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How Henan Bank Scammers Weaponized the Language of Inclusive Finance

Rao Yichen wrote . . . . . . . . .

On April 18, five village and township banks in the central provinces of Henan and Anhui did the unthinkable: Claiming “system maintenance,” they abruptly blocked depositors from transferring or withdrawing their money from their accounts.

Overnight, tens of billions of yuan were effectively frozen; some 400,000 account holders in provinces and cities across the country were affected. One entrepreneur lost as much as 40 million yuan. A single mother’s life savings disappeared. Medical bills became unpayable. Those who gathered in Henan to protest saw their local health codes mysteriously turn “red” — indicating a positive COVID-19 test or close contact with a COVID-19 patient — preventing them from traveling or entering the bank premises to withdraw their money in person.

The scandal soon took on national proportions, and not just because of the abuse of the health code system. This wasn’t a fly-by-night operation: The five banks were fully accredited and had marketed fixed deposit products to consumers all over the country via established and trusted fintech platforms like JD.com’s JD Digits and Baidu’s Du Xiaoman Financial.

The possibility that even accounts in the formal banking system might be scams has shaken public faith in the country’s banking system. A police investigation pointed the finger at the chairman of the banks’ corporate parent, the Henan New Fortune Group, but many depositors are still waiting to see what percentage — if any — of their money can be recovered.

At the policy level, the incident has cast a pall over a cornerstone of China’s “inclusive finance” campaign. Village and township banks first emerged as a distinct class of banking institution in China in 2006. At the time, the country’s large, brand-name banks were generally only willing to lend to state-owned enterprises, firms contracted to build government infrastructure, or companies that could show the kind of rapid growth needed to keep up with banks’ own high interest rates. One of my research participants told me that, as late as 2005, a private chemical plant he worked for with an annual income of 700 million yuan (then about $85 million) struggled to obtain bank loans at reasonable interest rates.

Village and township banks were meant to help address these gaps. Based in rural areas, they offered basic services to residents of China’s vast and largely unbanked countryside. After a short, three-year pilot period, the scheme was fast-tracked. Over 200 village and township banks were established in 2010 alone; by late 2021, there were 1,651 registered village and township banks nationwide, accounting for 36% of all Chinese banking institutions.

In economically developed coastal provinces like Zhejiang, village and township bank performances were relatively strong, but the majority of the banks, especially those in less-developed parts of central or western China, struggled. Residents of these regions have significantly lower incomes than on the coast and there are fewer rural enterprises with which to do business. Unable to compete with the brand recognition of more established commercial banks, village and township banks generally attracted clients rejected by other institutions.

In the face of these difficulties, much of the foreign and state-owned capital that had initially backed village and township banks faded away, leaving private capital dominant in an increasingly messy, competitive market.

Nevertheless, village and township banks were made a central part of a 2015 plan by the State Council — China’s cabinet — to promote inclusive finance. The goal was to reach people and businesses the traditional bank credit business was unwilling to cover, such as small- and micro-enterprises, farmers, low-income urban residents, and the poor and disabled, thereby boosting social equity.

The reality proved far more complex. Village and township banks have had a hard time competing with larger state-owned commercial banks. To poach depositors away from established competitors, they must offer higher interest rates, but the only way to cover these outlays is to charge higher interest on loans, which costs them their best potential customers.

Around this time, some village and township banks saw a possibility of survival in another key inclusive finance initiative: online banking and financial technology platforms. It was the peak of the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending craze and online platforms were marketing themselves as “financial innovations” for facilitating loans to small-, medium-, and micro-enterprises.

Many village and township banks, facing growing competition and under pressure to meet the needs of the inclusive finance campaign, sought to cash in on the fintech boom to fund their operations. They partnered with online financial platforms, allowing them to use their financial services licenses — and the air of legitimacy the licenses provide — in exchange for the ability to market “online deposit” products to the platforms’ national user base.

The scheme was relatively simple: depositors would sign up for a special deposit account with a bank through a third-party platform. Their savings would then be transferred from their primary account — typically at a larger commercial bank — to a new account at a smaller institution like a village and township bank.

