Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  16-20.3.2020, No. 808  
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Swiss man's videos tell the tale of COVID-19 (China Daily)
Videos about a Swiss man's life in China during the COVID-19 outbreak have become popular online, attracting a lot of interest abroad. Raphael Zumsteg, 30, from Zurich, Switzerland, returned to Pingdingshan, Henan province, on Jan 20 with his 29-year-old Chinese fiancee, Yuan Xiameng, who works in Chongqing. The couple planned to have a Chinese wedding ceremony in the woman's hometown on Feb 9. But they had to put it off because of the epidemic. During their month-long lockdown and quarantine in Henan province, Zumsteg and his wife-to-be began recording videos about their daily life. They shared their personal experiences with friends and followers on different social media platforms. "We realized that many people around the world knew little about the outbreak, especially in the early days," Zumsteg said. "We saw many inaccurate reports and videos about the situation here. So we decided to counteract it by showing people how we lived." "We wanted to provide people with facts and details about how the virus can affect individual lives — starting with our family." The videos found an audience, and news reports about them popped up in Swiss and US media. This week, Yuan resumed her work at Southwest University in Chongqing after the city was declared clear of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 15. Zumsteg continued recording in the municipality. "My wife and I have always felt safe, no matter in Henan or Chongqing. The public health measures are very strict, which has made them effective," he said. "No matter where we were, the situation was always calm, and people always cooperated. Everybody's following the rules, wearing face masks, washing their hands and avoiding crowds — even now as the numbers of cases have decreased." ^ top ^

China is one of the best swimmers in economic ocean: Swiss legislator (Global Times)
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment for bilateral relationship between China and Switzerland. Global Times reporters Dong Feng and Li Sikun (GT) had an exclusive interview with President of the Swiss National Council Isabelle Moret (Moret) in Beijing. Moret visited China in January during which she discussed a range of topics with Chinese leaders and visited some Swiss enterprises based in China. GT: During the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019, Switzerland and China signed an MOU. For Switzerland, what does BRI mean? What challenges or opportunities will it offer or present to Switzerland? What roles can Switzerland play in BRI? Moret: The BRI entails big potential of major economic development through its path. Switzerland being an exporting economy, the BRI offers Swiss companies opportunities for potential cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, financial and professional services, advanced manufacturing, transport and logistics. Sustainability is a key challenge for the BRI. Switzerland can play a positive role by sharing its expertise in topics as sustainable finance and in the dissemination of the highest possible standards. In this regard, the MOU signed by Switzerland and China during the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April 2019 foresees the creation of a joint capacity building platform. GT: What are your observations of the business environment in China? As the world's second largest economy, China's consumption upgrade is a hot topic. What unique opportunities might benefit Swiss companies? Moret: Among the 108 export destinations, China has been selected by Swiss small- and medium-sized enterprises once again as the most attracted export market in the Swiss export ranking in 2019. The continuous improvement of the living standards of the Chinese people proves that China is one of the best swimmers in the world economic ocean. The dynamic quality upgrade of the Chinese industrial production, higher salaries and higher purchasing power of rising middle class in China need high-tech solutions for an aging population. The green development in China or strong demand for premium products in Chinese e-commerce creates excellent business opportunities for Swiss companies with highly innovative Swiss premium products. GT: Against the backdrop of the booming global cross-border e-commerce industry, plus China's further reform and opening-up, what measures will Switzerland take to develop the economy and benefit our peoples? Moret: Due to its growth and impact, e-commerce raises questions on topics as product safety regulation, custom handling and taxes. By using the available electronic tools and data, solutions are available to align the interests of all stakeholders. Switzerland is cooperating with China both at the bilateral level and at the World Customs Organization to address those questions. GT: In Zhihu community, China's version of Quora, there is a widespread saying that China is a "pulverizer/terminator of developed countries," or in other words, China's development will take away the advantages of developed countries. What are your perspectives to this? Does Switzerland have such concerns? Moret: Switzerland is pleased with China's tremendous development achievements. As China continues with reform and opening-up, Switzerland is willing to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China in various fields. The Swiss Federal Parliament will play an active role in promoting the development of bilateral relations and enhancing the mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples. The development of China and its internal market is good news for the world's economy, as it should provide opportunities for increased trade. By saying this, I am recalling the importance of a rules-based international trade system with the WTO at its core. Switzerland's economic strength comes from its innovation capacity. When you understand and do this right, it is not a zero-sum game. If China becomes stronger, it means more cooperation and more business opportunities. GT: In which areas do you think Switzerland and China can further strengthen their cooperation in the future? Moret: In addition of the fields I have mentioned before, there will be increased cooperation in sectors of environment and sustainable development. Switzerland has increased cooperation with China in environment protection. For example, the (Swiss) embassy has worked on projects aiming at tackling air pollution and lowering carbon emission in China from 2010 to 2015, the results of which were taken into accounts by China's air pollution legislation. A new round of clean air projects will be launched this year. GT: What impressed you most during your China visit? Moret: I am deeply impressed by the bilateral relations between Switzerland and China that have been consolidated in the past 70 years, and all remarkable achievements. I was impressed by the close and supporting friendship between China and Switzerland. Our bilateral relationship between Switzerland and China "began in the era of horse-drawn carriages and telegraphs and has now entered a new era of Internet and innovation." GT: We understand you discussed over human rights with Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. How do you see the Western media reports on the human rights situation in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region? Moret: With Chinese leaders, we have talked about circumstances in Xinjiang, and we have talked very frankly. As I said, we have long friendship and only old friends can talk about what they have in their hearts. A Chinese proverb says "Don't believe what you hear, believe what you see with your own eyes." Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, invited me to visit Xinjiang. And we have decided to discuss the possibility of the follow-up visit. This visit could be a good part of our human rights dialogues since 1991, between China and Switzerland. We regularly discuss about human rights. Switzerland leads more than 30 bilateral dialogues with China, among which human rights is one of the topics. China has been Switzerland's main economic partner in Asia since 2010, and its third main trading partner overall after the EU and the US. In 2013, a bilateral free trade agreement was signed in Beijing, which went effective on July 1, 2014. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Coronavirus: the high stakes propelling the US-China blame game (SCMP)
Already battered relations between the United States and China have declined to their lowest level in recent memory at a time when the coronavirus crisis calls for unprecedented global cooperation and collaboration. A range of irritants, mutual recriminations, long-standing and festering tensions, China watchers say, are putting the global economy at further risk and increasing the chance of a military misstep. Events fuelling trans-Pacific mistrust in recent weeks include finger-pointing over who "started" the deadly coronavirus, something Trump has doubled down on as seen by his latest comments from the White House Thursday. Adding to this has been recent moves to expel journalists reporting from each other's countries; a deeply destructive trade war; and a growing fear among Americans that China – the world's leading manufacturer of medical supplies – could restrict exports of surgical masks and medical equipment needed to save lives.Trump resumes blaming Beijing for the pandemic "Shocks and crises such as Covid-19 tend to exacerbate rather than repair already fraught relationships, and this is no different with respect to the US and China," said John Lee, a senior fellow at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in Australia and with the Hudson Institute in Washington. The tensions between the two nations, he added, were at a worse pitch "than at any time since diplomatic relations began in the late 1970s".Most obvious and pronounced of many irritants, at least this week, is the blame game over the origin of the virus. Trump in recent days has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the "China virus" or the "Wuhan virus" despite repeated calls by the World Health Organisation, US public health experts and Asian-American groups to avoid stigmatising. "The world is paying a very big price for what they did," Trump said at a White House briefing, accusing Chinese authorities of covering up the outbreak's early stages. "If people would have known about it … it could have been stopped right where it came from: China," Trump added. Beijing – equally intent on not looking weak domestically, and keen to deflect parallel criticism from Chinese citizens over its early denials and mishandling of the virus – has propagated its own irresponsible counter-narrative. Fanned by tweets and retweets from foreign ministry officials, it posited that the entire virus was started by the US military. The war of words elevated to official channels Monday when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and registered "strong US objections" to what the US characterized as Beijing's effort to shift blame. In the call, Pompeo tarred Beijing for spreading "disinformation and outlandish rumors". Political analysts say that both the Chinese Communist Party and Trump, when feeling politically vulnerable, have long histories of finding an issue or outside actor to blame. This allows them to distract their respective citizenries and otherwise obfuscate an issue. And this war of words certainly appears to fall into that category, they add. "In Beijing and Washington, the leaders made big mistakes or underperformed in ways that need public attention to be diverted," said Douglas Paal, a veteran of the National Security Council who is now vice-president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "For China, that's Washington after messing up in Wuhan," Paal, who also once led the American Institute in Taiwan, added. "For the US and playing down the virus, that's Beijing." US stocks plunge, nearly erasing gains since Trump became president For the first time in his career, Trump is facing a crisis he didn't start, can't control and can't easily deflect. Financial markets, which he considers a benchmark of his performance, have crashed. And he faces widespread criticism that he failed during crucial weeks to take the pandemic seriously, fearful that it would undermine his re-election prospects. That prevented the federal machinery from mobilizing, delayed testing and impeded awareness of social distancing – missteps that may ultimately cost thousands of lives. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found China's favorable rating among Americans at a three-decade low. The survey found only 33 per cent of the American respondents had a positive view of China – a 20 percentage point drop since 2018 and below the 34 per cent favorability reading immediately after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Another source of friction in recent weeks has been the tit-for-tat expulsion of workers at each other's top news agencies. The Trump administration earlier in the month expelled several US-based Chinese employees at People's Daily, Xinhua and CGTN on short notice. That led to this week's expulsion by Beijing of US employees in China, including Hong Kong, of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post. US President Donald Trump during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on Thursday. The administration's subsequent strong defense of the US news organizations came despite the president's years of excoriating US media as purveying "fake news" and "witch hunts" to bring him down. Analysts said the damage could have been avoided if the two sides were talking to, rather than past, each other. "The larger problem that this points to is the lack of any meaningful mezzo-level interactions between Washington and Beijing, in which such an outcome would likely have been prevented," said Andrew Mertha, the China programme director at Johns Hopkin University School of Advanced International Studies. "Xi may have miscalculated, given Trump's disdain for the media," he added, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping. "This is foreign policy by tweet and is as subtle and sophisticated as a two-by-four with a rusty nail." Deeper distrust stems from the protracted trade war involving fundamental differences over their respective economic systems; a growing feeling in the West that China has gamed the international trading system and concern over China's mercantilist model, outlined in its Made in China 2025 economic blueprint, which seeks self-sufficiency and an end to billions of dollars' worth of foreign tech products. China, for its part, believes that established European and North American players have worked to keep China contained, that it has followed the letter of World Trade Organization rules – if not the spirit – and that its role as the engine of global growth has not been appreciated. The two sides declared a trade truce with a phase-one deal in mid-December that saw Beijing commit to large purchases of US products and adherence to intellectual property protection measures. But in Washington there's profound skepticism toward China, limited inclination to give Beijing much slack despite the global downturn and suspicion it won't ultimately keep its word. The stakes are huge, particularly if there's a flare-up over Taiwan or more chest-thumping over trade at a time when the global community is already reeling. "Trump and Xi are all about themselves, not the greater good," said Paal. "Hair-trigger emotions in both countries and a complex, hard-to-manage issue that crosses perceived red lines could get us in a lot of trouble. Experts say that the odds of a rapprochement any time soon are low. But they expressed hope that reason can ultimately prevail – helped perhaps by a return to traditional dialogue mechanisms, military exchanges or a change in US administration with a more nuanced view of diplomacy – if for no other reason than the respective self-interest of the two giants. There is "a perfect storm resulting from a sustained effort over the past few years by both sides to harm the relationship, now combined with short-term opportunistic fearmongering driven by mutual anxiety about domestic legitimacy," said Russell Menyhart, a partner in the Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm and a former US diplomat in Beijing and Shanghai. "It is worse than in recent memory, but still can be stabilised if both sides stop the petty sniping and focus on what their people need – an effective response to an unprecedented public health and economic crisis," Menyhart added. ^ top ^

