Factal Forecast

A recent U.S. visit to Taiwan threatens an already unstable relationship with China

November 11, 2021 Episode 30
Factal Forecast
A recent U.S. visit to Taiwan threatens an already unstable relationship with China
Show Notes Transcript

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Vivian Wang discuss China-Taiwan tensions, plus more on the Paris conference on Libya, Bulgaria's election, East African bloc leaders meeting on Ethiopia, Gulf of Mexico oil and gas auction.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors David Wyllie, Awais Ahmad, Sophie Perryer, Imana Gunawan and Vivian Wang.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com

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Read the full episode description and transcript on Factal's blog

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.



Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is November 11th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got France hosting an international conference on Libya, Bulgaria holding its third parliamentary election this year, East African bloc leaders meeting on Ethiopia, a Gulf of Mexico oil and gas auction and an update on China-Taiwan tensions. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.


Paris conference on Libya

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: France is set to host an international conference on Libya on Friday. The meeting comes ahead of elections and amid a fragile peace following a revolution and a years-long civil war.

It’s been 10 years since the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in the country's Arab Spring revolution, and Libya has failed to see the long-term stability that neighboring states like Tunisia and Egypt have. 

Of course, following the 2011 revolution and a period of relative calm, efforts to build a democratic state disintegrated after a slide into factionalism. 

A six-year civil war erupted in 2014. And a ceasefire, agreed to by parties in Geneva in October of last year, has largely held but was recently tested by fighting between rival armed factions in Tripoli just in September.

Now, long-term peace is the international community’s goal, and with the weight of the White House being thrown behind the Paris conference through Vice President Kamala Harris’ attendance, there is hope that the upcoming elections will be fair and a key first step for lasting stability

The peace conference will also seek to address the recent tide of migrants that has flowed through the Mediterranean into Europe, leaving many dead in the process.


Bulgaria election

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: Bulgarian citizens will vote again Sunday after two inconclusive general elections in April and July.

The earlier two elections nearly ended the power hold of Bulgaria’s center-right GERB party after almost a decade, but political disputes between its opponents prevented them from forming a government. 

And although GERB leads the polls in the upcoming election, none of the six parties expected to win seats are likely to secure a majority, leading to difficult coalition talks after the election. 

In the presidential elections, polls show that incumbent President Rumen Radev is expected to remain in power, with the closest challenger being Anastas Gerdjikov, who is backed by the GERB party.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic recovery is one of the biggest issues going into this election, with growing concerns about the rising cost-of-living and general quality of life. 

GERB has faced criticism over corruption, something other parties have focused on in previous elections. But the party has been able to capitalize on concerns about the pandemic response and high energy costs to maintain support going into this election.


East African bloc leaders meeting on Ethiopia

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has called a meeting for Tuesday of the East African trade bloc IGAD, also known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. The bloc will be meeting to discuss the escalating crisis in Ethiopia. 

Now IGAD, of which Ethiopia is a founding member, has already joined other regional organizations in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia. 

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said he had leveraged his position as Chairman of the East African Community and Africa’s representative to the U.N. Security Council to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). 

African Union envoy Olesegun Obasanjo said this week he had identified a small “window of opportunity” for a dialogue between the warring parties, but no date for talks has been announced. 

Now, while regional organizations continue to appeal for calm, the situation on the ground is just deteriorating. 

Mass detentions of Tigrayans continue, as the Ethiopian government reportedly suspects them of supporting the TPLF. 

What’s more, the U.N. warned an estimated 400,000 people in Tigray are living in famine-like conditions, as no humanitarian supplies have entered the region since October 18th. 

Finally, neighboring nations are said to be concerned about the flow of weapons into the country and a possible influx of hundreds of thousands refugees if the conflict goes on.


U.S. auction for Gulf of Mexico dril

Information compiled by Imana Gunawan

JIMMY: In compliance with a court order to resume oil and gas lease sales, the U.S. Interior Department will hold a live-streamed auction Wednesday of approximately 80 million acres offshore — the first such auction under President Joe Biden’s administration.

The last sale in the Gulf of Mexico was in November of last year. But upon taking office in January, Biden, who campaigned on a promise to end new federal oil and gas leasing as part of a climate change agenda, paused drilling auctions pending an environmental analysis. 

However, in June, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered the administration to resume the auctions, saying that the government was required by law to offer acreage to the oil and gas industry.

Now, the lease sale will include more than 15,000 blocks located up to 231 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. 

And while the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it will include lease stipulations to account for biological and environmental impacts, a lawsuit filed in August challenged the administration’s decision to hold the lease sale. 

The lawsuit argues the administration used an outdated 2017 environmental analysis and didn’t meet a legal requirement to carefully study the impacts of the auction.

U.S. lawmakers visit Taiwan

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the continuing tensions between China and Taiwan and the souring relationship between the US and China. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal editor Vivian Wang.

JIMMY: Hi, Vivian. 

VIVIAN: Hi, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Alright, Vivian. You know, earlier this week a delegation of US lawmakers arrived in Taiwan by way of a military plane. And, you know, that can't possibly have gone over well with China. Do we know what they're doing there?

VIVIAN: Not exactly. The US Defense Department confirmed the trip, but didn't really offer any details on who exactly was involved or what specifically the delegation was doing there. And then China, of course, denounced the visit as interference in its internal affairs. Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its own territory, even though the island is a self-governing democracy. Then the Pentagon acknowledged China's objections to the visit, but also said congressional visits to Taiwan are relatively common, which is true, and in keeping with the US obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. But this is the second such visit conducted by congressional members this year.

JIMMY: Well, I guess if these visits are relatively common, why is this one notable?

VIVIAN: Well, the trip comes amid growing Chinese military activity in the region. China's already conducted a “combat readiness patrol” in the direction of the Taiwan Strait after condemning the US lawmakers visit. And over the past year, China has been sending warplanes through Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone with increasing frequency with no signs of easing. The trip also comes amid souring US-China relations and a push by US lawmakers for pro-Taiwan, anti-China legislation.

JIMMY: What kind of legislation are we talking about here?

VIVIAN: Well, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced the Taiwan Peace and Stability Act which aims to “support the diplomatic, economic and physical space” of Taiwan. The proposed legislation doesn't advocate for actually changing the long standing US stance of “strategic ambiguity,” but some in Congress have called for a commitment to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. The Biden administration says they don't support a change in the status quo, but it's also committed to deepening its unofficial relationship with Taipei. 

JIMMY: What's China's reaction been to these moves? 

VIVIAN: Well, both China and the US have actually spoken out against fueling tensions over Taiwan. The US Secretary of State has said the US has not changed its “one China” policy, but said the Biden administration is committed to making sure that “Taiwan has the means to defend itself.” Meanwhile, China's saying, “we require the United States to pursue a real one China policy, not a fake one China policy.” So the US and China have very different ideas of what the status quo means.

JIMMY: Well, what do you suppose folks should be watching for next?

VIVIAN: So, increased military activity around Taiwan is likely to continue, like the provocative incursions by Chinese aircraft into Taiwan's air defense zone, and any additional Chinese military moves like the combat readiness patrol I mentioned earlier in the Taiwan Strait. Also, policies are otherwise unlikely to change substantially on either side, despite growing friction, but do watch for any unilateral moves from either the US or China that could destabilize the status quo.

JIMMY: Well, thank you for the update. Vivian. I appreciate your insight here.

VIVIAN: Yeah. Thanks for having me on, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors David Wyllie, Awais Ahmad, Sophie Perryer and Imana Gunawan. Our interview featured editor Vivian Wang and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com


This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

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