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TOPIC: zero covid

Coronavirus

As COVID Explodes, An Inside Look At China's Gray Market Of Generic Drugs

COVID infections have skyrocketed since China eased restrictions as public health policy has not been able to keep up. Unable to find medications, many have turned to generic drugs of questionable safety. It's the culmination of a longstanding problem.

BEIJING — When her grandfather joined the millions of infected Chinese, Chen quickly decided to buy COVID-19 drugs to limit the effects of the virus. She woke up early to shop on Jingdong, one of China’s biggest online shopping websites, but failed in snatching the limited daily stocks made available.

Fearing COVID's effect on her grandfather, who suffers from dementia, she contacted an independent drug agent and bought a box of generic pharmaceuticals.

With China having suddenly ended its zero-COVID policy, infections have peaked. According to the latest estimates by Airfinity, a British medical information and analysis company, severe COVID outbreaks happened over Chinese New Year with 62 million infections forecast for the second half of January.

In a press conference held by China's State Council on Jan. 11, COVID-19 pills were mentioned as part of the new epidemic control mechanisms. In late 2021, Pfizer developed Paxlovid, the world's first potent COVID drug, with one 100 mg white ritonavir and two 150 mg light pink nirmatrelvir tablets taken every 12 hours. China imported the first batch of Paxlovid for clinical use in March 2022 and included it in the ninth edition of the treatment protocol.

But the first 21,200 boxes of Paxlovid were dispersed to only eight provinces, and no further information is available on where the drug ended up and how much it was used.

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This Happened—January 23: The First COVID Lockdown

On this day three years ago, the Chinese government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan in what marked the unofficial beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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China's COVID Coverup Is The Perfect Script For One-Party Rule

That it fools nobody is essential to the plot. That people are dying turns it into tragedy.

-Analysis-

Rarely has the gap between official information and reality been so wide. Every night at 8 p.m., China's newscast opens with a long montage devoted to the daily activities of the country's leaders, by order of importance: Xi Jinping at an economic meeting, Xi Jinping publishing a new book ... Then, after 20 minutes or so, some images about COVID, just in passing, and mainly to highlight that the Party line is the right one.

Among the Chinese population, it is exactly the opposite. COVID dominates conversations: the race for drugs, saturated hospitals with beds set up outside, endless waits at crematoriums working non-stop. And death, with the number of pandemic casualties unknown since the government has changed the definition of what constitutes a COVID victim.

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Why Xi Jinping Can't Escape His Failures On COVID

Like unpopular leaders in democracies, Chinese President Xi Jinping has decided recently to increase his trips abroad to project an image of power and distract from the ills at home. But the debacle of the country's strategy on the pandemic is not going away, and there may be real long-term consequences.

-Analysis-

At the end of 2022, building new alliances around the world seems easier to the Chinese government than convincing its own population that Chinese vaccines will prevent a new surge in COVID cases.

Or put another way: the Middle East and Africa seem to trust China more than Chinese people themselves. It looks like trust toward China increases only with distance. So, it's reasonable to ask if the Chinese leaders themselves are aware of this dual evolution.

It wouldn’t hurt Chinese leaders to give a read to that essay entitled “Foreign Policy Begins at Home”, written in 2013 by the Council on Foreign Relations’ President in New York, Richard Haas. The book’s thesis is summed up in its title.

Haas is convinced that making the necessary reforms at home, economically and socially, is a crucial objective in any foreign policy. Without those structural reforms, he explains, the United States won’t be able to face the world’s new challenges.

But now, can we also apply this thesis to China?

After more than two years of self-imposed confinement, President Xi Jinping has started to travel more around the world. But his own freedom of movement deeply contrasts with the common fate of the Chinese people today.

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Geopolitics
Dan Wu

What Happened To China's Protests — And Missing Protesters?

Protests that engulfed China quickly faded as the government made a U-turn on its strict Zero-COVID policies, even as police sweeps of demonstrators have left families where their vanished loved ones are. Still, the "Blank Paper Revolution"'s cry for democracy may have quietly left its mark.

Dali Chan, a filmmaker and music lover, joined the protesting crowds in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and was arrested on Dec. 4. He hasn't been seen since.