For depositors, the benefits were obvious. The smaller banks, hungry for deposits, offered high interest rates — typically over 4%, compared to less than 3% at larger banks — to anyone willing to park their savings in an account. There was little reason to see the accounts as risky: Although interest rates were higher than average, they were still far below those promised by the now defunct P2P industry. And the institutions were all accredited banks included in the country’s deposit insurance scheme.

Strictly speaking, village and township banks are not supposed to take in deposits or hand out loans outside their base of operations. Because they are overseen locally, if they encounter problems outside their jurisdiction, it can have ripple effects elsewhere. But online fintech platforms let them quietly market their products to users across China.

The result was a shadow banking system in which small village and township banks, meant to serve local residents, were attracting funds from a wide range of users all over the country, causing regulatory problems and greatly increasing the risk of a cascading crisis.

Even before the Henan case, the government recognized the problem and moved to rein in online deposits. For example, in late 2020, 10 platforms, including Alipay and JD Finance, were ordered to delist all online deposit products.

That village and township banks had been involved in the industry and were exposed to the risks was not a secret. In early 2021, banks were banned from offering long-term fixed deposit products on third-party financial platforms under a new regulatory policy. But at least some institutions found ways to skirt the new rules. Several of the banks implicated in the recent scandal launched self-developed apps targeting online “savers.”

To reassure clients, many village and township banks used misleading language to imply their services were government-backed or approved. High-risk loans were reframed as “inclusive finance”; high-interest financial products were packaged as ordinary and safe “deposits” that were securely insured. This public-facing language, which promised legitimacy and credibility, covered for the banks’ “hidden script”: a reckless pursuit of risky profits. It also lowered people’s natural skepticism of tech-related scams. In the Henan case, in which app users’ money was supposedly saved through a bank app designed to look official, even bank employees failed to realize that the money was being redirected.

As recently as a few months ago, village and township banks were hailed as innovators in the field of inclusive finance. That praise has dried up during the Henan crisis, but the risks remain. This isn’t China’s first case of bank-related malfeasance. Now that the alarm has sounded, regulators must seriously examine and address the deep-seated problems plaguing the country’s financial institutions. Otherwise, depositors will keep falling for the same old tricks.


Source : Sixth Tone

China Sanctioning Taiwan Like Moving a Stone, Dropping it on Your Own Foot

Ralph Jennings, Ji Siqi and Luna Sun wrote . . . . . . . . .

Mainland China could target hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Taiwanese investments and two-way trade if tensions with the self-ruled island worsen after a sharp slide this week due to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, analysts said.

But they are targeting the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and probably saving any moves against high-value exports or direct investments as a final move, the analysts added, as measures against Taiwan could ripple back to the mainland.

“[Taiwanese] companies are such an integral part of the Chinese value chain that it becomes difficult to put too much pressure on those trade routes,” said Zennon Kapron, the Singapore-based director of financial industry research firm Kapronasia.

The People’s Liberation Army kick-started large-scale military drills following Pelosi’s arrival on Tuesday night, while Beijing has already rolled out various economic sanctions.

Chinese customs suspended imports of Taiwanese citrus fruits, chilled white scallops and frozen mackerel from Wednesday, extending the list of banned items to more than 1,000 products as cross-Strait relations have deteriorated in recent years.

The Ministry of Commerce also suspended exports of natural sand, a raw material needed for the construction of transport infrastructure and water projects.

“China’s constant opinion has been that any unilateral economic sanctions are double-edged. However, Pelosi’s visit might well push China into restricting certain imports from Taiwan and the US, but I do think that such restrictions will be very limited,” said Tao Jingzhou, an international arbitrator who has practised in Beijing, Hong Kong and London.

“As retaliation, the US might increase export control measures for technology and also increase scrutiny of activities of Chinese companies in the US. This visit will further deteriorate the US-China relations across the board.”

