Virus peak near?; Positive propaganda energy as emphasis on restarting economy increases; Xu Zhangrun's new essay

Is the outbreak closer to coming under control? New cases have officially declined for several days and the official media is in full positive energy mode trying to spread that word that while the battle is still raging victory is within reach.

Here are the data as of 6PM Tuesday Beijing time, from Caixin:

42,744 confirmed cases in China;

1017 deaths, including 974 in Hubei, 1 in Hong Kong and 1 in the Philippines;

21,675 suspected cases in China

Dr. Zhong Nanshan was cautiously optimistic in interviews with Reuters and The Global Times. Here is what he told Reuters in Coronavirus outbreak may be over in China by April:

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Zhong Nanshan, a leading epidemiologist who won international fame for his role in combating the SARS epidemic in 2003, said the situation in some provinces was already improving, with the number of new cases declining.

Zhong, who had previously predicted an earlier peak, said the forecast was based on modeling and developments in recent days, as well as government action.

“So, we suppose maybe, the peak time may be reached at the, maybe middle or late this month, February ... and then keep a little bit plateau or something like that and, then going down,” he said...

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” he said in a hospital run by Guangzhou Medical University, where 11 coronavirus patients were being treated.

Though his comments may soothe some global anxiety over the coronavirus - which has killed more than 1,000 people and seen more than 40,000 cases, almost all in China - Zhong’s previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature.

And here is the Global Times’ report on its interview with him - Outbreak may peak in mid or late-February: epidemiologist:

While some experts suggested that continuous decreasing numbers of confirmed cases show that the inflection point outside Hubei is expected to arrive in about 10 days, Zhong Nanshan, China's top epidemiologist, told the Global Times via a video call interview on Tuesday that the inflection point of the outbreak cannot be predicted now. "It may peak in mid or late-February," he said.

Let’s all hope that we are near the peak, but relaxations of quarantine and other restrictive policies may be a better tell than the official data.

Then again, the central government is clearly very concerned about the economic impact and appears to be pushing local governments to get business back up and running as fast as possible. There is the risk if that people go back to work too quickly there could be a second wave of cases. Dr. Zhang Wenhong made that point to Caixin in When Will Coronavirus Turning Point Arrive?:

According to Zhang Wenhong, leader of a Shanghai medical team working on the virus, the proportion of the country’s total cases in the province at the heart of the outbreak is still rising, reaching 81% last week as it also continues to spread in cities apart from Wuhan, Zhang said. This could also be a result of many suspected cases being confirmed as test kits become more accessible.

However Zhang warned that even as growth in the virus outside Hubei seems to be slowing, the outbreak is on track to enter a stage of second-generation local infections. This stage involves the virus spreading to people who have neither traveled to Wuhan nor been in contact with anyone who has. Moreover, as people return to work, this kind of infection will become more likely, so local governments will have to improve their screening and diagnosis capabilities, Zhang wrote.

This Caixin story also notes another expert forecast of a late February peak:

Mathematicians from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Fudan University co-published an analysis of the outbreak on Wednesday that argues that under the current disease control and prevention measures, the total number of cases in the country will stop rising by the end of February.

As well as some skepticism:

But Wang Chen, director of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said (link in Chinese) in an interview with CCTV last week that there isn’t enough reliable data yet to predict when the inflection point will come, as it still remains unclear how many people are infected presently, especially in the worst-hit areas.

Watch what the officials do, not what the official media say.

Please don’t call it the Wuhan virus or the Wuflu anymore. The WHO has officially named the new coronavirus “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes “COVID-19.”

This is a long issue, I recommend you click on the headline at the top of the email to read it in your browser. Thanks for reading.


The Essential Eight

1. The outbreak

At least 500 Wuhan medical staff infected with coronavirus | South China Morning Post

At least 500 hospital staff in Wuhan had been infected with the deadly new strain of coronavirus by mid January, multiple medical sources have confirmed, leaving hospitals short-staffed and causing deep concern among health care workers.

While the government has reported individual cases of health care workers becoming infected, it has not provided the full picture, and the sources said doctors and nurses had been told not to make the total public.

Comment: Selective disclosure of information remains a problem, and damages confidence in the official data

Coronavirus: 3 Wuhan officials summoned to explain failings as China death toll reaches 1,018 | South China Morning Post

A special task force reviewing prevention efforts in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, has summoned three local officials for emergency meetings and detailed their failings in containing the outbreak.

Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexing and two district chiefs in the city, Lin Wenshu and Yu Song, were called in for meetings, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

China's Huanggang says virus situation in city remains severe - Reuters

China’s Huanggang city, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, is still facing a severe virus situation and a lack of medical supplies, its Communist Party boss said on Tuesday.

Coronavirus Updates: Thousands Ordered to Quarantine After Cases Are Linked to Shopping Center - The New York Times

Nearly a third of the confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Tianjin, a city of more than 15 million people about 70 miles southeast of Beijing, have been linked to one department store, adding to fears about rapid transmission among tightly clustered communities.

Of the 102 cases confirmed in the city, at least 33 of the patients worked or shopped at a department store in the city’s Baodi district, or had close contact with employees or customers, according to the city’s health authorities. Officials estimated that 11,700 customers had visited the shopping complex, which they did not identify, during a period in late January. The authorities said that those customers would be quarantined, and that the store itself was sealed and disinfected.

Comment: Imagine what might happen if there is a sudden surge in cases in Beijing or Shanghai like this after someone returns to the city for work?

武汉医院缺氧 一线医生呼吁解决供氧问题_财新网_财新网

Caixin reports that Wuhan hospitals have a shortage of oxygen bottles

Measures to safeguard frontline medics amid virus battle - SCIO

The measures, from the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, and the Ministry of Finance, are necessary to support frontline medical personnel in epidemic prevention and control work...

The document also stressed minimizing in-hospital infections with essential protective supplies and materials.

Cases show incubation period of 2019-nCoV longer than 14 days - Global Times

Experts believed that these extreme cases did not necessarily indicate an extended incubation period or adjustment of China's quarantine policy but admitted that the epidemic situation may evolve with more epidemiologic investigations and deeper understanding of the virus.

In one case, a 60-year-old man living in Central China's Henan Province who has had close contact with a confirmed patient on January 25 showed no symptoms for 17 days but tested positive on Sunday, according to China Central Television.

Beijing reports 5 new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection - Xinhua

By the end of Monday, a total of 342 infections have been reported in Beijing. Among them, 48 patients have been discharged from hospital after recovery and there were three deaths.

Statistics showed the infections are scattered in 15 of the 16 districts of Beijing except Pinggu District. Among the confirmed cases, 25 were from outside the capital.

Coronavirus: 11 Million Chinese Living Abroad Are Stuck in China - Bloomberg

The travel bans -- put in place with little warning by nations from New Zealand to Italy -- have caused confusion and disruption for many Chinese expats who returned for the annual holiday to see family. Return flights were canceled as airlines slashed services to and from China, visa applications went into limbo and many who’ve built lives in other countries found themselves separated from their loves ones and homes indefinitely.

Coronavirus: Parents of Australian toddler stranded in Hubei province plead for her evacuation | The Guardian

Chloe Luo had been sent to relatives to escape dangerous bushfire smoke in Canberra

China Focus: 560,000 rural health workers increase knowledge of epidemic online - Xinhua

A total of 560,000 health workers in China's vast rural areas have taken online courses on the novel coronavirus epidemic to enhance their skills in epidemic control as of Monday, an official with the National Health Commission (NHC) said Tuesday.

四部门发布《关于依法惩治妨害新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情防控违法犯罪的意见》-中国长安网

Supreme People's Court, Supreme People's Procuratorate, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Security jointly issue "Opinion on punishing according to the law illegal activities detrimental to the prevention and control of the epidemic situation of the new coronavirus infection"

最高检发布首批妨害新冠肺炎防控犯罪典型案例-中国长安网

Supreme People's Procuratorate releases first batch of 10 typical cases of people punished for crimes related to the epidemic control, from resisting epidemic control measures to harming medical workers to making fake medicine, profiteering and in one case purchasing an endangered animal

Weeks After Massive Local Party, Wuhan Neighborhood Remain in the Dark - Caixin

Weeks after officials allowed a massive Lunar New Year gathering to go on in a Wuhan community despite knowing of the new coronavirus threat, residents of the Baibuting area say they still haven’t been told the true extent of the outbreak in their area.

As of Monday, no official figures had been released for either confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections in the neighborhood located in Wuhan’s Jiangbei district, several residents told Caixin. “We don’t know how things are developing as the authorities are declining to reveal the number of infections,” said one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the situation’s sensitivity.

