I am posting two articles from the NY Times.
#1 ‘‘I’m Very Anxious’: China’s Lockdowns Leave Millions Out of Work -- Migrant workers and recent college graduates have been hit hardest by shuttered factories, closed construction sites and an anemic job market.
After over a month in lockdown, Zeng Jialin could finally return to the Shanghai auto parts factory where he had worked. He was about to be released from an isolation facility, having recovered from Covid-19, and was desperate to make up for the many days of wages he had missed.
But on Tuesday, the day he was supposed to be released, someone in the crowded isolation facility tested positive again. Mr. Zeng, 48, was ordered to wait 14 more days.
“I have three kids, in college, middle school and elementary school. The pressure is huge,” he said in a phone interview from the facility. Much of his $30 daily wage had supported them. “I also owe money to the bank, so I’m very anxious.”
As China battles its worst coronavirus outbreaks, its uncompromising determination to eliminate infections has left millions unable to work. Stringent lockdowns, hitting city after city, have forced factories and businesses to shut, sometimes for weeks, including in some of the country’s most important economic centers.
Two groups have been especially hard-hit: migrant workers — the roughly 280 million laborers who travel from rural areas to cities to work in sectors such as manufacturing and construction — and recent college graduates. Nearly 11 million college students, a record, are expected to graduate this year.
China’s campaign against the virus has rippled economically around the world, snarling supply chains and dampening imports. But employment woes may particularly concern Chinese leaders, who have long derived much of their political authority from their promise of economic prosperity. As lockdowns have hampered people’s ability to pay rent and buy food, many have grown increasingly frustrated with the authorities’ zero-Covid policies. Sometimes, dissatisfaction has erupted into rare public protests.
China’s No. 2 official, Li Keqiang, announced recently that the government would take the unusual step of distributing living allowances to unemployed migrant workers and subsidize companies that hired young people.
“The new round of Covid flare-ups has hit employment quite hard,” Mr. Li said on April 27. “We must do whatever possible to boost job creation, especially for key groups such as college graduates.”
It is difficult to judge the true scale of the problem. Officially, urban unemployment, the government’s primary indicator, grew just 0.3 percent between February and March, even as lockdowns paralyzed the economic engines of Shenzhen and Shanghai.
But the official unemployment figures are widely considered an undercount. They do not capture many migrant workers, and they also count people as unemployed only if they are able to start working within two weeks. That would exclude people under extended lockdowns or the growing numbers of young people deferring job searches.
The government’s new support measures suggest that the problem is more serious than officials have let on, said Stephen Roach, a former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and now a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University. The government also increased unemployment payments for migrant workers before the global financial crisis in 2008.
“The announcement itself is a hint that there is potentially something a lot bigger going on in this contingent piece of the labor market,” Mr. Roach said. “This could well be China’s biggest challenge since the ’08-09 period.”
China’s migrant workers, though they form the backbone of the country’s economy, have always eked out precarious livelihoods. They earn meager wages and have almost no labor protections or benefits, circumstances made worse by the pandemic.
Workers often live in company dormitories or cheap temporary accommodations, but when factories shut down, many could no longer afford rent or became trapped on their work sites, according to Chinese news reports and social media posts. Some slept under bridges or in phone booths.
Yang Jiwei, a 21-year-old from Anhui Province, worked as a waiter in Shanghai when the lockdown began. His residence, shared with four other people, had no kitchen supplies, so they could not cook the few packages of vegetables and meat that local officials had provided. He had been eating a dwindling supply of instant noodles.
“I get up, eat, and then I go back to bed,” Mr. Yang said. “Other than food, I can’t think about anything else.”
Delivery workers, some of the only laborers allowed to continue working, had to choose between forgoing income or risking being locked out of their homes. Others took high-risk jobs building or staffing isolation facilities, only to become infected themselves.
Officials in Shanghai have acknowledged that the number of homeless people has increased during the lockdown. Local and central authorities have pledged support, but many questions remain.
When Mr. Li, the premier, announced the expanded unemployment subsidies, he did not specify how much money would be provided. (Xinhua, the state news agency, said the government this year had allocated about $9.3 billion in unemployment subsidies.) Nor is it clear how workers will receive the money. Though China has unemployment insurance, many migrant workers are ineligible or do not know how to claim it.
Mr. Zeng, the auto parts factory worker, said he was not aware of Mr. Li’s remarks and had never heard of unemployment insurance. He hoped to be employed after being released from quarantine, but knew that he might have to return home to Guizhou Province instead.
