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The Asian Square Dance – 1st part

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Goldman Sachs first coined the expression BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – to identify the economic giants of the future that will reshape the world economic order. While Russia’s economy is linked to the prices of commodities, energy in particular, Brazil has not lived up to expectations. Of the four countries, China and India have shown the most impressive growth in recent years with, respectively, 10% and 8%. Excluding Brazil, the population of the BRIC represents 40% of the world’s inhabitants.

With Asia, reckoned to be today the most dynamic continent, accounting for 65% of the world’s population, and China and India together accounting for 40%, these two countries can potentially alter the fragile equilibrium of the world’s economy. It is forecast that by 2030 the East Asian economies will be the world’s largest economic bloc.

Due to diverging political ideologies and concerns, however, this bloc does not, in fact, exist other than in prose. Even worse, all the countries in the area have made significant investments in military equipment over the recent past thus sharply increasing the risk of conflict particularly as fears grow over China’s intentions.

The US’ dream, during the cold war, of creating an Asian equivalent to NATO was short lived. Today, Asia has five nuclear powers: Pakistan, India, China, North Korea and Russia. On the other hand, the US is constrained by budgetary problems.

Our argument in this series of articles is that the development of Asia, and its impact on the rest of the world, depends to a large extent on the relations between five countries: China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US. Depending on the structure of the type of relations that will develop, and choices made by Russia and the US, for instance on their energy policy, we may see a new world order developing, very different from that of the last four hundred years. Further, if the Chinese economy faces difficulties in the future, the US will be instrumental in determining Asia’s future. Conversely, if the US economy falters, China, if it so wishes, could assume the world’s economic leadership.

Since the end of the Second World War, the US’ role in the area has been a major influencing factor politically, militarily and economically and while it has declined recently, it remains, nevertheless, important. Asia is challenging the EU as the world’s most important trade bloc.

The US imports from Asia for over $2 trillion per year, thus making the US responsible for the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. A weakening of the US dollar could significantly diminish the US’ role in the region.

At issue here is what A F K Organski has termed ‘Power transition theory’ – i.e. the change of the guard of the dominant power where the dominant power occupies this position because of its control of resources, be they demographic, economic, geographic, natural or military.

According to the theory, the dominant power, or powers, must ensure the stability of the system failing what the system might be challenged by an emerging hegemon. These situations are conducive to confrontation, very often military.

The emerging hegemon is, no doubt, China, and the events in Eurasia, over the coming quarter century will witness an indirect confrontation between China and the US, a confrontation whose secondary actors are India and Russia.

Is China striving to attain the status of great power and challenge the US, at least regionally, and what role do the other regional powers, as well as Russia and the US play? Or is it just trying to reduce its feeling of being surrounded by enemies?

Asia has become a powerhouse with several countries showing economic strength and appearing to be rivals. A dangerous rivalry inasmuch as five countries in the area have a nuclear arsenal (China, India, North Korea, Pakistan and Russia), with two more (Japan and South Korea) able to produce a nuclear bomb in a relatively short time.

Monetary reserves in Asia are sufficient to allow the area to develop without much further foreign investments. Further, an increase in economic stability is heralded by the recent agreement between several Asian countries – the members of ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea – to pool their financial resources in case of a speculative attack.

While the major trade partner of most of the countries in the area is Australia, the European Union and the United States, regional trade has increased considerably. Services such as tourism also cater increasingly to Asians.

There remains the question of whether the continent is able to develop its own technological base to compete with Europe and the US. There are diverging points of view on the issue.

The perception by the Asian countries of the effect of China’s domination of the continent evolved into an understanding that they only have two options – siding with China or with Japan and its US ally.

The financial difficulties originating in the US and which have spilled all over the world have affected Asia in its role of major exporter. As a reaction, China, Japan and South Korea are considering the creation of a community modelled on the European Union that would help them expand trade within their area and increase trade with the ASEAN countries, Russia, the Middle East and Europe. They are encouraged in this action as inter-Asian trade has been growing at twice the rate of global trade. Inter-Asian trade is more important as a percentage of total trade than inter-NAFTA trade.

