What's next for America; protests & pandemic; Hong Kong autonomy

On the latest edition of World In 60 Seconds, Ian Bremmer brings an extra-long analysis to pressing issues:

Pandemic, economic depression and now mass protests. What's next for America?

I'm not surprised by this level of dissent publicly, given how long social inequality has persisted and how much worse it's being made by coronavirus. You're going to see a lot of people on the streets because we've got 25% unemployment right now. A lot of people are going to go back to work, but a lot aren't. It's heading towards the summer, people are soon coming out of lockdown and may feel safer in terms of the pandemic, especially in NY and in LA where the caseload has gone down. We also have very deep divisions.


Trump was at 42% approval when we had lowest unemployment. He's at 42% approval now when we have global depression. This says a lot about how divided the country is. This has been on the back of the African-American community. Blacks have been hardest hit in the United States in terms of inequality and now in terms of coronavirus too. How many are dying, how many can't socially distance, how many have jobs that have gone away or require work in unhealthy situations? The Blue Lives Matter contingent, the working class white folk, also feel disenfranchised, their wages are flat and they don't feel secure. This is a massively polarized group and there is less space in their center than before.

With election coming right now in the US, you're probably going to see violent protests for longer. Keep in mind that the media focuses on the violence and riots. If you watched last night, the peaceful protests didn't make news. Instead, it's who broke windows, hit police, got arrested. It's the minority of people out there, but it's what the news and social media cover. With all of this and with a president who understands that the way he wins is not by reaching out to black Americans, but by ensuring that his base shows up in larger numbers, implies much greater division at a time of great economic disarray and dislocation. The next few months are going to be really ugly in the US.

With inequality protests going global, where does that leave coronavirus and social distancing?

I'd say be less oriented towards panic around this. The super spreader incidents we've seen in a nightclub in South Korea, a bunch of churches, and a chorus group in Seattle, all have a commonality: people are singing. In Wisconsin, they found one outdoor demonstration that led to fifteen people being found positive. That's a lot less than the 50% outside of Seattle, Washington, who were socially distanced, but inside a room singing for three hours. Here in NYC, I saw a large-scale demonstration, about 70% to 80% were wearing masks. There was a decent amount of social distancing, nothing like what we saw at the Ozarks. Most people that are demonstrating about Black Lives Matter and police brutality don't have a thing about wearing mask. Most people that were demonstrating the lockdowns, there is a political statement in not wearing a mask. My hope, based on some science, is that relatively short-term protests outdoors with many people wearing masks, probably won't get you the super spreader incidents that we have seen.

Having said that, the protests grow, and you get a lot of people protesting in close quarters and going up against the police. The police weren't any better at wearing masks last night than the protesters were in terms of numbers. You'd be more concerned about that.

Hong Kong banned the Tiananmen Square vigil for the first time, coming up on June 4th. What does that say for its autonomy?

They're saying they banned it because of concerns of coronavirus in Hong Kong, one of the most effective paces in the world at containing the virus. Doesn't seem to be the priority for the legislature. They've been trying to work on making it illegal for people to speak badly of the Chinese mainland. I think it's a bit of misdirection. It's about wanting to assert more authority over Hong Kong. It probably says that Macao and Hong Kong are not, not going to be allowed to protest Tiananmen Square going forward. Let's see what happens with Macao going forward. The United States has put the Chinese and Hong Kong on notice, but the level of sanction is less than it could be and not close to removing special trade status.

"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."

On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.

One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.

During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.

Why is the threat of cyberwarfare growing, and why isn't more being done to stop it?

Hacking is increasingly the business of nation-states. Not so long ago, hackers were mainly hooded freelancers sitting in their basements stealing credit card numbers. Now they are increasingly the employees of national intelligence services.

Why are countries investing more and more in the cyber game? For one thing, hacking is a cheap way to level the playing field with larger global rivals. For North Korea or Iran, you no longer need a powerful military in order to project power across the globe. You just need a laptop and a few good programmers. What's more, unlike missile launches or invasions, the targets can't always tell where a cyberattack has come from. Plausible deniability comes in handy, especially when attacking someone bigger than you.

Targets are getting fatter. As countries build out 5G networks, data flows will increase massively, as more than a billion more people move online over the next decade. The so-called "internet of things," the network in which everything from your watch to your (potentially self-driving) car to your refrigerator are being hooked up to the internet. (That said, huge gaps in internet access persist, as we wrote here.)

There are no rules. Conventional war has rules about whom you can and cannot attack, occupy, or imprison. They aren't always respected or enforced — but the cyber realm has very few rules, mainly because the world's major cyber powers don't want them. If you're Vladimir Putin, hacking has brought dividends that your flagging economy and mediocre military cannot. If you're the US, you're historically wary of any binding rules about the conduct of war. (If you're Gulliver, why tie yourself to the ground for the sake of Lilliput?) So, while various groups of countries have, under UN auspices, started to develop "norms" – they are not binding.

Unfortunately, it may take a catastrophe to create those rules. So far, the damage inflicted by hackers has mostly been economic. In 2017, the NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukraine, quickly spread around the globe, inflicting $10 billion worth of pain. It was, so far, the worst cyberattack in history.

But it's not hard to imagine a cyberattack on a hospital network, a power grid, or a dam that kills thousands of people and forces even more from their homes. How can those responsible be called to account? And what would it take to make future such attacks much less likely?

Will it take an event that inflicts that much human damage for governments and tech companies to sit down and hammer out cyber-rules of the road?

Malaysian political drama: Malaysia's (eternal) opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he finally has enough votes in parliament to be appointed prime minister, seven months after the coalition that was going to support him collapsed amid an internal revolt that also forced out 95-year-old Mahathir Mohamed as head of the government. Two years ago, Mahathir — who governed Malaysia from 1980 to 2003 — shocked the country by running in the 2018 election and defeating his former party UMNO, which had dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1956. After winning, Mahathir agreed to hand over power to Anwar — a former protégé with whom he had a falling out in the late 1990s — but Mahathir's government didn't last long enough to do the swap. Will Anwar now realize his lifelong dream of becoming Malaysia's prime minister? Stay tuned for the next parliamentary session in November.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:


Why can't Europe agree on Belarus sanctions?


I think they can agree but the problem is that Cyprus has blocked. There's a veto right inside the European Union and they have blocked everything. I mean, everyone agrees, all of other Member States agrees that we should have had those sanctions in place. But the Cypriots have their own views. And then they are blackmailing, they are saying you have to sanction Turkey as well, at the same time. And most other states say there's no connection between the two. So, we do have somewhat of a constitutional crisis over foreign affairs inside the European Union. Distinctly not a good situation.

LIVE 11a - 12p ET TODAY: Will the global challenges of 2020 lead to more inclusive multilateralism in the future?

At 11a ET/8a PT/4p BST, our livestream panel, "Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding," will discuss how government, companies, citizens and other organizations can partner to solve today's major crises.

Watch at: https://www.gzeromedia.com/unga/livestream

Governments can't tackle today's global challenges alone. Will 2020 be seen as a shaping moment for a more modern and inclusive multilateralism, or a retrenchment to "business as usual"?

Our panel includes:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by António Guterres, Christine Lagarde, and Trevor Noah.

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