reaffirmed his commitment "to the correct and Chinese way to address ethnic issues" in Xinjiang. Although the one million Uyghurs who human rights groups say China has put in internment camps there may beg to differ, Xi clearly has no intention of changing tack in Xinjiang. Still, the visit is relevant for two reasons. First, it had been two weeks since Xi was seen in public following his trip to Hong Kong – his first trip outside mainland China since 2019 – to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover (rumors swirled about him possibly catching COVID from a lawmaker who tested positive after meeting Xi there). Second, Xi seems to be making a big splash to show off his accomplishments in China's most restive regions as he prepares to secure a norm-defying third term as head of the ruling Communist Party in November. Will Tibet be his next destination?