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The Coronavirus Economy

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Perhaps the only thing we know for sure now is that nobody knows what is coming.

Never before have we seen the wheels of the economy grind so comprehensively to a halt. The first working day after the lockdown in Sindh saw an announcement of a Rs1.25 trillion stimulus package for the economy, which makes it the largest such package ever announced in the country’s history.

The day before, the army spokesman — Lt. Gen Iftikhar Babar — described the virus as “the most serious threat we have faced in living memory.” The same day as the stimulus was unveiled, the State Bank announced a 1.5 percentage point cut in interest rates in an extraordinary monetary policy statement that was hastily organised out of schedule.

As the fear of Covid-19 shuts down the world on a scale unprecedented in modern times, Pakistan’s economy — already reeling from a crippling recession — faces a near-existential threat. What could be the contours of the even more difficult days ahead?

Nobody in the business and industrial community can remember a time like this. Not the sanctions following the nuclear detonations of 1998, or the earthquake of 2005 or the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 or the floods of 2010 carry many lessons to help us see and prepare for what might be coming. Key centres of decision-making in the federal and provincial government have an idea of what is coming — a tsunami of critically ill people landing up in public hospitals — but there are few models or projections to help us understand how far this will go.

The public health emergency that is brewing around the country is one thing. The lockdowns and the enormous cost that they will exact is another. Of course, there is no trade-off here, in the sense that we are not choosing between protecting lives or livelihoods. The two are linked and a pandemic is harder to control once it has crossed a certain threshold. Whatever their cost, the lockdowns are necessary to ensure that this public health emergency does not turn into an outright catastrophe.

THE COMING STORM

Between the lockdowns and the pandemic, where is the economy — already reeling from a recession — headed? At the epicentre of the coming storm will be the sheer number of critically ill people who will need varying levels of care, from quarantine to hospitalisation to intensive care. Though they are not making these numbers public, according to some sources within the decision-making centres, the provincial governments in Sindh and Punjab seem to be preparing to meet the needs of up to 80,000 such patients between four to eight weeks on. Whether they see this as the peak is not yet known.

A stockbroker wearing a mask speaks on his cellphone as he watches share prices on a screen at the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi | Asif Hassan, AFP
A stockbroker wearing a mask speaks on his cellphone as he watches share prices on a screen at the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi | Asif Hassan, AFP

Further out there will be the needs of the poor, or those who live just at or below the subsistence line in Pakistan. There are close to five million people identified in this group, whose particulars are available in the so-called National Socioeconomic Registry (NSER), which is the database that was the centre of the Benazir Income Support Programme.

After them there is the class of daily wagers. These are the mass of largely unskilled or low-skilled people who work in industry, services and agriculture, and rely on daily wages to meet their needs. Karachi industry circles estimate that up to four million daily wagers work in Karachi alone, whereas the government of Punjab is working with estimates of up to four million in the whole province. These people are most likely not part of the NSER database and do not show up in any formal sector employee or payrolls data either. These are some of the neediest people in times of lockdowns, yet they pose a big challenge when building a social protection programme for their income support needs because they are very difficult to locate.

In the stimulus package Rs50bn has been included specifically for this purpose, which is expenditure on top of what the provincial governments are already spending for the fight. Then comes the cost of income support and ration packs that have to be provided to the vulnerable sections, from the poor to the daily wagers and the unemployed. Even assuming Rs500 per day as the basic requirement for a household of 7, with 10 million deserving households, this means Rs5bn per day, or Rs150bn per month.

After them come the unemployed. These will include skilled workers, even lower management who might look like they live well (they will have an apartment and own a car), but have very little capacity to weather a few months without a paycheque.

These are some of the class of people who will also need help, to varying degrees, if the lockdowns are to persist for two months or more. If one looks only at the bottom two quintiles of our income population, there are close to 84 million people, living in 11 million households, according to some estimates. How many of these should the state have to look out for in the event of a prolonged lockdown?

