ASIA

Recent history (19th-21st Century)
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kmaherali
Posts: 25282
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: ASIA

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Why voters in southern India are more resistant to Modi’s Hindu-centric politics

CHENNAI, India (AP) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wielded near-total control over Indian politics since coming to power 10 years ago, with one exception: He has failed to win over the country’s wealthier southern region.

Five states across southern India account for roughly 20% of the country’s population and 30% of its economy. They are the heartbeat of India’s manufacturing and high-tech sectors. They are ethnically diverse and proudly multilingual. They empower women with educational and employment opportunities and have a long history of progressive politics.

Not one of them is controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party — a stark rejection of its Hindu-nationalist agenda that enjoys wide support in northern India.

The BJP is expected to win India’s election when results are announced in June, delivering Modi another five years as prime minister. But the odds are also high of strong resistance in the south. That would deny Modi his ambition of uniting all of India behind him and limit how far he can push the BJP agenda of promoting one religion and language over others.

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A boy holds a placard at a rally for Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party leader and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state, M. K. Stalin, in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of the southern Indian state of Kerala, speaks during a protest against the federal government in New Delhi, India, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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Supporters rest by a large cut out of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state, M. K. Stalin, following an election rally in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“If you conceive of a Hindi-speaking, unified civilization as the reason you exist, then that becomes a significant barrier for you to cross,” data scientist and political analyst Neelakantan R.S. said.

Voters and leaders of India’s southern states have different needs than their counterparts in the north, which is more rural and populous. One thing they want is greater recognition from the Modi government of the key role their region plays in advancing the country’s economy.

They feel their outsized contribution to India’s tax base is betrayed by Modi’s preferential treatment for poorer northern states, which receive a disproportionate amount of government funds for development projects and social welfare programs.

INDIA ELECTION 2024
FILE- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sandalwood paste and vermilion applied on his forehead during the inauguration of Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, a promenade that connects the Ganges River with the centuries-old temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva in Varanasi, India, Dec. 13, 2021. Hindu nationalism, once a fringe ideology in India, is now mainstream. Nobody has done more to advance this cause than Modi, one of India’s most beloved and polarizing political leaders. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh, File)
Once a fringe Indian ideology, Hindu nationalism is now mainstream, thanks to Modi’s decade in power
This combo photograph shows Indian voters, top row left to right, Raj Sud, 94, Niranjan Kapasi, 89 , Kuldip Chadha, 79, Ajay Sud, 63, Dhiren Singh, 58, and in second row, left to right, Ajay Jasra, 56, Retha Singh, 49, Shruti Sud, 34, Manya Sachdev, 22 and Anita Jasra, 18, as they talk to the Associated Press about the national elections, in New Delhi, India, March 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
What’s on the voters’ minds as India heads into a 6-week national election
Polling officials and security personnel headed to a remote polling booth travel on a boat to cross the river Brahmaputra on the eve of parliament election at Baghmora Chapori (small island) of Majuli, northeastern Assam, India, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Ferrying voting machines to mountains and tropical areas in Indian elections is a Herculean task
Modi’s injection of religion into politics only exacerbates tensions with many southern voters.

Despite the strong opposition, Modi is campaigning aggressively in the south. His goal is for the BJP to win enough seats in the lower house of parliament to secure a two-thirds majority. That much power could embolden the party to try changing the constitution to serve its Hindu-centric goals, political analyst Kavitha Muralidharan said.

“A super majority is what they need to launch a full-scale, pan-India, Hindutva experiment,” Muralidharan said, referring to the century-old ideology guiding Modi.

MODI’S SOUTHERN STRATEGY

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FILE- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi displays the Bharatiya Janata Party symbol during an election road show in the southern Indian city of Chennai, India, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (AP Photo/File)

Modi has made some 20 trips this year to five southern states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. They control roughly a quarter of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament — and if the BJP can win just a few more than the 29 seats it won from these states in 2019, its super majority is within reach.

But experts are skeptical this will happen because southern voters have deep connections to regional political parties that have dominated for decades and are the BJP’s toughest electoral opponents nationwide.

Modi is heavily focused on the southernmost state, Tamil Nadu, where the BJP did not win any of its 39 seats up for grabs in the 2019 election.

