WUHAN REOPENS AFTER 76-DAY LOCKDOWN
Ending the lockdown of Wuhan, Hubei province, on Wednesday will become a milestone for China in securing final victory in the people's war against the COVID-19 outbreak under the command of President Xi Jinping, observers said.
The decisive measures that the Communist Party of China Central Committee−with Xi as its general secretary−have taken to help Wuhan fight the epidemic held the key to curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus in what was the hardest-hit city, as well as in the province and in the entire country, they said.
A constant theme has been "people first" in the fight against the contagion as Xi has stressed putting people's lives, safety and health as the top priority and placing the people's interests above everything else.
In his meeting with World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Jan 28 in Beijing, Xi said people's safety and their health always come first.
Recounting his experience of leading World Health Organization experts on a nine-day joint mission investigating COVID-19 in China, Canadian epidemiologist Bruce Aylward commended China's approaches in responding to the disease.
"If I had COVID-19, I'd want to be treated in China," he said. "They know and they care about keeping people alive, and they do it successfully."
While masterminding the epidemic prevention and control efforts, Xi gave Hubei, particularly Wuhan, the provincial capital, priority. He said that "when Wuhan wins, Hubei wins; when Hubei wins, China wins".
Therefore, since the start of the outbreak, the CPC Central Committee has taken the most comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures to resolutely curb the spread of the virus in Wuhan and Hubei.
As experts recommended quarantine measures to help reduce population movement, which in turn helped to stem the spread of the virus, the CPC Central Committee made the decision on Jan 22 to ask Hubei to stop outbound travel to prevent the disease from spreading in other regions.
Xi said at a meeting in February that making such a decision demands tremendous political courage, but "time calls for resolute action, otherwise, we would be in trouble".
On Jan 23, the authorities in Wuhan announced the lockdown of the city. All public transportation and businesses were suspended, and residents were required to stay indoors to cut transmission in neighborhoods.
Putting such a huge city with over 10 million residents under quarantine was unprecedented but has proved to be effective. During his visit to Wuhan on March 10, Xi said all prevention and control measures adopted by the CPC Central Committee focus on preventing more people from being infected and are aimed at saving more patients' lives.
Under Xi's command, a central leading group on epidemic response headed by Premier Li Keqiang was established on Jan 25. Two days later, a central group led by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan was sent to oversee work in Hubei and has been stationed there ever since.
In early February, the Party secretaries of Hubei and Wuhan were replaced in light of the problems exposed in the initial response to the outbreak.
Epidemic response was on the agenda of a series of Party leadership meetings Xi has presided over since early January, including eight meetings of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.
At the meetings, he frequently underlined the importance of adopting the approach of early detection, reporting, isolation and treatment in epidemic control, and urged redoubled efforts to improve the admission and recovery rates and to reduce the infection and mortality rates.
Helal Helal, deputy general secretary of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party of Syria, said that the great achievements China has made in the fight against the outbreak speak volumes about the people-centered philosophy embedded in traditional Chinese culture.
In a message to the recent Asian Political Parties Online Conference, the Syrian party official said what China has done constitutes a great contribution to maintaining a life with dignity for all humanity.
To leave no COVID-19 patient unattended, Wuhan built two hospitals−Huoshenshan and Leishenshan−literally from scratch in about two weeks. Each had more than 1,000 beds. It also established 16 makeshift hospitals converted from sports stadiums and exhibition halls.
CHINA TO ESTABLISH 46 PILOT ZONES FOR CROSS-BORDER E-COMMERCE
China will establish 46 pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce to promote stable development of foreign trade, Sina reported on Wednesday.
As an emerging business form, cross-border e-commerce has been surging rapidly in recently years. From experiences in the previous 59 cross-border e-commerce pilot zones, preferential policies including tax exemption can effectively promote cross-border e-commerce development.
The expansion of cross-border e-commerce pilot zones aims to allow more areas to benefit from the profits and effectively hedge against the downward pressure of foreign trade growth, said Zhao Ping, director of the international trade research department at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Academy.
Large-scale expansion of pilot zones can also help further their role as a new growth engine for foreign trade, Zhao added.
Meanwhile, the 127th session of the China Import and Export Fair, or the Canton Fair, will be held online in June, as one of the slew of measures to tackle challenges brought by the novel coronavrius pneumonia. The fair was previously scheduled between April 15 and May 5.
International businesses are invited to showcase their products online with the aid of cutting-edge technologies. All-day services including online promotion, match-making on supply and purchase sides, and online negotiation are provided to allow the business platform to facilitate online orders for international businesses.
Online business will be the trend of future economic development and with the trade liberalization and digitalization of society, more business will be conducted online. The outbreak of COVID-19 also provided an opportunity and a forced mechanism to speed up online business development and digitalization of the Canton Fair, Zhao said.
China's foreign trade has been impacted by the ongoing epidemic and the country's imports and exports totaled 4.12 trillion yuan ($590 billion) in the first two months of this year, down by 9.6 percent year-on-year, according to statistics from the General Administration of Customs.
Currently, the impact of net exports on China's economy is very small, probably accounting for only 2 to 3 percent of the GDP, and the negative impact on China's economy may be limited, said Li Gang, researcher for the Institute of Industry and Commerce at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Moreover, the epidemic has brought new economic growth points including demand for masks, so the novel coronavirus pneumonia has limited impact on China's foreign trade and economic development, Li said.
To stabilize foreign trade and investment, the country has launched a slew of measures, including optimizing export tax rebate (exemption) services, increasing credit support, issuing force majeure factual certificates, and implementing more favorable import taxation polices.
UN: CHINA NOW FIRST IN PATENT APPLICATIONS
China last year became the top source of international patent application filings, surpassing the United States, which held the top spot for more than 40 years, the United Nations patent agency said.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, released its annual report for 2019 in Geneva on Tuesday.
With 58,990 applications filed in 2019 via WIPO's Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System, China overtook the US (57,840 applications in 2019) as the biggest user of the PCT System, which helps incentivize and spread innovation — a position previously held by the US each year since the PCT began operations in 1978.
More than half of patent applications (52.4 percent) of the year came from Asia, with Japan ranking third, followed by Germany and South Korea, according to the report.
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said China in particular drives the general rise of Asia as a relatively new player.
"China's rapid growth to become the top filer of international patent applications via WIPO underlines a long-term shift in the locus of innovation towards the East, with Asia-based applicants now accounting for more than half of all PCT applications," said Gurry, in a video broadcast on the results of WIPO in 2019, and program highlights and challenges for 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gurry noted that in 1999, WIPO received 276 applications from China. By 2019, that number rose to 58,990 — a 200-fold increase in 20 years.
Gurry briefed a virtual news conference on the same day that China's rapid emergence was "down to a very deliberate strategy on the part of Chinese leadership to advance innovation and to make the country a country whose economy operates at a higher level of value".
For a long time, China has been the factory of the world, "but we've seen that changed in recent years", he said.
"We've seen the deliberate strategy on the part of the Chinese leadership to promote the innovation, to promote the high-end, high-value industries," he said.
"It's a very clear strategy ... and it is working. I would put it down to that broad movement towards becoming a higher-value economy," he said.
"I think what we see in terms of intellectual property applications is a consequence of that strategy," he added.
According to the report, China's telecom giant Huawei Technologies, with 4,411 published PCT applications, was the top corporate filer for the third consecutive year.
It was followed by Mitsubishi Electric Corp of Japan (2,661), Samsung Electronics of Korea (2,334), Qualcomm Inc of the US (2,127); and Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications of China (1,927).
Among educational institutions, the University of California maintained its top ranking with 470 published applications in 2019. Tsinghua University (265) was second, followed by Shenzhen University (247), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (230), and South China University of Technology (164).
According to the report, a record 265,800 international patent applications were filed last year, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2018.
"Last year was the best year we have experienced in the course of the past decade. In fact, it was the best year we have experienced in the history of the organization," Gurry said in the broadcast.
"IP (intellectual property) is increasingly at the heart of global competition. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that innovation is not a zero-sum game — that a net increase in global innovation means new drugs, communications technologies, solutions for global challenges that benefit everyone, wherever they live," Gurry said.
TRAVEL RESUMES AS WUHAN LOCKDOWN ENDS
Cars queued up at expressway toll gates and passengers prepared to board trains and planes to leave Wuhan, Hubei province at midnight. The city, the hardest-hit area by the COVID-19 outbreak on the Chinese mainland, reopened on Wednesday after a 76-day lockdown.
