Tag Archives: World news

China’s Crypto Ban and the Road to Total Control

You just went to a protest marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. You were scared, but you went. You wore a mask and took a winding route home. No one could have seen you.

You arrive home to your Hong Kong apartment and decide to check your bank account. Did the rent get deducted yet?

But when you log in, you see the balance has gone from 21,000 yuan to zero.

A notice appears to contact your local Party office.

This is the future China wants to bring about. Its tools:

1) The social credit score
2) The digital yuan
3) The banning of cryptocurrencies other than the digital yuan

Today, China banned bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. All, that is, except its own digital yuan, which debuted this spring.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming. China banned cryptocurrency mining earlier this year. This is part of a long term trend toward total control under Xi Jinping.

China’s government has cracked down hard on tech companies, Hong Kong dissidents, and even seemingly random targets like celebrities.

What’s next? About five years ago, China’s government created a social credit score. Any action that upsets the government, from farebeating to protesting, can have dire consequences. One may be unable to get a loan, a job, or access the internet.

After the crypto ban, the next logical step for China’s dictatorship is to ban cash and all non-digital yuan. Then, all money is electronic, traceable, and centrally controlled.

Step out of line, and your life savings could be gone.

It’s a dark, dystopian future. But I strongly suspect it’s coming.

We in the United States and the rest of the free world should guard against any such thing being done here. I will be wary of attempts to ban cryptocurrencies or cash as paving the way for similar control. Control that has no place in a democratic society.

More on China tech:

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

Photo: “1984” by jason ilagan is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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Will A Massive Uprising in North Korea Mean the End of Kim Jong-un?

North Korean defector and Youtuber Yeonmi Park is reporting a massive uprising in Musan, North Korea. The uprising began when police cracked down on a market selling Chinese products, which is illegal in North Korea despite them being the only goods available.

Farmers took their farm implements and attacked the police. The backdrop for this is an increasingly hungry population with little to lose. Indeed, the situation is so dire that even Russian diplomats are fleeing the country by railroad handcart, appalled at the lack of basic food and goods.

I haven’t been able to find independent corroboration of this uprising, and Park is unclear on what her sources are, but I assume she is still in contact with people inside North Korea.

Her discussion of the uprising begins here.

For more on breaking news, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Kim Jong-un visiting Berlin.” by driver Photographer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Australia Takes the Lead As Governments Move to Reign in Interest Rates

Government bond yields are increasing in many countries, including the US. Australia is already taking action. Europe and Japan also appear to be close:

This morning, Australian three-year government bond yields reached as high as 0.15% at the market open, far above the 0.1% ceiling established by the Reserve Bank of Australia last November under its yield curve control policy.  The RBA accordingly pledged to buy up to A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) in three-year paper in an unscheduled operation just one day after undertaking the largest purchases since March, successfully pushing yields back down towards that 0.1% bogey by day’s end.  

In a report predicting that the RBA will wait until July before deciding whether to tweak its existing policies, Andrew Boak, Goldman Sachs chief economist for Australia and New Zealand, noted yesterday that “there are no modern day precedents for a central bank exiting yield curve control.” 

A similar struggle is underway in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Japan, which instituted yield curve control back in 2016 with a targeted 0% yield on the 10-year government bond, is now facing a test of its resolve:  The yield on 10-year government debt reached 0.175% this morning, the highest since the debut of that program.  “I want you to understand that we aren’t aiming to raise our target from around 0%,” BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda declared in an address to parliament this morning, a message surely intended for Mr. Market as well. 

Meanwhile, a scaled-down bond selloff on the Old Continent looks to spur the powers that be to further impose their will on the market. Yesterday, German 10-year yields reached minus 0.23%, near a one-year high and up from minus 0.53% one month earlier, three days after ECB president Christine Lagarde declared she is “closely monitoring the evolution of longer-term nominal bond yields.”  

In light of that dizzying ascent to minus 0.23%, one of her colleagues appears ready for action. “In my view, there is an unwarranted tightening of bond yields, so it would perhaps be desirable for the ECB to accelerate the pace of [asset] purchases to ensure favorable financing conditions during the pandemic,” Greek central bank governor Yannis Stournaras told Reuters this afternoon.

More here (see the Feb 26 post).

Higher interest rates on government bonds tend to lead to higher interest rates throughout the economy. This can be a problem for stocks, since it can make it more expensive for companies to borrow to fund expansion, etc. It can also make bonds more attractive compared to stocks, which hurts the stock market.

If we see sustained upward pressure on US rates, I expect to see the US follow Australia and try to get the rates back down.

For more on interest rates on markets, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Pebbly Beach Kangaroos Australia – 095” by Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Brazil’s Society is Collapsing as COVID Slams its Economy

There is a huge increase in homelessness in Brazil, per Der Spiegel. Many have lost jobs due to the COVID pandemic, leading to a second humanitarian crisis, this one economic. I found this quote from a factory worker who recently lost his job particularly striking:

“I never thought I would end up in this situation,” he says, “and suddenly …” He snaps his fingers and his eyes fill with tears. The worst, he says, is the hunger and the constant feeling of being dirty. “It is the most terrible experience I have ever had in my life, the biggest humiliation.”

This is a man who worked…he was not lazy. But unfortunately, he has still lost everything. Financial relief from the government, on which one third (!) of society depends, is expiring:

…the government in Brasília ceased paying out an emergency allowance for the poor struck by the crisis as of January. Fully 67 million Brazilians – almost a third of the population – had been relying on the 600 real (around 90 euros) each month. “It helped people in the favelas pay for rent or food,” says Kohara. And they have no savings, he adds. Their situations are now so tenuous that they could end up on the streets from one day to the next.

This drives home the importance of stimulus measures in the US. In addition, perhaps an international poverty relief effort is needed.

More here.

Photo: “Slums in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil” by World Resources is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sound Familiar?

Today, Myanmar’s (deeply flawed) democracy fell today to a military coup:

The coup follows a disputed election in November that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by a landslide. The main opposition party, the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, claimed the vote was marred by fraud. Myanmar’s election commission rejected the allegations but tensions between the two sides had been rising for weeks. The military made its move hours before Myanmar’s parliament had been due to sit for the first time since the National League for Democracy’s win in the Nov. 8 general election.

USA Today

More here.

Photo: “File:Remise du Prix Sakharov à Aung San Suu Kyi Strasbourg 22 octobre 2013-04 (cropped).jpg” by Claude TRUONG-NGOC is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0