Archive for March, 2021

CHINA

March 5, 2021

Political and Economic Updates:

A World Health Organization/WHO team of experts (from Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam) arrived in Wuhan to begin investigating the origin of the novel corona-virus, more than a year after it began to spread to all corners of the globe, leaving more than 92 Million people infected and more than 1,9 Million dead. According to international news about 10 people of the team managed to reach Wuhan on Thursday, January 12, 2021, though months after they hoped to be given access. The mission was approved after months of negotiations between the United Nations and President Xi Jinping. China was slow to grant permission for the researchers to enter the country prompting a rare public complaint from the WHO. There are lingering concerns over the investigation, including whether China will be forthcoming with information that could cast the government in a negative light. The team will undergo a two-week quarantine as well as a throat swab test and an antibody test for Covid-19. The researchers are to start working with Chinese experts via video conference while in quarantine. The WHO team in Wuhan dismisses lab leak theory , saying WHO officials that they will not recommend further investigation into the theory that the virus accidentally leaked from Wuhan labs; the team continues hunt for intermediary corona virus host, visiting the now disinfected and shuttered Huanan sea food market, situated in the middle of the town of Wuhan, where a cluster of pneumonia-like cases were first detected in late 2019 and which is long thought to have been a potential origin of the outbreak.

China has two Covid-19 vaccine front runners: Sinovac and Sinopharm; Sinovac has been approved for emergency use in high-risk groups in China since July 2020; interim dates from late-stage trials in Turkey and Indonesia showed that the Sinovac vaccine was 91,25% and 65,3% effective respectively; researchers in Brazil initially said it was 78% effective in their clinical trials, but in January 2021 revised that figure to 50,4% after including more date in their calculations; several Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have singed deals with Sincovac; Turkey has also approved the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use; the company is also known to have secured other deals with Brazil and Chile. Sinovac will be able to produce 300 Million doses a year and like all other vaccines it requires two doses. Sinopharm announced on December 30, 2020, that phase 3 trials of the vaccine showed that it was 79% effective; however the United Arab Emirates , which approved a Sinopharm vaccine said it was 86% effective according to interim results of its phase 3 trials; the vaccine has already been distributed to nearly a Million people in China under an emergency program. Bahrain also approved the Sinopharm vaccine. There are at least two more Covid-19 vaccines under development in China: CanSino Biologics, which is reportedly in phase 3 clinical trials in countries, including Saudi Arabia; Anhiu Zhifu Longcom – its vaccine uses a purified piece of the virus to trigger an immune response and has recently entered phase 3 trials. The spread of the virus within China has been for the most part detained and life slowly but surely is returning to a ‘new normal’. Within its vaccine diplomacy China’s President Xi pledged to set aside $2 Billion for the African continent, while also offering Latin America and Caribbean countries a $1 Billion loan to buy vaccines. China approved two more Covid-19 vaccines for public use; the two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc., a one doses Vektor-vaccine, effective about 65,28%, and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), effective 71,25%, joining a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech and another from Sinopharm’s Beijing unite; the four approved Chinese vaccines can be stored at normal freezer temperatures; China is exporting vaccines to 27 countries and providing free doses to 53 countries.

Experts laud China’s efforts to combat corruption; comprehensive anti-corruption efforts by the Communist Party of China in recent years have achieved remarkable results and the Chinese experience is worth learning from, foreign experts and scholars have said; the CPC has prioritized anti-corruption work which provides a strong guarantee for China to deliver on its two centenary goals; it also shows that China will continue its anti-corruption campaign and maintain zero-tolerance stance towards corruption; China’s achievements in fighting corruption have improved the transparency of social governance and help promote social fairness and justice. China, the world’s second largest economy, surpassed U.S. as largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) during the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 with inflows of $163 Billion compared to $134 Billion by the U.S. China’s President Xi advocated to bring down trade barriers promoting free trade. China targets a robust growth of at least 6% for 2021, after growing its economy by only 2,3% in 2020, and expects an unemployment rate not to exceed 5,5% in 2021, down from 5,6% in 2020.