Meituan helps to launch real-name registration for public transit · TechNode

authorities in the northeastern city of Shenyang are launching a real-name registration system for public transit developed by China’s on-demand services provider Meituan Dianping, and many cities are beginning to follow suit.


2. Economic fallout

Xi warned officials that efforts to stop virus could hurt economy: sources - Reuters

After reviewing reports on the outbreak from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and other economic departments, Xi told local officials during a Feb 3 meeting of the Politburo’s Standing Committee that some of the actions taken to contain the virus are harming the economy, said two people familiar with the meeting, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

He urged them to refrain from “more restrictive measures”, the two people said.

Local authorities outside Wuhan - where the virus is thought to have first taken hold - have shut down schools and factories, sealed off roads and railways, banned public events and even locked down residential compounds. Xi said some of those steps have not been practical and have sown fear among the public, they said.

Coronavirus: China’s firms face grim reality as help from Beijing could take too long to trickle down | South China Morning Post

Some of the local measures have been publicly denounced by the central government, with Ou Xiaoli, an official at the National Development and Reform Commission, warning on Tuesday that restrictions on daily lives and normal production, including imposing preconditions for factories to be able to reopen, were not in line with guidelines from Beijing.

“These tendencies must be stopped,” Ou said.

China Lets Local Governments Sell More Debt Early Amid Outbreak - Bloomberg

The new quota includes 558 billion yuan of local government debt as well as 290 billion yuan of so-called special debt, according to a Ministry of Finance statement Tuesday. The latter is mainly used to finance local infrastructure projects like highways and health facilities. The bonds are in addition to a previously-approved quota of 1 trillion yuan

China Home Sales Plunged 90% in First Week of February on Virus - Bloomberg

“The sector is bracing for a worse impact than the 2003 SARS pandemic,” said Bai Yanjun, an analyst at property-consulting firm China Index Holdings Ltd. “In 2003, the home market was on a cyclical rise. Now, it’s already reeling from an adjustment.”

Yicai Global - Shanghai Relieves SMEs of Two Months' Rent Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Shanghai's city government has asked state property owners to relieve small- and medium-sized enterprises of their rent for February and March to help curb the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on their businesses.

Yicai Global - Shanghai Extends Loan Periods, Cuts Financing Costs to Ease Strains Due to Virus

Banks are to offer refinancing and extend the maturity period for loans used as working capital in sectors that have been hard-hit by the epidemic such as tourism, hotels, restaurants, retail, transportation and entertainment. For instance, for loans due before June 30 and which cannot be repaid, lenders should extend the loan by up to one year. Lenders are also no longer required to list loans that have been overdue for more than 60 days as non-performing loans.

Financial institutions should also grant leeway to individuals affected by the epidemic by adjusting housing mortgage repayment schedules, postponing credit card repayments and expediting insurance claims.

Regulator unveils new steps for SMEs - China Daily

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in its latest notice that it will spare no efforts to help companies resume production after the Lunar New Year holiday. A string of 20 measures have been unveiled to support SMEs and help boost their innovation capabilities.

In Depth: China’s Financial War Against the Coronavirus - Caixin

The outbreak has hit small firms especially hard, with most saying they are suffering a severe cash crunch that could put them out of business. A joint survey (link in Chinese) of 995 small and midsize companies by Tsinghua University and Peking University found that 34% of respondents said they could only survive for one month on their current savings, one third said they could keep going for two months, and 17.9% said they could endure three months.

What to Watch for in China Stimulus as Virus Impact Hits Economy - Bloomberg

Economists from Goldman Sachs Group Inc to UBS Group AG and BNP Paribas SA see more easing steps ahead, including further cuts to central bank funding rates and more tax relief to hard-hit sectors.

Vehicle sales targets slashed in wake of virus outbreak - China Daily

In a poll conducted by the China Automobile Dealers Association, dealers in the country predicted China's car sales to fall 50 to 80 percent this month compared to February 2019.

Some 70 percent of dealers polled said they had seen "almost no customers" since the end of January.

China Urges Farmers to Wear Masks While Planting Amid Virus Fear - Bloomberg

The agriculture ministry issued a notice on Monday advising farmers to wash hands and wear masks, but still prepare for planting and apply fertilizer to their wheat and rapeseed crops. It also asked local villages not to block roads to ensure the timely arrival and transport of seeds, pesticides and other farming equipment.

