What We’re Watching: Australia cancels China deals, Zuma without lawyers, US to recognize Armenian genocide

What We’re Watching: Australia cancels China deals, Zuma without lawyers, US to recognize Armenian genocide

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.


Zuma's lawyers quit: Jacob Zuma's entire legal team has thrown in the towel just a month before the former South African president's high-stakes corruption trial. The lawyers have yet to explain why they've dropped Zuma, but regardless it will make it much harder for him to prove he is innocent of 16 charges of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering related to a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s. Zuma — who was forced to step down in 2018 over this corruption scandal — has long decried the trial as a political witch hunt, stonewalling all requests for evidence and often not showing up when he was due in court. But the process is a major test for South Africa's judiciary to demonstrate it can actually hold people in power to account for corruption. Zuma's successor and former ally, President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be watching very closely.

US to recognize Armenian genocide: A hundred years after the Ottomans tried to exterminate the empire's Armenian population, US President Joe Biden will officially recognize the campaign as a genocide on Saturday. Biden's decision, first sniffed out last month by our very own Ian Bremmer — makes him the first sitting US president to make the designation, joining nearly 30 other countries that have already done so. Although the move is purely symbolic, it risks hurting relations with Turkey, modern successor to the Ottoman Empire and which for decades has denied that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were intentionally massacred or marched to their deaths during and after World War I. With ties between the US and Turkey, a NATO ally, already strained over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism and his defense dalliances with Russia, expect some fireworks between Washington and Ankara in the coming days.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

More Show less

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

More Show less

28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

More Show less

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:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

More Show less

Is America's real problem a "narcissism pandemic"? According to Tom Nichols, an Atlantic contributor and author of "Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within On Modern Democracy,," the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the degree to which Americans expect things to come easily to them. "There is a real selfishness and self-absorption and narcissism that has come with living in a country that is peaceful, prosperous, affluent, super high standards of living—technological innovations that we now just take for granted that things just work." Ian Bremmer asks Nichols to suggest some solutions to the problem in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Make politics "boring" again: Joe Biden's first 100 Days

Immigration has been a major challenge for the nascent Biden administration, testing the new US president's ability to placate moderates on both sides of the aisle, as well as the progressive wing of his own party. Biden initially pledged to keep the US' annual refugee cap at 15,000 — a "ceiling" set by the Trump administration, the lowest in US history. But after that move sparked swift backlash, Biden this week reversed course: 62,500 refugees will now be allowed to enter the US over the next six months. How does this compare to policies set by previous US administrations? We take a look at refugee admittance numbers since 1980.

India's COVID crisis hurts Africa: As COVID started to ravage India in March, New Delhi announced a ban on all vaccine exports to prioritize the domestic crisis. This development was a massive blow for the COVAX facility, which is relying on India's Serum Institute manufacturing the AstraZeneca shot for low-income countries. The impact of this export ban is now being felt acutely across Africa, where many countries have received a scarce number of doses. The World Health Organization says that at least seven African countries including Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal have already exhausted all their vaccine supplies — and because of delays from India, will now need to wait several weeks for more to arrive. COVAX, which has received 90 million fewer doses to date than it was initially promised, says it needs an extra 20 million doses by the end of June to offset shortfalls caused by the worsening crisis in India. It's a worrying trend: while inoculation drives in places like the US, the UK and Israel are allowing their economies to reopen and life to slowly return to normal, many low-income countries will not return to normalcy for years, experts warn. To date, only 2 percent of all doses administered globally have been in Africa, despite the continent accounting for 17 percent of the global population.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal