Daily Memo: Exploiting Opportunities and Preventing Exploitation in a Pandemic

Hong Kong containment. The COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong has done to pro-democracy protests what police never quite could, and China is trying to press its advantage. On Saturday, Hong Kong police arrested 15 prominent activists, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, on charges of joining a number of unlawful assemblies in the semi-autonomous region last year. Most of the activists were released the following day. On Friday, the China Liaison Office, China’s top representative office in the former British colony, declared that it was not bound by the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which ostensibly bars the mainland government from interfering in Hong Kong affairs. These moves followed a slew of reports suggesting that Beijing was finding new and innovative ways to assert its authority, including intensifying pressure on the Hong Kong judiciary. The timing suggests Beijing is worried about two things: One is a revival of the protest movement as life in Hong Kong, which on Monday morning reported zero new coronavirus cases for the first time since early March, starts to return to normal. The other is the pro-democracy camp potentially winning a majority for the first time in Legislative Council elections […]

Daily Memo: Restrictions Ease and China’s Economy Contracts

It’s perhaps the worse quarter for Beijing since the 1960s.

Daily Memo: Grim Economic Data in the U.S.

Bad news comes as tensions rise in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea.

George Friedman’s Thoughts: Prisms of Thought

When I began the Thoughts column, I explained that I was using it as a space for thinking about a new book intended to place geopolitics within the framework of the philosophical tradition. The problem with writing this was the systematic nature of writing a book. A book must contain an orderly structure built around a central thesis. It can contain multiple strands of thought, but at a certain point it becomes chaotic. The problem is not so much about books versus short articles but about the tension between two ways of looking at the world and its parts. The systematic imposes an order on the world that may explain it but is insufficient. When the Geopolitical Futures staff members write an article, it is intended to be both self-contained and connected to our broader method. It must explain unfolding events through a single coherent lens. In this, our writing is like that of others, and is intended to clarify and reveal the connections. There is another approach to thinking, which I will call prismatic. Rather than looking through a clarifying lens for the order of things, it looks at the world through a piece of glass that seems to […]

Coronavirus and the Peril of Politicizing Medicine

Even medical institutions are political.

The Coming Decline of Global Trade

(click to enlarge) The World Trade Organization revised its forecast for global trade this year to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic — and...

Daily Memo: Unemployment and Oil

Insurance claims rose by another 6.6 million in the U.S. as OPEC struggles to stabilize prices.

Daily Memo: Wuhan Opens Up

European mitigation. As Europe struggles against the coronavirus outbreak, its institutions are scrambling for solutions to limit economic and political fallout. Today, the European Union will hold an “orientation debate” via videoconference about how the bloc should ease out of quarantines and relax public restrictions. The debate comes after Denmark and Austria announced yesterday that they would begin lifting their nationwide lockdowns. Last night, a videoconference of 19 EU finance ministers grew heated when a feud erupted between the Netherlands and Italy over debt issuance and eurozone credit conditions. The meeting ran late into the night. The European Central Bank has announced that it will ease collateral requirements to boost bank lending and keep cash flowing through financial systems across the euro area. The ECB clarified that these “unprecedented” measures were temporary – only lasting as long as the pandemic – but did not specify a deadline. The European Union is also looking beyond Europe for its crisis management plans. Today, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the bloc would donate $15 billion to aid developing countries with weakened healthcare and financial systems as they tackle the medical and economic effects of the pandemic. Von der Leyen did […]

The Indo-Pacific After COVID-19

In late March, senior officials from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a loose coalition of the Indo-Pacific’s four most powerful democracies, quietly launched a series of meetings aimed at forging a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Quad” (comprising Japan, Australia, India and the United States) has come to symbolize both the grand plans of those seeking to cement the Indo-Pacific’s status quo and the more complicated reality of a region in flux. On paper, the Quad makes sense as a potent alliance capable of pooling immense resources and leveraging distinct geographic advantages to limit Chinese influence and deter Chinese attempts to establish military dominance in the Indo-Pacific — especially if other regional states such as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea could be enticed to join. In reality, though, the Quad has been slow to coalesce into something equaling more than the sum of its parts, due in large part to economic fears of antagonizing China and inadequate budgets that cannot keep up with China’s breakneck military modernization. Though military cooperation has increased modestly among its members, the grouping itself has struggled to implement any substantive joint initiatives, much less forge an integrated security alliance capable of pulling off complex […]

Supply Chains and a Novel Path to Conflict

Though “supply chain” became a household term only in the past generation, it has been around since humans have been engaging in commerce. One...

Daily Memo: OPEC+ Delays, Japan Mobilizes

OPEC+ pause. Saudi Arabia and Russia have delayed an OPEC+ meeting intended to negotiate production cuts. Instead of meeting on Monday as promised, the oil cartel will meet Thursday. The delay caused a significant drop in oil market prices; Brent crude fell more than 3.2 percent and U.S. crude fell 3 percent, with prices for the latter sitting between $25 and $27 per barrel. Both Saudi Arabia and Russia said the delay was caused by “technical reasons,” but market experts have speculated that the two countries wanted to hold backdoor discussions to establish common ground before opening talks up to all OPEC members and allies. Both countries have signaled that dialogue is happening, and the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, Kirill Dmitriev, said they are “very, very close” to a deal. Russia and Saudi Arabia favor different outcomes: Moscow wants to cut production using the first quarter’s average as a baseline, while Saudi Arabia wants to use its April production as a baseline, since the kingdom has produced more than 12 million barrels per day compared to an average of 9.8 million bpd from January to March. Ahead of the meeting, a number of OPEC stakeholders have argued for […]

Daily Memo: Price Wars and Setbacks

Even success stories such as Singapore are struggling to contain their COVID-19 outbreaks.