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Upheavals in Xi’s world spread concern about China’s diplomacy

BEIJING — The disappearance of China’s defense minister, the latest in a string of upheavals in the country’s top ranks, is stoking uncertainty about President Xi Jinping’s rule as an internal security clampdown trumps international engagement.

The growing unpredictability could affect the confidence other countries have in the leadership of the world’s second-biggest economy, diplomats and analysts say.

Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who has missed meetings including with at least one foreign counterpart since he was last seen in late August, is under investigation in a corruption probe into military procurement, Reuters reported on Friday.

Newly installed Foreign Minister Qin Gang vanished with scant explanation in July, the same month as an abrupt shake-up of the military’s elite Rocket Force, which oversees China’s nuclear arsenal.

As Mr. Xi, China’s commander-in-chief has focused inward, he caused concern among foreign diplomats this month by missing a Group of 20 summit in India, the first time he has skipped the global leaders’ gathering in his decade in power.

Faced with the growing uncertainties, some diplomats and analysts are calling for a hard look at the true nature of Mr. Xi’s regime.

“Clear-eyed assessments are needed — this isn’t just a question of whether China is a partner or a competitor, it is a source of economic, political and military risk,” said Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official who is now a scholar at the National University of Singapore.

Due to a lack of transparency surrounding the changes, various explanations were plausible “and this feeds the crisis of confidence that is brewing around China,” Thompson said.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Regarding Defense Minister Li’s disappearance and investigation, a ministry spokeswoman told reporters on Friday she was not aware of the situation. The State Council and Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Since his appointment in March, Mr. Li has been the public face of China’s expanding military diplomacy, expressing concern over US military operations during a high-profile security conference in June and visiting Russia and Belarus in August.

He had been expected to host an international security meeting in Beijing in October and represent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at a meeting in November of regional defense chiefs in Jakarta.

With corruption long permeating China’s military and state institutions, some analysts and diplomats believe Mr. Xi’s anti-graft crackdowns mark political purges across the Communist Party.

“Regardless of the reason… the sense that this could keep happening could have an impact on foreign actors’ confidence in engaging with their Chinese counterparts,” said Helena Legarda, lead analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.

The Mr. Li upheaval is unusual for its speed and its reach into Xi’s hand-picked elites.

“This is all so sudden and opaque. One thing we can now see is that proximity does not equate to patronage in Xi’s world,” said Singapore-based security analyst Alexander Neill, an adjunct fellow with Hawaii’s Pacific Forum think-tank.

Although not in a direct command position, Mr. Li serves on Mr. Xi’s seven-person Central Military Commission and is one of China’s five state councilors, a cabinet position that outranks regular ministers. Some scholars believe he is close to General Zhang Youxia, who sits above him on the commission and is Xi’s closest ally in the PLA.

Mr. Li, sanctioned by Washington in 2018 for an arms deal with Russia, shunned a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Singapore’s Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in June, where a handshake marked their closest interaction.

Mr. Austin and other US officials are keen to resume high-level talks between the two militaries regional tensions roil. But Beijing counters that it wants Washington to be less assertive in the Asia-Pacific.

Regional envoys say deeper Chinese military diplomacy is vital, particularly with the U.S. but also with other powers, as China increasingly deploys forces around Taiwan — the democratically governed island it claims — and across disputed parts of the East and South China Seas.

If Mr. Li’s fate “reflects Xi’s increasingly inward focus, it is not good for those of us who want greater openness and lines of communications with China’s military,” said one Asian diplomat.

As the PLA has an unprecedented level of military engagements with Southeast Asian forces this year, the recent swift changes back in Beijing “spur speculation and some concern about the continuity of policy,” said political scientist Ja Ian Chong at the National University of Singapore.