On a recent visit there, Modi wore the region’s traditional white silk garment -- a veshti -- wrapped around his lower body, and he used artificial intelligence software to have his speeches translated in real-time from Hindi to Tamil.

“As the world’s oldest language, Tamil fills us with immense pride,” Modi said recently, making an apparent effort to tamp down rumors that the BJP wants to impose the Hindi language on the state.

Still, Dileep Kumar, a computer engineer in Bengaluru, said voters in Tamil Nadu are wary. “I can’t go and say to a Hindi guy, brother, please quit your Hindi and start talking in Tamil. That’s not going to work, will it?” he said.

One BJP candidate running for parliament in the state’s capital of Chennai believes the party has its best shot in years at gaining support.

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Supporters welcome Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party candidate Thamizhachi Thangapandian, riding an open-roofed tuk-tuk, during an election roadshow in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Tamilisai Soundararajan, center, holds up a sword during an election campaign rally in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“His frequent visits are helping us,” Tamilisai Soundararajan said. “People here were electrified when they saw the prime minister.”

But the incumbent she’s up against is doubtful. Hindu-centric politics won’t resonate in a place with a long history of social justice and equal rights movements, said Thamizhachi Thangapandian, a retired college professor who is a member of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, the BJP’s strongest rival in Tamil Nadu.

The beat of drums and firecrackers welcomed Thangapandian as she greeted voters recently riding an open-roofed tuk-tuk through Chennai’s alleyways. The achievements of her party blared through a set of speakers, including a reference to keeping out the “religion crazy” BJP.

Modi routinely mentions on the campaign trail the recent construction of a Hindu temple atop a razed mosque, but the issue doesn’t animate voters in southern India like it does elsewhere.

Southern India is home to some of the country’s most visited temples and has millions of Hindu devotees. What sets it apart, experts say, is that religion hasn’t been weaponized for political gain.

“People are religious here,” said Muralidharan, the political analyst. “But it doesn’t convert into a frenzy.”

Devotees perform rituals inside Mylapore temple in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 15, 2024. Southern India is home to some of the country's most visited temples and has millions of Hindu devotees. What sets it apart, experts say, is that religion hasn't been weaponized for political gain. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
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Devotees perform rituals inside Mylapore temple in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Flower vendors set up their shops as devotees walk outside Mylapore temple in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 15, 2024. Southern India is home to some of the country's most visited temples and has millions of Hindu devotees. What sets it apart, experts say, is that religion hasn't been weaponized for political gain. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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Flower vendors set up their shops as devotees walk outside Mylapore temple in the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 15, 2024. AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The BJP’s religious zealotry makes leaders in the region nervous because of its potential to create a “disturbance to the peace” in a place with a global reputation as a good place to do business, said G Sundarrajan, a robotics entrepreneur in Chennai, where Hyundai and Foxconn (the maker of Apple iPhones) have located factories.

“Investors prefer Tamil Nadu precisely because its peaceful, has a large educated labor force and support from local government,” he said.

Modi tempers his Hindu-nationalist rhetoric while visiting the south, focusing his speeches instead on economics. For example, he has promised to build a high-speed rail line that would run through southern India and to help develop fisheries and auto manufacturing.

TENSION OVER REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH

The economy of southern India is more industrialized than the north, its cities are more urbanized, and its youth are more educated.

Southern Indian cities have also become a magnet for global technology companies seeking to diversify beyond China, including Apple and Google. The vast potential for India’s economy, now the world’s fifth-largest, is a point of pride for Modi.

But political leaders in southern India feel short-changed by Modi.

Tamil Nadu, India’s second-wealthiest state, receives far less in return for every rupee in taxes it pays compared with poorer northern states like Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, which receive government investments equal to two or three times the amount they pay in taxes.

This tension over the redistribution of wealth from south to north existed long before Modi came to power. But the BJP has made it worse.

Southern leaders believe Modi’s priorities lie in the north, where he derives the bulk of his support. They worry that the BJP government will snatch away even more decision-making power from states if their majority grows, said Muralidharan.

Southern leaders have protested against the Modi government for holding up development funding, for misusing federal agencies to target political opponents in the region, and for not sending enough emergency relief after natural disasters.

And they believe their fight against the BJP and Modi is existential.

“In southern India, the threat of being reduced to a vassal state is a serious problem,” said Neelakantan, the political analyst.