The US should fear the creation of a trading block including China, Japan and South Korea as it would represent 43% of US’ foreign trade and holdings of over one trillion dollars in US Treasury paper.

 

Common problems
The countries in the area, with the notable exception of Russia, share two major problems: access to raw materials in general, and energy in particular, and an economy essentially geared to exports, and thus very dependent on the purchasing power of EU and US consumers. This last aspect is changing rapidly though with domestic markets starting to take shape and offering local producers a partial insulation from the American-led boom and bust cycles.

It is generally felt in the US that China has not been doing enough to stimulate internal demand – the number of consumers is no bigger than Italy while the population is 20 times that of the European country – and that the situation has been worsened by the decision of the Chinese government to peg the Yuan to the US dollar, thus effectively undertaking a devaluation.

Should China’s export drive remain as a major contributor the country’s economy, the accumulation of reserves by 2020 will be bigger than that of Germany, Japan and the Middle East countries put together. America’s response could be to return to a more isolationist policy by slapping import duties on Chinese products or getting China to open its doors to greater exports of US products.

Both China and India have to contend with an extremely large population. In fact, they are the only two countries with a population of over 1 billion persons. Economic development has brought, to both countries, an uneven distribution of wealth to the extent that social disruptions can be feared in the future.

China has become the world’s second largest oil consumer and it is likely that it will surpass the US to lead the world in energy use. Imports which represent 50% of consumption are likely to rise to reach 80% in another 10 – 15 years particularly considering the oil intensity of economic growth is particularly high, as in most developing countries. Thus, for each 1% growth in GDP, the country needs 1.2% additional oil.

In fact, China is the world’s fast-growing energy user, Russia is the most inefficient user of energy and he US is the country with the largest carbon footprint.

China is also the world’s largest consumer of several raw materials.
The country’s search for natural resources has been done in a predatory way, and there is fear that, backed by its staggering reserves, it could encourage suppliers to increase prices at levels beyond those acceptable to a large number of other users.

India’s energy requirements are expected to grow by 30% in the next 3 to 5 years and its imported crude oil dependency is expected to reach 95% by 2025.

India depends for 50% of its energy needs on coal and increasing its use would create major environmental problems.

Its gas suppliers are considered to be relatively unreliable and include Bangladesh, Iran, Myanmar and Turkmenistan.

This situation has encouraged India to pursue the road to nuclear power.
Such growth in raw material requirements is not sustainable and is strategically dangerous.

Both China and India have very large armies (in fact the largest in the world) and nuclear weapons.

Japan is also a major energy importer, relying entirely on imports for oil. Japan has an important stockpile of energy products, and it has encouraged other Asian countries, including China, to jointly plan the stocks and their administration.

Indeed, Asia’s energy needs are expected to double in the coming 20 years. In spite of this, OPEC countries do not seem to be prepared to invest in increasing production, in large part because of the massive funds required. They have been estimated by McKinsey to be of the order of $ 45 billion a year over the next three decades.

The countries in the area perceive themselves as rivals in securing energy sources and China, particularly, has shown an eagerness to develop partnerships, whether through limited investments, or through political support, in the United Nations, of countries like Iran.

Hydrocarbon reserves in the China Sea are claimed by several countries, and are a growing point of contention. Neighboring countries are fearful of China’s rising military power and have led them to develop closer relations with the US.

In an effort to temper their competition, India and China have made some joint bids to buy and share oil fields.

Japan too is dependent on energy imports and has recently been unlucky with their supply sources. Thus, they have had to curtail their investments in Iran, Kuwait, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

To counterbalance these losses, Japan has offered Saudi Arabia the possibility of building oil-storage facilities in Okinawa, provided Japan can have access to them in case of emergency.

A closer rapprochement between the two countries depends, however, on the US’ willingness for this to take place as the Saudi monarchy depends on the US military shield against the rising threat of Iran and of the djihadists, and there is no way Japan can replace the US in that role. This, in spite of the fact that Asia is today, by far, the largest buyer of both Saudi and more generally, Middle Eastern oil – up to 60% and 70% of their exports, respectively.

