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AssessmentsOct 23, 2020 | 18:21 GMT
Fans of the Saudi national football team cheer during a match against Qatar at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Nov. 26, 2014.
Budget Cuts Will Test Saudis’ Loyalty to Their Government
New survey data suggests that Saudi Arabia’s citizens remain politically aligned with and supportive of the government, though that support may quickly dissipate as Riyadh makes difficult decisions on economic restructuring. The Arab Opinion Index, a survey compiled by the Doha Institute in Qatar, gives rare insight into regional social and political trends in the Middle East. For Saudi Arabia, the latest survey findings reveal a population largely content with their economic and political situations. Saudis’ economic well-being, however, will be undercut as pandemic-related losses of oil revenue and the arrival of peak oil demand force their government to make deeper cuts to crucial social programs, creating pockets of unrest across the kingdom.
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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 22:14 GMT
A protester uses a loudspeaker to talk to the crowd during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 19, 2020.
Gauging the Thai Government’s Response to Growing Protests
The recent escalation of the monthslong Thai student protest movement will compel the government to step up its restrictions on dissent and intensify efforts to co-opt the protesters’ less controversial demands through a limited constitutional reform process. This could cause protests to drag on amid continued controversy over the scope and pace of such amendments, even as it eases overall public support for demonstrations. Between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19, Thai protesters turned out on the streets of Bangkok for the most sustained period of protest-related disruptions since the movement kicked off in earnest in July. Demonstrators also appeared in 20 other locations nationwide in smaller numbers. 
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SITUATION REPORTOct 19, 2020 | 14:32 GMT
U.K., EU: London Says Post-Brexit Trade Deal Still Possible
The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will hold a video conference call with his British counterpart, David Frost, on Oct. 19 to discuss the state of the EU-U.K. free trade negotiations, the BBC has reported. Senior U.K. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Oct. 18 that the door is "still ajar" for talks over a post-Brexit trade deal if Brussels is willing to make concessions. 
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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AssessmentsOct 12, 2020 | 20:57 GMT
A picture taken during a helicopter tour organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates shows an aerial view of Dubai on July 8, 2020.
A Larger UAE Citizenry Would Mean Smoother Policymaking and Rockier Regional Ties
The United Arab Emirates is considering offering citizenship to its large expatriate population, which would significantly alter the country’s political economy, as well as its regional relationships, by assimilating non-Arab Gulf residents into its middle- and upper-classes. Over time, this new group of foreign-born Emirati citizens would likely erode the tribal and ethnic dynamics that have long shaped the governance of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, along with the cultural foundations driving many aspects of cooperation in the Arab Gulf. On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country. With foreigners far outnumbering its local population, the United Arab Emirates’ current citizenship laws have offset the country’s long-standing demographic imbalances by ensuring the influence and prominence of its minority Emiratis via special legal and political protections. Changing
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SnapshotsOct 9, 2020 | 18:52 GMT
An Indian fighter jet flies over Leh, the joint capital of the union territory of Ladakh, on June 26, 2020.
China Moves to Freeze Its Border Dispute With India Before the Winter Does
China’s recent reassertion of its 1959 border line with India has left little room for a compromise in the two countries’ territorial dispute in Ladakh ahead of the approaching harsh winter, which will enable Beijing to both reinforce its claims in the Himalayan region come spring, as well as test Indian resolve with actions at other areas along the border. In late September, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent a statement to the Hindustan Times confirming it still recognizes its unilateral 1959 line along the Indian border as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which was drawn before the two countries’ war in 1962. Military officials from the two sides are set to meet Oct. 12 for the seventh round of Corps Commander talks aimed at resolving the border standoff in the eastern section of Ladakh, but China’s reassertion of the 1959 line makes any resolution difficult before the winter season sets in
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SnapshotsOct 8, 2020 | 20:19 GMT
The Turkish Stars, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Turkish Air Force and the national aerobatics team of Turkey, perform Aug. 30, 2015, during the ceremony marking the 93rd anniversary of Victory Day, at Anitkabir, Ataturk's mausoleum, in Ankara.
F-16s Reveal Turkey's Drive to Expand Its Role in the Southern Caucasus
Confirmation of Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft operating out of Azerbaijan amid conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh illustrates Turkish commitment to challenging Russian hegemony in the Southern Caucasus. This will increase Russo-Turkish tensions, but these ultimately will prove manageable under Russian and Turkey's existing model for bilateral mediation and deescalation.
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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 7, 2020 | 17:00 GMT
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends the inauguration ceremony of Supreme Court Justice Luiz Fux on Sept. 10, 2020, in Brasilia, Brazil.
What Bolsonaro's New Spending Push Means for Brazil’s Fiscal Future
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement of a new social cash-support program has raised concerns about the government’s long-term fiscal discipline, as well as its policies to balance the needs for domestic social spending with longer-term debt issues. On Sept. 28, Brasilia announced a new cash transfer social program, dubbed the “Citizens Income,” which offers an extension of current COVID-19 support programs for low-income citizens into 2021. To soften the blow of the COVID-19 outbreak, Bolsonaro’s government has offered multiple fiscal stimulus programs in the past few months at a cost estimated to be more than eight percent of the country’s GDP.
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SnapshotsOct 6, 2020 | 16:32 GMT
A protester is seen in the window of the seized main government building, known as the White House, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Oct. 6, 2020. 
In Kyrgyzstan, Protests Challenge the President’s Place in Power
An overnight outbreak of violent protest activity over parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan casts doubt over President Sooronbay Jeenbekov’s continued rule, but is unlikely to shift the country’s overall policy direction. Following initial limited and peaceful protests in Bishkek, where opposition demonstrators accused Jeenbekov’s supporters of widespread vote-buying, the situation rapidly devolved into violence during the evening of Oct. 5. The situation in Bishkek has now developed into a tense standoff where protesters control various government buildings and have released jailed political opponents of Jeenbekov, while the president himself has not indicated a desire to resign.
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AssessmentsOct 5, 2020 | 20:23 GMT
A photo illustration shows banknotes of the Vietnamese dong on May 21, 2019.
For Vietnam, Trump’s Re-Election Would Translate to Tariffs
A new U.S. investigation into Vietnam’s potential currency manipulation and undervaluation could result in a limited amount of tariffs being levied against Vietnamese goods, should U.S. President Donald Trump be reelected in November. On Oct. 2, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced the launch of the investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which is the United States’ most powerful tool in enacting tariffs on foreign governments with policies deemed harmful to U.S. commercial interests. If concluded by the Trump administration, the investigation -- which will likely take months and could last into 2021 -- would probably find that Vietnam’s currency, the dong, is undervalued due to government policymaking.
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