China to firmly support its media to safeguard reputation, interests: Chinese FM (Global Times)
China supports its media in safeguarding their reputation and interests, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, adding that China is forced to take relevant countermeasures against American media reporters in China, based on the principle of reciprocity. In recent years, the US government has been baselessly imposing restrictions on the normal news practices of Chinese media agencies and personnel in the US, and has escalated discrimination and political suppression of Chinese media, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at Thursday's media briefing. The normal order of life and work of Chinese journalists in the US have been severely disrupted, and many of them were even unable to return to the US to work after returning home for a leave because the US turned down their visas without a reason. They were required to provide a lot of additional materials when applying for visas, Geng said. Geng said that in December 2018, the US side required some Chinese media organizations in the US to register as "foreign agents." In February, it listed five Chinese media organizations in the US as "foreign missions," and then it imposed caps on the number of Chinese journalists from the five media outlets, which was a de facto expulsion of a large number of Chinese journalists. Facts have proven that the so-called freedom of the press claimed by the US is hypocritical and deceptive. The Chinese side has repeatedly lodged solemn representations with the US over its wrong practices, and ex-pressed its firm opposition and strong condemnation, Geng said. The Chinese media have endured all kinds of oppression and discriminatory practices from the US side for too long, but the US has stepped up its efforts, Geng said. In the face of unfair treatment, double standards and hegemonic bullying from the US, the All-China Journalists' Association has raised strong op-position to the US side. We firmly support Chinese media to safeguard their reputation and interests, and China will be forced to take relevant measures against American media reporters based on the principle of reiprocity, Geng said. China announced early Wednesday that it would take countermeasures against restrictive measures on Chinese media agencies in the US, effective immediately. China demands, in the spirit of reciprocity, that the China-based bureaus of Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time declare in written form information about their staff, finance, operations and real estate in China, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a public statement on Wednesday. China also demands that journalists of US citizenship working with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post whose press credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020 to hand back their press cards within ten calendar days. ^ top ^

China's response has set example for world (China Daily)
When a nation faces unprecedented challenges, people dig into their hidden reserves of courage to demonstrate to the world their ability to fight against all odds. China's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak has been swift, with health professionals waging a constant fight on the front line. With the growing rise in global infections, the death toll has climbed to more than 8,600. With COVID-19 spreading to every continent except Antarctica, countries are learning from the Chinese experience in containing it. China has seen a steady decrease in the number of confirmed cases, and many people have been discharged from hospitals. China's fight against COVID-19 is a model for other countries to follow in their fight against the disease. Stringent measures taken by the Chinese government put tremendous pressure on the residents of Hubei and neighboring provinces, but time has proved that the Chinese model of combating the coronavirus was the only way forward. The friendship between Pakistan and China during these tough times reflects the "all-weather friendship' during the current crisis as well. Pakistan can draw a lot of lessons from the Chinese experience. At the outset, China imposed a comprehensive ban on all social and economic activities, despite being aware this would cause severe economic damage. The people of China have stood by their government in its fight against probably the most daunting challenge in the history of modern China. Chinese doctors have been working around the clock to fight COVID-19. The ambitious plan of placing residents of Wuhan and nearby cities in Hubei province under lockdown, which has put at least 60 million people under quarantine since Jan 13, has proved to be a decisive factor in curtailing the spread of the disease. President Xi Jinping has made personal efforts to combat the epidemic, visiting front-line medical workers and making calls to all global leaders. Xi has proved himself as a "leader of a great nation" who cares for people. Chinese authorities built two dedicated hospitals-the 1,600-bed Leishenshan Hospital and the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital-in record time in Wuhan. Healthcare workers from all over the country went to Hubei to treat COVID-19 patients, and all efforts were made to trace contacts of con-firmed cases throughout the country. China's efficient use of modern technology has helped the country gain the upper hand in its virus fight. The use of drones to conduct thermal imaging and robots for disinfecting has helped doctors to effectively diagnose and treat patients. China's tech giants have developed technologies for contactless delivery to minimize the risk of cross-infections. Robots were installed at hospitals to assist medical staff. China also launched a close contact app to inform people if they have crossed paths with a virus carrier. Meanwhile, even developed countries like South Korea, Japan and Italy are finding it difficult to tackle the challenges posed by the virus. Italy has followed in the footsteps of China to contain the virus by first placing more than 16 million people under quarantine and then extending the lockdown to the entire nation. China has set an example for the rest of the world by taking measures to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people through determination and collective efforts. Its efforts were praised in a report released by the World Health Organization's joint mission with China on Feb 28. It said, "China's bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic." Winston Churchill once said, "The era of procrastination, of delays, of baffling and soothing expedients, is coming to its close and in its place, we are entering a period of consequences."The untiring efforts of the Chinese government are a paradigm for the rest of the world to emulate in the fight against this pandemic. ^ top ^

President: China will provide assistance within its ability to help affected nations (China Daily)
China will strengthen international cooperation on novel corona-virus epidemic control and continue to provide assistance within its ability to countries affected by the epidemic, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Commit-tee, said on Wednesday. Xi made the remark when presiding over the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in which members analyzed the epidemic situation at home and abroad and its challenge to economic development. Given that the epidemic is spreading across the world, Xi said that China should work closely with the World Health Organization, intensify analysis and prediction on global epidemic development, improve measures for dealing with the risk of imported infections and strengthen exchanges and cooperation with other countries. Globally, the pandemic had caused 194,029 cases of infection as of Wednesday, according to the WHO. Xi said the epidemic situation is improving at home, but China is still faced with new situations, especially the global spread of the virus as well as its negative impact on the world economy. Prevention and control work should be firmly implemented to avoid the reversal of China's hard-won improving epidemic situation, Xi said. Meeting participants stressed the need to improve the mechanisms of data sharing, information disclosure and inspection of people entering China to prevent imported infections, according to a statement released after the meeting. The meeting called for greater efforts to improve coordinating mechanisms of epidemic control strategies with other countries, enhance sharing of experience in prevention and treatment and advancing joint scientific research. Participants agreed that the epidemic control work in priority regions, especially Hubei province and Wuhan, should remain consistent and cautious. The meeting said patients in critical condition will be concentrated in high-level hospitals for better medical treatment, and work and production in Wuhan will be gradually resumed. While control measures in other parts of Hubei will be canceled in an orderly manner, the meeting instructed local authorities to cooperate in sending stranded people out of Hubei and returning those stranded in other places through point-to-point or one-stop transfers. With China's economy facing increasing downward pressure, Par-ty committees and governments at all levels are instructed to actively promote work and production resumption in an orderly way to minimize the epidemic's impact, according to the meeting. It was decided that if all parts of a province are deemed low-risk areas, the province should fully resume normal production and living order. Except for Hubei and Beijing, provinces with medium risk should take preventive measures and resume work and life in an orderly manner. The medical certificate required for movement of personnel and goods through low-risk regions should be recognized nationwide, with no more blockades or quarantine measures, participants said. While implementing epidemic control measures, efforts should also be made to provide convenience for businesspeople and keep the international supply chains smooth to ensure that business activities can be carried out normally, they said. ^ top ^

China supports its media organizations in safeguarding reputation, interests: spokesperson (Xinhua)
China supports Chinese media organizations in safeguarding their reputation and interests in the face of accelerated discrimination and politically-motivated oppression by the United States, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesperson Thursday. Spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks at a press conference in response to a question regarding discriminatory restrictions the United States has imposed on Chinese journalists regarding visas, administrative reviews and reporting, and China's reciprocal countermeasures. The All-China Journalists Association and some Chinese media have recently released relevant messages on the U.S. discriminatory restrictions targeting Chinese journalists, Geng said, noting that in recent years, the U.S. government had placed unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media organizations and personnel in the United States, purposely made things difficult for their normal reporting assignments, and had been continuously accelerated discrimination and politically-motivated oppression targeting the Chinese media outlets. The normal lives and work of Chinese journalists in the United States have been severely disrupted, and many of them were unable to return to work in the United States after they took a vacation in China as the U.S. side refused to issue the visas for no reason. In December 2018, the United States ordered certain Chinese media organizations in the United States to register as "foreign agents." In February 2020, it designated five Chinese media entities in the United States as "foreign missions" and imposed a cap on the number of their employees, in effect expelling Chinese journalists from the United States. These facts fully exposed the hypocrisy and deceptiveness of the U.S. self-styled advocate of press freedom, Geng said, adding that China has lodged solemn representations to the U.S. side over its wrongdoing, and China firmly opposes and strongly condemns the U.S. move. "We support Chinese media organizations in firmly safeguarding their reputation and interests," Geng said. "The Chinese side will be compelled to take countermeasures on U.S. media reporters in China in accordance with the principle of reciprocity." ^ top ^

China to play bigger role in Africa's virus fight (Global Times)
The COVID-19 pandemic situation in Africa continued to worsen, as 30 countries on the continent have reported more than 400 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, according to the latest report of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Arica CDC). Chinese observers warned that while the continent has a much improved yet still relatively poor public health system, it is on the verge of a large-scale outbreak, and China's bigger role in the virus battle on the continent is urgently needed. The Africa CDC said in its latest report on the pandemic situation that as of Tuesday, 443 COVID-19 cases have been reported in 30 African countries. Four countries have reported a total of 10 deaths. And Egypt currently has the largest number of confirmed cases on the continent at 166, followed by South Africa with 62. "In the aftermath of the deadly Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2015, Africa established a public health system, which has since January acted quite effectively in training medical personnel for COVID-19 detection and prevention in large parts of the continent. However, such a public health system remains relatively less developed than that on other continents, and the lack of supplies and relevant manufacturing capability would add to the adversity as the situation worsens and prolongs on the continent," Liu Haifang, executive director of the Beijing-based Center for African Studies and associate professor at the School of International Studies of Peking University, said on Wednesday. Among the 30 African countries with reported infections, the report said, 18 of them were imported ones, and such importation was mostly from European countries such as Italy, France and Spain. For instance, in South Africa, the second hardest-hit country by the pandemic on the continent, five of the local COVID-19 cases were linked to the UK, four from the USA, three from France and two from Italy. To defend and tackle the pandemic, many African countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and Djibouti have temporarily suspended international flights, while Sudan also sealed off all its sea ports. Long-term measures to deter local transmission and defend themselves from importation of the disease, especially from hard-hit Europe, would pose a more serious challenge to Africa, Liu told the Global Times on Wednesday. Liu is worried about how long the African countries that have already implemented lockdown measures would be able to maintain the practice, before such measures weigh heavily on their relatively weaker economic foundations. "The situation has improved in China. While continuing our fight against the disease at home, China will support and help African countries and regional organizations to the best of our ability," Geng Shuang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said at a routine press conference on Tuesday. "We have delivered a batch of testing reagents for African countries through the Africa CDC and emergency supplies to countries affected. Our medical teams are also assisting them in fighting the epidemic. Chinese companies and civil organizations also provided urgently needed supplies to African countries," he noted at the Tuesday event. Geng added that Chinese experts and officials from the health and customs departments are scheduled to share information and experience on COVID-19 in a video conference with officials and healthcare specialists from the Africa CDC and over 20 African countries on Wednesday afternoon. There has been no official update on the sharing event as of press time. China's bigger role in the pandemic fight in Africa is urgently needed. For example, China's successful public governing experience in its own victorious battle against the COVID-19 will guide African countries to mobilize the public to curb the local transmission and better understand their governments' measures, Liu said. China can also work together with Africa to establish a joint epidemic prevention and control mechanism, as it did with South Korea and Japan, to share information. Zimbabwe's Embassy in China told the Global Times on Wednesday in an exclusive statement that while the country has not recorded any infections except for a few suspected cases under observation, it shall continue to seek China's assistance in taking robust and facts-based preventive measures that would also include the necessary equipment in preparation for any possible outbreak. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

