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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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