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IMF upgrades its forecast for China’s economy

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday upgraded China’s economic growth outlook, but said additional measures were needed to support the struggling property market.

Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, also sounded the alarm over China’s growing trade tensions with the US and the European Union.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, Gopinath said the fund saw ‘evidence of very rapid retaliation’ if any of these three major economies introduced an industrial policy. So we are in an area where the risk of having a fragmented trading system … is much greater,” he said.

The latest assessment came after Gopinath met with People’s Bank of China Governor Pan Gongsheng and several senior ministry officials during his visit to the country.

The IMF revised China’s GDP growth outlook to 5 per cent in 2024 and 4.5 per cent in 2025, both 0.4 percentage points higher than in April. The upgrades reflect strong first-quarter results and recent policy measures, such as subsidies to encourage consumers to trade in old goods and buy new ones. GDP grew by 5.3 per cent in the first quarter, putting China on track to meet this year’s growth target of “around 5 per cent”.

Meanwhile, the Chinese yuan fell to a six-month low against the US dollar on Wednesday. Gopinath said the depreciation of the exchange rate could help boost China’s low inflation. On whether a weaker currency would lead to more exports, Gopinath said that in China’s case, the impact would be limited if the domestic economy grows and leads to more imports of services.

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Taliban to Trump: There is no room for foreign troops in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan is no longer an occupied country and there is no room for US, or any other foreign troops inside Afghanistan, said a Taliban official in a reaction to Donald Trump’s statement who said that he would have kept Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Trump, former US President and the candidate of 2024 presidential elections, had recently said that he would have kept Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan if he had remained the president.

Speaking at his first election campaign rally, Trump said that Bagram Airfield is one of the biggest airfields in the world, on which billions of dollars have been invested and claimed that the Chinese are now controlling this airfield.

“I was getting out. After 21 years you get the hell out, but I would have kept Bagram. It’s one hour away from where China makes its nuclear weapons. We gave it to them so stupidly,” Trump said.

Commenting on the deadly blast during the evacuation process in Kabul Airport in which 13 US troops and dozens of Afghan civilians were killed, Trump said that the US forces should have been withdrawn from Bagram Airfield, not Kabul airport where “riots” were taking place.

“If I was President, the Afghan disaster would have never happened. Ukraine would have never happened and the October 7th attack on Israel would have never happened,” he said.

No Chinese troops in Afghanistan and the Bagram Airfield is under control of Taliban

There are no Chinese troops in Afghanistan and the Bagram Airfield is under the control of the Afghan government, said a Taliban official.

“We don’t accept the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. We fought against occupation and now it is very irrational that we should give any base for foreign troops including Chinese. Trump is using Chinese cards to get votes from the people,” the official told Harici on condition of anonymity.

A view of Bagram Airfield during the presence of US force in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujhaid rejected Trump’s statements about selling US military equipment in Afghanistan.

“Any equipment that was and is in Afghanistan is all stored and stationed and is the property of Afghanistan. Additionally, it is protected and safeguarded for the preservation of our homeland, our values, and the defense of our compatriots and our soil. Not a single weapon will be wasted, sold, or transferred,” Mujahid told a local news agency.

Trump had recently said that after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the country has become the largest seller of leftover American weaponry in the world.

“You know that right now, Afghanistan is one of the largest sellers of weapons in the world. They are selling the brand new beautiful weapons that we gave them,” Trump said in one of his rallies.

Taliban says they don’t tolerate the presence of foreign troops who committed war crimes in Afghanistan

A Taliban official at the ministry of interior said that Taliban leadership will not tolerate the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan. “In the past 20 years, I mean during the occupation, the foreign troops have committed dozens of war crimes and killed tens of thousands of people in a brutal and unlawful way. Even children were not spared,” the official said, who wished anonymity.

He said that there are several cases of war crimes committed by US, UK, and Australian forces and there is no justice in those recorded cases.

The Australian government had accepted that its troops had committed war crimes during their military mission in Afghanistan and promised to compensate the families of innocent Afghans.

A spokesperson for the defense minister of Australia said that the “establishment of the Afghanistan Inquiry compensation scheme represents a significant step forward in closing out these recommendations.”

The compensation by the Australian government came after the Taliban called on countries that committed war crimes in Afghanistan to compensate the victims’ families.

Australian judge Paul Bretreton was the first who in 2020 proposed compensation for victims’ families and he exposed war crimes committed by Australian forces between 2005 and 2016 that resulted in the deaths of 39 Afghans.

