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The Ticking Time Bomb: The Chinese Economy

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While President Obama continues to gloat that the US economy (and by extension the global economy) was rectified and on the path to growth thanks to his intervention, he must not be paying attention to what is going on in China.

Thanks to the market interventionist policies of the US, EU, Japan, and China, the 2008 economic crisis was never fully remedied instead a bandage solution was used to cover the symptoms. While analysts and pundits continue to rave about the rise of the Chinese Dragon and how future global economic prosperity lies in China, they are missing the emergence of a new bubble. This bubble is on the verge of popping and when, not if, it pops, the entire global system will feel the ripple effect. The crisis that will emerge due to the Chinese economy collapse will make the 2008 economic crisis pale in comparison.

The Chinese Banking System

Since the opening of China’s market to the US by Deng Xiaoping and Richard Nixon, China has experienced unprecedented growth for the past thirty (30) years. Even during global economic slowdowns such as the 2008 crisis, China’s economy still grew. While in the past, growth had been centered on manufacturing, with the new found wealth and increased living standard, the Chinese economy sees itself shifting to a service-based economy. With the global economic system in malaise, this shift can hurt China.

China’s system of government is not democratic rather a one-party authoritarian system that derives legitimacy from the sole basis of being able to provide employment and food to its massive population. This implied social contract between the people and the government has proceeded thus far relatively stable. But in the recent decade, China finds itself at odds with its ability to sustain employment and a strong economy versus market forces dictating otherwise. In order to preempt such detrimental forces, China has intervened in the markets by propping up difference sectors or devaluing its currency in the hope of buoying its economy.

Estimates of the 2008 financial crisis put US economic losses around $900 billion while the global losses were around $15-20 trillion. Based on the current trajectory, the losses due to the Chinese banking bubble will surpass the 2008 crisis by leaps and bounds. In the past decade economic growth has slowed down, as a result the government has dumped money into the real estate sector in the hopes of propping things as well as the stock market. All these efforts did little to perturb the downward trajectory . To help decelerate their downturn, the Chinese devalued the Yuan in the hopes of exporting goods cheaply. The problem with that approach has been that the entire global economic system is still reeling from the 2008 crash, hence demand has slowed down. The culminations of all these factors are now laying the groundwork for the Chinese banking sector bubble to pop. But unlike the downturn in the real estate and stock market, the effects of this collapse will cause upset around the globe. A review of the Chinese banking sector will help one gain a better insight into the Chinese bubble.

chinagrowth

This graph illustrates the number of loans made by Chinese banks from 2003 to 2014. The loans were used by people for real estate, businesses, and other means of investments. The returns from these different investment vehicles would be used to pay back the loans. These loans have grown from approximately $4 trillion (2003) to over $30 trillion dollars today. In addition, the graph depicts the banking assets as a percentage of GDP. Unfortunately, the growth in the percentage of loans has greatly outpaced the economic growth in the same time frame. The current trajectory of the banking assets represents a system that is unsustainable and on the path of crashing.

It is reported that almost half of all new Chinese loans are undertaken just to pay the interest on the existing loans. While official Chinese government reports put the nonperforming or bad loans at 2-5%, in reality, it is believed to be closer to 15%. With such a large amount of toxic loans, one can safely assume the next bubble is around the corner.  

While the larger victim from this fallout will be China, the world will not go unscathed. Aside from being the second largest economy in the world, economic globalization has created an interconnected system that when one giant sneezes the rest of the world feels it. The crash of the Chinese banking sector can be the black swan event that will cause the entire global system into depression and in a much worse position than the 2008 crash.    

Conclusion

While analysts and pundits continue their endless admiration and fascination with the Chinese rise, their adoration has caused them to become blind to the growing bubble. This bubble can only be neglected for so long before it comes due and takes everything down with it. When it does, the 2008 crisis will all be but forgotten due to how relatively dire the impact of this crisis will be.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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Reskilling Revolution: Leaders Preparing 1 Billion People for Tomorrow’s Economy

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Investing broadly in the skills of the future for both today’s and tomorrow’s next-generation workforce could add an additional $8.3 trillion in increased productivity to the global economy by 2030.

