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Watch List: July 17, 2017

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  • Last updated: July 17
  • Total word count: 590 words

The items listed below represent potential emerging issues that our analysts are tracking. These can be long term or short term, but will be updated daily. If an item on our Watch List becomes critical, we will email you a full analysis explaining its significance.

Each Saturday, we will follow up our daily Watch List for each week with our conclusions on these issues.

  • China: Sun Zhengcai, a Politburo member considered to be a potential successor to Chinese President Xi Jinping, is reportedly under investigation for graft and has replaced as Communist Party boss for the city of Chongqing by an ally of Xi. We forecast that Xi would consolidate power ahead of the Party Congress this fall, but Sun is the highest-ranking official to fall in some time. We need to understand whether this risks sparking a destabilizing power struggle or backlash against Xi’s moves and examine what it tells us about the broader state of play in Beijing.
  • Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threw his full support behind a bill that would set up an autonomous region in Muslim-majority parts of Mindanao and said he plans to fast-track submission to a skeptical Philippine Congress. An earlier version of the bill, which would have implemented the 2014 peace agreement with moderate ethnic Moro separatist groups, stalled in the Philippine Congress under Duterte’s predecessor. A political accommodation with moderate Moro groups is key to curbing the expanding influence of Islamic State-linked groups, which thrive on Moro disillusionment with the peace process. Past setbacks in the peace process in Mindanao have typically been followed by spikes in violence. We need to gauge the prospects of the new bill and examine whether it could rein in jihadists.
  • China: The Chinese military held live-fire exercises in the Linzhi region of eastern Tibet. This region is close to the Doklam plateau, where the Chinese are currently engaged in a standoff with India. Last week, Indian army was reportedly authorized to make emergency purchases of weapons. This standoff has been ongoing for about a month now and neither side appears to be backing down, although there has been minimal escalation at this point. We need an assessment of what would cause this situation to escalate and of the likelihood that tensions will rise.
  • Venezuela: About 7.2 million Venezuelans participated in an opposition-led, non-binding referendum over President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to amend the constitution. Ninety-eight percent of those who voted rejected Maduro’s plans. Roughly half a million fewer people participated in the referendum than voted for the opposition in the 2015 National Assembly elections that brought the opposition to power in the legislature. We need to determine the degree to which the opposition in Venezuela may be gaining or losing support.
  • Qatar: The United Arab Emirates organized the hacking of Qatari official media accounts and news sites to plant controversial statements that were attributed to Qatar’s emir, U.S. intelligence officials told the Washington Post. We will be looking into why U.S. officials would leak this information and what impact this development will have on the region.
  • Russia: The flow of foreign capital into Russia reportedly increased in the second quarter. Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev said these inflows were small but significant. The news comes after reports that foreign companies had cut investments in Russia in the first quarter. We’re following capital movements in and out of Russia as an indicator of economic stability, so we need to determine whether increased capital inflow is a sign that business conditions are improving.