Reliance on Russia for energy is therefore extremely important. While a pipeline is being built from Siberia to the Pacific that could partly alleviate these escalating needs, a number of other pipeline projects have been proposed. All these projects require large investments ($ 1-2 million per kilometer of pipeline or around $ 12 billion for the pipeline that will link Russia and China), long delays in building and face substantial political and ecological problems. Further, the gas transmission systems in China and Japan are under-developed and therefore not suitable for the transport of large quantities of imported gas.

Russian industry has access to gas supplies at prices substantially below those practised on world markets and has therefore become a voracious user. The Russian government will be increasing prices for domestic consumption, including for private heating, and / or turning to alternative energy sources such as coal, hydro-electric or nuclear power.

Other possibilities have also been considered, but they all depend on Russia’s cooperation.

Thus, for instance, integrating the energy grids of Russia with those of China, Japan and the two Koreas has been proposed to enable the exchange of seasonal surplus.

This entails not only Russia’s cooperation, but also North Korea’s. It also requires large investments, although possibly not of the scale of building a pipeline network.

Another common point between the China, India, Japan and South Korea is that they constitute, jointly, the world’s largest weapons market and their suppliers are the European Union, Russia and the United States.

China and Japan also share the will to stop North Korea’s nuclear program.

The two countries are also large emitters of greenhouse gases.

Both China and Russia fear, perhaps rightly so, that the US is conducting an encirclement strategy due to their military presence in Central Asia as well as, in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as far as China is concerned, and Russia is concerned with a possible NATO expansion in Europe.

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Economy

What are Market Anticipations and Policy Expectations as Shares Tumble?

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On April 21st, the three major A-shares indices saw a severe drop due to a combination of local and global causes. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.26%, the Shenzhen Component Index dropped 2.7%, the ChiNext Index dropped 2.17%, and the CSI 300 Index dropped 1.84%. More than 4,400 stocks fell in both cities, while industrial categories led by tourism, fertilizer, agriculture, and photovoltaics almost across the board.

As April started, the Shanghai Composite Index has fallen 7.5%, down 10.5% from the beginning of March. The CSI 300 Index has dropped 13.40% from 4,614 in early March to the current 3,995.83, which tumbled 21.31% from 5,078 in mid-December last year. Because incremental funds were not injected into the market anymore, only stock funds were up for grab. Since the middle of March, A-shares stock trading has been declining, indicating a lack of investor trust.

Researchers at ANBOUND believe that this demonstrates the market’s pessimism about the future economic situation. With the downward pressure on the economy increasing, market confidence restoration and expectations stabilization are critical to helping in the healthy development of the capital market, as well as important in maintaining growth and averting risks.

Figure 1: The Shenzhen Component Index plunging more than 4,200 in the past 4 months

Source: Sina Finance

Market institutions have generally accepted the several factors that have caused the recent severe falls in the stock market. First, the worldwide geopolitical risk of distorting the supply chain and affecting company earnings is rather high. Second, since the Federal Reserve has escalated monetary tightening, the quick reduction of the interest rate gap between China and the U.S., as well as the inversion of the RMB exchange rate, is driving the RMB exchange rate to alter, raising concerns about capital flows. Next, the resurgence of the domestic pandemic has a substantial negative influence on China’s economy, particularly in consumption and real estate as indicated in the first-quarter economic statistics, which has heightened concerns about the country’s macroeconomy. Finally, the pessimism has been accentuated by a substantial disparity between recent central bank macro policy actions and market policy expectations. As a result, as long as present internal and external concerns persist, the A-shares market is unlikely to improve much in the immediate term.

