Xi gets out the hammer to take charge of China’s economy

Newsdesk, barta24.com
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At the annual gathering of China’s national legislature, which concluded Monday, Xi introduced a series of sweeping changes to the country’s regulatory framework, allowing the party’s top leaders to assert more direct control over financial policy and bank regulation. Appointments for allies of Xi to key regulatory roles and additional shake-ups are expected in the coming days, further cementing the party’s oversight of the financial system.

“It’s very consistent with what Xi Jinping has been rolling out over the past 10 years,” said Max Zenglein, chief economist at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “Whenever he’s confronted with a problem, the solution is greater centralisation to the party.”

The moves were the latest evidence of how Xi continues to reshape China’s business climate, steering the world’s second-largest economy away from the free-market policies that underpinned its ascent. While past Chinese leaders sought to maintain a buffer between the party and the private sector, Xi has erased those lines and made clear that businesses are there to advance the party’s agenda.

Xi underscored that message on March 6 when he declared that the party had always regarded the private sector as “our own people” and that while it had a responsibility to support businesses in difficult times, it also needed to “offer guidance” in times of confusion.

With the economy growing near its slowest pace in decades, it is essential to Xi that the financial sector comply with his vision. He needs bankers to allocate capital in the ways that China wants its money spent and prevent domestic funds from moving overseas, while exercising caution to avoid overextending loans and jeopardising the financial system.

In what appeared to be a precursor to the structural changes in the financial regulatory bureaucracy, China’s top anti-graft watchdog also published a not-so-veiled warning to bankers last month. It said it would “seriously investigate and deal with the people who neglect the party’s leadership in financial work and state-owned enterprises.”

Echoing the message of “common prosperity,” one of Xi’s hallmark slogans to narrow the wealth gap in Chinese society, the watchdog said bankers should embrace the party’s values and avoid the ideologies of the “financial elite.” The group said bankers should not emulate the West with its singular focus on money.

Heads are already starting to roll. Bao Fan, a prominent investment banker and chief executive of China Renaissance Holdings, vanished last month. After initially saying that it was unable to contact Bao, China Renaissance said it had learned that the banker was cooperating with an investigation being carried out by certain Chinese authorities.

Bao Fan, a prominent investment banker and chief executive of China Renaissance Holdings, vanished last month. The company has said it had learned that the banker was cooperating with an investigation being carried out by certain Chinese authorities.

Last month, China’s top prosecutor charged Tian Huiyu, the former president of China Merchants Bank, one of the country’s biggest commercial lenders, with abuse of power and insider trading. When he was expelled from the Communist Party in October, the party said in a statement that Tian had led “a corrupted life with loose morals” for accepting lavish gifts as well as invitations for banquets, travel and golf.

The pointed rhetoric, targeted oversight and crackdowns on high-profile figures are reminiscent of China’s so-called rectification campaign of the past few years in the technology sector. This resulted in huge fines, the upending of business strategies and tycoons driven underground.

But unlike the technology industry, which had been flying high and amassing greater influence in society, the financial sector is under tremendous pressure partially because of the shaky balance sheets of local governments and the banks that lend to them. ANZ Research estimates that Chinese local government debts have grown 16 per cent annually over the past five years.

After three years of footing the bill for China’s strict “zero COVID” policy of constant testing, local government finances are depleted, a situation worsened by a property market collapse that has diminished a once-reliable revenue stream from leasing state-owned land to real estate developers.

On Friday, China’s legislature, known as the National People’s Congress, approved a proposal to create a new regulatory body called the State Bureau of Financial Supervision and Administration to oversee China’s 400 trillion yuan, or $US57 billion ($85.3 billion), financial system. The new entity was formed out of China’s existing banking and insurance regulatory commission, and it will absorb some roles played by other agencies including the central bank and the securities regulator.

