China’s Great Wave of COVID-19 Has Begun – Foreign Policy

welcome to Foreign Police‘s China Brief.

Highlights this week: COVID-19[feminine] spreads rapidly in Beijing and beyond after China lifts its restrictive policies, activists strike at a hotel popular with Chinese workers in Kabuland after a period of relative calm, Chinese and Indian soldiers clash on their disputed border.

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welcome to Foreign Police‘s China Brief.

Highlights this week: COVID-19[feminine] spreads rapidly in Beijing and beyond after China lifts its restrictive policies, activists strike at a hotel popular with Chinese workers in Kabuland after a period of relative calm, Chinese and Indian soldiers clash on their disputed border.

If you would like to receive China Brief in your inbox every Wednesday, please subscribe here.

The COVID-19 crisis goes from zero to 100

Just a week after China effectively ended its zero COVID policy, the virus has spread quickly in Beijing and other major cities. People have been sharing their positive test results en masse online, while some offices are reporting that 90 percent of their staff are sick. Yet Chinese media barely mentioned the growing wave of COVID-19.

On the Chinese evening news, COVID-19 is relegated to the brief excerpt making sure everything is under control. Epidemics are recognized only in terms of the scale of the government’s response. The new state language speaks in terms of personal responsibility for health; after years of claiming zero-COVID, the government does not want to be blamed for its failure. The new line? “Be the first person responsible for your own health.”

Ironically, Beijingers are now keeping their COVID-19 mitigation measures in place as the government lifts them. The streets and shopping malls of the city are quiet and grocery shelves empty as residents squat for fear of infection.

China official COVID-19 number of cases became detached of reality, with government data showing new cases continued to fall in the week after restrictions were lifted. The government has partially admitted the problem, saying that without mass testing, it will no longer report so-called asymptomatic cases. (China has defined asymptomatic COVID-19 as often including mild cases with symptoms that do not warrant hospitalization.)

China has yet to adopt other means of tracking COVID-19, such as self-reporting, and it will likely continue to downplay the numbers, especially as deaths rise. According to the government, there have been no new deaths from COVID-19 since it eased restrictions, following incredible claims of minimal deaths during this year’s Shanghai outbreak. Government health specialists recognized the speed of the spread because they also minimize the severity of the virus.

For now, those guessing the numbers are relying on anecdotal reports and hospital observations. There are many posts on social media like this one, which reports hundreds of cases in a local community. A tally of my friends and acquaintances in Beijing found around 40 per cent had tested positive over the past week, largely from stored home tests. Informally online surveymore than 58% of Beijingers said they had tested positive.

Other big cities like Shanghai seem to be experiencing spikes in COVID-19, but not quite Beijing-wide. As home tests run out and government tests become even harder to come by, many Chinese are wondering what’s causing their fever and cough, especially given the other winter viruses circulating.

The apparent rate of infection in China suggests the predominance of fast-spreading and relatively mild omicron variants, as well as the fact that the containment system was likely overwhelmed before the government officially announced major changes last week. . Last Friday, the Beijingers were already reporting a series of positive tests. It is possible that the government has already seen a much higher number of cases than made public and that the abandonment of zero-COVID was something of a done deal.

The Chinese healthcare system seems to be holding up for now. There were six times more emergency calls and hospitals to fear an assault, but other health facilities face so far. A leading epidemiologist in Hong Kong who faced a similar outbreak in the city this year Remarks that it probably won’t last, especially as staff fall ill. But home treatment appears to be the preferred option, in part because of the lingering stigma of COVID-19. Like Hong Kong, the places most likely to experience high death rates are long-term care facilities.

The central government is likely reeling from both the political shock of recent protests and the speed at which COVID-19 is currently spreading. I doubt there is still much plan in place, and therefore the authorities do not respect the norm: to say that everything is fine. In fact, I expect significant pressure from the government to keep people working even when they are sick to try to give China a much-needed GDP boost.

