Chinese president Xi Jinping is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, Martin Chulov reported. Plans are underway for a gala reception for Xi next week to match that given to former President Donald Trump on his first trip abroad as president: “China made no public comment about Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen, its boycott of Qatar, or the murder of dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, which led to strong condemnation in the U.S. and Europe.”
There are fragile democracies everywhere one looks today. Here’s a run-down.
TAIWAN — CHINA ISSUES NEW WHITE PAPER: This is the third policy paper issued by Beijing on Taiwan since 1992. (English language version here.) The first sentence: “Taiwan Is Part of China – This Is an Indisputable Fact,” and the paper goes on to assert that China’s “national rejuvenation is driven by an unstoppable force.” As Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during her recent visit to Taipei: “Whatever China was going to do, they’ll do in their own good time.”
How China is outmuscling Taiwan among Washington media: Taipei has survived in Washington with a cautious public messaging strategy for years. There’s no “wolf warrior” reaction or flooding the zone when China acts out. You have probably never heard of Taiwan’s de facto Ambassador Bi-Khim Hsiao, and maybe that’s not necessary for Taiwan to survive and thrive. But will this low-key approach still work if Chinese Ambassador Qin Yang is going all-in to make sure Beijing’s messages are heard from Georgetown dinner parties to CNN to the global conference circuit? Phelim Kine investigates.
It’s a similar story at international organizations in Geneva: Chinese diplomats this morning flooded communications teams at international organizations based in the city — according to an email from Chinese U.N. mission seen by Global Insider — with a comprehensive package of press and policy statements on their Taiwan position.
A warning from Berlin: We passed the first half of 2022 marveling at Germany’s dependence on Russia, and how that shaped European policy-making for decades. The German economy’s dependence on China is even greater, writes POLITICO’s chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday dodged questions about whether Berlin would sanction Beijing in the event of a Taiwan invasion. Norbert Röttgen, a former minister and longtime chair of the German parliament’s foreign policy committee, is more direct: He calls the China relationship “a dependency that leaves us helpless,” and doubts sanctions would be possible.
Baltics stand up to China: Estonia and Latvia have followed Lithuania’s lead, and left a club China set up for engagement between Beijing and Central and Eastern European capitals.
ITALY — MELONI SAYS SHE’S NOT FASCIST, JUST A REPUBLICAN: Italy’s most likely next prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, who leads the Brothers of Italy party, which has fascist roots, has pushed back on the comparison. In a video message in French, Spanish and English, she said she’s simply a conservative and “shares values and experiences with the British Tories, the U.S. Republicans and the Israeli Likud.”
KENYA — RUTO WINS, MAYBE: The Kenyan Electoral Commission warns its audience to verify election results before sharing, but it’s anyone’s guess where those results are. The official count shows less than 1.5 percent of votes counted, though the Commission said it has received 99 percent of reports from polling stations.
You can’t find the results yet on the Commission’s website, but Google will tell you Deputy President William Rutois leading Raila Odinga and other candidates with 52 percent of the vote.
First vote-rigging claim: “Late on Thursday, the chairman of (President Uhuru) Kenyatta‘s Jubilee party, which has backed Odinga, issued a statement alleging “massive subtle rigging” and claiming the “electoral process was highly compromised” after Ruto’s new party made a strong showing in an area traditionally dominated by Kenyatta,” Reuters reported.
Election observers view: A joint International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute International Election Observation Mission said Thursday in a statement that “there have been notable positive elements — a more peaceful pre-election period and improved candidate nomination process” and that Election Day was orderly.
But the IRI/NDI statement noted “concerns about last minute changes to the Election Day procedures, and about the security and timeliness of the transmission and announcement of results.” The mission was co-led by Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique; and included Donna Brazile, an NDI board member and Randy Scheunemann, IRI board vice chair.
BRAZIL — TENSIONS RISE WITH BOLSONARO BEHIND AND SPREADING CONSPIRACY: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leads in opinion polls, sometimes by double digits. But that has many Brazilians worried — leading to a massive public protest in defense of democracy. That’s because President Jair Bolsonaro has said repeatedly he won’t go (he has claimed “only God will remove me”), even if he loses the Oct. 2 vote.