Daily wagers are already feeling the impact of the lockdowns | M Arif, White Star
Daily wagers are already feeling the impact of the lockdowns

Nobody knows how this ends. Will we succeed in defeating the virus, or will it simply work its way through the population and die or mutate into some less lethal form of its own accord? Will the summer temperatures impair its ability to transmit itself from one person to the next, to the point where it can no longer survive? Will a vaccine or a cure be found sooner than we think? Will cheap testing kits be developed soon enough that significantly boost our ability to fight this menace? Will there be a second, possibly third wave of infections like there was with the Spanish flu of 1918?

Nobody knows yet. But this analysis is based on the assumption that we are entering an intense and prolonged fight.

AN UNPRECEDENTED BLOW TO THE ECONOMY

If we are now in a prolonged fight, with no clear idea of how far we may have to lockdown the population to deny the virus any avenues for transmission, while we treat each infected person back to health, then the economy could end up taking a hit the likes of which it has never been called upon to take in the past. How might that work out?

Consider the question step by step.

First up is the direct cost of the treatment of the sick and protection of the frontline caregivers. In the stimulus package Rs50bn has been included specifically for this purpose, which is expenditure on top of what the provincial governments are already spending for the fight. Then comes the cost of income support and ration packs that have to be provided to the vulnerable sections, from the poor to the daily wagers and the unemployed. Even assuming Rs500 per day as the basic requirement for a household of 7, with 10 million deserving households, this means Rs5bn per day, or Rs150bn per month.

This is a lot of money, but it is still manageable for the state considering this is an emergency. The bigger challenge is developing the targeting technology to ensure that the right people are receiving these funds. At least three provinces have a team working on finding a way to do precisely this.

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This may be the most urgent task before the state but it is far from the most expensive. If the total size of the stimulus package at Rs1.25 trillion is an indication, the government is gearing up for a very costly battle indeed. Costly enough to put an end altogether to the macroeconomic stabilisation that has been underway since July. The fight, it seems, will require us to spend all the fiscal buffers that have been built with so much pain and sacrifice over the past year.

Beyond the people, the state is now fielding increasingly restive voices from industry. Already reeling under crippling interest rates and collapsing demand, business enterprises that had seen their profits disappear since the adjustment began, now face the prospect of a mortal blow.

‘ESSENTIAL’ SERVICES

The biggest and most immediate impact of the lockdown is the halt in business operations. Out of 2,700 factories in Karachi SITE area — Pakistan’s largest industrial zone which accounts for almost 30 percent of the country’s exports according to the zone’s leadership — less than 50 were still operating on the first working day after the lockdown was announced. Those 50 were among the few that were considered essential services, primarily food and pharmaceuticals. All the rest were shut, with the workers sent home.

The port was still running but movement of cargo into and out of the gate was impaired because goods transporters could not be on the roads. Ships were berthed and dredging activity went on as normal. Containers were loaded and off-loaded, and customs processed Goods Declaration forms through the online system without requiring any physical presence, much to the relief of clearing agents. But labour was thin because many of them were stopped on their way to work and had a hard time explaining to the authorities that they were employees in an “essential services” industry. Trucks entering the province from upcountry were stopped at the provincial border, where a growing line waited for clearance to move, but nobody knew how to get this clearance and from whom.

How could law enforcement personnel determine which truck was carrying goods belonging to an “essential service” and which one is not? Is packaging material an “essential item”? What if it is necessary to package a food item in, such as ghee or edible oil?

The biggest and most immediate impact of the lockdown is the halt in business operations. Out of 2,700 factories in Karachi SITE area, less than 50 were still operating on the first working day after the lockdown was announced.

If the lockdowns are prolonged, the state will come under increasing pressure as more and more industries seek to have themselves declared as “essential services”. If food and pharmaceuticals are essential, then so are their vendors and suppliers of critical components and transporters. If a pharmaceutical firm needs to replace a spare part in a machine, then is transporting that spare part from one part of the country to another through a lockdown to be considered an “essential service” or not? How about manufacture or supply of that spare part?

Others will step forward saying that they may not be in the food or medicine business, but their products are essential in other ways.

All this happened on the first working day after the lockdown was announced. Soap manufacturers, for instance, demanded they should be counted under essential services since washing of hands on a regular basis was an essential part of the fight against the virus. What will people wash their hands with once the supplies of soap in the market run out?