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China’s Third Plenum focused on various five-year reform targets

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The Chinese Communist Party concluded its critical twice-a-decade policy meeting on Thursday with a statement that sought to strike a delicate balance between growth and security in the face of growing uncertainties.

The solemnly worded statement listed a wide range of reform goals to be completed in the next five years, when the People’s Republic celebrates its 80th anniversary.

The full text of the meeting will be published next week, but in this form it gives an idea of the CPC Central Committee’s thinking and policy direction for the coming years.

The communique was issued at the end of a four-day session known as the Third Plenum, an important event for party leaders to set their long-term strategy.

This plenum, in President Xi Jinping’s third term, reflected the complex and challenging environment facing China at home and abroad, with a focus on strategies to meet these challenges in the new term.

The country’s economic growth has slowed significantly and the collapse of the financial and property markets has severely shaken public confidence.

Externally, China’s rivalry with the United States continues to intensify and relations with major trading partners such as Europe and Japan continue to fray.

On the other hand, the communiqué emphasised the completion of economic restructuring rather than drastic and abrupt changes. Nevertheless, the statement recognised the current challenges.

In addition to long-term goals, the statement stressed that China should “make unremitting efforts to achieve this year’s growth targets”.

Beijing had previously set a growth target of ‘around 5 per cent’ for 2024, but weaker-than-expected data in the first half of the year led investment banks such as Goldman Sachs to question this target.

The statement urged Party members to ‘faithfully follow the economic decisions of the Party leadership, take active measures to stimulate domestic consumption, and create new momentum to boost exports and imports’.

Lian Ping, director general of the China Chief Economist Forum, said the reference to this year’s growth targets was deliberately included in the statement as a call for recovery.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Lian said: ‘I believe this part will not be included in the full statement to be released later.

The leadership wants to use this opportunity to address the disappointing performance in the second quarter [of this year],’ Lian told the South China Morning Post.

On the other hand, most of the statement focused on the long term.

The committee pledged that China would continue to deepen reforms in all areas, including the economy, rural land, taxation, environmental protection, national security, anti-corruption and cultural development.

The word ‘reform’ appeared 53 times in the statement. Experts say the emphasis is also related to the goal of improving governance and increasing efficiency.

Mr Lian said he was pleased to see that the declaration addressed some long overdue issues such as tax reform.

“And it is very important that it sets a clear deadline for the completion of all these reforms by 2029. Compared to previous third plenaries, this is a refreshing development,” he said: “In the past, some reform measures were mentioned and then quietly shelved when they could not be implemented. This time there seems to be more determination to implement them.

China’s efforts to accelerate the development of science and technology are at the heart of the reforms, and this area is seen as critical to the country’s economic transformation.

It also called for the country to deepen supply-side reform, better integrate the digital economy into the real economy, upgrade modern infrastructure and build flexibility in the industrial supply chain.

To achieve these goals, the development of human capital and skills was emphasised: “We must fully and faithfully implement the strategy of rejuvenating the nation and strengthening our talent pools through science and education. Education and innovation must go hand in hand”.

Emphasis on maintaining market order

On the economic front, Beijing promised to “better play the role of the market”, but the oft-used phrase that the market is the decisive force in the economy was not included this time. Instead, the communique stressed the need to maintain market order and correct market failures, reflecting Beijing’s concerns about risks in its financial system.

It pledged ‘unwavering support and guidance’ for the development of the ‘non-state sector’ and said the government should ensure that ‘all forms of ownership’ in the economy can compete on a ‘level playing field’ in a fair and lawful manner, referring to China’s beleaguered private sector.

The need to control risk comes at a time when China faces “complex and rapidly changing internal and external challenges”.

“We must take the right measures to prevent and resolve risks in critical areas such as the property sector and domestic debt. We must ensure that financial institutions strictly comply with safety regulations,” it said.

“The government should improve monitoring and prevention of natural disasters, especially floods. We need to establish a social safety net to effectively safeguard social stability”.

Preventing ideological risks

The report also stated that China should ‘strengthen public opinion management and prevent and neutralise ideological risks’.

It pledged to continue the fight against corruption, especially in the military. The plenum received and approved reports on the corruption cases of former Defence Minister Li Shangfu and two other generals.

It was stated that the Party should exercise absolute leadership over the army and carry out the necessary reforms to achieve the goals of the 100th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.

