What We're Watching: Tahrir Square 10 years on, Italy's PM resigns, AMLO contracts COVID, India-China border row

 Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo, Egypt, February 11, 2011.

Tahrir Square — a decade on: This week marks a decade since mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square sparked a revolution that toppled Egypt's longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak as part of the Arab Spring. But ten years on, Egypt's brief experiment with democracy has long since been undermined by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi, a former General who in 2013 capitalized on fresh street protests to oust the country's first democratically-elected president, has quashed dissent and crushed political opposition. Egypt is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist, and has one of the lowest internet freedom rankings. As if to make the point that Tahrir Square — long the site of anti-government protests — is now his, el-Sisi recently oversaw a $6 million renovation that dressed up the place with the trappings of a European-style monumental plaza, covering over most of the open spaces where hundreds of thousands once camped out and defied the regime. Ten years after the Arab Spring bloomed in Cairo, Egypt may actually be less free than it was on January 24, 2011.


AMLO-19: Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced Sunday he had tested positive for COVID-19, capping a dark few days in which the country saw its highest weekly death toll yet from the virus. From the beginning of the pandemic, AMLO, as the leftwing populist is known, has resisted taking broad lockdown measures, citing his concern for the country's massive population of working poor who can't simply work from home. And despite the fourth highest global COVID death toll, AMLO has remained broadly popular. The 67-year old former smoker tweeted that his symptoms are mild and he's still on the job, but if things do take a grimmer turn, the situation could get rocky fast — AMLO is a towering figure in Mexico, with no clear and viable successor in sight. What's more, his ruling Morena party faces tough mid-term elections this year, and they will need him hale and hearty to make sure they retain their grip on Congress.

PM Conte resigns in Italy: After weeks of political dysfunction, in which Italy's fragile coalition government narrowly survived a confidence vote in the Senate just last week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte now says he will resign, pushing the country into political chaos. The timing couldn't be worse: Italians are now left without a stable government amid a massive effort to rollout a COVID-19 vaccine and revive the pandemic-battered economy (Italy's GDP shrunk by a whopping 10 percent in 2020). There are a few potential scenarios going forward: One is that Conte could remain prime minister if the president appoints him to head a (weak and fractious) new coalition. Another option is that former prime minister Matteo Renzi's party — which triggered the latest upheavals by withdrawing from the government in a dispute over how to spend EU coronavirus relief funds — could return to government, with a different prime minister. Lastly, new elections could be called. One player who might particularly like to see that outcome is former interior minister Matteo Salvini, whose far-right Lega party is currently leading in polls.

India and China in another high border skirmish: The two Asian giants clashed again over their ill-defined frontier in the Himalayas, with Indian sources reporting that its troops repulsed a Chinese patrol that had crossed into Indian territory. The situation along the strategically important high altitude border has been unresolved for decades, but things have gotten more tense again over the past year. Last June a melee of sticks and fisticuffs left dozens dead, and last fall the two sides exchanged fire. With strongly nationalistic leaders in charge of both nations, the border has become a flashpoint in a broader increase of India-China tensions as the world's two most populous countries vie for supremacy in Asia.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.

China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?

Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Protests in Sudan: Protests are again shaking the Sudanese capital, as supporters of rival wings of the transitional government take to the streets. Back in 2019, after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, a deal was struck between civilian activists and the army, in which a joint civilian-military government would run the country until fresh elections could be held in 2023. But now supporters of the military wing are calling on it to dissolve the government entirely, while supporters of the civilian wing are counter-protesting. Making matters worse, a pro-military tribal leader in Eastern Sudan has set up a blockade which is interrupting the flow of goods and food to the capital. The US, which backs the civilian wing, has sent an envoy to Khartoum as tensions rise, while Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vying for a piece as well.

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