The new coronavirus disease has a name now: COVID-19. That took a while. The virus’s genome was sequenced within two weeks or so of its appearance, but for many weeks more, we didn’t know what to call it or the disease it causes.
For a time, in some quarters, the disease went by “Wuhan pneumonia,” after the city in central China where the first human infections were detected. But guidelines from the World Health Organization, which christened COVID-19 recently, discourage naming diseases after locations or people, among other things, to avoid “unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities.”
Indeed. On Jan.… Seguir leyendo »
This Saturday, voters in Taiwan will choose their next president and the national Legislature. Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent president who is detested by the Chinese government because of her tough — if, until recently, low-key — anti-China stance, has chosen as her running mate William Lai Ching-Te, who openly promotes independence for Taiwan. That was a risky move, and it may well help her chances.
Ms. Tsai’s popularity rating was languishing in the midteens as recently as last summer, but all recent polls place her safely ahead of her main opponent, the pro-China, populist maverick Han Kuo-yu.
A third candidate, the veteran — and stale — politician James Soong Chu-yu, is largely irrelevant.… Seguir leyendo »
The effects of the Hong Kong protests are spreading — to bakeries, bandits and Beijing.
As messages supporting the demonstrations began appearing on the pastry skin of seasonal mooncakes, opposition to the protests suddenly took the form of muscle from the local mafia. The protesters, for their part, have recently taken to pointedly marching toward mainland China’s formal representation in the city — and to accusing both the Hong Kong police and the Chinese authorities in Beijing of enlisting criminals to do their dirty work.
On Monday, the spokesman of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, China’s top outpost in the city, finally broke its studied silence about the massive, monthslong revolts.… Seguir leyendo »
The endgame in the trade war between China and the United States seems near. President Trump, betting with real currency — American strength — apparently has the upper hand, and the concessions President Xi Jinping is likely to make won’t be mere tokens. When — if? — an agreement is finally announced, Mr. Trump will surely fire off bragging tweets, partly to shore up his credentials for a second term, amid personal and policy troubles. For Mr. Xi, almost any deal could mean a very serious loss of face.
Mr. Xi assumed power when China was still riding high on its so-called economic miracle (and the United States remained mired in the aftereffects of the 2008-9 recession).… Seguir leyendo »
Democratic countries that worry about the Chinese government’s attempts to influence their politics should study its success in this weekend’s elections in Taiwan.
The many races — for some 11,000 positions in villages, towns and counties across the island — were something like midterms and widely seen as a prelude to the next presidential election, scheduled for early 2020. By my count, candidates friendly to Beijing will now occupy 16 of the 24 top posts that were contested, up from the current six.
China has denied any meddling. But in the last several years, it has intensified its efforts to destabilize the Taiwanese government led by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (D.P.P.).… Seguir leyendo »
Last month, the international law enforcement agency Interpol lost its chief, Meng Hongwei, and set out looking for him. It turns out that Mr. Meng, also a vice minister of public security in China, was arrested by Chinese security personnel upon returning to China (Interpol is headquartered in France). It took nearly two weeks to find out why: Partly in response to Interpol’s demands for information, the internal oversight organ of the Chinese Communist Party announced that Mr. Meng was under investigation for being “possibly involved in illegal activities.” Interpol then received Mr. Meng’s resignation.
Mr. Meng’s trial may not take place for months, but the C.C.P.… Seguir leyendo »
All summer there have been uncommon signs that opposition to President Xi Jinping may be growing in China, even Beijing itself. He featured less prominently than usual in official headlines. Important members of the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) criticized his straitjacketed response to the trade war with the United States. A national scandal over several hundred thousand faulty vaccines broke while Mr. Xi was on a tour in Africa to sell his pet project, the One Belt, One Road initiative.
It was such an extraordinary series of mishaps and policy errors and then complaints that one wondered whether they were a concerted, if veiled, attack on Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
More than two dozen of Hong Kong’s young pro-democracy activists have been convicted of minor offenses in recent weeks, and some have received lengthy jail terms. Most are being put away for their involvement in the so-called Fishball Revolution, a spontaneous protest that turned violent on the first night of Chinese New Year in 2016 in the popular shopping district of Mong Kok.
