Tuesday's world stories

Newly declassified report lays out U.S. strategy in Asia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration has declassified a report which lays out its Indo-Pacific strategy, including “accelerating India’s rise,” blocking China from establishing “illiberal spheres of influence,” and maintaining “U.S. strategic primacy” in the region, according to a copy viewed by Axios.

Why it matters: The strategy laid out in the ten-page report, written in early 2018, has guided the U.S. approach to China, India, North Korea and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region for the past three years. Its release sheds light on the geopolitical and security challenges soon to be inherited by the Biden administration.

Updated Jan 12, 2021 - Technology

A tale of two Jacks

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Costfoto (Barcroft Media), Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

In China, President Xi Jinping has silenced Alibaba founder Jack Ma and launched an antitrust investigation into his company after the e-commerce tycoon publicly criticized state regulators. In the U.S., Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has suspended President Donald Trump's accounts after the president used the platform to incite violence.

The big picture: The juxtaposition of two almost perfectly inverse situations reveals how differently China and the U.S. have approached the management of tech giants and digital information.

Harassment of Chinese dissidents was warning signal on disinformation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the weeks leading up to the November presidential election, Chinese dissidents across the U.S. and at least five other countries found their homes blockaded by dozens of angry and sometimes violent protesters accusing them, without evidence, of being spies for China.

Why it matters: The protesters were mobilized through a disinformation ecosystem that overlaps with the one that led to violence in the U.S. Capitol last week. The harassment targeting the global Chinese diaspora was an early warning sign.

Jan 12, 2021 - Health

WHO warns world won't achieve coronavirus herd immunity in 2021

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned Monday herd immunity is unlikely to be achieved this year despite COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out.

The big picture: Mass coronavirus vaccinations are under way in the U.S. and across the world. Moderna said Monday its vaccine would provide immunity against the virus for at least a year. But Swaminathan told a briefing even if immunity "happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world" in 2021. "It takes time to scale the production of doses," she said.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 12, 2021 - World

Trump administration launches foreign policy blitz in final days

Pompeo leaves the stage. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Yemen's Houthi rebels a terror group, labeled Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism and risked provoking China by lifting restrictions on interactions between U.S. and Taiwanese officials — all within 48 hours, and with less than two weeks left in President Trump's term.

Why it matters: The administration, and in particular Pompeo, has made little secret of the fact that it's trying to tie President-elect Biden's hands, in particular when it comes to Trump's hardline policies on Iran and China.

Updated Jan 11, 2021 - World

Trump administration names Cuba as state sponsor of terrorism

The Capitol of Cuba in Havana. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration has designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, the State Department said Monday.

Why it matters: The announcement is part of President Trump's latest effort to force controversial policies through before he leaves office. It could complicate President-elect Biden's plans to improve relations with Cuba.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 11, 2021 - World

Pompeo's last-minute Yemen move sparks outrage in Congress

Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration is facing a revolt on Capitol Hill over Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's last-minute decision to designate Yemen's Houthi rebels as a terror group despite concerns the move will exacerbate the world's most dire humanitarian crisis.

Behind the scenes: A call the State Department held this morning to brief House and Senate committee staff on the Yemen move devolved into a shouting match and left staffers from both parties shocked by the apparent lack of a plan to ensure that food and aid continue to reach Yemeni civilians, millions of whom are already on the verge of famine.

U.S. sanctions 7 more Ukrainian officials for "Russia-linked" election interference

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Mark Reinstein/Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury sanctioned seven more people on Monday as part of an alleged "Russia-linked foreign influence network" associated with a Ukrainian lawmaker accused of trying to interfere in the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, a former associate of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, was accused by the U.S. of being "an active Russian agent for over a decade" and promoting "false and unsubstantiated" allegations targeting Joe Biden.

Jan 11, 2021 - World

Jared Kushner briefed Jake Sullivan on Trump's Middle East policy

Kushner (C) in the Oval Office with Trump and Brian Hook. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

Jared Kushner has briefed incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan on the Trump administration’s Middle East policies, David Friedman, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel, told a closed hearing in the Israeli parliament on Monday.

Why it matters: Friedman said Kushner had briefed Sullivan in particular on the Abraham Accords process through which four Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel, according to lawmakers who attended the hearing. Trump's advisers hope President-elect Biden will continue that process and encourage other countries like Saudi Arabia to sign on.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 11, 2021 - World

U.S. declares Yemen's Houthi rebels terror group despite famine risk

Houthi rebels in 2014. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has designated Yemen's Houthi rebel group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization despite warnings that such a move will exacerbate Yemen's humanitarian crisis and make peace harder to achieve.

Why it matters: The Houthis ousted the Yemeni government in 2014 and still control large swathes of the country after six years of war with a Saudi-led coalition. The people of Yemen are facing what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian disaster, with 80% of the population lacking sufficient food or clean water, and millions on the brink of famine.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

Foreign investors doubled Chinese bond purchases in 2020

Reproduced from the Institute of International Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite the pandemic ravaging investor confidence early in 2020, U.S. and European investors flocked to Chinese debt, pushing the level of foreign investment in China's bonds to a record high and more than double its 2019 level, data from the Institute of International Finance show.

What happened: Chinese government and policy bank bonds were added to the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index beginning in April 2019 and in September JPMorgan announced that they would add China's government bonds to its highly followed EM global bond index.

Biden taps veteran career diplomat William Burns to lead CIA

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a career diplomat for over 30 years, to serve as director of the CIA, the transition confirmed Monday.

Why. it matters: If confirmed, Burns would be the first career diplomat to lead the agency. Burns served the State Department in a number of posts around the world from the Reagan to the Obama administrations.