China Starts Giving ‘Force Majeure’ Slips to Virus-Hit Companies - Bloomberg

The organization, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said it issued the certificate on Feb. 2. More companies have since received the document, which is recognized by enterprises, governments, trade associations and customs officials in more than 200 places around the world, CCPIT said.

Question: Will anyone challenge these slips on the grounds that the virus' impact was increased exponentially by government mismanagement in the December and early January?

Coronavirus outbreak: Universities 'lobbied strongly' for travel ban exemption for students - Sydney Morning Herald

The Morrison government rejected lobbying from the $38 billion university sector to allow 100,000 international students into the country, as cabinet ministers prepare for a taskforce to grill them on the economic fallout from an extended coronavirus travel ban.

Investing in Chinese Stocks—投资大中华地区股市: Huang Qifan Suggests Working on Weekends and Holidays, Printing Money and Tax Breaks for SMEs

In order to make up for the loss of the enterprise, it is recommended to allow the company to implement appropriate supplementary work for the extended holiday according to its own conditions, and employees can choose to perform supplementary work on weekends or other holidays within one year. In some places, supplementary work has been extended for a number of working days on the basis of the State Council's decision to extend holidays.

Comment: Not clear how much Huang is listened to these days

British Airways cancels mainland China flights until end of March - Reuters 

British Airways said on Monday all its flights to mainland China had been cancelled until the end of March as the government continues to advise against all but essential travel to the country due to an outbreak of coronavirus


3. Politics and propaganda

Two Top Health Officials Fired in Province Worst Hit by Coronavirus - Caixin

The Chinese Communist Party standing committee in Hubei decided on Monday to remove Zhang Jin and Liu Yingzi, party chief and director of the provincial health commission, from their positions, CCTV reported, without elaborating on details...

Both positions have been filled by Wang Hesheng, 58, a former deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, who is also a newly appointed member of the province’s communist party standing committee.

The reshuffle of the provincial health commission came as Beijing launched a campaign to discipline officials who mishandled the epidemic.

Coronavirus: Heads roll in Hubei as Beijing’s patience runs out | South China Morning Post

“Beijing’s patience is wearing thin,” said a person familiar with the developments in Hubei who declined to be named because of the matter’s sensitivity. “The Lunar New Year holiday has ended and people are starting to go back to work in places like Guangdong and Shanghai, main engines of the country’s economy. If Hubei fails to contain the outbreak, China’s development plan this year will be jeopardised.”

央视快评丨更坚定的信心 更顽强的意志 更果断的措施-国际在线

CCTV lauds Xi's February 10 Beijing inspection and speech, in part says he:

delivered an important speech on doing a good job in epidemic prevention and control work and to the medical workers and the masses of cadres and workers fighting on the frontlines to control the epidemic he sent the CPC Central Committee's care and solicitude and fully demonstrated the people's leader’s feelings and responsibility towards the people, greatly encouraging the war "epidemic" morale, inspiring the fight the "epidemic" spirit, and enhancing the fight the :”epidemic" determination.

对做好疫情防控工作发表重要讲话,给全国奋战在疫情防控一线的医务工作者和广大干部职工带来了党中央的关怀和慰问,充分彰显了人民领袖的人民情怀和责任担当,极大振奋了战“疫”士气,鼓舞了抗“疫”斗志,增强了防“疫”决心。

[视频]今天我们出院了_CCTV节目官网-CCTV-1_央视网(cctv.com)

CCTV Evening News shows several people who have been released from hospitals and quarantine centers, first thanks the Party, then then medical workers. Report also shows clips from the video of people dancing in one of the centers

Commentary: Victory against virus, in the name of people - People's Daily Online

The top leadership has quickly identified shortcomings in preparedness and capabilities, including those in the emergency management system, the national reserve system and reserve efficiency. All these challenges must be and will be overcome in China's characteristic system with a great degree of strength and resilience.

China is also fighting against rumors, prejudices and even racism from some foreign media outlets and politicians. The best response is not empty words, but concrete actions. The national mobilization, selfless efforts of medical workers, the miracle of tackling shortages ranging from hospitals to daily necessities and a mortality rate much lower than that of Ebola, SARS and MERS have given the world hope and gained respect for the Chinese people in this challenging situation.

There are impacts on the economy, especially the service sector, but the fundamentals of China's long-term economic development remain unchanged. China will make economic adjustments to minimize the impact of the epidemic.