China's Wuhan marks no new coronavirus case, success of strict measures (Xinhua)
No new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, marking a notable first in the city's months-long battle with the deadly virus and sending a message of hope to the world gripped by the pandemic. The Health Commission of Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital, said the virus' death toll climbed by eight in the province, but the total confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan and Hubei remained at 50,005 and 67,800 on Wednesday. No increase was observed in the province's number of suspected cases, which fell to zero on Tuesday, in another indication that large-scale transmissions have been suppressed at the epidemic ground zero after a slew of strict measures. Previously, the central Chinese province had reported single-digit increases of new infections, all of which were from Wuhan, for a week in a row since last Wednesday. A month ago, the figure was several thousand a day. The province also saw 795 patients discharged from hospital after recovery on Wednesday, reducing its caseload of hospitalized patients to 6,636, including 1,809 in severe condition and 465 in critical condition. With no new cases in Wuhan, the Chinese mainland on Wednesday reduced the increase in domestic transmissions to zero, according to the National Health Commission. The country now faces a greater threat of infections imported from overseas, which jumped by 34 on Wednesday. "The clearing of new infections in Wuhan came earlier than predicted, but it is still too early to let down our guard," said Zhang Boli, one of the leading experts advising on the epidemic fight in Hubei. Arduous work still lies ahead as China strengthens its defence against imported cases from abroad, treats thousands of patients still in serious or critical condition and rehabilitates those discharged from hospitals, said Zhang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. "CUNNING VIRUS" The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan in December as a new pathogen facing mankind. Before its traits were fully understood, the virus had cut a swath of infections among Wuhan's unsuspecting public, before jumping from the transportation hub to other parts of China via the largest seasonal human migration ahead of the Spring Festival. The Chinese leadership has described the COVID-19 outbreak as the most difficult to contain since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and "a big test" for the country. Medical experts said the virus is more contagious, though less deadly, than the SARS virus that belongs to the same coronavirus family. Globally, the SARS virus infected 8,422 people and killed 919 between 2002 and 2003. "We still have insufficient knowledge of the novel coronavirus. What we already know is it's a very cunning virus with a long incubation period," said Wang Daowen, a cardiologist at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan. "We still found the virus from the anus, if not from the lungs, of one patient after he was hospitalized for 50 days," said Wang, who was among the first medical experts joining the treatment of COVID-19. "Usually, a virus should vanish from one's body in two weeks." China began to see a drop in the number of COVID-19 patients on Feb. 18, after the number of recovered patients surged and new cases declined. By late February, the virus had withdrawn from most territories on the Chinese mainland, with only single-digit daily increases of infections in areas outside Wuhan. On March 6, the epidemic epicenter Wuhan slashed the daily increase of confirmed cases to below 100, down from a peak of more than 14,000 in early February. Bruce Aylward, who led the China-WHO joint mission on COVID-19, said the outbreak in China had come down "faster than would have been expected." On March 11, the daily increase of locally transmitted infections dropped to single digits for the first time on the Chinese mainland. The virus has so far caused a total of 80,928 infections and 3,245 fatalities, defying earlier predictions by foreign researchers of a more extensive national outbreak. Behind the downward trends were a raft of strong measures taken by the Chinese government, including canceling mass events, closing scenic attractions, suspending long-distance buses and asking hundreds of millions of Chinese to stay indoors to break transmission chain. On Jan. 23, Wuhan declared unprecedented traffic restrictions, including suspending the city's public transport and all outbound flights and trains, in an attempt to contain the epidemic within its territory. The situation in Wuhan and its nearby cities was grim. Officials said more than 3,000 medics in Hubei contracted the virus at the early stage of the outbreak due to limited knowledge of the virus. Many families lost multiple loved ones. Following reports of overloaded local hospitals, more than 42,000 medical staff, including those from the military, were dispatched to Hubei from across the country. At the peak of the fight, one in 10 intensive care medics in China were working in Wuhan. Fleets of trucks carrying aid goods and displaying banners of "Wuhan be strong!" rushed to the city from all corners of the country. Under a "pairing-up support" system, each city in Hubei is taken care of by at least one provincial-level region. To ensure the timely admission of patients, two hospitals with a total of 2,600 beds were built from scratch in Wuhan within a few days, and 16 temporary hospitals were converted from gyms and exhibition centers to add 13,000 beds. Nucleic acid testing (NAT) capacity in Wuhan reached 24,000 people a day. Testing is made free and treatment fees are covered by China's basic medical insurance. Huang Juan, 38, witnessed the first few days of chaos and despair at local hospitals before calm and order gradually set in amid the influx of support. Huang recalled the hospitals were packed with patients -- over 100 patients were waiting for the injection but only one nurse was around. Every day, her mother who had a fever on the eve of the Spring Festival in late January waited 10 hours to be injected. After a week of imploration, Huang finally found a hospital willing to admit her mother. Ten days later, her mother was discharged upon negative NAT results. "She still had symptoms, but there was no choice, as many patients were waiting for beds," Huang said. The situation improved when her father, also diagnosed with the disease, was hospitalized on Feb. 19. "He was discharged after the doctor confirmed his recovery on March 11. It was apparent that the standards for discharge were raised as Wuhan got sufficient beds," Huang said. Cui Cui (pseudonym), 57, also testified to the improving situation. The Wuhan resident was transferred to the newly built Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) Hospital as her sickness worsened on Feb. 10. The military-run hospital that treats severe cases impressed her with a calm ambiance. "Doctors and nurses there called me 'auntie' instead of 'patient' and spent time chatting with me to ease my anxiety," said Cui, who was discharged after recovering on Feb. 26. Outside Hubei, the battle against the epidemic has tested the mobilization capacity of China's big cities and remote villages alike as they scrambled to prevent sporadic imported cases from evolving into community outbreaks. Earlier this month, Beijing said about 827,000 people who returned to the capital city after the Spring Festival holiday were placed in two-week home observation. Around 161,000 property management staff and security guards were on duty to enforce the quarantine rules. Shanghai, a metropolis in eastern China, has demanded its over 13,000 residential communities to guard their gates and take temperatures of residents upon entrance, according to Zeng Qun, deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. Quyi Community was among the first Shanghai neighborhoods to adopt closed-off management. Since late January, it has been disinfecting public areas, introducing contactless deliveries and ensuring residents returning from severely affected regions are placed in quarantine. "For those who are under self-quarantine at home, health workers will provide door-to-door visits every day, and services from grocery shopping to psychological counseling are offered," said Huang Ying, an official with Hongkou District where the community is located. Shanghai, with a population of 24 million, is among China's most populous cities and a commercial hub. It was once predicted as the most susceptible to a coronavirus outbreak. Mathematical models estimated that without prevention and control measures, Shanghai's infection numbers would exceed 100,000. Even with some interventions, the figure could still reach tens of thousands, according to Zhang Wenhong, who heads Shanghai's medical team to fight the epidemic. "But now, the infection number is just over 300. This means the measures taken by Shanghai over the past month are effective," Zhang said, describing the city as an epitome of China's battle against the epidemic. China's economy became a new battleground as the war against the virus wore on, delaying the reopening of plants after the Spring Festival holiday and causing a shortage of workers with the nationwide traffic restrictions in place. China has about 170 million rural migrant workers employed away from their hometowns, many of whom could not return to work as enterprises across the country began to resume production on Feb. 10. In response, local governments have arranged chartered flights and trains to take workers directly to the factories while issuing subsidies to tide companies over difficulties. By early March, the southern manufacturing heartland Guangdong Province had seen 91.2 percent of firms resume operation. Almost every sector of Chinese society has chipped in on the anti-virus fight, from barbers offering medics free haircuts to factories revamping their assembly lines to produce medical masks. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China's output of protective clothing has surged to 500,000 pieces per day from fewer than 20,000 pieces at the beginning of the outbreak. The daily output of N95-rated medical masks rose from 200,000 to 1.6 million, while that of regular masks reached 100 million. "China's economic and social development over the past decade has laid a sound foundation for the fight against the epidemic and enabled the society to mobilize more quickly," said Tang Bei, an international public health researcher at Shanghai International Studies University. China's tech boom also made contributions -- tech companies rolled out disinfecting robots, thermal camera-equipped drones and AI-powered temperature measurement equipment, which have been rapidly deployed to reduce the risks of cross-infection. The outbreak has led to what is being called "the world's largest work-from-home experiment." The number of online meetings supported by Tencent Meeting on Feb. 10, when most enterprises started resuming work, was 100 times that of its previous average daily use. Lu Chuanying, a researcher with Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said digital technologies have risen to the fore, not only in the country's anti-virus efforts but also in the recovery of the virus-hit economy. "Remote consultations, artificial intelligence and big data were used to contain the epidemic, while telecommuting, online education and online vegetable markets have kept our lives in quarantine going," Lu said. ^ top ^

Findings on Dr. Li incident reflect facts, public sentiment (Global Times)
The investigation team dispatched by China's top supervisory body to probe issues related to Dr. Li Wenliang just reported the result of their investigation. It concluded that the reprimand order issued by Zhongnan Road Police Station, Wuhan Public Security Bureau was inappropriate and the law-enforcement process didn't conform to standards. The investigation team requested and urged police authorities to revoke the reprimand and hold related people accountable. Some people might be dissatisfied with the decision which only requests to revoke the reprimand order. They may expect arrests of a few high-ranking officials and a verdict on the Wuhan government's performance in the initial stage of the outbreak. But the team was sent to investigate issues involving Li, instead of the performance of the Wuhan government and Hubei provincial authorities. It is believed there would be additional probes into the Wuhan government's slow action and inadequate response in the early stage, and any mishandling will be strictly held accountable. After the epidemic concludes, the country will conduct a comprehensive review and reflection, when the accountability mechanisms will certainly not be overlooked. In early March, Li was already honored as an outstanding individual in fighting the deadly coronavirus, a significant signal which was obviously related to the early work of the inspection team. The investigation team further withdrew the reprimand. These two developments indicate that Li had been completely "exonerated." The country has given Li the affirmation and respect he deserves. It is worth noting that public opinion has played a role in promoting these changes. The high-level investigation team was a response to the strong reaction from the public. The team's final decision should be seen as the embodiment of the country's ultimate principles - complying with the aspirations of the people and seeking truth from facts. Facing up to mistakes and correcting them in a timely manner is key for a country and society to make continuous progress. Li's experience was painful for the Chinese public. It reflected Wuhan's poor response to the epidemic at the early stage and the public's attitude toward it. Our society needs to continuously explore the causes of the crisis and learn lessons from it, which requires the Chinese people's collective reflection that covers much more than the work of the investigation team. However, as the investigation team has given justice back to Li, people can see that China understands the general logic and direction of this crisis. The investigation team has been working longer than the other three teams. It is the last one to announce the results of its investigation to the society. This shows that its work is the most difficult. Every fact must be repeatedly checked to withstand public scrutiny and the test of history. A tsunami of public opinion surfaced when Li died. Li was given many labels. That was the hardest time for China's fight against the epidemic. The public was strongly dissatisfied with Wuhan's early response. The future of the epidemic's development and whether Wuhan's lockdown would be effective remained unclear after the central government intervened. The complexity of public sentiment added extra meaning to Li's incident. We should carefully screen that which belongs to the incident and which should be separated. The investigation team dispatched by the National Supervisory Commission was not affected by domestic and international sentiment and opinion and what the ream relied on were the facts. Our society needs such a fact-based attitude, while holding such an attitude is the most challenging. The "fact" in public opinion may show another face with the influence of social values and public expectations. Restoring what happened to Li and making the investigation result closest to the truth, which the public accepts as well, is a process wherein Chinese society becomes more mature in the internet era. The investigation has ended. It was generally fair to Li. But reflection must go on as to why the coronavirus epidemic took place in China 17 years after the SARS outbreak. The reflection will make an impact as relevant people are held accountable. There is a lot to be done to make the country's preventive and control mechanism work effective and allow the country to draw experiences and perfect its modern governing capabilities. The work goes beyond the inspection on Li and his colleagues. ^ top ^