Still, any political risk to Beijing is likely to remain small, said Aidan Chau, a researcher at China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group. The migrant workers’ pain, while acute, is likely to ebb as individual lockdowns ease. The government has also promised to invest in infrastructure projects to provide more construction jobs. And migrant workers in general have little political power and can be silenced by local officials if they complain.
The more intractable problem may be white-collar employment. Resistance in Shanghai to the lockdown has been fueled in part by its large population of well-educated residents, who are more accustomed to speaking out even in the country’s highly controlled environment. In late March, residents of one middle-class community gathered outside and chanted, “We want to eat, we want to work!”
Of particular concern are the country’s ballooning ranks of college graduates. Policymakers have worried for years about how to ensure an adequate supply of jobs for them. But the shortage has become especially dire this year.
At the same time as lockdowns have battered small and medium enterprises, the government has also embarked on a wide-ranging regulatory crackdown on sectors including technology, real estate and education — once highly desirable industries for young people. Mass layoffs have ensued.
There were just 0.71 jobs available for every recently graduated job applicant in the first quarter of this year, the lowest figure since data became available in 2019, according to a report by Renmin University in Beijing and Zhaopin, a jobs website.
“For a country that is always fixated on social stability, to have your young people struggling for employment as they get out of college is not exactly what a system like that would like,” said Mr. Roach, at Yale.
Mr. Li’s promises to aid college graduates last month included plans to help them start their own businesses and to subsidize companies that offered internships.
Even internships are hard to come by. To increase his odds of landing one this semester, Xu Yixing, a vocational college student in Shanghai, had offered to work unpaid but was still turned down by his top choices. A pharmaceutical company eventually hired him but let him go when Shanghai locked down.
Mr. Xu, who studies computer applications and advertising, said he was not overly anxious about the competition. It was the pandemic that worried him.
“With the epidemic, that just depends on fate,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how hard you work.”
#2Has Shanghai Been Xinjianged? Shanghai used to be the glamorous China, while Xinjiang was the dark China. Now both are casualties of authoritarian excess.
Shanghai and Xinjiang used to be the two sides of the China coin.
Shanghai was the glamorous China, with skyscrapers, Art Deco apartments and a thriving middle class that shopped in Paris and strolled around Kyoto, Japan.
Xinjiang was the dark China. The western frontier region, which is twice the size of Texas, is home to more than 10 million Muslim ethnic minorities who have been subject to mass detentions, religious repression and intrusive digital and physical surveillance.
Since April, the 25 million residents of Shanghai have gotten a small taste of the Xinjiang treatment in a strict citywide lockdown. They have been lining up for rounds of Covid-19 tests to prove they are virus-free, a pandemic corollary to Uyghurs lining up at checkpoints to prove they don’t pose any security threat.
The political slogans in the government’s zero-Covid campaign echo those in the Xinjiang crackdowns. Residents in both places are subject to social control and surveillance. Instead of re-education camps in Xinjiang, about half a million Shanghai residents who tested positive were sent to quarantine camps.
What many Shanghai residents are experiencing doesn’t compare to the violence and cruelty that Uyghurs and Kazakhs (( are you familar with these items? I know of the crackdown on the Uyghurs, but never heard of the Kazahks)) have endured in Xinjiang since 2017. But they’re all victims of senseless political campaigns that are driven by paranoia, insecurity and authoritarian excess.
As more Chinese cities impose strict lockdowns, people are seriously discussing, possibly for the first time, whether they will be able to take back the little individual liberty they had before surrendering it to the government during the pandemic.
“Shanghai lockdown is a stress test of social control,” Wang Lixiong, an author of books on Xinjiang, Tibet and surveillance, said in an interview. “If the authority can control a complex society like Shanghai, it can control any place in China.”
Mr. Wang, who has written nonfiction as well as science fiction, has been locked down in Shanghai since March. He fears an even more dystopian China than what it is today: a digital totalitarian regime that surveils everyone, makes each neighborhood an on-site concentration camp and controls the society with the same iron fist in a future crisis, be it war, famine, climate disaster or economic meltdown.
A retired journalist in Shanghai wrote on his social media WeChat timeline that he was not afraid of the virus. Instead, he’s more worried that the government will retain all the social control mechanisms it has used during the lockdown to treat people like pigs and criminals.
Murong Xuecun, author of a new book about the Wuhan lockdown, “Deadly Quiet City,” said he and his friends had talked a few years ago about the risk of the rest of China’s becoming more like Xinjiang. But he didn’t expect it would happen so quickly.
“The pandemic did a huge favor to the Chinese Communist Party, which took the opportunity to expand its power infinitely,” he said in an interview.