“A shake-up of the military at this time is likely to draw attention, given the heightened activity of the PLA near Taiwan and the East China Sea, as well as stepped-up paramilitary activity in the South China Sea, since such actions create potential risk of accidents, escalation and crises,” Ja Ian Chong said. — Reuters

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Basketball World Cup remains in Asia for third session in row

Basketball World Cup remains in Asia for third session in row

As Qatar formally received the hosting ball from the Philippines

THE BIGGEST basketball event in the world will stay in the Asian continent.

For the third straight edition, Asia will host the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2027 as Qatar formally received the hosting ball from the Philippines, which co-hosted this year’s Cup with neighbors Japan and Indonesia.

Outgoing FIBA President Hamane Niang, with no less than Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan, handed the golden FIBA ball to the Qatar Basketball Federation at the sidelines of the World Cup finale over the weekend at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Mr. Pangilinan, also the chair of the Philippine Local Organizing Committee, first passed the ball to Mr. Niang before handing it over to Mohammed Saad Al Meghaiseeb, president of Qatar Basketball Federation, and Sheikha Asma Al Thani, director of marketing and communications for the Qatar Olympic Committee.

“We are very proud to receive the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2027 as the next hosts of this fantastic event. Hosting such a huge event for one of the most popular sports in the world is a huge honor for Qatar,” said Mr. Al Almoghaiseb.

“We are grateful to our colleagues in FIBA and the Philippines for giving us the opportunity to see closely the organizational delivery of the World Cup.”

The turnover ceremony from the Philippines to Qatar served as the fitting finale to a memorable World Cup that started with the FIBA congress, where FIBA Asia Chief Sheikh Saud Ali Al Thani was elected as the new world basketball president to succeed Mr. Niang from Mali.

He was also the former president of Qatar federation and vice president of the Qatar Olympic Committee. Qatar prior to the FIBA World Cup came off a successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup last year.

In Qatar, leading Philippine mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), has renewed its Global Partnership with the world basketball federation until the 2027 World Cup.

It’s a new four-year partnership between FIBA and Smart following an excellent team-up in bringing the 2023 World Cup closer to basketball fans around the world marked by the construction of the Mall of Asia Ball as “one of the most breathtaking and monumental basketball tributes ever seen at a FIBA event.”

SBP President Al Panlilio, for his part, beamed with honor and pride as the Philippines hosted the World Cup in flying colors for the second time around since 1978.

“I’m extremely proud of all the LOC [Local Organizing Committee] staff and volunteers. And (feel) extreme joy for the coming together of the FIBA community to make this World Cup a memorable one,” said Mr. Panlilio as the Philippines set a new World Cup gate-attendance record.

“But there’s also a feeling of extreme bittersweetness as it comes to an end, yet overshadowed by extreme hopefulness for the 2027 World Cup in Qatar.”

Home team Gilas Pilipinas finished 24th in the 32-team World Cup to earn a ticket in the Paris Olympic Qualifying Tournament in front of huge crowds, highlighted by 38,115 fans during the opener against the Dominican Republic at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. — John Bryan Ulanday

#Basketball #World #Cup #remains #Asia #session #row

Smart makes history with PHL’s epic hosting of FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023

Smart makes history with PHL’s epic hosting of FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023

The final buzzer to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 rang with a much deeper meaning for Filipinos who witnessed the best players from all over the world and immersed in world-class hardcourt action in Manila, powered by FIBA global partner Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).

After setting a new attendance record on opening day with 38,115 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, hundreds of thousands more flocked to the rest of the games at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay to root for their favorite players and teams.

Dennis Schroder of Germany moves past Bogdan Bogdanovic of Serbia during Sunday night’s finals game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Smart is the mobile network of choice of FIBA goers

Ahead of the tournament, Smart teamed up with technology partners Huawei and Ericsson to further expand and permanently optimize its LTE and 5G mobile network coverage across all venues. Understandably, Smart emerged as the mobile network of choice of fans with up to 59 percent of live attendees relying on their Smart-powered SIMs and eSIMs to share real-time updates and upload online content on the fly, according to an internal report covering the Phase 1 games from Aug. 26 to Sept. 3.