No new cases in Hubei; 34 added nationally, all imported (China Daily)
Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, the hardest-hit city by the novel coronavirus epidemic in China, reported no new infections for the first time on Wednesday, as travel and movement restrictions in Wuhan and its surrounding areas were further eased, and nearly half of the region's industrial sector resumed production. The clearing of new domestic infections in Wuhan, Hubei province, marks another major milestone in China's containment efforts after the rest of the country registered zero or very few new cases for several weeks and major cities have shifted their focus to battle an increase in imported infections. The National Health Commission added 34 new cases on the Chinese mainland on Wednesday, all of them brought from overseas to regions including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. The number of imported patients nationwide climbed to 189. In addition, eight new deaths, with six in Wuhan and two in other cities of Hubei, were registered on Wednesday. A total of 7,263 patients are now under treatment at hospitals, including 2,314 in severe condition. The commission spokesman Mi Feng said on Thursday that China recorded no new domestic infections for the first time on Wednesday. In Hubei outside Wuhan, the situation has been maintained for 14 consecutive days, and the rest of the mainland outside Hubei has added no local cases for seven days in a row. "In the past week, imported cases have accounted for 84.55 percent of all new infections. The risk brought by the global spread of the virus has multiplied," he said. While hailing the progress, health experts also warned that zero new cases do not justify an overall relaxation, as the risk of transmission is not stamped out and much still remains unknown about the virus. Li Lanjuan, a senior adviser to the commission, said close attention should be paid to monitoring communities and fever clinics, reported Changjiang Daily, a Hubei-based newspaper. She called for standardized procedures at fever clinics, including conducting seasonal flu and novel coronavirus tests on all feverish patients. The entire nation should also stay alert to imported cases and a possible second wave of the outbreak. Jiang Rongmeng, an infectious disease expert at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said that the battle against the disease has not ended. The epidemic situation remains volatile due to a lack of understanding of its transmission mode and the risk of patients that are asymptomatic or exhibit only minor symptoms. Nevertheless, life has begun to return to normal in gradual and slow steps in Hubei, with residents venturing outside, migrant workers returning to workplaces, and key factories up and running. In Wuhan, residents in communities designated as "infection-free", are allowed to engage in personal activities inside the compound by turn after more than a month of being largely confined at home. Group and cross-household visits are still prohibited, the city's disease prevention and control task force said in a guideline released on Wednesday. Rural villages labeled as free of the virus in Wuhan can resume normal activities and agricultural production. Transport of agricultural materials should be smoothed out and related stores can reopen, according to the guideline that took effect immediately. The new rules are expected to benefit at least 78 percent of residential compounds and nearly 95 percent of rural villages in Wuhan, which were labeled as free of infections by the task force as of Tuesday. Most city-level areas in Hubei province except for Wuhan have already relaxed movement controls due to the slowing spread of the virus. Authorities have utilized staggered schedules, color codes that record residents' health status, and entrance passes, to control the flow. The resumption of production has also sped up in Hubei, with 7,629 enterprises in its industrial sector in operation. The work resumption rate reached 49.3 percent as of Tuesday, Wang Qiyang, head of the provincial government's economy and information technology department, said on Wednesday. Cao Guangjing, vice-governor of Hubei, said companies and factories that have significant impact on the national, even global, supply chain, will be given the priority to work at full capacity. For instance, Hubei, as an industrial powerhouse, manufactures about one-third of the country's phosphate fertilizer. As the spring planting is approaching, it is vital to ensure that fertilizer factories resume work. ^ top ^

Australian woman asked to leave China for flouting quarantine rules (Global Times)
The Australian woman who breached Beijing coronavirus quarantine rules by taking a jog outside her home has been asked to leave China, a decision that instantly won sweeping approval among Chinese netizens, while legal experts said it was a lenient punishment. The Beijing Public Security Bureau decided to cancel the woman's work-type residence permit in accordance with the law and asked her to leave the country within a certain time, Pan Xuhong, an official from the bureau, told the press on Thursday. Her work permit was valid until September 5, 2020. The 47-year-old woman, surnamed Liang, who is ethnic Chinese, entered Beijing from Beijing Capital International Airport on March 14, but was found jogging in her community one day later without wearing a mask. Police officers in Beijing's Hujialou sub-district received a call on March 15 at 3 pm, and found that the woman refused to cooperate with community epidemic prevention work, Pan said. In a video clip, Liang, wearing sports clothes and clearly short of breath after a jog, argued loudly with a Beijing community worker, who chided her for leaving her home and jogging outdoors without wearing a mask. The woman did not apologize for her illicit behavior, but instead yelled, "Help! I'm being harassed!" while trying to open the door of her apartment. Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times that the decision by the Beijing Public Security Bureau was "reasonable" and "lawful" as the woman is suspected of violating China's epidemic laws and regulations. The public security bureau in Beijing did not file charges against her, which is an act of leniency, Zhi said. After the video of her went viral on Chinese social media, Liang was immediately dismissed by her employer, Bayer China. Bayer said it fully supports the Chinese government and people's efforts to fight the novel coronavirus, which is now raging around the world, and asked all of its employees to strictly comply with local government measures to fight the virus. ^ top ^

Govt employees detained for concealing imported COVID-19 cases (Xinhua)
Five government employees from Northwest China's Gansu Province were detained for seven days after secretly allowing people confirmed infected with COVID-19 returning from overseas to go back to their homes without permission and concealing their real health status. The police of Linxia in Gansu made the announcement online on Thursday, saying the five government employees would be punished for taking five people, who had returned from abroad on March 13, to their homes without notifying the local government, and for not reporting information truthfully, which violates the regulation on coronavirus control and prevention, as well as China's Penalty Law of Public Security Management. The discipline supervision authorities are dealing with the case in accordance with law and regulation. Health Commission of Gansu announced on Wednesday to adjust the risk level of epidemic in Linxia from low to medium due to the increasing number of new cases in the past 14 days, especially imported cases. There are still 40 coronavirus cases in Gansu as of press time. ^ top ^



Beijing cuts infection channels from abroad (Global Times)
With more than 200,000 infections across the globe, Beijing, as a hotspot for international communications and the political center of China, is threatened by the spike of COVID-19 cases from overseas, leading the municipal government to further tighten management measures for overseas personnel entering Beijing starting from Thursday. Imported cases have become the main challenge of epidemic prevention and control work in Beijing, which has 34 percent of the nation's imported cases - the highest of all, Pang Xinghuo from the Beijing Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) said at Thursday's press conference. On Wednesday alone, Beijing reported 21 imported cases, roughly one-third of all 64 imported infections so far in the city. To curb imported cases in Beijing is a critical task because if the epidemic resurrects in the capital, it would exert a direct impact on international exchanges and political meetings such as the "two sessions," the annual meetings of China's top legislative body and top political consultative body, analysts said. The Beijing municipal government announced that starting Thursday, all people entering Beijing from overseas are to be transferred to designated quarantine venues for 14 days. They must pay the bills themselves. People who live alone are not allowed to take home quarantine except some special cases such as minors, the elderly, and people with underlying conditions. The Beijing government said it won't accept such applications for home quarantine from Thursday. Those overseas returnees who enter Beijing from other Chinese cities should report to the local communities or their employers in advance and the Beijing quarantine measures will also apply to them upon arrival. The new announcement on Thursday has closed a loophole in the previous policy as some people did not observe home quarantine and communities' management. A Chinese-Australian woman was told to leave the country for flouting quarantine rules and the Beijing Public Security Bureau decided to cancel the woman's working residence permit. The woman was found jogging in her community a day after she reached Beijing on March 14 without wearing a mask. The deportation decision instantly won sweeping applause among Chinese netizens. Chinese government is taking resolute measures against those failing to follow the quarantine rules or concealing their health status, in a bid to curb the inflow of imported cases, especially in the capital Beijing, Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times. As the first gateway safeguarding the capital, the Beijing Capital International Airport is facing mounting pressure from growing numbers of inbound passengers. Since February 29, 2,417 people with suspicious symptoms have been transferred to medical institutions after being screened by the airport customs, 127 per day on average. The number peaked on Wednesday with 479 people, according to the Beijing CDC on Thursday. Some overseas flights with Beijing as their destination will be diverted to other Chinese cities surrounding Beijing, including Tianjin, Hohhot and Taiyuan, according to an aviation regulator's internal document obtained by the Global Times. Authorities released some of the new arrangement starting from Friday, which may reduce the capital's pressure as most of the 64 imported cases transited in Beijing to other Chinese cities. Given Beijing's special status in China and the world, the government will take every effort to control the source of infection to the greatest extent and cut off the transmission channel from abroad, said Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University. Academic training and international meetings in Beijing usually come after the Spring Festival. "The already postponed 'two sessions' could face further delay if the epidemic situation in Beijing cannot be controlled in a timely manner," Zhuang noted. Imported cases usually have stronger infectivity as they are the first-generation cases in many overseas countries. Many infected patients have no symptoms but are still contagious, Zhong Nanshan, the top Chinese respiratory scientist, had warned on Wednesday, suggesting to directly use nucleic acid testing method on those people. In order to precisely manage those arriving in Beijing from outside the Chinese mainland, the Beijing Capital International Airport itself has also adopted a series of "closed-loop" measures that have passengers screened in designated channels and dispatch them on designated buses to designated quarantine places. Wendy Yang, a Beijing resident who returned to the capital from Spain on March 15 due to the expanding epidemic in Europe, told the Global Times that incoming passengers need to file a health declaration before they are allowed to enter the quarantine route where they would have their body temperatures checked. Yang was later taken to China International Exhibition Center, less than 6 kilometers away from the airport, by a government bus for registration and were re-examined there. Those who were found to be normal at the exhibition center will be escorted by their own city government personnel to airports or train stations to continue their journeys, or sent to a designated hotel in Beijing for a 14-day quarantine. People having infection symptoms will be transferred to Beijing Ditan Hospital for a nucleic acid test. Ditan hospital has screened at least 1,600 passengers in the 18 days up to Tuesday morning, reports said. In preparation for a growing number of imported cases in the capital, Beijing Xiaotangshan Hospital, which was at the center of SARS treatment in 2003, reopened on March 16 after a lapse of 17 years. ^ top ^

Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei unite to manage area transport amid virus (China Daily)
Transport authorities in Beijing, Tianjin and neighboring Hebei province have set up an information-sharing mechanism to ensure smooth transportation services in the region while efforts to pre-vent and control novel coronavirus infections continue. The efforts guarantee work will be carried out in a coordinated manner in various transportation channels such as highways, railways and aviation, according to a recent plan created by transportation organs in the three areas. Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei border each other in North China and started an integrated development project six years ago. According to the plan, special vehicles will pick up migrant workers and send them directly to their work places in the region. The three areas will gradually restore normal inter-province transportation services for passengers. But vehicles transporting passengers can use no more than half their capacity, only use designated roads and stop at permitted stations to avoid transmission of the virus during trips, the plan said. "We share information about traffic conditions and passing vehicles and passengers with our counterparts in Beijing to jointly fight against the virus," Liu Daogang, deputy director of the Tian-jin Municipal Transportation Commission, was quoted as saying in a report by China Transport News. For example, at one of Tianjin's check sites in Jizhou district, which borders Beijing's Pinggu district, an inspector will call his counterpart in Pinggu and ask if certain passengers under special conditions can be allowed to enter the capital given their information. As for car-for-hire services, Hebei has stopped taxis and online ride-hailing vehicles from sending passengers to the capital since March 3, echoing a similar policy imposed by Beijing that was rolled out at the end February, the report said. Transport authorities in the three areas are also cooperating to guarantee the transportation of daily necessities, including vegetables and instant food. As efforts to prevent and control cross-infection of the virus continue, the construction of key transport projects in the region-especially those related to the region's integrated development, Xiongan New Area, the 2022 Winter Olympics and poverty alleviation-are gradually resuming. Construction of transportation projects, including an expressway linking Beijing and Xiongan New Area in Hebei, will be carried out as scheduled this year, according to the plan. ^ top ^

Beijing will divert international flights to other cities as imported coronavirus cases mount: sources (Global Times)
Beijing recently held a meeting to discuss plans to divert international flights arriving Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) to other cities, as the capital city is under immense pressure to curb its rapid rise in imported coronavirus cases, two separate sources told the Global Times on Wednesday. The sources said airports in cities including North China's Tianjin Municipality, Shijiazhuang in North China's Hebei Province, and Taiyuan in North China's Shanxi Province will receive the spillover of international passengers, though they didn't disclose an implementation date or time. According to data provided by BCIA, the number of flights arriving and de-parting from the airport remained flat at 409 on Wednesday, compared with Tuesday's 380 and Monday's 443. The potential move came as Beijing reported 11 new imported cases of the virus at noon on Wednesday, according to the Health Commission of Beijing. The city has now reported a total of 54 imported infections. As the largest global aviation hub in China, BCIA is seeing rapidly growing numbers of international passengers amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 overseas, which has exerted immense pressure on epidemic prevention measures, virus testing and quarantines, and could strain limited medical resources, Qi Qi, an independent market analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "It is necessary and very urgent that some arrivals are diverted to other cities [which have the capacity and resources to handle massive traffic], otherwise the capital will be exposed to the dual risk of imported cases and returning workers," Qi said. With the escalating outbreak overseas, Beijing has ramped up efforts to contain imported infections. Since March 11, all overseas arrivals to Beijing from countries and regions hit hard by the virus have had to be quarantined for 14 days. The capital airport set aside a special area to deal with international passengers on March 10, and had handled a total of 112 flights involving 20,718 passengers by Monday. The Global Times recently reported that major Chinese airlines including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern are considering slashing international flights as infections worldwide continue to rise. ^ top ^

Beijing allows conditional home observation for some people from overseas (Xinhua)
After strict evaluation, some people coming to Beijing from overseas will be allowed to stay at home for medical observation amid the coronavirus outbreak, an official said Monday. The municipal government had earlier announced that all the personnel coming to the city from outside the Chinese mainland have to be quarantined for 14 days at designated places. Those who are not suitable for designated quarantine, including people aged over 70, minors, pregnant women and patients with underlying diseases, as well as those who have a residence in the city and live by themselves, could apply for home observation, Zhang Ge, deputy head of the organization department of the Communist Party of China Beijing municipal committee, said at a press conference. Zhang noted that the applications would be approved after community workers and health professionals check and verify the eligibility of the applicants. People under home observation will be immediately transferred to designated places and pay all expenses themselves if they are found refusing medical monitoring, concealing or lying about their illnesses, or going out without permission. ^ top ^



Xinjiang to invest big to expand 4G coverage in poor villages (China Daily)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to invest more than 330 million yuan (around $47 million) for the construction of 4G base stations to provide 4G network for 334 poverty-stricken villages this year. Upon completion, the villages will be covered by both wired or wireless networks. As Xinjiang has vast land and a small population, its ru-ral areas, especially poor villages, have poor transporta-tion and communications conditions, and the coverage of broadband networks and 4G networks is relatively back-ward compared with other provinces and regions in the country. In 2020, Xinjiang will ensure the stable operation of networks and the quality of broadband networks in poor areas as part of its poverty alleviation efforts. At the same time, Xinjiang will continue to promote the preferential packages and enhance the level of electronic consumption and information convenience to bring bene-fits to local farmers and herdsmen, according to the re-gional communications administration. ^ top ^

Rumors of 'forced labor' in Xinjiang refuted (Global Times)
Recently, US lawmakers and an Australian think tank have been sparing no effort on hyping up the so-called forced labor conspiracy in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and pushing for a bill to limit US imports from Xinjiang. To refute these rumors, the Global Times visited more than 70 companies and private workshops in four prefectures in southern Xinjiang and found that accusations of forced labor in China are totally false. The smear campaign launched by these anti-China forces could further undermine the livelihoods of the Uygurs and some other residents in Xinjiang who are currently living in poverty. Experts said that US politicians' efforts in pushing sanctions on China over so-called forced labor in Xinjiang aims to contain China in the backdrop of the US-initiated trade war with China, and they also want to promote a de-coupling of trade ties between China and the US to thwart possible restrictions in future strategic confrontations. Following a report in late February from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which claimed China is forcing at least 80,000 people from ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang to work in factories, on March 11, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released a report stating that forced labor inside and outside of Xinjiang's vocational education and training centers is "systematic repression" of minority groups. Echoing the two reports, many US lawmakers and politicians are pushing a bill in the last week to implement stringent limits on imports from Xinjiang. However, Global Times reporters conducted a research into more than 70 companies, cooperatives and private workshops in Kashi, Hotan, Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture and Aksu in southern Xinjiang and had conversations with many residents in the region to collect information on the current employment situation. No evidence of forced labor has been found throughout the joint research project, and employees' rights and interests have been protected in accordance with laws and regulations. The Global Times had contacted companies, including Foxconn, Apple and Volkswagen Group, which had been implicated in "forced labor" reports by Western media. They denied forced labor practices occurring in their companies and Uyghur employees have expressed hope to extend their contracts. The Global Times also found that the World Uyghur Congress, a US-backed regime change network seeking the fall of China, and its global offshoots have played a significant role in hyping the "forced labor" narrative in the media. Members of these organizations have been busy lobbying US politicians to impose sanctions on China. Rushan Abbas, head of the Campaign for Uyghurs affiliated to the WUC who also worked for several US intelligence agencies, disclosed on her Twitter account that she participated in the panel of the CEEC. At a press conference on Monday, Eljan Anayti, spokesperson of the Xin-jiang regional government, rejected the report issued by ASPI as a smear campaign against Xinjiang and said the report was full of unfounded claims and fabricated stories. Eljan also noted that ASPI has long been receiving funds from the US government and US-based arms dealers, and it deliberately smears, vilifies and demonizes China for its investors' benefits. The ASPI's intentional interpretation of the cross-provincial employments of people's own free wills as "forced labor" is a most absurd tale. Eljan asked, "So can we take it for granted that the people in Australia and America are forced to labor and find jobs in different state and region within the country?" All companies contacted by the Global Times stated that there was no forced labor occurring in their factories and that the jobs financially help Uygur workers and their families. "At no time has Foxconn ever had employees in its workforce anywhere who haven't voluntarily joined our firm. Any allegations to the contrary are categorically false," Foxconn Technology Group, a major supplier for Apple Inc, said in a statement sent to the Global Times. It added that all workers at Foxconn are recruited openly, compensated fairly and compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. When asked to comment on the report on Thursday, an Apple spokesperson referred to a statement previously given to the US media: "Apple is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. We have not seen this report but we work closely with all our suppliers to ensure our high standards are up-held." Apple also said that the company interviews numerous employees during annual assessments in their ethnic languages without managers present to ensure the workers receive training and are aware of proper channels to voice concerns. German carmaker Volkswagen Group also denied "any human rights violations" at a plant in Urumqi for its China joint venture SAIC Volkswagen, to which employees come from "a number of different ethnic backgrounds." "We are convinced that availability of jobs for all ethnic minorities will improve the social environment in the Urumqi region," the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times. Yidong Electronics Technology Co, which was also accused of working with suppliers that use forced Uyghur labor, said that it has conducted investigations within its factories. "Findings of the investigation show that… neither local organizations nor [the supplier] has ever forced workers to do anything against their will," the company said in a statement, adding that the supplier employed 100 Uygur workers. "Such accusations against [the supplier]… is extremely irresponsible," the company said. After getting consent from its employees, Yidong Electronics Technology Co showed the Global Times various workers' contracts, screenshots of payment slips and photos of employees joining in team-building exercises, including seeing movies, going for picnics and participating in art performances. During the coronavirus epidemic, the company asked all employees to go into quarantine. In a screenshot from a group conversation among employees, an employee named Guli was asked whether she would go back to Xinjiang when her contract expires, and she said that many people want to extend their contracts and they don't want to leave…The smear campaign by US politicians and media outlets has already undermined and could further undermine the livelihood of Uygurs and other residents in Xinjiang who are currently living in poverty, said a manager of a Xinjiang-based textile company who only gave his surname as Zhang. After a Wall Street Journal report last year claiming that his company had used forced labor, it has lost all orders from the US and Europe, Zhang told the Global Times on Thursday. "The Americans are terrible… There are no more export orders from the US and Europe in all of Xinjiang," he said. Zhang said that his company hires 1,700 employees, of whom 99 percent are from ethnic minorities and are compensated well above the minimum wage in Xinjiang, enjoy social security and other benefits. The company plans to lift nearly 600 ethnic minority families out of poverty this year alone. In response to a joint statement issued by five US trade associations on their concerns over the "forced labor" issue in Xinjiang last week, experts said that it does not represent the views of all member companies and using business to interfere with China's domestic affairs may affect these companies' business in China. "Usually, associations need to represent the entrepreneurs to lobby the government for certain interests, like lowering tariffs. But the US trade associations have been abducted by a certain small group of people regard-less of its members' interests and the actual facts in Xinjiang. Many US companies will also be affected by the statement," Lu Zhenwang, founder of Shanghai Wanqing Commerce Consulting, told the Global Times. "If these trade associations really care about the truth or workers' rights in Xinjiang, they could conduct surveys in factories in Xinjiang and other places in China and they will easily find such accusations against China are fabricated. I went to many factories in Xinjiang where workers of ethnic groups are living a life that is no different to others around the world," Tian Yun, vice director of the Beijing Economic Operation Association, told the Global Times. "Using businesses to interfere with China's domestic affairs is not an unusual move for the US and it will use these tactics again and again in the future," Tian said. "One of their aims is to decouple trade ties between China and the US." Chinese companies should make preparations in advance - including shifting to domestic markets and developing new markets, Tian suggested. "It is well known that poverty alleviation and eliminating hunger are primary targets for the UN's millennium project. The main reason for Donald Trump winning the US election in 2016 was his promise of increasing employment," Gu Liyan, a research fellow from the Xinjiang Development and Research Center, told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Xinjiang allocates 2.4b yuan for epidemic control (Global Times)
Northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has allocated a total of 2.4 billion yuan (about $338 million) for efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to local authorities. Part of the funding has been spent on the treatment of 76 patients infected with the virus in the region and the on-duty subsidy for frontline medical workers, according to the regional finance department. The funding has also been used to offer financial assistance to people whose lives have been affected by the outbreak, as well as enterprises that employ handicapped people or produce supplies needed for the control of the outbreak. In addition, regional authorities have allocated 65 million yuan for telecommunication and over 4 million yuan for logistics cost of vegetables shipped from outside the region. ^ top ^



