What We're Watching: A Test For Peace in Mozambique

What We're Watching: A Test For Peace in Mozambique

Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.

Governments vs cryptocurrencies – Last month, we asked whether you'd put more trust in government bureaucrats or Mark Zuckerberg to handle your money, and explained why some governments don't like Facebook's new Libra cryptocurrency. In recent days, several of Facebook's partners on the project have bowed out, evidently because the political heat got too intense. Meanwhile, US security regulators last week took "emergency action" to halt an effort by Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging service, to launch a new digital currency that would have bypassed the traditional dollar-based payment system. We're watching this broader clash between cryptocurrencies and governments because it shows how techno-utopian dreams can often crash up against a simple political reality: governments won't willingly surrender their control over money.

UK pomp and EU circumstance – Queen Elizabeth II opened the UK's new session of Parliament on Monday by laying out Prime Minister Boris Johnson's legislative agenda. Any ceremony involving people in tights with titles like Black Rod and the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant would usually be worth watching on that basis alone. But this year the high drama of Brexit lent extra weight to the pomp. With the clock ticking towards the UK's October 31 EU exit date, Johnson is trying yet again this week to win approval for a Brexit deal at the European Council. But "important matters" are still unresolved, according to one Brussels official. If the UK and EU can't agree on a deal, the prime minister will have to request a three-month extension from Parliament, something he's loath to do. Even if Johnson does get Brussels to endorse a deal outline by the end of October – a big if – he can't be sure that a majority of MPs would approve it; Johnson could then call an early election to try break the deadlock. We're watching to see how this chaos unfolds in the weeks ahead, but we're pretty sure the answer is more Brexit. Sigh.

What We're Ignoring:

LeBron James, China expert – The second-greatest basketball player of all time (I'm from Chicago, don't @ me) waded into the controversy over the NBA and China on Monday, saying Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey "wasn't educated on the situation" when he made comments on Twitter supporting Hong Kong protestors. Morey's comments earlier this month angered China and dragged the league into a political and human rights brouhaha in one of its most important growth markets. A subsequent NBA apology and James's comments drew rebukes from people who have accused the NBA, and players who refuse to criticize China, of cowardice. We're ignoring the temptation to dunk on LeBron for claiming to be an expert on China-Hong Kong relations, because he later clarified that he wasn't commenting on the substance of Morey's words, only the fact that he tweeted them out. Of course, that opens a whole other can of worms…

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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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

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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