The Reskilling Revolution initiative, a coalition of 50 CEOs, 25 ministers and 350 organizations committed to realizing these gains for their economies, societies and organizations, marked two years of progress at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos today. Their work will benefit over 100 million workers on their journey towards reaching 1 billion people by 2030 with better education, skills and economic opportunity.

Accelerating the Reskilling Revolution

Global inequities in lifelong learning and childhood education, a pandemic that closed schools and workplaces and rapid technological change are highlighting the need to double down on reskilling, upskilling and the future of learning. The Reskilling Revolution initiative, launched at the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting in January 2020, is working to provide 1 billion people with better education, skills and economic opportunity by 2030.

At its heart is a commitment from over 50 CEOs to inspire global business leadership on the upskilling, reskilling and human capital investment agenda. By working together with a growing network of national-level country accelerators launched to date in 12 countries – Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Georgia, Greece, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, with knowledge support from Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Switzerland – the Reskilling Revolution has mobilized a multistakeholder community of over 350 organizations across 12 countries and is on track to benefit 100 million people on its journey towards 1 billion.

“In an era of multiple disruptions to the labour market – the pandemic, supply chain changes, the green transition, technological transformation – the one ‘no regret’ investment all governments and business can make is in education, reskilling and upskilling. It is the best pathway to expanding opportunity, enhancing social mobility and accelerating future growth,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

Enabling Education 4.0

Two years into its work the initiative will expand beyond adult reskilling and upskilling and integrate a focus on education for children and youth. These efforts will be taken forward by a new Education 4.0 Alliance, bringing together 20 leading education organizations at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2022.

A new report from the project, Catalysing Education 4.0 Investing in the Future of Learning for a Human-Centric Recovery, focuses on preparing today’s generation of school-age children with better collaborative problem-solving that could add $2.54 trillion – over $3,000 per school-age child – from this one skill alone.

The report, developed with support from the LEGO Foundation and in consultation with leading education experts from the public, private and educational sectors, finds that investment in the skills of the future for primary and secondary school learners would create an additional $489 billion in Europe, $458 billion in South Asia, $333 billion in East Asia, $332 billion in Latin America, $266 billion in the Middle East, $235 billion in North America, $179 billion in sub-Saharan Africa, and $163 billion in Central Asia.

Meanwhile, China ($356 billion), the United States ($218 billion), Brazil ($143 billion), Mexico ($80 billion) and Italy ($72 billion) are the five countries standing to gain the most, while the benefits relative to the size of their economies today would be greatest in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

To unlock this education transformation, the Education 4.0 initiative will focus on three key investment areas: new assessment mechanisms; adoption of new learning technologies; and empowerment of the teaching workforce.

Expanding the Accelerator network

Complementing the Skills Accelerators, the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting also featured the official launch of the first school-age focused Education 4.0 Accelerator, a national-level public-private collaboration platform for action. The Education Accelerators – complementing a network of successful Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators – aim to mainstream technology-enhanced learning experiences, implement new measurement mechanisms, empower educators and mobilize investment in the sector.

Bangladesh will be the first country to pioneer this new model in Asia. Dipu Moni, Minister of Education, Bangladesh, said: “Bangladesh is committed to ensuring high-quality education for all children and youth. We are delighted to partner with the World Economic Forum to launch the first Education Accelerator in South Asia and to be part of this global network to advance the Education 4.0 agenda.”

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Sanctions against Russia: do they have any point?

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It’s hard to recall a day since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine when there was no mentioning about new sanctions being imposed against Russia. On May 9th, the EU announced that it had almost finished preparations for the sixth package of sanctions, and rumors on the Internet are already mentioning the seventh.

What are sanctions?

In brief, sanctions are a list of political and economic decisions applied by states and organizations in order to protect national interests, international law, and defense from threats to international peace and security. As a rule, they are temporary and are removed when the cause/threat has been eliminated.

