All Newspaper editorials in one place – February 10, 2024





February 10, 2024

Prudence prevails

Policymakers must continue to keep the focus on slowing price gains


The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has prudently opted to persist with its objective of ‘ensuring that inflation progressively aligns to the target’ by keeping benchmark interest rates unchanged, and sticking with its stance of ‘withdrawal of accommodation’. With a 5-1 majority, it has committed to keeping monetary policy unambiguously disinflationary so as to anchor inflation expectations, especially at a time when ‘large and repetitive price shocks are interrupting the pace of disinflation’. On the rationale to leave the repo rate unchanged at 6.5% for a sixth straight meeting, Governor Shaktikanta Das observed that while domestic economic momentum remained strong, uncertainties in food prices continued to impinge on the headline inflation trajectory. The tangible risk that food price pressures could become more generalised and impact broader headline inflation was the main consideration, he explained. That the majority of the MPC was aligned in prioritising the battle against inflation needs to be seen in the backdrop of the recent trends in retail inflation. Headline retail inflation, which had eased from July’s 15-month peak of 7.4% to 4.87% in October, however, rebounded to a four-month high of 5.69% in December, with food price gains gauged by the Consumer Food Price Index racing ahead to 9.53%, a sizeable 292 basis points faster than October’s 6.61%.


That the uncertainty surrounding food price gains has begun to vex policymakers is reflected in a recent RBI Bulletin article that pointedly sought to find an answer to the question, ‘Are Food Prices the ‘True’ Core of India’s Inflation?’. Concluding that there is enough empirical evidence to support an assertion that ‘there are times when food inflation mimics core inflation’, the officials caution that given food’s substantial share in the consumption basket, large and repeated food price shocks have the potential to ripple outward and undermine the goal of price stability by de-anchoring inflation expectations. The MPC’s downward revision of its projection for average retail inflation in the January-March quarter to 5.0%, 20 basis points lower than its December forecast, reflects the small comfort policymakers have taken from the improvement in rabi sowing as well as a seasonal correction in vegetable prices. Still, the Department of Consumer Affairs’ daily price monitoring dashboard shows the average retail price of more than two-thirds of the key food items it tracks remained higher on a year-on-year basis as on February 8. Policymakers need to stay steadfast in their resolve to durably slow price gains towards the 4% target or risk dampening consumption and thereby undermining the growth momentum.






February 10, 2024

A failed coup

Lula should not allow the case against Bolsonaro to fracture Brazil’s polity


Brazilian police’s startling allegations that former President Jair Bolsonaro, his allies and some military officers had attempted to stage a coup, after the 2022 presidential election, expose both the structural fault lines and political challenges the young South American democracy faces. The police adds that they were involved in spreading propaganda on voter fraud, pushing for new elections, recruiting troops to organise a coup, bringing judges under surveillance and encouraging the mob to stage protests defying the results. Well before the elections, Mr. Bolsonaro had raised doubts about the election systems. He had refused to concede defeat to his leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, while his far-right supporters continued their protests, which culminated in the January 2023 riots at Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential office. A court has ordered Mr. Bolsonaro to surrender his passport, and three of his allies and the head of his party have been arrested. The far-right leader, under whose watch Brazil’s economy tanked, social tensions rose, the health-care system crumbled under the weight of COVID-19, and institutions came under attack, says the allegations are politically motivated. But he does not have an easy way out of the mess.


Those who were in power being targeted by the system is nothing new in Brazil. Former leftist President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016 on charges of violating budget rules. Lula, the incumbent President, spent 580 days in jail between his terms, on a corruption conviction, which was later annulled by the Supreme Court. While Ms. Rousseff and Lula were accused of corruption and fell prey to the powerful lobbies in Brazil’s Congress and judiciary, the charges against Mr. Bolsonaro, a defender of the brutal dictatorship of 1964-1985, are far more serious. Democracy remains fragile and for the military, memories of the dictatorship are still fresh. Any attempt by politicians or officers to defy the election process and undermine democracy should be dealt with utmost seriousness. But it should be done as per the law, avoiding political vendetta. Lula returned to power on promises that he would strengthen democracy and enable prosperity and growth. His hands are full. He should also make sure that there are impartial investigations and the truth about the riots and the alleged coup plot is uncovered. Earlier, the ‘car wash’ scandal had exposed deep-rooted corruption in the political system, which led to the weakening of Lula’s Workers’ Party and the rise of the far- right. He should not allow the coup scandal to further fracture the country’s polity and erode the legitimacy of its democratic system.