Xie Maosong, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ China Institute of Innovation and Development Strategy, described the statement as ‘resolute but patient’.

Xi has said many times that ‘the easy part of reform is over’ and that we are now in ‘uncharted waters’.

Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Capital, said the statement contained no surprises for financial markets.

Rather than a concrete goal, ‘modernising China’ is an expectation to successfully address the economic, social, environmental and geopolitical challenges that China will face in the coming years,” Hu said in a research note, but indicated it would not have an impact on the market.

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From climate change to “foreign conspiracy”; Recent floods left 60 dead in Afghanistan

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The devastating floods in the past few days have taken the lives of many people and affected huge financial losses in a number of provinces across Afghanistan.

The destruction of public roads, demolishing of agricultural crops and the loss of thousands of citizens of the country are other consequences of the storm and heavy rains in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Panjshir, Kapisa and Maidan Wardak.

The Taliban have confirmed that 47 people were killed and more than 350 others were injured as a result of floods and severe storms in Nangarhar province. Around 10 people were also killed in Kapisa and Kunar provinces.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that a large number of displaced people and migrants were living in the flooded areas of Nangarhar.

However, the Washington Post has reported that Afghanistan is dealing with climate change on its own, while the Taliban see natural disasters as the work of God or foreign conspiracies.

Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

It has been reported that Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change with very little global attention and local capacity to deal with it.

Indeed, the recent storm with heavy rains were unprecedented in the history of Afghanistan.This disaster is the latest in a series of extreme weather events that have plagued the country in recent years, including severe droughts, extreme temperatures, and flash floods.

Unfortunately, these recurring catastrophes underscore the harsh reality of climate change, with Afghanistan standing on the front line, bearing the brunt of its impacts.

Head of natural disaster management authority, Saifullah Khalid said that over 400 houses, 60 electricity poles, and many agricultural lands were destroyed in the recent storms and heavy rains.

Strong winds, storms and heavy rains have also killed 11 members of a family in Sarkhrood district of Nangarhar province. The incident took place on Thursday. The relatives of this family said they were  gathered to celebrate the birth of a baby when suddenly a storm hit the district and as a result 11 people died.

The victims have described the storm and heavy rain in this province as unprecedented and asked the government to help them as they lost almost everything.

The areas affected by the floods hosted a large number of displaced people and returnees.

On the other hand, the pictures and videos circulating in the media show some areas of Panjshir province which were badly hit with storms and heavy rains that resulted in destruction of people’s gardens and agricultural lands. Roads were also damaged causing the blockage of traffic.

On the other hand, Taliban local officials in Kapisa said that three people lost their lives to the floods and many other villagers received financial losses.

The flood in Maidan Wardak province has also destroyed hundreds of acres of agricultural land and dozens of gardens and caused huge financial losses to the residents of the province.

At the same time, the UNHCR said that the areas affected by the recent floods in Nangarhar hosted a large number of displaced people and returnees. This organization said that their staff reached the area and are currently helping the affected families.

However, Najibullah Sadid, an environmental expert has posted a satellite image and said that it shows the extent of flooding in Sarkhrood and Sultanpur districts which was severe.

As predicted, a strong monsoon prevails in the Indian subcontinent this year, and due to its effect, it is possible that the region and eastern Afghanistan will witness destructive floods, according to Najiubllah.

Long drought in Afghanistan has hardened the soil so that flash floods are more severe and its damage is much greater.

The new climatic conditions require a continuous and effective struggle, otherwise the living conditions of the people will become more difficult day by day.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Program said that Afghanistan is the sixth most vulnerable country due to climate change and natural events.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that Afghanistan is dealing with climate change alone. According to the report, Afghanistan due to its policy to stop girls from schools and other education facilities is deprived of foreign financial aid for necessary measures such as adapting to climate change.

It also reported that the Taliban are arguing that natural disasters in Afghanistan are “the work of God or a foreign conspiracy”. The report states that Afghanistan is currently dealing with the effects of global warming alone, and the Taliban blame the floods and poor government management on foreigners.

In his speech at the conference in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, which was held on the occasion of climate change, Taliban Deputy Minister of Higher Education Lutfullah Khairkhah said: “Just as they attacked our country, they also attacked our climate. We must defend our climate, our water and our soil in the same way as we defend ourselves against invasion.”

UN Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja, said that the long drought in Afghanistan has hardened the soil so that flash floods are more severe and its damage is much greater.

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