Villages across China are returning to normal.Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock
China’s Covid tsunami recedes
When China dropped its “zero Covid” policy, many feared a prolonged, crushing tide of infections rippling from cities to rural areas. Just two months later, China appears to have moved past the worst of its Covid wave — for now.
One possible reason: Covid appears to have jumped from cities to the countryside faster than expected. Some health officials think as many as 80 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people were infected in late 2022, though some are skeptical of that estimate. The worst may be already over.
Now, the Communist Party has turned its attention to reviving the economy. Many ordinary Chinese seem eager to move on from the pandemic and focus on making a living again. Doctors who were mobilized across China to treat a rush of Covid patients said in phone interviews that the number of patients they were now seeing had fallen.
But China is still vulnerable to fresh outbreaks, especially as immunity wanes. The Lunar New Year is ending, and normal life is resuming. That could send the virus to places that managed to avoid the recent surge.
Numbers: Official statistics are often shrouded by censorship and poor data collection. Officially, China has reported nearly 79,000 Covid-related deaths that have occurred in hospitals since Dec. 8. That is likely a drastic undercount because it excludes deaths outside hospitals.
Russia’s economic lifelines
Western sanctions have cut off Russia’s economy from a variety of products. Even so, Russian trade appears to have largely bounced back to where it was before the invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Recent data show surges in trade in neighboring countries, suggesting that Turkey, China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and others are providing new lifelines that are keeping the Russian economy afloat.
Analysts estimate that Russia’s imports may have already recovered to prewar levels, or will soon do so. The International Monetary Fund said it now expected the Russian economy to grow 0.3 percent this year, a sharp improvement from its previous estimate of a 2.3 percent contraction.
Covid-19 in China
The decision by the Chinese government to cast aside its restrictive “zero Covid” policy at the end of 2022 set off an explosive Covid outbreak.
- A Receding Wave: Two months after China abandoned its Covid rules, the worst seems to have passed, and the government is eager to shift attention to economic recovery.
- Economic Challenges: Years of Covid lockdowns took a brutal toll on Chinese businesses. Now, the rapid spread of the virus after a chaotic reopening has deprived them of workers and customers.
- Digital Finger-Pointing: The Communist Party’s efforts to limit discord over its sudden “zero Covid” pivot are being challenged with increasing rancor on the internet.
Finance: Iran and Russia moved toward linking their banking systems, a step that would help both countries withstand sanctions.
The economic outlook: The I.M.F. said a worldwide recession would probably be avoided despite a slowdown in the global economy. The war in Ukraine continues to weigh on activity and sow uncertainty, the agency said.
Other war updates:
Russia poured more fighters into the battle to capture the eastern city of Bakhmut.
France said it would deliver 12 additional Caesar howitzers to Ukraine.
Sri Lanka’s rebound that wasn’t
The chaos that gripped Sri Lanka in recent months has subsided. But underneath the veneer of calm, the nation’s economy remains on a ventilator.
The government defaulted on its debt last spring and has yet to secure a way out. Inflation, which peaked at around 90 percent during the worst of the crisis, remains at a punishing 59 percent. And the political elite, who were largely responsible for the economic devastation, still call the shots.
In the meantime, Sri Lankans have grown accustomed to diminished lives. Nearly 30 percent of the population is experiencing food insecurity, according to the U.N. People are leaving the country to seek jobs elsewhere.
Sri Lanka is now in discussions with the I.M.F. to secure a $2.9 billion bailout package. But it owes a large share of its debt to China, and the I.M.F. requires that Sri Lanka get assurances from China on restructuring its outstanding debt. Those talks are moving slowly.
Background: In July, the country’s president resigned after months of protests over the economic hardship.
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Around the World
Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, conceded that Palestinian independence seemed less likely when he visited Ramallah yesterday.
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The initial police report from Memphis described Tyre Nichols as irate and violent. Video evidence offered a starkly different account.
The Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour will play three events this year at courses owned by Donald Trump.
In the latest bizarre episode at the Dallas Zoo, someone seems to have taken two monkeys.
A Morning Read
Italy is the fastest-shrinking nation in the West: Its population is aging as its birthrate plummets. The demographic double whammy puts Italy at the forefront of a global trend that experts call the “silver tsunami.”
The country recently passed laws to care for older Italians, which could be a test case for other Western countries. But without more young people to join the work force and pay into pension and welfare systems, the whole system is imperiled.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The decline of Black New York
New York has long been a global center of Black art and culture. But as the city gets more expensive, Black families are moving out.
In the past two decades, the Black population has declined by nearly 200,000 people, or about 9 percent. The number of Black children and teenagers fell disproportionately quickly, more than 19 percent, from 2010 to 2020. Even Harlem lost more than 5,000 Black people over a decade. Nearly 9,000 white people moved in.
Wealth gaps are a driving factor. Black households have a median income of $53,000, compared with roughly $98,000 for white households. As they seek lower costs, some are just moving to nearby towns in places like New Jersey. But many are moving to the South, an inverse of the Great Migration.
The exodus could have major implications for the city’s education system and job market. But that’s not all that could be lost. If Black people can’t afford to live in the city, the film director Spike Lee said, “you could seriously say New York City isn’t the greatest city in the world.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
This version of tamale pie uses vegetarian chili under a cornbread crust.
What to Read
Ann-Helén Laestadius drew on her background as a member of the Sámi, an Indigenous Arctic culture, for her novel “Stolen.”
What to Watch
The documentary “Pamela, a Love Story” presents Pamela Anderson’s life unadorned.
A juice cleanse might make you feel better, but there’s not much science behind it.
Now Time to Play
Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Success for a fisherman or a wide receiver (five letters).
Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia and Dan
P.S. Sia Michel has been named as our next Culture editor.
“The Daily” is on the damage that drought has caused to the Colorado River.
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