According to the EU’s official website, “Restrictive measures (sanctions) are an essential tool in the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP), through which the EU can intervene where necessary to prevent conflict or respond to emerging or current crises. In spite of their colloquial name ‘sanctions’, EU restrictive measures are not punitive. They are intended to bring about a change in policy or activity by targeting non-EU countries, as well as entities and individuals, responsible for the malign behaviour at stake.”[1]

How many sanctions have been imposed against Russia in total?

On May 8th, the Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Volodin shared a post on his Telegram channel that “10 128 sanctions have been imposed against our country. More than against any other state in the entire history of their existence.”[2] From this number, 2,754 were introduced in the period from 2014 (the Crimean issue) and before the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine.[3] The rest – more than seven thousand – were introduced in a short three-month period. According to The Castellum.AI, a service which takes a record of sanctions and updates weekly, as of May 9, their number has already exceeded 7,600, making Russia the state with the largest number of sanctions imposed. For comparison: 3,161 sanctions have been imposed against Iran, 2,608 – against Syria, and 2,077 – against North Korea.[4] Other states can “boast” with the list containing less than 1,000 sanctions. Thus, in a short period of time, Russia not only got on the list of sanctioned countries, but also topped it.

The sanctions have affected almost every sector of Russia – from individuals, which list already counts numbers in the hundreds, to the spheres of energy, economy, trade… The enumeration can go on for a long time. It can be said that there is practically not a single area left that wasn’t affected by sanctions: for example, one of the articles published by the Atlantic Council had the heading “What’s left to sanction in Russia?” And yet, at almost all the examples given, it is mentioned that sanctions have already been imposed in this area.[5]

So is there anything else that can be included in the sanctions lists? The question itself is good, but alas – it will take quite a long time to search for the answer: sanctions are already everywhere.

So is there any point in sanctions?

This is quite an interesting question, although in this situation it would be more accurate to say that sanctions have not only a point, but also consequences.

As it was mentioned above, sanctions are usually temporary, but Russia has been living with almost 3,000 sanctions imposed against it for more than 8 years. Has it brought any tangible results in influencing Russia? No. Have those who introduced them achieved the result what they had introduced those sanctions for? No. Have these sanctions been lifted? No. Therefore, is there any point in imposing them on Russia? The answer is still the same – no, because as it can be observed,  these sanctions are in the list of existing ones, and Russia still continues to exist, quite successfully adapting to them. And there are a lot of sanctions – 2,754 (for the period before the Ukrainian issue), but the thing is that the country against which they were introduced does not complain about its size and capabilities either.

There is a point in sanctions, and first of all – for Russia.

Following numerous bans on the export of various kinds of products, as well as the departure of many companies operating in various fields, the Russian government introduced a number of measures to support different areas, and which have already started to show positive results. According to Rosstat, several sectors of the Russian economy showed positive dynamics as soon as measures were introduced (compare to the same period of 2021): the mining industry grew by 7.8%, energy, heat and gas supply – by 1.5%, water supply and waste disposal – by 7.2%.[6] There is also an increase in the food sector – by 1.1%, and medical production increased by as much as 46.8% compared to March 2021, and turned out to be 9.1% higher than in February 2022. As Rosstat data shows, according to a preliminary estimate of the country’s GDP for the 1st quarter 2022, there is a positive growth of 103.5% compared to the same period last year.[7] The Economist noted that “as imports slide and exports hold up, Russia is running a record trade surplus.”[8] The Institute of International Finance estimates that “in 2022 the current-account surplus, which includes trade and some financial flows, could come in at $250bn (15% of last year’s gdp), more than double the $120bn recorded in 2021”. As a result, the world sees that rather than damaging Russia, sanctions are contributing to its strengthening. [9]

The consequences of the sanctions, however, were faced not only by Russia and Belarus (which also got quite an amount of them because of good relations with Russia), but also by the rest of the world, including even the part that had nothing to do with this issue. And the consequences of those 7 thousand+ recently imposed sanctions are especially severe.

Some countries are already complaining about food shortages, as their supplies have been seriously reduced due to sanctions. People are dissatisfied with the increase of prices for various products and goods, but this is caused by the increase of fuel prices – which people are also dissatisfied with. Shocks and turmoil in the social and economic sectors started to affect the political situation both within countries and their international policies, as they have to choose whether to join the sanctions or try to stay away.

