What We're Watching: China’s Trade War Fightback and the Internet’s Role in Mass Shootings

What We're Watching: China’s Trade War Fightback and the Internet’s Role in Mass Shootings

China's trade war retaliation – China let the value of its currency, the renminbi, fall sharply against the US dollar on Monday to its lowest level in a decade. It also reportedly told state-run companies to stop buying from US farmers. Global stock markets plunged. Both moves were aimed squarely at the US and President Trump, who last week threatened to slap tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese goods if Beijing didn't bow to US trade demands. By allowing the renminbi to slip, Beijing is withdrawing an olive branch, signaling that it is no longer willing to keep its currency artificially strong (and its exports less competitive) while talks with the US proceed. Suspending farm purchases is a direct jab at Trump himself; it increases financial pressure on US farmers, an important political constituency for the president. Taken together, China is saying: We're not going to take the latest US threats lying down. In response, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin branded China a "currency manipulator" – a largely symbolic move that may have been intended to forestall an even more aggressive response by the White House. We're watching to see whether the two sides can avoid further escalation.


The "gamification" of mass violence – On Sunday, an apparent white supremacist murdered 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, minutes after posting a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto on the website 8chan. It was the third mass shooting this year advertised beforehand on the website, where some anonymous commentators cheer on gunmen by posting ironic memes and encouraging them to get a "high score." The El Paso shooter said he had been inspired by an Australian man who killed 51 Muslims in New Zealand in January, who broadcasted a live, first-person video of his murder spree on Facebook as though it were a video game. We're watching what others have dubbed the "gamification" of mass violence, because it's increasingly clear that the internet and social media's ability to help people with violent, fringe views find and draw inspiration from one another is fueling these mass shootings, and it's not clear how governments can stop it.

What We're Ignoring:

The Turkmen president's proof of life – A couple of weeks ago, we highlighted dubious reports that Turkmenistan's strongman president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, had died from kidney failure. State television said he was merely on holiday. On Sunday, the national broadcaster offered proof of life: a report showed the Turkmen leader driving a rally car near a giant flaming crater in the middle of the desert, then receiving a standing ovation from spectators dressed in identical track suits after rolling three strikes at a bowling lanes. We are ignoring this story, because it illustrates the basic principle that Turkmenistan is an endless rabbit hole of fun that keeps us from other stories. Unless you live there.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truckloads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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Sort of, but governments haven't lost all control yet. On the one hand, The Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson says that governments can still push tech companies for transparency in their algorithms, while Microsoft has partnered with the US government to together fight hackers "so the company is seen as a champion for freedom and democracy." On the other, over time Thompson expects tech firms in the US and China to gradually become more powerful as the state becomes less powerful toward them. Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the continent's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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