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SnapshotsJan 6, 2021 | 21:38 GMT
Hong Kong Police Force Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-Wah holds a press briefing following the arrest of dozens of opposition figures under the city’s national security law on Jan. 6, 2021.
In Hong Kong, Mass Arrests Signal an Escalated Opposition Crackdown
A mass arrest of moderate pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong signals an escalation in the application of the city’s national security law to a broader segment of the political opposition, which will increasingly limit the policymaking power of any pro-democracy forces. The first-time detention of a U.S. citizen, meanwhile, will also test whether U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration will be able to navigate Hong Kong tensions without jeopardizing its broader relations with Beijing. On Jan. 6, Hong Kong police carried out a citywide operation in which nearly 1,000 officers netted 53 pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers linked to the July 2020 opposition primary for legislative council elections, leveling accusations of subversion under the city’s draconian national security law.
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Annual ForecastsJan 3, 2021 | 21:37 GMT
An image of the COVID-19 vaccine, President-elect Joe Biden, the Huawei logo, and a stock market sign
2021 Annual Forecast
The geopolitical environment in 2021 will be shaped by two global developments: the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's administration to restore collaborative relationships across the globe.
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SnapshotsDec 18, 2020 | 21:32 GMT
A worker is seen inside the production chain at Renesas Electronics in Beijing, China, on May 14, 2020.
The U.S. Deploys Its Export Blacklist Against China’s Top Chipmaker
The United States’ move to cut off exports to China’s top chipmaker will impede the company’s manufacturing capabilities, while pushing Beijing to further prop up its domestic semiconductor industry. On Dec. 18, the U.S. Commerce Department announced it was adding over 60 companies, including China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), to its entity list, which will effectively bar these companies from accessing U.S. technology by increasing export controls. U.S. companies will now need a special license from the Commerce Department before exporting any products, services or technology to SMIC and the other newly blacklisted companies. Requests for such licenses will be subject to the presumption of denial. The jurisdiction of such controls also covers exports by other countries that use U.S. components and technology. 
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AssessmentsDec 3, 2020 | 23:26 GMT
Members of Iranian forces pray around the coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during his burial ceremony at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in northern Tehran on Nov. 30, 2020.
A New Iranian Law Could Bring the Nuclear Issue to a Crisis Point Under Biden
The Iranian parliament's ratification of a new bill expanding Iran's nuclear program reflects growing pressure by Iranian hawks on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and their expectation of early engagement with the incoming Biden administration to address bilateral issues. If the law is implemented entirely it would bring the Iran nuclear issue on the cusp of a crisis within the first 100 days of the Biden administration because the moves that Iran makes under the law would be aimed at significantly reducing Iran's nuclear breakout, the time Iran would need to produce enough weapons-grade material for one device.
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PodcastsDec 1, 2020 | 21:03 GMT
Pen and Sword: The Nine Lives of Pakistan
In this episode of the Pen and Sword podcast from Stratfor, a RANE company, Emily Donahue speaks with Declan Walsh, who served nearly a decade as the chief reporter in Pakistan for The Guardian and The New York Times, about his new book, "The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Precarious State."
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AssessmentsNov 5, 2020 | 22:28 GMT
Foreign workers show their passports as they gather outside a Saudi immigration office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 4, 2013.
Saudi Arabia’s New Labor Reforms Only Address Half of the Problem
Saudi Arabia’s kafala reforms will increase flexibility in the kingdom’s foreign labor market, but achieving Riyadh’s 2030 Vision plans for a post-oil economy will require improving efficiencies within the Saudi workforce via broader reforms and skills development programs. On Nov. 4, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for human resources said the country would begin altering its kafala labor system in March 2021 by loosening restrictions that tie foreign workers to specific employers and contracts.  The changes will enable foreign employees to switch jobs and contracts without having to leave the country and renewing their visas. Foreign workers will also be able to leave the country without obtaining an exit visa from their employer. 
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SITUATION REPORTNov 2, 2020 | 21:15 GMT
Australia, China: Beijing Targets Australian Lobster and Timber Exports 
Australia has halted exports of rock lobster to China in response to heightened Chinese customs inspections of the product for trace elements of minerals and metals, the Australian government said Nov. 2. China has also stopped imports of Queensland timber and banned barley imports from Australia-based, Japanese-owned Emerald Grain.
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AssessmentsOct 29, 2020 | 20:14 GMT
A group of pro-democracy protesters gathers at an intersection in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 26, 2020.
The Thai Government Will Ensure Protests Only Get So Far
The current protests in Thailand will not threaten the stability of the country’s military-led government, but they will accelerate a limited constitutional reform process and prompt Bangkok to impose more restrictions on the political opposition. Protests that began in July and escalated in recent weeks represent the greatest political challenge to the Thai government since the country transitioned out of five years of direct military rule in mid-2019 to a political system still dominated by the military. But while they may be disruptive to particular parts of the capital city, these student-led actions are unlikely to build into the paralyzing unrest seen in the years leading up to the country’s 2014 military coup. 
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SnapshotsOct 26, 2020 | 20:40 GMT
An image shows the national flag of Saudi Arabia.
