China, the US: If you're going to San Francisco.
Also: Israel, Palestine, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Western Sahara.
CHINA. UNITED STATES. If you’re going to San Francisco.
Xi Jinping wants a good reason to visit Joe Biden.
Following meetings about a possible visit by Xi Jinping, China’s foreign minister on Saturday said the “road to San Francisco will not be a smooth one”. US officials on Friday said meetings with the envoy had been “candid and in-depth”.
INTELLIGENCE. China and the US have a lot to talk about, but most of it is bad, which doesn’t bode well for a face-saving visit by Xi at the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco next month. While both sides have called for stabler ties, ongoing trade restrictions and differences on geopolitics from Israel to Taiwan will make it hard for Xi to speak of “win-win” cooperation, which is his preferred mode of interaction. Officials will need to find some good news fast.
FOR BUSINESS. San Francisco’s tech hub symbolism could make a visit even more awkward if restrictions on US semiconductor IP and other dual-use technologies aren’t eased. In any case, while US embargoes and Chinese retaliation are harming the mood, there’s little evidence the crackdowns are working. Beijing’s spending on domestic technologies has doubled. Breakthroughs have been made in 7-nanometre processors and 3D NAND memory chips.
Written by former diplomats and industry specialists, Geopolitical Dispatch gives you the global intelligence for business and investing you won’t find anywhere else.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Guns vs gestures.
Opposition to invasion is confined to the streets.
Israel published images of its tanks inside Gaza on Sunday as troops began a ground invasion. Thousands marched across the region on Sunday and an angry crowd surrounded a plane from Israel that landed in Russia's Dagestan.
INTELLIGENCE. As the war in Gaza continues, pro-Palestine protests are gaining strength from the Middle East to the West. That said, few states are willing to provide more than rhetorical support for Gaza, including via a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution on a “humanitarian truce”. Even Israel’s avowed enemy in Iran is keeping the threats more muted. Iran’s foreign minister told CNN on Sunday he did not want the conflict to “spread out”.
FOR BUSINESS. There are signs the war will be more limited than once feared. The assault’s delay and Netanyahu's declining public support favour a more targeted campaign than what Israel’s public rhetoric suggests. Shuttle diplomacy between the US, Europe and Saudi Arabia, not to mention Turkey and Russia, should reduce the scope for error. The threat of further embargoes also hangs over Iran. Lots can go wrong but talk of World War III is hyperbole.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
BANGLADESH. Sheikh it off.
The prime minister faces her most serious threat in years.
Anti-government protests turned violent on Saturday with the death of a police officer and 100 injuries. The General Secretary of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party was arrested on Sunday after over a million took to the streets.
INTELLIGENCE. Despite the country’s economic outperformance since she regained power in 2009, support for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declined as the 76-year-old leader grows more dictatorial. Elections are due in January, but the BNP's chairwoman, Khaleda Zia – a former prime minister, fellow dynast and Hasina’s bitter rival – is under house arrest. While unpopular, moves against others in the BNP could see Hasina continue to govern unopposed.
FOR BUSINESS. Hasina’s business friendly reputation took a hit in 2012, when she began moves against Nobel Prize-winning lender Grameen Bank, and again in 2016 over an infrastructure kickbacks scandal. And while Bangladesh’s GDP per capita now exceeds that of India, growing debt, declining foreign reserves, an 80% export reliance on garments, and surging inflation now threaten to undo what the World Bank once called a “development miracle”.
KAZAKHSTAN. Getting mine.
Disaster strikes amid an industrial nationalisation.
A coal mine blast killed at least 45, Kazakhstan's emergency ministry said on Saturday. The mine’s operator, a subsidiary of New York-listed ArcelorMittal, had been undergoing nationalisation over safety and ecological concerns.
INTELLIGENCE. Following another five deaths in August, the incident may vindicate Astana’s decision to take over ArcelorMittal Temirtau, but a history of industrial complaints leading to mass unrest won’t leave officials easy. Riots that began last year with protesting oil workers led to the intervention of Russian troops and 250 deaths. In 2011, 14 were killed after a weekend of strikes. Astana remains reliant on Moscow for security despite the threat of sanctions.
FOR BUSINESS. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Arcelor was “the worst” investor in Kazakhstan’s history, but the firm doesn’t have a monopoly on poor safety or decrepit infrastructure. Since independence, Kazakhstan has grappled with its Soviet inheritance and its desire to attract foreign investment. This tension has become especially acute since the war in Ukraine, where the path between Western, Russian and Chinese interests has only narrowed.
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MOROCCO. WESTERN SAHARA. Sand trap.
Explosions threaten to worsen a territorial dispute.
Moroccan police on Sunday reported four explosions in the Western Saharan city of Smara, killing one and injuring another three. The UN Security Council on Monday is set to extend its peacekeeping mandate in the disputed territory.
INTELLIGENCE. With the backing of Algeria, Sahrawi Arabs have sought independence for the sparsely populated region since before Morocco’s annexation in 1975. But until a ceasefire broke down in November 2020, the conflict was largely forgotten. That year, Morocco recognised Israel in exchange for the US recognising Morocco's claim to Western Sahara. In 2022, former colonist Spain said it would recognise Morocco's offer of limited Sahrawi autonomy.
FOR BUSINESS. Damaged Israel-Arab relations, uncertainty in Spain, and UNSC disagreements over the MINURSO peacekeeping mandate threaten to throw Western Saharan peace efforts in disarray. The Moroccan government’s growing unpopularity at home and Rabat’s rejection of an olive branch from Algiers also complicate matters. The EU relies on Morocco as a relatively stable actor in North Africa and as a major producer of fertiliser, cars and textiles.