Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics at this week’s World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:
What do you think of Xi Jinping’s speech at the virtual World Economic Forum?
Now, his last speech at the actual World Economic Forum in Davos, I remember being there four years ago, and given that Trump was just elected, Xi Jinping made a statement of this magnitude, “We want to stand up and be leaders while America does America first. “And in general, perhaps the most important speech of the week. People love it. It is a very different environment, not because Trump has left, but because support and trust in Xi Jinping is quite low. I would say one thing that has generally been responded well to are calls not to enter the new Cold War. Everyone in the business community generally supports that. There is so much integration and interdependence between the US and the Chinese economy that when Xi Jinping says, “We need to find ways to continue working together,” I mean, this is the pro-globalization audience he’s talking to. They generally agree. But instead, the message turned flat. So, the idea that China will be useful globally in matters of leadership, especially in any case that might threaten Beijing’s sovereignty, they check global norms at the door. And in some instances, when Xi calls for support for a rules-based international order, it stands in stark contrast to China’s violation of one country, the two systems framework in Hong Kong. And they say, “That’s a household problem.” In fact, that’s not your deal with British surrender. And just because you’re stronger doesn’t mean those norms don’t matter anymore.
A call to abandon ideological prejudice in the West, sounds like, “But outside of our business, we can do whatever we want for the Uighurs when there are millions of concentration camps and re-education in our country.” And we will shut down journalists for even mentioning that if they try to operate in China for that. The idea that the strong shouldn’t bully the weak sounds like, “Don’t blame the United States. The US, you better behave yourself.” But what about the way the Chinese treat Australia today, or some other small country that crosses China’s political, economic or national security interests? I mean, Beijing’s willingness to actually make you pay when you engage in behavior they don’t like grows very fast along with their international capacity to flex muscle.
And then regarding the pandemic, I mean, China is calling for greater global cooperation, but that also means that they need to work together on transparency on what is happening with the coronavirus. And let’s remember that there are, from my point of view, two big profanities in terms of the world, in terms of the coronavirus itself and the pandemic. One is that the United States is leaving the WHO in the midst of a pandemic, just the overwhelming antithesis of what a country should do, a country like the United States. But more fundamentally, China lied to the World Health Organization about the lack of human-to-human spread for a month when we could stop this early, could contain it, especially given the capacity we now see that China should engage in contact tracing, quarantine and locking. And they chose not to. And that’s a serious problem. For all these reasons, this speech was not very well received by those who watched.
Why did the Italian Prime Minister resign?
I mean, a large part of this is disagreement about how money should be spent in terms of massive coronavirus stimulus, such as the disagreements, major strife, between Democrats and Republicans at $ 1.9 trillion now. I mean, how green, how sustainable should it be? How much money is spent on health care? How much money is spent on new technology? How much for the workers? Former Prime Minister Renzi basically withdrew from the governing coalition due to disagreements over it. And they can’t get a solid majority in a vote of confidence. It makes governance more difficult. And that’s why Conte resigned. He is the 29th Prime Minister since World War II. If he is not re-elected, if they cannot form a new coalition, they will take 30th place in Italy. Italian kind of like the Doritos government of the G20. Crush everything you want, they will produce more. That’s what we saw in Italy. The good news is that it’s not very exciting.
Where is the international outrage over what is happening in the Tigray region of Ethiopia?
And no doubt there is a lot of violence. There are clear human rights violations across the board. There is a danger of starvation. There are tens of thousands of refugees. And this is in the hands of the Ethiopian Prime Minister who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and some say he must return the prize, as they say about Aung San Suu Kyi for some of his nationalist calls to help support the oppression of minorities in Myanmar after doing a lot to fight the government authoritarian. A few points here. One of them is Ethiopia, talking about the level of this conflict at a time when everyone is focused on the coronavirus, everything small and local is lost in the scrum. But also, Prime Minister Abiy in Ethiopia has led allegations of trying to move away from an ethnic-led federal government, where different groups control political power, to one that is more than the traditional political party system, or I should say the modern political party system. And Tigray in Ethiopia is the most losing party, a minority group that effectively holds the majority of patronage and power. So, willingness to blame Abiy for the violence we are seeing now, even though he has Ethiopian troops, there is an Eritrean military involved. That’s his ally. I mean, obviously he has more power. But some of the initial violence clearly came at the hands of local Tigray as well who refused to recognize Ethiopia’s electoral process and suspension due to the pandemic, and instead held its own elections, becoming a breakaway province. So in this situation, there are so many conflicting narratives in the historical context, and it is very difficult to put responsibility and blame firmly on one side of the conflict. These two things together give you the reason why we are not paying as much attention as we should to a country of more than 100 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the strongest economic growth trajectories worldwide.