Inside US Indo-Pacific Command’s $20 billion wish list to deter China — and why Congress may approve it


By: Aaron Mehta

April 2, 2020

WASHINGTON — A $1.6 billion defensive ring around Guam. Millions in new military funding for partner nations. A billion dollars for increased stockpiles of long-range weapons.

These are just some of the investments on a $20 billion wish list quietly submitted to Congress in recent weeks by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head Adm. Phil Davidson and obtained by Defense News. The wish list was specifically requested by members of Congress who are eyeing it as the basis for a new Pacific-focused pot of money to deter Chinese military action in the region.

In the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress inserted language in Section 1253 requiring INDOPACOM to deliver by mid-March of this year a report detailing what the combatant command needs to fulfill the National Defense Strategy and maintain an edge over China.

The report included questions of force structure, security cooperation in the region and required infrastructure investments. Notably, that report was to come directly from Davidson and not through the Department of Defense — specifically to get a more unvarnished view of what the commander would like to have.

The report serves as the rollout of a new strategy, which Davidson appears to have branded as “Regain the Advantage.”

Regain the Advantage is designed to persuade potential adversaries that any preemptive military action will be extremely costly and likely fail by projecting credible combat power at the time of crisis, and provides the President and Secretary of Defense with several flexible deterrent options to include full OPLAN [operation plan] execution, if it becomes necessary,” Davidson wrote.

But regaining that advantage won’t come cheap: The report comes with a request for $1.6 billion in additional funding suggestions for FY21 above what the Pentagon put in its February budget request, followed by a request for $18.46 billion from FY22-FY26 — a total that exceeds $20 billion in additional funds for the region, spread over a six-year period.

This investment plan represents less than 1% of the DoD’s total obligation authority over the FYDP and provides the necessary resources to implement a strategy of deterrence by 2026,” Davidson stated in the unclassified executive summary.

A new Pacific fund

The report could provide a basis for the idea of a Pacific version of the European Deterrence Initiative, a special DoD fund for projects focused on deterring Russia from aggression in Europe. A Pacific Deterrence Initiative, or PDI, would be focused on dealing with China in the INDOPACOM region.

It’s an idea that has been circulating for several years but has steadily increased in popularity among congressional defense hawks. (Of note, Davidson directly compares the “Regain the Advantage” plan with the costs of the European Deterrence Initiative, or EDI, for which the Pentagon requested $4.5 billion in FY21.)

In a recent op-ed, Randall Schriver, who served as the Pentagon’s top Pacific policy official from 2018-2019, and Eric Sayers, who most recently served as special assistant to the commander of INDOPACOM, made a case for the PDI. They said it’s not just a budget exercise, but is “a broader strategic opportunity to message the U.S. commitment to the region.”

An alignment of the Pentagon and Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill around this effort would be a real opportunity to begin to do in Asia what has already occurred in Europe in the last seven years,” they wrote. “The message the European Deterrence Initiative has sent NATO and Russia should be the same signal we want to send our Asian allies and partners as well as those in Beijing who have grown confident of their military capabilities.”

Speaking to Defense News, Sayers pushed hard on the idea that the 2153 report should provide the basis for what a PDI, starting in FY22, should look like. “Not every item in this package should be considered the answer, but it’s going to start a conversation that is long overdue,” Sayers said.

Right now, the plan to at least create a PDI appears to have important backing.

In a March 24 letter to Davidson, Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, stated that he intends “to identify funding for an Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.” (The EDI was initially branded the European Reassurance Initiative under the Obama administration.)

In addition, HASC ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Tx., is “very interested in the idea” of an EDI-like fund for the Indo-Pacific region, according to a Congressional source.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also been a vocal backer of the PDI idea, tweeting earlier this month that “The time for a Pacific Deterrence Initiative has come.”

The 1253 report tells us exactly what we must do to maintain conventional deterrence against China. The Department has dragged its feet on these investments for too long,” Hawley told Defense News in a statement. “It is time to establish a Pacific Deterrence Initiative so we can ensure our forces have what they need to deter Chinese aggression and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“Congress is fired up on this, on both sides of the aisle. They have heard INDOPACOM is a priority for years now, but the Pentagon continues to fall short on providing any real answers,” Sayers said. “Section 1253 was an expression of bipartisan frustration with the Pentagon and an effort to bypass the system to ask INDOPACOM directly what they think they need.”

EDI money is a portion of a special Pentagon account known as overseas contingency operations, which is used in the event of war. However, money from the OCO account is allocated to the services to use individually. In the case of EDI, much of the money has been tagged to the Army; with a PDI, it is possible those dollars would be more focused on Navy and Air Force needs.

Arming Guam, building relationships

The funding identified by Davidson is broken into five broad categories:

  • Joint force lethality;

  • Force design and posture;

  • Strengthen allies and partners;

  • Exercises, experimentation and innovation; and

  • Logistics and security enablers.

Ultimately, the steps we take must convince our adversaries they simply cannot achieve their objectives with force,” Davidson wrote.

This requires fielding an integrated Joint Force with precision-strike networks, particularly land-based anti-ship and anti-air capabilities along the First Island Chain; integrated air missile defense in the Second Island Chain; and an enhanced force posture that provides for dispersal, the ability to preserve regional stability, and if needed sustain combat operations,” he added.