Mainland China will probably strike at farming and small manufacturers in parts of southern Taiwan where President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party has its main strongholds, said Chen Yi-fan, an assistant professor of diplomacy and international relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

Beijing hopes to influence Taiwan’s local elections in November, Chen said, with the party that wins most seats often shaping the outcome of the presidential race two years later.

Tsai’s ruling party takes a guarded view toward China, while its main opposition prefers a more conciliatory stance.

Beijing is expected to release sanctions “bit by bit” to gauge responses in Taiwan, said Yu Xiang, an adjunct fellow at the Centre for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University.

Export bans can be cancelled as quickly as they are announced and some have called the existing suspensions largely symbolic because farming and fishery exports make up just a fraction of Taiwan’s US$765 billion economy.

China had already banned imports of Taiwanese confectionery, biscuits, bread and aquatic products in the lead up to Pelosi’s visit.

“Processed food is not even in the top 10 items that Taiwan exports to China, so China’s move is currently only symbolic,” said Darson Chiu, a fellow with the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research’s international affairs department in Taipei.

Taiwan’s export economy runs on shipments of semiconductors and consumer electronics, followed by machinery and petrochemicals.

But to penalise key goods would hurt numerous Taiwanese people, stoking anti-Chinese sentiment, and strike at the mainland’s own economy, some analysts said.

“Taiwanese businesses are a major component of China investors, and Taiwan is part of China,” said Hong Hao, an author and independent China economist.

“Therefore, to sanction Taiwan is just like moving a stone and dropping it on your own foot, plus it deepens divisions between the two sides.”

The US-China trade war, which has been ongoing since 2018, has shown that sanctions aimed at one country hurt both sides, said Wang Huiyao, founder of Beijing-based think tank, the Centre for China and Globalisation.

“In the end, the US consumer and companies are paying the price for that. I don’t think that the economic sanctions are going to work,” Wang said.

“In the long run, we really have to find a way not to dissolve the status quo and really keep the peace and prosperity in the region.”

Any ban on imports of Taiwanese petrochemicals, machinery, transport goods and textiles would also violate the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement trade deal signed by the two sides in 2010 when political relations had reached a peak, Chiu added.

Taiwanese investors have put money into mainland Chinese since the 1980s, and their 4,200 enterprises employ numerous staff, while they also help to drive economies near Shanghai and in the Pearl River Delta.

Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology and Pegatron make equipment for US multinational technology company Apple at mega factories in mainland China.

Lu Xiang, a researcher on US studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said sanction will not be used as a major tool and that Beijing will refrain from escalating to a full-scale economic war.

“The mainland still aims for economic integration with the island over the long run. Companies which support pro-independence and some industries will be sanctioned or hit, but the impact will be limited. Mainland China is one of the only few trading partners that Taiwan has maintained a trade surplus with,” said Lu.

Chinese smartphone makers particularly depend on Taiwanese semiconductors, which the Boston Consulting Group said makes up 92 per cent of world’s capacity.

“I think the challenge for mainland China is the fact that it is so heavily reliant on the high-end chips and technology that’s coming out of Taiwan,” Kapron added.

Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway part of its territory and has vowed to take back control of the island, by force if necessary, while it also resents US influence in Taiwan’s military or political space.

But Taiwanese leaders will make no policy changes in response to sanctions, according to Chen from Tamkang University, as neither side wants to look weak.

Tsai opposes China’s goal of unification with Taiwan and has courted foreign support for her cause since taking office in 2016.

“Now there is a deep distrust across the strait, so nothing Tsai does will bring comfort to the other side,” Chen said.

The Taipei government made no immediate comment in response to Wednesday’s trade bans, but Lo Ping-cheng, minister without portfolio and spokesman, said the cabinet would help business operators “respond appropriately” to any fallout from Pelosi’s visit.


Source : Yahoo!

South Korea’s Chip Stockpile Swells in Warning Sign for Exports

Sam Kim wrote . . . . . . . . .

South Korea’s semiconductor stockpiles expanded at the fastest pace in more than six years, adding to concern about the outlook for exports that drive the country’s economic growth.

