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China, Zero Covid Is Going to Fail
The virus you possibly created might devour you – and your economy – if you don't bestow it with 'Chinese characteristics' and learn to live with it.
Art: Mark Corry.
Viruses don’t read books on governance, they don’t do immigration checks and they waft invisibly around and through walls – especially highly transmissible viruses like the latest SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Small surprise then that, despite its unwavering zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19, China is clearly having problems holding the virus at bay. This is not the alpha Wuhan coronavirus that China effectively stopped in its tracks (domestically) 2-1/2 years ago.
This latest variant, BA.5 is far more insidious, more immune evasive and likely more lockdown proof than anything that preceded it.
The country reported 580 local cases on Saturday, according to the National Health Commission. That’s the highest since May 23 and a jump from 450 the day before. New infections in the southern Guangxi autonomous region surged to 244 from 40 the day before and the number in northwestern Gansu [Province] rose to 158 from 113, according to the data.
These are negligible numbers by global standards. The US is at over 100,000 cases a day, and that’s certainly an undercount as CNN recently commented. The Omicron BA.5 variant is already the most prevalent there – and four times more resistant to Covid-19 vaccines, according to NPR.
As the (Australian) ABC reports – amid a growing “Oh, shit” realization that there is no herd immunity, our vaccines are not effective for long enough and that repeat infections could possibly blight the lives of innumerable formerly healthy people:
There had been hope that the health risks associated with contracting COVID-19 would decrease with subsequent infections.
But Nancy Baxter from the School of Population and Global Health at Melbourne University said early research, based on data collected from the US Department of Veterans Affairs database, showed that was not the case.
Dr Deepti Gurdarasani from Queen Mary University of London agreed that while the research has some caveats, its findings have significant implications for the way we think about COVID-19 reinfections.
‘It's clear that the “reinfection is benign” or “mild' narrative” doesn't really hold," she said on Twitter.
If the above is the reason for China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus, it at least has a certain logic. This virus is too canny for science; only old-school quarantines can hold it back.
Except they won’t and China would be far better served by not locking down its economy and spending money on health mitigation measures instead, just as we all should.
One of the problems, according to The Scientist, might be the way we’re administering our vaccines:
Intramuscular injections generate systemic immunity but little or no immune response in the nose, where respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 typically enter the body. Yet this so-called mucosal immunity, according to experts who spoke with The Scientist, is one of the best ways to completely inhibit infection and thereby abolish community spread.
‘In an ideal situation, you would of course entirely block the transmission of the virus in vaccinated people, and I think the consensus right now is that intramuscular vaccines are going to have a really, really hard time reaching that milestone,’ says virologist Neeltje van Doremalen, an associate scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) who collaborated on preclinical studies of a nasal version of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford that is currently in clinical trials. ‘And I’m not saying that we think that intranasal vaccines are going to easily do that, but I do think that that is going to be an improvement.’
Teams are working to make intramuscular vaccines happen, but they get little public attention and only two are China-based.
Chart: The Scientist
Ideally, China doesn’t implode out of obstinacy to not yield an inch to the “coronavasion,” but it likely will if it doesn’t come up with long-term alternatives to the “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” policy it’s currently pursuing.
China’s Evaporating GDP
Everything has to go. Photo: Anna Frodesiak, Wiki Commons
Oh, those heady days of double-digit growth when we all wanted to cozy up to China?
China’s not on the market for hugs right now.
Its second-quarter GDP growth was so appalling (a measly 0.4%) that economists are scrambling to downsize their growth forecasts.
The 0.4% expansion in gross domestic product reported for the three months to June, when dozens of cities including Shanghai and Changchun imposed lockdowns, was the second weakest ever recorded. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. promptly cut its full-year growth forecast to 3.3%, saying the figures suggest Covid lockdowns last quarter took a heavier-than-expected toll on the economy.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. What would they know? Here at ChinaDiction we’re putting our money on protracted and geographically diversified lockdowns over the next two quarters, leading to 1.3% annual GDP growth for 2022.
Is the US Doing China Right?
They’re not really at each other’s throats over who has the best government … And, boy, Xi was looking good back then. Four volumes on and a war in Europe and he’s losing his looks.
Minxin Pei, writing opinion over at Bloomberg, says the US could do better.
In most respects, the White House’s China policy is delivering excellent outcomes. Unlike his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump, Biden has assiduously cultivated friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific and Europe. The United States is well on its way to building a broad-based coalition that could help sustain an open-ended rivalry with China.
Casting the competition with China as part of a grand battle against autocracy is at best foolish and at worst self-destructive. At a minimum, this narrative sounds hypocritical to US partners. Few of the existing or potential allies Washington needs to confront China are model democracies. Vietnam is a communist dictatorship, Thailand is effectively ruled by a military junta, and democracy in the Philippines and India has been deteriorating at alarming speed. Biden’s own visit to Saudi Arabia this week underscores the necessity of working with non-democracies.
It’s an obvious argument, but is it a good one?
To many third countries, the US approach to China also seems more about power than ideology. These countries suspect — probably correctly — that the US is largely motivated by fears of losing its global primacy; casting the rivalry with China solely in ideological terms thus invites accusations of intellectual dishonesty. Indeed, Graham Allison’s book, “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” has become a bestseller because its central argument — that competition for power, not ideology, is driving the U.S. and China toward conflict — resonates around the world.
And, well, yeah … Did anyone see it any other way?
