China, the Middle East: Meddle kingdom.
Also: Latin America, the Caucasus, Senegal, Liberia and global health.
CHINA. MIDDLE EAST. Meddle kingdom.
Beijing’s diplomacy is less about peace than a piece of the action.
China hosted foreign ministers from the Palestinian Authority and four Muslim-majority countries on Monday to discuss Gaza. China joined BRICS leaders on Tuesday for a virtual summit, alongside Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and the UAE.
INTELLIGENCE. In the early days of the war in Gaza, the US played shuttle diplomacy while China worked to ensure its Belt and Road Summit was not disrupted. Now that a hostage deal appears imminent, China is belatedly entering talks, albeit with an eye to retaining the trust of the Muslim-majority world, rather than finding any political solution. It also wants to ensure its efforts to facilitate Tehran’s recent rapprochement with Riyadh don’t go to waste.
FOR BUSINESS. The Middle East and Central Asia are the Belt and Road’s focal points, and Beijing must manage its relations carefully lest popular criticism of its policies in Muslim-majority Xinjiang grow. While sanctioned in the West, Xinjiang’s foreign trade grew 40%in the first 10 months of 2023. Beijing is also eyeing future reconstruction work. In June, it signed a strategic partnership with the Palestinian Authority, with infrastructure and development in focus.
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CHINA. LATIN AMERICA. Xi te vas.
Regional leaders line up to go to China.
Uruguay's president arrived in Beijing for a weeklong visit on Monday, focussed on agricultural trade. China reaffirmed on Monday its support for Argentina to join the BRICS group of developing countries after Javier Milei signalled an exit.
INTELLIGENCE. China will be worried about what Milei means for its ties with Argentina. Yet trade and investment flows have a force often greater than diplomacy, as Jair Bolsonaro – a one-time China-sceptic – found in Brazil, and as Taiwan-recognising Paraguay is finding today. Uruguay’s visit comes after a series of meetings between Xi Jinping and the leaders of Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Honduras, which itself switched recognition to Beijing only in March.
FOR BUSINESS. Uruguay has toyed with the idea of a free trade deal with China, which may gain new momentum should Argentina under Milei leave or upend the Mercosur free trade zone. China otherwise hopes to ratify an FTA with Ecuador, whose new government is due to debate the proposal, and is negotiating one with Honduras, which will next year chair the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and have an outsized role in Sino-Latin affairs.
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THE CAUCASUS. My way or the highway.
Having lost Karabakh, Armenia won’t want to lose its economic corridor.
Armenia should work with Turkey and Azerbaijan rather than the West, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday. Baku and Yerevan both wanted peace but spoke "different diplomatic languages", Armenia's prime minister said on Saturday.
INTELLIGENCE. Since Azerbaijan reclaimed the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in September, and Moscow dropped its long-term ally in Yerevan for closer ties to Baku, concerns have risen of an Armenian-Azeri war. Baku says it will no longer join talks with Yerevan in Washington. Yerevan has taken Baku to the Hague and lobbied for a moratorium on US military aid. Yet neither will want to risk their shared geographic advantage for the sake of disputed borders.
FOR BUSINESS. Disputes in the Caucasus are historic and complex, but modern realities should surmount such obstacles if the region’s leaders can ignore diaspora lobbies and cooperate with each other instead. Azerbaijan hopes to use its position on the Caspian Sea as a route for trade between Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Armenia wants to do the same under its ‘Crossroads of Peace’ initiative. With the right incentives, a deal should be possible.
SENEGAL. LIBERIA. Trading places.
An inversion in West African stability.
Liberia declared Joseph Boakai incoming president on Monday, after incumbent George Weah conceded. Senegal's opposition on Sunday said it would propose a new election candidate after its leader was blocked from running.
INTELLIGENCE. Liberia was once a byword for conflict and Senegal an island of stability in West Africa, but today the roles have reversed. In the wake of coups throughout West Africa, Liberia’s peaceful transfer was a relief to a population scarred by war. In Senegal, however, protests have continued after the country’s supreme court declared Ousmane Sonko ineligible to run in polls next year. Sonko is imprisoned and has been on recurring hunger strikes.
FOR BUSINESS. Liberia’s heyday of resource riches in the 1960s could yet return if its newfound stability can translate into economic development. Senegal, on the other hand, is seeing record outflows of migrants to Europe and an uncertain economy amid worries over the stability of its neighbours Mauritania, Guinea, and Mali. Mali, in particular, has seen rising violence as UN peacekeepers leave, Wagner mercenaries arrive, and fighting intensifies in the north.
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GLOBAL HEALTH. Ancient ailments.
Old illnesses are making a worldwide comeback.
Sheffield in England’s north issued an alert on Monday after several measles presentations. Zimbabwe declared a state of emergency on Sunday with an estimated 8,000 cholera cases. Cholera warnings have been issued in Gaza and Sudan.
INTELLIGENCE. The US Centers for Disease Control and the WHO last week reported a 40% rise in measles deaths between 2021 and 2022 due to falling vaccination levels during COVID-19. Vaccine hesitancy in the rich world, and health cuts and cost of living pressures in the developing world, have contributed to a spike in a range of otherwise archaic infections. Drug-resistant typhoid is particularly worrying epidemiologists, as are resurging cases of mumps.
FOR BUSINESS. Disease has a massive cost. Malaria is thought to have slowed Africa's growth rate by 1.3% per year. Immunisation is consistently ranked as one of the best to improve social and economic outcomes. There have been many successes. Wild polio infections have dropped back to just 11 cases this year after a rebound in 2019 and 2020. But war, environmental disaster, and misinformation mean the battle to contain new outbreaks is constant.