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Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt poses with the budget box at Downing Street in London, Britain March 15, 2023.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

A new attitude and a new budget: Can the Tories make a comeback?

Weeks after the International Monetary Fund forecast that the UK will be the worst-performing advanced economy this year, British Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday handed down a fresh national budget. (Though the independent Office for Budget Responsibility now says that the economy will only contract by 0.2% this year, an improvement on previous forecasts of 1.4%.)

Budgets can have a massive impact on politics. You’ll likely remember that ephemeral PM Liz Truss’ “mini” budget last fall caused the markets to nosedive, leading to her swift resignation.

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A child takes bath in a bucket to cool off amid a heatwave warning in Hunan province, China.


What We're Watching: Dry China, UK inflation forecast, Pegasus spyware shakeup

Feeling the heat in China

Severe drought coupled with record-high temperatures in central and western China have hampered hydropower generation, prompting the shutdown of factories and sparking rolling blackouts in Sichuan province. (China is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity, which accounts for at least 18% of its total electricity generation.) The impact of the scorcher is being felt as far away as Shanghai, which relies heavily on hydropower from Sichuan, a province that usually gets a big summer downpour. Meanwhile, the property sector is drowning in debt, prompting China’s central bank on Monday to cut its five-year interest rate to help the construction and real estate sectors. What’s more, Shanghai announced that it would temporarily turn off lights lining the historic Bund waterfront to conserve energy. The energy crunch will further hurt China’s stagnant economy, which continues to contract as a result of President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy. President Xi is desperate to get the situation under control ahead of the 20th Party Congress later this year, when he is expected to secure a norm-defying third term as CCP secretary-general.

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Can Boris Johnson survive?

No world leader has had a more bruising month than British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Among other recent indiscretions, he’s been accused of flouting lockdown rules, as well as breaking ministerial protocols by using Conservative Party funds to refurbish his personal pad at 11 Downing Street – which analysts say contributed to the Tories losing a safe parliamentary seat for the first time in 200 years.

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