Is China readying a policy bazooka to rescue stock investors? Not this time, Swiss private bank says (SCMP)
Switzerland’s neutrality policy in the spotlight after it joins EU sanctions against Russia (Caixin)
Switzerland, known for its neutral status in foreign relations for over two centuries, has recently come under spotlight after it sided with the European Union in imposing sanctions against Moscow and its leaders over the Ukraine war. That move has triggered questions about the future of the country’s policy of neutrality. In an interview with Caixin, Swiss Ambassador to China Bernardino Regazzoni said neutrality doesn’t mean indifference, and that a neutral state has the right to choose political positions and can stand up for universal values. “As a relatively small, independent state, not belonging to any military block, Switzerland relies on the strict application of international law worldwide. Only a rules-based international order can guarantee a peaceful co-existence of peoples and states,” he said, noting Russia’s military attack in Ukraine has seriously breached international law. Switzerland’s neutrality was acknowledged by the Treaty of Paris in 1815. As a key principle of its foreign policy, it means the country doesn’t get involved in armed or political conflicts between other countries. The principle helped it avoid being invaded by its neighbors during the two world wars. But this seemed to have changed on Feb. 28, when the Swiss government said it will adopt the packages of sanctions imposed by the EU to punish Russia for its military aggression against Ukraine. As of early April, the government has frozen some $8 billion worth of Russian assets, including those held by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The government decided Wednesday to impose more EU-designed sanctions on Russia, which it said will have “far-reaching” impact on trade. The measures include import bans on lignite and coal as well as goods that are important sources of revenue for Russia, and export bans on goods that can help strengthen Russia’s industrial capacity, according to a statement published by the Federal Council. The sanctions could significantly weaken Russia’s economy. Switzerland is the largest hub for trading Russian oil and gas, media reported, citing a report from the Swiss embassy in Moscow. The value of assets held by Russian companies and individuals in Swiss banks was estimated to exceed $213 billion, the Swiss Bankers Association said. Despite imposing the wide-ranging sanctions, “Swiss neutrality has not changed,” Regazzoni said. “The cornerstones of today’s neutrality policy are cooperation in security policy, engagement for respect of international humanitarian law, peacebuilding and a free and independent political opinion.” “Switzerland does not favor any warring party militarily and it does not provide any war material to Russia nor to Ukraine. With these measures, Switzerland entirely complies with the legal obligations of neutral countries,” he said. “The practice of neutrality cannot be a rigid concept,” he noted. However, in response to a Caixin reporter’s question about whether Switzerland will step in to help resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Regazzoni said “wherever possible, diplomatic initiatives and negotiations remain our favored approach to any emerging conflict situation.” Switzerland has a tradition of facilitating peace negotiations, and “is prepared to offer its ‘good offices’ upon request from the parties to the conflict. This applies to the armed conflict in Ukraine as well,” he added.
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The crackdown on China’s ‘moderate’ rights voices: how tweets are now landing people in prison (SCMP)
Man detained for risking national security (China Daily)
China launches Jilin-1 commercial satellites (Xinhua)
Chinese Cities Push Expanding Families to Upgrade Their Housing (Caixin)
Chinese cities are rolling out policies that encourage expanding families to upgrade to bigger, nicer housing as part of official efforts to shore up the beleaguered real estate market. During the last week of April, cities including Shenyang in north China’s Liaoning province, Dazhou in the southeastern province of Sichuan and Wuxi in Jiangsu implemented policies benefiting homebuyers with two or three children. The measures include subsidies and relaxed mortgage rules. The policies aim to stimulate demand for improved family living standards, experts said. Most Chinese cities have previously set tougher mortgage requirements on homebuyers who already own a residence, making it less affordable for those who want to improve their living conditions and suppressing demand, Everbright Securities said in a recent research note. Top policymakers have reiterated their support for people to meet essential housing needs as China moves to bolster its property market, which slid into a steep downturn since the second half of 2021 amid strict policy controls. In December, the Politburo, China’s top decision-making body, pledged to bolster the property market to better meet people’s reasonable housing needs. At an April 29 meeting, the Politburo said it supports local governments to improve real estate policies based on local realities and work to meet demand for better housing, sending a stronger supportive signal to the industry. Experts said the meeting signaled the central government’s support for local authorities’ policy adjustments, especially those designed to boost demands. Dozens of municipal authorities loosened regulations on home buying in the first quarter, including some cities that abandoned restrictions on ownership and resales. In the most recent effort, the Shenyang government in the rustbelt province of Liaoning said April 30 it will allow families with two or three underaged children to own as many as three homes. Such families will also have access to preferential mortgage loan terms. In Dazhou, city authorities promised preferential loan terms and home purchase subsidies to families with two or three children. Such families can buy a second home with lower down payment, the city government said April 28. On April 25, Wuxi also pledged additional home purchase quota and preferential loans to families with more than one child. Earlier in April, several other cities in Gansu, Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces released policies to subsidize home purchases by families with more children. Everbright Securities said it expects more support for people’s demand for improved housing, including easing purchase quota control and reductions in down payment and mortgage rates. Local governments will choose the measures based on local situations, the brokerage said. China, which maintained a one-child policy for nearly three decades, in 2021 passed a law allowing couples to have as many as three children to boost the birth rate as the world’s largest population ages. China’s property sector since last year has been hit by a cash crunch among developers that’s disrupted construction, shattered homebuyer confidence and led to a wave of defaults. The country’s current Covid-19 outbreak and widening lockdown measures further threaten to prolong the property slump. In March, new-home sales by value dropped 29% from a year earlier, the most since July, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Top legal bodies issue circular on trafficking (China Daily)
Xi encourages youth to help boost China's aerospace sci-tech self-reliance (Xinhua)
Beijing centralises power in the provinces ahead of Communist Party congress (SCMP)
China's top legal departments urge abduction suspects to surrender (Xinhua)
Close ally of Xi Jinping named new head of influential Chinese think tank (SCMP)
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