Top searches: Zero-COVID policy, Chinese yuan exchange rate
"In fact, there is almost no way to accurately quantify a public policy's outcome at a national level because no estimate is adequate."
I changed the order today to go with the key topics first, then the top-10-trending-searches list.
The 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded its seventh plenary session in Beijing on Wednesday with a communique issued. Some pictures from Xinhua.
The People's Daily, a flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published three commentary pieces on China's Dynamic Zero-COVID Policy on Oct. 10, 11 and 12, drawing much attention at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, 兔主席 Chairman Rabbit, the social media moniker for Harvard University-educated Ren Yi, posted a piece titled "Through the 'tunnel: Review China's epidemic prevention and control policy" 穿越“隧道”：再读疫情防控政策 on his WeChat Blog on Oct. 11, which could be seen as a useful supplement to learn the real challenges in handling the situation. Some highlights were provided below.
Ginger River knows that the articles contain some views which not every subscriber will agree with, but he guesses exposure to some different Chinese views is at least partly what you look for.
Regarding China's yuan exchange rate, Sheng Songcheng 盛松成, the former director of the Statistics and Analysis Department of the People's Bank of China, said that China's yuan (or RMB) is unlikely to devalue significantly, and there is no basis for long-term inflation in China.
The People's Daily: "'Skating by' is not an option and 'quiet quitting to win' is not possible" 仲音：躺平不可取躺赢不可能 (ranked #7 in today's top 10)
As some were wondering whether China would change its zero-COVID policy soon, the People's Daily published three commentary pieces on the policy on Oct. 10, 11 and 12, respectively. Ginger River listed their headlines with links to the articles and translated some parts of them with notes as below, which he believes will be helpful for you to better understand the Chinese authorities' considerations over why it is not the time to relax.
1) "Boost confidence and patience in the country’s current policy on COVID-19 epidemic prevention & control" 增强对当前疫情防控政策的信心和耐心
The first piece recognized the increased challenges and difficulties in epidemic prevention and control with the omicron variant. However, it stressed that China has the foundation, condition, and ability to curb the spread of the virus and achieve dynamic zero-COVID. Confidence and patience are the key words.
The Omicron variant is highly infectious, fast-spreading, and hard to spot. Most patients are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, which makes it harder to find infected people at early stages. It indeed adds to the difficulties and challenges of the current epidemic control and prevention, but it doesn't mean we couldn't do "spot early, report early, quarantine early, and treat early."
2) "'Dynamic Zero-Covid' is sustainable and [China] must stick to it" “动态清零”可持续而且必须坚持
The second piece emphasized "sustainable," and is more specific on the factors such as the cost-benefit ratio which the government considers in judging the situation. It also warned against excessive actions such as "one size fits all" actions in epidemic prevention and control.
It is important to see that China is a large country with a population of more than 1.4 billion people, coupled with uneven regional development & the lack of medical resources in total. Relaxing prevention & control is bound to increase the infection risk for vulnerable groups. Once a large-scale rebound came, the spread of the virus is bound to cause a serious impact on China's economic & social development, and we will ultimately pay a higher price and the loss will be greater.
Practice has fully proved that China's epidemic prevention and control policy has a good cost-benefit ratio, and Dynamic Zero-COVID Policy is a strategy with the lowest comprehensive social cost, which is the best choice for timely control of the epidemic in China at this stage.
Measuring the severity of a virus by multiplying both transmission and pathogenicity rates is an important indicator...With a population of 267 million people aged 60 & above, if we choose to "skate by", the spread of the virus will inevitably cause more serious damage to people's lives and property, and the public health risks it poses are incalculable.
It should be noted that dynamic zero-COVID is not to pursue complete zero infection but rather to put out [a round of surge] once it was detected...On the other hand, we should also be wary of excessive epidemic prevention and resolutely prevent the phenomena of simplification [of the implementation of the policy], "one size fits all" and Ceng Ceng Jia Ma 层层加码, [literally translated as "adding weights at each level."]
3) "'Skating by' is not an option and 'quiet quitting to win' is not possible" “躺平”不可取，“躺赢”不可能
The third piece sounds more straightforward and, to some extent, serves as a conclusion that China at least will not change the current policy soon.