Why “try”?

Even at the first weeks of the conflict, the United States were seen trying to put pressure on states to either join the sort of “sanctions coalition” or stay away, preventing any attempts to help Russia. As it turned out, one of these countries was China: back in April 2022, the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that the sanctions imposed against Russia should give China (and President Xi personally) an idea of the consequences that it could face in case of providing assistance to Russia: “<it> gives President Xi, I think, a pretty good understanding of what might come his way should he, in fact, support Putin in any material fashion.”[10] If there was an attempt to put pressure on China, which is far from being the last figure in the international arena, then what can be said about other states – especially European ones?

Hungary is now becoming one of the stumbling blocks, as it refuses to support sanctions with regard to the embargo on fuel imports. According to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, it will be equal to an atomic bomb dropped on the Hungarian economy, since it simply will not have time to adapt – it will take at least five years and a large number of investments. Nevertheless, he noted that Hungary is ready for negotiations – if the proposals are consistent with the interests of the state.[11] However, according to information, a video conference between Ursula von der Leyen and Viktor Orban, held on Monday last week, did not lead to a compromise, thus delaying the adoption of the sixth – the heaviest, according to EU representatives – package of sanctions.[12] Against this background, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed the opinion that the sixth package of sanctions could be adopted in a reduced form, since “we must observe unity in the EU.”[13]

So…what can be expected in the future?


[1] https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/international-relations/restrictive-measures-sanctions/overview-sanctions-and-related-tools_en

[2] https://t.me/vv_volodin/427

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/international-relations/restrictive-measures-sanctions/sanctions-adopted-following-russias-military-aggression-against-ukraine_en

[4] https://www.castellum.ai/russia-sanctions-dashboard

[5] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/whats-left-to-sanction-in-russia-wallets-stocks-and-foreign-investments/

[6] https://rosstat.gov.ru/folder/313/document/163079

[7] https://rosstat.gov.ru/folder/313/document/165370

[8] https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2022/05/13/russia-is-on-track-for-a-record-trade-surplus

[9] https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2022/05/13/russia-is-on-track-for-a-record-trade-surplus

[10] https://www.reuters.com/world/us-says-china-could-face-sanctions-if-it-supports-russias-war-ukraine-2022-04-06/

[11] https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/hungary-cannot-support-new-eu-sanctions-against-russia-present-form-pm-orban-2022-05-06/

[12] https://www.ft.com/content/abba000b-992a-45a3-941a-3616e335ccc5

[13] https://tass.ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/14676015?utm_source=yandex.ru&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=yandex.ru&utm_referrer=yandex.ru

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Anglo-American Axis Needs Common Market, not Common Alliance

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With the eruption of the war in Ukraine, and considering the post-war situation, the alliance system in the West and its future should be something worthy of concern.

Anglo-American Axis is a concept that I proposed well before Brexit, and such an axis has already been fully formed today. With Brexit, the United Kingdom is now no longer part of the continental European alliance. It has instead re-aligned with the United States, and reverted to being a maritime nation that it used to be.

Such an axis would not be moved by the independence inclination of France, the wish of Germany to become the leader, nor the ambition of Turkey to be a regional hegemon. It cares even less about countries like Israel, Iran, and India. What the Anglo-American Axis focuses is to control the high ground of fundamental values, so that it can win the historic future as long as civilization continues to progress. Wars in other regions do not carry much significance to it. For NATO to play a role, it must negotiate conditions with the United States. It is not the Anglo-American Axis that needs NATO, but that NATO needs the Anglo-American Axis.

The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the former members of the Commonwealth, have formed the largest single market in the world, with a coordinated monetary policy for the U.S. dollar and British pound. Such a market can consider certain African and South American countries, as long as they remain stable, and this usually means some “friendly dictatorships with open economies”, similar to Chile in the past.

Civilization is a dynamic force. Although many have studied monetary issues and finance, they fail to link these with civilization. In fact, these are appendages of civilization, and they are products of it. Humanity will inevitably move towards civilization.

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