A loss for Bolsonaro may also mean criminal charges for his shambolic handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in his country, which health specialists agree contributed to the country’s high death toll of 681,000.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to introduce a resolution once Congress returns from its August recess, to call on the U.S. to break ties with Brazil if it’s led by an illegitimate regime. “It would be unacceptable for the United States to recognize and work with a government that actually lost the election,” Sanders told my colleague Alex Ward. He underscored that if Bolsonaro, Lula or someone else wins the presidency lawfully, then there’s no need for a change in the U.S.-Brazil relationship.
U.S. — AFTER THE TRUMP SEARCH WARRANT, AMERICA TRACKS TOWARD POLITICAL VIOLENCE
The judge who signed the search warrant of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion is facing death threats. Christopher Wray, head of the FBI, described escalating threats of violence against his and other law enforcement officials as “deplorable and dangerous.” An armed man accused of trying to break into the FBI’s Cincinnati office on Thursday morning exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers, entered an hours-long stand-off, and was eventually shot and killed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Conspiracy, everywhere: “Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous — and scary,” writes long-time GOP-watcher Tim Alberta.
These audiences believe in plots to sabotage a second Trump campaign to steal a second election (2024) from them, after the supposed theft of the 2020 election.
Some congressional GOP voices are fermenting this conspiracy-driven worldview. “No one is safe from political punishment in Joe Biden’s America,” the House GOP Judiciary Committee team tweeted this week.
The idea that every arm of government is out to get you, is an extraordinary message from a major political party. Tax collectors at the IRS are not the second incarnation of Stalin — but brutal political point-scoring against them can turn into a cover for political violence.
“We’ve seen what happens when millions of Americans abandon their faith in the nation’s core institutions,” Alberta writes. “We’ve seen what happens when millions of Americans become convinced that their leaders are illegitimate.”
Meet the GOP’s future king of Biden investigations, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).
Cheney 2024: All signs suggest Cheney is working to turn a likely congressional primary defeat on Tuesday into a 2024 presidential run, writes John Harris. She’s cashed up with Democrat and Never Trumper money, not exactly denying her interest, and rhetorically ready to wreck Trump’s 2024 chances.
U.S. PRISONS UNDER UNITED NATIONS SPOTLIGHT
Another form of political violence takes place every day in America’s prisons, often directed at Black men. On Thursday in Geneva, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination began hearings on whether the U.S. is complying with its international treaty obligations in prisons.
A panel led by South African, Jamaican and German delegates is questioning U.S. officials for the first time since 2014 (the Trump administration refused to show up), and there’s plenty of tension in the U.S. delegation, civil society members of that delegation told Global Insider.
The NGOs tore into administration officials at an internal consultation in Geneva on Wednesday — angry at what they feel is cursory consultation and the State Department presenting an inaccurate representation of problems in American prisons.
The U.S. delegation is led by Desirée Cormier Smith (the State Department’s Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice) and Michèle Taylor (U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council) and includes figures such as the Mayor of Atlanta, Andre Dickens.
The Southern Poverty Law Center presented a report from a coalition of NGOs to the U.N. investigators, highlighting repeated failures in American state prisons to meet the U.N.’s Standard Minimum Rules on treatment of incarcerated people, and the impact on Black populations, who are five times more likely to be incarcerated in those prisons.
SPLC’s senior policy counsel, Lisa Borden, told Global Insider: “For example, the report asserted that solitary confinement in the U.S. is rarely used, used only when absolutely necessary to prevent physical harm. We know that solitary confinement is routinely used and people are locked up for months and years in solitary confinement.”
Walk versus talk: “Anyone who works in the international advocacy space has to be accepting of incrementalism. You hope to chip away at things,” Borden said. “But President Biden has made a pretty big deal about his intention to return the United States to a position of leadership on human rights. Unfortunately, although I do believe that the Biden administration’s intentions are good, there’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of walk.”
Where’s the Treasury? “In Alabama, right now, the governor and state legislature are planning to use hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID relief funds to build new prisons. This is the kind of thing that the Treasury Department could prevent. They don’t need Congress. They don’t need the DOJ, they don’t need the Supreme Court. There’s regulatory and executive steps that could be taken to prevent that.”