Filipinos’ love for basketball spilled over on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, the three top apps used by fans during the games, according to the same report. Smart made it so much easier for local and foreign basketball fans to latch on to the Smart network by making available Prepaid SIMs and eSIMs at Smart Stores and accredited retailers near the venues and airports. 

“Whether at Araneta or MOA Arena, I enjoyed seamless and hassle-free connection while posting on social media. I was able to share content in real-time, which got several of my friends’ attention,” said Dan Reyes, a long-time Smart subscriber, who watched the Serbia vs China match at Araneta Coliseum and Serbia vs Lithuania match at MOA Arena.

Larger-than-life basketball tributes 

Luka Doncic of Slovenia leaves Manila with a win after escaping Italy for 7th place in the FIBA world rankings.

Smart pulled out all the stops to bring epic basketball fan experiences to subscribers. Ten days before the games, Smart transformed the MOA Ball into a giant basketball with a hoop for one of the most awe-inspiring basketball tributes ever seen. The giant installation — measuring 1.5 meters in diameter, inside a ring with 111 meters in circumference — officially signaled the country’s all-out efforts to kick off the hosting of the FIBA World Cup 2023, as well as the larger-than-life passion and energy that Filipinos have for basketball.

Smart also drummed up the excitement of fans by unveiling an interactive LED billboard with a massive basketball ring and augmented reality integration along EDSA, complete with a QR code allowing fans to view FIBA stars’ signature moves on their smartphones. Smart also took it a step further with an interactive 3D Billboard featuring the FIBA official mascot JIP at Bonifacio Global City (BGC), captivating fans and spectators.

Epic basketball fan experiences 

Smart helped mount an epic street festival at BGC for the FIBA Draw. Aside from the live viewing of the much-awaited draw, fans were treated to a concert, games, and other exciting activities. Moreover, subscribers were given a chance to own a piece of basketball history as Smart unveiled limited-edition Gilas Prepaid Cards, and FREE collectible non-fungible tokens or NFTs exclusive to Smart subscribers.

During the tournament, basketball fans trooping to the venues enjoyed awesome augmented reality activities, such as the Smart Quiz, Smart Shirt Blast, and Smart Power Dribble Cam for a shot at winning premium tickets, exciting prizes, and limited-edition merchandise.

Real-time access to all FIBA games

Taking mobile livestreaming to a new level, Smart and US-based Radisys Corporation ran its beta test of Smart LiveStream App’s new features for a more immersive and interactive streaming experience.

Smart left no stone unturned when it comes to using technology to bring FIBA closer to every Filipino. As a huge treat, Smart gave all its subscribers FREE access to all FIBA games via the Smart LiveStream App. By downloading the app and connecting to the Smart mobile network, fans could stream the games live anytime, anywhere, or replay and relive all the FIBA hardcourt action.

Smart also introduced GILAS POWER 399, a prepaid data pack that comes with 78 GB valid for 30 days, including access to FIBA World Cup Games via the Smart LiveStream App.

During the Gilas vs. Italy game last Aug. 29, Smart and US-based Radisys® Corporation, a subsidiary of Jio Platforms Limited, showcased the future of mobile streaming with its beta test of Smart LiveStream App’s groundbreaking new features, enabling select Smart users to enjoy 360 viewing, live chat, and viewing party features.

After playing a pivotal role in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 with its world-class mobile network, Smart continues its global partnership with FIBA for the 2027 World Cup games in Qatar.

As FIBA Global partner, Smart also provided Prepaid eSIMs to all the the players, coaching staff, and delegates who flew to Manila for the tournament so they may stay connected with their loved ones back home. 

Smart powered the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 with the Philippines’ fastest and best mobile network, as recognized by Ookla, the global leader in mobile and broadband network intelligence for three consecutive reporting periods – Q1-Q2 2022, Q3-Q4 2022, and Q1-Q2 2023.

For more FIBA highlights, follow Smart’s official Facebook, Instagram, and X (Twitter) accounts.