Figure 2: The Shanghai Composite Index shedding more than 600 in the past 4 months

Source: Sina Finance

Historically, the fluctuations and transformation of China’s stock market couldn’t fully reflect China’s overall economic situation. However, in terms of expectations, the shifting trend of the A-share market, by acting as a barometer of the economy, continues to illustrate the genuine expectations of capital market investors on future business and overall economic developments. As observed in the March market trend, changes in external variables have been absorbed, but recent stock market volatility is more likely to be aggravated by changes in internal elements. As a result, changes in China’s economic circumstances and policy expectations are undoubtedly the cause of the stock market’s dramatic volatility. Investors are increasingly concerned about the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as a lack of trust in the stability of present economic strength and the rhythm of macroeconomic measures that sustain the economy. As things stand, despite the continued implementation of measures and policies aimed at stabilizing the capital market, these policies are insufficient to boost market confidence.

The pandemic and policy declarations are not only harming the capital market but are also major variables influencing China’s economic future. Notably, the recurrence of COVID-19 is concentrated in those economically developed regions such as the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta. The scope and depth of its economic impact may surpass that of the outbreak in Wuhan in 2020. In such a case, we believe that there is a demand to put dedicated unconventional policies into place. In this regard, it is necessary to implement targeted measures to stabilize economic fundamentals based on strengthening prevention and control. On the other hand, it is also essential to promote systematic easing among macro policies to avoid the catastrophic consequences caused by shrinking demand.

Since the beginning of the year, in the framework of the Chinese central bank’s monetary policy implementation process, it has taken a cautious approach to progressively easing, which is far from the policy expectation. Although the central bank has maintained “reasonably ample liquidity” as a whole, the reality of the domestic economy indicates the private economy and a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises are unable to obtain sufficient credit support from those “accurate liquidity provisions”. Such economic structural difference requires not only targeted structural reforms, but also overall easing to achieve the dredging effect from “loose money” to “loose credit”, which would reverse the passive situation. Zhang Jun of Morgan Stanley Securities also pointed out that the policy-level “fueling tactics” will cause a waste of policy space and may also deepen the risk to diminish the expectations.

Concerning the present external limitations that limit China’s domestic measures, ANBOUND has previously stated that variables such as interest rate spreads produced by economic and policy disparities are only one of the external factors impacting China’s economy, but not the most important one. Further concern should now be given to the fundamental factors that drive economic growth and structural improvement. In terms of policy, it is imperative to enhance the ‘autonomy’ of macro policies. We should occupy this window, fundamentally reverse the economic trend, and assist the capital market to construct stable market expectations and policy expectations before the international situation undergoes further evolution, hence coping with a better response to the changes in external factors.

It would be difficult to reverse the situation after market expectations have shifted. When combined with a self-reinforcing impact, it frequently leads to a downward spiral vicious cycle in the capital market and the actual economy. Hence, it is hard to reverse market expectations without stable policy expectations. Judging from the economic data of the first quarter, the overall economy is still resilient and possesses a stable foundation. However, to achieve the economic growth target of the current year, it is still necessary to strengthen the implementation of macro policies. This is not only conducive to the stability of the capital market but for the overall economy as well.

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Education Must Come First in our Global Economic Agenda

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A 13-year-old girl solves a maths sum at a school in Gujarat, India. © UNICEF/Mithila Jariwala

With leaders gathering at this year’s World Economic Forum, it’s time to prioritize the impact investments in education bring to businesses, economies and beyond.

As all eyes turn to this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, we call on world leaders and world-leading businesses to put education at the heart our global social and economic agenda.

Education is our investment in the future, our investment in sustainable economic growth and global security, our investment in the vast potential of our collective humanity.

To realize our goals of delivering equitable, quality education to every girl and boy on the planet – especially those caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement and other protracted crises –  we must activate a global conscience and commitment, and create a value proposition that shows businesses, politicians and the general public just what an investment in quality education means for our world.

This means pre-schoolers can learn to read and write in safe environments. It means girls can become entrepreneurs and doctors – not child brides. It means boys can be teachers and lawyers – not soldiers.

It means refugee children and adolescents displaced by conflict, climate change and other crises in hot spots like Bangladesh, Colombia, the Sahel and Ukraine can go on to complete 12 years of education and become leaders of a peaceful and healthy society.