Edible oil manufacturers found that, though they had permission to continue their operation, there was one vendor who supplied packaging material to them all, whose product was essential to their operation. Sure enough, that vendor also applied to the provincial government for permission to continue operations.

Textile exporters said they had orders in the pipeline which would be cancelled if delivery were not made, and valuable foreign exchange would be foregone for the country, so the federal government weighed in on the provincial chief minister to allow these exporters to complete their orders. Permission was granted.

But where does this loop end? Some argued that producing sheets for hospitals was an essential service. Others said supplying yarn and sizing services to a hospital bedsheet provider is an essential service. The fact is that, in a modern economy, even if it is as rudimentary as Pakistan’s, carving out some sectors for continuity of operations while shutting down others is simply not possible for a long period of time. Food can be described as an essential service and agriculture will be allowed to continue. But what about fertiliser distribution or pesticides?

DEALING WITH THE LOSSES

Another faultline will open once the question of absorbing the losses arising from the lockdowns has to be faced. Industry is already demanding support in return for their compliance with the lockdown terms, which include a provision that no lay-offs will be effected during this period. With the passage of time massive losses will accumulate in the form of deficits with the state, cash flows drying up with private business, and mounting requests for deferred payments and perhaps a moratorium on debt servicing on the banks.

These losses will trigger a contest where the three main constituents of our political economy — the state, big business and the citizenry — will vie to push the cost on to each other. Each will mobilise their narratives. The state will say “we are fighting the virus.” Industry will say “we are running our payrolls even though our plants are shut.” The exporters will add “we are bringing in valuable foreign exchange” — an argument that will ring all the louder because other inflows would have suffered and foreign debt servicing will remain in place.

There is one group that will come to this contest without a story, without a narrative of their own, and for this reason they will be vulnerable. That group is the banks. There is little to no public service function that creditors can claim they are performing, while their borrowers will loudly remind everyone that the banks made money all last year as the economy sank and manufacturers were weighed down by crippling interest payments as the State Bank hiked rates. They will point out that the banks made windfall profits even as the state and private manufacturers found their interest expenditure skyrocketing.

“You have made your money,” they will tell the banks, “even as we bled. Now it is time to give back because the country faces an emergency.” The banks will see mounting calls for deferments of debt service payments, some of which have already begun.

In the stimulus package announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, one of the promises was to arrange deferred debt service payments for manufacturers. It is not clear how the state intends to arrange for this, but in some measure, the contest has begun already.

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CONTESTING NARRATIVES

In the months to come, this contest will escalate and the frenzied search for the resources with which to pay for the fight, as well as the expenses of carrying the people through it, will fuel a political economy that will consume increasing amounts of the state’s energy. With industry in lockdown, power consumption will fall dramatically, and as power capacity sits idle, some will wonder why the state should continue to pay capacity charges.

“Yes, it is in their contracts,” they will acknowledge. “But don’t these private power producers know that the country is faced with an emergency and needs every penny of its resources for the fight?” The stock market will continue its fall and brokers might try to mount an effort for another bailout, like they did last summer. It would be catastrophic if in the midst of this fight, the government were to acquiesce to their demand. Last summer, they acquiesced even though the state had begun its journey on a gruelling stabilisation effort that required massive sacrifice from the citizenry.

As the fight intensifies and the demand for resources rises, this contest might start to loosen some of the moorings of our financial system that have been held in place with iron bolts for decades. No government has asked for a moratorium on its domestic debt service obligations thus far, for example. But this time the government might ask for exactly that, for example, on the penalty interest charges on the circular debt or some other. The option to print money to pay its bills is always available for a government when dealing with local currency debt, but there are reasons why they might seek to shake down their creditors first before resorting to printing of money, if the need for resources intensifies.

This loosening has also already begun, with the extraordinary monetary policy statement announcing a rate cut of 1.5 percent on the first working day of the lockdown. I cannot remember the last time such an event occurred. The fact that it happened only days after the State Bank had already announced its monetary policy — in which steadfastly it refused to deviate from the orthodoxy of the textbook and did not lower interest rates even though inflation was falling, and the virus threat had already landed on Pakistan’s soil — only shows that serious arm twisting has already begun. More arms stand to be twisted because creditors’ interests are usually the first to be tossed overboard when the ship of state hits an iceberg or is attacked by pirates.

