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What We’re Watching: Tories Transformed

What We’re Watching: Tories Transformed

New Conservatives – Following a dramatic few days of parliamentary combat over Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer leads the same Conservative Party he inherited just six weeks ago. Gone are 21 members, some of them with decades of service to the party, who were expelled for voting with the opposition to strip Johnson of control of Brexit negotiations with the EU. Gone too is Boris' younger brother Jo, who, according to wags on Twitter, quit the party on Thursday to "spend less time with his family." The prime minister can now encourage party members to select Brexit hardliners and Johnson loyalists for the Tory electoral list, reshaping the party in his own image. British voters will then decide, once the opposition agrees to elections, where that party will go.


Italy's new interior minister – Matteo Salvini built his case to lead the Italian government on a reputation for furious opposition to would-be migrants. (As interior minister, he closed Italian ports to asylum seekers.) Now that a spectacular political miscalculation has left him outside government, a change made official when members of the Five Star Movement voted to approve its party's coalition with the center-left Democratic Party, Salvini has been replaced as interior minister by Luciana Lamorgese, an official recently in charge of planning refugee and migrant reception centers in northern Italy. This move represents a sharp shift in Italy's immigration policies and a big political opportunity for Salvini, now in opposition.

China vs Foreign Retailers – On Monday, as students in Hong Kong skipped the first day of class to join pro-democracy protests, Spanish clothing retailer Zara temporarily closed four of its 14 stores across the city. A local newspaper then published an article speculating on whether the stores were closed in support of the protests. When the story hit social media giant Weibo inside China, many angry Chinese called for a boycott of the store. The store's parent company then issued a statement that stores were closed only because protests delayed the commute of its employees and expressed support for the principle that Hong Kong is part of China. Weibo users said an explanation is not enough and demanded an explicit apology. Zara isn't the first, and won't be the last, Western company caught in the crossfire of controversy inside China.

What We're Ignoring

Russia's Versailles academy – Russian businessman Andrey Simanovsky has a lot of money and very bad taste. Don't take the Signal team's word for that. Check out these photos from a suburb of the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg of the public school he just had remodeled with chandeliers, marble floors, gold-trim, and ceiling paintings of angels. What sort of food can students expect from the lunchroom? Let them eat cake.

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, stretching for more than 2,000 miles, is home to the world's highest mountains. The mountain range is also home to the world's third-largest concentration of snow and ice, earning it the moniker the third pole; only the North and South Poles contain more. The glaciers of the Hindu Kush Himalayas are the main source of fresh water for around two billion people living in the region. However, by the end of this century, two-thirds of that snow and ice could be lost because of climate change. A network of data scientists and environmentalists around the world, and on the ground in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, are working to understand the extent of glacial melting in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, its effects and what can be done to minimize its impact. To read more visit Microsoft on the Issues.

When Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday — plunging the country into chaos as it faces once-in-a-generation public health and economic crises — he became the fourteenth Italian to vacate the prime ministership in three decades. (For contrast, Germany has only had three chancellors since 1982, and France has had five presidents.)

But Conte, who had no previous political experience until he was tapped for the top job in 2018, is not so much throwing in the towel as he is taking a massive gamble that President Sergio Mattarella will again appoint him to head Conte's third coalition government in less than three years.

The recent dysfunction is unique even within the context of instability-prone Italian politics. How did Italy get here, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

What did you think of Xi Jinping's speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?

Well, his last speech at the real World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump had just been elected, Xi Jinping gives this big, "We want to stand up and be leaders while the Americans are doing America first." And generally speaking, was probably the most important speech of the week. People liked it. This is a pretty different environment, not so much because Trump has gone, but rather because support and belief in Xi Jinping is pretty low. I will say one thing that was generally well responded to was the call not to enter into a new Cold War. Anybody in the business community generally supports that. There's so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economies that when Xi Jinping says, "We need to find ways to continue to work together," I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he's speaking to. They generally agree. But otherwise, the message fell pretty flat. So, the idea that China is going to be globally useful on issues of leadership, especially when it comes to anything that might threaten Beijing's sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And a few examples of that, when Xi called for support for the rules-based international order, that's in obvious contrast with China's violation of the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they said, "Well, that's a domestic issue." Well, actually that's not what your agreement was with the British handover. And just because you're more powerful doesn't mean that norm doesn't matter anymore.

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Over the weekend, some 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across Russia braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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