What We're Watching & Watch We're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

A peace deal in the Central African Republic – The government of the Central African Republic yesterday struck a peace deal with 14 different armed groups intended to bring an end to over five years of political, religious and ethnic violence. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 640,000 displaced since the 2013 ouster of the country's Christian president by a coalition of Muslim rebels. While there's no guarantee this latest deal will stick – previous ones failed in 2014, 2015, and 2017 – the progress is encouraging. The peace talks that began on January 24 marked the first time the warring factions in the conflict had all sat down at the negotiating table.

"America First" at the World Bank – The Trump administration is expected to announce today its nomination of David Malpass as the next head of the world's largest development lender. Malpass, who is known for being a harsh critic of multilateral institutions, has in the past called for the World Bank to be downsized and to curb lending to China. The appointment is the latest example of President Trump's commitment to upend institutions he finds ineffectual or simply doesn't like, even if they ultimately serve US foreign policy objectives. The US provided about $3.8 billion to the World Bank last year, or around 13 percent of its total budget, and has substantial say in how it pursues its mandate to alleviate poverty and promote development around the world. We're watching to see how that mandate changes under new leadership.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

The UK's emergency plan to evacuate the queen – British officials in charge of organizing contingency plans for a messy Brexit are dusting off Cold War-era plans to whisk Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family out of London in case of riots. It seems like every new week of the Brexit saga brings some new absurdity, but this is really over the top. This family wasn't even evacuated from London during Germany's mass bombing campaign against the UK during World War II. The queen herself drove an ambulance during the war. A Brexit evacuation? One's mind boggles.

The Chinese Air Force's barely concealed menace – This Lunar New Year "goodwill" video from China's Air Force has it all: sleek bombers, aerial acrobatics, a catchy soundtrack, and the PLA's airborne corps logo superimposed against a backdrop of Taiwan's tourist hot spots. Real subtle, guys. We're ignoring the propaganda and wishing a happy New Year to all of our Signal readers in Taiwan, on the mainland, or wherever you may be. 恭喜发财!

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And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft on The Issues.

Last weekend, world leaders, security experts, and business executives flocked to the Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich for the 55th annual Munich Security Conference. What's the Munich Security Conference? Think of it a bit like Davos, but with policymakers in dark suits rather than billionaires in Gore-Tex.

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Speaking of trans-Atlantic rifts, we've written previously about the US pushback against Huawei, arguably the world's most geopolitically significant technology company. The Trump administration has been trying to convinceits European allies to ban the Chinese tech giant from their next-generation 5G information networks, citing national security risks. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even warned of consequences for countries that don't toe Washington's line on the issue.

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Over the past 20 years, hundreds of millions of people in China have been pulled out of poverty by their country's staggering economic growth. Beijing today is a rising power on the global stage. That's all pretty great, and yet the country still ranks beneath war-torn Libya and perpetually melancholy Russia in the United Nations World Happiness Report. This week's Economist hazards a guess about what really makes people smile or scowl, but here's how China stacks up for joy against other countries.