Xi Jinping’s power cuts

November 7, 2013

Xi’s inability to close labor camps indicates limits to his political clout, Russia scales back its economic growth prediction, and world powers meet with Iran to discuss its nuclear program. Today is Thursday, November 7, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

China’s President Xi Jinping lets Jordan’s King Abdullah (not pictured) leave first after a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Feng Li/Pool

Failure to launch. Chinese President Xi Jinping, expected to usher in reforms when he took office last year, has so far failed to shutter China’s labor camps in an indication of weakness:

Despite holding the three top posts in the country – president, party chief and head of the military – [Xi] is not as strong as he seems, said at least half a dozen sources in the party and government. His two immediate predecessors as president, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, wield considerable clout through allies and protégés they promoted, as do powerful factions within the Communist Party. Xi must keep the two former presidents on his side, but this means an erosion of his power… despite being obstructed on major political and social change, Xi has implemented considerable economic reform in recent months – on interest rate policy, the banking system and converting Shanghai into a free trade zone – in the face of opposition from powerful ministries and state banks, two of the sources said. However, failure to address some of the political and social ills in China – including regional tensions, the rich-poor gap, corruption and degradation of the environment – could affect stability.

Last week, a car drove into a crowd and burst into flames in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five including three in the vehicle. China blamed the attack on members of the Xinjiang region’s Muslim minority, calling it part of a holy war against the country. Many Uighur Muslims are upset by official controls on their culture and religion, despite official claims that the group is not oppressed by Chinese policy. Chinese citizens also struggle with housing prices which continue to rise despite a four-year government effort to stabilize rates – perhaps because local governments rely on revenue from property sales for income. Xi has continued cracking down on corruption, currently targeting a top executive in the shipping industry, following the high-profile sentencing of ousted politician Bo Xilai. The fate of Xi’s plans for reform plans will likely be determined during the Communist party’s Central Committee’s third plenum meeting from November 9 to 12, when Chinese leaders determine their term agendas. Below, Chinese officials target corruption.

Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court’s microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

Yang Dacai, a former provincial official, listens to a verdict at a court in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Putin backtrack. Russia lowered its growth expectations on Thursday, admitting in public for the first time that its economy would trail behind global growth over the next twenty years. According to Russia’s Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s economy will grow 2.5 percent on average in that time period, compared to 5.2 percent average growth in Brazil, China, India, and South Africa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on before an award ceremony to mark National Unity Day at the Kremlin in Moscow, November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

The revision could cost Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised to make Russia one of the top five economies by 2020, credibility and power in the future. In an effort to increase patriotism among young people, Putin today asked parliament to pass a law to increase displays of Russia’s flag.

Nuclear negotiations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with representatives of six world powers – the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain – in Geneva to discuss his country’s contentious nuclear program, calling the negotiations “tough,” but adding that “the talks went well.” He added, “I’m hopeful that we can move forward.”

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) leaves with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after a photo opportunity before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, November 7, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The leaders seek a “first step” towards a solution over the nuclear dispute. Western powers fear that Iran is developing nuclear capabilities but Iran maintains it is using its nuclear program for energy and science alone. Reuters learned that Iran has offered to ship crude oil to India for free, in a sign that Western sanctions on Iran have taken a toll. Talks continue through tomorrow.

Nota Bene: International Space Station Expedition Crew 38/39 launches into space, Olympic torch in tow. Check out Reuters outer space live blog here.


Murderers into martyrs – Reuters columnist David Rohde argues that covert drone strikes are counterproductive. (Reuters)

Femme retail – Voluptuous Venezuelan mannequins reflect plastic surgery trend. (New York Times)

Meteoric warning –  Fireball that exploded over Russian city could be a sign of greater risk from meteors. (Associated Press)

Christmas cuts – Spain has cut holiday spending by over 40 percent over the past five years. (Quartz)

Biker ban – Liberia forces hundreds to walk to work with motorcycle taxi ban. (BBC)

Full-time students – French children might have to start going to school on Wednesdays. (Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

  • Pakistani Taliban elect hardline ‘Mullah Radio’ as new chief.
  • British Muslim leader sentenced to death says Bangladesh trial ‘farcical.’
  • Swiss forensic experts to reveal findings on Arafat poison case on Thursday.
  • Kerry says ‘final status’ Israel-Palestine deal necessary.
  • Nigeria says it needs Cameroon’s help to fight Boko Haram Islamist militants.
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