It provides more data such as the vaccination rate of the elderly population (86.26%) and mentioned another key factor, the risk of new mutant strains emerging in China if the virus spreads out, to let the public understand the government's concerns.
This piece also mentioned COVID situations in other countries, including Japan, the U.S., France and Germany, to indicate other possible consequences if the policy is changed.
The public's perspective is most important in measuring the degree of the harm of a pandemic. As of September 28, the number of people aged 60 & above who had completed full vaccination as a percentage of the elderly population was 86.26%, and there are still a significant number of elderly people who have not yet completed full & booster immunizations. Together with a significant number of children and people with contraindications to vaccination, China's vaccination rates have not yet formed a sufficient barrier against serious illness & death.
Once the epidemic prevention and control is relaxed, it will inevitably cause a large number of people to be infected in the short term, resulting in a large number of serious and fatal cases, causing a crowding out on medical resources and leaving the normal demand for medical services unaddressed, forming a vicious circle.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that life expectancy in the US in 2021 is nearly one year shorter than the previous year, the second consecutive year of decline in that figure, with the COVID-19 epidemic being the primary cause. According to U.S. News & World Report, 15% of adults who previously had a COVID-19 infection are currently experiencing symptoms of long COVID. Of those adults with long COVID, 81% report that their long-term symptoms from the condition have reduced their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
From a scientific perspective, "skating by" 躺平 increases the risk of new mutant strains emerging. There is uncertainty about the mutation and evolution of COVID-19, and the more infections there are, the more opportunities there are for new coronavirus mutations. Relaxed prevention and control will significantly increase the risk of virus mutation, while the emergence of new mutant strains may pose new transmission risks and infection threats.
Recently, BF.7 variant strains have been detected in several places in China. Compared to BA.4 or BA.5, BF.7 has a faster spread, stronger infectivity, and shorter intergenerational interval, making it very easy to cause large spread.
In fact, some countries choose to "skate by" and adopt the policy of "living with the virus", not because they do not want to prevent and control the epidemic, but because they cannot and do not have the ability to do so. After many attempts to find an ideal strategy to control the new epidemic, these countries simply chose to "skate by", precisely because they failed to effectively control the epidemic in a timely manner, and have lost the opportunity to dynamically eliminate the virus.
Meanwhile, 兔主席 Chairman Rabbit, the social media moniker for Harvard University-educated Ren Yi, posted a piece titled "Through the 'tunnel: Review China's epidemic prevention and control policy" 穿越“隧道”：再读疫情防控政策 on his WeChat Blog on Oct. 11, which Ginger River believes could be seen as a useful supplement to learn some real challenges in handling the virus issue. As it was a 8,000-word article including 16 parts, Ginger River only translated three parts of it. And it has not been reviewed by the author.
He noted that the information asymmetry between the decision makers and the public is a key issue that the public should understand and pointed out that it is actually quite difficult to quantify the impact of public health on the economy and the society. In some other parts, the author also offered some suggestions in terms of better informing the public about the government's efforts and setting public expectations.
The author doesn't believe that any of the assumptions above are valid. There must be reasons for sticking to the current policy that we cannot see and have not taken into account.
7.One thing that needs special attention is the problem of information symmetry (or information asymmetry) between decision makers and reality. Decision makers are ordinary people under necessary epidemic prevention and control every day. They also dine out (take trips to other cities), go shopping, their families are ordinary citizens, their kids need to go to schools as well. In this respect, the information is generally symmetrical. That is, decision makers are not systematically unaware of the problems in epidemic prevention and control measures. Then, where does the information symmetry lie? The author believes the asymmetry is that outsiders don't know all the information decision makers have, all the factors decision makers are considering, all the options on the table, and the deduction of inducing prevention and control policies, etc. Information asymmetry is the root of the problem.
