What We’re Watching: Chinese Karaoke and May vs. May

Patriotic Chinese Karaoke – In response to Trump's tariff war, China's leaders have tried for months to keep things civil. No need to fuel a fire they might not be able to contain by directing state-run media to broadcast insults and threats toward Washington. Their approach now appears to be changing. Last week, Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily promoted the following slogan on social media: "Talks, sure! Fight to the finish! Bully us, think again!" Last Friday, a singable Chinese propaganda song turned up on mobile messenger WeChat. Its message—"Feel bitter hatred for the enemy… If the perpetrator wants to fight, we'll beat him out of his wits"—has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. There's even a music video that goes with it. Looks like the Chinese may be digging in for a long fight.

What Comes After May? - The news this morning is that UK Prime Minister Theresa May could not survive the month of May. Repeated failure to win a majority in the House of Commons for her Brexit plan has finally done her in, and she announced this morning that she'll step down on June 7. Who has the charisma and grit to take on this seemingly impossible job? And who will succeed her? Here's one idea. #TimeForLarry

What We're Ignoring: Mini-Trump and North Korean Insults

The Next Donald Trump – In the past few days, we've learned that the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, has secured a book deal and may be mulling a run for mayor of New York. Your Friday author is convinced he's readying a future run for president. Who has the audacity, charisma, mastery of the rally, and media manipulation skills to become the next Donald Trump? We're pretty sure it's NOT Donald Trump Jr.

North Korean Insults – In response to an unflattering reference to Kim Jong-un during a recent campaign speech, North Korea's official news agency says Joe Biden is a "snob bereft of elementary quality as human being" who is "self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate." Biden's candidacy, according to the North Koreans, "is enough to make a cat laugh." We're not betting on Biden quite yet, but this just feels gratuitous, even by North Korean News Agency standards. (Remember when Kim Jong-Un took on William Shakespeare?)

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

More Show less

(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

More Show less

32: Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra survived an impeachment vote on Friday after only 32 out of 130 lawmakers supported his removal for allegedly trying to block an investigation into misuse of public funds. Vizcarra was in peril just a week ago, but the case for impeachment lost steam after the president was backed by the military and influential opposition leaders who insist the country needs stability to fight COVID-19.

More Show less