“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.”
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.
A deserted market 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.
For the second time since September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India visited the United States, the two countries have failed to reach even a limited “mini-deal” that would increase trade for focused groups of goods, like dairy products, medical devices and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Negotiators from both countries have been working since 2018 on a deal that would lower Indian barriers to some American products, and restore India’s access to a program that allows goods to enter the United States tariff-free.
But the breakdown in negotiations illustrates the steep challenge in reaching a trade deal between two countries headed by populist leaders who harbor suspicions of multilateral arrangements. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi want to protect jobs in their own countries by fending off foreign competitors — shared attributes that make it even more difficult to strike a comprehensive agreement that would roll back trade barriers more broadly.”
Mr. Mishra is the author, most recently, of “Age of Anger: A History of the Present.”
Credit…Illustration by Pablo Delcan; Photographs by Doug Mills/The New York Times
” “I love Hindu,” Donald Trump proclaimed during his presidential campaign in 2016. That adoration of India’s majority population, and America’s richest and most obviously pro-Trump minority, may have just gotten deeper.
On his first visit to India next week, Mr. Trump claims, he has been promised a welcoming crowd of “10 million” by the country’s Hindu-supremacist prime minister, Narendra Modi. (Never mind that the total population of the city where Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump plan to hold a joint rally is a little over eight million.)
Last September at a rock-concert-like rally at a Houston football stadium, Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump walked hand-in-hand, the two stocky strongmen looking like brothers-in-arms. Certainly, nowhere in the world can Mr. Trump encounter a profounder fraternal spirit than among India’s present rulers. India under them fulfills, to a startling degree, the American president’s irascible fantasy of what the United States should be: a country cravenly surrendering its traditions of law and decency before a perpetually inflamed and ham-handed autocrat.
Mr. Trump has controversially pardoned some white-collar criminals, including Michael Milken, and might extend clemency to Roger Stone. He can only envy the culture of impunity in India. Charges of murder and kidnapping have long pursued Amit Shah, Mr. Modi’s closest confidant and India’s home minister, but the judge in his case mysteriously died soon after Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014 and the next judge swiftly acquitted Mr. Shah.”
“China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak has imperiled itself and the world because it is a land of 21st-century science and 19th-century politics.
Scholars in China predicted a year ago in an article in the journal Viruses that it was “highly likely” that there would be coronavirus outbreaks, calling it an “urgent issue.” Once the outbreak occurred, other Chinese scientists rapidly identified the virus and sequenced its DNA, posting it on Jan. 10 on a virology website for all to see. That was extraordinarily good and fast work.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party instinctively organized a cover-up, ordering the police to crack down on eight doctors accused of trying to alert others to the risks. National television programs repeatedly denounced the doctors as rumormongers.
One of those eight doctors, Li Wenliang, caught the virus and died — causing public outrage. Some Chinese make the point that if Li had been in charge of China, rather than President Xi Jinping, many lives might have been saved.
“The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance,” a law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, wrote this month in an online essay that was immediately banned. “The level of popular fury is volcanic, and a people thus enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear.”
Xu certainly cast aside his own fear, predicting that he would face new punishments but adding, “I cannot remain silent.”
He called on his fellow Chinese citizens to demand free speech and free elections and urged: “Rage against injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”
Xu is now incommunicado, but it is remarkable to see the groundswell of anger online toward the dictatorship. Citizens can’t denounce Xi by name, but they are skilled in evading censors — such as by substituting President Trump’s name for Xi’s.”
MANILA — The Philippines said Tuesday it had officially informed the United States that it was scrapping a military pact that has given the longtime American ally a security blanket for the past two decades.
The notice to terminate the pact, the Visiting Forces Agreement, comes as President Rodrigo Duterte has warmed up to China while distancing himself from the United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler. The move also comes as the Philippines has shown increasing reluctance to stand up to China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The agreement lets the United States rotate its forces through Philippine military bases. It has allowed for roughly 300 joint exercises annually between the American and Philippine militaries, said R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. He told reporters Monday that the termination of the agreement would put those operations “at risk.”
The agreement still remains in force, but the notice to terminate it, delivered to the American Embassy in Manila, starts a clock under which it will remain in effect for 180 days before lapsing.
“WUHAN, China — A mysterious illness had stricken seven patients at a hospital, and a doctor tried to warn his medical school classmates. “Quarantined in the emergency department,” the doctor, Li Wenliang, wrote in an online chat group on Dec. 30, referring to patients.
“So frightening,” one recipient replied, before asking about the epidemic that began in China in 2002 and ultimately killed nearly 800 people. “Is SARS coming again?”
In the middle of the night, officials from the health authority in the central city of Wuhan summoned Dr. Li, demanding to know why he had shared the information. Three days later, the police compelled him to sign a statement that his warning constituted “illegal behavior.”
The illness was not SARS, but something similar: a coronavirus that is now on a relentless march outward from Wuhan, throughout the country and across the globe, killing at least 304 people in China and infecting more than 14,380 worldwide.”
The giant devil catfish, or goonch, found in the rivers of Southeast Asia, can measure nearly seven feet long and can weigh more than 200 pounds.Credit…Zeb Hogan, UNR Global Water Center
By Rachel Nuwer
“Some of the most astonishing creatures on Earth hide deep in rivers and lakes: giant catfish weighing over 600 pounds, stingrays the length of Volkswagen Beetles, six-foot-long trout that can swallow a mouse whole.
There are about 200 species of so-called freshwater megafauna, but compared to their terrestrial and marine counterparts, they are poorly studied by scientists and little known to the public. And they are quietly disappearing.
Following an exhaustive survey throughout the Yangtze River basin, researchers this month declared the Chinese paddlefish officially extinct. The paddlefish, last seen alive in 2003, could grow up to 23 feet long and once inhabited many of China’s rivers, but overfishing and dams decimated their populations.
The paddlefish may be a harbinger for many other giant fish. According to research published in August in Global Change Biology, freshwater megafauna have declined by 88 percent worldwide in recent years.”
Mr. Sharma is an author, global investor and contributing opinion writer.
A driverless delivery robot crossing the road in Tianjin, China, in November.Credit…China Network/Reuters
“Landing in Shanghai recently, I found myself in the middle of a tech revolution remarkable in its sweep. The passport scanner automatically addresses visitors in their native tongues. Digital payment apps have replaced cash. Outsiders trying to use paper money get blank stares from store clerks.
Nearby in the city of Hangzhou a prototype hotel called FlyZoo uses facial recognition to open doors, no keys required. Robots mix cocktails and provide room service. Farther south in Shenzhen, we flew the same drones that are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. Downtown traffic flowed smoothly, guided by synced stoplights and restrained by police cameras.
Outside China, these technologies are seen as harbingers of an “automated authoritarianism,” using video cameras and facial recognition systems to thwart lawbreakers and a “citizen score” to rank citizens for political reliability. An advanced version has been deployed to counter unrest among Muslim Uighurs in the inland region of Xinjiang. But in China as a whole, surveys show that trust in technology is high, concern about privacy low. If people fear Big Brother, they keep it to themselves. In our travels along the coast, many expressed pride in China’s sudden rise as a tech power.
China initiated its economic miracle by opening to the outside world, but now it is nurturing domestic tech giants by barring outside competition. Foreign visitors cannot open Google or Facebook, a weirdly isolating experience, and the trade deal announced Wednesday by President Trump defers discussion of those barriers.”