China close to declaring “coronavirus victory”

Via Sinocism:

The CCP may be close to declaring “victory” over the virus everywhere but in Hubei. The official number of new cases outside of Hubei Province has declined for 13 consecutive days and Premier Li Keqiang sounded almost upbeat in today’s meeting of the leading group on the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak (Xinhua ChineseEnglish):

避免了可能出现的更大范围暴发流行,全国疫情形势出现积极向好趋势

The possibility of a wider epidemic outbreak has been avoided through strengthened prevention and control measures, the meeting noted, adding that a positive trend has emerged nationwide in curbing the epidemic.

However, the “Two Meetings” scheduled for the first week of March in Beijing looks like they will be delayed to an as yet unspecified date, and while that decision makes sense given that the delegates should be at their day jobs dealing with the epidemic and its aftermath, the signal from a delay would conflict somewhat with the message that the situation is nearly under control.

The latest Qiushi magazine published Xi’s February 3rd speech to the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC). In his comments Xi says “I” thirteen times as he recounts his requests and instructions starting at a January 7 PBSC meeting. Xi therefore must have aware of the outbreak in early January if not earlier and his aides were already so concerned about it that it rose to the level of PBSC discussion by January 7.

Xi opened his speech (在中央政治局常委会会议研究应对新型冠状病毒肺炎疫情工作时的讲话) by saying:

After the outbreak of the new coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan, on January 7, when I chaired a meeting of the standing committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, I made a request for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus pneumonia. On January 20, I issued a special instruction on the prevention and control of the epidemic, pointing out that we must attach great importance to the epidemic and do our best to prevent and control it. On January 22, in view of the rapid spread of the epidemic and the severe challenges faced by the prevention and control work, I explicitly asked Hubei Province to implement comprehensive and strict control over the outflow of personnel. On the first day of the first lunar month, I again chaired a meeting of the standing committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee to restudy, redeploy and remobilize the prevention and control of the epidemic, especially the treatment of patients.

武汉新型冠状病毒肺炎疫情发生后,1月7日,我主持召开中央政治局常委会会议时,就对新型冠状病毒肺炎疫情防控工作提出了要求。1月20日,我专门就疫情防控工作作出批示,指出必须高度重视疫情,全力做好防控工作,要求各级党委和政府及有关部门把人民群众生命安全和身体健康放在第一位,采取切实有效措施,坚决遏制疫情蔓延势头。1月22日,鉴于疫情迅速蔓延、防控工作面临严峻挑战,我明确要求湖北省对人员外流实施全面严格管控。正月初一,我再次主持召开中央政治局常委会会议,对疫情防控特别是患者治疗工作进行再研究、再部署、再动员,并决定成立中央应对疫情工作领导小组。

I do not see the publication of this speech and the exposure of Xi’s earlier than understood involvement as some sort of defensive move by Xi. Rather it may be another sign that Xi is more confident now that the epidemic is nearly under control and so now is the time to start claiming credit for the coming success while also employing the hallowed CCP strategy of pushing blame for problems to local officials, with probably a small handful of unlucky central-level official also going down. The leaders in the central health system bureaucracy, perhaps up to Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, may be nervous.

It is also part of the emerging and entirely predictable propaganda narrative that only with the strong leadership of the center, with Xi at the core, can the Party and the nation defeat this “devil virus”, and that this epidemic reaffirms everything just discussed at the Fourth Plenum about modernizing governance and the superiority of our system. Expect to see a surge in propaganda about Xi’s leadership role in this battle.

To shape this narrative we are already seeing increasing constriction of media reporting on the outbreak and even stronger Internet controls.

Is victory really in reach, or has the Party decided it needs to convince everyone victory is within reach so most of the country goes back to work? If Xi stays consistent to the propaganda system’s founding mission then we should expect to hear about a great and glorious victory, while they cover up the true extent of the devastation and death in Hubei.

And is this epidemic and its initial mishandling the crack in Xi’s armor that so many inside the system have been hoping for that allows for pushback that checks some of his power? Or will he figure out once again how to use a challenge to his political advantage?

China is nowhere near COVID-19 “victory”. Hubei is out of control. The rest of China is improving but can reverse very fast without the shutdown in place. Hong Kong is deteriorating.

More likely, the CCP is going to declare a fake win and try to spread the virus globally as soon as it is able. A global COVID-19 pandemic lets it entirely off the hook at home.

The really interesting question now is how long before Davos Man decides his profits are more important than the lives of his former countrymen. Demands to open up Chinese travel prematurely are coming.

Meanwhile, activity charts remain completely shut down, via Capital Economics:

Finally, here’s the full linkfest from Sinocism:


1. The outbreak

No mahjong, no card games: Hubei province in full lockdown as China battles coronavirus | South China Morning Post

Under the new rules, all businesses will close and the province’s 58 million people will not be able to leave their residential community or village….