HK may expand screening facilities beyond airport (China Daily)
Health officials are studying the feasibility of putting inbound travelers in facilities near Hong Kong International Airport as "tens of thousands" are expected to arrive in the city in the next two weeks. Starting on Thursday, travelers arriving in Hong Kong from any foreign country will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine - mostly at home. The new quarantine arrangements, valid for three months, were officially in place after the government gazetted on Wednesday night Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said the AsiaWorld Expo and North Lantau Hospital were being considered additional processing centers for arrivals stranded at the airport. Incoming travelers need to submit a health declaration form; they could then be randomly selected for a coronavirus test which entails having their deep throat saliva specimens collected by the authorities. But this process takes quite a long time, explained Chan. She did not rule out the possibility that sampling tests could be extended to cover all incoming travelers. Each inbound traveler is required to wear a smart wristband and to download an app that monitors their movements during two weeks of home quarantines. Chief Information Officer Lam Wai-kiu said the wristband could inform the authorities if its wearer leaves a designated quarantine location. Lam said the device, developed by a local startup and a local university, only detects a change in the location on the basis of strength or weakness of signals like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. The app will send out an alert and inform both the Department of Health and police when necessary. The government now has more than 20,000 wristbands in stock, with enough backup supply to handle a surging number of arrivals, said Lam. Contravening the quarantine rules is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,220) and a maximum six-month jail term. The newly gazetted regulation is described as a "resolute and rigorous measure" to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Exempted from this order are airline and goods vessel crew members, on-duty government officials, on-duty directors of Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Insurance Authority and essential construction workers tasked to work in foreign places. Experts engaged in research or who provide advice in combating the outbreak to the SAR government are also exempt. Meanwhile, travelers arriving from the mainland are still subject to the same quarantine rules which took effect on Feb 8. ^ top ^

HK issues travel alert for foreign locations (China Daily)
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Tuesday issued a travel alert urging residents to avoid nonessential outbound travel to areas outside the Chinese mainland, Macao and Taiwan. Also, starting on Thursday, travelers arriving in Hong Kong from any foreign country will have to undergo a mandatory two-week home quarantine or medical surveillance, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on Tuesday. New quarantine rules will not apply to arrivals from Macao and Taiwan, while the same requirements have been in place for travelers from the mainland since Feb 8. Some 90 percent of the city's new novel coronavirus pneumonia cases in the past two weeks were either imported or related to the patient's close contacts. More than 4,400 outbound tour groups, consisting of nearly 140,000 travelers, have had their trips canceled as of noon on Monday because of the pandemic, according to Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong. The council said it is working with the government to assist tourists returning to the city as soon as possible. David Hui Shu-cheong, an infectious disease expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the measures will be effective through discouraging most travel to Hong Kong, while, at the same time, allowing entry of students studying overseas."I don't think any traveler would like to enter the city knowing they have to experience 14 days of quarantined life," said Hui, who is a member of the government's advisory panel. He said he considers home quarantine an administrative measure that equals a border shutdown. Hong Kong reported 10 new infections on Tuesday, nine of which are considered imported cases, bringing the cumulative tally to 167. At least three cases involved university students studying overseas. They developed symptoms while they were in Europe or upon arrival in Hong Kong. Health authorities appealed to overseas students not to return to Hong Kong if they would feel ill because they pose risks to others on the flight back. Instead, they are advised to seek for treatment where they are living. Ho Pak-leung, a top microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said the SAR government should further ban non-Hong Kong residents from entering the city for the next month. Ho said this is to free up space in quarantine facilities so that returning residents who are likely to have caught the disease can be better dealt with. He suggested returning students stay at designated facilities to protect their family members from contagion. Also on Tuesday, the Macao government introduced a blanket entry ban on nonlocal visitors starting Wednesday. Chinese nationals from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as nonresident workers employed in Macao, are exempt. ^ top ^

Hong Kong to quarantine all arrivals from outside starting Thursday: chief executive (Global Times)
China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that Hong Kong will quarantine for 14 days all arriving passengers from outside the region starting from Thursday to curb the spread of the COVID-19. The new measure is included in a red outbound travel alert to be issued by the HKSAR government, which advises residents to avoid all non-essential trips abroad. For the past two weeks, 50 new confirmed COVID-19 cases were imported ones out of all the 57 confirmed cases, Lam said at a media session before the HKSAR Executive Council meeting on Tuesday morning. ^ top ^

Hong Kong financial system highly resilient: official (Xinhua)
The financial system in Hong Kong is highly resilient with strong buffers, despite sharply volatile global markets due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in different places, Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) Chief Executive Eddie Yue said Monday. "Asian equity markets, including Hong Kong markets, have seen significant corrections and sharp volatility today, but local markets continue to operate in a smooth and orderly manner," Yue told media, noting that HKMA has been closely monitoring the financial markets following the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee's latest rate cut and other policy measures. Yue noted the global financial markets have been highly volatile in the past few weeks. While measures taken by central banks and fiscal authorities around the world will help support the economy and stabilize the markets, future market movements will depend on the effectiveness of the measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in different places, he said. "Going forward, the financial markets will continue to be volatile in response to news flows relating to both public health and financial measures," he added. Yue stressed the local banking system is robust and well capitalized with ample liquidity and HKMA will monitor the market situation in coordination with other regulators. "We will safeguard monetary stability in Hong Kong in accordance with the Linked Exchange Rate System," he said. ^ top ^

Coronavirus: Hong Kong to place arrivals from all foreign countries under home quarantine (SCMP)
Travellers arriving in Hong Kong from any foreign country from Thursday will be put under home quarantine, the city's leader has said, as she extended a red travel alert to cover all overseas nations. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor noted on Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic, and the total number of infections abroad had exceeded the total in China. She said that in the previous two weeks, Hong Kong had recorded 57 new infections, 50 of them imported. "If we exclude these imported cases, we only have seven local cases in the past week," she said. "But if we do not impose strict measures, our previous efforts could be wasted." She added that the new restrictions would not apply to arrivals from mainland China, Macau or Taiwan. While Taiwan is a self-governing island, Beijing considers it part of the country. ^ top ^



Taiwan facing risk of infection wave due to flawed control effort: experts (Global Times)
The island of Taiwan's epidemic control efforts against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are seriously flawed and Taiwan is facing the risk of another wave of COVID-19 infections, as the island's authority previously only focused on preventing cases from the Chinese mainland but not those from the rest of the world, multiple experts from the island said on Wednesday. The experts' statements came after US-based media outlet Foreign Policy published an argument article on Monday titled "Fear of China Made Taiwan a Coronavirus Success Story," which claimed the island had brought things under control using "a combination of early vigilance, proactive measures, and information sharing with the public, as well as applying technology in the form of analyzing big data and online platforms." It is "in stark contrast to [the Chinese mainland]'s use of draconian and coercive measures and censorship to handle the coronavirus outbreak," the article claimed. The article was obviously attempting to undermine the Chinese mainland's epidemic control efforts, analysts said. However, 23 new cases were confirmed in Taiwan on Wednesday, with the total number now exceeding 100, local media reported. Taiwan had not seen a surge in confirmed cases like this since the first case was confirmed on January 21. Pan Huai-tsung, a health expert in Taiwan, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Taiwan's initial prevention efforts were indeed effective, but that was because there were luckily not so many cases that the island's capability to diagnose them were exceeded, and people in Taiwan had relatively good awareness of self-protection and quarantine. Echoing Pan, Cheng Po-yu, executive officer of a cross-Straits youth communication association, said, "It was not because the Tsai Ing-wen administration took some special measures that contained the virus, it was because people have a strong awareness, since we all experienced SARS many years ago." The Tsai Ing-wen administration is only taking credit for people's own awareness of the risks, Cheng said. Taiwan's prevention efforts started in early February, as the island took measures to limit people who lived in the Chinese mainland or had been there in the last 14 days from entering the island. It was only on Wednesday that the Taiwan authority warned people in Taiwan not to make non-essential trips to locations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and people entering Taiwan from these regions should be quarantined for 14 days. Wang Bing-chung, a political commentator in Taiwan, told the Global Times on Wednesday that there were very few visitors from the mainland even before the outbreak, as self-guided travel had been suspended long ago. The real risk Taiwan is facing now is that it was only focusing on the mainland for prevention, but not the rest of the world. "The epidemic has already become serious around the world, and the US is criticized for delaying its epidemic control because it would not conduct tests… But Taiwan only announced further measures today, meaning it has already missed the best opportunity. So today's surge of more than 20 cases mostly came from other countries," Wang said on Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal said in a report on Wednesday that Taiwan may face a second wave of COVID-19 infections, a prediction Pan agrees with. Taiwan is not taking concentrated quarantine measures on people who are coming to the island from other countries and regions like the Chinese mainland is doing, Pan said, noting that they are only undergoing home quarantine. "This is worrying," Pan said, stressing that COVID-19 is a cunning virus that can spread without showing symptoms. The mainland's epidemic control efforts are a miracle, Pan said, noting that he hopes the mainland will help Taiwan if the island falls into a situation where the epidemic goes out of control. ^ top ^

PLA warplanes conduct rare nighttime exercises near Taiwan (Global Times)
Warplanes of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly conducted rare nighttime exercises near the island of Taiwan on Monday, and mainland analysts on Tuesday predicted that similar drills will become more frequent if Taiwan secessionist forces remain stubborn and continue their secessionist activities. Multiple PLA warplanes including the KJ-500 early warning aircraft and J-11 fighter jets conducted nighttime flight exercises at around 7:00 pm on Monday above the waters southwest of the island of Taiwan, Taiwan media reported on Monday, citing Taiwan's defense authority. This is the first time the PLA has conducted this kind of exercise at night, said Taiwan's defense authority, according to the report. The PLA nighttime drills showed that it is fully capable of launching military operations on the island at any time of a day, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Tuesday. Similar drills are expected to become more frequent in order to let Taiwan secessionists get a clear idea of the power gap between the mainland and the island, the expert said. The latest exercises near Taiwan came after concentrated PLA exercises in February. On February 9 and 10, the PLA conducted two consecutive drills featuring naval and air forces near the island and crossed the "middle line" of the Taiwan Straits, in a warning to Taiwan secessionists. Island encirclement patrols used to be rare, crossing the "middle line" used to be rare and consecutive drills used to be rare, but they are not rare any more, and the same could apply for the nighttime drills, the expert said. Taiwan secessionist forces are disregarding the greater national interests, intensifying their scheme of pursuing "independence," going against the trend and the will of the people, said Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, a PLA Eastern Theater Command spokesperson, on February 10. The PLA Eastern Theater Command troops are always on high alert, closely following the situation and are ready to resolutely fulfill their missions, Zhang said. The troops are determined and capable of crushing any "Taiwan secessionist" activities, resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity and peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, Zhang said previously. ^ top ^

