China

Is Trading With Russia and China Bad for National Security?

In his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg argued that “economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities”, citing not only Russia, but also China – “another authoritarian regime that does not share our values”.

He went on to describe the idea that “we should have free trade in natural gas meaning we can buy as much gas from Russia as you want” as “wrong” and “dangerous” because “it provides Russia with a tool to intimidate and to use against us”.

As to trade with China, he acknowledged “there are huge benefits”, clarifying that “I’m not arguing against trading with China”. But he pointed out that “control over 5G networks is of vital security importance”, so we should not “just open up those networks”.

Stoltenberg emphasised that “we should not trade long-term security needs for short-term economic interests” because “freedom is more important than free trade”, and proclaimed that “our economic choices have consequences for our security.”

All these arguments make sense, and I’m not about to suggest Stoltenberg is completely wrong. (Limiting foreign ownership of critical infrastructure certainly seems like a good idea.) However, there is one major caveat I’d like to discuss.

Stoltenberg frames the issue as “short-term economic interests” versus “long-term security needs”, implying that trade with “authoritarian regimes” is good for the economy but bad for national security. Yet there’s reason to believe that trade with such regimes could be good for national security. How?

WHO to Make Lockdowns Part of Official Pandemic Guidance

The World Health Organisation is to make lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions intended to curb viral spread part of official pandemic guidance.

The revelation comes in a report scheduled to go to the WHO’s World Health Assembly later this month. This is not part of a new pandemic treaty and does not require the endorsement of member states. The report says the implementation is already underway.

Many have raised the alarm about a new WHO pandemic treaty. However, as I’ve noted previously (and as Michael Senger notes here), there isn’t a new pandemic treaty on the table. Rather, there are amendments to the existing treaty, the International Health Regulations 2005, plus other recommendations (131 in all) put forward in a report from the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies.

Most of these amendments and recommendations relate to information and resource sharing and preparation for future pandemics; none of them directly interferes with state sovereignty in the sense of allowing the WHO to impose or lift measures. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, as they endorse and codify the appalling errors of the last two years, which began with China’s Hubei lockdown on January 23rd 2020.

Modellers Predict 1.5 Million Deaths in China if Lockdown is Lifted – But that is Less Than Half the U.K. Covid Death Rate

It appears that China has its own version of lockdown doom-modeller Neil Ferguson and his team. A paper in Nature from a team of Chinese and U.S. researchers has used a model to predict over 1.5 million deaths in China from Omicron should the country cease to impose its brutal controls. The following is from the South China Morning Post.

China could see more than 1.5 million deaths from a wave of Omicron infections without COVID-19 controls and the use of antiviral therapies, a new study has forecast.

A model by Chinese and U.S. researchers suggested that, given China’s vaccine efficacy and coverage, an unchecked outbreak that began with 20 cases of Omicron in March could “generate a tsunami of COVID-19 cases” between May and July.

Such an outbreak is projected to cause 112 million symptomatic cases, or 80 cases per 1,000 people, with 2.7 million of them requiring treatment in intensive care…

The researchers used a mathematical model to simulate a hypothetical Omicron wave in China based on data from the Shanghai outbreak.

“Should the Omicron outbreak continue unabated, despite a primary vaccination coverage of more than 90% and homologous booster vaccination [boosting with the same vaccine] coverage of more than 40% as of March 2022, we project that the Chinese healthcare system will be overwhelmed with a considerable shortage of ICUs,” they wrote.

They estimated that the peak demand of 1 million intensive care beds would be almost 16 times the existing total of 64,000 beds, with a shortage lasting 44 days.

“The Biggest Global Power Grab We Have Seen in Our Lifetimes”: How Serious is the Threat From the WHO Pandemic Treaty?

Later this month the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation, will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, and among its business are amendments put forward by the U.S. Government to the pandemic treaty, the International Health Regulations 2005.

The process of creating a new pandemic treaty or amending the existing one was announced in December (though the origins go back earlier) and was a response to a call from governments, including the U.K, for a strengthened global pandemic strategy coordinated by the WHO.

In a consensus decision aimed at protecting the world from future infectious diseases crises, the World Health Assembly today agreed to kickstart a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organisation to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said the decision by the World Health Assembly was historic in nature, vital in its mission, and represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.

Many are concerned, however, that the U.S. amendments will transfer significant sovereignty over public health policy to an unelected and unaccountable global organisation.