Crowd numbers will be limited in stores that are allowed to remain open and there will be “collective coordination” of people permitted to leave their homes to buy necessities.

“Disease control of the province has entered an important and difficult period,” the provincial government said in its announcement. “The situation is still grim and to cut transmission effectively and deter the trend of contagion … here are the new requirements.”

Hubei Companies Need Government Approval Before Restarting Work – Bloomberg

Private vehicles that aren’t used for virus-related activities will be temporarily barred in urban areas, while public places that aren’t providing essential service should be closed, the Hubei government said in a statement on its website. Unnecessary public gatherings should also be halted, it said.

The official notice – 湖北省人民政府关于进一步强化新冠肺炎疫情防控的通告

Coronavirus: Xiaogan, China’s second worst-hit city, bans people from leaving their homes | South China Morning Post

Authorities trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus in Xiaogan – China’s second worst-hit city – have taken the extreme measure of banning people from leaving their homes, and those who flout the order face 10 days in detention.

In Depth: Understaffed, Under-resourced and Overwhelmed — Coronavirus Early Response – Caixin

A review of the past 20 days in Wuhan shows how the city gradually toughened its approach to containing the epidemic, shifting from allowing most suspected patients to stay home to requiring centralized quarantine for all of them. But experts said the city moved too slowly and missed key windows for controlling the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, thousands of patients still remain in limbo seeking help….

Just 20 days ago, the Baibuting neighborhood was cheerfully celebrating a massive Lunar New Year event.

“It is like 20 years have passed, and so many things happened,” Li said.

It has been a tradition since 2000 that the 130,000-resident neighborhood holds a banquet similar to a Western potluck before the Lunar New Year. About 40,000 families brought meals to share. Li was busy organizing the event on Jan. 18 even though word was circulating of a mysterious disease.

“There was reportedly no human-to-human transmission, but many of us were concerned,” Li said. “We suggested canceling the event, but officials rejected.”

In Depth: The ‘People’s War’ Against the Epidemic in 16 Cities Across Hubei – Caixin

Caixin reporters visited 16 cities in the province and spoke with officials at epidemic prevention offices, medical workers, patients, community staff, businessmen and local residents to sketch out a panoramic picture of the front lines. Painful lessons from some local governments and effective measures by others may prove valuable for decision-makers in working out next-phrase battle plans…

A close-up of the 16 cities reveals a public health system not equipped to address a severe crisis such as this one, with slow responses from top to bottom. Medical workers, epidemic prevention experts and others cite shortages of health-care workers, lack of knowledge of epidemics, uneven medical resources, inconsistent control and prevention policies, chaotic management of emergency response, and sometimes health officials with no relevant experience….

This business-as-usual approach directly resulted in large numbers of patients swamping unprepared hospitals in Wuhan and nearby cities. Huanggang, a city just 50 miles east of Wuhan with a population of 7.4 million, is among the areas hit hardest by the epidemic, with the second- highest number of deaths after Wuhan and the third-highest number of confirmed case in Hubei.

A doctor at a Huanggang hospital told Caixin that the first suspected patient was recorded Jan. 3, and the hospital maxed out its capacity within two weeks. Doctors inexperienced in dealing with such an epidemic persisted in treating the sick as if they had a conventional flu.

Comment: The original Caixin story 封面报道之一|16城抗疫记录, the cover story for this week’s issue, notes that the Qianjiang Municipal Party Secretary learned “some information” about the budding outbreak when he was in Wuhan for the “two meetings” and so on January 17 he “took a little risk” and ordered the first group of 32 patients in the city who were suspected of having the virus into quarantine and “concentrated treatment”. To date Qianjiang, just 150 KM from Wuhan, has only 104 confirmed cases:

在以色彩深浅表示感染程度的湖北省疫情分布图上,潜江和神农架两块是浅粉色。除却山深林密的神农架有10例,距武汉只150多公里、交通便利、人烟稠密的潜江,104例的确诊人数,在全省可谓是个奇迹。

这缘于当地官员“冒了一点点不是太合规的风险”,市委书记吴祖云在武汉参加湖北省“两会”,获知一些关于疫情的信息,于是先期下手。1月17日,即果断将第一批32个疑似病例集中收治、隔离治疗。

Coronavirus: The Symptoms and What It Feels Like to Catch It – Bloomberg

Tiger Ye — not his real name — is a 21-year-old student in Wuhan…

Like many Chinese, Ye is critical of the government’s response to the outbreak, especially the slow initial response from local officials that meant a precious opportunity to contain the virus early on was missed. The two most senior Communist Party cadres in Hubei were replaced Thursday, as Beijing tries to gain control of the spiraling crisis.

