Aug 7, 2019

The great global collision

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

CFR President Richard Haass, author of "A World in Disarray," suddenly needs a more dire title. Pointing to "the world’s deterioration," he's eyeing the "U.S.-China trade war, hottest July ever, Hong Kong on the edge, odds of US-Iran, Turkish-Kurdish conflicts mounting, new India-Pakistan Kashmir crisis, Japan-S Korea diplo/eco confrontation, looming Brexit."

Why it matters: None of those are passing events. All are long-term crises that require expertise and bandwidth that are lacking in the always short-staffed Trump administration.

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, in a letter to clients, calls them "geopolitical 'fat tail' risks":

  1. Cold War II: Tensions between the U.S. and China, he writes, have "hit a tipping point," with the risk of destabilizing global technology supply chains.
  2. U.S./Iran conflict.
  3. U.S./Russia cyberwar.
  4. Italy fiscal crisis.
  5. Turkey.
  6. China vs. Hong Kong.
  7. Trump and Taiwan.
  8. Brexit.
  • Bremmer's bottom line: The likelihood of every single one of these "is likely to increase over coming months. [I]f in a normal geopolitical environment these would be, individually, 1-5% scenarios, over the coming year they’re more like 10-30%. [I]n other words, we should expect at least one or two to actually happen. [A]nd that’s not priced into the markets right now."

Here's how Jeb Bush put it on Twitter:

Apart from the two tragic mass murders, this weekend saw: China's devaluation of the yuan and suspension of US ag exports into the country; Japan and South Korea in a full fledged diplomatic fight started over Japan's occupation of Korea 80 years ago; ... the escalation of the crisis in Hong Kong; India scrapping the special autonomous status in parts of Kashmir; Turkey amassing tens of thousands of troops along the Syrian border to attack the Kurds; Moscow police arresting 600 people for participating in an "unsanctioned rally" ... no progress on Brexit; and Iran interdicting an Iraqi fuel vessel.

Bush's punchline: "And to think many now believe that America's leadership in the world is not necessary."

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Hong Kong protests assert the freedoms China seeks to constrain

Pro-democracy protestors at Hong Kong's international airport. Photo: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

Intensifying protests in Hong Kong — continuing weeks after the shelving of a controversial extradition law — have fueled a broader struggle over the city's character and future.

Why it matters: Hong Kong remains an important financial gateway from China to the world, although Shanghai and other mainland cities have taken on part of that role. Above all, the central government in Beijing wants to avoid the precedent of a popular political movement successfully challenging President Xi and the authority of the Communist Party.

Go deeperArrowAug 14, 2019

China's Hong Kong checkmate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Images of Chinese troops massing near Hong Kong have led to fears of an impending crackdown on pro-democracy protesters — but China's next move will be dangerous, no matter what it is.

The big picture: Allowing Hong Kong's dramatic displays of dissent to rage on is intolerable for the Communist Party. But if China attempts another crackdown on the scale of Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, it would prompt a global backlash and risk steep economic repercussions.

Go deeperArrowAug 14, 2019

Pence suggests Hong Kong clampdown could prevent China trade deal

Trucks and armoured personnel vehicles mass across the border from Hong Kong, in Shenzhen. Photo: Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that the U.S. would not make a deal to end its trade dispute with China if Beijing fails to "honor its commitments" to Hong Kong, Reuters reports.

The big picture: The remark comes a day after President Trump said it would "be very hard to deal if they do violence [in Hong Kong]. ... I mean if it's another Tiananmen Square, I think it's a very hard thing to do." Trump's economic advisers had previously insisted they were treating the trade dispute as a separate issue from other concerns, like human rights.

Go deeperArrowAug 19, 2019