China’s retreat from zero-Covid | Financial Times


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China has announced wide-ranging relaxations to President Xi Jinping’s contentious zero-Covid restrictions, including for the first time home quarantine, as further evidence emerged of the economic damage from the pandemic controls.

The new measures, outlined yesterday by the State Council, China’s cabinet, include the first explicit endorsement from the central government of isolating asymptomatic or mild coronavirus cases at home rather than at hospitals or centralised quarantine facilities. Some local governments had experimented with similar measures in recent days.

The State Council also said people should not have to show proof of a negative test before entering most public places — a relaxation recently implemented by cities including Beijing and Shanghai despite concerns that the rapid spread of Covid could overwhelm the medical system, especially in poorer rural areas.

China’s retreat from its zero-Covid policy, however, risks putting stress on the country’s health system and creating conditions for new variants that could spread around the world, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci warned at the FT’s Global Board Room summit on Wednesday.

One million Chinese people are at risk of dying from Covid-19 during the coming winter months if Xi pursues his pivot to remove strict pandemic controls, new modelling shows.

Covid graphic

Covid graphic

1. Beijing relents to US export-control checks The Biden administration says Beijing has begun to allow US inspections of Chinese businesses, with a number of companies facing a deadline to co-operate by this week or risk being put on a trade blacklist. Since the Trump administration, the Chinese commerce ministry had refused to allow checks to ensure that American technology was not being diverted for unauthorised activity.

2. Norway’s $1.3tn oil fund to take more aggressive stance on ESG The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will become a more vocal shareholder and plans to vote against companies that fail to set a net zero target, overpay their top leaders, or do not have sufficiently diverse boards.

3. Blackstone chief dismisses concerns over $69bn real estate fund Chief executive Stephen Schwarzman has spoken out for the first time since the investment group restricted withdrawals from the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, tying a spate of redemptions to investors facing stress in Asia.

4. Xi arrives in Saudi Arabia Chinese president Xi Jinping landed in Riyadh yesterday to meet leaders from the kingdom and Arab countries, as Beijing boosts its ties to a region viewed by Washington as within its sphere of influence. During the visit, Xi’s first since 2016, he is set to attend Gulf and Arab summits.

5. German police arrest 25 suspected of plotting rightwing coup Police have uncovered an alleged rightwing plot to storm the Bundestag and overthrow the government, in a case that highlights the threat posed to western states by far-right extremism turbocharged by radical conspiracy theories such as QAnon.

The day ahead

Reserve Bank of Australia bulletin The central bank will publish its monthly insights into the economy and financial system following the release of the September quarter growth figures yesterday.

Results due in Gujarat state elections Exit polls predict a decisive majority for Narendra Modi’s BJP party when results from the December 1 and December 5 polls are released today. (The Economic Times)

Shanghai Disneyland reopens The theme park, which closed on November 29 for the third time this year, is expected to reopen today after China announced it would ease its Covid-19 control measures. (SCMP, Reuters)

Latvia’s ban on TV Rain takes effect Earlier this week Latvia announced it would withdraw the broadcasting licence of exiled Russian news channel TV Rain following accusations that its journalists violated laws and spoke out in support of president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Join the FT’s top journalists in conversation with leaders in business and government at our Global Boardroom event, which runs through Friday. Register here for your free digital pass.

What else we’re reading and listening to

Lessons from one woman’s ascent to CEO in Japan Makiko Ono’s ascent to the top of Japanese drinks group Suntory is extremely rare in a country that has a tendency to evaluate employees based on the number of hours they work instead of their actual output. But it also shows how much more is needed to correct gender imbalance.

Asia’s richest man is on a capital raising spree Gautam Adani is embarking on a fundraising effort to manage his debt and continue his rapid expansion, as he confronts questions about the company’s leverage and investor pressure to move away from fossil fuels. Adani has pledged to invest $70bn in green energy technology by 2030, even as he continues to grow a multinational coal business.

Ukraine drone strikes show Russia it has ‘no safe zones’ Kyiv has for months urged its allies to supply long-range missiles. This week it showed it could conduct long-range strikes without western equipment — one only 160km from Moscow as it hopes to rattle public opinion and swing the Russian public against the conflict.

  • Related read: A Russian oil tanker sought to disguise its whereabouts by using sanction-busting techniques, adding to growing evidence that Moscow-linked operators have acquired the means to blunt western oil export restrictions.

The women turning to sex work to make ends meet A wave of women, driven in part by the darkening UK economic outlook, are starting or returning to sex work this year, a finding drawn out of Financial Times interviews with 23 sex workers, as well as 14 charities and advocacy groups in cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leicester, Wolverhampton and London.

Trump’s business empire sustains first legal blow in tax case This week’s tax fraud convictions against the Trump Organization carry a potential fine of $1.6mn, hardly an existential matter for the company estimated to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. But the verdict could pave the way for further convictions.

Thank you to readers who took our poll yesterday. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would like to work a four-day workweek.

Travel

With rising prices pushing France and Switzerland off-limits for many ski-home buyers, demand is growing in Italy’s Courmayeur, where the cuisine and quiet pistes add to the appeal.

Courmayeur in Italy’s Aosta Valley © Ian Dagnall/Alamy

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