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Xi's arrival in Kathmandu. Photo: Xinhua/Gao Jie via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Nepal over the weekend bearing gifts: a pledge of $500 million in economic aid for the impoverished Himalayan country and a series of infrastructure deals worth billions more.

Why it matters: Phanindra Dahal of BBC Nepali, and a former Axios fellow, emails from Kathmandu that Xi's visit was "massive news" in a country at the center of a tug of war between India and China:

  • "The president, prime minister and all members of the Cabinet went to the airport to receive and see off President Xi. The ruling party even organized a discussion on 'Xi Jinping Thought' ahead of the visit."
  • "'Nepal and China are brothers,' the Chinese president said. India used to say things like that and Nepalis would see it as an unwelcome reference to Indian domination."
  • "But Nepal is trying hard to end its sole dependence on India, and Xi said he would help the landlocked country become landlinked — with plans for roads, railways and tunnels."
  • "The U.S. also sees Nepal as strategically important and is worried about China's growing influence. India and Western powers will be watching closely to see how the Chinese deals are implemented."

In other news: While in Nepal, Xi issued a warning over Hong Kong:

"Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones."

Go deeper: Nepal has a front-row seat to the great power competition in Asia

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.