(Photo: Getty Images)
David Smith and Lauren Gambino
ortraits of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt loomed watchfully. Five US senators with decades of collective experience stood in deference at their chairs. Donald Trump was about to enter the room, a prospect that assures a frisson of unpredictability. The president strode in, shook hands with Chuck Grassley and patted Lindsey Graham on the back. Graham playfully punched the air. “Lindsey used to be a great enemy of mine,” Trump told the gathering when all were seated a few minutes later, “and now he’s a great friend of mine.” The senator for South Carolina shifted awkwardly in his chair and grinned: “I like me too, so we have something in common.” There was a ripple of laughter. Later, when 71-year-old Trump turned to Senator James Lankford and called him “Tom”, everyone pretended to ignore it. (Read more)
Tom Mitchell and John Reed
Before his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, Xi Jinping’s advisers presented him with four drafts of a speech for the annual gathering of global elites. According to two people familiar with the Chinese president’s preparations, Mr Xi chose to give the softest version, presenting China as an environmentally friendly champion of globalisation and free trade. He was speaking just days before President Donald Trump celebrated pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that pointedly excluded China. Beijing has since rushed to secure what Chinese officials call the “strategic opportunity” arising from Mr Trump’s election victory, by accelerating efforts to repair long-strained relations with two traditional US allies in the region, the Philippines and Japan. China has offered Manila generous infrastructure deals and taken steps to attract new investment by Japanese multinationals. The Chinese charm offensive is a carefully calculated response to growing doubts in the region about the reliability of the US, as Beijing seeks to alter the balance of power in east Asia. (Read more)
Iran has been rocked by a rare wave of protests over economic hardship and lack of civil liberties for the past week, but streets are not the only battleground between the Islamic Republic and its critics.
A cyber battle on several fronts is being fought between the two sides on social media platforms.
In 2009 – the last time Iran saw demonstrations of such scale – social media was dominated by pro-opposition users and reformists who used Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to share images of the Green Movement to the outside world.
Today, messaging apps are used by a significantly higher percentage of the population and the government is better prepared to confront its opponents on digital media. (Read more)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, weakened by an election setback in September, launches a second bid to build a coalition government on Sunday when she sits down with the Social Democrats (SPD) for exploratory talks.
A re-run of her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD, in power from 2013 to 2017, appears the best option for conservative Merkel is as it would provide stability in what would be her fourth term.
But with success far from guaranteed, there are a range of other possible scenarios. (Read more)
Euan McKirdy and Taehoon Lee
North Korea has accepted South Korea’s proposal for official talks in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years.