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What we're watching: China wants to commercialize the moon

What we're watching: China wants to commercialize the moon

China's $10 trillion plan to commercialize the moon: Even for a country famous for its ambitious, headline-grabbing plans, this one's a doozy: China is mulling a new "Earth-moon space economic zone" that would create $10 trillion of new economic value by 2050. For context, that's nearly double China's current GDP. It may be half-baked, but don't dismiss the plans as pure science fiction: Beijing has been pumping money into its rocket program and even landed a probe on the dark side of the moon in January. We'll be watching China's plans with a wary eye on Washington too. If President Trump can't stomach the idea of China out-foxing the US on technology and trade, he's going to really hate it if the Communist Party tries to beat the USA at making a fortune in space. Space Force: battle stations!


"Leftwing bandits" vs "racist misogynists" in South America: Last week's presidential election in Argentina, won by the Peronist Fernandez-Fernandez ticket, has pitched the country leftward again. That could spell big trouble for ties with neighboring Brazil, which is currently governed by far-right firebrand President Jair Bolsonaro. The bilateral sniping has already started. Bolsonaro has called Argentina's new leaders "red bandits" and threatened to kick the country out of Mercosur, the region's largest trade bloc (he can't do it, but it's the thought that counts.) Meanwhile, Alberto Fernandez, Argentina's president-elect, has called Brazil's president a "racist, misogynist" and openly supported Brazil's jailed leftwing former President Lula, whom Bolsonaro and his followers despise. Not in recent memory have South America's two largest economies been so far apart ideologically, and that bad blood will soon taint two key regional issues: the crisis in Venezuela, where Buenos Aires is likely to be more sympathetic to the Maduro regime; and the future of the massive Mercosur-EU trade deal, which has yet to be ratified on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saudi Aramco's stock price: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that it would proceed with the long-awaited initial public offering of its state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest petroleum producer. The IPO, which could be the largest in history, has been held up amid weak oil prices and the controversy surrounding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's alleged role in the death and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashogghi last year. We're watching this story in two ways: Narrowly, to see how this monster actually prices: MBS, who had originally hoped to fetch a $2 trillion valuation by selling part of Aramco, may well have to accept a lower price than he originally wanted. But we're also watching the broader political implications, since taking Aramco public is the centerpiece of the crown prince's ambitious (and potentially risky) plan to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil.

What We're Ignoring:

Mr Mukhlis' moralizing: You can draft laws that criminalize adultery, if you like. You can even prescribe quasi-medieval punishments for it. Like, publicly-lashed-by-a-masked-man-holding-a-rattan-cane type of punishments. But if you're going to do that, ideally you want to avoid getting caught by the police, in a car near the beach, making out with a woman who isn't your wife. That's exactly what happened recently to Mukhlis bin Muhammad, a religious leader from Indonesia's ultra-conservative Aceh province, where a strict version of Islamic sharia law has been in place for more than 15 years. The wayward Mr Mukhlis, who was part of the council that drafted the region's tough adultery rules, was lashed 28 times for his transgressions. We're going to go ahead and assume it's okay to ignore Mr Mukhlis' moralizing from now on.

Bank of America's $25 million jobs initiative provides Black and Hispanic-Latino individuals access to skills and training needed for jobs of the future. Learn more about the initiative, which involves partnerships with 21 community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Iran's nuclear tug-of-war: Hardliners in Iran's parliament passed a bill Tuesday suspending UN inspections of its nuclear sites and giving the go-ahead to massively increase uranium enrichment unless the US lifts its sanctions by February. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani opposes the measure, saying it would be "harmful" to diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with the incoming Biden administration in the US. But Iran's parliament doesn't actually need Rouhani's approval to pass the law, and regardless, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will have the final say on policy – as always! If the law is passed, it will immediately raise the stakes for Biden, who takes office on January 20. Both he and Rouhani say they are keen to resume dialogue in hopes of reviving the nuclear deal, which President Trump walked out of in 2018. But just days after the architect of Iran's nuclear program was assassinated (likely by Israel with the US' blessing) the hurdles to even beginning those talks are rising fast.

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"China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy." This was the message recently conveyed by a Chinese government official on the intensifying row with its Asia-Pacific neighbor, Australia.

China-Australia relations, steadily deteriorating in recent months over a range of political disputes, reached a new low this week when Beijing posted a doctored image on Twitter of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. Beijing's decision to post the fake image at a hypersensitive time for Australia's military establishment was a deliberate political provocation: beat Canberra while it's down.

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19.4: The Lebanese economy, waylaid by financial and political crises on top of the pandemic, is set to contract by a crippling 19.4 percent this year, according to the World Bank. Next year things hardly get better, with a contraction of 13.2 percent coming in 2021.

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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