Driving the Day
1. Hubei officially lifts lockdown
Things in Hubei have continued to improve over the last 24 hours:
- Mainland China had 24 new confirmed cases on Tuesday.
- Of the 13 new cases confirmed in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, all were from Wuhan.
This morning, the Hubei government officially announced a policy designed to restore normalcy to the province.
- Businesses will gradually get back to work by sector across the province. Those deemed critical to people’s daily lives, spring farming, and national or global supply chains have been prioritized.
- Inter-provincial public transport will resume in low and medium risk regions.
On the ground, there are signs that things are going back to normal:
- Low risk regions are removing roadblocks.
- Airports in Hubei will finish preparations to re-open by March 16.
The Wuhan government also identified companies that are key to supply chains and will support them in resuming work beginning today.
- Dongfeng Honda Automobile, a JV between Dongfeng Motor Group and Honda, and its suppliers are among the first batch of enterprises to get approval to resume work.
Get smart: As the epicenter of the outbreak, the government in Hubei will be more cautious than other localities in approving work resumption.
Reuters: China’s new coronavirus cases rise on infections from abroad
2.Mr. Worldwide feat. COVID-19
As the number of new infections in China tapers off, officials are fully focused on getting people back to work and resuming production.
Only one problem.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 outside of China is set to severely depress demand for Chinese exports.
Now, manufacturers and exporters are concerned they’ll have nobody to sell to.
According to a Shenzhen-based freight executive (Bloomberg):
- “We are actually more worried about the development of the epidemic in Europe and the U.S., which will affect their domestic consumption.”
- “China’s manufacturers have no big problems taking orders and producing, the main problem now is how the epidemic is contained overseas.”
Meanwhile, on the public health front, officials are doing their damnedest to make sure that imported cases of COVID-19 don’t undermine the progress that’s been made domestically (Beijing Times via the Beijinger):
- “Beijing today announced that an entire portion of Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) has been converted into a makeshift screening and testing area for flights arriving from those countries considered high-risk.”
Get smart: Coronavirus is now a global problem with worldwide ramifications. No country is immune, literally or figuratively.
Get smarter: China’s rough economy is set to get even rougher.
3. Alibaba and Apple up and running
Readers of the Tip Sheet know that most Chinese cities have a long way to go before achieving full work resumption, even as new infections slow to a crawl (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
But in some sectors, things are nearly back to normal.
For instance, Alibaba’s delivery arm has roared back to life (Bloomberg):
- “Cainiao, of which Alibaba owns more than 60%, is again at full strength after a few weeks during which the epidemic disrupted transport and held up shipments.”
- “Meal delivery unit Ele.me and grocery chain Freshippo are also back at full strength and operating at ‘full capabilities’ at present, an Alibaba spokeswoman said.”
In another sure sign that things are improving, Apple has reopened the majority of its mainland China locations more than a month after they were shuttered:
- “The U.S. technology giant has 42 stores in China and 38 of those are open again.”
- “Several of those however are still running limited operating hours.”
Get smart: The road to resumption will be long and painful, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Get smarter: Some sectors will have a harder time than others.
4.Xi’s gratitude tour
Xi Jinping finally made it to Wuhan on Tuesday (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
At a meeting with local officials, Xi saidthat the situation in Hubei had turned a corner(Xinhua):
- “Initial success has been achieved in stabilizing the situation and turning the tide.”
But officials shouldn’t slack:
- “Xi stressed continuing to take epidemic prevention and control [measures] as a task of paramount importance.”
He urged people to be cautious in getting back to work..
- Xi called for phased and condition-based resumptions as appropriate, taking industry and local risk level into account.
With the memory of Wuhan Party Secretary Wang Zhonglin’s public relations gaffe in mind (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet), Xi made sure to adopt an attitude of gratitude (Xinhua):
- “It is because of the sacrifice and dedication of the people of Wuhan…that we have a positive outlook for epidemic prevention and control today.”
- “The Party…thanks the people of Wuhan.”
- “[Medical professionals], you are the greatest heroes.”
He also urged officials to be tolerant of the public expressing itself (Xinhua):
- “More understanding [is needed] for people in Hubei and Wuhan if some vent their feelings.”
Get smart: The government is being accommodating because it can’t afford to offend Hubei’s justifiably tense populace.Enjoy it while it lasts.
It’s not just people in Hubei who are frustrated and need to vent their feelings (see previous entry) – it’s everybody.
A recent survey of mental distress among Chinese citizens during the COVID-19 epidemic published in General Psychiatry points to nationwide problems:
- “The implementation of unprecedented strict quarantine measures in China has… triggered a wide variety of psychological problems, such as panic disorder, anxiety and depression.”
The survey covers 52,730 people from 36 across the country and was conducted between January 31 and February 10:
- “Almost 35% of the respondents experienced psychological distress.”
Unsurprisingly, people in Hubei are faring the worst.
But other groups are also feeling the psychological burden, including:
- Migrant workers
- Elderly people
- 18-30 year olds
The authors say these results aren’t particularly surprising, noting that:
- “Young people tend to obtain a large amount of information from social media that can easily trigger stress.”
- The significantly higher mortality rate among the elderly likely triggers mental health issues in this group.
Get smart: With rising psychological trauma and increasingly pent-up frustration, it’s hardly surprising that people are venting their anger at instances of government incompetence.
Our question: How much leeway will the Party grant fed-up netizens in airing their grievances?