World Newsletter

23 January 2020


China stands ready to work with the international community to effectively curb the spread of the pneumonia cases caused by a new strain of coronavirus to uphold global health security, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday.

Xi made the remark in telephone conversations with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday.

Xi said that since the outbreak of the contagion, China has made all-out efforts to prevent and control the disease, promptly disclose related information, and informed the World Health Organization as well as relevant countries and regions about the disease in a timely manner.

Macron said his country supports China in actively dealing with the contagion and is willing to strengthen bilateral health cooperation.

Merkel appreciates China's efforts to contain the spread of the contagious disease in a timely manner, and said Beijing remains open and transparent in developing international cooperation on the outbreak. Germany stands ready to provide support and assistance to China, she added.

During the telephone talks with the European leaders, Xi also stressed China's commitment to further strengthen relations with the two countries as well as the European Union.

He underlined the need for Beijing and Paris to implement the consensus he and Macron reached on pragmatic cooperation, take into account each other's major concerns, and advance collaboration in such fields as civilian nuclear energy, science and technology and aerospace.

Xi said the Chinese market is open to the world and will continue to be open to France and Europe. He called for strengthening communication and coordination between China and France on the reform of World Trade Organization to move it forward in the right direction.

Noting that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU, Xi expressed the hope that both sides could reach a high-level investment agreement.

They should also work together to uphold multilateralism and free trade, improve global governance, build an open world economy and jointly deal with global challenges such as climate change in order to take China-EU relations to a new and higher stage, Xi said.

Macron said he expects to visit China again, and his country stands ready to strengthen bilateral trade and investment cooperation as well as teamwork in international affairs. He reiterated that France will not take discriminatory measures against any country or company in terms of 5G technologies.

In his telephone conversation with Merkel, Xi said China and Germany shoulder important responsibilities given the increasingly unstable world situation. He expressed the hope that China and Germany could become partners who depend on each other despite their ideological differences.

Saying that the Chinese market keeps growing, Xi told Merkel that China's economic and trade cooperation with relevant countries will not impact on the interests of its other trade partners, including Germany and the EU. China hopes Germany will continue to create a level-playing field for Chinese companies, Xi said.

Merkel said her country is happy about China's agreement with the United States on the phase-one trade deals. She said German's market will continue to open to China and her country will treat foreign companies in a fair manner, including Chinese companies.

Merkel said her country stands ready to have close communication with China in the hope that positive progress will be made in the EU-China Investment Agreement, jointly dealing with climate change and the third-country market cooperation. Cooperation between China and Central and East European countries is an important part of EU-China cooperation, she added.

Xi also exchanged views with Macron and Merkel on major international and regional issues, including the Iran nuclear issue.



The World Health Organization (WHO) director-general said on Wednesday that measures being taken in the Chinese city of Wuhan to close down transport to limit spread of the new coronavirus showed commitment to minimizing risks locally and abroad.

"What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment. So based on the situation they are taking the action they deem is appropriate, is very important,” WHO Director-General Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We stressed to them that by having a strong action not only they will control the outbreak in their country but they will also minimize the chances of this outbreak spreading internationally. So they recognize that," he said.

WHO officials said that they have not seen third- or fourth-generation transmission of the virus in China or secondary-level spread in countries where it has spread.

The WHO said it will decide Thursday whether to declare a global emergency over the outbreak of the flulike virus spreading in and beyond China.



Cases of the new coronavirus pneumonia disease rose to 571 on the Chinese mainland as of Wednesday midnight, including 95 in critical condition, and fatalities rose to 17, China's National Health Commission said on Thursday morning.

In addition, 393 suspected cases were reported as of Wednesday midnight. All the reported deaths were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Outside the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan each confirmed one case.

Thailand confirmed three cases, while the United States, Japan and South Korea reported one confirmed case each, the commission said.

Health authorities have traced 5,897 people who had close contact with the patients, and 969 of them have been released from medical observation, with 4,928 still under medical observation.

Earlier on the same day, the government of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreaks, announced a suspension of the city's public transport system, including buses, subway and ferry, and exits of airport and railway stations in the city, for disease control.

Upgraded measures are being taken to contain the outbreak of viral pneumonia within Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, to prevent it further spreading to other regions.

"We must be steadfast and strong to keep the outbreak within Wuhan. We'll urge Hubei province and the city of Wuhan to take the strictest measures for prevention and control," Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said on Wednesday.

Such measures include intensifying supervision of open-air markets, minimizing public activities, taking the strictest measures regarding people with fever and preventing the outbreak from further spreading, he said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office.

The Wuhan government required all people in public places such as hotels, restaurants, cinemas, parks, shopping centers and public transportation to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus, according to an announcement on Wednesday night. The rule took effect immediately.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Western powers to treat China equally and to not try and freeze it out of the international system, which would risk creating another Cold War-style bipolar order.

Speaking after receiving a prize at the American Academy in Berlin, Merkel said: "I plead for us not to fall into a new bipolarity, but rather that we try, with the results and experiences we have, to include a country like China in multilateralism and treat it at least equally."

The remarks from such an experienced and influential Western leader certainly deserve to be heeded. As a far-sighted Western leader who has been through the Cold War era, Merkel clearly knows the world cannot afford to see that dark episode of history repeat itself.