Positive signs continue to emerge. New confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus pneumonia outside Hubei Province dropped for six consecutive days by the end of Sunday…

The war continues. Chinese people will only stay stronger. A nation that has battled floods along the Yangtze River in 1998, SARS in 2003, the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in 2008 and many other challenges, will never step back until victory is won.

Victory is not final. It will become a prelude to China's glory on the journey of chasing its dreams.

China turns up state hero-making machine in bid to shift narrative around coronavirus outbreak - The Globe and Mail

China’s state-run broadcasters, newspapers and digital news providers are also responding to a mandate from President Xi Jinping, who last week led a meeting of Communist Party elites that called for “telling the moving stories of how those on the front line are preventing and fighting the virus” and “showcasing the unity of the Chinese people in the face of the virus.” The central propaganda authority said it would dispatch 300 journalists to the front lines in Hubei province.

The CCTV Lantern Festival Gala Saturday night had quite the segment on the epidemic:


4. Hong Kong

Echoing SARS Tragedy, New Coronavirus Case Rattles Hong Kong - Caixin

The case has especially rattled Hong Kong residents because of a similar case that occurred in the city during the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) early last decade. In March 2003, a man who unknowingly had been infected with the SARS virus visited relatives in their apartment in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Bay. During his visit, he used the bathroom, allowing the virus to spread down the building’s drainpipe to other apartments. More than 300 people ended up infected, 42 of whom died, making it the most seriously affected residential community in Hong Kong.

Residents of evacuated Hong Kong apartments test negative for coronavirus - Reuters

The five people were exhibiting flu-like symptoms earlier. They remain in quarantine together with 200-plus residents who were evacuated from the building in Tsing Yi district in the New Territories in the early hours.

The evacuation occurred after a 62-year-old woman became the second confirmed case in the building on Monday, after a 75-year-old man tested positive on Jan. 30. The two patients, currently receiving treatment, live on different floors.

Initial investigations into the drainage system in the building further reduced concerns that the virus may have spread through the pipes, authorities said.

Coronavirus: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pleads with diplomats to help source masks, not to impose travel restrictions on city | South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s leader has pleaded with senior diplomats in the city to help with mask supplies while warning the governments they represent not to impose travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Post has learned.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor spoke with about 50 consuls general and overseas business leaders based in the city in a 1½-hour meeting on Monday afternoon, but the envoys did not immediately respond to her appeal, according to several sources.

U.S. allows government staff to leave Hong Kong over coronavirus worries - Reuters

The United States has authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members from Hong Kong in light of the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus, the State Department said on Tuesday.


5. US-China

Comment: The resurgence of anti-America propaganda after the recent hiatus during the final stretch to the phase one trade deal signing is unfortunate if not unexpected.

Chinese experts call for US talks over virus impact on phase one deal: survey - Global Times

A vast majority of Chinese analysts believe China should invoke a disaster-related clause in the phase one trade agreement and begin discussions about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on increasing imports from the US, a survey conducted by the Global Times showed on Monday.

The survey of 20 trade experts, including former trade officials and advisors to the Chinese government, revealed different projections of how exactly NCP will affect China's imports from the US in the first quarter, with some predicting a decline of as much as 25 percent and others arguing imports from the US could even increase in the quarter.

US exploiting of coronavirus crisis unworthy of a great power - Global Times

In the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the response from US government diverges from US public perception. People in the US, especially Chinese Americans, have contributed to China's battle against the coronavirus, while the response from the US administration has been controversial and widely considered immoral by many Chinese.

The US administration has been reluctant to offer any pragmatic aid to China, and instead has taken several negative measures. Just as Hua said on February 3, the US was the first to evacuate personnel from its consulate in Wuhan, the first to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on foreigners arriving from China. "What it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a very bad example," said Hua.

意识形态偏见也是病毒(钟声)

说穿了,美国一些政客因狭隘和偏执而心生害怕,怕的是他们拦不住中国经济社会发展起来、人民生活富裕起来、国家繁荣强大起来。从其荒唐逻辑出发,中国共产党带领中国人民取得历史性成就、实现跨越式发展,就是对美国的所谓威胁。但是,无理寸步难行,他们喋喋不休的荒谬之词成不了主流舆论的指挥棒。国际社会公认,几十年来,正是在中国共产党的带领下,8亿多中国人摆脱贫困、4亿多中国人加入中等收入群体,给世界带来了巨大的发展机遇。

Commentary: Racism a disease more difficult to eradicate - People's Daily Online

While the people of China are making all-out efforts to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, some comments made by certain Western media outlets are blatant rumors, discrimination and racism.

