While COTRI Weekly took a break during last month, the fight against SARS2-CoV 19 fortunately made some more progress. In Europe more than 70% of the inhabitants of the European Union got their vaccinations, in many Asian countries the vaccination process has gained speed as well. China passed the two-billion vaccinations mark and in most countries the number of persons dying from the virus is falling, even though the number of cases is still persistently high.
On the policy level, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games were concluded without negative “super-spreader” effects and both the Australian and the New Zealand government finally reached the insight that a zero-case policy makes no sense and equals the behaviour of the fool sitting on the edge of the river waiting for the water to stop flowing. Bubbles, Sandboxes, Corridors and other methods, but also the restart of face-to-face classes in universities around the world help to move step by step towards a resumption of international travel for business, education, family relations and leisure.
In China in the meantime the last few weeks continued to see events which reminded your humble editor – and other greybeards – rather of the times of Chairman Mao than of a globalized China in the third decade of the 21st century. To be rich is not “glorious” anymore, but considered excessive, triggering “voluntary” donations of billions of RMB from the Chinese tech companies which saw already before their stock market values and future international stock market access attacked. The joy of Chinese kids to be able to spend more time with online gaming (what else for a single child with both parents working to do?) after the closure of commercial cramming schools was short-lived, with new stringent regulations reducing the number of hours allowed to play – and consequently bringing the business model of Tencent & Co. crashing down in flames.
It is not only content, but also the style, which triggers such déjà vu feeling: Chairman Xi wearing the exact copy of Mao’s jacket for the CCPs North-Korean style 100th anniversary celebrations, the limited coverage of any other leaders activities, including even Vice-President Li Keqiang, in the media being mirrored by the increase in praise for Xi’s good work not only since becoming president, but also already in past decades. The establishment of a new stock exchange in Beijing was not agreed to by Xi as proposed by the relevant experts, but was a proposal by Xi which was “enthusiastically welcomed” by the Chinese bankers.
If all these moves, including the 180 degree turn-around towards supporting three or even more children in a family after long years of the propaganda of low numbers of birth and the introduction of Xi Jinping Thought into the curriculum of all educational institutions while at the same time forbidding foreigners to teach English, are a sign of strength or of weakness or simply an illustration of the effect of a lack of checks and balances in a government, remains to be seen.
Allowing international travel has been used as a safety valve to let off some of the pressure in the Chinese society before. As the attacks on tech companies and their stock value, on the ambitions of parents to prepare their child in the best possible way for a career in an international university and on urban lifestyles from “lying flat” hippies to metrosexual men using make-up, are all hurting mostly the same passport-carrying top 10% of the society, it may well be that opening the borders will again be used soon as a way to placate the in-crowds. An article by a famous journalist published in the China Daily last week, which without any apparent connection to a newsworthy event praised the fact that since 40 years Chinese have the opportunity to travel abroad, can be interpreted as another sign for a change the global tourism industry is eagerly waiting for: the resurrection of the Chinese outbound traveller.
As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI Weekly team!
PS Even though COTRI Weekly was on holidays in August, COTRI Talks!, our podcast series, continued to produce more episodes for your listening pleasure. Please check them out at https://open.spotify.com/show/0RCeg6x69CQBFoA7BqCFrS, including interviews and panel discussions with leading experts.