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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 5, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: China Kicks Off National People's Congress Meeting

Premier Wen Jiabao gave his outgoing address (AP) at China's annual National People's Congress meeting, the rubber-stamped parliamentary session where major policies and key government officials are announced. Wen pledged to repair the environment and boost public services under its new leadership, and notably pared the nation's economic growth target to 7.5 percent (Bloomberg) from an 8 percent goal in place since 2005--a sign that leaders could be aiming to cut reliance on exports and capital spending in favor of consumption. China also reached a tentative deal with the United States on a new set of sanctions against North Korea in response to its third nuclear test last month. The resolution (WSJ), which will enforce some existing sanctions and include new ones, will be introduced at a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

Analysis

"So for China's Communist Party, this leadership change is not so much a time of celebration as of introspection and anxiety. The party is aware that in the eyes of many Chinese, its authority is eroding. And while the party leaders know the problems they face, they know too that there are few easy answers," writes a Damian Grammaticas for the BBC.

"Though it calls itself a legislature and votes on motions, the NPC has never rejected anything put before it. Notwithstanding the important work the NPC does outside of the plenary sessions, the annual meeting remains heavily stage-managed and is far from shaking free of its well-deserved label as a rubber-stamp," writes the Economist.

"The NPC will confirm a new leadership that has already made promises of a more sustainable, less damaged China. The outgoing government started off with such promises too, and public disappointment over its failure to make good on them is at dangerously high levels. If this cycle of disillusionment is not to deepen, the NPC must publicly and robustly become the environment's champion, insisting on its constitutional powers and offering the public a convincing political response to their frustrations," writes Isabel Hilton for the South China Morning Post.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Malaysia Launches Attack in Borneo

Malaysia launched an offensive (NYT) in Borneo on Tuesday in a bid to end a month-long siege by armed Filipinos seeking to reclaim part of the island. Air strikes and a ground assault killed an undetermined number of Filipino gunmen but caused no Malaysian casualties.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Bangladesh Opposition Refuses to Meet Indian President

The Bangladeshi government reacted sharply after its top opposition leader Khaleda Zia refused to meet visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (ET). Political sources said Zia did not want to antagonize ally and fundamentalist group Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been protesting the death sentence of a leader.

AFGHANISTAN: A special tribunal in Afghanistan sentenced two senior Kabul Bank executives to five years in prison each for fraud (RFE/RL) that catalyzed the collapse of the country's largest bank in 2010.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Syrian Rebels Take Over Raqqa

Syrian rebels have captured the northern province of Raqqa (al-Jazeera) and its governor, marking a significant development in the two-year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, opposition troops on Monday launched an assault to capture areas of the central city of Homs.

EGYPT: Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi ordered the withdrawal of police (al-Arabiya) from the streets of Port Said as the military stepped in to restore order following a second day of deadly violence.

CFR's Steven Cook discusses the vague U.S. policy on Egypt in this article.

 

AFRICA

Kenyatta Holds Early Lead in Kenyan Polls

Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is holding an early lead (BBC) over his main rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, with more than a third of polling stations reporting in Kenya's heated elections. At least nineteen people were killed on Monday in election-related violence.

Bronwyn Bruton outlines the best and worst case scenarios for the election in this Foreign Affairs article.

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's government said yesterday it would not allow international observers to monitor its elections (TimesLive), which are slated for July.

 

EUROPE

Italy Mulls Technocrat Government

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is considering appointing a technocrat government (Reuters) led by a non-politician as a solution to Italy's political stalemate, a situation that could transpire if center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani fails to form a government.

CFR's Charles Kupchan mulls the effect of Italy's elections on the euro in this First Take.

BELGIUM: Belgium's finance minister resigned on Tuesday over a banking dispute (FT), threatening the fragile stability of the country's six-party coalition government.

 

AMERICAS

Chávez's Condition Worsens

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is battling a "new and severe" lung infection (MiamiHerald) at Caracas's Military Hospital. Despite his condition, the government has said that he has been leading cabinet meetings, even though a tracheal tube prevents him from speaking.

MEXICO: Mexico's ruling party has inched toward opening its state oil company Pemex to outsiders, a move that could allow U.S. oil firms to eventually drill south of the border (LATimes).

 

 

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