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China's October National Golden Week holidays are effectively canceled this year due to Covid-19 lockdowns and the upcoming Party Congress.
Guangzhou main station, back in 2016, when holidays were still a thing. Photo: WikiCommons.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Uzbekistan for talks.
The meeting was confirmed by Putin, who told “top Chinese legislator Li Zhanshu at an economic forum in Russia that ‘we will see each other with President Xi Jinping soon, I hope, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan,’” according to the Associated Press (AP).
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China’s ambassador to Australia warned in an interview on national TV that Taiwanese independence activists would be “punished,” according to reports Down Under.
On the question of reeducation, ambassador Xiao Qian said that Taiwanese would be “obliged” not “forced” to learn about China, while “only a handful” of secessionists would be “punished”.
And if you believe that, wait until China invades your country – or, at the very least, buys it.
China’s “largest urban village” – Guiyang’s Huaguoyuan Community, home to 500,000 people – was reportedly locked down and running out of food and supplies this week, with some residents complaining on social media that they hadn’t eaten for days.
In a move that’s suggestive that China’s government really would rather incarcerate its population than stoop to buying foreign-made vaccines, China approved a homemade inhaled Covid-19 vaccine – one of the world’s first.
Developed by CanSino, “Convidecia Air, delivers a vaccine dose through a puff of air from a nebulizer that is then inhaled by mouth,” reports CNN.
Many immunologists think that inhaled – nasally or orally – vaccines hold greater promise in keeping rapidly mutating SARS-CoV-2 at bay than intra-muscular jabs.
All over China, district governments are ordering halts “to purchases and deliveries of ‘nonessential goods’ in an effort to limit residents’ movement,” reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
With more than 100 cities nationwide affected, the current outbreak is the most extensive resurgence of the virus in the past two years, state-owned China Daily said.
Sichuan’s new daily infections have ticked up this week, with 159 cases on Wednesday, according to the latest health data. Cases remained relatively high along China’s border, with Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang reporting more than 600 new locally transmitted infections in total detected Wednesday.
The unrelenting lockdowns are not only bringing pain, misery, uncertainty – and immobility – to Chinese citizens; they’re starting to put immense strain on local governments, according to the Financial Times (paywall):
‘Fighting Covid is expensive and local governments, especially in lower-tier cities, have run out of money,’ said Bo Zhuang, a Singapore-based analyst at Loomis Sayles.
Some local governments have slashed essential services as money has been redirected to fighting Covid. Authorities in the north-eastern city of Jilin were forced to divert funds from Xi’s signature poverty alleviation campaign to finance mass testing.
‘There is nothing left to cut,’ said Bo.
The fundamental problem is that local governments are now tasked with fighting Covid and with stimulating the economy.
Faced with two obviously contradictory missions, officials prioritize Covid, because so many of them have lost their jobs due to Covid outbreaks on their watch.
Golden Week in China …
Down with mooncake excesses!
MX lava custard mooncake. Photo: Creative Commons.
Not only will tens – perhaps hundreds – of millions of Chinese spend the October Golden Week holidays locked (or welded) into their homes, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is exhorting them to cut back on mooncake spending ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival (it begins tomorrow, September 10).
As The Economist (paywall) notes, the “dense, cloyingly sweet” stamped pastries are once again the “object of intense government scrutiny.”
Something similar happened during President Xi Jinping’s first term (from 2013 to 2018), when he moved to stamp out corruption. Mooncakes have long been associated with graft. Businesses seeking favours from the government often send officials fancy boxes full of the pastry—and other, more expensive goodies.
This time, it’s a crackdown on “sky high” mooncake prices aimed at curbing “societal excesses,” according to reports.
First they lock you in, then they come after your mooncakes … What next?
Xi Jinping, forever ‘failing upwards’?
Chinese CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. Photo: US Department of State, WikiCommons.
Cai Xia, once a “devout believer in Chinese communist doctrine” as The Guardian puts it, is now in exile and can speak and write freely about the Party and its members.
In Foreign Affairs this week, the former teacher at the central school for cadres writes on the divisions in China brought about by an isolated Xi Jinping, whom she describes in his early years as a “middling performance” official “failing upwards,” courtesy the impeccable revolutionary credentials of his father, Xi Zhongxun.
Outwardly, Xi still projects confidence. In a speech in January 2021, he declared China “invincible.” But behind the scenes, his power is being questioned as never before. By discarding China’s long tradition of collective rule and creating a cult of personality reminiscent of the one that surrounded Mao, Xi has rankled party insiders. A series of policy missteps, meanwhile, have disappointed even supporters. Xi’s reversal of economic reforms and his inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic have shattered his image as a hero of everyday people. In the shadows, resentment among CCP elites is rising.