Can Johnny Chiang save Taiwan's troubled Kuomintang party? (SCMP)
After Johnny Chiang easy victory in his party's leadership election, Taiwan is asking if he is the man to save the island's century-old Kuomintang (KMT). The 48-year-old, US-educated politician defeated his sole opponent – former party vice-chairman and Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin – in a poll that saw a record low voter turnout of less than 36 per cent. Chiang has been in politics for just a decade and is largely unknown outside Taiwan. But the question now is whether he can save the troubled party, which suffered a humiliating defeat in January's presidential and legislative elections, and is facing serious financial troubles and dwindling public support. And with anti-China sentiment on the rise in Taiwan, Chiang is also facing a dilemma over whether to ditch the decades-old political platform known as the 1992 consensus, which for almost 30 years has allowed the self-ruled island to maintain a functioning relationship with Beijing. Chiang took up his first political post in 2010 as head of the now defunct Government Information Office under then president Ma Ying-jeou. On Monday he was sworn in as head of the KMT, replacing Wu Den-yih who resigned after the party's poor showing in the January polls. The Kuomintang was the dominant political party in Taiwan for decades, but since 2000 has competed for power with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In January, the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected for a second term as president. Taiwanese talk show host and political commentator Sissy Chen said the KMT was facing a mission impossible to return to power in the next two decades because of its failure to recruit fresh talent and win the support of younger voters. It was "possible that the DPP will be able to remain as the government for at least 12, 15 and even 20 years", she said in December, before Tsai's election victory. As Wu's replacement, Chiang has just 14 months of a four-year term to prove he is the man to lead the KMT out of its slump. His goals were to bring young blood into the party and introduce reforms to win back public support, while at the same time securing Beijing's trust, analysts said. "If Chiang does abandon the 1992 consensus, it would be tantamount to removing its trust basis with the Chinese Communist Party and giving up its most valuable asset in dealing with the mainland," former KMT legislator Chen Shei-saint said. There was a need for the party to build a new consensus so that it could appease Taiwanese voters while not upsetting Beijing, he said. The consensus refers to an understanding reached between Taipei and Beijing in 1992 that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to "one China". Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory, has insisted that the consensus is the sole political foundation for the two sides to remain interactive. The KMT claims that both sides agreed that each has their own interpretation of one China and for the KMT it stands for the Republic of China, the island's official title. During his presidency, Ma used the consensus to improve relations with Beijing, but those warmer ties frosted over in 2016 when Tsai – who advocates Taiwan independence – was elected the island's new leader. In his inaugural speech on Monday, Chiang said he would give priority to party reforms and winning back public support, while deciding what to do about the 1992 consensus would come later. "Without an internal agreement, we can do nothing, even if we can work out a new form for the 1992 consensus," he said. While it is a long-held tradition for the leader of the Chinese Communist Party to send a congratulatory telegram to newly appointed leaders of the KMT, Chiang has yet to receive word from Xi Jinping, which some political observers said could be seen as a snub. On March 7, Zhu Fenglian, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office – the mainland agency that handles relations with Taiwan – urged Chiang to "cherish and protect the mutual trust with the CCP on the foundation of the 1992 consensus" and "promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, and advance the interests and well-being of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait". Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute for Taiwan Studies, said that regardless of whether the terms of the 1992 consensus were amended, communication between Beijing and Taipei should remain open. "What matters most is that the relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait remains a domestic one, and not like one between two countries," he said. Chang Yu-shao, a researcher at the Cross-Strait Policy Association, a think tank in Taipei, said it was not surprising that Xi had not congratulated Chiang given the new KMT leader 's comments before the election. "Beijing is taking a wait-and-see approach towards Chiang as what he said about the 1992 consensus amounted to him failing to complete his test paper," he said. Meanwhile, Huang Tzu-che, deputy director of the KMT's cultural and information department, said the loss of support from young people and neutral voters was one of the major reasons for the KMT's defeat in the January elections. Chiang must respond to the "public's expectations [and] current trends" to win back their support, he said. Chiang campaigned for the KMT leadership on promises to rejuvenate the party. In doing so, he won the support of younger members and key party factions and saw off the challenge of the more experienced and influential 68-year-old Hau, winning by about 46,000 votes. "The election result reflects that most party members think a generational change is needed to help the party regain power," said former KMT legislator Sun Ta-chien. "To do this, the party must understand the views of young people on important issues, use the language of young people, establish a platform for communication with them and propose policies that can win their trust." But Chen Shei-saint said Chiang was facing a challenging 14 months to prove he was the right choice for the KMT. "To show he is not just a transitional chairman, Chiang not only has to prove that he is able to manage cross-strait issues but also initiate party reforms that can impress the public, while at the same time ensuring the KMT performs its checks and balances role within the legislature," he said. He must also win the support of the party's old guard to back his reform measures, and raise enough funds to be able to maintain the party's operations, Chen said. Once one of the richest political parties in the world, the KMT has been struggling to find the nearly US$1 million it needs every month just to stay afloat since its assets were frozen as part of a government investigation. ^ top ^



China's relaxed land rules could speed up urbanisation, offer economic boost amid coronavirus (SCMP)
China has made a small but significant tweak in its rigid land management system that could accelerate urbanisation, especially in large cities and affluent coastal areas, that could spur urban development in a bid to keep growth on track amid the And while the overall benefits from the change will be largely long term, with significant stress already placed on China's economy amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it could allow local authorities more flexibility if Beijing opts to turn to state-led capital spending led by infrastructure investment to support growth. All provinces will now be allowed to use farmland not already classified as "permanent arable land" for development purposes without first obtaining approval the central government, China's cabinet, the State Council, said last week. But under a one-year trial, eight rich municipalities and provinces, namely Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Anhui, and Chongqing, will also be allowed to use "permanent arable land" for development. Local authorities, though, are still subject to annual quotas for land use and farmland protection. The intention, first and foremost, is to improve the efficiency of land uses … and one of the outcomes would be more land supply. While the change only represents a slight relaxation in China's land use management regime, with major urban development plans still subject to approval by Beijing, analysts believe the change could lead to far-reaching changes to China's urban development, municipal fiscal situations and the economic landscape. And while the overall benefits from the change will be largely long term, with significant stress already placed on China's economy amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it could allow local authorities more flexibility if Beijing opts to turn to state-led capital spending led by infrastructure investment to support growth. "This is undoubtedly a very important reform," said Yao Wei, chief China economist from French Bank Societe Generale. "The intention, first and foremost, is to improve the efficiency of land uses … and one of the outcomes would be more land supply [for urban development]." In China, all land is publicly owned, but in reality, local municipal authorities control urban land resources, while farmland is collectively owned by farmers. China officially requires 120 million hectares (297 million acres) of arable land to allow the country to be self-sufficient, but the rigid land management system is seen as increasingly out of touch. In China's more affluent areas, including Shenzhen and Shanghai, where land for new factories and office buildings is increasingly scarce, they still must maintain a significant area of land for farming. Shenzhen, for example, must maintain at least 4,288 hectares (10,600 acres) of farmland, including 2,000 hectares of permanent arable land. Land use control has always been an important policy tool in China's economic system, as important as monetary policy At the same time, delegation of power to local governments has also raised concerns among some researchers about forceful land grabs, which have been rampant amid China's urbanization over the past decades, creating one of the biggest sources of social unrest. Millions of Chinese farmers are believed to have lost their land, willingly or unwillingly, as part of China's urbanization, according to reviews of government data. Qiao Shitong, a professor of property and urban law at the University of Hong Kong, found that local governments "illegally" took away land from 100,000 to 500,000 farmers every year between 2005 to 2015. "Land use control has always been an important policy tool in China's economic system, as important as monetary policy," Qiao said. The latest relaxation of the restrictions could help local government to realise their infrastructure spending plans, with at least 20 provinces having already published details of projects with a combined value of 7.5 trillion yuan (US$1 billion) for 2020. Previously, the land management system also treated all areas the same, leading to inefficient land distribution between coastal and inland provinces, with the new policy indicating a strategic change in China's view of urbanisation. After 2003, Beijing distributed more land to the poor middle and western provinces, while tightening the supply in the east cost to achieve a balanced growth across China. But the policy only led to the creation of ghost towns and industrial estates in less developed inland provinces and surging house prices in wealthier areas in the east. My concern is that this policy could encourage places particularly those that have net outflows of people to overbuild to boost fixed asset investment and local [gross domestic product] In Shanghai, a limited land supply forced the city place a cap on its intended population, removing migrant workers, in a phenomenon known as de-urbanization. It has also been instructed to maintain 239,300 hectares (592,000 acres) for farmland in 2020. "My concern is that this policy could encourage places particularly those that have net outflows of people to overbuild to boost fixed asset investment and local [gross domestic product]. If that happens, it could lead to a wave of wasted buildings again," said Lu Ming, an economics professor from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In a dramatic change in August, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the government should give more development land to larger cities to accommodate more industries and migrant workers. A study, led by Tsinghua University using mapping data from Baidu, China's search engine, found that from 2016 to 2018, the population of a third of more than 3,000 cities – defined by economic concentrations not by administrative boundaries – dropped. ^ top ^

Ministry planning more steps to increase foreign investment and trade (China Daily)
China will beef up efforts to further stabilize foreign investment and foreign trade, and strengthen international cooperation in fighting off the coronavirus, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. The outbreak will inevitably have an impact on cross-border investment, Ye Wei, deputy director-general of the ministry's department of foreign investment administration, said at a news conference. The outbreak could cause global foreign direct investment to shrink by 5 percent to 15 percent, Ye said, citing a recent report prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. To ensure the steady growth of FDI, the ministry will further open up market access and optimize the foreign investment environment, Ye said. The country will speed up the process to shorten the negative lists-which identify sectors where foreign participation is restricted, continuously widen the market access to foreign investment, and revise the catalog of industries where foreign capital is encouraged and increase the number of encouraged items, he said. Overall, China's long-term economic improvement and the market's attraction will not change, Ye said. The COVID-19 outbreak was effectively contained in China, but the outbreak has been spreading rapidly in the rest of the world. The epidemic has hit some of China's important trading partners such as the European Union, the United States, South Korea and Japan, and put pressure on the normal development of their bilateral trade with China, said Jiang Fan, an official with the ministry's foreign trade department. Jiang urged the global community to join hands to rein in the epidemic. China will continue to expand international partnership in fighting off the virus, and to deepen economic and trade cooperation with countries around the world, she said. According to Jiang, the country will also make great efforts to accurately implement supportive policies to help enterprises stabilize the international market. China's foreign trade development is resilient, has enough room for development, and the ministry is confident of stabilizing the foreign trade, Jiang said. While ensuring the work resumption in the domestic market, the ministry will also strengthen cooperation with trading partners, share with them experiences in epidemic prevention and control, and provide necessary assistance in a timely manner, she said. The General Administration of Customs has recently issued a list of measures to ensure epidemic prevention at ports and fast-track clearances. The GAC requires branches of Customs nationwide to support the enterprises in resuming work and production, and implement various measures. Since the outbreak, Customs across the country have destroyed or returned 348,000 units of unqualified imported masks and protective gowns. ^ top ^

