Your Monday Briefing: China’s Post-Covid Economic Goal
China’s new economic goal
After a winter of discontent, China promised a postpandemic recovery and said it aimed to expand growth by about 5 percent this year. The announcement came at the start of the annual gathering of the national legislature, where President Xi Jinping is poised to secure even more power.
The new goal is relatively modest. It may be attainable as activity rebounds quickly but will require considerable public borrowing and spending on infrastructure. And there’s a lot of ground to make up: Last year, “zero Covid” measures and lockdowns smothered China’s economy. Some economists regard 3 percent, the country’s official 2022 growth rate, as an overstatement.
The congress will also centralize more policymaking around Xi and the party. Legislators will almost certainly give him a groundbreaking third term as state president, atop his main title as party leader. He is expected to appoint his loyalists to key government positions and use the congress to reorganize state ministries.
Global competition: China is also focused on raising spending on military and diplomatic endeavors. And Xi has pushed the party to develop science and technology capabilities to reduce the country’s reliance on Western expertise.
The private sector: The question hanging over China is whether Xi can instill economic confidence among spooked investors while continuing to expand the party’s control.
Diplomatic analysis: In global gatherings of leaders, China is increasingly seen as the greatest long-term challenge, even as Russia’s war rages.
Russia attacks Bakhmut from three sides
Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the battered city, the Ukrainian military said, which is the focal point of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut have held out in recent weeks as Russian forces gradually captured surrounding territory, nearly cutting off the city.
Both sides are holed up in abandoned houses and factories and fighting block by block. This weekend, two civilians were killed in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian official said. A few thousand remain in the city, but evacuations have become harder as the threats to exit roads grow. In an indication of the severity of the fighting in the east, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said that its forces had repelled 130 Russian attacks on Saturday.
Some analysts see movement in Russia’s favor, after it rushed large numbers of troops to the Donbas region as it ramped up its offensive there. The Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in the U.S., said that Russian forces “will not likely be able to encircle the city soon,” but are closing in on vital roads and could force Ukraine to withdraw.
Ukraine’s strategy: Commanders say they want to hold on in Bakhmut as long as they can and degrade Russia’s forces.
Trench warfare: This is what life looks like at the front line.
Global arms exports: As traditional weapons suppliers like the U.S. face wartime production shortages, South Korea has stepped in to fill the gap. But it refuses to send weapons directly to Ukraine in an effort not to provoke Moscow.
A major biodiversity deal
A significant majority of nations agreed on language for a U.N. treaty to protect ocean life, which is under growing threat from climate change, overfishing and seabed mining. The long-awaited deal came after tense talks — and two decades of planning.
Right now, the “high seas,” which span almost half the planet, are a mostly ungoverned wilderness. If ratified, the treaty would be able to designate protected areas, where fishing and other activities that harm marine life are restricted or prohibited. And it would create an international framework with a primary focus of protecting ocean species or ecosystems.
Many experts and groups celebrated the treaty as a major win for biodiversity. The high seas have “probably the largest reserve of undiscovered biodiversity left on Earth,” the director of the international oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council said.
The process: Before the treaty can take effect, nations need to formally adopt the treaty language and then ratify it.
The stakes: The draft treaty is a step toward a goal set last December: To protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.
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Asia Pacific Politics
In October, a former police officer killed 36 people in rural Thailand — including 24 children, many as they napped in their preschool. The authorities have sought to tighten gun ownership in Thailand, which has more guns than anywhere else in Southeast Asia.
But months later, little else has changed. And the families continue to grieve. My colleagues spoke to the relatives of all the children who were killed, some of whom had just started talking. “The house is quiet now because he was the only child,” one mother said.
ARTS AND IDEAS
What’s your office personality?
In the hybrid-work era, personality tests have taken on new relevance. Some managers find them particularly useful to help remote teams thrive, and others think they could help boost diversity in hiring.
But the tests are not always up-to-date. Critics warn that the corporate world can over-rely on them for hiring and promoting — and that some are about as reliable at predicting success as astrological signs or Magic 8 Balls would be.
My colleagues created a new, nine-question personality test. It focuses on two key workplace qualities: extroversion, the degree to which social interaction energizes someone, and openness, which refers to someone’s creativity and appetite for novel experiences.