They went so far as to even tag the novel coronavirus as "China virus". The Wall Street Journal of the United States carried an article by Walter Russell Mead who used an outdated phrase to mock the Chinese people under the epidemic.

U.S. non-profit donates 1.8 mln face masks to help China combat coronavirus outbreak - Xinhua

U.S. non-profit Medshare announced on Monday a donation of 1.8 million respirators and 80,000 isolation gowns is to be sent to China to aid its ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country...

Chinese Consul General in San Francisco Wang Donghua described the donation by Medshare as helping to fulfill its mission of improving the quality of life of the people on the planet....

He criticized a handful of people in the United States for making irresponsible remarks against China's efforts to fight the virus and for taking advantage of the outbreak to point fingers at China.

China Travel Advisory - US Department of State

On January 29, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees from China. On January 31, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members under age 21 of U.S. personnel in China.

Comment: "ordered departure" for everyone under 21, means most employees with kids left


6. Huawei

U.S. chip firms fear Trump's screws on Huawei is bad for business - POLITICO

Cabinet-level officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to meet this month to discuss export control measures against Huawei and China, said people familiar with the planning. If the jockeying behind the scenes is any indication, the administration is facing criticism that more restrictions could strangle U.S. jobs and competitiveness.

Industry groups are warning that the existing sanctions are compelling Chinese electronics manufacturers beyond Huawei to find alternative suppliers of semiconductors for basic consumer items ranging from laptops to heart rate monitors.

Canada’s military wants Ottawa to ban Huawei from 5G - The Globe and Mail

The official, whom The Globe and Mail is not identifying because they are not authorized to discuss the subject publicly, said senior military leaders, including Canadian Forces chief of defence staff General Jonathan Vance, have told senior levels of government they believe Huawei would threaten national security.

How the CIA and the BND used Crypto AG encryption devices to spy on countries for decades - Washington Post 

The Crypto operation is relevant to modern espionage. Its reach and duration helps to explain how the United States developed an insatiable appetite for global surveillance that was exposed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. There are also echoes of Crypto in the suspicions swirling around modern companies with alleged links to foreign governments, including the Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky, a texting app tied to the United Arab Emirates and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

Comment: This story is a reminder that given what the US and some of its allies have done and still do those policymakers have to assume any government with capabilities would do the same, which is why you really don’t need a “smoking gun” with Huawei to reasonably conclude using its equipment for 5G is a problem.


7. Xu Zhangrun’s new essay on the virus and the CCP

Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear | ChinaFile

An Essay by Xu Zhangrun, Translated and Annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

s the Year of the Pig [2019] gave way to the Year of the Rat [February 2020], a virus that started in Wuhan, a city famed as the nation’s major transportation and communication hub, was spreading throughout China. Overnight, the country found itself in the grip of a devastating crisis; fear was stalking the land. The authorities proved themselves to be at a loss and the cost of their behavior was soon visited upon the common people. Before long, the coronavirus was reaching around the globe and the country found itself becoming rapidly isolated from the world…

The cause of all of this lies with The Axlerod [that is, Xi Jinping] and the cabal that surrounds him. It began with the imposition of stern bans on the reporting of factual information that served to embolden deception at every level of government, although it only struck its true stride when bureaucrats throughout the system shrugged off responsibility for the unfolding situation while continuing to seek the approbation of their superiors. They all blithely stood by as the crucial window of opportunity to deal with the outbreak of the infection snapped shut in their faces…

the level of popular fury is volcanic and a people thus enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear. Herein I offer my understanding of these developments in the broader context of the global system. Being mindful also of the cyclical nature of the political zeitgeist, and with a steady eye on what has been happening here in China since 2018 [when Xi Jinping was granted limitless tenure and Xu published his famous broadside aimed at the Party-State], I have formulated my thoughts under nine headings. Compatriots: they are respectfully offered here for your consideration...

The original Chinese - 許章潤《愤怒的人民已不再恐惧》


8. Is China helping North Korea evade some sanctions?

North Korea enhanced nuclear, missile programs in 2019 in breach of sanctions - U.N. report - Reuters

The country also illicitly imported refined petroleum and exported some $370 million worth of coal with the help of Chinese barges, the report added.