Darrell Duffie, a professor of management and finance at Stanford University and a close watcher of China, said the changes are consistent with how China turns to additional regulation to redress past mistakes. In this case, he said, it wanted to correct the “excess financial exuberance” that has caused dozens of real estate developers to default on loans and left the sector awash in debt.

It is a delicate dance, Zhaopeng Xing, senior China strategist at ANZ Research, wrote in a report, because the authorities need to make sure that banks and companies don’t binge on risky loans, while not suffocating the economy, because credit “remains the most important driver of growth.”

Analysts say this latest campaign to clean up the financial sector is also rooted in growing concern about the adequacy of the country’s financial regulation, which had been called into question in recent years by a series of missteps and scandals that tested the party’s ability to maintain order.

“Whenever he’s confronted with a problem, the solution is greater centralisation to the party.”

Peer-to-peer lending initially took off in China around 2014 without much oversight until a series of defaults and scandals unleashed a wave of protests that forced the government to shut down the sector several years later. Last year, demonstrations erupted when depositors in rural banks in Henan province in central China said the institutions froze their savings accounts and refused to let them withdraw their money.

Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura, a Japanese brokerage, said some of these changes were long overdue because “many problems” emerged in recent years reflecting the challenge of local governments supervising the financial institutions that they rely on.

In addition to the new government financial regulator, the Communist Party is expected to resurrect a policy-setting committee that will report directly to top leadership. The Central Financial Works Commission was formed in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis so that party leaders could play a role in regulation. It was disbanded five years later when China established a banking regulator.

In the reincarnation, the commission is expected to work closely with the new regulator, and it will be headed by a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the inner circle of power in Chinese politics comprising mostly Xi loyalists and the party’s top leaders who oversee the day-to-day running of the country. Bloomberg earlier reported the revival of the committee.

The revamp confirms what many in China already know. Whether it is politics, the military or the economy, all roads lead to Xi. On Friday, the 2,952 delegates of the national legislature endorsed Xi for a rare third term as president. There was not a single dissenting vote.

Source: The Age

Gurcharan Singh Grewal Discusses Sikh Politics and Heritage

International Desk, Barta24.com
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In the dynamic landscape of Indian politics, it is rare to find a figure who has steadfastly dedicated his life to the service of his community and culture. Gurcharan Singh Grewal is one such stalwart. As the General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the largest Sikh organization managing over 280 Gurudwaras across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh, Grewal’s name has become synonymous with Sikh political life.

Grewal’s tenure at the helm of SGPC spans four decades, an enduring commitment that has earned him widespread recognition and respect within the Sikh community. His association with Akalis and Sikh politics is a testament to his devotion to the preservation of Sikh culture and values, and his vision for a prosperous and inclusive Punjab.

Grewal’s perspective about Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale is interesting. Despite the controversy surrounding Bhindranwale’s role in the Khalistan movement, Grewal maintains that Bhindranwale never demanded Khalistan and refers to him as a martyr. It is a testament to Grewal’s conviction and his willingness to assert unpopular opinions in the face of controversy.

Grewal’s recent conversation with Smita Prakash, ANI, offers a riveting account of the history of SGPC, its inception, and his personal association with Bhindranwale. In explaining the Akali Dal’s dominance in the SGPC elections and the inability of other political parties to make headway, Grewal provides a nuanced understanding of the complex interplay of religious and political forces in Punjab.

His frank discussion about the arrest of Amritpal, perceived as a conspiracy by the state government and central agencies, highlights the tensions that persist in Punjab. In addressing the significant issue of youth migration from Punjab, Grewal voices a concern that resonates with many in the region.

Grewal’s enduring presence in Sikh politics is not just a testament to his dedication but also to his ability to navigate the complex realities of Punjab. His deep understanding of the challenges facing Punjab, his unwavering commitment to the Sikh community, and his vision for a prosperous future make him a figure of significance in the current political landscape.

