Archive for 2020

Opinion | My Relatives in Wuhan Survived. My Uncle in New York Did Not. – By Yi Rao – The New York Times

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Dr. Rao is a molecular neurobiologist in China.

Credit…Taechit Taechamanodom/Moment, via Getty Images

“BEIJING — Eight is thought to be a lucky number in China because in Chinese it sounds like the word for “fortune”; 444 is a bad number because it rings like “death”; 520 sounds like “I love you.”

Having always disliked superstition, I was dismayed to receive a message by WeChat at 4:44 p.m. on May 20, Beijing time, informing me that my uncle Eric, who lived in New York, had died from Covid-19. He was 74.

Uncle Eric was a pharmacist, so presumably he contracted the virus from a patient who had visited his shop in Queens. Infected in March, he was sick for more than two months. He was kept on a ventilator until his last 10 days: By then, he was deemed incurable and the ventilator was redirected to other patients who might be saved.

The medical trade runs in my family. I now preside over a medical university in Beijing with 19 affiliated hospitals. I studied medicine because my father was a doctor, a pulmonary physician. He decided to study medicine after losing his mother to a minor infection when he was 13. My father did not expect to lose a brother 15 years his junior to a disease in his own specialty: the respiratory system.”

Source: Opinion | My Relatives in Wuhan Survived. My Uncle in New York Did Not. – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Public Health, United States

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Opinion | China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

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“. . . .  But both sides are not equally to blame. The Xi era in U.S.-China relations, which began in 2012, has led the relationship steadily downhill. China went too far on a broad range of issues.

Start with business. For many years U.S. companies thought they had enough market share inside China that they would tolerate the stealing of intellectual property and other trade abuses China engaged in. But in the last decade, China started to overreach, and the American Chamber of Commerce in China began to complain louder and louder. Gradually, many in the U.S. business community, which was a key buffer in the relationship, began to endorse Donald Trump’s hard-line approach (although they don’t like paying tariffs).

Since Xi took power and made himself effectively president for life and tightened the Communist Party’s control over all matters, U.S. journalists working in China have had their access sharply curtailed; China has become more aggressive in projecting its power into the South China Sea; it’s become more fixated on subsidizing its high-tech start-ups to dominate key industries by 2025; it is imposing a new national security law to curtail longstanding freedoms in Hong Kong; it’s stepped up its bullying of Taiwan, taken a very aggressive approach toward India and intensified its internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang; it’s jailed two innocent Canadians to swap for a detained Chinese businesswoman; and it even hammered countries that dared to ask for an independent inquiry into how the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan.

After Australia’s prime minister called for such an investigation in April, China’s ambassador to Australia brazenly threatened economic retaliation, and a few weeks later China cut off beef and barley imports from Australian companies, citing bogus health and trade violations.

That is the kind of crude bullying that has helped to strip China of virtually every ally it had in Washington — allies for a policy that basically said, “We have different systems, but let’s build bridges with China where possible, engage where it is mutually beneficial and draw redlines where necessary.”

That balanced policy approach always had to contain serious tensions, ugliness and disagreements on issues — but in the end it delivered enough mutual benefit to be sustained for 40 years. That balance is now off as far as many Americans are concerned. I am one of them.

As Orville Schell, one of the most sensible advocates of this balanced approach, wrote in an essay a few weeks ago on TheWireChina.com: “Today, as the U.S. faces its most adversarial state with the People’s Republic of China in years, the always fragile policy framework of engagement feels like a burnt-out case. … A recent Pew poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans view China favorably, the lowest percentage since its surveys began in 2005.”

But if China has increasingly overreached, America has increasingly underperformed.

It is not just that China reportedly has fewer than 5,000 Covid-19 deaths and America has over 120,000 — and the virus started there. It is not just that it takes about 22 hours on Amtrak to go from New York to Chicago, while it takes 4.5 hours to take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai, slightly farther apart. It’s not just that the pandemic has accelerated China’s transformation to a cashless, digital society.

It’s that we have reduced investments in the true sources of our strength — infrastructure, education, government-funded scientific research, immigration and the right rules to incentivize productive investment and prevent excessive risk-taking. And we have stopped leveraging our greatest advantage over China — that we have allies who share our values and China only has customers who fear its wrath.

If we got together with our allies, we could collectively influence China to accept new rules on trade and Covid-19 and a range of other issues. But Trump refused to do so, making everything a bilateral deal or a fight with Xi. So now China is offering sweetheart deals to U.S. and other foreign companies to come into or stay in China, and its market is now so big, few companies can resist.

