Chinese institutions cooperate to stave off a downturn. China’s Finance Ministry, central bank and National Development and Reform Commission (the country’s top economic planning agency) seem to be working together to help keep the economy moving – a change from earlier this month. On Wednesday, China’s central bank said it had injected $37.9 billion into the banking system, following the National Development and Reform Commission’s recent call for banks to increase medium- and long-term loans to private companies. The Finance Ministry also announced its plans to implement large-scale tax cuts and to reduce social insurance fees for employers. Chinese news agency Xinhua warned, however, that growth may slow down because of these cuts. It seems the government is preparing the Chinese public for a downturn.

Turkey pushes for safe zones. On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could create safe zones in Syria on its own but would include Russia and the United States in the process if they wanted to cooperate. He noted that both countries generally see eye to eye with Turkey on the issue, but differences remain on a few points. He also said Ankara is in contact with the Syrian government but wouldn’t give further details. On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart to gain support for his plan to build a Turkish-controlled safe zone in Syria. Ankara is proposing a zone 20 miles (32 kilometers) deep and 155 miles long in northeastern Syria to protect the Turkish border from Syrian Kurds and to resettle refugees currently in Turkey.

Russia’s population problem. According to the latest data released by the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, or Rosstat, Russia’s population decreased by 87,000 in 2018 and now stands at 146.8 million. Net immigration was roughly 101,000. Rosstat reported last year that the birthrate in 2017 declined by 10.7 percent year over year, with 203,000 fewer births. Meanwhile, Proekt, an independent investigative website, reported that the number of people who left Russia tripled from 123,000 in 2012 to 377,000 in 2017, according to Rosstat figures. The declining birthrate and rising emigration rate indicates people may be responding to deteriorating economic conditions. If these trends continue, they could become a significant challenge for Russia and its economy down the line.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Indian navy and coast guard have launched a series of exercises covering the country’s entire coastline and involving 150 vessels and 40 aircraft.
  • Italy’s economic minister said the problems facing Banca Carige, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and Banca Popolare di Bari do not pose a systemic threat to the country’s banking system.
  • The U.S. government would consider a free trade agreement with Pakistan if Islamabad were to help broker a settlement in Afghanistan, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported, citing official sources.
  • Germany’s foreign minister told his Russian counterpart that Berlin expected Moscow to stop violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and to work to preserve the pact.