What We're Watching: Xi's temperature, Salvini's fate, Putin's elevator

What We're Watching: Xi's temperature, Salvini's fate, Putin's elevator

China's party line on public health – China's President Xi Jinping appears to have decided that his coronavirus communications strategy hasn't worked. On Monday, after an extended absence from political centerstage, Xi appeared in public, wearing a surgical mask, to have his temperature taken as he reviewed a coronavirus health facility in Beijing. This new attempt to reassure the public that China's top man is personally directing the crisis came right as several senior party officials in Wuhan were sacked. There are also new surveillance measures: the state has launched an app that tells users whether they've been near a person suspected of having the virus. Xi, and those around him, are grappling with a problem familiar to authoritarian systems in moments of crisis: a party that holds a monopoly over political power also has a monopoly on responsibility when things go wrong. We're watching to see how these new messages play with an anxious Chinese public.


Watching people watching Putin watch them – A prankster in Moscow last week hung a gigantic portrait of Putin in his building's elevator and secretly filmed his neighbors' reactions. The result is superb. No one is thrilled. Almost all of the responses, ranging from incredulous to amused to overtly annoyed, boil down to: "what the f**k?". Watch it all the way through – the last guy's reaction is probably the best of the bunch. It's a great little snippet of how ordinary folks regard Putin in their daily lives – 70% approval rating or not.

Salvini in the dock – The Italian Senate will decide tomorrow whether far-right firebrand politician Matteo Salvini should face prosecution for refusing, when he was Interior Minister, to allow a coast guard ship that rescued 131 migrants in the Mediterranean to dock at an Italian port. Salvini, who heads the far-right anti-immigration Lega party, skirted prosecution last year when the senate gave him parliamentary immunity, but they'll vote again on Wednesday. Salvini says he sees potential criminal proceeding as "medals for having defended Italy's borders." But if the case moves ahead and Salvini is found guilty, he faces up to 15-years in prison. Salvini is a shrewd and very popular politician, but is he really willing to risk years behind bars?

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

GZERO Media caught up with Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN Kimihiro Ishikane during the 2020 UN General Assembly. In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Ishikane talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined, and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable." He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications.

The world's two biggest economic powers threaten to create a "big rupture" in geopolitics, but "we are not there yet," UN Secretary-General António Guterres tells Ian Bremmer. In an interview for GZERO World, the leader of the world's best-known multilateral organization discusses the risks involved as the US and China grow further apart on key issues.

Watch the episode: UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Why we still need the United Nations

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