February 10, 2024

Let them live

Uttarakhand code is flawed. Its measures on live-in relationships violate rights of citizens, they need to go


The framing of a common set of personal laws to regulate marriage and its annulment, adoption, succession and inheritance across religions in a diverse country is necessarily a fraught exercise. It has been complicated further, in recent years, by the insularity of identity politics and its demands for an imposed top-down homogenisation. This is why discussions on Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code (UCC), passed by the state assembly on Wednesday, that will spur similar legislation in other BJP-ruled states — common civil code being one of BJP’s three “core” issues, along with the Ayodhya Ram temple and abrogation of Article 370, with the latter two accomplished — necessitated a layered consideration of the task at hand. It also required great sensitivity, to ensure that the concerns of minorities are heard, and heeded. In its espousal of equal property rights for men and women, striking down the concept of illegitimacy for children and raising the age for marriage for both men and women, the UCC shows foresight, even if these measures leave loose ends. Where it fails, completely and strikingly, is in its twisted vision on relationships that extend beyond marriage. In that, its policy framework shows a distressing lack of inclusivity and an unprecedented intrusion into the private lives of individuals by the state.


The attempt to institutionalise live-in relationships — interpreted by the Bill as a “relationship between a man and a woman” who “cohabit in a shared household through a relationship in the nature of marriage…” — through compulsory registration, shows a moralising highhandedness that arrogates to the state the power to police citizens’ “bad intentions”. Applicable to those living in Uttarakhand as well as residents of Uttarakhand elsewhere in the country, and with provisions of penalty, including jail term, for a failure to register the initiation and end of such relationships, it puts all couples at risk. A state official has argued that this is a safety measure to prevent heinous crimes committed in live-in relationships. That’s a ridiculous argument — hard cases make bad law and, anyway, the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has enough provisions to address crime in this context.


In an election year, the political messaging behind the UCC is hard to ignore. Yet, the government needs to, first of all, listen to itself. The dissonance between the ham-handed provisions of the Uttarakhand UCC and the Narendra Modi government’s repeated stress on youth- and women-led development is jarring. As recently as December 2023, the PM had spoken of four “castes” that mattered the most: Poor, youth, women and farmers. At the launch of Viksit Bharat@2047, he reiterated that “Yuva shakti is both the agent of change and also the beneficiaries of change”. The provisions of the Uttarakhand UCC are out of step with that vision. The right of two consenting adults to decide if they wish to live together — without being married — is a foundational principle of a free society. It is liberating and empowering for women — and men — as they create their own safe personal spaces. The Uttarakhand law yokes their privacy, choice and freedom to a state-determined notion of acceptability. The UCC in Uttarakhand must be reconsidered urgently — as a first step, Section 378 that sets the terms for live-in relationships, needs to go.






February 10, 2024

Everyone in

Enabling persons with disabilities to more easily access the cinema experience is a step in the right direction


Eight years after a landmark piece of legislation enshrined the rights of all persons with disabilities (PwDs) “to participate in recreational activities equally with others”, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on January 8, issued its draft “Guidelines of Accessibility Standards in the Public Exhibition of Feature Films in Cinema Theatres for Persons with Hearing and Visual Impairment”. The guidelines, for which stakeholder comments are invited till February 15, constitute another welcome step towards ensuring that an experience that most movie buffs take for granted can be accessed by a section of Indians who continue to be largely excluded from it. They carry forward the spirit of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act of 2016.


According to estimates of the World Health Organisation, approximately 84 million Indians are deaf and hard of hearing and 75 million are blind and visually impaired. There has long been a demand for making the movie-going experience more accessible to them. Efforts by organisations, such as the Delhi-based NGO Saksham, and a handful of willing collaborators in the industry, like actor-producer Aamir Khan, have resulted in some films in the last couple of decades, such as Dangal and Munnabhai MBBS, having features like audio description, subtitles and closed captions. The draft guidelines require producers to deliver two versions of a film for certification by the CBFC, including one with accessibility features enabled, and call on theatres to schedule special shows for PwDs and the use of special equipment and mobile apps. Such steps can help make accessibility the norm as is the case in countries such as the US and UK. In the UK, theatres have seats into which a visually impaired viewer’s headphones may be plugged so that she can hear the audio description of the film being played.


