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.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

More Show less

Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

More Show less

Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

More Show less

When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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

Can "the Quad" constrain China?

Viewpoint