But judging from the US' stubborn desire to contain China's development, especially the advancement of its science and technology sector, and the US administration's perception of Beijing as a rival and strategic competitor, there is no guarantee that a new bipolarity will not occur.

Fortunately, a growing number of people share Merkel's concerns and they are aware of the risks of US unilateralism and isolationism, which have fueled the current China-US tensions. These who have a more clear-sighted view of China are not willing to jump on the US bandwagon.

As an indispensable force for maintaining world peace and development, China is increasingly looked upon to rally international efforts to address global and regional challenges such as climate change, the Iranian nuclear crisis and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

China's long-standing insistence on upholding multilateralism to address these issues has won wide international recognition. Not to mention that China's peaceful development and huge market means opportunities, rather than threats, to countries around the world.

Merkel's latest remarks on China can also be well explained by the wide support among lawmakers in her conservative bloc for companies to be free of political influence when rolling out Germany's 5G network.

Against the backdrop of the continuous pressure imposed on its global allies by the US, which seeks to stop them from forging business deals with China's telecommunications giant Huawei, the fairness and justice embodied in Merkel's remarks will hopefully give pause to the vilification and victimization of the Chinese company.

With prominent figures in the international community such as Merkel willing to stand up to denounce the beggar-everyone-else approach of the US, the world will undoubtedly hear more voices of reason calling for fair and equal treatment of China.



China has stepped up efforts to combat unauthorized and unregulated online loans usually charged at exorbitant rates of interest, which have resulted in some borrowers breaking the law to repay them.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, by the end of last year, 41,000 people suspected of involvement in illegal online lending had been detained, with the total amount exceeding 57.7 billion yuan ($8.36 billion).

On Oct 18, a court in Linhai, a city in Zhejiang province, settled a major case involving such loans, in which the main defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 800,000 yuan.

A man surnamed Lin went to the police in Wenling, Zhejiang, on April 26 when he was told to repay more than 200,000 yuan after initially borrowing just 1,500 yuan.

Lin borrowed the initial amount from an online loans company in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, in February, and was told to repay the sum within five days, with a default charge of 500 yuan per hour. Moreover, he was ordered to write the company an IOU for 3,000 yuan.

After he failed to repay the loan on time, the company suggested that Lin borrow money from other platforms. By March 16, his debts had snowballed to more than 200,000 yuan.

The company kept calling Lin and contacts it found on his mobile phone, threatening to shame him on the internet. It was at this point that he turned to the police for help.

According to a guideline released by the Supreme People's Court this month, leniency in the form of a one- to three-month grace period will be shown to wrongdoers on credit blacklists who are restricted from buying certain products and services for defaulting on court orders.

Students who lose their creditworthy status after falling victim to illegal campus loans will be exempt from being placed on such blacklists or from being restricted from buying some goods and services, according to the guideline.

The document said wrongdoers' children are not allowed to attend schools that charge high tuition fees.

In cases where such restrictions are imposed, courts should communicate with young children and their schools to avoid any "negative effects", the document said, adding that the punishment should not affect their legal right to an education.

Credit blacklists will be made public if wrongdoers continue to default on their court orders after the grace period, the document said.

Such periods will be granted based on the "determination of defaulters to fulfill their duties" and on the severity of their cases.



Li Chenglin, director of the passenger transport department at Fuyang West Railway Station, said the newly opened high-speed railway station is capable of handling 43,000 passengers a day, far more than the expected peak of about 28,000 a day during this year's travel rush.

He said the high-speed railway station and the old one in Fuyang will handle more than 1.74 million Spring Festival passengers this year, up nearly 20 percent year-on-year.

Zhao Jian, a professor specializing in railways at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that whether migrant workers' seasonal travel would be made easier depends on the high-speed network's accessibility in rural areas, the frequency of existing rail services and ticket prices.

"The system will bring improvements. High-speed rail can ease our transportation bottlenecks," he said. "Not all migrant workers require high-speed trains, but if more passengers take the high-speed trains, that should relieve pressure on the ordinary ones."



While many in China are taking high-speed trains back home for the upcoming Spring Festival, Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert, rode the rails on Saturday to Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of the viral pneumonia outbreak.

Zhong, 84, who heads a National Health Commission expert panel conducting research on the new epidemic, was the first to confirm on Monday during an interview with China Central Television that the new coronavirus can be transmitted between humans.

He advised people not to travel to and from Wuhan as he worked to combat the outbreak.

Two photos circulated widely on social media by Guangzhou Daily showed Zhong taking a short break on the train and rushing to a hospital in Wuhan to learn about patients' conditions.

Zhong played a huge role in discovering the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus in 2003, and he managed the SARS outbreak in Guangdong province at the time. He was dubbed the "SARS hero", and his efforts made him a household name across the country.

Zhong, then 67, was head of the expert task force appointed to fight the disease in the province.

When SARS cases peaked in late February 2003 in Guangdong, researchers at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced they had detected the SARS pathogen and identified it as a new type of chlamydia.

Zhong and other doctors in Guangdong questioned the finding. With their clinical virology experience, they believed SARS was much more likely to be caused by an unknown virus.

The family of bacteria called chlamydia can be contained by antibiotics, yet antibiotics were ineffectual against SARS.

On April 12, 2003, Zhong and his colleagues isolated the coronavirus from specimens taken from SARS patients.

Four days later, the WHO announced that the coronavirus is responsible for causing the typical symptoms of SARS.



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