In December 2022, the Supreme Court formed a committee to make the court more disabled-friendly and has recently released a handbook for combating stereotypes about PwDs. Last year, the government made it mandatory for digital offerings to meet the standards set under the RPwD Act. Enabling PwDs to more easily access and savour one of India’s most beloved art forms, a globally exported cultural product and significant source of soft power — cinema — is yet another step in the right direction.






February 10, 2024

A Messi thing

A no-show escalates into a global row. It’s just another day in the life of a mega-star


Half the world worships the five foot seven man in the pink jacket, leaning against the side of the wall in the Inter Miami dugout, in the exhibition game against Hong Kong XI. It seems as if the whole of Hong Kong has come to the stadium, to get a glimpse of Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer ever. Every second, the spectators pray for him to stride onto the pitch and dazzle them. But he doesn’t. He warms his heels on the bench for the duration of the game. The crowd can bear it no longer. Messi is booed. Refunds for ticket demanded. The Chinese government intervenes and demands a replay where Messi would play.


A “no show” had escalated into a global hellfire. Miami’s coach Gerardo Martino would later say that the Argentinian was unfit. Messi apologised, but the fire still rages. It’s unlikely that Messi would have been booed anywhere in the world. Even in Brazil, the land of his country’s bitter football rivals, or in Madrid, the home of El Clasico antagonists Real Madrid in his Barcelona days, he would not have been subject to such unkind behaviour. But Messi would know that all that is part of being Messi, the price of his excellence and fame. He would know, from experience, how cruel and fickle the world of fans is. It took him decades to win the love of his own countrymen, who regarded him as an outsider because he never played professional football in Argentina, joining Barcelona’s La Masia Academy when he had barely reached adolescence.


Messi is neither the first celebrity to be booed, he will not be the last. Closer home, Sachin Tendulkar was jeered when he got out cheaply in a Test against England at the Wankhede in Mumbai, his home. He would return to a hero’s welcome again. That’s the nature of fandom. So if Messi ever returns to Hong Kong, he would receive a grand welcome, and he would hold no grudge either. Two decades of being a sporting celebrity have taught him better than to do that.





February 10, 2024

Who’ll Win? Who Cares?

Why Pak elections don’t really matter


No matter who gets the keys to Islamabad’s govt mansions, Pakistan will be in heaps of trouble for months, perhaps years, to come. Pakistan’s polycrisis includes a lurching economy, security in Pak’s western borders going from very bad to awful and, most crucially, army losing at least a bit of its sheen.


Economic mess | Year-on-year inflation in Jan was a steep 28%. For many ordinary Pakistanis, buying necessities has become a luxury. IMF last year doled out $3 billion. But that was a tiny drop. Pak has $77.5 billion in debt repayment obligations over next three years, and its forex reserve as of Jan 26 was a pitiful $8.2 billion.


Border badlands | Tit-for-tat missile strikes between Iran and Pakistan last month – each apparently targeting bad guys given good homes by the other – show Islamabad’s neighbours have lost patience with its let’s-export terror strategy. Even Taliban is getting antsy – attacks inside Pak by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan have spiked since the fall of Kabul in 2021. It’s the kind of prorogue that leads to full-blown militancy, as was the case in late-2000s.


Foreign policy tangle | Pak is already caught between a rock and a hard place – it loves China’s strategic CPEC projects but also wants America’s affection. But with US and China squaring off, Pak risks getting squashed in the middle. Plus, violence in West Asia can have dangerous spillover effects.


Munir-e-Azam | Pak army’s ongoing ‘hybrid regime’ model means civilian institutions remain infants. Army boss General Munir will call the shots on foreign policy and defence, and order civilian govt to make tough policies. That will make already mad Pakistanis madder. Pak’s general sahibs are no longer as loved and feared as they were – support for Imran’s PTI shows this. That’s even more reason army’s model won’t work. Which bunch of civilians governs Pak next is, therefore, irrelevant.





February 10, 2024

There Goes Joe, Again

Biden forgets too much for it to matter too little


It’s hard to imagine a worse candidate description: “Well meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” It would not even grab an entry-level govt job. Not even in a banana republic. And yet, this is a credible conclusion about the man holding ‘the most powerful job in the world’. Of course Joe Biden has dismissed the special counsel’s report to this effect: “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” But does he?