China Digs In and Tightens Shanghai Lockdown in Unrelenting Pursuit of Zero Covid

Shanghai officials over the next few days will further restrict access to food and hospitals in the city, the most severe phase of its extended lockdown yet. BBC News has the story.

Commercial food deliveries are not allowed and access to hospitals for all but emergencies must first be approved. Neighbours of COVID-19 cases and others living close by are also being forced into government quarantine facilities. Shanghai is now in its seventh week of city-wide restrictions.

Confirmed cases have fallen significantly from their peak, but authorities have not yet been able to hit the target of what they call “societal zero”, where no cases are reported outside of quarantine facilities.

Despite the tougher measures, Shanghai officials insist that people living in half the city’s districts are now free to leave their homes and walk around.

State media has shown propaganda videos of departing medical workers visiting city landmarks together and taking photographs.

Official notices from local committees of the ruling Communist Party, seen by the BBC, detail several restrictions imposed under what officials call “silent periods” for the next three days. These include only permitting Government food deliveries, not allowing residents to “step out” of their front doors and requiring approval from the committee for anyone other than emergency cases to access hospitals…

The tightened measures come just days after China’s president Xi Jinping re-iterated his commitment to the controversial ‘Zero-Covid’ strategy. In a paper published in the health journal the Lancet earlier this week, senior Chinese health officials said the lockdown would “buy time to vaccinate more people”.

Their comments come after the head of the World Health Organisation called China’s Zero-Covid strategy unsustainable.

“When we talk about Zero-Covid, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday at a news conference.

The clip was widely shared on Chinese social media before being blocked by censors. More than two years after COVID-19 first emerged here officials figures show around 90% of the population nationwide has been vaccinated. But only 38% of the more vulnerable – those over 60 – in Shanghai have the full protection [sic] of three vaccinations.

Buy time to vaccinate? How much time do they need, if 16 months isn’t enough?

This lockdown thing is really starting to get out of hand…

Worth reading in full.

Futility of Lockdowns Exposed as Covid Infections in Shanghai Continue to Rise

In further proof of the futility of restrictions in suppressing an infectious respiratory virus, reported Covid infections in Shanghai continue to rise amidst one of the world’s strictest lockdowns. Jared T. Nelson reports on Twitter from the city.

Day 35 of our Shanghai Covid lockdown. Unbelievably, the newly identified Covid cases in Shanghai increased yesterday.

Adding to that trend, friends in several areas reported new cases in apartment buildings and communities that have been under strict lockdown for weeks.

Markets Tumble as Beijing Lockdown Threatens

Markets have been spooked by the prospect of the severe Shanghai lockdown – now in its fourth week – being extended to Beijing as one district in the Chinese capital is sealed off following a few dozen positive Covid tests, prompting panic buying. Reuters has more.

Asian markets suffered their worst session in over a month overnight as worries that Beijing could soon be back in lockdown sent Chinese shares back to 2020 lows, and as the effects of Wall Street’s 2.5% slump on Friday lingered…

MSCI’s broadest index of world shares slid 0.7% to a six-week low. Oil fell over 4% in commodity markets and the worries about Beijing saw the Chinese yuan skid to a one-year low.

State television in China reported that residents were ordered not to leave Beijing’s Chaoyang district on Monday after a few dozen Covid cases were detected over the weekend.

The China-sensitive Australian dollar fell as much as 1.2% while the U.S. dollar climbed unhindered to a two-year high, hitting $1.0707 against the euro and 1.2750 versus Britain’s pound.

Much focus on is on how fast and far the Federal Reserve will raise U.S. interest rates this year and whether it will, along with all the other global worries, tip the world economy into recession.

The Ukraine crisis, with its extensive sanctions on Russia and boycotts of Russian energy, have added to the woes, alongside the colossal borrowing of the past two years to fund Covid lockdowns, leading to one of the worst starts to the year on record for the world stock markets.

Chinese Officials Cage Up Shanghai Residents Suspected of Having Coronavirus

Shanghai authorities have put fences up outside residential buildings as China doubles down n its ‘zero-COVID’ policy, sparking fresh public outcry over a lockdown that has forced much of the city’s 25 million people indoors. Meanwhile, the authorities have ordered Beijing residents to test three times a week, sparking panic buying of food. MailOnline has more.