RUSSIA

March 2, 2021

Political and Economic updates:

Alexi Navalny, 44, was arrested as he returned to Russia, after being poisoned and restored to health in Germany, authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest on December 29, 2020, and the message was clear, stay out of Russia or face prison; Navalny defied the Kremlin and came anyway; the dissident politician was jailed for 30 days on the grounds that he has violated the terms of his suspended sentence for embezzlement issued in 2017, a conviction he has always dismissed as being trumped up in order to deny him a chance to stand as candidate in the 2018 presidential election; he will be held until a court rules on his new charge of parole violation; while Navalny is the most recognized opposition leader in Russia, and has core of committed supporters, particularly among the younger generation, his overall approval ratings are at -30%; Western protests never bothered Putin, now Russia’s relations are in a deep freeze after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the accusations of Russian interference in 2016 U.S. presidential election, or poisoning of Sergio Skripal in the U.K. in 2018; on each of these incidents Russia was placed under significant economic and political sanctions and there is nothing for the Kremlin to care about in terms of possible damage to its non-existing reputation in the West, or even further economic sanctions; it actually appears inconceivable for Putin to let the West dictate him how Russian politics should be run; if Putin were to release Navalny it would create an untouchable opposition leader under Western protection, operating with impunity inside Russia; so the more the West piles on pressing to release Navalny the more defiant Putin will be in keeping him in prison. However Putin might consider to show his statesmanship and generosity to his citizens, granting Navalny a conditional pardon, showing his government is willing to hear different opinions, respecting dissidents, seeking to start reshaping deteriorated relations with the West, as Biden assumes office as the 46th President of the United States, rebuilding a peaceful competitive coexistence, the way Russia is eager to construct with China. Protests swell across Russia calling for the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny; tens of thousands of Russians took the street in protest on Saturday, January 23, 2021 to demand the release of the jailed opposition leader, braving the threat of mass arrests in what was expected to be one of the largest demonstration against the Kremlin in years; police and protesters clashed in multiple cities ; by 10.00 p.m. Moscow time more than 2.600 demonstrators across the country had been detained, among those was Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, she was later released; the U.S. State Department condemned the Russian Government for its use of ‘harsh tactics against protesters and journalists’ and called on Moscow to release all those who had been detained ‘for exercising their universal right’, including Navalny; saying the U.S. we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights, whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat; Navalny’s team released a scathing investigation accusing Putin of corruption and detailing the construction of a lavish palace on the Black Sea allegedly built for the Russian leader using a ‘slush fund’; The investigation titled ‘Putin’s palace, history of world’s largest bribe’. The Kremlin already denied Putin has such a palace. The palace by the Black Sea, estimated property cost about €1,1 Billion, was allegedly financed by billionaires close to Mr. Putin, it is said to have a casino, skating rink and vineyard; Russian President Putin, who’s net worth is estimated to reach at least €36 Billion, which would make him the richest man of Europe, says the opulent palace featured in a video by his arch-critic Alexei Navalny ‘doesn’t belong to me’. A leading Russian oligarch, Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s ex-judo sparring partner and childhood friend, has taken the beat by claiming that he is the owner of a notorious €1,1 Billion Black Sea palace, not Vladimir Putin. Russian riot police arrest more than 5.000 people as protesters across the nation again take the street to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Navalny. A Russian court handed opposition politician Navalny a 3 1/2-year jail sentence for parole violations, charges he and his team say are trumped up and politically motivated; the judge said, the year that Navalny has already spent under house arrest, will be deducted from his jail term. Sicne Navalny’s return to Russia, and his immediate detention, demonstrations have broken out across the country in the last two weekends, with thousands protesting against Navalny’s treatment and demanding his release, as well as railing against corruption and kleptocracy. Russia expels diplomats from three countries as tensions rise over Navalny protests, accusing them of taking part in illegal protests. Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Kreml critic Alexei Navalny returned to Germany. Russia’s communists are split over support for Navalny; the opposition activist’s jailing is upsetting the balance between the party’s pro-Kremlin leadership and radical grassroots membership. E.U.’s foreign ministers agreed to fresh sanctions, such as asset freezes and visa bans, against ‘specific persons’ over Russia’s jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and a crackdown on his allies. Europe’s top human rights court urged Russia on February 2021 to immediately release Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny ; the European court for human rights (ECHR) said it was granting on interim measures on an application lodged January 20, 2021 by Navalny related to his detention that asked for release. The U.S. and the E.U. impose coordinated sanctions on Russia in response to the Kremlin’s poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent arrest and detention; the U.S. is sanctioning seven members of the Russian government, including FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov, as well as 14 entities that are involved in the chemical and biological industrial base in Russia.

Russian President Putin signed a law ratifying the extension of New Start, a key nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, a week before it was due to expire; the nuclear arms control agreement has been extended for five years, until February 5, 2026.

Russia authorized its third Covid-19 vaccine, after Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona, now the CoviVac vaccine, however clinical trial reports are not yet available.

The Chinese yuan has been included in Russia’s National Wealth Fund, accounting 15% of the Fund’s foreign currency portfolio.