Nationwide inventory soared 79.8% in June from a year earlier, the statistics office said Friday, up from a 53.8% jump in May. At the same time, both production and shipments decelerated, suggesting a slowdown in the nation’s most profitable industry.

The result casts a pall over the outlook for an economy where the central bank is in the midst of a yearlong tightening cycle. Memory chips are sold worldwide and underpin the strength of the won, which has been one of Asia’s worst performing currencies this year as trade deficits mount.

South Korea was in the midst of a two-year export slump when chip inventories soared by 104.1% in April 2016.

The accumulation in stockpiles comes as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc., two of the world’s largest memory-chip producers, warn future sales may weaken, adding to concerns about a global slowdown as inflation spurs global central banks to tighten.

The two firms’ shares prices have still gained in recent weeks as investors bet the companies will cut capital spending, a move that would eventually tighten supply. The tiny components are used in everything from smartphones to laptops and cars.

South Korea’s overall industrial production rose 1.4% in June from a year earlier, less than the 2.1% forecast by economists.


Source : BNN Bloomberg

Hong Kong: When Is a Colony Not a Colony?

John Burns wrote . . . . . . . . .

The Education Bureau, responding to a Legislative Council (LegCo) discussion, has offered an official view – the bureau’s “stance” – on whether or not Hong Kong was a colony. Views had been expressed in the LegCo, the bureau pointed out, that “Hong Kong was not a colony.”

“We must base our interpretation of history on historical facts and refer to different perspectives,” the bureau wrote. Indeed. The bureau’s stance is an official interpretation, nothing more or less. It is not in some sense “correct,” but simply an official interpretation.

The bureau’s interpretation is nothing new. The Communist Party of China and the central government have propagated this stance for many years without much traction, and now the bureau is passing it on to the people of Hong Kong as the government’s “official” position. The bureau is thus aligning itself with the central government. We should recognise this move for what it is.

There is much in the statement with which any fair-minded person could agree. The British occupied Hong Kong by force and coerced the Qing court to sign various treaties that produced colonial Hong Kong.

The bureau quite rightly points out that in 1972 Chinese authorities demanded that Hong Kong and Macau be removed from a United Nations list of “colonial territories” that should be granted independence. Removing Hong Kong and Macau from this list did not mean that they ceased to be colonies, but that they ceased to be colonies that should be granted independence.

The bureau claims that to “use the word colony to describe the status of Hong Kong is inappropriate (不恰当, bu qiadang),” shying away from saying that it is incorrect. The bureau goes on to demand that students and the people of Hong Kong must have a “correct (正确, zhengque, proper) understanding of the historical facts.”

This implies that there is only one legitimate interpretation and gives the lie to the bureau’s appeal to “different perspectives.” Perhaps the bureau meant that students and the people of Hong Kong should be aware of the official interpretation. I agree.

What to make of the official view that Hong Kong was not a colony? This interpretation is grounded in a partial understanding of Hong Kong’s legal status before 1997. We need to understand that authorities make law to protect the interests of those in power. The law has a clear political dimension, which the bureau conveniently ignores.

British law, which applied to Hong Kong, recognised Hong Kong as a crown colony. The basis of Hong Kong’s status as a colony may be found in the Letters Patent and the Royal Instructions. The bureau is saying, “Well, your (British) law is not our law.” Okay.

Still from 1841 until 1997 Chinese official entities in Hong Kong recognised and obeyed British law in Hong Kong. That is Chinese state actors in Hong Kong recognised that they were bound by this law. They settled disputes in Hong Kong based on this law.

Thus, while the Chinese government may claim that the Sino-British treaties establishing Hong Kong as a colony had “no legal effect under international law,” Chinese and foreign actors in Hong Kong behaved as if these laws had legal effect. To deny this is to fail to recognise historical fact. Hong Kong was a colony and was recognized as such by Chinese and foreign state actors.

Moreover, colonial Hong Kong was the lived experience of the people of Hong Kong before 1997. The colonial laws of Hong Kong bound them, just as they bound Chinese state actors in Hong Kong. To say that Hong Kong was not a colony is to deny this experience. Such a denial does a great disservice to those of us trying to understand the behaviour of people living in Hong Kong.

