Your Monday Briefing: China’s Post-Covid Economic Goal

Xi Jinping sees extending his own power as necessary to ensuring China’s ascent.Credit…Wu Hao/EPA, via Shutterstock

China’s new economic goal

After a winter of discontent, China promised a postpandemic recovery and said it aimed to expand growth by about 5 percent this year. The announcement came at the start of the annual gathering of the national legislature, where President Xi Jinping is poised to secure even more power.

The new goal is relatively modest. It may be attainable as activity rebounds quickly but will require considerable public borrowing and spending on infrastructure. And there’s a lot of ground to make up: Last year, “zero Covid” measures and lockdowns smothered China’s economy. Some economists regard 3 percent, the country’s official 2022 growth rate, as an overstatement.

The congress will also centralize more policymaking around Xi and the party. Legislators will almost certainly give him a groundbreaking third term as state president, atop his main title as party leader. He is expected to appoint his loyalists to key government positions and use the congress to reorganize state ministries.

Global competition: China is also focused on raising spending on military and diplomatic endeavors. And Xi has pushed the party to develop science and technology capabilities to reduce the country’s reliance on Western expertise.

The private sector: The question hanging over China is whether Xi can instill economic confidence among spooked investors while continuing to expand the party’s control. 

Diplomatic analysis: In global gatherings of leaders, China is increasingly seen as the greatest long-term challenge, even as Russia’s war rages.

Ukrainian soldiers fired at a Russian infantry position near Bakhmut last week.Credit…Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times

Russia attacks Bakhmut from three sides

Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the battered city, the Ukrainian military said, which is the focal point of Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut have held out in recent weeks as Russian forces gradually captured surrounding territory, nearly cutting off the city.

Both sides are holed up in abandoned houses and factories and fighting block by block. This weekend, two civilians were killed in Bakhmut, a Ukrainian official said. A few thousand remain in the city, but evacuations have become harder as the threats to exit roads grow. In an indication of the severity of the fighting in the east, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said that its forces had repelled 130 Russian attacks on Saturday.

The State of the War

  • Bakhmut: Russian forces are attacking from three directions in a persistent attempt to encircle the battered city that has become the focal point of Moscow’s wide-ranging offensive in eastern Ukraine.
  • Action in the Skies: Against the odds, Ukraine’s helicopter brigades are using aging vehicles to fight a better equipped adversary.
  • Military Support: Amid mounting concerns that China could move to supply weapons to Moscow, President Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany vowed to keep Western support intact during a visit by the German leader to Washington.
  • An Unexpected Meeting: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia spoke during a Group of 20 summit, their first face-to-face meeting since Moscow’s invasion.

Some analysts see movement in Russia’s favor, after it rushed large numbers of troops to the Donbas region as it ramped up its offensive there. The Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in the U.S., said that Russian forces “will not likely be able to encircle the city soon,” but are closing in on vital roads and could force Ukraine to withdraw.  

Ukraine’s strategy: Commanders say they want to hold on in Bakhmut as long as they can and degrade Russia’s forces.

Trench warfare: This is what life looks like at the front line.

Global arms exports: As traditional weapons suppliers like the U.S. face wartime production shortages, South Korea has stepped in to fill the gap. But it refuses to send weapons directly to Ukraine in an effort not to provoke Moscow.

Activists outside the U.N. headquarters during the negotiations.Credit…Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A major biodiversity deal

A significant majority of nations agreed on language for a U.N. treaty to protect ocean life, which is under growing threat from climate change, overfishing and seabed mining. The long-awaited deal came after tense talks — and two decades of planning. 

Right now, the “high seas,” which span almost half the planet, are a mostly ungoverned wilderness. If ratified, the treaty would be able to designate protected areas, where fishing and other activities that harm marine life are restricted or prohibited. And it would create an international framework with a primary focus of protecting ocean species or ecosystems.

Many experts and groups celebrated the treaty as a major win for biodiversity. The high seas have “probably the largest reserve of undiscovered biodiversity left on Earth,” the director of the international oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

The process: Before the treaty can take effect, nations need to formally adopt the treaty language and then ratify it.

The stakes: The draft treaty is a step toward a goal set last December: To protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.


Asia Pacific Politics

Police in the Philippines set up checkpoints to search for suspects after the shooting.Credit…Ferdinand Edralin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Gunmen in the Philippines killed a provincial governor and several other people, the latest in a series of deadly attacks on politicians.

  • A top Cambodian opposition politician was sentenced to 27 years of house arrest, as Prime Minister Hun Sen tries to crush threats before the July elections.

  • Two hunger strikers in Thailand, aged 21 and 23, are at risk of dying. They are calling for the repeal of a law that criminalizes criticizing the royal family, among other causes. 

  • U.S. troops are training for a possible fight in the Pacific.

Other Regional News

  • Paid accounts on Facebook and Instagram have arrived in Australia.

  • Shahida Raza, a professional athlete in Pakistan, died with other migrants when her boat sank near Italy. She wanted a better life for her disabled son. 

  • Accusations of past school bullying have hurt public figures in South Korea. The often-anonymous takedowns have public support, despite concerns about credibility.

  • A couple in Singapore shared risqué content with subscribers on Telegram. They were convicted of violating nudity and obscenity laws and fined $17,000.

Around the World

Credit…Pool photo by Joshua Boucher
  • Alex Murdaugh, a South Carolina lawyer, was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his wife and son.

  • Belarus sentenced Ales Bialiatski, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to 10 years in prison. Rights advocates said the charges are politically motivated.

  • Formula 1 opened its new season with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Max Verstappen, the defending champion, dominated.

  • Artificial intelligence is detecting signs of breast cancer that doctors miss.

A Morning Read

In October, a former police officer killed 36 people in rural Thailand — including 24 children, many as they napped in their preschool. The authorities have sought to tighten gun ownership in Thailand, which has more guns than anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

But months later, little else has changed. And the families continue to grieve. My colleagues spoke to the relatives of all the children who were killed, some of whom had just started talking. “The house is quiet now because he was the only child,” one mother said. 


What’s your office personality?

Credit…Julian Glander

In the hybrid-work era, personality tests have taken on new relevance. Some managers find them particularly useful to help remote teams thrive, and others think they could help boost diversity in hiring. 

But the tests are not always up-to-date. Critics warn that the corporate world can over-rely on them for hiring and promoting — and that some are about as reliable at predicting success as astrological signs or Magic 8 Balls would be. 

My colleagues created a new, nine-question personality test. It focuses on two key workplace qualities: extroversion, the degree to which social interaction energizes someone, and openness, which refers to someone’s creativity and appetite for novel experiences.

You can find out your type by playing along here.


What to Cook

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Sophia Pappas.

This 15-minute pasta will make you feel like an Italian millionaire. (Here’s the recipe.)

What to Read

“Happily,” a book of essays, explores the deeper lessons that fairy tales can teach adults.

What to Listen to

Check out nine new songs on our weekly playlist.

The News Quiz

How well did you follow last week’s headlines?

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tangential comment (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. John Carreyrou, whose reporting at The Wall Street Journal exposed fraud at Theranos, is joining The Times.

Here’s the most recent edition of “The Daily,” on Ukrainian children in Russia.

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to [email protected].

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