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Giant cutouts of opposition political party leaders tower over supporters during a rally, on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Chennai, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
kmaherali
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: ASIA

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Global Tensions and a Hostile Neighbor Await Taiwan’s New Leader

President Lai Ching-te has pledged to stay on his predecessor’s narrow path of resisting Beijing without provoking it. It won’t be easy.

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President Lai Ching-te of Taiwan taking his oath during the inauguration ceremony in Taipei on Monday.Credit...Chi Chih-Hsiang/Taipei News Photographer Association, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Taiwan’s president, Lai Ching-te, was sworn into office on Monday, vowing to keep the island democracy safe in the face of Chinese pressure and wars raging abroad that have fed uncertainty over Western staying power.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Lai was by turns conciliatory and unyielding on how the island should preserve its brittle peace with China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. He said he hoped to hold talks with Beijing. But he set out broad conditions that China’s leaders were unlikely to accept and vowed that Taiwan would keep building ties with fellow democracies as it fortified against China’s military buildup.

Taiwan must not “harbor any delusions,” Mr. Lai said.

“Even if we were to accept China’s proposals in their entirety and forsake sovereignty, China’s attempts to swallow up Taiwan would not disappear,” he said. “In the face of the many threats and attempts of infiltration from China, we must demonstrate our resolution to defend our nation.”

The Chinese government’s office for Taiwanese affairs quickly denounced Mr. Lai’s speech, accusing him of “inciting antagonism and confrontation across the strait.”

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The image of a man in a suit is projected on two screens before a giant crowd of people, many wearing white bucket hats.
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Mr. Lai waving to the inauguration crowd on Monday. China denounced his inaugural speech as “inciting antagonism” amid continued tensions between Beijing and Taipei.Credit...Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Many Taiwanese people want stable relations with Beijing, and want Mr. Lai’s government to focus on fixing Taiwan’s economic and social ills. But even with strong bipartisan support from Washington, Taiwan faces a more perilous world, and a more powerful China, than when Mr. Lai’s predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen, took office in 2016.

Back then, the hard-line policies of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, were starting to galvanize Western opposition. Now Western nations are also weighed down by wars in Ukraine and the Middle East; Mr. Xi has been seeking to weaken American-led alliances forged against China; and the United States’ looming elections are adding to uncertainty about the direction of its foreign policy.

“It’s a much more fraught international environment for Lai in 2024 than Tsai in 2016,” said Kharis Templeman, a research fellow who studies Taiwanese politics at the Hoover Institution, a think tank at Stanford University. “The war in Ukraine, China’s turn toward even greater domestic repression, the deterioration in U.S.-China relations, and the last eight years of cross-strait hostility put Lai in a more difficult position.”

A woman in a gray suit and a man in a blue suit wave from behind a row of flowers. A man in military dress stands between them.
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Tsai Ing-wen, the former president of Taiwan, and Mr. Lai during his inauguration on Monday. Mr. Lai ascends to office amid a far different geopolitical mood than during Ms. Tsai’s time.Credit...Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Long before Mr. Lai took office, Beijing made plain that it dislikes him even more than it did Ms. Tsai. Chinese officials often cite a remark he made in 2017 in which he called himself a “pragmatic worker for Taiwanese independence.” Mr. Lai’s supporters say that he meant Taiwan should exercise self-rule without seeking formal independence. That qualification does not mollify China, and it again called him a “worker for Taiwanese independence” on Monday.

In his speech, Mr. Lai called for dialogue with leaders in Beijing — based on accepting Taiwan as a sovereign equal, still officially called the Republic of China. He also urged both sides to agree on reviving tourism between them, and allowing Chinese students to attend Taiwanese universities.

But Mr. Xi was unlikely to accept Mr. Lai’s conditions for talks, said Amanda Hsiao, the senior analyst for China with the International Crisis Group, which seeks to defuse conflicts. China froze high-level contacts with Taiwan after Ms. Tsai took office in 2016, accusing her of failing to endorse a “consensus” that Taiwan and the mainland are part of one China, Beijing’s condition for talks.

“The two sides are far away from a basis for dialogue that both sides can accept,” Ms. Hsiao said. “The utility of these formulations lies in their very ambiguity, but Lai seems to be saying that without more gestures of sincerity from Beijing, the cost of accepting such ambiguity is too high.”