Confusing Mitterand with Macron and Merkel with Helmut Kohl are two recent gaffes. He drops these more regularly than Orry’s celebrity hugs. When he became US president he was the oldest person to have done so. Before him, that title rested with Trump. Both see themselves as sort of super-agers. And Biden’s strategists might still believe they can neutralise the memory-bomb. Their strategy? If our guy was old before the memory-bomb went off and he is old afterwards, nothing has changed. Isn’t the country used to him stumbling about in public anyway?


But high-octane elections have turned on much less. As Americans look at a war-torn world they are being told their commander-in-chief misremembers key details of conflicts. Not to mention when he took up which leadership position or when his son died. Biden’s key campaign card is that Trump is too dangerous. But is having a man with “significantly limited” memory hanging around the nuclear button anyone’s idea of safety?






February 10, 2024

Put the Squeeze on Unhealthy F&B, GoI

Nudge to cut back on sugar, caffeine intakes


Steadily rising non-communicable lifestyle diseases warrant greater government intervention to inform Indian nutritional choices. Processed food and drinks have internationally been subject to voluntary caps on fat, salt and sugar. Front-of-package labelling has been used to effectively signal health choices, and sin taxes have been deployed to deter consumption. India has a demerit tax on sugary drinks, but is yet to get its manufacturers to cut back on sugar levels prevalent in Europe, the US or even in Singapore. With the incidence of diabetes climbing, India could leverage low penetration and market potential to drive a harder bargain over nutritional standards in packaged food and beverages.


This involves imposing higher thresholds of evidence on claims such as ‘energy’ and ‘super’ foods and drinks, and a mezzanine level of statutory warnings over ingredients used to enhance flavour or extend shelf life. Pictorial depictions in packaging cut through the encrypted nutritional information in current package labelling like traffic lights. This becomes even more critical in rural markets with low awareness, which is where most grow this expected. Industry pushback over visual nutritional guidance should not be allowed to defer voluntary or mandatory compliance indefinitely.


The third tack would be to ration intake of substances with established negative side-effects, like caffeine and sleep deprivation, by regulating the serving size. This is far more difficult to execute, however, with business models built around increasing per-capita consumption. Effective intervention would be a blended approach of taxation, improved nutrition signalling and penalising mis-selling. Raising awareness is especially difficult in a multicultural market like India. But the tools that drive greater market penetration are also available to rein in harmful consumption. GoI needs to ratchet up its awareness initiatives in step with growth of consumption of processed food. It could also prevail on producers to dish out healthier offerings.





February 10, 2024

A Quiet Salute to a Quiet Ex-PM, Ex-MP


With the departure of 91-year-old Manmohan Singh on Thursday from Rajya Sabha — and, for all purposes, political life — the country marks the exit of a figure who managed to hold on to the paradoxical tag of practitioner of ‘decent politics’. This was no mean feat in a career that started in academia, moved to policy, and orbited into politics. It was also no mean feat in a cultural terrain where rhetoric-driven OTT politics grew to become not just de rigueur, but laudatory. But Singh’s deceptively quiet, abacus-like approach bore bountiful fruits in his stints as RBI governor, finance minister and PM.


In this, there was nothing ‘accidental’ about Singh’s trajectory. What was, was his tipping over into the prime minister’s seat. As an economist-bureaucrat-politician, Singh’s understanding of this trifecta has arguably shaped contemporary India, firming up its belief that ‘it’s the economy, stupid’. His effective style was based on his innate suspicion of what he deemed as ‘conspicuous consumption’. His quiet, incremental approach to see the India-US nuclear civil deal into existence was just one example of both his creditworthiness, as well as his going under-credited by peers and people.


Singh’s capabilities were more suited to a world where governance, administration and policy-setting took consensus for granted, and the political flight path already cleared. But like a referee made to stop a game of football too many times on a chaotic field with uncontrollable players, Singh became victim of realpolitik — euphemistically better known as ‘coalition compulsions’ and ‘policy paralysis’. With the ex-PM — very likely the last to have been born in pre-Independence India — now ex-MP, history will judge his quietude as a strength.