Finally, remember that the “through train” brought most of Hong Kong’s colonial political, economic, and legal institutions into the city. They are with us today. Repeating the official narrative that Hong Kong was not a colony undermines the very real need, recognised by the Communist Party, to decolonise Hong Kong, including our civil service, education system, and system of public finance. Starting from the position that the people of Hong Kong were delusional, as the bureau’s stance seems to suggest, gets us nowhere.

The legacy of colonialism in Hong Kong – a system built on racism and coercion – must be confronted and not denied. The Education Bureau fails in its mission to educate when it implies that there is only one correct interpretation of Hong Kong’s colonial history, that is, the official version.

At its most basic, by relying the 1972 UN decision to remove Hong Kong from a list of colonies that should be granted independence, and taking that action out of context, the Education Bureau teaches us that historical facts do not matter, and toeing the line is the best way forward. This is very disappointing from educators.

So, to the Education Bureau: remember your mission is to educate. This means producing citizens capable of independent and critical appraisal of various perspectives, which the bureau claims to value, including its own official stance.


Source : Hong Kong Free Press

Humour: News in Cartoons

China Factory Activity Sinks, Weighing on Weak Economy

Joe Mcdonald wrote . . . . . . . . .

Chinese manufacturing’s recovery from anti-virus shutdowns faltered in July as activity sank, a survey showed Sunday, adding to pressure on the struggling economy in a politically sensitive year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to extend his time in power.

Factory activity was depressed by weak global demand and anti-virus controls that are weighing on domestic consumer spending, according to the national statistics agency and an official industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.

A monthly purchasing managers’ index issued by the Federation and the National Bureau of Statistics retreated to 49 from June’s 50.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate activity declining. Sub-measures of new orders, exports and employment declined.

“Downward pressure is great,” said economist Zhang Liqun in a statement issued by the Federation. “The impact of the epidemic is still on the rise.”

The ruling Communist Party has stopped talking about this year’s official economic growth target of 5.5% after output shrank in the three months ending in June compared with the previous quarter.

The slowdown, which raises the risk of politically volatile job losses, adds to challenges for Beijing ahead of a ruling party meeting in October or November when Xi is expected to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as party leader.

An announcement Thursday by party leaders promised to “strive to achieve the best results” but avoided mentioning the annual growth target announced in March.

The party has promised tax rebates and other aid to help entrepreneurs after anti-virus controls temporarily shut down Shanghai and other industrial centers starting in late March.

The port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest, says activity is back to normal, but factories and other companies are operating under anti-virus controls that limit their workforces and weigh on production.

An index of production tumbled to 49.8 from June’s 52.8. New orders declined 1.9 points to 48.5. New export orders lost 2.1 points to 47.4.

Chinese leaders have avoided large-scale stimulus spending, possibly for fear of reigniting a rise in debt that they worry is dangerously high.


Source : AP


Source : Trading Economics

Patriotic Fervour Erupts on Chinese Social Media Over Pelosi’s Visit

Patriotic Fervour Erupts on Chinese Social Media Over Pelosi’s Visit

Eduardo Baptista wrote . . . . . . . . .

The sight of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving in Taiwan late on Tuesday was too much to bear for many mainland China internet users, who wanted a more muscular response from their government.

“Going to bed yesterday night, I was so angry I could not sleep,” blogger Xiaoyuantoutiao wrote on Wednesday.

“But what angers me is not the online clamours for ‘starting a fight’, ‘spare the island but not its people’…(but that) this old she-devil, she actually dares to come!”

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. But Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.

Hashtags related to Pelosi’s visit, such as “the resolve to realise national reunification is rock solid”, went viral on China’s Weibo microblogging platform. By Wednesday, about a dozen of these patriotic hashtags had racked up several billion views.

Some bloggers even regarded Pelosi’s temerity as justification for an immediate invasion of Taiwan, with many users posting the term “there is only one China”.