Navigating the South China Sea
A Spratly island; everyone wants a piece of the chain: Photo: NASA
CNN reports that the US 7th Fleet conducted its second “freedom of navigation operation” (FONOP) in the South China Sea in a week on Saturday.
Beijing hates these incursions into the waters surrounding disputed islands it claims its own – and in this latest FONOP, the Spratly, or Nansha, islands.
But there’s not a whole lot Beijing can do about it without risking a full-fledged military incident.
The Spratly Islands are a geopolitical nightmare – claimed by everyone in the region, essential to sea travel, rich in fishing and possibly oil etc.
‘In violation of international law, the PRC, Vietnam, and Taiwan purport to require either permission or advance notification before a military vessel engages in 'innocent passage' through the territorial sea of the relevant feature,’ the 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim sovereignty over parts of the Spratly Islands, but the US Navy statement did not say its warship was challenging any of their claims.
Don’t Just Bring Us Paperwork to Sign, say Pacific Islands
‘If anybody knows what we want and what we need and what our priorities are, it’s not other people, it’s us,’ says Pacific islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna Photo: Maksym Kozlenko, Wiki Commons.
The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that Pacific Island nations pushed back at Chinese efforts to implement a region-wide agreement to deepen security and trade ties.
At the conclusion of a leaders’ summit in Fiji’s capital, Suva, a senior Pacific Island official said China had overstepped in May with a sweeping proposal that would have extended Beijing’s influence to areas including law enforcement and cybersecurity. A group of nations with diplomatic ties to Beijing deferred action on the proposal at the time.
‘They came here with their own prepared outcomes document,’ Pacific islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna said of China. ‘It was that that our members reacted against because, the thing is, if anybody knows what we want and what we need and what our priorities are, it’s not other people, it’s us.’
It should be added, as The Economist (paywall) notes, that this latest Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) has been particularly stressful for participants, not only because they find themselves possible pawns in a new Great Game, but because the two Micronesian states of the Marshall Islands and Kiribati have dropped out of the forum because “they are not being given their due.”
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The Greater Sinosphere
The Atlantic has a superb piece on Uyghurs, their poetry and their identity – and much more. We’re just going to hand this one over to the Atlantic … Read on.
For many Uyghurs, poetry is less a niche literary exercise than a vital part of everyday life. Uyghur culture has become a target of the Chinese government’s crackdown in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, a persecution of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities that the United States has said amounts to genocide. The authorities have destroyed Uyghur holy sites, censored Uyghur books, and suppressed the Uyghur language in schools. At least 312 Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim intellectuals, including writers, artists, and poets, have been detained, according to a 2021 report by the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit, though the actual number is thought to be far higher.
Quadruple Murderer Likely to Face Death
Li Hong-yuan murdered his boss and three other employees ‘in cold blood’. Photo: Liberty Times.
Taiwan’s Chinese-language Liberty Times reports that legal experts are of the opinion that the suspect in a quadruple murder case in central Taiwan, is likely to receive the death penalty.
Powerful forces in Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would very much like the death penalty abolished, regarding it as a hulking, abhorrent relic of the bad old authoritarian days under the Kuomintang.
Significant progress has been made on gay marriage – another DPP cornerstone policy – but the death penalty can still be invoked. Over to the Liberty Times (translation ChinaDiction):
Li Hong-yuan, of Nantou County, shot his former employer and employees execution style, causing four deaths and one serious injury … Lawyers said that because Li so far showed no signs of mental disorder the probability of being sentenced to death is quite high.
There are currently 38 people on death row in prison – the longest has been in prison for 32 years, while some 30 death-row inmates have died in prison.
Stifling ‘Green Cancer’ Vine Devours Southern Taiwan
The Mikania micrantha vine could potentially be worse than Covid-19 and climate change if the Pingtung Forest District Office cannot stop it. Photo: courtesy of the Pingtung Forest District Office.
It’s not quite Day of the Triffids (yet), but Pingtung (屏東, ), in Taiwan’s “Deep South,” is locked in deadly battle with a “mile-a-minute vine,” reports Focus Taiwan.
Mathematically speaking – table napkin, no pen – Taiwan will be “fully vine” within, six-to-eight weeks if the Pingtung Forest District Office cannot stop what it’s also calling a “green cancer.”
In a bid to control the spread of the ‘green cancer’ before its blossoming season starts in winter, a series of eight events has been organized to pay residents NT$5 (US$0.17) for each kilogram of Mikania micrantha that they bring in from the wild, the forestry office said.
If ChinaDiction knows Taiwan – Oh, and we do – at rates like that, this is a doomed vine. People will be quitting their day jobs as Mikania micrantha frenzy sweeps the island.
Taiwan’s Latest Political Color – ‘Tiffany Green’
Ko Wen-je (柯文哲, Kē Wén-zhé) founder and chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party (and mayor of Taipei) spoke out on his party’s color, which clearly represents the harmonization of the divisive polarities of contemporary Green-Blue Taiwan.
At Taoyuan’s Jing Fu Gong Temple (景福宮, Jǐng Fú Gōng) the eagle-eyed Ko, according to Taiwan’s Chinese-language Liberty Times, noted approvingly that the temple’s color scheme was “tiffany green,” the color that is emblematic of his own political party – a mixture of blue and green, as Ko would have us believe.
Not to be confused with “limp green.”
Journalists, political analysts, Pantone politics are coming ahead of the “renegade province’s” next experiment in “vibrant democracy.”
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