“Hubei has missed one opportunity after another while they were trying to keep things under wraps,” Ye said. “Things wouldn’t have come to this point if the government hadn’t hidden information a month ago.”

Four Deaths in One Family Show Danger of Wuhan’s Home Quarantine Policy – Caixin

Chang Kai, a notable director at Hubei Film Studios, died on Feb. 14 from pneumonia caused by the virus also known as Covid-19, according to an obituary published by his employer. He was 55. His father, mother, and older sister also died from the same illness between Jan. 28 and Feb. 14, Caixin learned from one of Chang’s former college classmates.

The story of their deaths starkly illuminates how authorities in the disease-stricken city may have mishandled the spread of the virus by initially pursuing a policy of home quarantine in a bid to relieve pressure on overburdened, undersupplied hospitals.

In Wuhan, the coronavirus anguish as experienced by one family – The Washington Post

These days, Zhu is not just trying to be a good daughter and wife and mother and employee. She’s also trying to take care of her aging parents, both of whom have been infected with the pneumonia-like virus, while hoping not to put her husband and 9-year-old daughter at risk in the process….

Even once this is over, the family expects they, and Wuhan, will have to deal with new problems. The real estate market will suffer, with construction projects planned for this year delayed and prices set to plummet, Zhu said.

Comment: Hearlng increasing numbers of stories of families in Hubei who have had multiple members die from the virus. The official death tool seems low

Comment: Hearing increasing numbers of stories about Hubei families that have lost multiple members to the disease. The official death toll seems low.

Recovered patients donate plasma to save more – Xinhua

Cured patients who were infected with COVID-19 are called upon to donate plasma as initial results had indicated the effectiveness of convalescent plasma-derived therapeutic products in curing infected patients in severe and critical conditions

China highlights controlling virus transmission chains – Xinhua

Prevention and control measures, worked out by a joint mechanism, feature controlling the source of infection, interrupting virus transmission and protecting the public, especially the susceptible population, Zhou Yuhui, an official with the National Health Commission (NHC), told a press conference in Beijing…

Illegal activities of hunting, trading and eating wild animals have been harshly cracked down upon, Zhou said, noting that supervision over wildlife trading markets has been intensified to rein in the public health risks at the source.

‘Animals live for man’: China’s appetite for wildlife likely to survive virus – Reuters

For the past two weeks China’s police have been raiding houses, restaurants and makeshift markets across the country, arresting nearly 700 people for breaking the temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals.

Supreme People’s Court wields the Criminal Law “Big Stick” in the Anti-Coronavirus Battle | Supreme People’s Court Monitor

The Punishing Crimes and Violations of Obstruction Opinions and the Ensuring Positive Medical Order are intended to provide guidance on certain violations of the criminal law and other related administrative offenses.  They do not create new legal rules but signal to the lower criminal justice institutions how the relevant criminal (and public security administration penalty) laws should be applied in the politically sensitive anti-coronavirus battle.

PHOTOS: Life Goes On In The Epicenter Of The Coronavirus Outbreak : Goats and Soda : NPR

WHO-China expert team begins coronavirus field inspections – Xinhua

The expert team will go to Beijing, Guangdong Province and Sichuan Province to conduct inspections, said Mi Feng, spokesperson for the National Health Commission (NHC), at a press conference.

How Wenzhou, 900 km From Wuhan, Went Into Total Lockdown – Foreign Policy

one of the largest magnets for the city’s diaspora has been Wuhan. Migrants from Wenzhou set up a chamber of commerce in Wuhan in 1997, and within a decade there were an estimated 170,000 Wenzhou businesspeople working in the city.


2. Economic impact

China should get ready for belt-tightening following virus outbreak – Global Times

“China will face decreased fiscal revenues and increased expenditures for some time to come, and the fiscal operation will maintain a state of ‘tight balance.’, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun wrote in an article published on Qiushi, a magazine affiliated with the Communist Party of China Central Committee. In this situation, it won’t be feasible to adopt a proactive fiscal policy by expanding the fiscal expenditure scale. I, and instead, policies and capital must be used in a more effective, precise and targeted way,” Liu said. Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun wrote in an article published on Qiushi, a magazine affiliated with the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

Liu’s article sent a clear signal that China would not stimulate the economy by rolling out another massive monetary stimulus.

Due to the major impact of the coronavirus outbreak on businesses across the country, the Ministry of Finance has already made it clear that it would continue to reduce the tax burden on enterprises, which will undoubtedly weigh down the already slowing fiscal income.