Dali is hardly the only "disappeared" protester, according to independent Chinese media NGOCN. Dianxin, a 25-year-old university student, is being held in prison in Guangzhou and denied access to a lawyer or her family members.

“Now that the Zero-COVID has been loosened, why is my daughter still in jail ?," asks her mother. "What crime has she committed?"

Charles, a 24-year-old Uyghur protester in Chengdu, was held by the police after joining a peaceful protest. His father, who barely speaks Mandarin, took a four-hour flight from Xinjiang, only to find out that his request to meet a lawyer was denied by the police. “My son is of a gentle personality,” his father says.

Because many of the arrests have been made in secret, it's impossible to know the number of protesters who have been jailed. Police are also still tracking down protesters in many cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, where large-scale protests broke out.

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In The News
Laure Gautherin, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Russia Pounds Ukraine, Mongolia Coal Protests, AI Chatbot Record

👋 བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས།*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia has launched its eighth large-scale wave of airstrikes on Ukraine, anti-government protesters try to storm Mongolia's State Palace and an AI-powered chatbot wins over a million humans in record time. Meanwhile, Francesca Mannochi for Italian daily La Stampa reports on the dramatic situation in Somalia, hit by unprecedented drought.

[*Tashi delek - Tibetan]

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In The News
Laure Gautherin, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Russia Defies Oil Price Cap, Iran’s Morality Police In Limbo, Tasmanian Tiger Mystery

👋 Aniin!*

Welcome to Monday, where a new Western price cap on Russia kicks in, conflicting reports are swirling about the fate of Iran’s “morality police,” and a thylacine mystery gets solved. Meanwhile, Beate Strobel in German daily Die Welt introduces us to the working world’s new ailment that is like burnout with a dose of denial: burn-on.

[*Ojibwe, Canada]

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Geopolitics
Santiago Villa

Watching China, And The Western Trap Of Wishful Thinking

While many Chinese citizens are indeed fed up with the government’s Zero-COVID policy, predicting that a mass revolt is ready to overturn Communist rule is the latest sign of our deep misunderstanding of the Asian superpower. A view from Bogotá of a former Beijing correspondent.

-Analysis-

BOGOTÁ — It isn’t easy to gauge the scope of the protests in China on the basis of Western media reports. Beyond the correspondents present on the ground, those running news operations in Europe and especially the United States have tended to overestimate the public discontent, exaggerate economic problems and project a greater desire for freedoms and democracy than really exists in China.

Meanwhile here in Latin America, the editorial tendency has instead been to highlight the 'eccentric' aspects of modern Chinese culture, which has strengthened some existing myths and misperceptions. Coverage of politics was always cautious and reporting on the regional characteristics of China's economic progression hardly a top item on our weekend news bulletins. When I was a freelance journalist in China, it was always easier for me to sell articles on, say, types of firearms you could buy there on Taobao, a Chinese equivalent of Amazon.

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In The News
Emma Albright, Bertrand Hauger, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin

Jiang Zemin Dies, New COVID Clashes In China, World Heritage Baguette

👋 Mari mari!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at age 96, Oath Keepers leaders are found guilty of sedition in the U.S. Capitol riots, and a French staple food earns its spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. And just as fresh anti-lockdown clashes erupt in southern China, an article from The Initium traces the origins of the protests and asks where they will go from here.

[*Mapuche, Chile and Argentina]

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China
Changren Zheng

How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

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Coronavirus
Shuyue Chen

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Emma Albright, Laure Gautherin and Bertrand Hauger

China Clampdown After Protests, Ukraine Nuclear Plant In Limbo, Word Of The Year

👋 Saluton!*

Welcome to Monday, where China appears to be stepping up security amid an unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s rule as COVID protests spread across the country, Ukraine says Russian forces are leaving the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant (which Moscow denies), and Merriam-Webster reveals its 2022 Word of the Year. Meanwhile, independent Russian media outlet Vazhnyye Istorii/Important Stories offers an exclusive look into how the Kremlin’s propaganda curriculum is playing out in Russian schools.

[*Esperanto]

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