China’s 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) confirmed Xi Jinping as president for an unprecedented third term early this week. All 2,952 present members unanimously voted for the 69-year-old leader in an ‘election’ with no opposing candidate.
The slew of newly appointed officials, all President Xi loyalists, and his unchallenged third term showcases the return of one-man rule to the People’s Republic of China, marking the end of Deng’s era of reformation and willingness to build global ties.
Having done away with term limits, President Xi is carrying forward his plans of the past decade to centralize decision-making and situate the Communist Party at the center of Chinese society. Increasing government oversight over the years has eroded the separation of the party and government. President Xi plans to make more effective a system of parallel and often duplicate party and state bureaucracies embedding the party more firmly at the grassroots and into the daily lives of the Chinese people. Even businesses haven’t been spared, with domestic and foreign companies expected to have party officials on their boards.
Besides appointing officials for the next five years, the NPC adopted wide reaching State Council Institutional Reform Plan of various ministries, including the Ministry of Science and Technology. Under it, the Science and Technology Ministry will improve the “new type of whole-nation system” for achieving technological breakthroughs.
A new National Financial Regulatory Administration is being constituted to steer the country’s banking system and the financial industry, except for the securities sector.
Recognizing the significance and role of data in the modern world, a new National Data Administration with controls over all data-related institutions and managing data resources has been proposed.
Other proposals include bringing the China National Intellectual Property Administration to a top-level agency under State Council Augment and instituting a 5% downsizing of all central agencies.
The NPC also approved amendments to the Legislation Law, allowing the parliament to pass emergency legislation after just one review session, citing it was necessary for “strengthening the [ruling Communist] party’s overall leadership over legislative work.”
Despite the domestic focus, President Xi is looking to cement China’s position on the global stage. Shrewdly construing the tensions with other countries, especially the U.S., and blaming the perceived threats to the Chinese Dream of growth and dominion as real, President Xi is shoring up the Party’s legitimacy and banking on continued domestic support. Even as he called for his military to build a “Great Wall of steel,” President Xi stated China will “add more stability and positive energy to the peaceful development of the world and foster a favorable international environment for China’s development.”
Speaking at the NPC, he said, “China’s development benefits the world, and China cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world.” He officially began his third term stating that his country will “play an active part” in reforming and developing the global governance system and contribute to building an open world economy.
But economic worries loom large over the country. China’s GDP target is just 5%, a modest figure compared to the previous decades, and that too is an optimistic forecast, considering the economy grew by just 3% last year. Still reeling from years and months-long Zero-covid lockdowns, the country must boost domestic demand, diffuse the real estate meltdown, optimize the manufacturing sector, shore up its energy sources, and stabilize the economy.
But, hardly anything seems to faze the ambitious president adept at re-writing China’s rule book. The country is facing many headwinds both internally and on the global stage. But, President Xi has shown over the past decade that to him, a headwind is just a storm in a teacup.
Geopolitics And Geoeconomics
#1. Ukraine War: U.S. And Russian Military Chiefs In Rare Talks After Drone Downed – Reuters
Defense ministers and military chiefs from the U.S. and Russia held rare telephone conversations, with relations at their lowest point in decades.
Moscow’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, told his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, that American drone flights by Crimea’s coast “were provocative in nature” and could lead to “an escalation … in the Black Sea zone,” a ministry statement said.
Washington’s top general said the crash of the U.S. surveillance drone after being intercepted by Russian jets showed Moscow’s increasingly aggressive behavior.
#2. Russian Spy Network Accused Of Sabotage Arrested In Poland – BBC
Radio station RMF FM reported that Polish security services had broken up a spy network working for Russia. It said the cell had prepared sabotage plans.
According to the report, the group had installed dozens of cameras beside railway junctions and important transport routes in Poland’s Podkarpackie province, which borders Ukraine.
The decades-long spy conflict between Russia and the West has intensified since the Ukraine war. Poland is one of Ukraine’s strongest allies, and its security forces have arrested several people on suspicion of spying for Russia since the invasion last February.
#3. Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine: Report – Reuters
Russian hackers appear to be preparing a renewed wave of cyber attacks against Ukraine, including a “ransomware-style” threat to organizations serving Ukraine’s supply lines, Microsoft said.