Others said China’s military should have done more to stop her plane from landing, and thousands of users mocked a viral Weibo post published by an official People’s Liberation Army account last week that had simply read “prepare for war!”.

“In the future if you are not preparing to strike, don’t make these statements to deceive the common people,” said one user.

The highest level U.S. visit to Taiwan in 25 years has been furiously condemned by China, which has demonstrated its anger with a burst of military activity in the surrounding waters, and by summoning the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, and announcing the suspension of several agricultural imports from Taiwan. read more

Countering U.S. support for Taiwan is one of Beijing’s most important foreign policy issues, and state-controlled Chinese media has helped ensure public opinion firmly backs Beijing’s stance.

A livestream tracking the journey of Pelosi’s plane to Taipei by Chinese state media on China’s dominant chat app WeChat was watched by 22 million users on Tuesday.

But Weibo crashed before her plane landed, leaving users in the dark for about 30 minutes to an hour before and after Pelosi stepped onto the airport tarmac.

Without mentioning events in Taiwan, Weibo said on Wednesday the platform crashed because its broadband capacity was overstretched.

But the level of outrage on Weibo still hit fever pitch, with irate netizens calling for stronger military and economic countermeasures against Taiwan and the United States far outnumbering voices of moderation.

Still, there were people urging long-term patience in the face of mounting domestic challenges and unfavourable global sentiment towards China, as well as some for peace.

“If there really is a war, China will endure the suffering, currently the world powers have not really chosen team China, we would not get any help. Just like Russia, it would be a bit of a lonely war,” wrote one user.

Weibo, which censored calls for peace and criticism of Russia following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, did not promote hashtags that criticised the outburst of nationalist fervour in response to Pelosi’s visit.

Qin Quanyao, a Beijing-based blogger, wrote an essay on Tuesday on WeChat in which he noted the current online jingoism harked back to the time of late Chairman Mao Zedong, when primary school children sang songs about the “liberation” of Taiwan.

“From Weibo, WeChat to various online platforms, the atmosphere suddenly became tense, seemingly returning to the era of ‘we must liberate Taiwan’ when we were children,” he wrote.


Source : Reuters

Zambia Cancels US$1.6 billion Chinese Loans and Halts Infrastructure Projects in Move to Avoid Debt Crisis

Jevans Nyabiage wrote . . . . . . . . .

Zambia has cancelled US$1.6 billion in agreed upon but not-disbursed Chinese loans, mostly from China Exim Bank and the Industrial Commercial Bank of China, to help manage its debt woes.

It is a portion of the US$2 billion that Lusaka has cancelled in undisbursed loans from its external creditors, coming shortly before its official bilateral lenders agreed on Saturday to provide debt relief to the Southern African nation.

Lusaka announced that it ceased the construction and rehabilitation of several roads, highways and information and technology projects, most funded by China Exim Bank, after it faced challenges in making loan payments.

“Measures have been taken by the government of the Republic of Zambia to address the current debt challenges – beyond the debt restructuring process. Cabinet, at its sitting on Thursday … took measures to discontinue some loan-financed projects,” Zambia’s Ministry of Finance and National Planning announced on Saturday.

Further, it said a few critical projects would be re-scoped to allow critical components to be finished using budget resources allocated over the medium term.

The ministry said it had started talks with creditors and contractors to formalise the cancellation of works contracts.

Among the projects cancelled are the rehabilitation of a major highway – the US$1.2 billion Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway funded by China Jiangxi Corporation – which was to link the capital to the country’s Copperbelt Province. Lusaka has engaged China Jiangxi to cancel US$157 million in undisbursed loans.

Digital projects, such as Smart Zambia phase II and digital terrestrial television broadcasting systems in Zambia phases II and III, have also been stopped as the country moves to avert a debt crisis.

Zambia said it had notified Chinese lenders and contractors about plans to cancel undisbursed loan balances for 14 projects.

It will move to stop the disbursement of US$333.2 million for Smart Zambia phase II, which was being implemented by Huawei Technologies and funded by China Exim Bank.

