China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions
A sign indicating digital yuan, also referred to as e-CNY, is pictured at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 September 2021

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions

China crypto crackdown reveals scale of digital yuan ambitions
  • All crypto trading and mining deemed illegal in China
  • China's central bank digital currency could launch as soon as 2022

LONDON: If there’s one thing the Chinese Communist Party likes it is control.

A raft of edicts from President Xi Jinping this year have asserted the government’s control over ever larger swathes of the Chinese economy and the everyday life of Chinese people.

The financial cost of these measures is difficult to accurately gauge, but billions of dollars have been wiped off the value of tech companies, including Alibaba, Didi and Tencent, following a squeeze on their activities, including limits on how long children can spend playing online games.

There have been considerable financial costs too from China’s crypto crackdown, which intensified yesterday with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining. Ten agencies, including the central bank, financial, securities and foreign exchange regulators, vowed to work together to root out “illegal” cryptocurrency activity, the first time the Beijing-based regulators have joined forces to explicitly ban all cryptocurrency-related activity.

That represents a major escalation from May this year, when China banned financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions. It had issued similar bans in 2013 and 2017.

Despite an initial drop in the value of cryptocurrencies on Friday, they stabilized on Saturday and most analysts don’t see the measures having a long-term effect on the value of crypto assets.

“For the institutional crypto industry, it won’t change much as those who could leave already left and those who couldn’t have either closed or gone under the radar,” said George Zarya, CEO at digital asset prime brokerage and exchange BEQUANT. “The retail market most likely has gone under the radar and will continue to support market volumes.”

The biggest financial cost is to Chinese businesses involved in trading and mining cryptocurrencies.

Virtual currency mining had been big business in China before May, accounting for more than half the world’s crypto supply, but miners have been moving overseas.

“[China] will now lose around $6 billion worth of annual mining revenue, all of which will flow to the remaining global mining regions,” said Christopher Bendiksen, head of research at digital asset manager CoinShares, citing Kazakhstan, Russia and the United States as beneficiaries.

Crypto exchanges OKEx and Huobi, which originated in China but are now based overseas, are likely to be the worst affected since they still have some China users, analysts said. Tokens associated with the two exchanges plunged over 20 percent on Friday.

Despite all this disruption and loss of wealth, there is a major upside for China.

The Chinese government has repeatedly raised concerns that cryptocurrency speculation could disrupt the country’s economic and financial order, one of Beijing’s top priorities.

Most of all, cryptocurrencies are a threat to China’s sovereign digital yuan, which is at an advanced pilot stage. The People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, plans an official launch of the digital yuan as soon as 2022, following testing at the Winter Olympics.

Widespread use of the digital yuan would give Chinese policy makers greater visibility into how money flows around China’s economy.

This would help them track any illicit flows of funds, such as money laundering or terrorist financing, and it would also allow them to experiment by targeting monetary policy interventions on specific economic classes, regions or other groups.

However, by killing off independent cryptocurrencies, China closes off a huge area of financial innovation and risks reducing the dynamism of its economy in the future.


US supply chain woes to stretch into 2022, warns transport chief

In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
Updated 18 October 2021

US supply chain woes to stretch into 2022, warns transport chief

In this aerial file photo taken on October 14, 2021, trucks transport cargo containers at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
  • Pete Buttigieg says the supply side crunch was being exacerbated by extraordinary pent-up demand

WASHINGTON: The US transportation secretary on Sunday warned that America’s supply chain woes including clogged ports will drag into next year, potentially cramping the upcoming holiday shopping season in the world’s largest economy.
Pete Buttigieg did the rounds on US political talk shows to stress that President Joe Biden’s administration was doing everything it could to alleviate congestion at the country’s overloaded ports, railways and roads, and that the government will “re-evaluate all of our options” to relieve the bottlenecks.
But “a lot of the challenges that we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” the transport chief and former presidential candidate told CNN’s “State of the Union” show.
Buttigieg added that the supply side crunch was being exacerbated by extraordinary pent-up demand in the United States.
“Demand is off the charts, retail sales are through the roof,” he said, and the country’s transportation and shipping infrastructure has been unable to keep up.
With the Christmas holiday season gearing up as America’s coronavirus-battered economy rebounds, US retailers are taking unprecedented steps to try to navigate around myriad supply chain obstacles.
Biden recently announced a commitment by the Port of Los Angeles to begin 24-hour operations in an effort to ease congestion which has seen multiple cargo ships anchored off the coast awaiting opportunities to unload.
Analysts have pointed to knock-on effects through the US economy.
Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian, speaking to “Fox News Sunday” about the supply chain crunch, called it “the everything shortage.”
“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “So we’re going to have more shortages of goods, we’re going to have higher prices, inflation will remain in the four-to-five percent level. And it’s just going to take time to sort these things out.”
Congress meanwhile is grappling with passing two huge portions of Biden’s domestic agenda: a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to upgrade roads, bridges and ports, and his even bigger Build Back Better social spending program.
“We’ve got to get this done,” Buttigieg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The infrastructure bill has bipartisan support. But the massive package that expands the social safety net and addresses the climate crisis faces opposition from within the president’s own Democratic camp as well as from Republicans, pushing Biden to consider paring it back.


Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

Saudi Arabia gets a boost in maritime connectivity rankings

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia made impressive progress in maritime connectivity at the regional level, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development report for the third quarter of 2021.

The Kingdom achieved 70.68 points in the Maritime Connectivity Index, which is the highest in the region, said the report.

The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, has forged partnerships with operators and major international shipping lines to develop the Kingdom’s seaports and contribute to the national goal of transforming Saudi Arabia into a global logistics hub.

Omar bin Talal Hariri, president of Mawani, said the authority is proud of the achievement and will intensify its efforts to meet the aspirations of the Kingdom’s leadership.

The index includes several sub-indicators, most notably, the number of scheduled visits by ships to the country within a week, capacity of the ships in standard units, in addition to the number of regular service paths provided by shipping lines to and from the country.


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe

Updated 17 October 2021

UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


UAE-based Al Dahra to open 3 plants in Eastern Europe


RIYADH: Al Dhara Holding, an Abu Dhabi-based agricultural company, will establish five new animal feed plants in Eastern Europe.

The new plants will be established in Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. The new facilities are part of the company’s efforts to expand its horizons and diversify its sources of production.

The company has opened its first plant for compressing and drying animal feed in Serbia with a production capacity of 120,000 tons and storage capacity of 20,000 tons.

 


Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister
Updated 17 October 2021

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

Foreign investments in Egypt’s oil sector see 26.02% decline, says minister

CAIRO: Egypt's oil minister said on Sunday that foreign investments in the sector fell 26.02% to $5.4 billion in the financial year 2020-21, versus $7.3 billion a year earlier.

“The coronavirus crisis led to a slowdown in investments from international oil companies worldwide,” Tarek El Molla said in a speech to the Egyptian Petroleum Association. 


Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans
Updated 17 October 2021

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

Over 86,000 Saudi families benefit from Sakani subsidized loans

RIYADH: More than 86,000 Saudi families benefited from the Housing Ministry’s Sakani program subsidized real estate loans since the beginning of the year till September, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The program offers two types of subsidized loans, one for ready-made housing units and the other meant for under-construction buildings.

Of the total, 69,497 families benefited from the loan offered for ready-made housing units.

The Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund formed Sakani in 2017 to facilitate homeownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals, and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70 percent homeownership by 2030.

The program also launched new e-services to serve people effectively.