Liu Kun’s article – 积极的财政政策要大力提质增效 – 求是网

China to step up financial support for epidemic control – Xinhua

The most urgent work for fiscal authorities at all levels is to increase financial input and roll out favorable policies to support epidemic control, said Finance Minister Liu Kun in a written article published on Qiushi Journal, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.

As of 9:00 p.m. Feb. 12, China has allocated a total of 78.53 billion yuan (about 11.3 billion U.S. dollars) of fiscal funds to support the control of the epidemic, according to Liu.

China’s Coffers Are Depleted Just as Virus Spurs Spending – Bloomberg

More than half of mainland provinces expect slower expansion of revenue in 2020 than last year’s average local income growth, according to their budgets published before the disease outbreak became widespread in January. Hubei, the epicenter, was already expecting income to fall…

Analysts are divided about how the shortfalls will be addressed. While economists from Citigroup Inc. to China’s largest brokerage house Citic Securities Co. said officials have to accept a deficit bigger than 3% of China’s gross domestic product, others from Standard Chartered and Goldman Sachs believe that remains politically unpalatable.

China Factories Stand Ready to Go, But Where Are the Workers? – Caixin

Among 109 of its members surveyed last week between Feb. 11 and 14, some 69% involved in manufacturing said their operations were up and running by Feb. 14, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. Another 22% said they expected to be up and running by this week.

But despite reopening, resuming full production remained difficult due to staffing issues. Of the companies surveyed, only 21.8% said they had enough staff to run a full production line. Respondents cited Covid-19 related travel restrictions and a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for returning workers as the two biggest factors keeping their shops understaffed. When asked what their biggest challenge would be over the next two to four weeks, 41% cited lack of staff as their top concern, ahead of logistics, which was the next top concern for 30% of respondents.

Beijing neighborhoods move to step up precautions – China Daily

People who return to Beijing from other places must isolate themselves for 14 days at home or designated sites and report to their neighborhood committees before arriving, according to a notice issued by the city’s epidemic prevention authorities late Friday. The regulation took effect immediately and violators will face legal liability.

北京一单位数十人被隔离 疾控中心称因一人返京即上班_政经频道_财新网

This is likely the reason for the new Beijing quarantine rules. A worker from an unidentified work unit (sounds like a government office) returned to Beijing from a trip over the holiday, the report does not say where, and after returning to Beijing and going to work was confirmed to have the virus, and now doxens from his work unit are quarantined…now imagine this happening at companies and factories across China…how can they restart normal economic activity until the are sure every worker is not sick or a carrier?

Catering Sector Suffers Major Losses as Diners Stay Away Over Lunar New Year – Caixin

The report released by the China Cuisine Association said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on China’s restaurants, fast-food joints and snack stands will be several times greater than that caused by the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003. Besides losses over the holiday, businesses are likely to face serious cash flow issues and difficulty obtaining financing in the coming months.

The Economic Fallout of the Coronavirus in Southeast Asia – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The virus’s ripple effects have hampered the economies of nearby countries, especially in Southeast Asia, in three main ways: by curtailing the number of Chinese tourists, disrupting China-centric supply chains, and putting a damper on economic demand in China.

Yicai Global – Hainan Province Issues China’s First Epidemic Risk Insurance to Get Firms Back to Work

Hainan, China’s southernmost province, has introduced the country’s first insurance against epidemic-related losses and will subsidize 70 percent of the premium to encourage local businesses to return to work.

Balance needed between economic activity, virus watch – Global Times

We do not believe prevention and control are no longer needed. Instead, we appeal to scientific, targeted measures while opposing excessive prevention and control. It is sincerely hoped that local authorities will take seriously the opinions of experts, take the local situation into consideration, and care more about the interests of local people rather than doing things only in a “politically correct” manner.

Beijing Auto Show Becomes Latest Event to Be Delayed by Virus – Bloomberg

The new date for the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, originally scheduled for April 21-30, will be announced at a later date, the organizer said in a statement Monday.

China Focus: China sees 45-pct drop in holiday travel, no “peak” expected – Xinhua

China will see a 45-percent drop of trips over the annual Spring Festival travel period due to the COVID-19 outbreak this year, and there will not be a “peak” of travelers in the coming days like years before, officials said Saturday.

Drugmakers braced for coronavirus disruption to China supplies  | Financial Times $$

China manufactures key ingredients in the global supply chain for antibiotics, diabetes drugs, painkillers and antiretrovirals for HIV, although its vital role in pharmaceuticals is less well known than its production of technology, machinery and consumer goods.’

Europe braces for coronavirus-induced drug shortages – POLITICO

“We have seen there might be a possibility [of the] risk of shortages of supplies due to the coronavirus,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn at an emergency meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels Thursday. “We know many active ingredients are made in China, particularly in Hubei province.”

David Llewellyn-Smith
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