As the SGPC continues to play a vital role in safeguarding Sikh heritage and fostering communal harmony, Grewal’s leadership is crucial. Under his stewardship, the SGPC has not only succeeded in managing a vast network of Gurudwaras but has also become a beacon of Sikh values and traditions.

In addition to his political acumen and community leadership, Gurcharan Singh Grewal has roots in sportsmanship that run deep. In his youth, he was a field hockey player who competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics. As a member of the Indian field hockey team, he proudly represented his nation on the global stage, contributing to the team’s triumphant victory and securing the gold medal. Grewal played one match in the position of back, showcasing his prowess on the field. This accomplishment, often overlooked amidst his political achievements, adds another layer to Grewal’s multifaceted personality and reveals his dedication not only to his community but also to his nation.


Army Chief Meets Bangladeshi Counterpart, Discusses Bilateral Defence Ties

International Desk, Barta24.com
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Indian Army chief Gen Manoj Pande on Monday met his Bangladeshi counterpart General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed here and discussed various aspects of mutual interest and explored ways to further expand bilateral defence and security ties.

Gen Pande, who arrived here earlier Monday on a two-day visit to Bangladesh - his second trip to the country as Army chief, also interacted with Lt Gen Waker-Uz-Zaman, the Principal Staff Officer of the Armed forces division.

The Indian Army chief visited Bangladesh in July last year on his first foreign visit after assuming charge of the top post.

"General Manoj Pande #COAS interacted with General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, Chief of Army Staff, #BangladeshArmy & Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman, Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division, #Bangladesh and discussed aspects of mutual interest," the Additional Directorate General of Public Information said in a tweet.

The Army chief also laid a wreath at Shikha Anirban and paid tributes to soldiers who laid down their lives for the Liberation of Bangladesh. He also received the Guard of Honour at Senakunja and planted a tree to commemorate the friendship between the two Armies.

On Tuesday, Gen Pande will be reviewing the Passing Out Parade (POP) of officer cadets of the 84th 'Long Course' at the Bangladesh Military Academy (BMA) in Chattogram.

During the parade, the Army Chief will be presenting the 'Bangladesh India Friendship Trophy' instituted for the best foreign cadet from friendly foreign countries of the passing out course from the BMA.

The first trophy this year is being awarded to officer cadet Everton of Tanzania.

This trophy is in reciprocation to the 'Bangladesh Trophy and Medal' instituted at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun in December 2021 for the Best foreign cadet passing out the course, the Army said in a statement.

The Army chief will be reviewing the POP at IMA, Dehradun on June 10 and present the Bangladesh Medal and the trophy.

The Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff visited India in April this year and reviewed the passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai.

Source: NDTV


India-US partnership cornerstone of free and open Indo-Pacific: Lloyd Austin

International Desk, Barta24.com
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Terming the US-India partnership as the "cornerstone" of a free and open Indo-Pacific, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin on Monday said that both countries have a unique role in preserving the rules-based international order.

Addressing a press conference after holding wide-ranging talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Austin said, "I had productive discussions today with Defence Minister Singh and National Security Advisor Doval. As the world's two largest democracies, India and the United States play a unique role in preserving the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure."

He further said, "Since I last visited India in 2021, our global and strategic partnership has continued to rapidly grow. Today, the US -India partnership is a cornerstone of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and our deepening bonds show how technological innovation and growing military cooperation between two great powers can be a force for global good."

The US Defence Secretary said that India and US have taken new measures to strengthen the defence partnership between two countries. He spoke about the establishment of a new roadmap for defence industrial cooperation between India and the US, which will fast-track high priority co-development and co-production projects.

US Defence Secretary said that Rajnath Singh and he also spoke about Indus X that aims to enable partnerships between the US and India in defence innovation sectors.

"On this visit, I am pleased that we have taken new steps to strengthen our defence partnership. We established an ambitious new roadmap for defence industrial cooperation, which will fast track high priority co-development and co-production projects and build closer ties between our defence industries," Austin said.

"We look forward to advancing some of those projects during the upcoming visit between our leaders later this month. We also discussed an important new initiative, Indus X, that aims to jump start partnerships between the US and Indian defence innovation sectors and we're looking forward to the formal launch of Indus X in conjunction with Prime Minister Modi's state visit to Washington," he said.

Austin stated that during his meeting with Singh, he discussed ways to increase information sharing and new initiatives to improve maritime cooperation. He said that India and US are breaking new ground with pace and scope of joint military exercises.

"We're not only sharing technology together, we are cooperating alongside each other more than ever before. We discussed ways to increase information sharing, as well as new initiatives to improve maritime cooperation, including in the undersea domain," the US Defence Secretary said.

"We also recently celebrated the launch of our first defence space and dialogue and that will help us work more closely together in emerging domains. We're also breaking new ground with the pace and scope of our joint military exercises. In this past April, some of America's most advanced and strategic aircraft, the F35 and B1 bombers participated for the first time in the annual Cope India Air Exercises," he added.

Earlier today, Austin who arrived in Delhi a day ago from Singapore inspected a Tri-Services Guard of Honour in the presence of the Defence Minister at the Manekshaw Centre in the city. This is Austin's second visit to India. Previously, Lloyd Austin visited India in March 2021.

Earlier, the US Defence Secretary in a tweet thanked Rajnath Singh for his "unwavering commitment" to defence ties between India and US.

Austin tweeted, "Great to meet again with my friend @rajnathsingh and thank him for his unwavering commitment to US-India defence relations. His leadership has helped paved the way for deeper collaboration, joint exercises, and technology sharing between our two countries." (ANI)


India's successful adoption of digital health tech lesson for world: WHO

International Desk, Barta24.com
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India's successful adoption of digital health technologies can provide lessons for accelerating the progress towards universal health coverage for all countries, a top WHO official said on Monday.

What is crucial is to achieve a level-playing field for making sure that these technologies are available widely for all countries, Dr Alain Labrique, Director, Department of Digital Health and Innovation at WHO, said.

He spoke at a session on "Digital Health Innovations and Solutions to Aid Universal Health Coverage and Improve Healthcare Service Delivery" on the second day of the third G20 Health Working Group meeting here on Monday.

"When we talk about digital health, we are talking about strengthening primary health care systems, improving universal health coverage, and timely and relevant data for decision making and resource allocation. Most important, we are talking about equity so that no one is left behind. Digital health is a proven pathway to achieve universal health goals," he said.

On India's G20 presidency, especially in the context of digital health, Labrique said there has been a fruitful set of discussions around the G20 building on India's long leadership in the space of digital innovation and leveraging digital technologies to achieve health for all.

"I think what we are trying to do is level the playing field, making sure that these technologies are available widely for countries all across the globe looking to undertake a process of digital health transformation, to make sure that we able to reach the last mile with quality assured technologies that can deliver the services that people are expecting from their governments," he said.

The world is on the verge of an important digital health revolution, wherein post pandemic the appetite for investing in digital technology is greater than it ever has been, Labrique stated.

"So the time is now to learn from successes like India and its neighbours to apply those successful lessons and really accelerate the progress towards universal health coverage and amplify the capacity of digital tools to achieve these goals," he said.

Underscoring the relevance and importance of digital health, he said the pandemic has galvanized many governments to move from digital experimentation to digital transformation.

The global initiative on digital health levels the playing field, optimizing investments, democratizing access to the building blocks and improving the responsiveness that the country needs.

He emphasised that digitalization of global health systems in inevitable.

Underlining its ramifications, he said, "Whether it happens in a way that ensures quality, efficiency, equity and inclusion will depend on whether we as a group move together."

Highlighting the role of India's G20 presidency, he said, "We as a group must invest strategically. This will enable cross-border exchange of credential health information now available to all member states.