1. Herd immunity possible by end of 2021
Local infections remain under control.
COVID numbers are not zero, but they’re close to zero. The authorities reported (NHC):
- One domestically transmitted symptomatic infection on Monday, up from zero on Sunday
On Friday, renowned epidemiologist and government advisor Zhong Nanshan said he expects China to achieve an 80% inoculation rate by the end of the year.
That means herd immunity could also be within reach by the end of 2021 (Caixin).
- Zhong said that with China’s current 70% vaccine effectiveness, and an R0 of 2.4, meaning one person with COVID is likely to infect 2.4 others, China requires an 83.3% vaccination rate to build herd immunity.
- With vaccine effectiveness at 80%, China would only need a 72.9% vaccination rate.
Good news: Vaccinations have risen amidst the latest outbreak.
- As of Monday, China had administered a total of 1.95 billion vaccine doses — up from 1.86 billion doses administered as of August 16.
What’s driving vaccination rates up? Strict measures against the unvaccinated:
- Several cities have announced they will hold accountable unvaccinated individuals who infect others.
- Other cities have restricted access to certain facilities if you are not vaccinated.
- And some have warned that citizens who choose not to get vaccinated will receive a negative mark on their personal social credit file.
Get smart: Don’t expect China to give up its “zero tolerance” policy on COVID after the country reaches herd immunity.
The bigger picture: Zhong expects at least two to three years of global collaboration are necessary to build herd immunity worldwide (CGTN).
2. Don’t get used to it
Foreign trade growth just hit a record high in July.
- But don’t get used to it.
That was the message from Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao at a routine presser Monday.
Wang told reporters that (21st Century Biz):
- “There are too many ‘one-off’ factors…that are gradually disappearing.”
ICYMI: Foreign trade value grew 24.5% y/y in the first seven months of 2021 – the fastest growth rate in a decade.
- Wang attributes that growth in part to COVID-19 outbreaks disrupting manufacturing in other countries, while China’s factories remained open for business.
The commerce minister gave a pretty frank assessment:
- “The growth of foreign trade cannot be so high all the time.”
- “We hope that the growth of foreign trade will be within a reasonable range.”
Then, Wang warned that trade will face serious headwinds in the months to come, namely:
- Disruptions to shipping – including high rates and insufficient capacity
- Rising prices for commodities and raw materials
- CNY appreciation
- Rising labor costs
Never fear: Wang reassured reporters that MofCom is standing by to support traders, should the need arise.
Get smart: Regulators have been aware for a while now that high commodities prices and CNY appreciation is masking weakness in trade data.
- They’ve been telegraphing plans for a variety of support measures since mid-July
Get smarter: Like economic challenges in other sectors, most of the headwinds to trade are out of Beijing’s hands.
21st Century Biz: 商务部：明年中国外贸形势严峻，订单回流等“一次性因素”消退，外贸企业“四难”凸显
3. Xi-ndiana Jones and the Rangers of the Forest Farm
On Monday, Xi Jinping popped over to Hebei to tout environmental protection.
His destination: Saihanba Forest Farm.
History time (CGTN): Saihanba almost became a wasteland in the 1950s, when rampant tree felling caused sand storms in Beijing and elsewhere. In 1962, hundreds of foresters fought back against desertification by planting trees.
Their efforts have borne fruit.
- Forest coverage of the region is now 80 % – up from 11.4% when efforts started.
- In 2017, the Saihanba community scooped the UN’s highest environmental honor, Champions of the Earth.
During his visit, Xi chatted up some foresters, inspected some trees, and learned about farm management.
Xi had some wise words for the tree-planting rangers:
- “What you have done is very demonstrative and has an encouraging and far-reaching impact on the construction of the national ecological civilization.”
- “The whole Party and the people of the whole country should carry forward [the Saihanba] spirit and develop the green economy and ecological civilization well.“
The bottom line: Xi and other top leaders see environmental degradation as one of the biggest threats to the Party’s legitimacy.
- That’s why cleaning up the environment is a top political imperative.
4. New judicial reforms take aim at local courts
Just stay out of it.
Last Tuesday, China’s legislature (NPC) okayed a pilot reform aimed at standardizing the application of laws nationwide.
The nitty gritty: The reform proposes that higher-level courts be allowed to hear cases that would ordinarily be heard by lower-level courts, if the cases:
- Have “guidance value” for the application of the law at the national level
- Touch upon issues of national societal interest
And check this: Higher courts can also hear lower-level cases to counteract local favoritism.
Some context: In cross-jurisdictional disputes, local courts often rule in favor of the party with local connections rather than on the merits of the case. Beijing has previously tackled favoritism by reforming court funding.
- The NPC wants to address this issue further by taking such cases out of the hands of potentially biased local courts.
The reforms will initially be trialed in 12 provinces and municipalities.
Get smart: They’re called “people’s courts,” but public trust in China’s legal institutions is low.
- Beijing wants to change that by ensuring the courts operate impartially, consistently, and according to established processes.
Don’t get it twisted: Beijing’s not interested in an independent judiciary.
- China’s efforts to become a “rule of law country” are about creating a legal system that is both professional AND loyal to the Party.
5. Hangzhou Party boss under investigation
There will be no kid gloves for “white gloves.”
On Saturday, the Party discipline watchdog (CCDI) launched an investigation into Hangzhou’s Party secretary Zhou Jiangyong.
- We don’t know yet.
- But Hangzhou happens to be Alibaba’s HQ.
Rumors have been flying around:
- One theory says that Zhou bought Ant Group shares before its planned IPO, but still managed to cash out despite the fintech giant’s IPO being pulled in November.
Ant Group denied the rumor the next day.
But the story didn’t end there:
- Just two days after announcing Zhou’s investigation, CCDI’s Hangzhou branch launched a campaign to clear out “conflicts of interest” as a result of close government-business ties.
Some context: In recent months, regulators have signaled a crackdown on the practice of government officials using opaque investment vehicles – known as “white gloves” – to hide their ownership of shares in private companies.
Get smart: This high-profile probe into Zhou could spell the start of the crackdown on “white gloves.”
Fun fact: Zhou hit the spotlight in May when leading the search for three escaped leopards.
DWNews: 周江勇落马｜周文勇周健勇身份曝光 与蚂蚁集团关系密切[图]