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Axios' Dave Lawler and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian hosted a conversation on the future of U.S. foreign policy, the power players in Asia and what's next in the Middle East, featuring the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's President William Burns, Vice President for Studies Evan Feigenbaum and Carnegie Middle East Center Director Maha Yahya.

Maha Yahya discussed the current crisis in Lebanon and the decision faced by many Arab states on whether to try a more inclusive model of governance or maintain the status quo.

  • On the current state of affairs in Lebanon: "Lebanon is facing not only [a] massive governance challenge, which has driven the country not to the brink of an abyss but actually into the abyss. Lebanon today is facing a perfect storm of massive economic and financial crises."
  • On the impact of the deadly explosion in Beirut: "It's complete criminal negligence...This is Lebanon's own Chernobyl. A mix of bad governance, corruption, then everything that comes in between."

Evan Feigenbaum unpacked Chinese and American tensions in Asia, highlighting the impact on other states in the region.

  • On whether Asia will become more Chinese or American-centric: "I think there's enormous ambivalence about the rise of Chinese power from Tokyo to New Delhi to Hanoi, really all over the region...the region is really heading for a future that looks more like fragmentation than either unipolarity."
  • On the race for a COVID-19 vaccine: "If China gets to a [COVID-19] vaccine first, it will have enormous psychological effects in the region. It will showcase Chinese innovation, Chinese technology."

William Burns discussed the need to partner with global allies, as well as where the relationship between the U.S. and Iran currently sits.

  • On the U.S.'s biggest strength in foreign policy: "Our biggest asset...is our capacity to draw on alliances. That's what sets us apart from lonelier powers like China or Russia today."
  • On the impact of the Trump administration withdrawing from the Iran Deal: "The result has been...an Iran that's gradually restarting its nuclear program...We've done serious damage to some of our most important alliances, especially with our European allies, by pulling out of the deal against their wishes and their arguments. We've opened the door, I think, for China to strengthen its relationship with this Iranian regime."

Thank you Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for partnering with us on this event.

Go deeper

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Scoop: DHS to issue China data security warning to U.S. businesses

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security is set to issue an advisory to U.S. businesses, warning them of data security risks associated with using communications equipment and services from China-linked companies.

The big picture: The advisory comes as the Trump administration makes a final push on China, highlighting the administration's emphasis on the risks posed by the close relationship between some Chinese companies and the Chinese government.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive had a counterintelligence motive

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Widespread corruption in China made Chinese government officials especially vulnerable to CIA recruitment, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping sought to mitigate this threat by weeding out corruption, according to a new investigation by Foreign Policy magazine.

Why it matters: The anti-corruption campaign, combined with China's other counterintelligence efforts, may have reduced the CIA's visibility into what is happening on the ground in China.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

U.S. charges against Zoom executive highlight tech's China problem

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a China-based Zoom executive with disrupting video meetings hosted by users outside China that commemorated the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The complaint reveals the now-terminated employee was sending the private data of some U.S.-based users directly to the Ministry of State Security (MSS), China's main civilian spy agency.

Why it matters: Researchers and U.S. government officials have warned that the Chinese government might require China-based employees of U.S. companies to hand over private company data to Beijing. The DOJ's charges indicate those fears are valid.

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