Eying Normalization, Saudi Arabia Changes Its Tone on Israel
Saudi media commentary on Sudan’s new normalization deal with Israel suggests Riyadh is trying to prepare its citizens for the formalizing of their country’s own ties with Israel. Saudi state-owned media outlets, including Al Arabiya, Arab News and Al Riyadh have either syndicated articles published by foreign outlets, such as the Associated Press, or have published their own largely factual, uncritical articles on the news. As of Oct. 26, the Saudi monarchy also has yet to take diplomatic or even symbolic steps to signal its disapproval of Sudan’s move to normalize its Israeli ties. The Saudi government likely banned media from criticizing other Arab Gulf states’ push to normalize their ties with Israel, as Riyadh explores its own path toward a more public and formal relationship with the country.
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AssessmentsOct 22, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
A building remains on fire in Lekki, Nigeria, on Oct. 21, 2020, after #EndSARS protests escalated into violent clashes with police the previous night.
Nigeria's #EndSARS Protests Back Its President Into a Corner
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his government have few good options to contain the country’s growing protest movement without sparking broader security concerns and potentially exacerbating social tensions. More than two weeks of protests against police brutality erupted into violence on Oct. 20, when live ammunition was used against demonstrators at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos State, killing at least one person and injuring dozens more. A viral video showing an alleged murder of a man by the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) initially sparked the protests. SARS was disbanded by the government on Oct. 11 in response to initial protests, but the so-called #EndSARS movement formed amid the uproar has since expanded its focus to ending all forms of police brutality in Nigeria. 
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SnapshotsOct 21, 2020 | 16:00 GMT
A worker assembles a power distribution cabinet in Hangzhou, China, on Oct. 19, 2020.
China’s Economic Recovery Widens, But Risks Remain
Stronger, broader-based growth in China’s economy in the third quarter of 2020 underscores that it will be the only major economy to end the year with a larger GDP greater than it began with. Downside risks remain, but the opportunity to further Beijing’s strategic goals could bear economic fruit in the form of furthering policies that foster domestic self-reliance, even as low consumption persists and a COVID-19 resurgence in the United States and Europe threatens Chinese exports. According to official government statistics released on Oct. 19, China’s GDP growth accelerated to 4.9 percent (year-over-year) from 3.2 percent in the second quarter of 2020, even as it fell somewhat short of predictions. Negative growth for the year was reversed with the economy expanding by 0.7 percent in the first nine months of 2020, including the 6.8 percent decline in the first quarter. This shores up the public image of the Chinese
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SnapshotsOct 8, 2020 | 19:04 GMT
The United Kingdom’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost (center) arrives at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 17, 2020.
Brexit Talks Make Progress as Deadline Looms
Progress between EU and U.K. negotiators on contentious issues such as state aid and fishing rights is increasing the probability of a limited trade agreement by the end of the year. However, London’s ongoing attempts to circumvent certain aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement that it reached with Brussels last year could still thwart such a deal. The European Union is worried that the United Kingdom will use state aid to increase the competitiveness of its companies vis-a-vis their continental rivals, while London has pledged to restrict EU access to its fishing waters. Both issues have been obstacles to a deal since the beginning of trade talks in March, but in recent days there have been signs of potential compromises.
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AssessmentsOct 6, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Philippine and Chinese coast guard ships sail past each other in the South China Sea on May 14, 2019.
The Philippines Takes a Tougher Approach to Its South China Sea Claims
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s South China Sea policy is becoming less conciliatory toward China, as he tries to balance growing pressure from within his administration to revitalize Manila’s security cooperation with the United States against the need to preserve his country’s economic ties with Beijing. The Duterte administration has recently made a number of statements emphasizing the Philippines’ extensive maritime dispute with China. This suggests a notable shift in Manila’s approach toward China, as the Philippine government has largely avoided making points of contention with Beijing since 2016. However, there appear to be divisions between the president and key members of his cabinet on the matter. 
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Quarterly ForecastsSep 28, 2020 | 11:00 GMT
2020 Fourth-Quarter Forecast
The last quarter of 2020 will be a waiting game -- waiting for the results of the U.S. election in November, waiting on economic numbers, and waiting to see how the COVID-19 crisis plays out.
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On GeopoliticsSep 24, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A model of a customs road sign is seen at the mock U.K.-EU border, with a mock Big Ben in the background, at the Mini-Europe theme park in Brussels, Belgium, on May 20, 2020.
Why EU-U.K. Trade Talks Feel Like Brexit Deja Vu
If the current tensions in the trade talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union feel like a repetition of the 2019 disputes, when Britain negotiated its exit from the bloc, it’s because they are. Once more, a no-deal Brexit looms on the horizon, because unless Brussels and London reach an agreement, bilateral trade will happen under World Trade Organization tariffs starting next year. Like last year, both sides are exchanging threats and accusing each other of acting in bad faith. And, in the most notable deja vu from 2019, the status of Northern Ireland has reemerged as an obstacle to a deal. The explanation for this situation is simple: there are fundamental issues that the arrangements of 2019 left unresolved and have come back to jeopardize the negotiations in 2020. 
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SnapshotsSep 8, 2020 | 20:05 GMT
The U.K. Turns up the Heat Ahead of the Next Round of Brexit Talks
The desire to avoid further economic disruption amid the COVID-19 crisis will keep the United Kingdom and European Union focused on reaching a limited trade deal before London exits the EU single market on Jan. 1. But threats on both sides to abort negotiations are again increasing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit that would force the European Union and the United Kingdom to trade under costly World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs. The latest round of EU-U.K. trade talks began in London on Sept. 8 and will end on Sept. 11. On Sept. 7, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government would walk away from the negotiations if there is not a deal by Oct. 15. The U.K. government is also expected to unveil a bill on Sept. 9 that "clarifies" certain aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement it negotiated with the European Union late last year, including London's interpretation
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