Driving the Day
1.Li wants Wuhan cured and schools closed
On Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang chaired another meeting of the Central Leading Small Group (CLSG) for the Work to Counter the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic.
Some context: By our count, this is the 11th CLSG meetingsince the group was established on January 25 (see February 14 Tip Sheet).
Li’s goal for Hubei:
- Lower the coronavirus’ mortality rate
Some context: Yesterday saw nine new cases outside of Hubei. But Hubei added 318 new confirmed cases and 41 deaths.
To lower the mortality rate, the government will (Gov.cn):
- “[Send] experts … to places that need them the most.”
- “Deliver a batch of medical equipment, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygen.”
Li also wants students across the country continue to stay at home (Gov.cn):
- “Universities, middle and primary schools, and kindergartens should continue to postpone the coming term.”
With the virus now spreading around the globe, the government will also tighten border controls.
Get smart: Things are looking better, but this is far from over. The fact that the government does not want to reopen schools is a clear sign that they are still worried about the virus spreading further.
Gov.cn:Govt stresses treatment of severe patients, lowering mortality rate
2.Property policy not loosening
Since Tuesday, rumors have been swirling that banks are set to lower the required minimum down-payment for home purchases.
Some context: There is speculation that financial regulators are under growing pressure to pump up the real estate market in order to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but…
The rumors are – just rumors.
- The two bank branches rumored to be considering the move both clarified that the required down-payment ratios for home purchases remain unchanged.
That’s not to say that nothing is happening.
On Tuesday, an official from the banking regulator (CBIRC) told the press that:
- Real estate policies have not been adjusted in response to the epidemic.
- But local real estate financial policies may vary, city by city.
That explains why more than 20 localities have been temporarily supporting their property developers since the start of the epidemic, by:
- Allowing more housing provident funds to purchase residential homes
- Delaying administrative deadlines for land purchase procedures andfinishing property construction
- Deferring loan repayments for land purchases and property development projects
Get smart: Targeted local support policies are merely intended to help property developers survive the epidemic. They are NOT an overarching return to the old tactic of using the real estate market to goose short term growth.
3. Xi meets Battulga, talks sheep
Yesterday, Xi Jinping met with his Mongolian counterpart President Khaltmaa Battulga at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Battulga is the first foreign head of state to visit China since the outbreak – something that didn’t go unnoticed (Xinhua):
- “This vividly shows that China and Mongolia… can rely on each other in difficult times, said Xi.”
With the virus going increasingly global, Xi said that China is stepping up:
- “With an open, transparent and responsible attitude, the Chinese government has actively stepped up international cooperation on fighting the outbreak.”
- “China’s efforts have been highly affirmed and recognized by the World Health Organization and the international community, said Xi.”
Battulga, too, spoke highly of China’s efforts:
- “The Chinese people will definitely win the battle against the epidemic at an early date… under the strong leadership of President Xi.”
And offered some support:
- Mongolia will donate 30,000 sheep to China.
- That’s in addition to of an undisclosed previous donation.
Get smart: Battugla’s visit should earn Mongolia some goodwill in China.
Xinhua:China Focus: Xi says China, Mongolia help each other in face of difficulties
One of the most surprising consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak has been a pronounced thaw in the perennially frosty Sino-Japanese relationship.
Some context: Earlier this month, Chinese netizens were touched by several high-profile displays of support from the Japanese public.
Since then, we’ve seen an uptick in cordial communication between the two sides.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi via telephone to discuss the virus’s spread in Japan. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa was also on the line (China Daily):
- “Wang said China hopes to work with the two neighbors on disease prevention and treatment as well as in developing medicines and vaccines.”
- “Work should be done to prevent the epidemic from interfering with China’s pragmatic cooperation with Japan and South Korea.”
On Friday, senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi arrived in Tokyo to participate in a new round of the China-Japan High Level Political Dialogue.
Get smart: From a state of deep freeze, the past several years have seen a gradual warming of relations between China and Japan.
Get smarter: The thaw has been accelerated in large part because both countries have more contentious relations with the United States under President Trump.
5.No solution to employment pressure
We don’t envy students graduating from college this year.
- The 2020 job hunting season should kick off in March, but most jobseekers are stuck at home.
Some context: 87.4 million Chinese students will graduate college this year. That’s 400,000 more than last year.
This morning, government officials were trying to comfort them at a press conference, saying that the good ol’ Party-state was there to lend a hand.
But none of the options they presented are particularly attractive:
- The army will enroll more graduates.
- Grad schools will expand enrollment so more students can stay on campus.
They also encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to recruit more, as SMEs have employed 60% of recent graduates in the past three years.
Only one problem there: No sector of the economy has been harder hit by the COVID-19 outbreak than SMEs.
Get smart: Many Chinese companies are scrambling to avoid layoffs of their existing staff – nobody should expect them to go on a massive hiring spree at a time like this.
The bottom line: The already intense pressure on Chinese jobseekers is set to get even worse.
The good news: The demand for free labor is absolutely BOOMING! See below if you’re interested in interning for Trivium China.
6.Something fishy on the NHC’s website
Yesterday, a meeting readout from the National Health Commission’s website dated January 14 got our attention.
The readout contained the minutes from a meeting the NHC held with its provincial branches on January 14. (NHC)
- “The epidemic prevention and control situation has undergone important changes, and the spread of the epidemic may increase significantly, especially with the arrival of the Spring Festival.”
The meeting asked the Wuhan authorities to up their game.
- “[We must] implement the most stringent measures, control the epidemic locally, and do our best to avoid the spread of the epidemic in Wuhan.”
But there was a minor, but fairly crucial, discrepancy.
- The NHC didn’t give the public any warning about the virus before January 20.
The folks at Jiankangshibao, a People’s Daily affiliated media outlet, soon solved the mystery:
- The minutes were actually posted this Thursday afternoon, more than a month after the meeting supposedly took place.
Get smart: The situation might be much better today if the NHC had actually published the readout on January 14 and given the public a heads-up…but it didn’t.
Get smarter: China’s shady information ecosystem hurts its credibility with foreign governments and its own people. Episodes like this don’t help.