The 67-page report to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to be made public next month, comes as the United States tries to revive stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea...

“According to the Member State, most DPRK coal exports, an estimated 2.8 million metric tons, were conducted via ship-to-ship transfers from DPRK-flagged vessels to Chinese local barges.”

The unidentified member state told the monitors that barges had delivered coal directly to three ports in China’s Hangzhou Bay and also to facilities along the Yangtze river.

The U.N. monitors also said a member state reported that North Korea had exported at least one million tonnes of sand from river dredging, worth at least $22 million, to Chinese ports.

Chinese UN mission angry at leakage of DPRK report - Xinhua

China has noted that the 2019 Final Report drafted by the Panel of Experts of the Security Council 1718 Committee on DPRK sanctions were leaked to the press and caused media hyping and baseless accusations against China. China expresses indignation and concern and requests investigation by the UN Secretariat, said the unnamed spokesperson...

On the implementation of the Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, China has always faithfully and seriously fulfilled its international obligations and borne huge losses and tremendous pressure in the process.


Business, Economy and Trade

A Chinese College Nurtured a Sprawling Business Empire. Then Came a Debt Crisis. - WSJ Peking University Founder Group, a conglomerate majority-owned by the school, for years used its research prowess, elite connections and implicit state backing to expand in industries from electronics to commodities trading and health-care services. International investors helped fund the rapid growth by buying up the group’s debt as recently as last summer....As of September, Founder had $25.3 billion of debt, about 45% of it due within 12 months, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. By October, the group had problems selling new debt, and it missed a payment on a 2 billion yuan note in November, stunning investors and sending its bonds plunging.

Yicai Global - [Exclusive] Fidelity Will Continue Pursuit of Chinese Mutual Fund License, CEO Says US fund management firm Fidelity International remains committed to its long-term China business plan and will continue its pursuit of a mutual fund license in the country despite the novel coronavirus outbreak that has claimed over 1,000 lives to date, its Chief Executive Anne Richards told Yicai Global in an exclusive interview

Alibaba Is Said to Be Blocked From Hong Kong-China Stock Tie - Bloomberg China’s largest e-commerce company, valued at HK$4.56 trillion ($587 billion) in Hong Kong, can’t be included in the stock connect program linking the Asian financial hub with Chinese investors at present, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Angola Seizes Properties Held by China International Fund - Bloomberg Angola’s National Service for Asset Recovery seized dozens of properties held by Hong Kong-based China International Fund and its country unit, CIF Angola, that were allegedly built with state funds.

Under Armour Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2019 Results; Provides Initial 2020 Outlook The company's initial 2020 outlook currently includes an estimated negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China of approximately $50 million to $60 million in sales related to the first quarter of 2020. This outlook does not contemplate additional financial or operational impacts past the first quarter of 2020

China greenlights Mastercard's JV for bank card clearing business - Xinhua The joint venture, with a registered capital of 1 billion yuan (about 142.86 million U.S. dollars), was 51-percent owned by Mastercard, with the remaining stake held by Chinese company NetsUnion Clearing Corporation, according to the National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System.

Coronavirus in N.Y.: Without Chinese Tourists, Business Sags - The New York Times New York and other tourist destinations around the world are facing precipitous drops in demand for hotel rooms and restaurants.

Politics and Law

China sets up national laboratory for advanced policing | Financial Times $$ China’s biggest military technology company has set up a national laboratory to research advanced policing technologies such as crime prediction and emotion recognition, giving its first wave of grants to academics across China — as well as one lab in the UK. The flagship lab, which does not have a physical presence but is a network of researchers, is owned by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned defence company that has longstanding partnerships with the Chinese police and military.

The “Democratic Life Meetings” of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo - Jamestown On December 26 and 27, China’s central leadership held a “democratic life meeting” (民主生活会, minzhu shenghuo hui) for the full membership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo (Xinhua, December 27, 2019). This has become an annual end-of-year tradition for the Politburo, with similarly-designated meetings held in late December of each year from 2015 to the present (see accompanying chart). Official press treatment of the meetings since 2015 has consistently emphasized the authoritative position of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, invariably stating that he “presided over the meeting and delivered an important speech” (主持会议并发表重要讲话, zhuchi huiyi bing fabiao zhongyao jianghua) to the other assembled members.