The initial phase of the project involved building a national data centre and an ICT talent training centre. Huawei was to develop Zambia’s national broadband system to bolster public service delivery in subsequent phases.

The country has also asked China Exim Bank to cancel US$159 million earmarked to fund the building of Chalala army barracks in Lusaka.

Besides Chinese loans, Zambia also plans to cancel loans advanced by the British Standard Chartered Bank for the building of Kafulafuta Dam for US$381.7 million, of which US$224.6 million had already been disbursed. The other is a multimillion-dollar deal involving Israel Discount Bank to fund military aircraft and equipment.

In 2020, Zambia became the first African country to default during the pandemic when it failed to make payments on US$17 billion of external debt, including US$3 billion dollar-denominated bonds. Lusaka owes Chinese lenders about US$6 billion, which went into building mega projects, including airports, highways and power dams.

In addition to cancelling contracts and stopping the disbursement of loans, Lusaka has received a reprieve after official creditors led by China and France agreed to provide debt relief. The decision paves the way for the country to access a US$1.4 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Still, Lusaka has to seek similar relief from private creditors over the US$3 billion it owes Eurobond holders.

It had sought debt relief from the Group of 20 wealthiest nations and its top private creditors under the G20’s new Common Framework to help more than 70 developing countries with post-Covid debt restructuring and relief. The process allows creditors to jointly renegotiate its foreign debt – even though China usually prefers bilateral negotiations.

The official creditor committee for Zambia – co-chaired by China and France with South Africa acting as a vice-chair and including IMF and World Bank staff – met on July 18 where they committed to offering Zambia debt relief.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva welcomed the official creditors’ move to provide financial assurances, clearing the way for a fund programme, saying it showed the “potential of the G20 Common Framework for debt treatment to deliver for countries committed to dealing with their debt problems”.

“The delivery of these financing assurances will enable the IMF executive board to consider approval of a fund-supported programme for Zambia and unlock much needed financing from Zambia’s development partners,” Georgieva said.

“Amid elevated debt levels and tightening financial conditions, I look forward to the Common Framework working for other countries facing debt problems.”

Zambia’s Minister of Finance Situmbeko Musokotwane said the country would “continue to work with both official and private creditors to agree on the terms of the debt restructuring in line with the comparability of treatment principle”.

The Common Framework aims to help countries weather the Covid-19 storm with debt relief and restructuring, but besides Zambia, only Ethiopia and Chad have applied to join the plan, with most countries fearing that by seeking relief their credit rating will be downgraded by rating agencies.


Source : Yahoo!

Russia, China, BRICS Plan New International Reserve Currency

Jamie Redman wrote . . . . . . . . .

During the last month, the West has been struggling with red hot inflation and energy prices skyrocketing higher. Politicians in the UK, Europe, and the US have been trying to blame the economic calamity on a number of things like the Ukraine-Russia war and Covid-19.

Data from last month’s consumer prices in America and Europe have climbed to all-time highs and many analysts say Western countries are in a recession or about to experience one. Meanwhile, at the end of June, members of the BRICS nations met at the 14th BRICS Summit to discuss world affairs.

During the BRICS Summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the five-member economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – plan to issue a “new global reserve currency”.

“The matter of creating the international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries is under review,” Putin said at the time. “We are ready to openly work with all fair partners,” he added. Additionally, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are considering joining the BRICS group. Analysts believe the BRICS move to create a reserve currency is an attempt to undermine the US dollar and the IMF’s SDRs.

“This is a move to address the perceived US hegemony of the IMF,” ING Global Head of Markets Chris Turner, explained at the end of June. “It will allow BRICS to build their own sphere of influence and unit of currency within that sphere.”

While the news of a reserve currency created by BRICS may be a surprise to some, specific accounts about the member countries countering the US dollar have been reported on for quite some time. At the end of May 2022, a Global Times report noted members were urged to end their dependence on the dollar’s global dominance.