FEDERATION FAULTLINES

There is another faultline that may also get activated as this contest gets underway. This is the faultline within the state. The centre has already asked the provinces to bear some of the burden for the enhancements in the spending on BISP, whose beneficiaries will now receive an additional Rs1000 for the next four months as part of their entitlement. But the provinces are building their own social protection programmes and will seek a burden sharing with the centre themselves. Most likely they will arrive at an arrangement, since there is very little appetite for a fight among the elites who run the federal and provincial governments.

But provincial governments, that are also likely to feel the thirst for resources to wage the fight, cannot print money or seek any renegotiation with their creditors. They might seek an adjustment in the surpluses they are obliged to run under the National Finance Commission award. If so, this could end up meaning a significant renegotiation of the Fund programme, which is coming up for review in the next International Monetary Fund (IMF) board meeting in early April.

The timing is also critical in all this. If the fight peaks around mid- to late April, as the provincial governments expect, then the budget will be made in its aftermath. The aftermath is also likely to bring a severe recession, a scarred populace with no further appetite for absorbing economic pain for stabilisation, and continued requirements to spend in order to jump-start a traumatised economy.

Somewhere along this timeline, the government is likely to ask the IMF for a renegotiation of many of the terms of the programme. It will need to print money in massive quantities, break its budget deficit ceiling, slash interest rates and taxes.

It is unlikely that the Fund will simply refuse, since it will be clear from the beginning that Pakistan has no choice but to undertake these severe actions. But it is equally unlikely that Pakistan will find the resources from abroad to stabilise its economy without pain. That is unless ‘friendly countries’ like China and Saudi Arabia once again come to the rescue. Such a rescue will be required at that point, but who has the appetite, and how far they are willing to underwrite Pakistan’s return to normalcy, will remain to be discovered. A lot will hang in the balance as that question is explored.

THE DAYS AHEAD

Unless the economy sees massive supply disruptions, enough to hit food shipments, it is likely that March and April will see price deflation much faster than expected. Inflation was already on a downward and accelerating trajectory but, with industry closed and private consumption focused primarily on essential items and healthcare expenditures, prices are likely to see a sharp fall. This will create the space for sharp interest rate cuts, as well as large printing of money if necessary to pay for the continuously rising bill that the fight will present.

The IMF will need to be persuaded that these steps are necessary, and if printing of money is going to destabilise prices once again, the leadership could make the decision that they will worry about retiring that overhang once the fight is over.

Nobody in the business and industrial community can remember a time like this. Not the sanctions following the nuclear detonations of 1998, or the earthquake of 2005 or the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 or the floods of 2010 carry many lessons to help us see and prepare for what might be coming.

An extraordinary moment has now opened up. Business as usual will not work. It will take every ounce of creative energy and close coordination to wage this fight. The government has missed its chance to contain the pathogen at an early stage, when it was pouring into the country through travellers arriving from foreign lands. It failed to wage a campaign of awareness about the dangers posed by the virus and how best the citizenry could protect itself. It then failed to take decisive steps to order social distancing and lockdowns when they were most called for.

The result was the second and third tiers of the state’s leadership had to take up the fight. The provincial chief ministers, chief justices of the Sindh and Islamabad High Courts, individual MNAs, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health and others worked in their respective domains to build some sort of a bulwark against the entry and spread of the virus. But now it is here, and it has spread, and a battle on a wide front has become inevitable. This battle will take resources, and the search for these resources will define a lot of the state’s behavior through it all.

Via_Dawn.com

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Analysis

Mainland Chinese Forces Launch ‘Blockade’ Drills Around Taiwan: A Show of Force or a Warning?

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Introduction

In a move that has sent ripples across the Taiwan Strait, mainland Chinese forces have begun conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan, just three days after the inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as the new Taiwanese leader. The drills, which involve the PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces, are aimed at testing joint combat capabilities and have been seen as a show of force by Beijing. This development comes on the heels of Lai’s first speech as Taiwanese leader, which was met with fury in Beijing. In this article, we will delve into the details of the drills, the context in which they are taking place, and what they might mean for the future of Taiwan-China relations.

