State media calls on the Chinese people to knuckle down and persevere with a no-tolerance virus crackdown of historic proportions
Image: Wikideas1; Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication.
To everyone proclaiming “Covid-19 is over,” cue China – unfunny meme joke de jour – announcing, “Hold my beer.”
In no less than four public announcements this week, the People’s Daily and Xinhua – the CPC’s core propaganda outlets – have doused water on widely rumored hopes that China might open up tourism and business and go easy on the lockdowns after the all-important Party Congress, which gets underway this Sunday.
Yesterday (Tuesday) the People’s Daily published (Chinese) its second editorial in as many days on China’s “sustainable” COVID-zero policy, calling it “economical and effective.”
It called on the Chinese people to have “confidence” and “patience.”
Today the People’s Daily justified (Chinese) the “science” of “dynamic cleansing” versus “lying flat” – it’s become an all-encompassing term in Chinese for passivity in the face of adversity – maintaining that, vaccinations or no vaccinations, mass infections would put pressure on the medical system and lead to unnecessary deaths and mass disablement due to long covid.
These are, it should be added, not totally irrational arguments, amid media reports worldwide on heightened mortality rates (see Singapore below) and millions affected by “long covid.”
It might be added that China’s medical system is not as a bright, shiny and efficient as its countrywide high-speed rail network either.
But back to the confidence and patience of the Chinese, it’s probably safe to say that areas which have been minimally affected by lockdowns will likely greet the latest admonitions with triumphal readiness to persevere, whereas urban Chinese traumatized by months of being locked up with family members and scrambling to rustle up food supplies – let’s just cite Shanghai as an example – are probably running low on love for “dynamic cleansing.”
As for the policy itself, bearing in mind that China’s vaccination rate is relatively high and the vaccines are likely not as terrible as some Western observers would have us believe, it’s difficult to see what has to happen for Xi Jinping to back down and announce, Business as usual, folks; go forth and mingle at will.
Listen to the investment house analysts telling people that China will open in early 2023 if that makes you feel better, but be prepared for this to carry on longer than you would be prefer if your life and income is in anyway contingent on what happens next in China.
Two-year contracts are currently being offered for virus control workers in Shanghai, Caixin reports (Chinese).
Curb your optimism. It will hurt when it bumps up against reality in China.
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On second thoughts
Through thick and thin, right? Photo: The Presidential Press and Information Office; Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
Xi’s “no limits” friendship with Putin notwithstanding, China is beginning to express some concern about the unrelenting conflict in Ukraine, which is upending energy supply chains and even raising the specter of nuclear conflict, Bloomberg reports.
‘We are concerned about the development of the current situation and call on relevant parties to resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation,’ Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tuesday at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
It’s tempting to remark that China shouldn’t have tacitly endorsed Putin’s Ukraine adventurism at the start of the year, but who was to know back then that Ukraine wouldn’t fall in days or weeks?
Mao reiterated that Beijing was “willing to work with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in de-escalating the situation,” without providing details on how it would do that.
The world awaits further details on China’s “constructive role” in de-escalation.
Wiggling around the censors
‘Rice bunny,’ or 米兔, support for the suppressed “me too” movement in China finds creative expression, as do a host of other censor-evasive memes. Picture: screengrab from referenced Rest of the World article.
Rest of the World has an entertaining story on avoiding censorship on Chinese social media.
China watchers who can read Chinese will be familiar with the dizzying inventiveness of the PRC’s “netizens,” who play endless games with ever-vigilant censors – and frequently get away with it.
Think of it as fast-mutating Cockney rhyming slang involving Chinese characters, emojis and “dialectical” plays on words. Some of them stick and enter the linguistic mainstream, making them useless for evading the censors but providing evidence of language evolution as it happens.
It’s not new, after all.
‘The play on puns and homophones has been a long existing literary and cultural tradition,’ Shaohua Guo, author of The Evolution of the Chinese Internet, told Rest of World. ‘The prevalence of Internet use, particularly social media, further popularizes the practice.’
In a recent example of the normalization of censor-evading wordplay, you need a green health code, or lǜ mǎ (绿码) to be able to do pretty much almost anything in public. It’s pronounced identically to “green horse” …
In April, a giant inflatable green horse was put up in a public square in Wuhan, making it an instant social media sensation.
And simultaneously useless for criticizing Xi JInping’s much-vaunted “dynamic cleansing of China,” but then again it wasn’t the cleverest of word tricks anyway.