Putin explained the following month that “contacts between Russian business circles and the business community of the BRICS countries have intensified”. The Russian President further noted that Indian retail chain stores would be hosted in Russia, and Chinese cars and hardware would be imported regularly. Putin’s recent statements and commentary at the BRICS Summit have made people believe the BRICS members are not “just a ‘talk shop’ anymore”.

In addition to South Africa, Russia has also increased foreign aid and has delivered weapons to Sub-Saharan African countries. Furthermore, Putin and other BRICS leaders have been targeting US hegemony and exceptionalism in specific statements published by the media.

At this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin addressed the crowd with a 70-minute speech and talked about the US ruling the world’s financial system for years. “Nothing lasts forever,” Putin said. “(Americans) think of themselves as exceptional. And if they think they’re exceptional, that means everyone else is second class,” the Russian President told the forum attendees.

Speaking with Russian ambassadors in a biennial speech, Putin said the West was weakening a great deal in terms of economic power.

“Domestic socio-economic problems that have become worse in industrialised countries as a result of the (economic) crisis are weakening the dominant role of the so-called historical West,” Putin remarked to the ambassadors. “Be ready for any development of the situation, even for the most unfavorable development.”

Russia and Putin have been saying that the US dominance in the world of finance has been dying for years now. In October 2018, speaking at the Valdai forum, Putin said the US sanctioning specific countries (including Russia) would undermine trust in the US dollar.

The Russian President noted that most of the fallen empires have made the same mistake. “It’s a typical mistake of an empire,” the Russian leader declared at the time. “An empire always thinks that it can allow itself to make some little mistakes, take some extra costs, because its power is such that they don’t mean anything. But the quantity of those costs, those mistakes inevitably grows.” Putin continued:

“And the moment comes when it can’t handle them, neither in the security sphere or the economic sphere.”

Moreover, in June, Bloomberg published a report about the BRICS Summit and noted that China’s President Xi Jinping suggested that the North Atlantic Treaty Organiaation (NATO) was responsible for antagonising the Russian Federation. Xi also said that certain countries that bolster exceptionalism will falter by suffering from security vulnerabilities.

“Politicising, instrumentalising, and weaponising the world economy using a dominant position in the global financial system to wantonly impose sanctions would only hurt others as well as hurting oneself, leaving people around the world suffering,” Xi detailed. “Those who obsess with a position of strength, expand their military alliance, and seek their own security at the expense of others will only fall into a security conundrum.”

The strengthening of the BRICS nations has been going on well before the conflict in Ukraine began. For instance, in 2014, Russia fully developed ​​the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), and later the Mir payment system was launched. That same year, in response to the annexation of Crimea, Russia started to stockpile gold in vast amounts.

China has been hoarding massive amounts of gold as well, as both countries hiked their gold reserve purchases a great deal a few years before the war. Russian banks also joined the China International Payments System (CIPS) making it easier for the two countries to trade. In April last year, China opened its borders to billions of dollars of gold imports, according to a report from Reuters.

Since World War I, the US dollar has been the world’s global reserve currency and America emerged as the largest international creditor. Fast forward to today, and the dollar is booming against a number of other currencies, and the US dollar is the most robust it has been in an entire generation. The US dollar currency index (DXY) gained over 10% this year and outpaced strong currencies like the Japanese yen.

Just recently, the euro met parity with the dollar, and other currencies like the Indian rupee, Polish zloty, Colombian peso, and the South African rand have faltered against the greenback in recent times. However, the Russian ruble has been a strong competitor to the dollar this year and has been one of the best-performing fiat currencies in 2022.

With inflation soaring and interest rates getting hiked by the Federal Reserve, Kamakshya Trivedi, the Co-Head of a market research group at Goldman Sachs stressed that it’s been a “pretty tough mix” to deal with. Despite the uncertainty, the analyst at Goldman Sachs thinks the dollar, at least for now, will remain robust. But in comparison to the greenback’s recent spike in value, most of that rise is in the past, Trivedi remarked.

“For now, we still expect the dollar to trade on the front foot,” Trivedi wrote on 16 July. “There might be a bit more to go, but probably the largest part of the dollar move may well be behind us.”


Source : The Morning