In the coming weeks and months, China may step up military and trade pressure on Taiwan to try to weaken Mr. Lai’s presidency. It has maintained a steady presence of fighter jets near the island and more recently has sent coast guard ships near Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island near the Chinese mainland, moves aimed at intimidating while stopping short of a conflict that could draw in Washington.

But Mr. Xi’s desire to stabilize relations with Washington and focus on repairing China’s economy has reduced his willingness to risk a crisis. And Beijing is also likely to wait for the result of the U.S. presidential election late this year before considering big steps on Taiwan.

“Lai’s speech isn’t going to launch a P.R.C. amphibious invasion of Taiwan, but it’s not going to change Xi Jinping’s conviction that Lai is a dangerous ‘worker for independence’,” Daniel Russel, a former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said of the likely reaction from the People’s Republic of China, or P.R.C.

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Two people, one carrying a small child, walk along a sidewalk past a wall with a large sign that reads, “American Institute in Taiwan.”
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The American Institute in Taiwan.Credit...Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

American support remains vital for Taiwan’s ability to counter China’s military pressure. Mr. Lai used his speech to promote Taiwan’s global significance — as a frontline in countering China, as a trade and technology power, and as an exemplary democracy.

“The future of cross-strait relations will have a decisive impact on the world,” he said. “This means that we, who have inherited a democratic Taiwan, are pilots for peace.”

Congress recently approved a supplemental spending package that released $8.1 billion of military aid for Taiwan and for enhancing the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Vessels from the U.S. and Taiwanese navies also held a joint military exercise in the Pacific last month, Taiwan’s ministry of defense said last week.

“Peace through strength is going to be his main posture on cross-strait relations,” Wen-Ti Sung, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub who analyzes Taiwanese politics, said of Mr. Lai.

There is increasingly sharp debate in Taiwan about how much the United States can help build up the island’s military in the next few years while still addressing Russia’s war in Ukraine and Israel’s offensive in Gaza, neither of which is expected to end soon.

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Armored vehicles full of soldiers in camouflage drive through a dusty area with trees in the background.
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Anti-landing military drills in the Bali district of Taiwan last year.Credit...Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Taiwan’s backlog of undelivered orders of arms and military equipment from the United States had grown to nearly $20 billion by late April, according to estimates from Eric Gomez and Benjamin Giltner of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank. The additional funds that Congress recently approved for Taiwan would be “helpful, but not a silver bullet,” Mr. Gomez said in an email.

Mr. Lai’s opponents in Taiwan say that he risks driving the island down a security dead end — unable to talk with Beijing and yet ill prepared for any confrontation. Fu Kun-chi, a Nationalist Party member of Taiwan’s legislature who recently visited China, pointed to Ukraine as a warning.

“Since ancient times, people from a small country or region have not gone up against the biggest country next door for a fight,” Mr. Fu said in an interview. “Would it really be in the interest of Americans to have a war across the Taiwan Strait? I really don’t think so, and for the United States to face three battlefields at the same time, is it possible?”

The political divisions that could drag on Mr. Lai’s administration were on raucous display last week in the chamber, called the Legislative Yuan. Lawmakers from the rival parties shoved, shouted and brawled over proposed new rules about scrutinizing government officials. Opponents of the rules have called for demonstrations on Tuesday.

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A confused scene of many people, some in matching blue vests, milling around and pushing or shoving one another.
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Taiwan lawmakers arguing during a parliamentary session in Taipei on Friday.Credit...Ann Wang/Reuters

Mr. Lai won a three-way race for the presidency in January with a little over 40 percent of the vote. A former doctor with a humble background, Mr. Lai also pledged to take on domestic problems such as a growing wealth gap and rising costs for housing.

But Mr. Lai could find it hard to push through his agenda, with the two main opposition parties holding the majority of seats in the legislature. In his speech, he called for the rival parties to work together.

“There is nothing he can do as president if the Legislative Yuan is stuck in brawls,” said Lev Nachman, a political scientist at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “He has to find a way to get them to cooperate. If he cannot, then nothing else matters.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/19/worl ... 778d3e6de3
kmaherali
Posts: 25282
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: ASIA

Post by kmaherali »

China Has a Plan for Its Housing Crisis. Here’s Why It’s Not Enough.

