China Watching

2023-09-21 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

On the Silk Road... and Back?

Ten years of the New Silk Road, or rather, the Belt and Road Initiative, as our foreign colleagues suggest calling it to avoid imbuing the aggressive worldwide infrastructure investment program launched by Xi Jinping himself in September 2013 with exotic charm. Since then, over 150 countries have joined the trillion-dollar project that has helped expand the trade and influence of the People's Republic in the rest of the world. But times have changed. The leader himself is now cautious about overseas investments, not to mention Chinese citizens who simply cannot understand how, in times of economic ...

2023-08-01 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

2023: Escape from Beijing?

"Foreign investments are welcome, and China's doors will be even more open than before," said then-Vice Premier Liu He at this year's exclusive Davos forum. Less than a month earlier, President Xi Jinping had declared, "We must ensure that foreign investments already in the country remain here and work to attract others of high quality." However, despite the words the Chinese leadership has used for months seeking to reassure foreign businessmen and investors, the uncertainty about the direction the world's second-largest economy is taking runs so deep that it is undermining confidence in the ...


In China It’s Full (Demographic) Winter

China has aged before becoming wealthy. A lengthy reportage by the Financial Times from Rudong, the county with the highest percentage of elderly people,[1] describes well the demographic nightmare that the People's Republic is facing. In the late 1960s, it was so populous that it was chosen as a pilot area for the one-child policy; today, sixty years later, nearly 40% of its inhabitants are over sixty years old. As a result, schools are closing, existing factories struggle to find workers, and the majority of the population lives on rather meager pensions. In Rudong, the percentage of elderly ...

2023-04-26 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

China's Rise (also) Depends on Diplomacy

"Chinese Diplomacy Warms Up," headlines one of the most recent issues of Caixin, the most respected economic weekly magazine in China.[1] Since the (so far failed) attempt to accredit itself as a mediator in the peace process between Russia and Ukraine on February 24, there has been a lot of activity in Beijing, with visits from several leaders. From our point of view, the most important visit began on April 5 when the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Beijing for a three-day official visit. Their intention was to demonstrate ...

2023-03-28 Cecilia Attanasio Ghezzi

The Old Face of the New China

On March 13 the so-called “two sessions,” or “lianghiui,” were closed in Beijing: the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress that take place almost simultaneously. Like each year, approximately five thousand delegates met for about a week to discuss and ratify the direction that the world’s second-largest economy will take and who will be the state leaders who manage it. Their role is the closest thing to our parliament, but when they meet the decisions are already made, and the exercise mostly resembles a public ritual. Indeed, everything ...

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. ...