China’s contradictions. All of the following occurred in the past 24 hours: The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published an op-ed that insisted China had no interest in being an adversary of the U.S. China’s Ministry of Commerce said that an American trade delegation would arrive for “productive and constructive talks” with a Chinese working group next week. And last but not least, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave the Central Military Commission its first order in 2019: to train the armed forces with a focus on combat readiness because “the world is facing a period of major changes never seen in a century.” To us at GPF, that reinforces our view that China and the U.S. want short-term accommodations, even as they lock themselves into a long-term competition.
Receiving the tomos of autocephaly. That’s a fancy way of saying that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has secured its independence from Russia. With the latest Orthodox schism now complete, a more important schism remains at the state level between Ukraine and Russia. Independence will be made official tomorrow, Orthodox Christmas Eve, and Moscow isn’t happy about it. Russian media is referring to it as the “so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” but that’s about the most Russia can do for now.
The U.S. in Gabon. The next time a media report or a talking head tells you that the United States is withdrawing from the world, keep in mind that yesterday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the deployment of 80 military personnel to the West African nation of Gabon over fears of potential election violence in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo. (He said additional forces might be needed later.) This follows a State Department spokesperson threatening sanctions against the Congo if last Sunday’s elections prove fraudulent. Sure, these are small measures, but they aren’t the measures of a country that is disengaging from the world.
More liquidity in China. After China’s premier said Beijing would take new measures to goose the economy, the People’s Bank of China said it would cut the reserve requirement ratio by half a percentage point on Jan. 15 and another half a percentage point by Jan. 25. According to the PBOC, this will inject roughly $200 billion into the Chinese economy. The announcements come at the heels of China’s lowering the reserve requirement ratio for certain financial institutions as they lend to businesses. For more on that, see Wednesday’s memo.
Venezuela’s new friend? More than 40 countries plan to follow through on previous threats not to recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s presidency when he is sworn in for a new six-year term on Jan. 10. Thirteen of the 14 members of the Lima Group, a multilateral organization founded in 2017 to end the political crisis in Venezuela, were among them. Noticeably absent from the list was Mexico, whose deputy foreign minister said the Lima Group should pause for “reflection” and not seek to “interfere” in Venezuela’s internal affairs. Whether or not countries recognize Maduro is less consequential than the potential reorientation of Mexican foreign policy.
Euroskepticism in Germany. Forgive us if we refuse to use the moniker “Dexit” – we’ve had just about enough of Europe’s political portmanteau. But we can’t help but call attention to a manifesto released by the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, ahead of a party meeting to discuss European Parliament elections in May. In the manifesto, the party said Germany should leave the European Union if serious reforms are not undertaken by 2024. The document makes for interesting reading in its own right. Pessimists will focus on the AfD’s Islamophobia, while optimists will focus on its inchoate desire for political reform, but for us, that a major German political party is publicly considering withdrawal is cause for reflection.
Poland calls out the EU. Poland’s foreign minister strongly criticized a recent announcement from France, which said it would exceed the EU budget deficit target by 0.2 percent of gross domestic product. In truth, Poland doesn’t really care about the French budget; it cares that it is lambasted for a similar infraction and France is not. We also note that Italy’s controversial interior minister and France critic Matteo Salvini announced that he would visit Warsaw next week, a trip that according to at least one Italian paper would be spent discussing potential alignments ahead of European Parliament elections. A nascent Italian-Polish bloc would be a more consequential development than Polish complaints about EU double standards.
- U.S. officials said Turkey requested U.S. military support in Syria, including airstrikes, transport and logistics, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- The BBC reported that the recent resignation of Iran’s health minister may indicate deeper divisions in the Iranian Cabinet.
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said in an interview with broadcaster SBT that he would consider granting permission for a U.S. military base in Brazil.
- Recently released data from the United Nations shows that fewer migrants entered Europe in 2018 than in any of the previous five years. It also notes substantial increases in migrants to Spain and on the Eastern Mediterranean route toward Greece and Cyprus.