The largest district in Beijing… will require everyone living or working in the area to take three Covid tests this week, and put more than a dozen buildings under lockdown, after the Chinese capital reported 22 new cases on Saturday. The district, Chaoyang, is home to 3.45 million people.

The announcement set off panic buying Sunday evening, with vegetables, eggs, soy sauce and other items wiped off grocery shelves.

In Shanghai, images of workers in white hazmat suits sealing entrances of housing blocks and closing off entire streets with green fencing – roughly roughly two metres tall – went viral on social media, prompting questions and complaints from residents.

Volunteers and government workers erected metal barriers in multiple districts to block off small streets and entrances to apartment complexes.

In the city’s financial district, Pudong, the barriers – thin metal sheets or mesh fences – were put up in several neighborhoods under a local government directive, according to Caixin, a Chinese business media outlet.

Buildings where cases have been found sealed up their main entrances, with a small opening for pandemic prevention workers to pass through.

“This is so disrespectful of the rights of the people inside, using metal barriers to enclose them like domestic animals,” said one user on social media platform Weibo.

One video showed residents shouting from balconies at workers trying to set up fencing. The workers relented and took it away. Other videos showed people trying to pull fences down.

“Isn’t this a fire hazard?” asked another Weibo user.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Cindy Yu in the Spectator reports that Shanghai’s social media censors are losing control.

Is China Behind the Lockdown Madness?

We’re publishing a guest post by blogger “Eugyppius”, where he reviews Michael Senger’s Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World, which spies the schemes of the Chinese Premier and his party behind all the lockdown madness of the past two years. This post was originally published on Eugyppius’s Substack account, which you can subscribe to here.

I will never tire of typing that the whole question, of how lockdowns became the default response to Corona, is very hard. Some points are nevertheless clear. There was, without a doubt and in the earliest stages, a kind of lockdown cabal, a small group of people in different countries who worked to bring some simulacrum of the Hubei response first to Italy and then to most of the globe. An insidious, coordinated information campaign accompanied their efforts, and this should warn us against easy assumptions that they had good intentions.

On social media, a swarm of manipulative pro-lockdown accounts promoted containment and attacked any prominent politician who tried to steer a moderate course. Michael Senger was among the first to point out that this campaign was operated, in part, out of China. His crucial September 2020 article on the Chinese promotion of lockdowns on social media for Tablet Magazine won him wide renown. He had over 100,000 followers on Twitter before the platform banned him; he now writes the New Normal on Substack, and you should all subscribe to him.

In his Tablet article, throughout his time on Twitter, and in his new blogging incarnation, Senger has developed a lean, straightforward thesis that aims to cut the Gordian knot of what has befallen us. He lays responsibility for lockdowns at the feet of the Chinese Communist Party, and in particular Xi Jinping. In the strictest sense, he is surely right here: None of our countries would have locked down, if China hadn’t done so first and convinced the World Health Organisation that mass containment was effective.

On Being Shanghaied

There follows a guest post by Dr. David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology in the Norwich Medical School at UEA, who says the extreme Chinese response to Covid in Shanghai gives a new meaning to an old word.

shăng-hī′, shăng′hī″

transitive verb

  1. To kidnap (a man) for compulsory service aboard a ship, especially after drugging him.
  2. To induce or compel (someone) to do something, especially by fraud or force.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.

Forgive me if this verb is now unacceptable. I fear it is unwoke, but I mean no harm. My usage is apposite. It’s the poor bloody Shanghainese who are being Shanghaied.

Following rising case numbers, China is applying its ‘Dynamic Zero Covid’ strategy to its principal commercial centre, a metropolis of 25 million souls, where the old and new cities face one another across the curving Huangpu River. The old side – full of ghosts from the International Settlement – has the Bund at its heart, a few blocks of stone-built European trading houses long ago converted to Government offices. On its corner with Nanking Road stands the art deco Cathay (Peace) Hotel where I used to drink gin slings while listening to old Chinese men playing jazz, anaesthetising myself before returning to freezing quarters at the Academy of Sciences, where I was lodged. The new side – Pudong – comprises gridded neon-jewelled streets of skyscrapers, offices and restaurants. It sprang up, quite suddenly, around 25 years ago, and buzzes with China’s new wealth, though it’s thin on soul or ghosts. On recent visits, hosts have insisted on entertaining me there, though I’d rather drift back to the Bund.