GZERO Media logo

What We’re Watching: UK ditches Huawei, Bolivia becomes COVID hotspot, Caucasus clashes erupt

What We’re Watching: UK ditches Huawei, Bolivia becomes COVID hotspot, Caucasus clashes erupt

UK flops on Huawei: The UK has banned equipment made by the Chinese tech titan Huawei from its 5G networks. The move is a big about-face for London, which as recently as January had said it would allow the use of Huawei components, although with some restrictions. But a lot's changed since January. For one thing, the US — which has banned Huawei gear over national security concerns — is putting more pressure on a post-Brexit, pandemic-wracked Britain that badly needs a good transatlantic trade deal. In addition, UK-China relations have soured over Beijing's new Hong Kong security law, which erases the autonomy promised to the city when London handed it back to China in 1997. But in banning Huawei, London is wrestling with an increasingly widespread dilemma. Huawei provides the fastest and cheapest way to build 5G networks, which everyone agrees are critical for 21st century economies. But using Huawei gear also means accepting the risk of Chinese cyber-snooping on the one hand, or Washington's anger on the other. As the US-China rivalry steadily intensifies, this tradeoff is going to become an acute problem for many countries around the world.


Bolivia, a new hotspot: Bolivia, one of Latin America's poorest countries, has emerged as a coronavirus hotspot despite the government's early lockdown efforts. In recent days, the country's interim president, Jeanine Áñez, and her health minister have both tested positive, and authorities are now reporting some of the highest numbers of new daily cases per capita in the world. Bolivia's ramshackle healthcare system has been pushed to its breaking point, doctors say: the country has just 430 intensive care beds for its population of 11.5 million, and there are reports of sick patients being left to die in the streets. But analysts say two factors are making things worse. First, Bolivians who work in the country's informal sector, making up at least 60 percent of the workforce, were unable to adhere to strict lockdown rules without going hungry. Second, the country's deeply polarized political climate has meant that supporters of Áñez's ousted predecessor, leftwing populist Evo Morales, are often reluctant to heed the government's guidance on public health. We're watching to see how this crisis might affect Áñez's chances of keeping her job when Bolivians head to the polls in a few months' time.

Caucasian clashes: Skirmishes between Armenia and Azerbaijan have left at least 15 soldiers dead on both sides in recent days, in the biggest escalation of hostilities between the countries since 2016. At issue is the still-unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory that is still officially part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by Armenian-backed local forces since a bloody six-year long war that (mostly) ended in 1994. Low-level clashes have persisted ever since, and both governments have often used the conflict to stoke nationalist support at home. The recent clashes are unusual in that they occurred along the actual Armenia-Azerbaijan border, rather than around the disputed territory itself. A wider outbreak of hostilities could quickly destabilize the South Caucasus, a region crisscrossed by important pipelines carrying oil and gas to Turkey and Europe. The US, the EU and Russia have all called for restraint. Moscow is the dominant external player in the region; it sells weapons to both sides and keeps troops garrisoned in Armenia.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

More Show less

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

Should businesses be pessimistic or optimistic about 2021?

It's easy to be gloomy about the year ahead when faced with the realities of a cold, bleak winter in much of the world. Add to that lockdowns across Europe, surging case numbers and hospitalizations, and dreadful events in the Capitol in the US to name a few reasons for pessimism. But I think there is a case for optimism when it comes to this year. After all, it's true to say that it's always darkest before the dawn, and my conversations with business leaders suggest there are reasons to be positive by 2021.

More Show less

Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that many of the country's social media companies need to be held accountable for their negative role in our current national discourse. Swisher calls for "a less friendly relationship with tech" by the Biden administration, an "internet bill of rights" around privacy, and an investigation into antitrust issues.

Swisher, who hosts the New York Times podcast Sway, joins Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, January 22th. Check local listings.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal