1. Getting COVID under control
Over the past week, the COVID-19 situation in China improved further.
From last Monday to Sunday, China reported (NHC):
- 11 new domestically transmitted infections, down from 29in the previous week
Some context: Of the 11 new domestic cases last week, there were:
- Three in Shanghai
- Two in Yangzhou, Jiangsu
- Five in Ruili, Yunnan
- One in Shangqiu, Henan
As COVID outbreaks remain contained, local authorities have begun lifting various restrictions:
- Guangdong resumed cross-provincial tourism and reopened all entertainment venues.
- Nanjing stopped restricting people from leaving the city.
- Zhangjiajie dismantled all traffic checkpoints, resumed normal transportation, and reopened some tourist attractions.
- Zhengzhou resumed full operation of taxi and ride-hailing services.
- Ruili downgraded all of its “high-risk” neighborhoods to “medium-risk.”
On the ground: China seems safer, once again, after weeks of battling with a Delta variant outbreak that started in Nanjing and quickly spread to other regions.
But keep it up: Even with the current crop of outbreaks seemingly under control, authorities won’t let their guard down, especially as the nation gears up for a heavy travel season at the beginning of October.
2. Wang and Blinken confer on Afghanistan
No weekends off during an international crisis.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
- Their conversation centered around – what else – Afghanistan.
Some context: This is Wang and Blinken’s second powwow on Afghanistan in as many weeks.
Wang had a teeny-tiny ask for the US before it departs the country on August 31 (SCMP):
- “The United States needs to work with the international community to provide Afghanistan with urgently needed economic…and humanitarian aid to help the new regime maintain the normal operation of government institutions, maintain public security and stability, curb currency depreciation and price increases, and embark on the road of peaceful reconstruction.”
A short State Department readout suggested Washington had a different takeaway (State Department):
- “[They discussed] the importance of the international community holding the Taliban accountable for…the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals.”
Get smart: The US has left an intractable, volatile mess on China’s very doorstep.
- Beijing wants assurances that Washington will help keep things from spiraling out of control.
Get smarter: Beijing will be disappointed.
- US policymakers have little appetite for any sort of continued involvement in Afghanistan, and even less for offering broad-based aid to the new Taliban government.
3. The blood of the nation is thicker than the water of the womb
On Saturday, the central conference on ethnic affairs wrapped up in Beijing.
This conference is a big deal: All seven Politburo Standing Committee members were in attendance.
Xi Jinping told attendees that all ethnic groups must feel part of the national family (Xinhua 2):
- “Forging a sense of community for the Chinese nation must be the focus of the Party’s ethnic work in the new era.”
To that end, Xi recommended a healthy dose of (Party-guided) nationalism:
- “The right perspective of the Chinese nation’s history must be upheld, and the sense of national identity and pride must be boosted.”
And don’t worry: Some level of regional autonomy is still on the menu – as long as it comes with a good ol’ serving of central control (Xinhua 1):
- “The system of regional ethnic autonomy must be upheld and improved, and the implementation of the CCP Central Committee’s policies and decisions, as well as China’s laws and regulations, must be guaranteed.”
Get smart: Beijing’s approach toward ethnic minority groups has shifted in Xi’s second term.
- The focus is now on assimilating these groups, rather than granting them greater autonomy.
Get smarter: This approach will continue to breed resentment rather than conformity.
4. A new plan to boost employment
On Friday, the State Council dropped the 14th Five-Year Plan for Promoting Employment.
Good news for you: We have looked through the plan and compared it with the 13th Five-Year Plan for Promoting Employment.
Here’s what we found:
First, the most recent plan evinces a lot more worry about China’s employment situation than its predecessor. It dedicates a whole new section to “comprehensively strengthening risk response and management.” The section aims to:
- “Strengthen emergency responses to large-scale unemployment risks.”
Second, the new plan is much less focused on promoting entrepreneurship than its predecessor.
- The 13th FYP for employment mentioned entrepreneurship over 200 times, and made it a central focus of boosting employment.
- The most recent plan mentions entrepreneurship only 80 times.
Third, the most recent plan reflects the authorities’ growing concerns about the declining birth rate. The 13th FYP did not mention childcare, whereas the 14th FYP states.
- “Employers are encouraged to formulate measures conducive to the balance of work and family…, and negotiate and determine flexible leave and flexible working methods conducive to the care of infants and young children according to law.”
Get smart: Leaders are being proactive in addressing employment problems before they snowball.
Get smarter: Demographics are not on China’s side here. Labor market challenges will only worsen as the workforce ages.
5. Is your algorithm up to code?