It means college and beyond, a smarter workforce, and greater socio-economic stability. It means an end to poverty and hunger, establishing gender-equality, and advancing human rights for all.  

Unravelling the challenge

This is one of the most complex problems ever to face humanity. When Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – was established in 2016, an estimated 75 million crisis-impacted children and youth did not have access to the safety, protection, hope and opportunity of a quality education. That number has risen to an estimated 200 million in recent years as we see a rise in conflicts, displacement, climate disasters and a deadly pandemic that has upended our progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

While a minority of people on the planet are enjoying all the comforts of modern life – and football teams sell for more than $5 billion – over 617 million children and adolescents worldwide cannot read or do basic math. That’s more than the total population of ECW’s three largest donors – Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – combined. 

Nevertheless, to date, less than 3% of government stimulus packages have been allocated to education, and in low- and lower-middle-income countries, the share is less than 1%. We can and must increase this government funding three-fold, following the example of the European Union, which announced in 2019 that it would increase education spending to 10% of humanitarian aid.

Government aid alone isn’t enough

The private sector, businesses and philanthropic foundations like The LEGO Foundation, Dubai Cares, Verizon and Porticus are already activating significant investments into the space.

We need to bring in more funding from industries closely connected with education – like Google, CISCO and Microsoft – and from those which have a vested interest in ensuring global economic stability and resilience, like the Jacobs Foundation, Western Union and Hilton Foundations of this world.

As we embrace the spirit of Davos – “to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance” – it is clear that this is a global issue that won’t just impact the rights and life trajectories of the world’s most vulnerable children, it will impact the bottom line for businesses, disrupt global socio-economic stability, and affect us all if we don’t act immediately with decisive action and collective humanity at the forefront. 

Building together

Education Cannot Wait has already mobilized over US$1 billion over a few short years and reached approximately 5 million children, but it is simply not enough.  

In the next three years, with the support of donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and individuals, we need to mobilize at least an additional $1.5 billion. This needs to happen with the leadership of the G7, the resources and know-how of the private sector partners featured at this year’s World Economic Forum, and the enhanced commitments that will make headlines at this year’s Transforming Education Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General.

This will enable ECW and our strategic partners to respond immediately and effectively to the education needs of at least 10 million children and adolescents – including 6 million girls.

Think about the ROI. This works out to just $150 per child. If each of the world’s Fortune 500 companies made just a US$15 million contribution, we could surpass our goals and reach 100,000 children per donation! That’s 50 million more children with an education, 50 million more children breaking the hunger and poverty barriers, 50 million more opportunities to provide certainty in the face of very uncertain economic times.

Think about the future. If you could future-proof your business for the next 30 years with such a simple investment, wouldn’t you do it? Investment in education is good for the bottom line. With increased security and economic opportunity in the Global South, we are opening new markets, increasing economic resilience and building a more prosperous world.

Think about the legacy. For every $1 spent on girls’ education, we generate approximately $2.80 in return. Making sure girls finish secondary education could boost the GDP of developing countries by 10% over the next decade.

Think about scale. For every dollar raised, ECW and our strategic partners are leveraging about a dollar. This grows impact exponentially.

Think about our place in history. This is our moment to transform education for those left furthest behind. Please join us in ensuring every girl and boy – no matter who or where they are – has the opportunity to go school, to learn, to grow and to achieve their potentials not just for a day, but for a lifetime.

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The Politics of New Global Borderless-Class

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No, they are not the immigrants; they are citizens of a country in their own habitats, but active in yours. Slow circumnavigation of our earth will only prove that at the bottom of the population of each nation now there exists a new borderless-class slowly rising. Firstly, they are effortlessly, technology supported, secondly, squeezed out of imbalances, injustices and inhuman entrapments, thirdly, engaged in ‘nouveau occupationalism’ with virtual hopping from nation-to-nation all in the same typical routines of a normal day.

Fourthly, they are screaming silently, they see the global problems in desperate need of global solutions. Nevertheless, still inaudible in the political rotundas slowly they now become the force challenging old models of governments.