A new approach by China’s top leaders is bold but pales against the problem: a vast number of empty apartments no one wants to buy.


The abandoned shells of several unfinished apartment towers with weeds growing in a path between them.
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An abandoned construction site in Weifang, China, last October.Credit...Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
Alexandra Stevenson
By Alexandra Stevenson
Reporting from Hong Kong

China has a housing problem. A very big one. It has nearly four million apartments that no one wants to buy, a combined expanse of unwanted living space roughly the area of Philadelphia.

Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, and his deputies have called on the government to buy them.

The plan, announced last week, is the boldest move yet by Beijing to stop the tailspin of a housing crisis that threatens one of the world’s biggest economies. It was also not nearly enough.

China has a bigger problem lurking behind all those empty apartments: even more homes that developers already sold but have not finished building. By one conservative estimate, that figure is around 10 million apartments.

The scale of China’s real estate boom was breathtaking. The extent of its unrelenting bust, which began nearly four years ago, remains vast and unclear.

China’s leaders were already managing a slowdown after three decades of double-digit growth before the housing crisis created a downturn that is spiraling out of their control. Few experts believe that Beijing can transition to more sustainable growth without confronting all those empty apartments and the developers that overextended to build them. All told, trillions of dollars are owed to builders, painters, real estate agents, small companies and banks around the country.

After decades of promoting the biggest real estate boom the world has ever seen, and allowing it to become nearly one-third of China’s economic growth, Beijing stepped in suddenly in 2020 to cut off the easy money that fueled the expansion, setting off a chain of bankruptcies that shocked a nation of home buyers.

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People looking at a map on a wall showing a planned housing construction project.
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A map of a construction project in Nantong, China.Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times

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A man wearing a cap with his back to a series of apartment towers, some of them with construction cranes on top.
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A new residential development in Wuhan, China.Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times

It was the first test of Beijing’s determination to wean China’s economy off its decades-long dependence on building and construction to sustain the economy.

Now the government is confronting another test of its resolve. To stop the excesses of the past, it signaled over the last few years that no real estate company was too big to fail. But as dozens of big developers have gone bust, they have obliterated any confidence that remained in the housing market. Officials have since tried everything to restore optimism among buyers. Nothing has worked.


With few buyers, developers that are still standing are also on the brink of default. And they are intricately connected to local banks and the financial system that underpins the government in every village, town and city. One recent estimate, from the research firm Rhodium Group, put the real estate sector’s entire domestic borrowings, including loans and bonds, at more than $10 trillion, of which only a tiny portion have been recognized.

“Right now, not being able to sell homes looks like a risk, but it isn’t. More developers going bankrupt is,” said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank. The first big developers to default, like China Evergrande, were problems hiding in plain sight.

Evergrande’s initial default in December 2021 set off fears of China’s own “Lehman moment,” a reference to the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which set off a global financial meltdown. The fallout, however, was carefully and quietly managed through policy support that let Evergrande finish building many apartments. By the time a judge ordered the company to be liquidated five months ago, Evergrande had effectively ceased being a viable business.

But China has tens of thousands of smaller developers around the country. The only way for officials to stop the free fall in the market, Ms. Wang said, is to bail out some midsize developers in cities where the crisis is more acute.

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A person in a sales office looking down at a model of a construction project.
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A sales office of a residential project in Nantong.Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times

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A police officer wearing dark pants and a light blue shirt and cap addressing a group of people gathered in front of an office building while a group of offices look on.
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A police officer talking to people gathered outside China Evergrande’s office building in Shenzhen in 2021.Credit...Noel Celis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s top leaders are instead refocusing the lens to address the millions of apartments that no one wants to buy, pledging to turn them into social housing at lower rents. They have committed $41.5 billion to help fund loans for state-owned companies to start buying unwanted property — altogether equivalent to eight billion square feet, of which a little more than four billion square feet is unsold apartments, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

When Beijing’s response was announced last week, shares in developers initially rallied. But some critics said the initiative had come too late. And most speculated that it would take a lot more money. Estimates ranged from $280 billion to $560 billion.

Officials in Beijing began softening their approach last year. They directed banks to funnel loans and other financing to dozens of real estate companies they deemed good enough to be on a government “white list.”

The support was not enough to stop housing prices from crashing.