The report, authored by Microsoft’s cyber security research and analysis team, outlines a series of discoveries about how Russian hackers have operated during the Ukraine conflict and what may come next.
One group “appears to be preparing for a renewed destructive campaign,” the report reads.
Experts say combining physical military operations with cyber techniques mirrors prior Russian activity.
#4. China, Russia, And Iran Launch Joint Military Exercises In Gulf Of Oman – Middle East Eye
The exercises, which will last from Wednesday to Sunday, aim to enhance the respective militaries’ abilities to conduct “joint maneuvers” and daytime and night-time artillery firing.
The navies are also training on liberating captured ships and assisting vessels in distress.
The drills come days after China brokered a surprise reconciliation agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, setting the stage for restored diplomatic ties between the two foes and enhancing Beijing’s clout in the Middle East.
#5. U.S. Threatens Tiktok Ban If App Is Not Sold – BBC
The video-sharing app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is accused of posing a national security risk through data gathered from millions of users.
The company said a forced sale would not change its data flows or access.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration wants ByteDance to divest TikTok to create a clear break from China.
A spokesperson for TikTok said it did not dispute the WSJ’s reporting and confirmed it had been contacted by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS).
#6. Honduras Says Economic Factors Fuelling Pursuit Of China Ties – Al Jazeera
The Honduran FM Eduardo Enrique Reina, said that a decision to pursue diplomatic relations with China and ditch ties with Taiwan was motivated by economic interests rather than ideology.
Reina said that rising debt and the need for more investments motivated the decision, which was announced a day earlier by Honduran President Xiomara Castro.
“The global situation is complicated. We need to open up,” Reina said. “We need investment. We need cooperation.”
The minister’s comments highlighted the dilemmas faced by countries seeking strong economic ties with the United States, a strong supporter of Taiwan, and China.
#7. UN Nuclear Watchdog Warns Tons Of Uranium Missing In Libya – D.W.
Roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium are missing from a Libyan site, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
IAEA Director Rafael Grossi told the organization’s member states that inspectors found ten drums containing uranium ore “were not present as previously declared” at the unspecified location.
The nuclear watchdog would conduct “further activities” to “clarify the circumstances of removing the nuclear material and its current location.”
#8. North Korea Fires ICBM-Class Missile Ahead Of Japan-South Korea Summit – Kyodo News
The intercontinental ballistic missile is believed to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, the Defense Ministry said.
There have been no reports of damage to aircraft or vessels so far.
The missile test came ahead of talks later in the day between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Tokyo.
Tokyo and Seoul have been showing improvement in the bilateral relationship since the South Korean government under Yoon, who took office last year, moved to settle a wartime labor dispute with Japan.
#9. Brazilian Court Orders Jair Bolsonaro To Return Saudi Jewels Within 5 Days – AFP
A Brazilian court ruled that ex-president Jair Bolsonaro has five days to hand over pricey jewelry he received as a present from Saudi Arabia and ordered an audit of all official gifts during his presidency.
The unanimous ruling from the court is the latest chapter in a drama that has dominated headlines in Brazil since allegations emerged earlier this month that Bolsonaro tried to illegally import millions of dollars worth of jewelry he and his wife received as gifts from Saudi Arabia.
Bolsonaro, who denies wrongdoing, had proposed via his lawyers that he hand the jewels over to authorities pending the outcome of investigations.
#10. Credit Suisse To Borrow Up To $54bn Amid Global Bank Crisis Fears – Al Jazeera
Credit Suisse will borrow up to 50 billion Swiss francs ($54bn) from Switzerland’s central bank to shore up confidence in the troubled lender amid concerns about the health of the global banking system.
Credit Suisse’s tumbling share price came after Saudi National Bank, Credit Suisse’s biggest shareholder, said in an interview that the lender would “absolutely not” increase its stake in the Swiss bank.
Credit Suisse’s woes have added to a rout in bank shares in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, sparked by the implosion of SVB and subsequent failures of crypto currency-focused lenders Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital.
Republished with permission from TIPP Insights