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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's the end of the world as we know it. The world is disintegrating, and much of the highly visible noise and chaos is a symptom of a much deeper problem.

Driving the news: In Hong Kong, millions of demonstrators are taking to the streets in a desperate attempt to preserve their democratic freedoms. In Argentina, the government has been forced to implement capital controls to prevent money from fleeing the country. In Britain, incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost his majority, his long-coveted control over legislation, and even his attempt to call a new election. Brexit uncertainty has never been greater.

These are high-stakes dramas, and their outcomes matter greatly. Hong Kong is a great test of whether Xi Jinping's China is remotely compatible with Western liberalism. Argentina is a great test of whether a market-friendly government, working closely with the IMF, can turn an economy around. Britain is, in many ways, a great test of democracy itself.

  • So far, in all three cases, the outcomes have been profoundly disappointing and depressing, even as some hope remains.

Zoom out: In a bigger sense, the final outcomes don't matter. In all 3 cases — and, most importantly of all, in Trump's America — what we're witnessing is the spectacle of global integration being thrown suddenly and jarringly into reverse.

  • Even if Hong Kong's demonstrators have all 5 of their demands met (right now it's 1 down, 4 to go), China has made it abundantly clear that it has no respect for the "one country, two systems" framework, which in any case is scheduled to end in 2047. Hong Kong is arguably the most internationally integrated city in the world, which means the only direction from here is backwards. As Dan Harris put it 3 weeks ago in China Law Blog, "Hong Kong as an international business and financial center is no more."
  • Even if Argentina's Mauricio Macri wins the general election, yet another bond default is inevitable. Whatever international credibility Argentina had regained over the last four years of Macri's presidency is irretrievably lost.
  • Even if Britain manages to avoid a no-deal Brexit — even if it manages to avoid any Brexit at all — the desire of half the nation to cut itself off from its major trading partners is going to dominate British politics and economics for decades to come.

The bottom line: The postwar economic order was built on ever-increasing integration, and there is no precedent in modern history for how — or even whether — the global economy can cope with its opposite.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

43 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.