Changing of the Guard
President Biden's nominee to head the CIA, William Burns, promised to strengthen America's national security approach towards China during his confirmation hearing this Wednesday. Burns, who has spent over 30 years as a diplomat and was ambassador to both Russia and Jordan, called China "a formidable, authoritarian adversary." Analysts expect Burns to receive bipartisan support for his confirmation.
In another confirmation hearing, President Biden's nominee for U.S. trade representative, Katherine Tai, backed the Phase One trade agreement this Thursday and called on China to deliver on the commitments it agreed to. "China is simultaneously a rival, a trade partner and an outsized player whose cooperation we'll also need to address certain global challenges," Tai said.
Like Burns, Tai is expected to receive broad support from the Senate. If confirmed, Tai will need to review a long list of Trump-era tariffs that have escalated tensions within the U.S.-China relationship, and may play a role in Biden's plan to reassess supply chains with China and beyond. Read Tai's Trade Challenges from Zainab Zaheer on China-US Focus for more on the future of U.S. trade.
One Policy, Two Sessions
China released its "No. 1 policy document" this Sunday ahead of the Two Sessions meeting, the country's largest annual parliament gathering. The document, which is published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council, outlines the country's strategy towards agriculture and rural development, and sets provincial quotas for grain yields in an effort to increase domestic grain production. China's "No. 1 policy document" has been laser-focused on rural issues since 2003.
On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country had met its standards for eradicating extreme rural poverty, defined as a daily income of $1.69 at current exchange rates. By comparison, the World Bank's global benchmark for poverty is $1.90 a day. At a ceremony celebrating China's efforts to alleviate poverty, Xi noted that 10 million people have been lifted out of poverty each year since 2012, calling the country's efforts a "complete victory."
Along with rural development, China's Two Sessions meeting will also cover goals for 2021 and the country's "five-year plan" for the economy.
Revisiting the Epicenter
The World Health Organization's panel on Covid-19 has recommended a second study on the origins of the virus, including more detailed contact tracing on Wuhan's first confirmed patient as well as an in-depth review on the supply chain of the traders involved at the Huanan food market thought by some to play a central role in the early spread of the virus.
New information from China and the World Health Organization's fact-finding mission shows that the coronavirus could have begun spreading as early as September 2019. The investigation, which was led by a team of international epidemiologists, set out to understand the origins of the deadly pandemic and ended earlier this month.
Of the 174 confirmed cases found in Wuhan in December of 2019, the investigation found a number of different viral strains, some of which had no demonstrated connection to the food market originally thought to be the origin of the pandemic. Through tracking the different strains, scientists believe the original strain split sometime around mid-November.