Summing up the relationship today, McGregor, of APCO Worldwide, noted: “I don’t know if the Chinese are taking America seriously anymore. They are happy to just let us keep damaging ourselves. We have to wake up and grow up” — and get our own act and allies together. China respects one thing only: leverage. Today, we have too little and China has too much.

Source: Opinion | China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Foreign Affairs and U.S.ForeignPolicy

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Opinion | Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him? – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

He attacks Joe Biden to deflect blame for his terrible handling of Covid-19 and record of appeasing Beijing.

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Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post, via Getty Images

“There is a long history of American presidential candidates using China as a campaign cudgel — from Bill Clinton blasting President George H.W. Bush in 1992 for dealing with a Chinese premier known as the “Butcher of Beijing” to Donald Trump’s 2016 attack that the Obama administration had allowed China to “rape” the United States while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. This election year, China-bashing will reach a new level, as Mr. Trump seeks to capitalize on high voter disapproval of China, Beijing’s failure to contain the coronavirus and persistent bilateral tensions between our countries.

Desperate to obscure the reality of more than 90,000 American deaths and 36 million unemployed amid Mr. Trump’s utterly incompetent handling of the pandemic, Republicans have no better strategy than to play the China card. The Republicans are executing a 57-page campaign memo that recommends branding opponents “soft on China” and reveals their rationale for repeated refrains of the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan lab.”

For Mr. Trump, attacking former Vice President Joe Biden on China serves three purposes: to dampen turnout among populist Democrats; to deflect blame for his deadly mishandling of the coronavirus for which he takes no “responsibility at all”; and most cynically, to try to turn his own blatant weakness on China into a political weapon. Mr. Trump’s penchant for projecting his personal failings onto others is one of his most familiar and dishonest ploys — whether the subject is corruption, nepotism, sexual assault or Russian interference in the 2016 election, as with so-called Obamagate.”

Source: Opinion | Trump Is Playing the China Card. Who Believes Him? – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Foreign Affairs and U.S.ForeignPolicy

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Mieko Kawakami Cracks the Code of Being a Woman in Japan – By Motoko Rich – The New York Times

The boys would run around and flip up the skirts of certain girls to catch a glimpse of their underwear. That was mortifying enough. Yet it was just as shameful for the girls whose skirts didn’t get flipped.

“It meant you weren’t popular,” said Kawakami, 43, the author of “Breasts and Eggs,” a best-selling novel in Japan that was published in English in April. “It’s a humiliation among women not to be desired by men. That’s a very strong code in Japanese society.”

It’s a code she knows well, but one that she — and her characters — have gone about transcending. “Breasts and Eggs,” which won one of Japan’s most coveted literary prizes in 2008, helped establish her as one of the country’s brightest young stars.

Source: Mieko Kawakami Cracks the Code of Being a Woman in Japan – The New York Times

Posted in: Japan, Women's Issues

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Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The alarming messages came fast and furious in mid-March, popping up on the cellphone screens and social media feeds of millions of Americans grappling with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.

“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that they were “FAKE.” “

Source: Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Espionage & Soft Power, Military Affairs and Espionage

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Hu tieu, a Vietnamese dish spiced with prosperity and climate change – by George Black | Vital Signs | The Guardian

“On a visit last month to the town of My Tho, the capital of the Tien Giang province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, I found a riverside restaurant that served the local specialty, a dish called hu tieu. It’s a delicious soup, dense with stretchy rice noodles and topped with succulent locally farmed shrimp.

These two ingredients of hu tieu have set the delta on a remarkable path to prosperity. In provinces like Tien Giang and neighboring Ben Tre, as one drives east toward the South China Sea, the landscape is stitched together with fertile rice paddies and brackish ponds teeming with shrimp. This transformation has taken place in just one generation.

As late as 1990, 15 years after the Vietnam war ended, the country faced the threat of famine, and rice was strictly rationed. Now, thanks to the government’s “rice first” policy, many farmers get three crops a year, including one in the dry season, from November to April. Earnings from this year’s harvests have broken all previous records. Last year, Vietnam overtook Thailand as the world’s leading rice exporter, with 90% of the export crop grown in the Mekong Delta.”

Source: Hu tieu, a Vietnamese dish spiced with prosperity and climate change | Vital Signs | The Guardian

Posted in: Agriculture, Business and Finance, Climate Change, Climate Change Polluters

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Vietnam just sent 450,000 protective suits to U.S. health workers. – George Black

Vietnam continues to astound me. They just sent 450,000 protective suits to U.S. health workers. That’s on top of supplies they’ve sent to many other countries, including China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. They’ve done nationwide social distancing, systematic contact tracing, and two and a half months after their first case they are still holding it down to 255 with no fatalities. All the headlines are about the success stories in Singapore and Taiwan – which together have a total of 2,290 cases and 11 deaths. Their combined population is less than 30 million. Vietnam’s is 95 million. Do the math. I’ve written to the New York Times urging them to cover this story. Credit where credit is due. 

