China Watching

2023-02-01 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

China Surrenders to Covid

Draconian measures such as lockdowns, quarantines, tests, and electronic health codes disappeared without warning or a plan to prepare the immense countryside – where the population is older and there is a chronic lack of hospitals, doctors, and medicines – for the health crisis they would have to face.[1] Among other things, the decision was made in the middle of winter when the virus spreads more rapidly, and with the mass travel foreseen for the Lunar New Year holidays, that this year fell on January 22. It is impossible to avoid asking what the cost in human life will be. On January 13, ...

2022-09-21 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Beijing Returns to Coal

Last August, we saw the skyline of megalopolises like Shanghai and Chongqing go dark. Factors that assemble machines and electronic devices then distributed in the rest of the world stopped due to a lack of electricity. Long lines formed in front of recharging stations for electric vehicles, while river flow was reduced to the point of preventing navigation by boats of a certain size. Energy rationing affected above all the southwestern regions of the immense territory of China, where up until now, such measures had never been seen; in the region of Sichuan, in particular. This area gets 80 percent ...

2022-07-25 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

Has Beijing’s Economic Dream Reached the End of the Line?

“Without [bank] deposits, there are no human rights,” “The ‘Chinese dream’ of 400,000 depositors was shattered in Henan.” The banners shown by the demonstrators in Zhengzhou, the capital of the region of the same name in Central China, went viral in just a few hours. It was July 10, 2022, and hundreds of men and women who demanded access to their savings were beaten up by not-better-identified plainclothes agents. They have been asking for compensation from the local government since mid-April. But in June, when they attempted to organize the first public demonstration, their digital ...

2022-06-28 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Uyghurs in China and the Risk of Genocide

On June 9 of this year, the European Parliament approved a resolution that prohibits the importation of products made through forced labor of Uyghurs. In the wake of the law approved last December by the United States Congress, the EU stressed that the separation of children from their families, sterilization programs, and forced labor in the autonomous region of Xinjiang “are crimes against humanity and can constitute genocide.” This is a harsh condemnation of Beijing, but like all resolutions, is non-binding. De facto, it is a way to put pressure on the European Commission and the Member ...

2022-05-18 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Great Flight from China

It all began at the end of March. The approximately 25 million residents of Shanghai underwent mass Covid tests, and then, although the authorities had said it wasn't necessary, an unprecedented lockdown was implemented. One week later, the logistics of the most modern and cosmopolitan city of continental China were in total chaos. No food for citizens blocked in their homes by decree, medical urgencies ignored, families divided, nursing homes out of control, quarantine centers overflowing, illuminated 24 hours a day and without showers. General discontent on social networks, followed by censure. ...

2022-04-26 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

China’s Difficult Balancing Act on the War in Ukraine

“Wuwei wubuwei,” says the principle that summarizes Taoist philosophy: “Do nothing and nothing will remain unaccomplished.” This is how Beijing maintains a difficult balancing act between the positions of Moscow and those of Washington and Brussels; even after the highly-anticipated meeting between the Chinese president and the highest authorities of the European Union (in virtual form, that is), even in the approach state media takes in reporting (or not reporting) on the first terrible images from Bucha. By abstaining in votes at the United Nations, and not contradicting the claims from ...

2022-02-28 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The New Nationalism of Chinese Consumers

The golden age of the continuously expanding market beyond the Great Wall is over. The period that was a true driver for the most important Western brands – at least in the last ten years – is ending. Chinese consumers, who are young, attracted by novelty, and have growing spending power[1] – are following the path indicated by politics and increasingly look to Chinese brands to satisfy their desires.[2]  Patriotism, dual circulation, and the recent international scandals, such as that of Xinjiang cotton produced in detention camps that has forced Western and Chinese brands to take a position ...

2022-01-31 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Chinese Renaissance and the Winter Olympic Games

When the Olympic Committee assigned the 2022 Winter Olympics seven years ago, in Beijing there was talk of "airpocalypse": the Chinese capital and its region were at the center of global attention due to a level of pollution so high that the population was forced to stay at home and factories had to close. The tradition of winter sports was based on just a few years of experience and the dry nature of the area that was supposed to host the outdoor events was such that, despite the harsh temperatures, it very rarely snowed. President Xi Jinping put himself on the line: "We will keep our promises," ...

2021-11-29 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Communist Party Crowns President Xi Jinping

Like Mao Zedong, like Deng Xiaoping. Actually, even more. Xi Jinping is the nucleus around which the party, the army, and the whole country must coalesce. And Xi Jinping thought is the only path to follow to pursue the Chinese dream and the rebirth of the nation. There can be no stumbles until 2049, when the People's Republic will celebrate the one hundred year anniversary of its founding. This is the sense of the "historical resolution" that closed the last important political appointment before the 2022 Congress, that which, if everything goes according to plan, will consecrate the perpetual ...

2021-11-03 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The New Chinese Web Celebrities, between Growth of the Digital Economy and a Government Squeeze

What ever happened to the "lipstick king?" Is Li Jiaqi, also known as Austin Li, still able to sell 15,000 lip glosses in five hours of streaming, or does his work have to adapt to the new China of shared prosperity and the ban on effeminate looks? With his 45 million followers on Douyin, the original Chinese version of the social network that in Europe we know as TikTok, Li may be the best-known of Chinese influencers and the digital economy that has developed around them, known as the "Wanghong economy." There is no doubt that Livestreamers, KOL (key opinion leaders), and new social platforms ...