🌎 Top US-China economic officials pledge to cooperate

🌎 Top US-China economic officials pledge to cooperate

And: Erdoğan’s election day change might help him win

Hi there Intriguer. When tech media publication CNET attempted to use AI to write articles recently, readers quickly spotted a series of very obvious mistakes made by the journo-bots. Reporter Paul Farhi described the AI’s writing as “serviceable but plodding, pocked by cliches, lacking humour or sass or anything resembling emotions or idiosyncrasies”. If you feel a little breeze, it’s just us breathing a sigh of relief… for now.

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🤝 A cautiously optimistic US-China story.
  • 🇹🇷 Turkey is moving its election up a month.
  • ➕ Plus: France takes to the streets, how the papers are covering Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation, and some relaxing recommendations for your weekend. 

– VC & EP

  1. 🇺🇸 The US: The Biden Administration may send weapons to Ukraine that are capable of striking Crimea. Until now, the US has refused to endorse military action against Crimea.
  2. 🇳🇬 Nigeria: Nigeria’s election commission chief has pledged not to delay next month’s presidential election despite widespread and credible fears of electoral violence.
  3. 🇷🇴 Romania: Romania and Bulgaria plan to build two hydropower plants on the Danube River to boost their green energy supplies. They’ll be operational within six years.
  4. 🇹🇭 Thailand: Thai stocks are Southeast Asia’s best value as Chinese tourists return to the country, according to JP Morgan Chase. The bank estimates Thailand will welcome 26 million visitors (about 65% of pre-pandemic levels) this year.
  5. 🇦🇲 Armenia: Armenia will not host joint military exercises this year for the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been increasingly critical of the Russian-led organisation.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pose for a picture, with very odd results. Credits: Michael Buholzer/Keystone/AP

We (might) meet again: Yellen and Liu pledge to improve US-China economic communication

Briefly: We’re relieved to report that the US and China are still on talking terms. On Wednesday (18 January), US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with Chinese vice-premier Liu He on the sidelines of the Davos summit for a “candid” conversation. The pair reportedly discussed trade, inflation, and China’s sputtering real estate sector.

The face-to-face meeting was the first between senior American and Chinese economic officials in three years.

Beyond the readout: The three-hour meeting was light on ‘announceables’, to use diplomatic slang. But both sides did hint at more meetings in the future: they pledged to maintain open lines of communication, and Yellen agreed to visit China later this year for advanced bilateral economic talks.

Intrigue’s take: As positive as Wednesday’s talks may have been, we don’t expect US-China relations to improve much. China expert Bill Bishop points out that Taiwan remains a sticking point: “US-China economic and diplomatic channels appear to be improving, though I still wonder how Beijing will react if/when the new Speaker of the House fulfils his promise to travel to Taiwan.”

Between the Russo-Ukraine War, Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and US semiconductor export controls, it’s been a rough 12 months for US-China relations. Still, as global economies stare down a recession, any warming between the world’s superpowers is a good thing.

Also worth noting: 

  • While US-China economic talks move forward, military talks between the two superpowers have reportedly stalled.
  • Total annual trade between China and the US decreased by 2.6% in 2022, highlighting just how intertwined the two economies remain.

How newspapers covered: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation announcement earlier this week.

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Erdoğan’s election day change might help him win another term

Briefly: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to bring Turkey’s election forward from 18 June to 14 May, pending approval from Turkey’s Parliament and Election Council. Both bodies are expected to support the measure.

Erdoğan is in the fight of his political life, with several of his top rivals running ahead of him in opinion polls. And it’s not hard to understand why: Erdoğan’s highly unorthodox (if not entirely insane) monetary policy pushed inflation to 85% in October, the highest in 24 years. The Turkish lira depreciated nearly 30% against the US dollar in 2022.

But as Turkey’s economy stumbles, Erdoğan’s government has borrowed heavily to subsidise wage increases and guarantee early retirement for millions of workers.

Intrigue’s take: Erdoğan has remade Turkey’s courts and election system in his image during his two decades in power. Analysts have speculated that he wants to bring the election forward to sync it up with the delivery of his economic stimulus. Erdoğan may be down, but it is never wise to count him out. 

Also worth noting: 

  • A Turkish court may ban a top opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, ahead of the elections.
  • Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is considered Erdoğan’s most likely challenger after Istanbul’s popular mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu was sentenced to jail for calling members of Turkey’s supreme election council “fools”.

Protestors in Marseille. Credits: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

To the barricades!

Few can rival the French for their love of protests and riots (except perhaps Philadelphia Eagles fans). But the latest round of protests over a plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 is a broader warning sign for governments across the world.

The problem: pension funds are running dry. As birthrates decline and people live longer (looking at you, Sister André), the ratio of workers to retirees is decreasing. In the 1950s, for instance, there were four French workers for every retiree; today, that ratio is 1.7 to 1.

Not just a French problem: According to the World Economic Forum, “The global gap between retirement savings and retirement income needs is projected to reach $400 trillion in three decades – more than five times the size of the global economy.”

Time to get a(nother) job, boomers!* 😘

*Just jokes; please don’t send us hate mail!


Here are a few tips for those of you in need of some R&R this weekend. If you’ve got:

  • 10 mins: read the side-by-side comparison of The Hobbit in its original and revised forms.
  • 1 hour: bake this traditional Italian Caprese chocolate cake. It’s fluffy, light and gluten-free!
  • 2.5 hours: stream the Royal Ballet’s performance of ‘Swan Lake,’ preferably while sipping some chilled white wine.

~ Valentina, senior editor and expert Italian


Which election are you most intrigued by this year?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Yesterday’s poll: Should Western governments cooperate with the Taliban?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👍 Yes, too many lives are at risk (22%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 👎 No, there’s no cooperating with the Taliban (78%)

Your two cents: 

  • 👎 B.C: “No one should help regimes that support terrorist groups/activities – we should work to rescue Afghans left behind (in the poorly planned withdrawal) who helped US & NATO forces but avoid any support (even symbolic) for the Taliban regime.”
  • 👍 P.R: “The history of noncooperation between the West and Iran shows that it has failed to achieve the goal of bringing Iran’s regime down, and we ought to expect the same in Afghanistan… Besides, has anyone got a better idea? How else can we hope to gain compromises with the Taliban?”
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