8. It's hard to quantify many issues, especially the impact of public health on the economy and the society. And practice is often harder than theory. Taking one small step is harder than a full leap. Those who question the current policy and advocate the relaxation of epidemic controls assume that the economy will be better off, and believe that the benefits clearly outweigh the drawbacks. However, if the evidence were that unequivocal, solid, and strong, the measures would be changed immediately. In fact, from the perspective of an individual, a company, part of the market, or a segment of the region, it's possible to make a short-term evaluation. And it's not hard to write a post with concrete statistical reasoning from one specific angle. But it's extremely difficult to use cost effectiveness and quantitative assessment as evidence for formal decision-making in public policies, if we take a national standpoint and take various factors into consideration, including different regions, people in different industries, and middle and long term factors. In fact, there is almost no way to accurately quantify a public policy's outcome at a national level because no estimate is adequate. So many factors could be unaccounted for, and it's impossible to consider every scenario. For example, can one quantify the economic and social impact resulted from the death of the elderly in economically disadvantaged areas due to the overwhelming of the medical system? Can we quantify the impact of "long COVID" on the population and productivity and the long-term economic costs come with the impact? Such factors are difficult to exhaust. The author thinks that our government is very uncomfortable and rejects the idea of quantifying the value of life, people's well-being, social stability, and social cohesion into the "economic costs," then calculating the "political costs." This is not how decisions are made. If something is not clear, things are not mature, the government would rather wait a little while.
11. The weather is getting colder now. And in cold seasons, people are more susceptible to respiratory infections (That's why it's called "flu season".) Therefore, we shouldn't expect a major shift in policy at this time of the year. This is common sense.
#5 Expert: China's yuan is unlikely to devalue significantly 专家：人民币大幅贬值可能性低 (ranked #5 in today's top 10)
Sheng Songcheng 盛松成, the former director of the Statistics and Analysis Department of the People's Bank of China, said that China's yuan is unlikely to devalue significantly, and there is no basis for long-term inflation in China, according to Cailian Press.
On Tuesday, the offshore yuan once weakened past a 7.2 per dollar level, falling by 500 points, as reported by Cailian press. Sheng predicted that before the end of the year, the China's yuan will remain between 7.0 to 7.3 per dollar. He added that China's central bank has cut the foreign exchange reserve requirement ratio (RRR) twice recently. Measures like the cutting the RRR will be beneficial to slowing down the depreciation of China's yuan.
Compared with other major currencies like the Euro, British pound and Japanese yen, China's yuan delivered a good performance this year, and the rapid depreciation won't continue in the long-term, according to Sheng.
He also mentioned that China's CPI is likely to reach the target of around three percent, which owes credit to China's prudent monetary policy and multiple measures to secure market entities.
Wednesday's top 10 trending searches on Douyin (the Chinese equivalent to TikTok) as of 5:00 p.m. (0900 GMT):
#1 Japan's rocket failed after launch -- Reuters
#2 Buyers around the world dump U.S. bonds -- Bloomberg
#3 China's astronauts give science lectures at Tianggong space station again
Crew members of China's Shenzhou XIV mission gave live science lectures on Wednesday afternoon. They introduced the Wentian module, and did a series of scientific experiments including capillary effects according to China Manned Space Agency. The lesson is the third one from a series known as "Tiangong Class," aiming at sparking the next generation's interest in space exploration. [Recording of the class]
#4 The Big Examination's finale released
TV series The Big Examination released the last episode today. It's about a group of high school students taking the college entrance examination in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The TV series is aired both online and on television, including national flagship TV channel CCTV-1.
#5 Expert: China's yuan is unlikely to devalue significantly
#6 The 26-year-old truck driver is so cool
Zhang Lin is a 26-year-old girl under 1.6 meters tall. But she can skillfully drive a truck nearly 21 meters long. The girl goes viral online for her brightness. "I don't tell people your packages arrive, I tell them 'Hi, here's your happiness'," said Zhang in an interview with China Central Television, giggling. [video]
#7 The People's Daily: "'Skating by' is not an option and 'quiet quitting to win' is not possible"
#8 Creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Japanese manga artist Kazuki Takahashi died while trying to save people from drowning -- Hypebeast
#9 "Home of first-class hero" praise letter sent to the police officer's home
The family of police officer Yang Xiang received a plaque, a praise letter and a certificate named "Home of first-class hero." Yang Xiang is an immigration management police officer in southwest China's Yunnan Province. He has solved over 100 major drug cases and confiscated nearly two tons of drugs in 14-year of anti-drug work, according to Xinhua.
#10 The finale of TV series The Romance of the Little Forest
Popular network TV romance The Romance of the Little Forest will release the finale on Thursday. The show is about the love story between a young botany professor and a fashion blogger in China's countryside.
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