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.