Source: (83) David Lindsay

Posted in: Public Health, Vietnamese Foreign Policy

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Opinion | On the Coronavirus, God and the Chinese Communist Party – By Yangyang Cheng – The New York Times

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Ms. Cheng is a particle physicist.

Credit…Illustrations by Angie Wang

“CHICAGO — My mother believes that God and the Chinese Communist Party will defeat the novel coronavirus.

“Pray for Wuhan. Pray for China,” she urges me, referring to the capital of Hubei Province, where the outbreak started. It is early February, a week and some since Wuhan was placed under lockdown. My mother lives in our hometown in a neighboring province, and like most places in China, her city has enacted quarantine measures. But she is relatively safe there, and knowing that brings me selfish reassurance as I watch the crisis unfold throughout China: I am her only child and live on the other side of the planet, which is still barely touched by the coronavirus.

Every morning since late January, I have woken up in Chicago to a string of messages from my mother. The emails and texts continue through lunchtime; occasionally they pop up in the afternoon, and I know it’s been another sleepless night for her.

My mother forwards me reports from Chinese state media about how the government is taking swift action to combat the epidemic. She sends me screenshots of conversations with friends, as they discuss life under quarantine and how to convince unruly family members to stay inside.”

Source: Opinion | On the Coronavirus, God and the Chinese Communist Party – The New York Times

Posted in: Public Health, Vietnam News and Current Events, Vietnam Post War Advances

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Opinion | How South Korea Solved Its Face Mask Shortage – By E. Tammy Kim – The New York Times

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The coronavirus erupted in South Korea in late January, six months into Yoo Yoon-sook’s new job. She had just moved from Seoul, where she spent three decades working in the same pharmacy, to open the Hankyeol (“Steadfast”) Pharmacy in the city of Incheon, near the international airport. Ms. Yoo hadn’t really gotten a sense of the neighborhood around her new pharmacy “before this all happened,” she told me. It became all coronavirus, all the time.

Incheon’s 1,100 pharmacies, including Ms. Yoo’s, began to sell out of KF-94 face masks, the equivalent of the American N95. So did corner stores and large retail chains like E-Mart. As Koreans learned of the scale and aggressiveness of Covid-19, first from Chinese reports, then from a surge of cases at home, the mask with the weave and construction that proved most effective against the virus could not be found, except at exorbitant prices online. Customers grew angry waiting outside stores. One Incheon pharmacy posted a sign saying, “Regarding masks: Threats, physical violence and insults against employees are punishable under criminal law.”

Such was the extent of the “mask crisis” when the central government decided to intervene in production and distribution. At the end of February, it announced that it would purchase 50 percent of KF-94 masks from the nation’s 130 or so manufacturers. The government began to ship these masks, at a discounted price of 1,500 won each (about $1.23), to some 23,000 pharmacies, in cooperation with the Korean Pharmaceutical Association.

Source: Opinion | How South Korea Solved Its Face Mask Shortage – The New York Times

Posted in: Korea - North and South Korea, Public Health

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Opinion |  After the Lockdown, Fear and Chaos in India- By Pragya Tiwari – The New York Times

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Ms. Tiwari is a writer based in New Delhi.

Credit…Yawar Nazir/Getty Images

“NEW DELHI — On Tuesday evening, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, ordered a strict nationwide lockdown for the next 21 days to battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The busy marketplace in my upscale South Delhi neighborhood is desolate the next morning. Almost all shops are shuttered. The florist who delivered exotic flowers to wealthy homes has abandoned his stock, and the pungent smell of rotting flowers hangs heavy in the air. A pet store has locked up and left the animals inside. Their muffled screams are unbearable.

At the local chemist, two men are at each other’s throats. A large gray-haired man in a lawyer’s robe is shouting expletives through his mask as he towers over a short, scruffy domestic worker. The worker has bought all the acetaminophen in the shop for his employers, and the lawyer is having none of it. The scuffle between the two men seems like an act of transgression — not because it is violent but because it involves freewheeling physical contact.

“Touch is curse,” I was told by a man as he wheeled his stock of sweet potatoes down deserted streets, defying the lockdown in the hope of earning enough to buy food for his family. He offered free sweet potatoes to an old man in a tattered mask sweeping the road. The sweeper, wary of infection, turned his offer down.

Source: Opinion | After the Lockdown, Fear and Chaos in India – The New York Times

Posted in: India, Public Health

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