Policymakers pulled other levers. They made their biggest cut ever to mortgage rates. They tried pilot programs to get residents to trade in old apartments and buy new ones. They even offered cheap loans to some cities to test out the idea of buying unsold apartments.

In all, local authorities tried out more than 300 measures to increase sales and bolster real estate companies, according to Caixin, a Chinese economic news outlet.

Still, the number of unsold homes continued to reach new levels. Prices of new homes kept falling. So at the end of April, Mr. Xi and his 23 top policymakers began to discuss the idea of taking some of those unwanted apartments off the market in a program not unlike the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which the U.S. government set up in the wake of the American housing market crash.

Last week, China’s most senior official in charge of the economy, Vice Premier He Lifeng, convened an online gathering of officials from across the country and delivered the news: It was time to start buying apartments. Not long after, the central bank loosened rules for mortgages and the central bank promised to make billions of dollars available to help state-owned companies buy apartments.

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A group of towers at a residential property development.
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A residential development in Wuhan.Credit...Qilai Shen for The New York Times

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He Lifeng sitting at a desk flanked by two other men, all wearing dark suits, white shirts and ties.
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Vice Premier He Lifeng, China’s most senior official in charge of the economy, convened a gathering of officials last week to announce the new approach.Credit...Tingshu Wang/Reuters

The move underscored just how worried the government had become about the dysfunctions in the housing market.

Yet almost as soon as state media reported Mr. He’s call on local governments to buy unsold apartments, economists started asking questions.

Would local governments be expected to buy all the unsold apartments? What if they, in turn, could not find buyers? And there was the price tag: Economists calculated that such a program should be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, not tens of billions.

More worryingly, to some, the central bank had already quietly started an apartment buyback program for eight hard-hit cities, committing $14 billion in cheap loans, of which only $280 million had been used. Those governments did not appear to be interested in using the loans for the same reason that consumers did not want to buy houses in smaller cities.

One big difference now, said John Lam, the head of China property research at UBS, the Swiss bank, is political will. The country’s most powerful leaders have said they stand behind a buyback plan. That will put political pressure on officials to act.

“The local government can acquire the apartments at a loss,” Mr. Lam said.

Yet in places where the population is shrinking, which are some of the same cities and towns where developers expanded most aggressively, there will be little need for social housing projects.

The optimistic view is that Beijing has more planned.

“Beijing is headed in the right direction with regard to ending the epic housing crisis,” Ting Lu, chief China economist at the Japanese bank Nomura, wrote in an email to clients.

The task, he added, was a daunting one that required “more patience when awaiting more draconian measures.”

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A wide and dark corridor between unfinished apartment towers.
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An abandoned Evergrande commercial complex in Beijing.Credit...Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/24/busi ... 778d3e6de3
kmaherali
Posts: 25282
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

Re: ASIA

Post by kmaherali »

Modi Struggles to Stay on Top: 4 Takeaways From India’s Election

The prime minister will keep his job, but his aura has been diminished and his leadership has fundamentally changed as the country’s multiparty democracy springs back to life.

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Narendra Modi addressed his supporters at the B.J.P. headquarters after his third-term victory in New Delhi.Credit...Atul Loke for The New York Times

Narendra Modi’s first decade as India’s prime minister came with its fair share of surprises. None, however, looked anything like what happened on Tuesday morning when he won his second re-election, but lost his party’s majority in Parliament.

With that loss, Mr. Modi’s air of invincibility also appeared to be fading for the first time since he took office in 2014.

The election results were especially shocking because, after nearly seven sweaty weeks of voting across the country, exit polls released just days before the final tally showed that Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would win in a landslide, as it had twice before.

Instead, the Bharatiya Janata Party won only 240 seats, well short of the 272 needed to form a government. The opposition alliance, led by the Indian National Congress Party, took 235 seats.

With the 52 seats won by B.J.P. allies, Mr. Modi will remain on top. But his allure has been diminished, and his leadership has fundamentally changed.

Modi’s air of invincibility was punctured.

When Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, he promised economic progress, an end to corruption and to promote Hinduism as being central to India’s identity. Through it all, he presented himself as a uniquely strong leader, capable of marshaling his followers to work for the nation.