For now, that means minimizing reports and trying to weather the waves of COVID-19 with new, sporadic health measures. Vaccination is part of the toolbox. China has just announced a second round of recalls, but the recalls are unlikely to reach enough people to make a significant difference to China’s death rate. The antiviral drug Paxlovid remains difficult to obtain, while some mainlanders book trips in Macao to obtain mRNA vaccines.

The speed of the new wave means there is no going back to lockdowns and health codes. Even though the government thought it might be able to manage public anger over a return to zero-COVID policy, clear case numbers have passed the point of possible containment.

What should the world expect from China in 2023? How will Beijing manage its economy and manage its relations with Washington? The answers to these questions could shape the world next year. Join me and the FPs Ravi Agrawal for a conversation Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. ET with two other Chinese experts: Susan Chirk and Zongyuan Zoe Liu. Register now.

Attack on the Kabul hotel. On Monday, activists struck a hotel in Kabul popular with visiting Chinese workers and businessmen, killing at least three people and injuring many more. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said only five Chinese nationals have been hurt. The Taliban regime, which is keen to maintain a working relationship with Beijing, said only the attackers were dead. In the aftermath of the attack, China urged its citizens to leave Afghanistan.

Terrorist attacks against Chinese targets were relatively rare until recently. The situation is changing, particularly along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, where Baloch militants and others have offensive Chinese workers and there is a persistence removal problem. Groups such as the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the hotel attack, have everything to gain by threatening China’s faith in the Taliban regime.

Chinese diplomats leave UK Six consular officials from the Chinese consulate in Manchester, England, have left the country rather than risk being charged with assault against protesters outside the building two months ago. The British government had asked China to waive its diplomatic immunity over the incident, which British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described as “ashamed.” He added that he was disappointed that the six did not make it face justice.

The incident is another reminder this so-called wolf-warrior diplomacy that prioritizes nationalist aggression over quiet words isn’t going away anytime soon. It also reinforces the dire state of relations between the UK and China.

Clashes at the Sino-Indian border. A confrontation Between Chinese and Indian forces along their disputed border in the Himalayas injured at least 20 Indian soldiers but no deaths. The region is again on high alert, after a period of relative calm following the mortal skirmish in the Galwan Valley in June 2020. Indian media picked up the latest story with nationalistic fervor, reporting that 50 Indian soldiers detained 200 Chinese troops as they attempted to enter Indian territory.

The confusing topography of the Sino-Indian border means such clashes often take place when both sides believe they are on their side of the line of actual control.

FP’s most read articles this week

Do not be afraid of a Russian collapse by Kristi Raik

America couldn’t stop being stupid if it wanted to by Stephen M. Walt

India’s infuriating policy towards Russia isn’t as bad as Washington thinks by Derek Grossman

The United States enlists allies in the flea war. washington is in close talks with Tokyo and Amsterdam on enforcing semiconductor chip restrictions against China. The issue has been a priority for the Biden administration since it signed into law drastic measures against the Chinese sector in October. Japan and the Netherlands each play a major role in global semiconductor supply.

China is trying to build a domestic industry but has been stymied by corruption, its own crackdown on the tech sector and tough US measures. The latest effort, injecting $143 billion in the sector, could fall prey to the same failures that previously thwarted the so-called Big Fund investment business.

From conversations in Washington, it appears that a remarkable number of people in the US government are currently working to use US law to undermine key supply chains in China’s tech sector. The waning of US economic power over Russia appears to have empowered the more hawkish part of the China trade debate in Washington. Despite decline in businessDemocrats and Republicans are also likely to keep tariffs in place.

Key conference cancelled, not cancelled. The Central Economic Labor Conference, a key player in China government event which defines the policy for the following year, is go back on after a brief cancellation due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing. Other events, such as the National Bureau of Statistics’ monthly announcements, have been canceled or moved online. For Chinese leaders, there is clearly a tug of war between security measures and the desire to project economic confidence.

However, policymakers have tough choices to make as the economy looks unlikely to get a much-desired rebound until at least the first post-zero-COVID wave has passed.

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