The Drills: A Display of Military Might

The drills, which are scheduled to last for two days, are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and involve a range of military assets, including warships, fighter jets, and missile systems. The exercises are designed to test the PLA’s ability to blockade Taiwan, a move that would effectively cut off the island from the rest of the world. The drills are being seen as a demonstration of the PLA’s military might and its ability to project power in the region.

The Context: Lai’s Inauguration and Beijing’s Fury

The drills come just three days after William Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan. Lai, who is known for his pro-independence stance, used his inaugural speech to reiterate his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy. The speech was met with fury in Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland. Lai’s speech was seen as a provocation by Beijing, which has long been wary of Taiwan’s moves towards independence.

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Beijing’s Response: A Warning or a Threat?

The drills can be seen as a response to Lai’s speech and a warning to Taiwan not to pursue its independence agenda. Beijing has long used military exercises as a way to signal its displeasure with Taiwan’s actions, and the current drills are no exception. However, the scale and scope of the exercises suggest that Beijing may be going beyond a simple warning and is instead making a more explicit threat.

Implications for Taiwan-China Relations

The drills have significant implications for Taiwan-China relations, which have been tense for decades. The exercises are a reminder of the military imbalance between Taiwan and China, with the PLA boasting a significantly larger and better-equipped military. The drills also underscore the risks of a military conflict between Taiwan and China, which would have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world.

Regional Reactions

The drills have drawn reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China. The United States, which has a long-standing commitment to Taiwan’s defence, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the drills. Japan and South Korea, both of which have their territorial disputes with China, have also expressed concern about the exercises.

Conclusion

The “blockade” drills conducted by mainland Chinese forces around Taiwan are a significant development in the ongoing tensions between Taiwan and China. While the drills can be seen as a show of force by Beijing, they also underscore the risks of a military conflict between the two sides. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how Taiwan and China will navigate their complex and often fraught relationship.

Timeline of Events

  • May 20, 2024: William Lai Ching-te is inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan.
  • May 20, 2024: Lai delivers his inaugural speech, reiterating his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
  • May 23, 2024: Mainland Chinese forces begin conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • May 23, 2024: The drills draw reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
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Key Players

  • William Lai Ching-te: The new leader of Taiwan, known for his pro-independence stance.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA): The military forces of mainland China, which are conducting the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • The United States: A long-standing ally of Taiwan, which has expressed concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
  • Japan and South Korea: Countries in the region that have their own territorial disputes with China and have expressed concern about the exercises.

Key Terms

  • Blockade: A military tactic in which a country’s ports or borders are closed off to prevent the movement of goods or people.
  • Joint combat capabilities: The ability of different branches of the military to work together seamlessly in combat situations.
  • PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces: The different branches of the People’s Liberation Army, which are participating in the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.

Sources

  • “Mainland Chinese forces start ‘blockade’ drills around Taiwan 3 days after Lai speech.” South China Morning Post, May 23, 2024.
  • “Taiwan’s new leader William Lai vows to defend democracy and sovereignty.” BBC News, May 20, 2024.
  • “China launches military drills around Taiwan in response to new leader’s inauguration.” The Guardian, May 23, 2024.
  • “US expresses concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Reuters, May 23, 2024.
  • “Japan and South Korea express concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Nikkei Asia, May 23, 2024.
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Analysis

Putin Emphasizes the Crucial role of China in Russian Foreign Policy and Trade.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s role in global politics and its close relationship with Moscow, calling it of “premier importance” in Russian foreign policy. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to maintain regional stability and promote peaceful conflict resolution. He also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between the two countries, which has strengthened significantly in recent years.

The comments come as Putin prepares to visit China for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, where he is expected to discuss trade and economic ties between the two nations. China is Russia’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching a record high of $108 billion in 2018. Both countries have also been working together on major infrastructure projects, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Northern Sea Route.