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IMF urges pact to boost its resource quota, strengthen world economy

NEW DELHI – It is vital to increase quota resources for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before year-end, its chief, Kristalina Georgieva, said on Sunday, while urging members of the G20 bloc to deliver on a promise of $100 billion a year in climate funds.

In a declaration at its summit in New Delhi this weekend, the grouping vowed to tackle debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries “in an effective, comprehensive and systematic manner”, but offered no fresh plan of action.”G20 members must lead by example in delivering on the promises of $100 billion per year for climate finance, supported by strengthening the multilateral development banks,” Georgieva said in a statement at the end of the two-day summit.

“Countries also need to mobilize domestic resources to finance and manage the green transition through tax reforms, effective and efficient public spending, strong fiscal institutions, and deep local debt markets.”

She urged the grouping to strengthen the global financial safety net.

“To make the global economy stronger and more resilient in a more shock-prone world, it is vital to reach an agreement to increase the IMF’s quota resources before the end of the year,” she said.

Such a pact would secure resources needed for the Fund’s interest-free support to the poorest countries through the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust, she added.

The G20 summit also pledged to strengthen and reform multilateral development banks, while accepting a proposal to regulate cryptocurrencies more tightly worldwide.

“More work lies ahead, including in the realm of digital money and crypto assets,” Georgieva said. — Reuters

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IMF, World Bank to step up cooperation on climate, debt, digital transition

IMF, World Bank to step up cooperation on climate, debt, digital transition

 – The International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Thursday issued a rare joint statement pledging to step up their cooperation to address climate change, debt vulnerabilities and countries’ digital transitions.

The statement, released ahead of a G20 leaders summit in India this week, said the two institutions can help address mounting challenges facing the global economy – from increasing climate disasters to slowing growth and geopolitical fragmentation – by working together.

“The Bretton Woods institutions, with their universal membership and specialist expertise, are well-placed to make a critical contribution to help countries tackle these challenges,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President Ajay Banga said in the joint statement.

The IMF and World Bank were established in 1944 at a meeting in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

Mr. Banga is scheduled to attend his first G20 summit after starting as the World Bank‘s new president in June, with a mandate to expand the lender’s resources to help tackle climate change, pandemics, fragility and other global crises alongside its traditional anti-poverty mission.

US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit intends to focus heavily on reforming the World Bank and other multilateral development lenders to scale up their lending for climate and infrastructure. The US sees the institution as an important counterbalance to China’s overseas lending.

The joint IMFWorld Bank statement said the two institutions would collaborate on climate change on a “more structured and institutionalized footing.This includes formalizing regular meetings of the new Bank-Fund Climate Advisory Group every two months to consider climate-related developments on key projects, including loans through the IMF‘s new Resilience and Sustainability Trust, which provides middle-income countries with financing on climate resilience and transition projects.



The two institutions also said they will incorporate climate considerations into their work on debt sustainability for low-income countries.

The IMF and World Bank have worked closely on debt sustainability issues, both pushing for improved restructuring frameworks. They launched a sovereign debt roundtable last year to standardize restructuring concepts and speed up debt treatments.

“We will enhance our joint work to help prevent further build-up of debt vulnerabilities, assisting countries to strengthen debt management and transparency and public finances,” Ms. Georgieva and Mr. Banga said, adding that they would also deepen support to creditors and debtors engaged in debt restructurings.

On the digital transition, the two institutions said they would collaborate to help countries to connect their citizens to online services and reduce barriers to digital inclusion.

“We will step up our joint work to help countries increase the effectiveness of revenue collection and expenditure systems and reap the benefits of new digital technologies while mitigating the risks,” Ms. Georgieva and Mr. Banga said.

That will include improving cross-border payment systems while ensuring that such innovations spur growth, poverty reduction and job creation, they added. – Reuters

#IMF #World #Bank #step #cooperation #climate #debt #digital #transition

Discover a new world of opportunities

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