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What We’re Watching: Xenophobia in South Africa, Peru's Border Politics, China at the WTO

What We’re Watching: Xenophobia in South Africa, Peru's Border Politics, China at the WTO

Xenophobic riots in South Africa: Police in South Africa have arrested more than a hundred people in riots that appeared to target foreign-owned businesses in and around Johannesburg, the country's largest city. In a nation where the official unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent, foreign business owners and refugees from other African countries often face violence by people who accuse them of stealing jobs from South Africans. Over the past ten years, hundreds of anti-foreigner attacks have been registered. The most recent episode has taken on an international dimension as well: Nigeria, which says a number of its citizens were targeted in the violence, has already recalled its ambassador.


Peru beefs up the border: Peru is beefing up border security after imposing stricter rules on Venezuelan migrants seeking to enter the country. Since requiring Venezuelans to have visas earlier this summer, the number of legal arrivals has fallen by 90%. But now authorities are concerned that the new requirements have driven migrants underground or into the hands of traffickers. Ecuador, Peru, and Chile all have visa requirements for Venezuelans. Colombia, which is already home to 1.4 million Venezuelan migrants has thus far imposed few restrictions and has in fact encouraged them to stay visible by registering for basic social services. We are watching to see if harder policies in Bogota's Andean neighbors put greater strain on Colombia's own largesse.

What We're Ignoring

China at the WTO: Beijing has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), alleging that the tariffs that the Trump administration has slapped on Chinese goods violate the global trade regulator's rules. We are all for playing by the rules, and some details of the ongoing US-China dustups at the WTO are amusing (Washington, for example, is arguing part of its case for tariffs on the basis of "public morals"), but we are ignoring this for two reasons. First, any WTO rulings will take years, and the US might not even abide by them. Second, to say that China's actions here will have zero effect on WTO-skeptic Donald Trump's trade policy would be to understate the zeroness of the concept of zero itself.

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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