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America’s Leaked Intelligence Documents, China’s Taiwan Military Drills

Shemesh Shahar
Latest News
April 11 2023 04:43AM

America’s Leaked Intelligence Documents

Leaked classified-intelligence documents reveal that America has been spying on its key allies, including South Korea. The documents show that South Korean companies are indirectly supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, which contradicts official policy. The files also contain national-security information about Russia’s invasion, as well as details about China, the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East. America’s Justice Department has initiated an investigation into the leak. South Korea, however, maintains that its ties with America remain strong.

China’s Taiwan Military Drills

China has started its third day of military drills around Taiwan, which include a simulated attack from the east. Taiwan’s defence ministry confirmed that 70 planes had flown into the island’s Air Defence Identification Zone in a buffer region within 24 hours. Japan, which is nearby, scrambled its jets in response. China is furious that Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, met with Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of America’s House of Representatives, last week.

Georgia Protests Against Parliament

Thousands of people gathered outside Georgia’s parliament to protest against the ruling Georgian Dream party. The demonstrators are angry about the imprisonment of political opponents, the suppression of press freedom, and the party’s support for Russia. The rally was organised by supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president who is serving a politically motivated six-year jail term.

Saudi Arabia and Houthi Talks

Envoys from Saudi Arabia have held talks with Houthi officials in Yemen to end the brutal nine-year civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Saudi Arabia has been trying to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthi government that controls most of Yemen. Last month, China brokered a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations.

EU’s CSRD to Affect 10,000 Companies

Thousands of American, Canadian, and British companies will have to improve their sustainability reporting according to new European Union regulations that will take effect in the next few years. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will likely require at least 10,000 companies outside the EU to make and independently verify a range of sustainability disclosures, and about one-third of those are in the U.S. More than 50,000 European companies are estimated to be affected by the rules.

First-Time Buyers to Choose Smaller Properties

Due to rising mortgage costs, first-time buyers in the UK are choosing smaller properties, and most are selecting one or two-bedroom homes for the first time since 2010. Estate agent Hamptons analyzed transaction records from Countrywide, a housebuilder, and found that buyers are compromising on the size of their first home rather than staying in the tight rental market. Last year’s increase in mortgage rates, which reached as high as 6%, raised concerns that potential first-time buyers would be priced out of the housing market, but the data suggests that buyers are opting for smaller first homes instead.

China’s Corruption Probes in Financial Sector

A series of new corruption probes and a surge in surprise audits of venture funds is causing China’s financial sector to reel. President Xi Jinping is focusing on the industry, which he believes is failing to serve the broader economy. Beijing’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has warned against “hedonism” and “high-end lifestyles,” and banks are cutting executive pay and bonuses as former high-ranking officials come under investigation. More than a dozen executives have been investigated or penalized since February, and in the most high-profile case, a former chair of Bank of China came under investigation.

Record Pace of Manufacturing Construction in US

Factories are being constructed at a record pace in the U.S, with construction spending related to manufacturing reaching $108 billion in 2022, which is higher than the amount spent on building schools, healthcare centers or office buildings. This increase in manufacturing construction is driven by the growth in the high-tech fields of electric-vehicle batteries and semiconductors, supported by billions of dollars in government incentives. Other companies are also returning to the U.S, as they find reasons to manufacture eyeglasses, bicycles and bodybuilding supplements at home, rather than relying on lower-cost countries. New factories are being built in urban and rural areas across the country.

Competition in Oil Production

Saudi Arabia and its allies are facing competition from smaller oil-producing countries, as Iran, Guyana, Norway, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and Nigeria have pumped more oil, boosting the world’s supplies. Nigeria, in particular, has seen a significant increase in output with the help of armed guards protecting barges in the Niger Delta’s oil-rich waterways. This surge in oil production, coupled with weaker demand in the U.S. and Europe, has left the market vulnerable. The turmoil in the banking industry also prompted investors to ditch riskier assets, exacerbating the situation.

Smaller Chinese Lenders Cut Interest Rates

Several smaller Chinese lenders have cut interest rates for time deposits, following their larger rivals’ move last year, after several lending rate reductions by policy makers started to squeeze their margins. Rural lenders in provinces such as Henan and Hubei have lowered deposit rates by up to 45 basis points on some tenors. After the adjustment, these lenders will pay an annual rate of 1.9% for one-year deposits, down from the previous 2.25%. This move is expected to attract more deposits to smaller banks, which have been struggling to compete with larger rivals due to their higher interest rates.