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China’s costly COVID record, the Fed looks to slow rate rises, a long-awaited Malaysian PM, Kyiv wit͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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cloudy Washington
thunderstorms Kyiv
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November 24, 2022


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Prashant Rao
Prashant Rao

Welcome to Semafor Flagship, your essential global guide to the news you need to know, and the stories you don’t want to miss.

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The World Today

  1. China’s costly COVID record
  2. The Fed looks to slow rate rises
  3. A long-awaited Malaysian PM
  4. Kyiv without power and water
  5. Afghans publicly flogged
  6. Zimbabwe’s new parliament
  7. Denmark frustrated with FIFA
  8. Latin America’s Millennials
  9. The US goes renewable
  10. Vaccines’ savings

PLUS: Why China isn’t invading Taiwan anytime soon, and a French sequel dominates Netflix.


China’s COVID cancellations

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

China’s daily COVID-19 cases hit a record high of 31,527, prompting renewed lockdowns and censorship. A viral social-media post was deleted after its author noted audiences at the men’s World Cup were not wearing masks, writing, “Aren’t they on the same planet we live?” The restrictive policies have led to the cancellation of the Shanghai Grand Prix, the BBC reported. The only Chinese Formula 1 driver told CNN that he was inspired to take up the sport as a five-year-old watching Rubens Barrichello win the first Shanghai race in 2004. The next generation of Chinese racing drivers may not have the same inspiration.


US rate hike respite

The U.S. Federal Reserve is finally likely to slow the pace of rate increases. The “substantial majority” of its rate-setting committee now believe it will “soon be appropriate” to do so, though rates’ ultimate peak will likely be high as policymakers look to combat inflation, minutes from their most recent meeting showed. The central bank’s economists also said that a recession was “almost as likely” as their main projections of sluggish economic growth. Despite the gloomy forecast, U.S. stocks rose. The Fed next meets to determine interest rates in mid-December.


From prison to power

Fazry Ismail/Pool via REUTERS

Anwar Ibrahim finally became Malaysia’s prime minister. His appointment breaks a political deadlock following weekend elections that saw his multiethnic bloc win the most seats, the country’s historically dominant party defenestrated, and an Islamist party win record support. Anwar’s success is decades in the making, following multiple stints in opposition, years in jail on sodomy charges widely condemned as politically motivated, and even a period where he was de facto prime minister-in-waiting. “This you need to learn from Anwar Ibrahim,” he told reporters after the election delivered a hung parliament, “patience, wait a long time, patience.”


Russia’s assault on infrastructure

REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A Russian missile barrage further damaged Ukrainian water and electricity supplies. The latest assault — part of what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described to the U.N. Security Council as Moscow’s “energy terror” — left most of Kyiv without power and much of it without running water. Moldova, which borders Ukraine, also suffered blackouts. A senior Ukrainian security official said the Russian strategy appeared to be driven by hopes that Kyiv will direct more of its military toward rear defense, and away from its successful efforts to retake territory.


Public floggings in Afghanistan

The Taliban flogged at least a dozen people in front of thousands at a football stadium. Three women were among those punished for “moral crimes” in the latest, and most public, violent penalties delivered in recent days in Afghanistan, dashing misplaced hopes that the group would rule more moderately after seizing power last year. The punishments came after the Taliban’s supreme leader this month ordered judges to strictly enforce the group’s narrow interpretation of Islamic law.


Zimbabwe’s China-funded parliament

Twitter/Zimbabwe Parliament

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened a new legislative session in his country’s imposing new Parliament complex, funded and constructed by China. The structure — a $200 million, six-story building on eight acres of land outside Harare — is the most high-profile of several major Chinese construction projects in Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa described the new building as “majestic.” With elections due next year, however, ordinary Zimbabweans have seen little of the largesse impact their own lives: inflation remains sky-high, economic growth is languid, and as the BBC puts it, “a climate of fear still lingers.”