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A crowed of mostly men inside of a room. A small TV his hanging in the back.
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Supporters of the Congress Party during a vote count.Credit...Atul Loke for The New York Times

This was in contrast to the previous government. Before Mr. Modi was first elected, India spent 25 years being governed by coalitions. Prime ministers from the Congress Party, the B.J.P. and smaller third parties took turns running India by committee. Mr. Modi broke with that tradition, leading a new single-party system dominated by the B.J.P.

As leader, Mr. Modi showed little interest in sharing power. When he invalidated most of India’s paper currency in 2016, not even his finance minister knew about the decision in advance. When he decided to impose de facto martial law on Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, he presented the plan to Parliament as a done deal, without seeking approval.

But those days are over.

The two biggest parties that have emerged as the B.J.P.’s new coalition partners are led by N. Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar, veteran lawmakers who are known as technocratic moderates. Both are likely to demand greater authority in Parliament. In fact, both have been eyed as possible candidates for prime minister, if there were to be another coalition led by neither the B.J.P. nor the Congress.

India’s political map was remade overnight.

When the first nationwide electoral maps showing the number of seats gained and lost in Parliament were revealed on Tuesday, they showed a striking new pattern.

The maps showed that Mr. Modi’s party lost swaths of territory across states in the Hindi-speaking north that were considered B.J.P. strongholds.

At the same time, the B.J.P. made inroads in regions that had resisted Mr. Modi in the past. He lost dozens of seats in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, but he gained plenty in the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Telangana.

The only part of the country that now looks unified by one party is the “tribal belt,” which weaves across the central states. Its relatively poor communities have been skillfully targeted by the B.J.P.’s Hindu-first politics and welfare benefits.

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A motorbike blurs by a line of campaign posters.
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Maps showed that Mr. Modi’s party lost swaths of territory across states in the Hindi-speaking north that were considered B.J.P. strongholds.Credit...Atul Loke for The New York Times

India’s Wall Street twisted and turned.

Investors in India’s stock markets in Mumbai responded eagerly to the early exit polls. On Monday, they went on a buying spree, driving up the prices of so-called Modi stocks, those associated with the prime minister’s spending priorities or thought to benefit from his fiscal policies.

When the actual vote results were counted, those stocks came crashing down. Shares in the Adani Group’s flagship stock lost about 19 percent of their value in one day of trading. The blue-chip index lost about 6 percent, nearly wiping out its gains from the first five months of the year.

Mr. Modi remains popular with India’s business tycoons, but investors need to find out which companies will stand to benefit from a new government.

Chris Wood, the global head of equity strategy at Jefferies, an investment bank, warned last year that if Mr. Modi were to lose he “would expect a 25 percent correction, if not more” in the Indian stock market. Historically, Indian companies have done just as well during periods of coalition government. So, Mr. Wood said, even without Mr. Modi in power, he expects stocks to “bounce back sharply” based on the strength of the country’s economy as a whole.

Coalition politics are back — expect a game of musical chairs.

This new era in Parliament is sure to begin with a few rounds of political retribution. Politicians who failed to deliver seats for their bosses will be shown the door. Smaller parties are likely to demand cabinet positions, which will mean replacing members of the B.J.P.

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A man sitting with his arms raised is surrounded by a band that includes brass players and percussionists.
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B.J.P. supporters celebrated outside party headquarters after seeing early results. Mr. Modi called the election a “celebration of democracy.”Credit...Atul Loke for The New York Times

Policies will need to be revised. Will India lean into export manufacturing, aiming to replace China as the world’s factory? Will it move to protect local industries that fear foreign competition?

Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, cautioned that India cannot exactly return to the coalition politics that preceded Mr. Modi. His new partners are likely to make demands that match the authoritarian style Mr. Modi exercises from New Delhi.

The kind of state leaders he now needs as coalition partners “are just as absolutist as the national government,” Mr. Vaishnav said. They could, for instance, call for federal police agencies to arrest opponents, as Mr. Modi has done.

India’s election was the biggest conducted in the history of democracy, with more than 600 million voters casting ballots in six phases. This time, there were no complaints about the electronic voting machines, or fears that India had become a dictatorship under Mr. Modi.

In a difficult speech delivered on Tuesday night from the B.J.P. headquarters, Mr. Modi called the election a “celebration of democracy.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/04/worl ... 778d3e6de3
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