Thursday's world stories

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jul 9, 2020 - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jul 9, 2020 - World

Confidence in government is rising in China, surveys show

Confidence in local officials has been dramatically increasing in China, while support for the central government remains high, according to surveys conducted between 2003-2016 by Harvard's Kennedy School.

Why it matters: The findings run counter to theories that rising expectations and growing inequality may be spawning dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist Party.

Jul 9, 2020 - World

Bolivia's interim president tests positive for coronavirus

Bolivian interim President Jeanine Anez. Photo: Aizar Radles/AFP via Getty Images

Bolivia's interim President Jeanine Añez tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: She's the latest world leader known to have contracted the virus, joining Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Monaco's Prince Albert II. All have survived, though Johnson was hospitalized and in intensive care for a period in March.

Jul 9, 2020 - World

First coronavirus case reported in northwestern Syria

A doctor wearing full protective gear adjusts a face cover to his colleague at a hospital in Idlib, Syria. Photo: Anas Alkharboutli/picture alliance via Getty Images

A 39-year-old doctor tested positive for the coronavirus in northwestern Syria, making him the first confirmed case in the region, according to the aid group Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations.

Why it matters: The spread of COVID-19 in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, could have a devastating impact on people already displaced by the Syrian Civil War.

U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses

Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

The Treasury Department announced Thursday that the U.S. has sanctioned four Chinese Communist Party officials and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The sanctions designations, pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act passed by Congress in 2016, mark a significant escalation in the Trump administration's response to the Chinese government's detainment of over 1 million Uighurs in internment camps.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Sovereign debt restructuring grows up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Argentina and Ecuador are going to restructure their debts, and they're going to do so with surprisingly little drama.

Why it matters: Both countries are repeat players at this game, and it would be very easy for 2020 to resemble previous acrimonious fights. Wonderfully, however, it looks like that's not going to happen this time around.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jul 9, 2020 - World

China's extraterritorial threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

All multinational companies and executives need to worry about breaking U.S. law, no matter where they're based or doing business. Now, they need to worry about Chinese law, too.

Why it matters: The projection of U.S. norms and laws around the world has been an integral (and much resented) part of America's "soft power" since 1945. As China positions itself to replace the USA as global hegemon, expect it to become increasingly assertive along similar lines.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jul 9, 2020 - World

Mayor of Seoul found dead

Park at a conference in 2017. Photo: Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has been found dead hours after his daughter reported him missing, prompting a massive manhunt, Yonhap news agency reports.

What we know: Park's disappearance came a day after allegations of sexual harassment against him were published in local media, according to the FT, which also reports that his daughter had found a "will-like message."

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 8, 2020 - Economy & Business

The fragmentation of global trade

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The pandemic will accentuate the deepening uncertainty over the future of global trade, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Trade is the lifeblood of globalization, and it's helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But populism, a growing rift between China and the U.S., and the wild card of COVID-19 could cause global trade to fracture into regional variations.

White House warns railroad retirement fund about Chinese investments

Kudlow. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Top White House officials have bluntly warned the head of a board that administers railroad workers' retirement benefits that the investment trust he oversees is exposing investors to undue economic risk and endangering U.S. national security because it invests in certain Chinese companies.

Driving the news: The letter, dated July 7 and obtained by Axios, asks for a response within a week as to whether the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, an independent federal agency, will cut off these Chinese investments.

U.K.-China tension heats up over Huawei

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.K. may further restrict technology from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, on its 5G networks, due to security concerns, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: The move is seen as a diplomatic victory for the U.S., which has sought to prevent Huawei technologies from being employed in communication networks across the world. China, meanwhile, accuses the U.S. of using security rationales to squeeze Huawei from international markets because it is hostile to economic competition.

The tangled web of Russia's Taliban support

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The alleged Russian campaign to pay the Taliban bounty for U.S. troops' lives represents "a huge escalation" of Russian activities in Afghanistan, but suspected Russian support of the Taliban goes all the way back to the Obama administration, former U.S. intelligence officials told Axios.

The big picture: The bounty scheme, spearheaded by the Russian military intelligence agency commonly known as the GRU, is laid out in information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies — including intercepts of banking transfer data — and reported in a series of exclusives by the New York Times.

Jul 8, 2020 - World

British government to subsidize 50% off restaurant meals

An outdoor restaurant in London on July 6, 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The British government will give diners a 50% discount on their restaurant bills as part of an effort to jumpstart the country's economy after emerging from its coronavirus lockdown, the U.K. Treasury announced Wednesday.

The state of play: Under the "Eat Out to Help Out" plan, each patron will get up to £10, or $12.57, off their meal — not including alcoholic beverages — if they eat out between Monday and Wednesday at businesses that sign up for the program.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jul 8, 2020 - Economy & Business

What China's uneven recovery means for the U.S.

China and much of Southeast Asia look to be bouncing back strongly from the coronavirus pandemic as stock markets and much of the country's economic data are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

What's happening: "Our tracking points to a clear V-shaped recovery in China," economists at the Institute of International Finance said in a note to clients Tuesday, predicting the country's second-quarter growth will rise above 2% after its worst quarter on record in Q1.