On Monday, Edward Leung, the charismatic former spokesman of a young party that has called for Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China, was given a six-year jail sentence for mere skirmishes with the police. He is one of the leading figures among those known here as “localists”: activists, many of them separatists, who cut their political teeth during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.… Seguir leyendo »
On Feb. 1, the same day that new repressive regulations of religion went into force in China, the Vatican took a deep bow before Beijing. After long resisting, it finally agreed to recognize several hack bishops designated by the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.), even sidelining two of its own long-serving appointees for the occasion.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the outspoken, blogging, 86-year-old retired archbishop of Hong Kong, had recently flown to Vatican City to personally plead the case of the two bishops to the pope himself. How nettlesome. He was shoved off, and has since been called an “obstacle” to a deal between the Vatican and Beijing.… Seguir leyendo »
One could say that long before 1997, the year that Britain handed Hong Kong back to China, the leaders of the city’s major pro-democracy parties had come to a tacit understanding with the Chinese government. The pan-dems, as these politicians are known here, would support the absorption of Hong Kong into a greater, unified Chinese state on the understanding that in time Beijing would grant Hong Kong genuine electoral democracy. That, at least, seemed to be the intention driving Hong Kong’s foundational legal text, the Basic Law.
Twenty years later, the Chinese government, apparently bolstered by its newfound wealth and might, seems to have reneged on these terms.… Seguir leyendo »
Not that slowly and very steadily, the Chinese government is making political inroads in Hong Kong.
Over the past year or so, it maneuvered to expel pro-democracy legislators from Hong Kong’s lawmaking body, sidelined a popular candidate for the city’s top post to give the job to a proven hard-liner and got local high schools to beam to their students an ideologue’s speech about the Chinese Communist Party’s latest national congress. Now it is demanding that the Hong Kong legislature, known as LegCo, pass a law, modeled after one in force on the mainland, to enforce respect for the Chinese national anthem.… Seguir leyendo »
Hong Kong’s universities reopened in September to a small on-campus fracas that soon ignited into a virulent controversy about the future of the most basic freedoms in the territory.
It started when a student from mainland China at Chinese University of Hong Kong tore down posters calling for the city’s independence from the so-called Democracy Wall, a space for free expression under the management of a student union. The university’s president, previously thought to be liberal-leaning, asked for the signs’ removal, suggesting that the very notion of independence was illegal under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.
Yet, Article 27 of the Basic Law stipulates, among other things, that “Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication.”… Seguir leyendo »
The more formidable challenger is John Tsang Chun-wah, Mr. Leung’s former finance secretary, whose folksy style and smooth P.R. skills contrast with Ms. Lam’s stern and strait-jacketed ways. Mr. Tsang has jokingly called the chief executive position a “thankless, rotten job.” His tickling likeness to the mustachioed Pringles character has earned him the endearing nickname Uncle Chips. Mr. Tsang’s platform promotes conciliation between the government and the various opposition forces, a popular view. He leads Ms. Lam by some 20 percentage points in many recent polls.
The pro-democracy camp, which has no credible candidate of its own but is eager to see Ms.… Seguir leyendo »
There, they said it: China is not a market economy.
In December, 15 years after China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, the European Union, the United States and Japan formally refused to grant Beijing the coveted label, denying it important concessions on tariffs and other trade restrictions.
This is partly a response to economic distortions caused by government intervention, including an excess supply of steel, which China exports and dumps in advanced industrialized countries, harming local producers and workers. China’s many high-profile moves to open up its markets in recent years turn out to have been half-hearted, if not intentional hoodwinking.… Seguir leyendo »
In the quiet of a recent Friday afternoon, Hong Kong’s hard-line leader, Leung Chun-ying, announced in a subdued, sometimes hesitant, voice that he would not seek a second term as chief executive. He cited the need for more time with his family: One of Mr. Leung’s daughters has long been afflicted with mental-health issues.
Within minutes, the news had inundated local media, and the political opposition — which won nearly 55 percent of the open seats in recent legislative elections — was cheering. Even a good part of the pro-government camp seemed to give a collective sigh of relief.
For a leader with persistently low approval ratings, Mr.… Seguir leyendo »