The Greater Sinosphere
Chief Executive ‘laughs off’ US sanctions
Hong Kong Chief Executive – here pictured in 2019, when he was just head of police, always looks glum, even when he’s laughing off US sanctions. Photo: VOA; Public domain.
The South China Morning Post reports the Chief Executive John Lee as “laughing off” US sanctions when asked whether he was receiving his salary in cash like his predecessor Carrie Lam.
All the same …
“It is a very barbaric act,” he conceded in a statement suggestive that any laughter was more braggadocio than pure nonchalant gaiety.
The Q&A came amid continued controversy about the docking of “superyacht” Nord, which is owned by a sanctioned Russian billionaire
Asked if Russian funds were welcome in Hong Kong, city leader John Lee Ka-chiu said the financial centre would handle overseas capital according to the law.
Officials from the US and the EU claim to be worried that Hong Kong could become a haven for those evading sanctions.
‘Officials in Hong Kong do what is right to protect the interests of the country and the interests of Hong Kong. So we will just laugh off the so-called sanctions.’
City state’s life expectancy drops
One of health-conscious Singapore’s famous hawker stands closed for cleaning during the pandemic. Photo: ZKang123; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0.
Bloomberg reports that, for the first time since records began to be kept in 1957, Singapore’s life expectancy has dropped, driven by the added number of deaths attributed to Covid-19, even though the novel pathogen was officially only the fifth leading cause of death.
Life expectancy at birth was 83.5 years in 2021, a drop of around two months compared with 83.7 years in 2019, data from the Department of Statistics showed. Life expectancy for women was 85.9 years, and 81.1 years for men, the data showed.
The drop mirrors a trend seen in the US, where life expectancy suffered its largest two-year decline in a century as Covid-19 and the epidemic of opioid overdoses took their toll on the population. Overall life expectancy at birth in the US declined by almost 3 years from 2019 to 2021 to 76.1 years
The female pregnant pangolin. Photo: Prague Zoo.
The Prague Zoo has announced (Czech language) that one of its two rare Formosan pangolins is pregnant, in a crowning moment for Taiwan pangolin diplomacy.
According to the Czech Taiwan Business Chamber, the two critically endangered pangolins arrived in Prague on April 22 and “debuted” at Prague Zoo on May 15.
ABC News reported that “the rare acquisition from Taiwan follows a political fallout with China that prevented the expected arrival of a pair of giant pandas.”
Guo Bao, the male pangolin, and Run Hou Tang, the female, came from the Taipei zoo, the leading breeder of the mammals that are hunted heavily for their scales and meat.
An online vote in Czechoslovakia rechristened them Hugo and Fazolka, and Czech pangolin frenzy ensued, with the Czech Business Chamber announcing:
In the arena of so-called animal diplomacy, Formosan termite-hunting, keratin-scales-covered pangolins are already stealing the hearts of the Czech people.
The Prague Zoo was clearly excited too, but cautioned public enthusiasm by warning of the difficulties of caring for pangolins and getting them to breed, saying that now their environment had been prepared – with high humidity and surfaces safe for their “delicate feet” – “the hardest part begins.”
The result: “Czech mate:” one pregnant pangolin.
An aside: the Czechs may be waiting longer than they think for their first baby pangolin. According to a 2011 paper published in Zoo Biology, the gestation period for baby Formosan pangolins can be up to one year – or even longer.
In another aside, Nature, as early as 1938, warned that the pangolin was under threat due to the use of its scales – “roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy's urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells” – in the traditional Chinese medical treatment of “a variety of ills,” including “hysterical crying in children, women possessed by devils and ogres, malarial fever and deafness."
Meanwhile, according to The Asia West East Review, an obscure but obviously sensible website, hopes may be running high in Taipei that, like China’s panda diplomacy, Formosan pangolin may be able to bring Taiwan closer to countries abroad, but:
If pushed too far, pangolin diplomacy may heighten Beijing’s fears that Taiwan is exerting itself too prominently, or inching closer to independence
To which ChinaDiction replies: enough “panda-ring” to China; go Formosan pangolins!
Murder accusation splits county-level vote
Chuanhua Temple in Miaoli County, a place of mystery and political intrigue. CEphoto, Uwe Aranas; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
Hakka-dominated Miaoli in central west Taiwan – next door to high-tech Hsinchu – has a certain reputation; they do things differently there.
