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Global View
Fareed’s Global Briefing

Fareed’s Global Briefing for October 30, 2021

Original article:

Peter Burgess
Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good

On Fareed Zakaria GPS

October 31, 2021

First, Fareed gives his take on China’s recent reported hypersonic missile test—which Beijing says it wasn’t—and the reaction to it.

This is not a “Sputnik moment,” as some have said, Fareed argues: Missiles have traveled at hypersonic speeds for decades, and the Cold War analogy doesn’t hold up, as the Soviet Union prompted legitimate concerns when it took a bona fide lead in the space race.

What’s more, overheated rhetoric about China isn’t helpful, Fareed warns, siding against the argument that Washington and Beijing can only compete with raw power.

“The task of American foreign policy is to recognize the ways that realpolitik can deter Chinese expansionism while also recognizing the ways in which interdependence might constrain it,” Fareed says. “It’s a more complex challenge than scare-mongering and chest-thumping, but it is what is likely to keep the world at peace and prosperity.”

Next: With world leaders meeting in person for a G20 summit this weekend—for the first time since the pandemic struck—Fareed talks with former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown about whether this group can find consensus on the global economic recovery, Covid-19, and more.

After that: Could America’s longest war have ended differently—or not at all? Fareed talks with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the US withdrawal with the Taliban and who just resigned his post.

As Democrats struggle to pass President Biden’s massive spending initiative, the price-tag—and how to pay for it—have been sticking points. But are those the right things to worry about? Fareed talks with Stephanie Kelton, author of “The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy.”

Finally, Fareed examines the newest American export: President Trump’s so-called “Big Lie,” which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is making all his own.

High Anxiety, Low Hopes for COP26

It seems we’re all a bit more anxious about the climate these days. For weeks leading up to COP26—the latest UN climate conference, kicking off formally today in Glasgow—commentators have warned that the time for talk is over.

Still, given the slow-footed nature of global action to address climate change, empty talk is exactly what many expect from COP26. The Economist headline “COP Out” sums it up; the summit will be “both crucial and disappointing,” the magazine warns, as these forums are the best way to spur collective action, but the problem remains thorny. As a case in point, the magazine writes in one of a series of special-report articles in its current issue, developing economies in Asia are still growing and will need energy to keep at it. Their governments face little pressure to go green, although the issue of clean air, if not climate, could motivate CO2 reductions.

Engineering is a big question: Given the carbon already in the atmosphere, the magazine writes, we’ll need to suck some of it out, and some have experimented with industrialized processes or practices like spreading basalt on farm fields, to get beyond corporate “offset” promises to plant trees or renew forests. “Geoengineering”—which, in one form, could involve spreading particles in the atmosphere to derail the greenhouse effect—are receiving consideration and present their own challenges.

But economics will be a major factor, too, and the magazine argues we must find ways to disprove the theory that capitalism and planet-saving are fundamentally at odds.

Will Supply-Chain Struggles Prompt a Big Change?

The supply chain having been all over the news lately, some have argued the current problems are merely symptoms of a far-flung network of goods already run on a shoestring. At The New York Review of Books, Robert Kuttner writes that it has spurred a movement within the US government to re-shore the supply of goods deemed critical, like pharmaceuticals and their ingredients, large batteries, and rare-earth minerals used in electronics.

Kuttner reviews not a book but a 250-page White House planning document—“I know of no federal planning template so thorough and ambitious since World War II, nor can I recall a government document that is as engrossing to read,” Kuttner writes—and sees in it evidence that top officials are eager for “industrial policy.” A dirty phrase when free trade was the consensus, Kuttner writes that it’s now bipartisan to talk about direct government investment in industries deemed key to national advantage. In Kuttner’s view, the current supply-chain crisis might spark a revolution in how the government guides, and spends tax money propping up, various industries to make goods at home.

Then again, not everyone agrees on the diagnosis: At The New York Times, Paul Krugman writes that it’s important “not to overreact to current events,” as pent-up demand is simply coinciding with shortened supplies to throw things temporarily out of whack.

Mexico Moves Toward Decriminalized Abortion

The world’s second-largest Catholic country behind Brazil, Mexico is moving closer to some other Latin American countries after its high court effectively decriminalized abortion in September, as Stephania Taladrid details at The New Yorker. It has produced a cautious exhale for pro-abortion-rights activists, but the politics remain controversial. Supporters of the ruling expect it will help curtail the unsafe options women had sought when Mexican states imposed criminal penalties, in some cases jail time, for ending a pregnancy.

Our Tech Overlords and the Future World Order

The goal of a common, worldwide Internet has faded, particularly as China seeks to wall off its online spaces, Graham Webster and Julie Sherman write for Foreign Affairs.

But something more dramatic is going on, when it comes to technology’s rising role in global politics, Ian Bremmer writes for the same magazine. “It is time to start thinking of the biggest technology companies as similar to states,” Bremmer writes, noting their unique kind of sovereignty and undeniable power. In a series of disquieting analogies, Bremmer writes that Google, Facebook, Alibaba, and their ilk are more powerful than the baronish industries of centuries past, like the British East India Company and the oil sector. (“It is one thing to wield power in the smoke-filled rooms of political power brokers,” Bremmer writes; “it is another to directly affect the livelihoods, relationships, security, and even thought patterns of billions of people across the globe.”)

Bremmer sees three potential scenarios unfolding for tech: a “globalist” one in which the Internet remains open; a “nationalist” one in which tech “champions” align closely with their home governments; and a “techno-utopian” one in which tech firms come to replace countries in the world order. The last won’t necessarily arrive, but Bremmer warns that “[o]nly by updating our understanding of [tech companies’] geopolitical power can we make better sense of this brave new digital world.”
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