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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?

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.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

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.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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