Putin’s remarks reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy, as Moscow seeks to strengthen its ties with Beijing amid strained relations with the West. The two countries share a common interest in challenging US global dominance and promoting a multipolar world order.

Putin’s Praise for China’s Peace Efforts

Putin praises China's peace efforts in an interview, emphasizing its importance in Russian foreign policy and trade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s peace efforts in an interview with Xinhua, highlighting the country’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Russia. Putin commended Beijing’s commitment to resolving global issues through peaceful means, citing its role in the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Syrian conflict.

Putin also emphasized the importance of the partnership between Russia and China in promoting regional and global stability. He noted that the two countries share similar views on many international issues, including the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in maintaining peace and security.

The Russian leader’s comments come amid growing tensions between China and the United States, as well as concerns over Beijing’s military expansion in the South China Sea. However, Putin’s remarks suggest that Russia sees China as a key partner in its foreign policy objectives, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation.

Overall, Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, and highlights China’s growing influence in global affairs.

Strategic Partnership Between Russia and China

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised China’s “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” with Moscow, citing the two countries’ close cooperation in both trade and politics. In an interview with Xinhua, Putin commended Beijing’s efforts to promote peace and stability in the region, and emphasised the importance of China in Russian foreign policy.

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Trade Relations

The trade relationship between Russia and China has grown rapidly over the past decade, with bilateral trade reaching $108 billion in 2020. In recent years, the two countries have signed a number of major agreements to deepen economic ties, including a $400 billion deal to supply Russian natural gas to China over 30 years.

Political Alliances

Beyond economic cooperation, Russia and China have also formed close political alliances in recent years. The two countries have worked together to promote a multipolar world order and to counterbalance what they see as US dominance in global affairs. In addition, Russia and China have strengthened their military ties, conducting joint military exercises and signing a number of defence agreements.

Overall, Putin’s comments reflect the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy. As the two countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership, it is likely that their cooperation will extend to new areas, including technology, energy, and infrastructure.

China’s Role in Russian Foreign Policy

Putin emphasizes China's pivotal role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

China has become an important partner for Russia in terms of foreign policy and trade. In an interview with Xinhua, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China’s efforts to maintain peace and stability in the world. Putin also highlighted the “unprecedented level of strategic partnership” between Russia and China, which he believes is a key factor in maintaining global security.

The two countries have been working together on a number of initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The BRI is a massive infrastructure project that aims to connect China with Europe and other parts of Asia through a network of roads, railways, and ports. Russia has been a key partner in this project, with plans to build a high-speed railway between Moscow and Beijing.

In addition to the BRI, Russia and China have also been working closely together in the SCO, which is a regional security organisation that includes other countries such as India, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan. The two countries have been working together to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism in the region.

Overall, China’s role in Russian foreign policy has become increasingly important in recent years. The two countries share a common vision for a multipolar world, and their partnership has helped to counterbalance the influence of the United States and other Western countries.

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Future Prospects for Sino-Russian Cooperation

Putin emphasizes China's key role in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

As Putin highlighted in his interview with Xinhua, the strategic partnership between China and Russia has reached an unprecedented level. This partnership has been strengthened by the two countries’ shared commitment to promoting peace and stability in the world.

One area where Sino-Russian cooperation is expected to continue growing is in the field of trade. The two countries have set a target of reaching $200 billion in bilateral trade by 2024, up from $108 billion in 2018. To achieve this goal, both sides have been actively promoting investment and trade in key sectors such as energy, agriculture, and technology.

Another area of cooperation is in the field of international affairs. China and Russia have been working closely together to promote multilateralism and uphold the principles of the UN Charter. They have also been coordinating their efforts to address global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.

In addition, the two countries have been deepening their cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This has been facilitated by initiatives such as the China-Russia Year of Media Exchange and the China-Russia Youth Friendly Exchange Year.

Overall, the future prospects for Sino-Russian cooperation are promising, as both countries continue to deepen their strategic partnership and work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the world.

Implications for International Relations

Putin emphasizes China's significance in Russian foreign policy and trade in an interview with Xin

Putin’s praise for China’s peace efforts and strategic partnership with Russia has significant implications for international relations. The strong relationship between the two countries could potentially shift the balance of power in the world, with China’s growing influence being a key factor.

