Tag Archives: Hebei

Hebei Covid-19 Resurgence Awkwardly Interrupts China’s Political Calendar

Chart of seven-day rolling average of new daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 per million people in China since December 1, 2020.

THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK in Hebei, being so close to Beijing, is causing authorities concern and the return of what are lockdowns in everything but name.

Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, and nearby Nangong and Xinle cities, are being cordoned off. Residents are instructed to stay home, driving on city streets is banned and travel to the region is restricted.

In Nangong, six emergency hospitals with 6,500 beds are being built, according to state media. A 3,000-bed isolation centre is under construction in Shijiazhuang, where 10 million residents had been tested for the virus by late Friday. The cartoon version of the response is here.

There are also new clusters of cases in Beijing and the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Liaoning. The National Health Commission reported 130 new confirmed cases nationally in the 24 hours through midnight Friday, 90 of them in Hebei. (These are, it should be said, still relatively tiny numbers; the comparable number for confirmed cases per million people in the United States, for example, is 6,000 times higher than the number shown in the chart above for China.)

The commission blames the outbreak on people or frozen food arriving from abroad. It also says the virus is spreading unusually quickly. Since Jan. 2, Shijiazhuang has registered 745 locally-transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases, including one death.

No resurgence is welcome, but this one is especially ill-timed. It comes one month ahead of New Year, with the massive cross-country travel that usually involves, and two months before the ‘Two Sessions’ meetings (the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference).

The preparatory round of provincial-level two sessions meetings has just got underway. Hebei and Liaoning have been forced to postpone theirs.

The national meetings were delayed and shortened last year because of the pandemic. A second postponement would deny the leadership of a stage from which China’s leading role in recovering from Covid-19 could be lauded. This outcome would be doubly embarrassing if the cause were a resurgence of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) research team has finally made it to Wuhan to investigate the initial outbreak there just over a year ago. Its members are halfway through the first week of their two-week quarantine.

Their requests to interview caregivers, former patients and lab workers (by video while in quarantine) appear to be being rebuffed, suggesting authorities will be reluctant to share information that is politically sensitive in as much as it could undermine the official narrative that China shares no blame for the outbreak’s origin.

Hua Chunying, one of the Foreign Ministry spokespersons, has again called for the US to open its military labs to the WHO as part of the search for the virus’s origin, so no quarter is being given.

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Filed under Politics & Society

Persistent Drought Starts To Threaten China’s Crops

Dried-up bed of the Xinba reservoir in Shilin County, Yunnan Province, March 22, 2012.

The persistent drought that has hit 13 provinces in southwest and central China is starting to have an adverse impact on farming, China’s drought-relief officials have indicated for the first time. The fear is that the spring planting on 4 million hectares of crop land is threatened by the shortage of water. Reservoirs, such as the one in the picture above, in Shilin County, Yunnan, have dried up, worsening China’s structural water shortages. Approaching 8 million people and 4.6 million head of livestock are short of drinking water, officials say, with the latest number suggesting the impact of the lack of rain is spreading with the drought now in its third year in some parts. Yunnan, Sichuan, Hebei, Shanxi and Gansu are worse affected. A widespread emergency relief effort is underway.

Footnote: The main cash crops in Yunnan, where the drought is most intense, are rice, maize and wheat. The province is also known for its tobacco and tea.


Filed under Agriculture, Environment

North China Plain Drought Leaves Millions Facing Water Shortages

Three months of drought across the North China Plain is leaving millions short of drinking water, Xinhua reports. There are concerns that the situation will worsen. Lack of rain has affected the wheat growing belt across six provinces from Shandong on the coast to Shanxi in the center of the country. Hebei has had only 2 mms of rain since November, 80% less than normal. Shandong is said to be facing its worst drought in a century. Fire trucks are delivering drinking water to residents.

A fifth of the farmland planted to winter wheat on the North China Plain, some 2 million hectares, has been affected by the drought. Direct economic losses are put at more than 1 billion yuan, with more to come as there is no relief to the drought in sight. Cloud seeding to induce rain and snow is likely.

The government, concerned about the effect of the prolonged drought on the spring harvest of the winter wheat crop, has already allocated 4 billion yuan ($607 billion) for farm irrigation and rural water conservation. Last week, following a State Council meeting on the current drought chaired by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, it allocated a further 2.2 billion yuan to drought relief. Wen visited drought affected areas in Henan last week.

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China Frees Three Of Four Detained Japanese

China has released three of the four Japanese arrested at the height of the fishing trawler dispute and accused of entering a military facility in Hebei. Xinhua reports that the three admitted to having broken Chinese law. The fourth, Sada Takahashi, is still under investigation for videotaping military targets. He remains under house arrest. The four work for a Tokyo construction company which says said they had been preparing a bid to dispose of World War II-era chemical weapons.

The releases match the pattern of fishing trawler incident, with Japan having initially released the crew but keeping the captain under arrest. That incident brought Sino-Japanese relations to a low ebb and the manner in which China is dealing with these latest releases suggests that it is in no hurry to better them. If Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu’s latest comments are anything to go buy, Beijing sees the impetus being on Tokyo to improve them.


Filed under China-Japan