The Dui Hua Foundation-United Nations Body Finds American Citizen Mark Swidan Arbitrarily Detained, Urges His Immediate Release In its Opinion, the WGAD concludes that Mr. Swidan’s detention lacks legal basis (he was not shown a warrant nor advised of his rights) and that the long delay in pre-trial detention without adjudication violated Mr. Swidan’s right to due process and a fair and speedy trial.   In view of the allegations of mistreatment in the detention center where Mr. Swidan has been held since November 2012, the WGAD has referred the case to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Hui Muslims Detained in Xinjiang's Uighur Camps - Foreign Policy Reports from individuals on social media and from religious freedom activist outlets have further suggested that the Hui are being interned en masse and being subjected to much of the same mistreatment as reported for the other ethnic groups.

Foreign and Defense Affairs

Responsible Statecraft - Mismanaging the Challenge: Responding to the Rise of China - Robert Ross Responding to these challenges requires policies that contribute to U.S. economic and security interests at the least risk of war and at the least cost to the American economy and the American people. Developing such a policy will require analysis of how the United States can pursue its vital interests while simultaneously adjusting to China’s rise.

China in the Middle East: Part Four | Center for Strategic and International Studies In the fourth episode of our podcast miniseries, China in the Middle East, Jon Alterman explores the Middle East’s perspectives on China with Mohammed Sudairi and Ariane Tabatabai. They talk about how the Middle East holds high hopes for China’s future role in the region and focus on Iran and the Gulf as examples. They also discuss the myth of Chinese workers speaking fluent Arabic and what Iranian storekeepers tell shoppers about bicycles made in China.

Philippines notifies US of intent to end major security pact - AP The Philippines notified the United States on Tuesday it would end a major security pact allowing American forces to train in the country, in the most serious threat under President Rodrigo Duterte to their 69-year treaty alliance

US warns China about using Singapore air show as ‘platform for exploitation and theft’ | South China Morning Post In a bid to counter Beijing’s growing footprint in the Indo-Pacific region, Washington is bringing its largest-ever delegation to the air show this week as it steps up “global power competition” with China, said R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

Taiwan

Coronavirus: hundreds of Taiwan travellers stranded in Philippines due to ban on Chinese tourists | South China Morning Post The Philippines Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday afternoon that because the World Health Organisation classified Taiwan as part of China, travellers from there were being included in a temporary ban on tourists from China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Introduction: Taiwan, Public Diplomacy, and the World Health Assembly in: International Journal of Taiwan Studies Volume 3 Issue 1 (2020) The first four contributions to this issue of the International Journal of Taiwan Studies are papers that were originally presented at a workshop entitled ‘Public Diplomacy and Taiwan's Campaign to Join the wha’, organised by the Global Communications Research Centre, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, 28 March 2018. They form a distinct topical section motivated by an ambition to approach Taiwan from a multidisciplinary perspective. Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization (who) and World Health Assembly (wha) requires analyses that are informed by the medical sciences, as well as political science, international relations, and an area studies approach to both Taiwan and China and their interaction.

PLA conducts drills near Taiwan island for 2 days in a row - Global Times The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday launched joint drills featuring naval and air forces near the island of Taiwan, one day after it conducted a combat readiness drill which saw its warplanes encircle the island. For two consecutive days, concentrated military operations surrounding Taiwan have demonstrated PLA's capabilities to solve the Taiwan question by force amid Taiwan secessionist plans, experts said.

Tech and Media

Kuaishou earned revenue of $7.2 billion in 2019: report · TechNode Chinese video-sharing app Kuaishou generated RMB 50 billion (around $7.2 billion) in revenue in 2019, with live-streaming revenue accounting for the largest share, Chinese media Jiemian reported on Monday

Chinese Firms Still Planning to Attend World’s Biggest Telecom Show Despite Virus Restrictions - Caixin Huawei and ZTE are among the Chinese companies still planning to attend the world’s biggest annual telecoms show in Barcelona this month, even after a string of international brands have pulled out citing coronavirus fears, and the organizer announced strict controls on guests from China.

Rural and Agricultural Issues

Agricultural germplasm resources to be protected, utilized - SCIO By 2035, a scientific and efficient system will be established for the protection and utilization of agricultural germplasm resources, and the resource volume will reach the front ranks of the world, according to the circular.

The circular - 国务院办公厅印发《关于加强农业种质资源保护与利用的意见》--时政--人民网