Kim Jong-un’s Korean K-Pop Peninsula


American-Chinese virtual summit. Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will meet in person (virtually) on Monday for the first time since Biden became President of the United States last January. The two have plenty to discuss: trade wars, the 2022 Beijing Olympics – which Biden won’t attend, but likely won’t boycott – and how to deliver on the joint U.S.-China climate pledge made during the COP26. But the elephant in the Zoom room is Taiwan, an ultra-sensitive subject for China. Xi is furious at the Biden administration’s recent public support for the autonomous island, which the Chinese see as part of their own territory. The Americans insist that they are simply doing what they have always done since 1979: pledge to help Taiwan defend itself. Can Biden and Xi handle these issues calmly and calmly? It may help that the two leaders have known each other for over a decade, when they were both vice-presidents. With China-US relations getting colder by the day, the stakes are high.

The streets of Cuba. For months, Cuban activists and dissidents have been planning another island-wide anti-government protest. Well, today is the day, and the stakes are high. The Cuban regime, which refused to issue permits for any marches, said it would not tolerate any unrest and accused the United States of being behind the protests. In July, you may remember, Cuba was the scene of the biggest anti-government protests in decades, as popular anger over shortages, poverty and political repression spilled into the streets. Since then, some 1,200 people have been arrested, about half of whom are languishing in prison awaiting trial for sedition or sabotage, carrying sentences of up to 25 years. We’re keeping an eye not only on what’s going on in Cuba, but also on how the Biden administration is responding. The US president will come under immense pressure from the powerful Cuban-American constituency of Florida, as well as Republicans in general, to impose tougher sanctions on the island. But there is an argument that the interests of the Cuban people could be better served by doing the exact opposite.

Duterte telenovela. The daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will run for vice-presidency next year … while her father is running for a Senate seat. Limited-time elder Duterte had threatened to run against her, but changed her mind again at the eleventh hour. (The president – who faces legal action for his bloody war on drugs unless his successor refuses to prosecute him – was initially going to run alongside his daughter, but later dropped out because he said most Filipinos were against it.) Meanwhile, although the country elects presidents and vice-presidents separately, Sara Duterte will be de facto on a ticket with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator and ally of the Duterte. Expect more drama during the campaign from the Duterts and other big names in the Philippines, where politics are deeply personal and parties only serve as vehicles for those with high profile. With boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao also running over very crowded terrain, buckle up for an epic battle to replace Duterte in May 2022.

Gaddafi’s Redox in Libya? From the descent from one dictator to another. Ten years after the death of former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif – dressed in Berber dresses eerily similar to his father’s classic attire – registered on Sunday to run for president in the December 24 elections. With his return, Saif Gaddafi hopes that those nostalgic for the stability of the previous regime, as well as Libyans tired of the decade of chaos and civil war that followed his father’s ousting, will give him their voice. But if the elections take place, which is quite uncertain due to the ongoing feuds between factions over rules and timing, Gaddafi’s son faces a long chance. On the one hand, he is unlikely to campaign in public because he fears for his safety and has an ICC arrest warrant for crimes against humanity (a Libyan court also sentenced him to died of war crimes in 2015, although this decision was later overturned). On the other hand, he will face tough rivals backed by different groups of foreign powers like General Khalifa Haftar, a warlord backed by the Gulf states and Russia; Aguila Saleh, the influential parliamentary president; and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, head of the UN-backed government of national unity.

US Media Confidence Wars. Do you remember the Steele file? Yes, the oppo research on Donald Trump compiled by a former British spy who claimed Russia had Kompromat influence on the US presidential candidate at the time. After Trump won the 2016 election, several openly hostile media outlets covered the unverified report – Buzzfeed even published it in full – to suggest that Russia helped get Trump elected. Trump and the pro-GOP media criticized him as part of a liberal “witch hunt” to undermine his electoral victory. Well, in the last few days, the case itself has been skewered after Igor Danchenko, the source of the report’s juiciest claim – that Trump got Russian prostitutes to soil a bed that Barack Obama slept in a Moscow hotel – was charged with lying to the FBI about it. The charges against Danchenko subsequently led the Washington Post to correct two old articles that cited the case, the basis of the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign currently being probed by US attorney John Durham. Expect the scandal to dominate the American political conversation for weeks on end and create an even bigger gap in media trust between Democrats and Republicans.

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