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Will the New Year bring better tidings for China?


The shooting in Los Angeles that killed ten at the Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park, Los Angles, put the Chinese festival on Americans’ radar. Otherwise, skyrocketing Covid-19 cases and deaths would have garnered more coverage than the country’s biggest festival, often dubbed the largest annual migration of people from the cities to the suburbs and back.

The Chinese have little to celebrate at the dawn of the new year. People’s protests at the end of 2022 forced the government to lift COVID-19 restrictions abruptly. The opening up of businesses and the effort to return to pre-pandemic normal has sent COVID-19 infection rates soaring.

Lacking herd immunity and denied access to high-efficacy foreign vaccines, the Chinese population is highly vulnerable to infections. Just before New Year’s Day, which fell on 22nd January this year, authorities said 13,000 Covid–related deaths were recorded at hospitals between January 13 and 19. Given that the Chinese government released those numbers, many are highly skeptical of their accuracy. Beijing is known for its opacity, resistance to information sharing, and peddling of misinformation. Therefore, experts are concerned that the number of deaths may be two or three times the stated figure.

With home-grown vaccines enjoying little faith and showing less effectiveness, it is unlikely that the vaccination will gain momentum unless the government imposes a vaccine mandate. Given that it is the holidays and that three-time President Xi Jinping is reeling under the consequences of earlier government-issued “mandates,” it will be interesting to see how Beijing handles the crisis.

China has little to cheer these days. Emerging from long-drawn-out pandemic restrictions, the Chinese find that their economy has suffered just as much. According to its official source, the National Bureau of Statistics of China, “the growth of real gross domestic product (GDP) in China amounted to 3.0 percent in 2022.” Just a year earlier, the growth rate was 8.1%.

Fuelled by cheap labor, low-cost industrial production, and a thriving international market, China enjoyed enviable growth over the past few decades. Those days seem to be history. The pandemic caused supply chain disruptions that forced countries to re-evaluate their skewed dependence on Chinese manufacturers. The prolonged Zero Covid policy pushed many multinationals to shift their factories to other countries. Inflation and high prices are drumming down trade and demand for various goods.

These are situations that China may not be able to reverse, and not completely. The demographic debacle that Beijing finally owned up to in recent days will play a crucial role in steering the course of the economy. The days of cheap labor are over. Factory production will suffer, and goods will reflect the higher labor cost.

The aging population will further drain the sluggish economy with demands for senior pensions, elderly care, and medical expenses. Despite incentives, Chinese society will likely take years to move away from the single-child family setup imposed on them for decades. The longer the negative population numbers run, the longer it will take to correct the demographic imbalance. The mandate that decreed the “one-child policy” has not just arrested population growth; it has inadvertently reined in China’s growth too.

With COVID-19 taking its toll, a shrinking economy, and an aging population, the Chinese government seems caught on the back foot. With very little good news, the precarious state of affairs would be hard to sweep under bombastic propaganda.

In his unprecedented third term in office, it would be interesting to see if the President will resort to issuing “mandates” or devising policies that have landed the country’s society and economy in the present crisis. For the sake of the Chinese, it is hoped that the leadership will put aside “The Chinese Dream” and consider people’s dreams first.

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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

#1. U.S. Has Asked Nine Countries To Hand Over Obsolete Russian Weapons To Ukraine In Exchange For U.S. Equipment – tippinsights

The United States has asked Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and six other Latin American nations to send their old Russian weapons to Ukraine in exchange for U.S. equipment.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?
US SOUTHCOM Commander General Laura Richardson

US SOUTHCOM Commander General Laura Richardson discussed the request in a recent interview.

#2. Norway Holding Wagner Deserter, Will Not Deport To Russia – D.W.

Medvedev, who deserted to Norway after fighting in Ukraine, has asked for asylum, saying he faces certain death if deported to Russia.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Medvedev has publicly expressed fears of being deported. Norwegian authorities say he has nothing to fear, and Medvedev’s lawyer Risnes says chances of deportation are “zero.”

Medvedev escaped across the border between the two countries at the Arctic Circle after witnessing militia members brutally killed for “disobeying orders” within the group.

Norwegian authorities admitted arresting Medvedev as they were trying to determine whether he entered Norway illegally. Norwegian immigration police told Associated Press (AP) news agency that authorities had decided to detain Medvedev not as a means of punishment but rather as protection.

#3. Poland PM Says He Will Send Leopard 2 Tanks To Ukraine Without German Approval – UPI

Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki said he plans to seek German permission to send some of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine but added it would deliver the tanks with or without Berlin’s approval.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

The release of the German-made tanks without Berlin’s blessing would violate the nation’s export laws. Still, German foreign minister Anna Baerbock opened the door to a potential transfer as she said she “would not stand in the way” of Poland’s desire to send the Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.

While not indicating a change in Germany’s position to send its own tanks to Ukraine, she appeared to support wider efforts to assist Ukraine.

#4. International Push For Nuremberg-Style Tribunal To Hold Vladimir Putin Responsible For War In Ukraine – ABC News

An international push is underway to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin and his most senior allies criminally responsible for the war in Ukraine.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Kyiv is calling for a special tribunal to prosecute them for the crime of aggression, considered the supreme international crime from which other war crimes follow.

A tribunal like this has not been held since senior German, and Japanese leaders were tried in Nuremberg and Tokyo in the aftermath of World War II.

One voice calling for a special tribunal is David Scheffer. He served as US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues under President Bill Clinton and has negotiated the creation of five war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The ICC does not have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said, partly because Russia is not a member of the court.