At Fuhe toll gate in nothern Wuhan, cars honked horns and passed through after barricades were removed at midnight.
The first inter-city train left Wuhan at 6:25 am for Jingzhou city in Hubei province. The high-speed train G431 departed for Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, at 7:06 am. It was the first high-speed train to depart from Wuhan since the city's lockdown was lifted.
A total of 276 trains will depart from Wuhan on Wednesday to cities including Shanghai, Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong province and Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan province, carrying more than 55,000 passengers.
The railway authorities are requiring passengers to scan health codes and have their temperatures checked when entering the stations, and the wearing of masks is mandatory to reduce risk of infection.
At 7:25, the flight MU2527 bound for Sanya, Hainan province, took off from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, signaling the resumption of air traffic in Wuhan.
The airport is expected to see more than 200 inbound and outbound domestic flights on the day, according to the airport authority.
Big data from Wuhan traffic police forecasted expressways would see a peak of outbound vehicles on Wednesday.
On Jan 23, Wuhan declared unprecedented traffic restrictions, including suspending the city's public transport and all outbound flights and trains, in an attempt to contain the epidemic.
CHINA'S PORTS HELP SUSTAIN SUPPLY CHAIN, EXPERTS SAY
Major ports in coastal areas of China have restored their operations to roughly the pre-COVID-19 level, which will help sustain the global supply chain that has been hit hard by the pandemic, experts said.
While doing their part to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in China, the nation's enterprises are making equal efforts to resume their business and operations. China's coastal harbors are becoming busy again with giant vessels flowing through, heavy cranes being operated and container trucks shuttling back and forth.
"Ports in China, the world's manufacturing center, are key to the global supply chain. The smooth operation and delivery of resources and materials is a matter of life and death during a global pandemic," said Zhou Dequan, director of the Shanghai International Shipping Institute's domestic shipping research office.
Bai Ming, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said the integrity of the global supply chain has been damaged by the COVID-19 outbreak in overseas markets, and it is critical for China to supply anti-epidemic medical materials to the world and help other countries resume production and combat the virus.
"China's ports have been playing a critically important role in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak in that they provide unimpeded and sustained gateway services, and help keep international trade moving," said Michael Han, China managing director of APM Terminals.
After the outbreak of the epidemic, Shanghai International Port Group has attached equal importance to containing COVID-19 as it does to maintaining the smooth flow of shipments.
Currently, its daily operating capacity has returned to more than 90 percent of its normal level.
SIPG has been ranked as the world's busiest container port in terms of container throughput for 10 consecutive years. In 2019, it handled 43.3 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containers, reporting a net profit of 9 billion yuan ($1.27 billion), according to the company.
Zhejiang province's Ningbo Zhoushan Port, the world's largest port by throughput volume for 11 years in row, has restored most of its handling capacity. In March, it handled 2.28 million TEUs, only 2.5 percent less than a year ago, and 62.66 million tons of cargo in total, 9.2 percent less year-on-year, according to a public notice released by the port.
Mao Jianhong, chairman of Ningbo Zhoushan Port Group, has a deep understanding of the importance of the port to the national economy and the global supply chain.
"Ports serve as the barometer of a nation's economy, and it is crucial in the restoration of business, maintenance of the global industrial chain and the stability of supply chain," Mao said.
According to Zhou, all Chinese ports continued their services even during the most severe part of the contagion, although their performance was impaired by the interruption of the road distribution system, which led to a stockpiling of cargo at docks.
Because of stagnant logistics, falling demand and poor road transportation conditions, the amount of empty containers once reached 450,000 TEUs at the ports of SIPG, beyond the company's capacity of 390,000 TEUs. Through optimizing its resources, expanding its storage space, and leasing extra space from industrial counterparts, SIPG managed to increase its stockpile capacity by 200,000 TEUs.
Considering the importance of ocean shipping, which accounts for up to 90 percent of global cargo transportation, Zhou said China's resilient transportation through its ports will effectively underpin the recovery of the global supply chain after the COVID-19 outbreak.
"As we are shifting focus to resuming production in China and to supporting the entire global community fighting the virus, China's ports will continue to shoulder critical responsibilities on a much larger global stage," said Han at APM Terminals.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
To stay young requires unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods. - Robert Heinlein