Within the past month, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus has stricken China and the rest of the world, with over 600 deaths and 31,000 confirmed cases. President Xi Jinping has described China's response to the respiratory illness as combatting "a people's war" and has told President Trump that China is sparing no effort to contain the spread of a disease. Hospitals have been built in record time, city-wide quarantines have been put in place, and clinical trials for a vaccine are being tested. Even so, China is receiving backlash over its management of the outbreak, with some criticizing the authorities for acting too slow during the initial stages of the outbreak. Chinese netizens have also taken to social media over the treatment and death of a Wuhan doctor, who died Thursday of the novel coronavirus. The doctor, Li Wenliang, was reprimanded by authorities for "rumor-mongering" after informing his medical school classmates of the spreading virus.
So far, the virus has spread to over 25 countries and territories, and has quarantined two cruise ships in Japan and Hong Kong. Airlines have grounded travel to and from China, with Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific asking staff to take three weeks of unpaid leave and cutting 30% of the airline's services, including 90% of flights to mainland China.
The People's Bank of China has meanwhile freed up funding and cut interest rates in order to soften the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. An additional 150 billion yuan was pumped in to "keep liquidity in the banking system at a reasonably sufficient level in the epidemic control period," with further interest rate cuts expected later this month. China is also asking the U.S. for some respite on delivering trade deal commitments, citing a "flexibility clause" in the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event. Starting on February 14th, China will halve tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. imports in order to keep up with its trade deal promises. To maintain economic stability throughout the outbreak, China has a vested interest to keep trade peace with the US at this moment, according to Chen Dongxiao, President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, in his latest piece for China-US Focus.
Prepared by China-US Focus editorial teams in Hong Kong and New York, this weekly newsletter offers you snap shots of latest trends and developments emerging from China every week, while adding a dose of historical perspective.