Denmark mulls FIFA withdrawal

REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

Denmark is considering leaving FIFA. The world football governing body threatened to punish teams, including Denmark, if their captains wore rainbow armbands in support of LGBTQ rights at the men’s World Cup. Jesper Moller, chairman of the Danish Football Association, said that Denmark and other Nordic countries had discussed leaving, although a Danish FA spokesman told Reuters that there were no plans to withdraw. Other countries are unhappy with FIFA’s stance: Germany’s players covered their mouths for a photo before their game with Japan, indicating that they could not speak, while a German minister wore the armband.


Millennial power

Latin America’s millennials are growing in clout but a substantial portion are ambivalent towards democracy. Led by the presidents of El Salvador and Chile, who are 41 and 36, respectively, millennials across the region are getting elected to public office at an unforeseen pace, Americas Quarterly reports. Their political success is driven by dissatisfaction at stagnating living standards, and helped by the spread of democracy across the region: more than 90% of Latin Americans now live in democratic regimes. Yet 32% of millennial voters see little difference between democracies and authoritarian regimes, per Latinobarometro.


America’s greener power

Renewable energy in the U.S. will overtake coal power by the end of the year. Growth in solar and wind power has slowed in America, partly because of supply chain issues and reduced trade with China, but it is still trending up. Power from coal has been falling, and the two are expected to cross over this year, says Scientific American. In the U.S., 19% of electricity still comes from coal. In the U.K., that figure is 1.6%. U.S. President Joe Biden’s government hopes the $270 billion clean-energy investment in the Inflation Reduction Act will speed up the shift.


Return on investment

Flickr/New York National Guard

Every dollar spent on the COVID-19 vaccine campaign in New York saved the city $10 in healthcare costs, productivity loss, and illness and death, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The pandemic hit economies hard, on top of the millions of dead: the economist Michael Kremer estimated that it cost the world $375 billion a month. Vaccines hugely reduced that cost — for countries that could afford them. Richer countries tended to get the vaccines earlier and in greater numbers, and may suffer less economically than poorer ones as a result.

  • A court in Frankfurt hears a case against Twitter over its alleged failure to do enough to remove hate speech from its platform.
  • Americans celebrate Thanksgiving.
  • The Fall of Boris Johnson, an account of how the former British prime minister lost his grip on power by political journalist Sebastian Payne, is released.

Can a green World Cup grow in the desert? Watch our latest video to find out.

Guest Column

China’s non-invasion

Paul Szoldra is the founder and editor of The Ruck, a weekly dispatch on national security.

Are the United States and China about to go to war over Taiwan? Speculation over a potential war in the future has been replaced by talk that it may happen soon: The U.S. Chief of Naval Operations even suggested it could happen next year. As the Washington consensus hardens against China in the runup to the 2024 U.S. elections, such talk will likely proliferate.

Despite a troubling situation along the Taiwan Strait, speculation is just that. Taiwan will be under considerable pressure from Beijing in the coming years — especially during its own presidential race in 2024 — but an invasion is not coming. At least not yet.

The “enormous visible movement” required before such an attack would be pretty obvious. We’d know well in advance — much as we did with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — that an assault was coming. Steps would include heightened propaganda and measures to insulate the Chinese economy from Western sanctions, rocket and missile production surges, and recognizable military equipment and personnel movements toward the coast.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s recent consolidation of power and China’s growing military strength certainly make war more likely. But an amphibious invasion or blockade of Taiwan would place Xi at considerable risk, and so far, the “strategic ambiguity” regarding a U.S. response has kept Beijing in check. It may not hold forever, but for now, it does.


A hair-raising French franchise


Lost Bullet 2 led Netflix’s non-English film category for a second week. The French action thriller tells the story of a genius mechanic trying to avenge the death of his brother, a sequel to Lost Bullet, which came third on the same Top 10 list. High-speed car chases and fight scenes are back, with a third film expected. “The success of Lost Bullet 2 proves that it is not necessary to ruin oneself to attract crowds,” wrote AlloCine.

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Prashant, Tom Chivers, Preeti Jha, and Jeronimo Gonzalez

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