10 Things in Politics: China’s economy flashes red flags

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Here’s what we’re talking about:

With Phil Rosen.

Chinese President Xi Jingping walking across a tightrope across fire while holding a small Chinese flag on a dark-red-to-bright-red background.

Mark Schiefelbein-Pool/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Insider

1. THE GLOBAL ECONOMY: China’s economy is teetering on the brink of disaster. If the bottom falls out, the whole world could be dragged down by the collapse of its second-largest economy. In the meantime, some economists worry lean times could push Beijing to ratchet up nationalist sentiment.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening:

  • Beijing is trying to redefine its economy: “For decades, the country relied on cheap labor and eye-popping amounts of debt, handed out by government-owned banks, to fuel economic growth. Now the country needs people to actually use, and pay for, everything that’s been built,” Insider’s Linette Lopez writes.
  • The Communist Party is responding by further isolating itself: Chinese socialism is reverting to a model not seen in decades, with tighter state control over much of the economy. Economists expect this ideological shift to slow growth even more, which in turn would make China’s attempts to transform its economy that much more precarious.

The fallout could affect us all: Morgan Stanley estimates that from 2022 to 2025, China’s growth will be 0.4 percentage points lower each year than previously estimated — and that’s the best-case scenario.

  • China doesn’t have many friends at the moment either: Under President Xi Jinping, China has become more bellicose on the world stage. The European Union torpedoed a trade deal with Beijing after China sanctioned members of the European Parliament for speaking out against human-rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. And the US is upset China isn’t buying as many American goods as it promised to under a trade deal with the Trump administration.

Read more about how part of China’s upheaval is about power and how Xi has crushed opposition voices inside his party.

2. Facebook insiders say Mark Zuckerberg chose growth over safety: The Facebook CEO personally oversaw the company’s decision last year to censor government dissidents to preserve the social network’s access to the lucrative Vietnam market, The Washington Post reports. Zuckerberg’s role was revealed by a trove of internal Facebook documents connected to the whistleblower Frances Haugen that have been obtained by a growing number of news organizations. Facebook in turn denied that decisions made by Zuckerberg “cause harm” and argued the documents were taken out of context. Key quote: “This is not a democracy, it’s an authoritarian state,” one expert told The Post of Zuckerberg’s amount of power.

3. Democrats continue to haggle over their massive spending plan: President Joe Biden and top congressional leaders are pushing for a deal on the now roughly $1.75 trillion plan by the end of the week, The New York Times reports. Lawmakers continue to disagree about any changes to Medicare and Medicaid, a new family-leave program, and additional efforts meant to lower prescription-drug prices and address the climate crisis. There’s also still hope the final sticker price will be a bit higher, but a final deal is expected to be far below the initial $3.5 trillion outlined in the party’s budget plan. Here’s where talks stand.

  • There does seem to be agreement on a new billionaires tax: The centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told reporters he’d support a proposal to impose fresh annual taxes on gains in billionaires’ assets. Republicans are outraged by the idea; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a “harebrained scheme.” More on Manchin’s support.

Weed Capitol Hill

Activists from the DC Marijuana Justice at a rally to demand Congress to pass cannabis legislation in 2019.
Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images

4. These are the lobbyists to watch as lawmakers debate marijuana legalization: Congress is more supportive of cannabis than ever before. Top Senate Democrats are drafting a bill on legalizing and regulating pot. Many Republicans support legislation that would help more cannabis businesses access banks rather than continue to have them rely solely on cash. All of this has resulted in a record number of lobbyists jumping in on the cause. See the 18 lobbyists you should be watching.

5. US, EU, and other nations denounce Sudanese coup: The White House moved to immediately suspend $700 million in financial assistance intended to help Sudan transition to a fully civilian government, the Associated Press reports. Here’s an explainer on what led up to the coup and what’s ahead for Sudan.

6. New York police union sues over vaccine mandate: With one week left to get vaccinated, New York City’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, filed a lawsuit over the state’s vaccination mandate for municipal employees, The Times reports. Nearly 70% of NYPD employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More on the last-minute legal fight before Friday’s deadline.

7. A never-before-seen Trump deposition is expected to be shown in May: A judge has set a May trial date for a lawsuit that’s expected to include a video deposition of former President Donald Trump taken earlier this month. The trial is for a civil lawsuit brought by a group of protesters who allege that Trump’s security team assaulted them at a 2015 rally outside Trump Tower in New York. Numerous civil lawsuits have moved ahead against Trump now that he’s no longer president.

8. Chicago is on the verge of having one of the nation’s largest basic-income programs: City councilors are expected to vote this week “on ​​giving 5,000 low-income households $500 per month each using federal funding from the pandemic stimulus package enacted this year,” The Post reports. The program would be enacted on a one-year basis, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot has received pushback for directing federal funding to UBI instead of a violence-prevention program. Dozens of cities are said to be trying or considering similar experiments.

9. Over half of Afghanistan’s citizens are expected to have trouble finding food this winter: Humanitarian-aid officials are highlighting the country’s crippling economic crisis amid the Taliban takeover as a main catalyst in the looming food shortage. Even before the collapse of the Afghan government over the summer, the country was threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic and severe droughts, according to the World Food Programme. More on the news.

dave chappelle the closer

Dave Chappelle in “The Closer.”

10. Dave Chappelle says he’s willing to meet with the trans community: Chappelle issued his longest response yet to critics of his recent Netflix special, saying he’s “not bending to anybody’s demands,” CNN reports. “This has nothing to do with them,” Chappelle said of LGBTQ communities during a set over the weekend. “It’s about corporate interest and what I can say and what I cannot say.” More on Chappelle’s comments.

Today’s trivia question: While staying at the White House, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had just emerged from a bath when he a saw ghost. Whose was it? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

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