Most recently, ahead of local elections, the Taipei Times reports that infighting between two KMT county commissioner candidates after “a decades-old murder conviction came to light” could give the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Hsu Ting-chen (Xú Dìngzhēn, 徐定禎) the lead.
Miaoli is traditionally a KMT stronghold.
Candidate Hsieh Fu-hung (謝福弘) told a news conference on Thursday [last week] that Chung Tung-chin (鍾東錦) should withdraw from the race after trying to conceal a conviction for killing a man more than 30 years ago.
Documents presented by Hsieh show that Chung was “convicted of killing a man surnamed Hu (胡) in 1987.”
According to Hsieh, Chung has dismissed the conviction, claiming it was an “accident” – he had only intended to injure Hu with a watermelon knife during a fight – and he was a young man of just 25 at the time
Let the best candidate emerge victorious.
‘Netizens’ vent fury at local bank
No, Cathay United has no shuttered and given up completely – there’s probably paperwork pending for the next six months. Photo: Solomon203; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0.
If you want to make foreign friends fast in Taiwan, bring up the subject of banking.
It’s almost as if the island nation’s banking system still belongs – and there are some other holdouts – to the ring-fenced China model that is still actively at play in the PRC and was formerly enforced in Taiwan during the bad old days of the KMT’s Republic of China (ROC).
So, imagine everyone’s surprise when, in a shock-horror moment on Saturday, according to the Taiwan News, Cathay United Bank’s services stopped working altogether for several hours, leading to panic and widespread complaints.
It’s not the first time the bank – one of Taiwan’s biggest – has inconvenienced its users countrywide, and it was issued a NT$2 million (US$63,000) fine earlier this year by the Financial Supervisory Commission.
However, angry netizens did not believe the fine and penalties have done anything to change the bank’s attitude in providing services. PTT user groundhog328 wrote, ‘The Financial Supervisory Commission can’t do anything about it anyway, just watch (the bank) continue to loaf around.’
Chinese government affirms jurisdiction over Dalai Lama’s reincarnation
The China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. Photo: Løken; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
A commentary in The Times of India does a deep dive into “Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Geopolitics of Reincarnation” published by International Tibet Network (ITN) and the Tibet justice Centre, an independent Tibet group and a member of ITN mentioned in the Monday edition of ChinaDiction.
The op-ed notes:
China … is trying to remove the Dalai Lama’s influence among the Buddhist followers by creating a data of ‘living Buddhas’ in the country. The latest Chinese government White Paper released in May 2022 confirmed that in the TAR, ‘92 reincarnated Living Buddhas had been identified and approved through traditional religious rituals and historical conventions’ (meaning they had been identified officially, although not through traditional means).
The Global Times, in a report published earlier this month, writes:
The affairs related to the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama belong to the domestic affairs of Tibetan Buddhism in China, which must respect the wishes of the Chinese Tibetan Buddhist community and the majority of religious believers, and accept the management of the Chinese government,” Zheng Dui, Senior Fellow and Director-General at the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), said.
He was speaking at “a sideline event of the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council” – the “International Webinar on the Religious Rituals and Historical Customs of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas” – which was held at an “offline venue at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing.”
The offline UN sideline event in Beijing “further affirmed” the jurisdiction of Chinese central government over Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. the Global Times reports.
The revolution that put an end to queues
And end to the hated Manchu queue, which became a symbol of Manchu oppression in the lead up to the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Photo: Armstrong, William Collection © 2007 Adam Scott Armstrong via Twitter.
Monday, October 10, was the Republic of China National Day, which is the anniversary of Revolution of 1911 – also known as Xinhai Revolution.
It ended 2,000 years of imperial rule. It also ended the rule of the Manchu in Beijing, who required that all Chinese men sport the queue (biànzi 辮子) as a mark of loyalty.
Arguably, the Chinese have been cutting queues ever since, but based on the scenes coming out of China of crowds patiently waiting in line to be tested for Covid-19, 112 years on the Xinhai revolution is complete.
Secretary General Xi Jinping has been steadily working on a new revolution of unknown ultimate aims, but which should become clear a century or so from now.
Never forget: the Chinese think long term, unlike us.
Today in the Greater Sinosphere
China arrests the Gang of Four
Mao’s widow Jiang Qing, most prominent among the four blamed for the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Photo: Public Domain.
On October 12, 1976, Mao’s widow and three others, known as the “Gang of Four” were arrested and Hua Guofeng was named successor of Mao Zedong as chairman of the CPC.
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