LEGISLATING FOR CARBON TRADING: India’s lower house of parliament passed a landmark energy bill on Wednesday. There would be renewable energy requirements for businesses in addition to a carbon trading system.
WAR PRACTICE IN THE HIMALAYAS: The U.S. and India will conduct high-altitude combat training from Oct. 18-31, in the state of Uttarakhand bordering Tibet, Nikkei reported. Coming on the heels of China’s Taiwan intimidation, the location is unlikely to be a coincidence.
BY THE NUMBERS — SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT’S SUPPORT COLLAPSING: It’s a good day for Emmanuel Macron, the perennial least popular leader in Morning Consult’s Global Leader Approval Tracker. Today, fewer than 1 in 5 South Koreans (19 percent) approve of President Yoon Suk-yeol‘s job performance four months after his inauguration, and 72 percent disapprove. He is now the least popular leader in the tracker.
BY THE NUMBERS — UKRAINE NOT IN THE MOOD TO NEGOTIATE: Most Ukrainians do not believe in conceding any territory to Russia.
— 98 percent: number of Ukrainians who believe Ukraine will win the war
— 91 percent: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s approval rating
— 72 percent: Support level for joining NATO, a 13 percent spike since May
The survey was conducted by the International Republican Institute’s Center for Insights in Survey Research and funded by USAID.
DIPLOMATS WITHOUT BORDERS
You may have heard of Independent Diplomat, the on-demand diplomacy service that claims to go where conventional diplomacy does not to rewrite “the rules of diplomacy” to “ensure that those with most at stake get a seat at the table.” But how about a network of individual diplomats roaming the world offering their skills, for free? That’s the pitch of Diplomats Without Borders, a group of experts from 13 countries who met in Italy in June to create their own version of Doctors Without Borders.
The group outlined their principles in the grandly styled Bellagio Declaration. In a nutshell: “The goal is to create a more level international playing field,” said Kees Rade, a former Dutch diplomat who is chairing the new organization’s board.
But who will pay if the work is performed pro bono? Rade told Global Insider: “Our first priorities are expanding our membership and securing some funding. One conflict that probably will come up soon is North Mozambique, where one of our members is involved.”
The other diplomats are: Abeda Osman, Clements McCartney, Eric Kimani, Clements McCartney, Ertugrul Apakan, Gay Rosenblum-Kumar, Hesham Youssef, Itonde Kakoma, John Edward Greene, Jordan Ryan, Jorge Sievert Heine Lorenzen, Karel de Beer, Md. Abdul Hannan, Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Roeland van de Geer.
FORMER SWEDISH PM HEADED TO HARVARD:Stefan Löfven heads the latest list of Harvard Kennedy School resident fellows.
GET READY FOR NEW YORK CONGESTION CHARGE AT $5 — $23: Will those prices get you back on the subway?
HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE ON AMTRAK:Rossilynne Culgan thinks Amtrak carriages are the most productive office spaces in America. She explains how she maximizes her use of them here. Culgan’s New York to Pittsburgh route must avoid the incredible shaking that occurs on parts of the Northeast Regional and Acela routes that Global Insider takes each week between New York and Washington.
CENTENNIAL ISSUE OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: The issue is out Sept. 6, but editors have released a preview essay “The Beginning of History,” from Oxford University philosopher William MacAskill, on the dangers of humanity’s genius.
Read more about MacAskill here, in this New Yorker profile by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, “The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism,” whose adherents think a life in the developing world can be saved for about $4,000 and once recommended believers work in finance in order to maximize their donatable income.
LONG READ: Josephine Baker was the star France wanted and the spy it needed, hiding from the Nazis in plain sight.
MUSEUM: The Pan African Heritage Museum is under construction in Accra, Ghana, and the goal is for visitors to relearn African history as curated by Africans. The physical museum won’t open until 2024, but tickets to a virtual visit are available now.
Thanks to editor John Yearwood and producer Hannah Farrow.
SUBSCRIBE to the POLITICO newsletter family: D.C. Playbook | Brussels Playbook | London Playbook | ParisPlaybook | Ottawa Playbook | EU Confidential | D.C. Influence | EU Influence | London Influence | Digital Bridge | China Direct | Berlin Bulletin | Living Cities
POLITICO is now on Snapchat — Watch my first show here on the race to replace Boris Johnson.