One of the most striking similarities between the Shanghai lockdown and the Xinjiang crackdown are the political slogans used by the authorities. In Xinjiang, a repeated order to detain Uyghurs in large number said, “Round up everyone who should be rounded up.” In Shanghai, the government demonstrated its determination in sending half a million people to quarantine camps with the slogan, “Take in all who should be taken in.” In Chinese they’re the same four characters.
Both the Xinjiang crackdown and the Shanghai lockdown are political campaigns that can be explained only through the governing rationale of the ruling Communist Party: Do whatever it takes to achieve the leadership's goal.
That was why Mao’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the Great Famine, why the Cultural Revolution devolved into a decade of political chaos and economic destruction and why the one-child policy left many women traumatized and the country with a demographic crisis. In each case, the leadership mobilized the whole nation to chase after a goal at any expense. In each case, it resulted in a catastrophe.
In Xinjiang, the “strike hard” campaign sent about one million Muslims to re-education camps for what the government considered problematic behavior, such as giving up alcohol, praying or visiting a foreign country. They were interrogated, beaten up and forced into endless indoctrination sessions.
In Shanghai, the authorities sent people who tested positive for Covid to makeshift quarantine camps. It didn’t matter that some of the people have recovered from the infection and have tested negative. It didn’t matter whether they were 2 months old or 90 years old. The conditions of some quarantine centers are so abysmal that they’re referred to on social media as refugee camps or gulags.
Two young professionals documented some of the older people they encountered at their quarantine camps with a podcast, an article and photos on WeChat. They met one man who was recovering from a stroke and couldn’t use the portable toilets, another who lost his eyesight after his medication ran out and a 95-year-old woman who was so frail that she had to be carried from the bus to the camp.
These older people would most likely have been much better off staying at home or at hospitals with proper care. Instead they ended up in the camps because of the government’s order to “take in all those who should be taken in.”
With the lockdowns in Shanghai and elsewhere, the Chinese government is moving resolutely in the direction of a social control mechanism deployed in Xinjiang that combines surveillance technology and grass-roots organizations, according scholars and human-rights activists.
“There is a real fear that China could become more like Xinjiang or North Korea,” said Maya Wang, senior researcher of Human Rights Watch who has done extensive work on the repression in Xinjiang. “Watching Xi Jinping since 2013,” she said of China’s top leader, “I think the Covid control is almost like a milestone toward deepening repression.”
Nearly all Chinese people have a health code in their phone that indicates their Covid risk and dictates the parameters of their movement. Some people fear that the government will keep the system and use it post-Covid. For example, it could turn the health pass into a security pass and flag “troublemakers” to restrict their movements.
Like the Muslims in Xinjiang, the people in Shanghai and many other cities lost their rights and the protection of law in lockdowns.
A city in northern Hebei Province made headlines when community workers demanded that residents surrender their keys so they could be locked up from outside. In Shanghai, community workers covered the insides of apartments with disinfectant after residents tested positive, even though there’s no scientific evidence that disinfectant can kill coronavirus. In a widely circulated video and a social media Weibo post, a woman documented how a group of police officers had broken the door of her apartment and taken her to a quarantine camp even though they couldn’t present a Covid test report. When her Covid test came back negative hours later, she was already in a camp, according to her posts.
A lawyer in the southern city of Shenzhen told me that he was furious when a surveillance camera was installed in front of his apartment door during a home quarantine and when his building was locked after a neighbor tested positive this year. There was nothing he could do. He bought a ladder so he could escape next time.
Some lawyers and legal scholars voiced their concerns that some pandemic control measures are obvious violation of the law. “The destruction of the rule of law is a far worse social pandemic than a biological pandemic,” wrote Zhao Hong, a law professor in Beijing.
No one in the leadership has listened. Nor have they listened to medical experts who have said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is much milder, though more infectious, than previous versions and that China should recalibrate its zero-Covid policy. Nor did they listen to economists and entrepreneurs worried about a potential recession. Many articles with professional opinions were censored.
As those in Shanghai and the rest of China lost their rights, the middle class experienced a great disillusionment.
#3 We hear that China TV is repeating Russian based propaganda. In the West, we have many news sources covering the political spectrum. Most all say that the Russian army has failed, grossly mismanaged, and overloaded with corruption. Leadership is top down, and generals have to approve of activities. The Ukraine army leaves all field decisions to captain level soldiers. This means quick responses and worked well north of Kiev.. The Russians may be learning, but now are relying on drones and artillery, not tanks. The US is sending billions in arms, and providing intelligence from space. The war has gone down to artillery battles. Outside of the Bucha massacre, no large scale civilian massacres have been reported, just isolated cases. Russian troops loot supermarkets and liquor stores.
What do you hear about Ukrainian Nazis? I can explain if you wish. Answer "Yes, i want to hear if interested"