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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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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 20, 2020 | 17:49 GMT
A satellite image shows Europe at night.
The U.S. Ramps Up Financial Support to Central and Eastern Europe
U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative shows the White House remains committed to its security and economic engagements in Central and Eastern Europe, with an eye on countering China and Russia’s presence in the region. On Oct. 19, the United States announced that it will contribute $300 million to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which finances cross-border energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects in the regions between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, raising its capital base to over $1.3 billion. The United States will use cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative to compete with China and Russia for influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as promote its foreign policy agenda in the region (which does not always align with that of the European Union). However, internal divisions among Three Seas Initiative countries will limit the effectiveness of such U.S. influence campaigns by weakening the group’s
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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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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GuidanceOct 13, 2020 | 20:23 GMT
A promotional board for the annual series of meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank is seen outside the IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. on Oct. 13, 2020.
What to Watch for During This Week's IMF-World Bank Meetings
Growing debt vulnerabilities in emerging markets and developing countries amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with the enduring need to prop up global growth with money from developed countries, will be the primary focus of the virtual meetings between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank over the next week. Between Oct. 12-22, the two global financial institutions will hold their annual series of joint discussions via video conference amid burgeoning disagreements on extending the Group of 20 (G-20)’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), as well as broadening the plan to include more comprehensive treatment of debt stocks.
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SnapshotsOct 13, 2020 | 15:52 GMT
The Turkish military activates the S-400 missile system from Russia at an airbase in Ankara on Nov. 25, 2019.
What to Expect From Turkey’s Upcoming Missile System Test
Turkey is poised to soon test its new Russian S-400 missile system, betting that the immediate U.S. pushback will remain symbolic and not include sanctions. Turkey has signaled it will test the S-400 missile system near the Black Sea province of Sinop from Oct. 13-16, according to a “notice to airmen” from the Turkish government that warned of unspecific missile testing. Washington already ended Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program as punishment for purchasing the S-400 system, which it fears will provide Moscow with a backdoor to gain information on advanced NATO weapon systems, such as the F-35, in addition to fostering overall greater security cooperation between Turkey and Russia. U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has yet to signal any plans of enacting new sanctions on Turkey, which -- while popular in Congress -- would have to overcome a presidential veto. 
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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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SITUATION REPORTOct 9, 2020 | 21:08 GMT
U.S.: Possible Xilinx Acquisition by AMD Points to More Consolidation in Semiconductor Industry
In another potential move that could continue to reshape the semiconductor industry -- and draw regulatory scrutiny in China -- Santa Clara-based Advanced Micro Devices is in talks to buy San Jose-based Xilinx in a deal that could reach $30 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 9. Its sources said a deal could be finalized as early as next week.
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