#5. U.S. Confronts China With Evidence Of State-Owned Companies Aiding Russia In Ukraine War – WION

The support includes non-lethal military and economic assistance. The Chinese support to Russia is just short of a wholesale evasion of the U.S. sanctions regime.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, multiple reports have insinuated that China is backing Moscow in its war against Kyiv.

Though nothing substantiative has come out as to what the evidence is, the Biden administration’s findings will potentially impact US foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia and China.

China has already called out the U.S., describing its sanctions on Russia as “immoral.” Beijing has forthrightly refused to adhere to the U.S. sanctions against Russia. However, any backdoor strategy to help Russia in the war is yet to be ascertained.

#6. U.S., Israel Begin Joint Military Exercise In Show Of Unity In Middle East – UPI

The U.S. and Israeli Defense Force began their first joint exercise under IDF’s new leadership on Monday. Naval, air, and ground forces are all taking part.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

About 6,400 U.S. troops and another 1,100 soldiers from Israel are involved in the exercise, making it one of the largest joint exercises between the ally nations. More than 140 aircraft will be deployed in a “large-scale live fire event” featuring B-52s, F-35s, F-16s, naval vessels, rocket defense systems, and more.

The exercise, Juniper Oak 23.2, is underway in Israel and on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM, the top U.S. general for the Middle East, met with Israel’s newest defense leaders on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. Together, they discussed threats to the Middle East, including Iran.

#7. Erdogan Warns Sweden Not To Count On Turkey For NATO Bid – D.W.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was incensed by a Quran-burning protest in Stockholm last week. Sweden needs Turkey’s backing to gain entry to the trans-Atlantic military alliance.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Erdogan said in a speech after a cabinet meeting, “Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership.”

The Swedish government distanced itself from the action but referred to the freedom of expression that applies in the Nordic country.

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on Twitter, “But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act,” he added.

#8. U.S., U.K., EU Level New Sanctions Targeting Those Linked To Iran’s IRGC – RFE/RL

The announced sanctions include several officials linked to Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) but did not go as far as putting the military force on terror blacklists.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

EU agreed to impose travel bans on officials, including Abbas Nilfrushan, a deputy commander in the IRGC who has led a unit that has taken a major role in quelling unrest. Minister of Sport and Youth Hamid Sajjadi was also placed on the list for his role in going after athletes who spoke out against repression and the authorities.

Britain froze the assets of Deputy Prosecutor-General Ahmad Fazelian, who the British Foreign Office said was “responsible for a judicial system characterized by unfair trials and egregious punishments, including use of the death penalty for political purposes.”

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury said ten people had been added to its sanctions list, all linked to the IRGC or officials around it.

#9. Joe Biden Nominates North Korea Human Rights Envoy, First Since 2017 – Reuters

President Biden nominated Julie Turner, a long-time diplomat and current director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

The statement said that the special envoy for human rights in North Korea speaks Korean and has previously worked on North Korean human rights as a special assistant in the envoy’s office.

The special envoy position – and a similar one in South Korea – had become controversial as preceding administrations tried to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Some activists said human rights had been shunted aside in favor of national security priorities.

#10. North Korea Behind $100m Crypto Theft, FBI Says – Al Jazeera

The North Korean hacking groups Lazarus Group and APT38 carried out the cyber heist on the US-based crypto firm Harmony last June, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a statement.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Harmony, its headquarters in California, announced in June that hackers had stolen $100m in digital coins from Horizon bridge, a so-called blockchain bridge used to move cryptocurrencies between different blockchain networks.

The FBI, which previously issued an advisory about a malware campaign used in the heist dubbed “TraderTraitor,” said it had frozen some of the funds with the cooperation of some of the virtual asset service providers.

#11. South Korea Says It’ll Make It Easier For Foreigners To Buy Stocks – Reuters

Asia’s fourth-largest economy plans to scrap many regulations in the local stock market this year to make investment easier for foreign investors, to bring in more money into the market.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?
President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol

The regulator said it would scrap a three-decade-old rule requiring foreigners to register with authorities before trading South Korean stocks. Instead, they will be allowed to open accounts with an internationally used identification, such as a passport for individuals or a legal entity identifier (LEI) for organizations.

#12. U.N. Aid Chief Raises Women’s Rights Concerns With Taliban In Afghan Capital – Reuters

The United Nations aid chief visited Kabul and raised concerns over women’s education and work with the Taliban administration’s acting minister of foreign affairs, an Afghan ministry statement said.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

Last month, the Taliban-run administration ordered NGOs not to allow most female employees to work, prompting many aid agencies to partially suspend operations amid a humanitarian crisis unfolding during a bitterly cold winter.

Acting Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi said he asked Griffiths to share with the international community the Taliban administration’s “achievements and opportunities” like a general amnesty for former opponents, “instead of complaints and shortcomings.”

#13. Yellen Urges Zambia Debt Restructure After Talks With China – Reuters

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on a visit to Zambia that it was critically important to restructure the country’s debt.

Will The New Year Bring Better Tidings For China?

She believes progress could be made after her frank talks with key creditor China last week.

Yellen added that Zambia’s debt overhang was a drag on its whole economy and that China had been a barrier to resolving the southern African country’s debt problem. However, she said she was encouraged that progress could shortly become possible following her meeting with Chinese officials in Zurich last week.

“I specifically raised the issue with Zambia (with Chinese officials) and asked for their cooperation in trying to reach a speedy resolution. And our talks were constructive,” Yellen said.

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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights

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