Study Pakistan, Sri Lanka and dozens of population-rich nations of the free world, notice the restless citizenry and their social media centric mobilization of dissent and protest narratives. As in coming months, peak temperatures will further fry the incompetence of the lingering economic bureaucracies. The sizzle is awakening, the awareness of incompetency on the rise. Unless grassroots prosperity issues are boldly addressed the economic fakery clearly visible on trillion blinking devices. Such blinks do not prove neither fame nor popularity but points to a silent ocean ready to drown them. What are the most important and dramatic roles that these borderless-classes will play in our behavioral economies and future demographics? Observe the goals, vision and narrative of Imran Khan of Pakistan.  Notice the silent Australians and polls in dustbins… 25 more national elections ahead.

Why elitism was multinational: Observe, in contrast, for centuries, only elites allowed global games; multinational organization with multinational rules of engagements. Today common folks are on the same platforms. They, born in a country but grew up in another country, work in some other continent and eventually settle in another new country. Exposed to massive digitization, access and internalization of rules of engagement in a massive global society with residency in multiple jurisdictions they are different.

Now Face-to-Face around the world: Compared to previous generations, the new borderless-classes are extremely well informed, this significant feature makes them locally, regionally, nationally and globally interconnected and creates a game changer. Most dramatic economic behaviorism of this borderless dynamic is face-to-face engagement around the world, while remote. Previous elite borderless-class was jet- set dependent.  It will take some deep yoga exercises to figure out mathematical variations to measure the power of their productivity of these hush-hush global whisperers.

What is the world waiting for? What does all this mean to the institutionalized bureaucracies, nestled in governances of the nations of the so-called free world, awaiting a nuke-flash? Perhaps nothing, or shocking realization that masses are discovering by the day how artificially created pre planned economic dramas are hurting local grassroots prosperity. Most importantly, they are equipped and capable to see the root causes and equally to recognize the available workable options. This is the difference.  Unlike some generations fooled sometimes or some all the times but this global-generation cannot fool all the time.

Is this brain drain or invasions of skilled minds?
The coin-operated competency of the Gig-economy now takes notice…

Most difficult questions; almost numbing most bureaucracies of the free world; when billions are already displaced due to pandemic, a billion replaced due to automation and a billion in wrong mismatched mandates how such masses are handled before they move towards populists viewpoints. Such shifts measured as unemployed now occupy remote work for overseas assignments and equally when local workers pushed over by higher skilled workers at half prices but working as foreign workers without paying taxes or contributing to the local societies. Is this brain drain or invasions of skilled minds?  The answers now buried in the several decade long abundance of higher quality upskilling and reskilling in hands of the leading nations of the free world points to massive breakdown of skilled citizenry. Study Expothon on Google on such issues, notice what is changing the thinking…

Only fake economies fail, as only houses built without builders and architectural rules collapse.  Observe the root causes of the last few financial crises. How such collapses systematically occurred, how the whole world of finance, quietly went so wrong, no punishments or lessons, just silence? Now all wait for the repeat performances.

Unfortunately, the jobless cannot create green economies and jobseeker mindsets cannot build new economies, therefore, bold, authoritative narrative on entrepreneurialism needed to bring the job creator mindsets in collaboration as the new art and science and combine both mindsets are going forward strategy. Is climate change a global politics or an entrepreneurial challenge, find the answers.

Study why capitalism is not the one failing: It is actually economic development. Winners of the future not necessarily are the visible rich and power of today. Notice the rising power of the bottom societies. Value creation economies when they become beneficiaries of primarily institutionalized value manipulation economies they become open public frauds. Nations without clear and decipherable narratives on economic fronts with national mobilization of entrepreneurialism will not create a distinct advantage.  Learn fast, fail fast, but move

Nations must demonstrate superior skills to build economies and not wars, creation of armies of entrepreneurs and new valleys of new enterprises.  Only in-depth discussion and nationally televised debates about such economical mysteries will highlight the answers. The silent new borderless-classes of the free economic world are now learning how to fix their government, how to bring change and how to create grassroots prosperity. The rest is easy. 

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