China should avoid 'bazooka' efforts to rescue economy, warns top economist Yu Yongding (SCMP)
China should not rush into following international calls for major stimulus efforts to fight off the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to prominent Chinese economist and former central bank adviser Yu Yongding. Yu's comment is one side of an ongoing debate on whether China should enact a new round of economic stimulus measures immediately, or wait to ensure that the coronavirus outbreak is fully contained, and only then determine what needs to be done to support growth. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday called for a "coordinated and synchronised global fiscal stimulus" to bolster the world economy, given that private analysts now largely expect the world to fall into recession this year. Yu, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued that while China has more fiscal and monetary policy room to manoeuvre than its counterparts in Europe and the United States, the country's top priority should be to focus on epidemic control and the full resumption of production in factories closed during the height of the outbreak. Expansionary fiscal and monetary policy can be used later to win back the lost time as much as possible "Expansionary fiscal and monetary policy can be used later to win back the lost time as much as possible," said Yu, who is an advocate of economic stabilisation efforts. On the other side of the debate, the China Wealth Management 50 Forum, a think tank led by former central bank deputy governor Wu Xiaoling, argued in a recent report that China should increase its fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product this year, above last year's 3 per cent target. The think tank also said China should issue an additional 1 trillion yuan (US$142 billion) in special treasury bonds to fund infrastructure investment and support growth. Last year, China sold 4 trillion yuan of treasury bonds, with the target for 2020 yet to be released due to the postponement of the National People's Congress. The debate is taking place amid growing signs that China is succeeding in containing the outbreak. On Thursday, the National Health Commission reported no new domestic infections for the first time since the outbreak began. Nationwide, there were 34 new infections, all from people arriving from overseas. Leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) economies are expected to hold a virtual meeting next week, at which they will seek to put forward a coordinated set of policies in response to the global outbreak of Covid-19 in a bid to alleviate its human and economic implications, the government of Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the international forum, announced on Tuesday. It remains unclear whether Beijing will offer support at that meeting for a coordinated response to the economic damage being caused by the pandemic, although a meeting of its top decision-making body on Wednesday said that China will "strengthen its analysis of the international economic situation, and make timely countermeasures". Until now, Beijing has held back from any bold economic stimulus plans despite sharply weaker-than-expected economic data in January-February that prompted many analysts to downgrade their forecasts for both Chinese and global growth this year. The People's Bank of China, the nation's central bank, has not followed the US Federal Reserve's aggressive interest rate cuts in the last two weeks, while the government has pledged larger spending on "new infrastructure construction" without disclosing the total level of investment. China's muted response is in sharp contrast to that of other major economies abroad. With the US Federal Reserve cutting it benchmark interest rate to zero and restarting an asset purchase plan to pump money into the economy, the White House and the US Congress have also agreed on two coronavirus response bills dealing with medical expenses, paid sick leave and more money for unemployment insurance. They are now working on what is said to be a US$1.3 trillion emergency spending package that would bailout airlines and other businesses hit hard by the outbreak, as well as give money directly to every American to help them pay bills and keep spending. On Wednesday, the European Central Bank announced an unexpected €750 billion (US$821 billion) emergency programme to buy government and corporate debt to add cash to the economy. Overall, Europe has not yet responded with a joint plan, although there is ongoing discussions to use a €400 billion (US$438 billion) emergency fund to help those affected by the virus. Countries are, though, taking steps individually, with Germany promising a fiscal "bazooka" of unlimited funds to prop up businesses that are at risk of failing. Rising unemployment may be the issue that motivates China to enact additional steps to help the economy. The surveyed unemployment rate jumped to 6.2 per cent in January and February from 5.2 per cent in December, the highest rate on record. The reading, though, does not include most migrant workers, meaning the employment situation is likely to be worse as the group have been hardest hit by the outbreak and subsequent lockdowns and factory closures. China's State Council, the government cabinet, placed employment at the top of its priority list during Tuesday's executive meeting. "Restarting investment projects will be a key tool to boost investment and expand domestic demand," it said. China is widely believed have the capacity for significant additional stimulus, but its caution is due in part to the lessons learned from the 4 trillion yuan (US$569 billion) stimulus package it enacted in 2008 to combat the global financial crisis, which created long-term problems of high debt and risky lending that it is still battling against more than a decade later. Despite the apparent reluctance for immediate stimulus on par to the US, analysts believe that policy support will step up given the looming global recession. There's no need for a rush to increase economic stimulus because production has not yet fully resumed and many construction workers have not yet returned to their jobs "Now it's not a matter of defending a 5 or 6 per cent growth target for this year, but probably 3 per cent," said Larry Hu, chief China economist of Macquarie Capital. "There's no need for a rush to increase economic stimulus because production has not yet fully resumed and many construction workers have not yet returned to their jobs. "Eventually it will depend on how much growth the government wants." Last year, China's economy grew by 6.1 per cent, while a target of "around 6 per cent" was expected to be set for 2020 before the outbreak of coronavirus. ^ top ^

Foreign companies still warm toward China (China Daily)
Plans by foreign companies to invest in China remain strong despite current difficulties, according to three studies whose results were released on Monday by the American Chamber of Commerce in South China. Willingness to funnel money into China is expected to remain strong over the next three years, with 68 percent of companies surveyed planning to invest this year. "Relatively stable revenue, profitability and return on investment in China were maintained" by most of the companies surveyed, andChina remains one of the top three investment destinations in the world, in the view of more than half. The studies include the Special Report on the Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on the Supply Chain, the 2020 White Paper on the Business Environment in China and the 2020 Special Report on the State of Business in South China. "While in 2019, more US companies saw a decline in revenues from China than their counterparts, their profitability was better than the others," said Harley Seyedin, president of AmCham South China. Companies from the United States that provide consumable products and services remain positive and maintain high optimism for China's market growth, he said. According to the studies, last year saw year-on-year growth of reinvestment in China. Of those studied, companies with reinvestment budgets of less than $50 million last year completed their reinvestments in China as planned. In addition, more than one-fourth of US companies reinvested more than $50 million each in China last year to expand operations. Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong province, was again chosen as the most popular city on the Chinese mainland for foreign investment. It was followed by Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and Dongguan. Local government's openness, transparency and friendliness to industries and companies were major reasons the city was chosen as most preferred, Seyedin said. Most of the companies studied agreed that the business environment in South China showed a steadily improving trend. Seyedin said that compared with their Chinese counterparts, more US companies reported that they had been hurt by Sino-US trade tension, particularly as reflected in market share compared with previous years. The Special Report on the Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on the Supply Chain was based on a survey conducted between March 9 and 14 that included 237 companies. US companies made up just over half, while China, Europe and other APEC countries represented the remaining participants. Multinational companies accounted for nearly half of the total in the study, and manufacturers made up 76 percent of the total. The surveyed companies reported that shortages caused by logistical issues in China are being resolved rapidly. However, they believed the shortage of supplies from the US, Europe and other APEC countries will continue to worsen. "It will require a coordinated international series of actions to minimize the impact of disruption in the supply chain. Today's events prove we need each other, as no one country can do it alone," Seyedin said. ^ top ^

Economic Watch: Stay-at-home economy spawns new growth drivers for consumption (Xinhua)
New consumption and retail models emerged from China's "contactless" economy amid its battle against the novel coronavirus outbreak are fueling consumption momentum as new growth drivers. Despite the short-term economic repercussions of the outbreak, China's consumption has showed strong resilience, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Wednesday. Food sales picked up 9.7 percent year on year in the first two months of this year, as people shifted from dine-in to take-out, MOC official Wang Bin told a press conference. Meanwhile, protective gear and health and sanitation products registered notable sales increases, Wang said. The hard-won growth came amid a broader downturn in the country's retail sector. Affected by the outbreak, retail sales of China's consumer goods, a major indicator of consumption growth, declined 20.5 percent in the first two months of this year. Hotels, restaurants, barber shops, department stores and shopping centers were among the hardest-hit sectors, with far fewer customers since the outbreak. Facing the challenges, China's consumer industries have been revamping themselves, resorting to tech tools to adapt to the new consumption trend. Delivery and courier firms including Meituan Dianping encouraged "non-contact delivery" to reduce contagion risks, with the deliverymen putting orders in a self-collection container or a pre-determined place. Fast-food companies have also rolled out similar services. Real estate agents have set up online sales offices and used live-streaming to attract consumers. Evergrande has developed an app that lists all its properties for sale, providing one-stop services from showcasing houses through virtual reality (VR) technology to signing contracts. While people are confined to their homes, digital tourism, online entertainment as well as short videos are burgeoning against the broader consumption downturn. Museums across the country, for instance, have moved more than 2,000 exhibitions online, attracting over 5 billion visits during the Spring Festival, said Gao Zheng, head of the industrial development department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. A number of scenic spots have tapped into VR technology to bring tourists stranded at home to natural landscapes without exposure to the virus, according to Gao. Noting that the new drivers have spurred consumption growth, China is taking further steps to support the development of emerging consumption and retail models. The country's top economic planner said Wednesday that it will expedite the construction of "new infrastructure" projects such as 5G networks and data centers, shoring up information services for the new consumption. Efforts will be made to invigorate the integration of online and offline consumption and upgrade traditional retails and services, said Ha Zengyou, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission. It will further remove institutional barriers for consumption growth and revive pent-up demands amid the epidemic control, according to Ha. As the policies to boost consumption start to take effect, China's consumption growth will recover, Wang said. "The epidemic will not change the trend of long-term stability and continuous upgrade of China's consumption." ^ top ^



Embassy of China and Chinese expats make donation to Mongolia (Montsame)
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China Chai Wenrui presented to Minister of Foreign Affairs D.Tsogtbaatar a donation totaling MNT 126,730,000 raised from the Chinese Embassy, its staff, Chinese people residing in Mongolia, and the Association of Chinese expats in Mongolia to support Mongolia's efforts against COVID-19. Present at the hand-over ceremony were member of the State Emergency Commission, Secretary-General of the Red Cross Mongolia N.Bolormaa and staff of the Chinese diplomatic mission to Mongolia. In his remarks at the event, Ambassador Chai Wenrui quoted the Mongolian proverb 'Close neighbors have one life' and emphasized that the Government and people of China gratefully welcomed Mongolia's donation campaigns, financial aid, and emotional support demonstrating solidarity amid the crisis. "This time, Chinese Embassy, diplomatic representatives and their families, Chinese nationals residing in Mongolia, and the Association of Chinese expats in Mongolia are reciprocating your kindness," he said. Foreign Minister D.Tsogtbaatar said, "Mongolia and its citizens have been together with China and its people during the arduous battle, rendering heartfelt assistance, and today, we are receiving aid from our Chinese friends. As the Foreign Minister of Mongolia, I express sincere gratitude for your kindness on behalf of the Government and people of Mongolia" ^ top ^

One-time visit to be allowed for citizens put in 14-day isolation (Montsame)
As of today, 1,734 citizens are being isolated at 21 locations nationwide. Based on the requests and suggestions put forth by the isolated citizens, a decision has been made to allow visits once in 14 days, reports the operative team of the State Emergency Commission. Press representative of the operative team of the State Emergency Commission B.Dulamsuren said, "986 citizens have been brought back to Mongolia on four charter flights. The operations to isolate the 252 citizens that arrived from Istanbul last night as well as 15 officials--in total 267 citizens continued until 4 am today. They have been put into isolation at 6 locations." 981 passengers and 557 vehicles of four countries have been inspected and allowed entry through 7 autoroad checkpoints, 3 railway checkpoints, and 1 air checkpoint--in total, 11 border checkpoints. From the passengers, 332 Mongolian citizens have been put into isolation. The operative team recommends citizens that wish to return to their home country to enter through Altanbulag and Tsagaan Nuur border checkpoints. Head of the operative team B.Uuganbayar said, "Per the citizens' request, it has been decided to allow visits from 10 am to 4 pm once in 14 days. A list of items, medicine, and food products that are allowed entry have been approved by the State Emergency Commission. If isolated citizens do not abide by the infection control regulation, strict punishment will be imposed. Low-level executives that make decisions ignoring the instructions of the State Emergency Commission will also be held responsible for their actions." ^ top ^


Eleanore Sun
Embassy of Switzerland

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
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