The strategic partnership between Russia and China has already had an impact on the world stage, with the two countries working together on issues such as Syria and North Korea. This partnership could also have an impact on the global economy, with the two countries working to increase trade and investment.

Furthermore, the partnership between Russia and China could have implications for other countries, particularly those in the West. As Russia and China continue to strengthen their relationship, it could lead to a shift in global alliances and a realignment of power.

Overall, Putin’s comments highlight the growing importance of China in Russian foreign policy and trade. As the two countries continue to work together, the implications for international relations could be significant, potentially leading to a shift in the global balance of power.

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China

Baidu Executive Resigns After Controversial “I’m Not Your Mum” Outburst

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Recently, a senior executive at Baidu, which is China’s most popular search engine, resigned from her position due to a public scandal. The videos that surfaced on social media showed her behaving inappropriately and disrespectfully towards her subordinates, which caused widespread outrage among the public. This incident has triggered a broader discussion about workplace culture and the treatment of employees in China’s tech industry, highlighting the need for better practices and ethical standards.

The executive in question, Wang Zhi, who served as Baidu’s head of public relations, posted several videos on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo, in which she could be seen reprimanding and mocking her subordinates. In one particularly controversial clip, Wang can be heard saying, “I’m not your mum, so don’t expect me to take care of you like one.”

The videos quickly went viral, with many viewers expressing outrage at Wang’s behavior and the apparent lack of respect she showed towards her employees. The backlash was swift, with many calling for Wang’s resignation and criticizing Baidu for allowing such conduct to occur within the company.

The Resignation and Baidu’s Response

On May 10, 2024, Baidu announced that Wang Zhi had resigned from her position as head of public relations, effective immediately. In a statement released to the media, the company acknowledged the incident and stated that it did not condone the behavior displayed by Wang in the videos.

“Baidu takes this matter very seriously and does not tolerate any form of disrespect or mistreatment of our employees,” the statement read. “We have accepted Ms. Wang’s resignation and will be conducting a thorough review of our internal policies and procedures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

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The resignation comes at a time when Baidu, like many other tech companies in China, is facing increased scrutiny over its treatment of employees and workplace culture. In recent years, there have been growing concerns about the long hours, high-pressure environments, and lack of work-life balance that are common in the industry.

The Wider Implications

The Wang Zhi incident has shone a spotlight on these issues and has prompted many to question whether the tech industry in China is doing enough to protect the rights and well-being of its employees. Some have argued that the pressure to perform and the fear of losing one’s job can lead to a culture of fear and intimidation, where employees are afraid to speak up or challenge their superiors.

Others have pointed to the broader societal expectations and cultural norms that may contribute to the problem. In China, there is a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect for authority, which can make it difficult for employees to challenge their superiors or speak up about mistreatment.

The Need for Change

Despite the challenges, many believe that change is necessary and that the tech industry in China must take steps to address these issues. Some have called for stronger labor laws and better enforcement of existing regulations, while others have argued for a shift in corporate culture and a greater emphasis on employee well-being.

One potential solution that has been proposed is the implementation of more robust employee training and development programs, which could help to foster a more positive and supportive work environment. By investing in their employees and providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed, companies like Baidu could help to create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

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Another key area that needs to be addressed is the issue of work-life balance. Many tech companies in China have been criticized for their long working hours and lack of flexibility, which can take a toll on employees’ mental and physical health. By implementing policies that prioritize work-life balance and provide employees with more support and resources, companies could help to create a more sustainable and healthy work environment.

Conclusion

The resignation of Wang Zhi from Baidu is a significant event that has shone a light on the broader issues facing the tech industry in China. While the company’s swift action in accepting her resignation and promising to review its policies is a positive step, there is still much work to be done to address the underlying problems.

By prioritizing employee well-being, fostering a more positive and supportive work culture, and implementing policies that promote work-life balance, companies like Baidu can help to create a more sustainable and successful tech industry in China. It is a challenge that will require commitment and collaboration from all stakeholders, but one that is essential for the long-term success and well-being of the industry and its employees.

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