Shanghai outbreak data improving; More economic support; Is Xi under pressure?; Arrests in Hong Kong
Today’s Essential Eight:
Outbreaks - Some good news from the official data in Shanghai, the city is getting closer to its goal of only finding new cases among people already in “closed off management”. Beijing announced that the latest new cases were also all found among people already in “closed off management”. One day does not a trend make, Beijing’s lockdown-lite is going to continue, but at least the official data are trending the right direction.
Regularized testing rolling out - The rollout of regularized, mandatory mass testing in large cities is happening quickly. Some folks are going to be making a lot of money. Once this infrastructure is in place, will it ever go away? Why not offer vaccinations at the testing sites for anyone not vaccinated, and require them to get their shots?
PRC censors WHO Director-General Tedros - Tedros dared to question the wisdom of Xi’s dynamic zero-Covid strategy, and that is unacceptable, especially in the wake of last week’s Standing Committee meeting that stated “resolutely oppose all distortions, doubts and denials. We will resolutely struggle against all words and deeds that distort, doubt and deny our epidemic prevention policies.”
More economic support - The weekly State Council meeting offered up more goodies to deal with the “downward pressure” in the economy while the CSRC announced a new scheme to help private firms with financing.
Xi Jinping under political pressure? - There are increasing numbers of rumors and overseas stories about pushback against Xi. There is little question many are very unhappy with him, and that his policies are very problematic, but are the people talking to foreign media reflecting a real split that has political potential or are they just grumbling? Does the grumbling matter if the security services and the PLA support Xi?
Taiwan - Politico has an interesting story on US efforts to shape Taiwan weapons procurement, in part based on the lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war. If you are in the PLA looking at the Taiwan challenge do you argue that taking Taiwan will only get harder over the next few years, as Taiwan takes its defense more seriously and tries to build a successful “porcupine” defense strategy, so even if there is a lot of risk for the PLA in an invasion in the near-term that risk will only increase in the years ahead?
90 year-old Cardinal Zen among 4 arrested in Hong Kong - Cardinal Zen, Denise Ho, Margaret Ng and Hui Po Keung were arrested for their work with a fund offering financial resistance to people detained in the 2019 protests. Interesting timing, just after the election of John Lee as the new Chief Executive. Lee has said that passing Article 23 is an “urgent task”.
Retired Ambassador Gao Yusheng’s comments on Ukraine - They were quickly censored, and I do not think they represent any shift of the official line on the Russia-Ukraine war, but they are interesting as I think give a glance of what many in the PRC foreign policy community with experience dealing with Russia really think of Russia and Putin.