February 10, 2024

White and black

Centre’s White Paper makes foreign investment pitch


The ‘White Paper’ on the Indian economy, tabled in Parliament on Thursday by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has two strands. First, it showcases the achievements of the Modi government over the decade and contrasts that with its predecessor, the UPA, in the preceding decade to score a political point. Second, and this is perhaps more important, the report makes an investment pitch by underscoring the country’s macro strengths.


In its political-cum-investor pitch, the Finance Ministry report says that the global outlook on India has changed from being the ‘fragile five’ to the ‘top five’, contending that India “is now a must have in one’s portfolio”. If India’s inclusion in the JP Morgan index is a milestone event, so is the development of the GIFT City. There is some basis to the assertion that India’s macroeconomic fundamentals today are a draw. Even if the fiscal deficit is above the levels laid down in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, due to the Covid crisis, its management would evoke investor confidence, as a consolidation process is underway. This has been compared in the report to the UPA’s fiscal overreach during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and its unsavoury consequences. The report’s assertions on improvement in the banking sector’s health are valid. The stability of the external sector, the rupee and the banking system should register with rating agencies, investors and India watchers, apart from the central bank’s resolve to keep inflation in check.


Fiscal reforms on the revenue and expenditure side have been noteworthy. The average tax-to-GDP ratio between FY15 and FY24 was 10.9 per cent, against 10.5 per cent in the preceding decade. There has been a near doubling of GST collections between FY18 and FY24 to ₹1.7-lakh crore now. However, the report omits to mention that personal income tax collections have overtaken corporate taxes, despite the rate cuts awarded to the latter prior to the pandemic. On the expenditure side, there has been a welcome reform in the Budget architecture, with capex accounting for 21 per cent of total expenditure of the Centre this fiscal, against 12 per cent in FY14. India watchers are expected to take note of the fact that the ‘twin deficits’ — those on the fiscal and current accounts — are in control, particularly the latter. So long as the fiscal deficit is capex driven, it is unlikely to translate into a higher current account deficit or inflation, unless there are leakages.


However, there are no convincing signs that private investment is growing. This is a puzzle the government needs to address. Some of the comparisons with respect to the UPA’s performance on growth and inflation, or India’s image at that time, are arguably overblown. The blame game could have been played down in a report that is purportedly meant for a larger audience.






February 10, 2024

Avoiding the middle-income trap

Unless substantial reforms are undertaken to improve India’s freedom rankings, it may remain stuck within the Upper-Middle-Income range beyond 2030


In 2018, the government set a target of achieving a gross domestic product (GDP) of $5 trillion by 2025. The GDP was then approximately $2.7 trillion, implying a target growth rate of over 9 per cent. The most optimistic guesses for India’s GDP circa March 2024 are around $4.1 trillion, with the $5 trillion mark looking likely to be crossed circa 2027.


The target was unrealistic but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to setting targets. In per capita terms, a $5 trillion GDP works out to $3,600-3,700 per capita, which is categorised as “lower-middle income” by the World Bank definition since it falls in the bucket between $1,136 and $4,465. “Upper-middle income” is $4,466-$13,845, and anything above is considered “high income”. For comparison, China is close to $12,700 — upper-middle and closing in on high income.


There are some optimistic projections from many in the government that the economy will hit $10 trillion by 2030. It won’t, barring a severe collapse of the US dollar. Nonetheless, barring Black Swans, India should cross into upper-middle income territory by around 2030.


But the upper-middle income band is wide. A lot of nations get stuck within that income band for decades, and some never break out to high income. The reasons for getting stuck in upper-middle income territory are manifold.


One is simply the base effect, which leads to the usual arithmetical slowdown as the denominator gets larger. Growth also tends to slow since productivity gains become more difficult. There’s also demographics. By the time countries hit the high end of upper-middle income, population growth is low and the workforce is older and smaller.


Large countries that make it past the upper-middle income barrier to achieve high income tend to have some things in common. They have highly educated populations and excellent educational systems, which improves the odds when it comes to productivity gains. They have good laws and law enforcement, which leads to a safe physical and legal environment. They have easily understood, moderate tax codes, applied even-handedly by honest officials. Many high-income nations also have reasonably good social security and many have freely convertible currencies.


The World Bank assessed GDP at around $3.4 trillion in 2022, and some estimates indicate the 2024 GDP is closer to $3.9 trillion. This looks reasonable with a growth rate of about 7 per cent ($4.1 trillion would imply a growth rate of near 10 per cent in FY23 and FY24).