Trapped in an echo chamber and desperately seeking redemption, he may even do something catastrophically ill advised, such as attack Taiwan. Xi may well ruin something China has earned over the course of four decades: a reputation for steady, competent leadership. In fact, he already has.
Outsiders may find it helpful to think of the CCP as more of a mafia organization than a political party. The head of the party is the don, and below him sit the underbosses, or the Standing Committee. These men traditionally parcel out power, with each responsible for certain areas—foreign policy, the economy, personnel, anticorruption, and so on. They are also supposed to serve as the big boss’s consiglieres, advising him on their areas of responsibility. Outside the Standing Committee are the other 18 members of the Politburo, who are next in the line of succession for the Standing Committee. They can be thought of as the mafia’s capos, carrying out Xi’s orders to eliminate perceived threats in the hope of staying in the good graces of the don. As a perk of their position, they are allowed to enrich themselves as they see fit, seizing property and businesses without penalty. And like the mafia, the party uses blunt tools to get what it wants: bribery, extortion, even violence.
Her lengthy piece has probably been one of the most read by China watchers this week.
Church on the run
After fleeing China three years ago, the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church has made its way to Bangkok, where it’s still being stalked by Beijing, reports the Associated Press (AP).
‘Political pressure is rising, and there’s more and more ideological control,’ said Pastor Pan Yongguang, whose church has been on the run for years. ‘The persecution is growing worse.’
Since leaving China for South Korea’s resort island of Jeju … Pan’s 61 congregants have been stalked, harassed, and received threatening calls and messages despite fleeing hundreds of kilometers (miles) away, he said. Relatives back in China have been summoned, interrogated and intimidated. In one case, Chinese diplomats refused to issue a member’s newborn child a passport, rendering the baby stateless.
Chinese Christians are only allowed to worship in Party-endorsed churches and so-called “house churches” – small independent groupings of Christians China-wide – claim to be increasingly persecuted.
Thailand’s record in providing refuge to Chinese citizens on the run is shaky.
As recently as July this year, Uyghurs were reportedly rounded up and put in a Bangkok facility, amid fears the Kingdom was under pressure to extradite them to China.
The Greater Sinosphere
Speech therapists guilty of sedition
Their crime? Printing a series of children’s books about sheep and wolves, which apparently breached a colonial-era sedition law.
Reports Hong Kong Free Press:
The publications were said to have spread separatism and incited hatred against the authorities.
The disbanded General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, an industry group, in 2020 and 2021 published stories about a “sheep village” that was bullied and attacked. Prosecutors alleged the stories were allegories that amounted to “indoctrinating” children to support separatism and hatred of Beijing.
The speech therapists face up to two years in prison, with sentencing expected on September 10.
Leading researcher infected with SARS-2
Yuen Kwok-yung see the press in Lek Yuen Estate 2020. Photo: WikiCommons.
The South China Morning Post reports microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, has been infected with Covid-19.
He’s uncertain whether he got it during one of his frequent visits to infected clusters in Hong Kong or whether he was infected in the lab.
‘I was always in the lab testing DNA and doing all kinds of virus experiments all the time. I can’t determine if I was naturally infected or caught it in the lab,’ he added.
Kudos to Yuen for at least admitting that a lab infection was plausible – taboo not only in China, but in the West, apparently.
Farewell ‘Boss Lady’
Procession for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei, June 3, 1953. Photo: WikiCommons.
Just a couple of dozen bouquets rested outside Hong Kong’s British Consulate, where the Union Jack hung at half mast, but the Straits Times reports that Hong Kongers abroad remembered Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II online.
Queen Elizabeth visited Hong Kong twice during her reign, while her son – now King Charles III – was present for the handover to China in 1997.
‘My grandmother who raised me always spoke of the “boss lady”. I heard about her so much she felt like family … Today, it’s like a family member passed away,’ Facebook user Vincent Lam wrote.
Obviously “flock” is not precisely the right word, but Hong Kong is not the place it once was and there’s no doubt uncertainty as to the legality of leaving bouquets of flowers outside the British consulate.
The last movie billboard painter
Taiwan’s southern city of Tainan will be offering limited edition postcards of its landmarks designed by Yen Chen-fa (顏振發), the last movie poster painter in Taiwan, over the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, according the Taiwan Chinese-language Power News.
According to the Cultural Affairs Bureau, Yan is a “national treasure” who has been painting movie posters since he was 18.
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