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What We're Watching: China’s Leaders Chewing the Fat

What We're Watching: China’s Leaders Chewing the Fat

China's leaders chewing the fat - The elite of China's ruling Communist Party have convened for a four-day plenum in Beijing, where they'll set the country's policy agenda for the year ahead. Held behind closed doors to avoid leaks, these plenums have traditionally delivered China's most consequential policy proposals: in 2013, China relaxed its one-child policy and unveiled a fresh economic reform agenda. Last year's plenum removed presidential term limits, allowing President Xi to stay in office indefinitely. This year the stakes couldn't be higher. Beijing is facing its slowest growth in three decades, feeling headwinds from the trade war with the US, and a political crisis in Hong Kong rivaling 1989's Tiananmen Square protests. As the world's second biggest economy grapples with these challenges, we're watching to see what new policies emerge in the weeks and months ahead.


The cratering of Europe's political centre - Two big regional elections in Europe over the weekend showed fringe parties continuing to win at the expense of the centre. In the central Italian region of Umbria, Matteo Salvini's anti-immigrant Lega party thrashed a candidate supported by the current 5-Star/Democratic Party-led coalition government, marking the first time since the 1970s that the centre-left has lost Umbria. Meanwhile, in the eastern German state of Thuringia, the far-right Alternative for Germany, whose local leader wants to scrap Holocaust remembrances, eclipsed Merkel's centre-right CDU to become the second-most powerful political force in the state behind the hard left Die Linke (The Left) party. In both cases, the gains spell potential trouble for increasingly-fraught centrist coalitions in national government. Next up: Spain, where the Vox party and People's Party continue to gain ground in the polls ahead of national elections next month.

What We're Ignoring:

An anti-corruption campaign waged from a Bentley - Last year the government of Papua New Guinea angered taxpayers by spending more than $135 million on preparations for hosting the APEC summit, a yearly gathering of Asia-Pacific world leaders. The expenses included some 300 cars, among them several dozen Maseratis and Bentleys. The government of Prime Minister James Marape, who came to office on a bid to stamp out graft, pledged to sell the rides afterwards, but that tender process – shocker – hasn't moved forward. Now the PM is awarding himself a Bentley. And in true "for my friends, everything" style, he's also sending a car (not a Bentley or a Mas) to each of the 111 members of the Papuan Parliament, too.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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