Almost all are high-end democracies. By Freedom House Rankings, out of some 195 countries under coverage in 2023, a batch of 84 were accounted “Free”, with the rest classified as “Not free” or “Partially Free”.  Comparing that list of free nations with the World Bank’s high income list, only the West Asian cluster of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait, along with Singapore, qualify as high-income while not making the grade in terms of being free. That’s due to oil in the case of the Arab nations and Singapore is tiny, and super-efficient, with a free port, low taxes, honest government, etc.

India does have very low female labour force participation, so there’s an upside provided social attitudes change enough to induce more women to work and expand the workforce.  India is classified as “Partially Free” and rankings have deteriorated.


Moreover, it has a continuous undercurrent of violence. Kashmir, Manipur, Chhattisgarh —    there is some violent conflict going on, somewhere or the other, at any given time. Apart from anything else, this means internet shutdowns, which cripple the digital economy. India also has complicated tax and commercial codes, and corruption is an endemic issue.


Lower population growth rates are already visible. Most of the workforce has less than 10 years of schooling. Perhaps new modes of distance learning and edtech will help? There is some welfare outreach but low spends on healthcare. Given tight currency controls, we can’t expect a freely convertible rupee.


It would require a huge legislative and administrative effort to change the business environment, and an even greater effort to push India back up to a “free” status in democracy rankings. More likely, India will just get stuck somewhere in the upper-middle income range.







February 10, 2024

Friendshoring outcomes

US’ efforts to derisk supply chains away from China have unintended consequences


At a time of heightened US-China trade rivalry, the US has been pushing for a friendshoring strategy among like-minded nations, including India and Vietnam, to reduce risks to the supply chains on which they rely by not allowing the dragon to use its dominance in key raw materials, technologies and products to exert geopolitical advantage. But this strategy has the unintended consequence of ensuring a continued rather than diminishing dependence on China. Friendshoring has been welcome in India as it also seeks to reduce dependence on the dragon and it is actively encouraging leading foreign companies like Apple to shift some of its iPhone manufacturing from the mainland to the country. The US, for its part, is also supporting the relocation of supply chains in solar manufacturing with $500 million in debt financing for the largest US firm to open a plant in India.


But the US’ efforts to promote expansion of India’s solar power industry may have unwittingly opened a backdoor for components made in the mainland. India’s largest solar producer, Waaree Energies, has sent millions of panels to the US with components like solar cells made by a Chinese company whose products were repeatedly denied entry into the US over concerns about forced labour, according to Bloomberg. Indian solar producers led by Waaree exported almost $2 billion in the first 11 months of last year. As China produces more than four-fifths of the world’s polysilicon, which is used to make solar panels, the global supply chain’s dependence on the mainland has not reduced. The concerns regarding forced labour are because one-thirds of its polysilicon capacity is in Xinjiang province, where the minority Uyghur community is forced to work in factories.


Even in the case of Vietnam, the friendshoring strategy has generated outcomes which have not run according to the script. Vietnam is the preferred location of supply chains that are diversifying away from China, including local companies from the mainland. But this nation is also China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN. China is also the largest foreign investor. Vietnam has comprehensive strategic partnerships with both China and the US. While China’s share of US goods imported declined from 21.6% in 2017 to 16.5% in 2022, Vietnam’s share increased from 2% to 4%. While nearly a quarter of Vietnam’s exports were shipped to the US, Vietnam was also importing more from China like integrated circuits, telephone sets and textiles for processing and re-export according to National Bureau of Economic Research academics Laura Alfaro and Davin Chor.


The friendshoring strategy for greater alignment of trade among like-minded nations thus has far from diminished dependence on China. This obviously raises doubts about the efficacy of a strategy to even partially decouple or de-risk supply chains away from the mainland. This may not be feasible as the dragon is the world’s second largest economy and retains a dominance of key raw materials like rare earths with which it can exert considerable geopolitical influence. A far more desirable strategy to manage US-China relations is “competitive coexistence” with one another as advocated by Joseph Nye, emeritus professor at Harvard University. The old template for the US’ containment of the erstwhile Soviet Union is no longer valid given the massive economic interdependencies between the US and China with half of a trillion dollars in trade. The perverse outcomes of friendshoring exemplify the imperative of coexistence.


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