China: COVID-19 wave reaches the countryside

you welcome in Foreign PolicyChina Brief.

Highlights this week: China COVID-19 crisis She arrives in rural areas with the onset of the new year, and Beijing appoints a former ambassador to the United States Minister of Foreign AffairsAnd the The new president of Brazil China courts.

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you welcome in Foreign PolicyChina Brief.

Highlights this week: China COVID-19 crisis She arrives in rural areas with the onset of the new year, and Beijing appoints a former ambassador to the United States Minister of Foreign AffairsAnd the The new president of Brazil China courts.

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

The worsening of the COVID-19 crisis in China

Another New Year in China, another round of the COVID-19 crisis in the country as the virus continues to spread beyond the major cities. In his New Year’s address on December 31, Chinese President Xi Jinping directly I confess Outbreak: “We have now entered a new phase of the response to COVID where difficult challenges remain,” he said.

Wedged between claims about heroic struggle, Xi’s statement was a rare nod to reality when the gap between the suffering on the ground and the tone of state media seems ever greater. Hospitals laden in several places; One reasonable estimate would be that 9,000 people They die every day in China. In the Northeast, friends say “Have you caught the virus yet?” It replaced the traditional salutation, “Have you eaten?”

China stopped release Accurate COVID-19 data. Even the World Health Organization (WHO), which has largely taken an appeasing approach to China’s lack of transparency, has done so. Call Chinese government straight out. As many countries such as the United States and Australia submit new test requests for Chinese travelers, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus He said These policies were “understandable” given the “lack of comprehensive information” from China.

Experts fear a new type of outbreak is emerging in China. data From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention there is no sign of this yet, but the World Health Organization is desperate for more information. while, misinformation About the virus spreading within China, from government claims that traditional Chinese medicine products can be used for treatment to full-blown conspiracy theories.

The worst of the first wave seems to have happened peaked In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, life is temporarily returning to the streets. But the countryside is already taking a beating reports The high death toll in some villages and soaked Hospitals where employees work even when they are sick.

Certain factors could make COVID-19 more devastating in rural China. Even in normal times, Health Care services in rural areas Insufficientwith less than half the number Critical care beds per capita compared to urban areas and a severe shortage of personnel. Although formally the rural population is younger on average, in practice young people are moving to the cities in search of work, leaving the villages full of the very old and the very young.

In spite of Recurring payments, the older population in China is not immunized, partly because many elderly people live in hard-to-reach areas and partly because vaccines are skeptical; They are also at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, on January 22 may exacerbate the rural crisis. The so-called spring migration begins about two weeks before the holiday, when migrant workers collect their paychecks and return to their villages to celebrate with their families. This could lead to faster transmission of COVID-19 in rural areas.

Many migrant workers have not been able to return home for three years, since the outbreak broke out in 2020 just before the Spring Festival, and the government’s downplaying of the virus is likely to convince people that the chance to spend time together is worth it.

The wave will also delay hopes for a recovery in the rural economy. On December 24, Xi again invite him Youth to revitalize the countryside, but this is unlikely. Rural areas have little to offer young people culturally or economically. Back in the days of jobs reserved for college graduates, which lasted until the 1990s, the government could send people to remote areas as teachers, nurses, or doctors. But even Youth unemployment record It is unlikely that many people will be tempted to go to rural areas of China, especially with the spread of COVID-19.

Beijing’s new foreign minister. Chen Gang, who served as China’s ambassador to the United States for about 18 months, was appointed Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a move that was expected a few weeks ago. The foreign minister has a surprisingly weak position within the Chinese state, which has always prioritized domestic affairs. Like other personalities promoted during party conference In the previous October and in the months that followed, Chen was an ally of Shi with little influence on his side.

But Chen’s statement in a tweet on Tuesday that he is a “huge fan” of The Americans is a sign Try warming up Between China and the United States since Xi met US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November. However, China continues to spread anti-American propaganda at home, and the leadership has kept so-called wolf warrior diplomats in their posts, while Washington remains convinced that Beijing is its main adversary.

Nevertheless, it is a good sign that the two sides in the new Cold War are ready to talk to each other in civil terms, if nothing else.

If it were not for the courts of China. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, newly inaugurated for the second time, is Continuous His pro-Chinese approach to foreign affairs. He put Beijing at the top of his agenda on his first foreign trip – to Warm reception Who is it? Despite his anti-communist rhetoric, Lula’s predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, was turned towards Beijing amid diplomatic isolation as a result of his far-right policies. Lula appears to be looking to detach Brazil from the emerging geopolitical blocs, and revive the spirit of the Cold War era. Non-Aligned.

Notable deaths due to covid-19? Chinese authorities’ reluctance Recognition of deaths from COVID-19 — the official number since the end of the zero COVID policy on December 7 stands at 12 — has led to a flurry of speculation as celebrities, especially older adults, die. Unspecified diseases. In some cases, the family has it has been confirmed online that their relatives died of COVID-19. Whatever credibility the government built through its initial success in stamping out the coronavirus is now gone, thanks to the gap between apparent losses and official numbers.

At some point, Beijing could change course to regain some credibility, perhaps by acknowledging in part the scale of the death after the worst of the crisis has passed. I suspect the authorities currently have no idea how to deal with it sudden turn Without making Xi look weak or inconsistent.

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Bad economic data is piling up. China manufacturing activity It fell for the fifth consecutive month in December, adding to a string of bad economic indicators from the work to me spending. This photo appears to have played an important role in persuading Xi to end the zero COVID policy, but it has also cast doubt on his country. It includes During his New Year’s speech that the economy grew by 4.4 percent in 2022. The Spring Festival, which is traditionally a period of big spending, will be an important test of consumer confidence.

After three years of no COVID, there is no doubt pent-up demand for everything from spa days to restaurants, but the new COVID-19 wave has kept people indoors, away from fear for their lives Last month. I expect no significant growth will come until this first wave wanes, but until then, consumers will still be risk averse, not least because per capita income has suffered over the past three years. Rebuilding savings is more likely than a full-scale boom.

Canada bans foreign real estate buyers. Last Sunday, a Ban for two years It applies to most foreigners who acquire real estate in Canada, with exceptions for refugees and students. Chinese investment is one of the main targets of the new measure; He was blamed for driving housing prices In cities like Vancouver, where Chinese buyers are made third of new property buyers.

eminent coverage The luxury home was given to Huawei manager Meng Wanzhou while she was on bail in China, drawing attention to the issue. If Canada’s measures work, other countries with high levels of Chinese real estate investment and with growing distrust of Beijing – such as Australia and the United Kingdom – may follow suit.

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