Joint force lethality ($5.85 billion): Included in this section is what Davidson calls “my number one unfunded priority” — a 360-degree persistent and integrated air defense capability in Guam, with a $1.67 billion cost over six years.

America’s day begins in Guam and is not only a location we must fight from, but we must also fight for — given future threats,” Davidson wrote.

Guam aside, the section includes integration of long-range precision fires such as the Navy’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk and the Air Force’s JASSM-ER weapon ($1 billion over six years); a high-frequency radar system based in Palau to detect air and surface targets ($185 million); a homeland defense radar in Hawaii to detect ballistic, cruise and hypersonic threats ($1 billion); and a space-based persistent radar system for tracking global threats ($1.9 billion).

The latter appears to be aligned with efforts already underway inside the Pentagon, such as the large constellation of systems pursued by the Space Development Agency.

The combatant command “requires highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the First Island Chain, featuring increased quantities of allied ground-based weapons,” Davidson wrote. “These networks are operationally decentralized and geographically dispersed along the archipelagos of the Western Pacific to deter and defend, by reversing any anti-access and aerial-denial (A2/AD) capabilities intended to limit U.S. freedom of action or access to vital waterways and airspace.”

Force design and posture ($5.85 billion): This section focuses on the infrastructure investments needed to spread the U.S. military around the region, breaking the longstanding network of large, centralized bases now seen as easy targets for China’s long-distance capabilities.

It is not strategically prudent, nor operationally viable to physically concentrate on large, close-in bases that are highly vulnerable to a potential adversary’s strike capability,” Davidson wrote. “Forward-based, rotational joint forces are the most credible way to demonstrate U.S. commitment and resolve to potential adversaries, while simultaneously assuring allies and partners.”

In the unclassified summary, details are scarce, but funding primarily focuses on dispersal and pre-positioning facilities.

Strengthen allies and partners ($384 million): Spend any time at an event about INDOPACOM and it won’t take long for someone to point out that America’s longstanding advantage in the Pacific relies on a bedrock of alliances and partnerships in the region.

Relationships represent important components of U.S. national power beyond our nation’s economic and military strength,” Davidson wrote. “Throughout the region, discussions with foreign national leaders always lead back to the role U.S. values play in shaping global behavior. This is evident based on the network of alliances and partnerships built across the Indo-Pacific over the last 75 years.”

There are two focus areas in this section: setting up a Mission Partner Environment, which uses “cloud-based technologies, integrated systems, and secure access controls to provide assured command, control, and communications (C3),” and the creation of three fusion centers to work with allies on specific tasks, including a counterterrorism cell already in the works with Singapore and others.

Service members from Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia participate in the opening ceremony of the military exercise Cobra Gold in Phitsanulok, Thailand, on Feb. 25, 2020. (MC1 Julio Rivera/U.S. Navy)

Exercises, experimentation and innovation ($2.87 billion): Essentially a pot of money to carry out major exercises across INDOPACOM and beyond, this category includes the use of test ranges in Alaska, Hawaii and California, among others.

U.S. forces must be capable of fighting in highly contested environments against technologically advanced opponents, while also minimizing detection across domains,” Davidson wrote. “The Joint Force lacks the capacity to integrate service recommended weapons and capabilities into a warfighting concept that deters the adversary and puts us in a position to win. This challenge can only be met by conducting a series of high-end, multi-domain exercises with a continuous campaign of joint experimentation.”

Logistics and security enablers ($5.11 billion): This broad category captures everything else the command might need. Included here are logistic needs for “dispersal locations, airfield battle-damage, repair capabilities, and infrastructure for C4I, munitions generation, mobility processing, and fuel storage.”

It also includes a call to fully fund security cooperation requests under the Maritime Security Initiative, an effort launched in 2015. Fully funding those requests, Davidson claimed in his report, would “result in a 32 percent increase in theater security cooperation, forming the backbone of the ability to engage, posture, and develop partner nations.”

The document also asks that Joint Interagency Task Force West not be shut down, as it was scheduled to be in FY23. Davidson wrote that it provides access to countries without strong naval militaries.

Finally, the document requests a “restart of various counter-propaganda tools designed to target malign influence” to counter information operations in the region targeting the U.S. and its partners.

Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: Defense News “Inside US Indo-Pacific Command’s $20 billion wish list to deter China — and why Congress may approve it”

Note: This is Defense News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Why America’s Skipjack-Class Nuclear Submarines Were Too Successful


And Russia and China took notice. (This reblogger’s note: The article said nothing about Russia and China taking notice)

by Kyle Mizokami

September 15, 2019 (This reblogger’s note: With failure to have anything new to boast, especially US Navy’s blunders in developing Littoral Combat Ship and Zumwalt, the US resorts to nostalgia of its past glory)

Key point: The Skipjack-class was so successful that it became the basis for future submarine innovations.

The Skipjack-class submarines were arguably the first truly modern postwar submarines of the U.S. Navy. Combining two new innovations—a new high-speed hull design and nuclear power—the innovative, fish-shaped subs were the basis of all future American submarines up to the present day.

The United States Navy officially entered the Nuclear Age on September 30, 1954. That was the day the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered attack submarine ever produced, entered service. Powered by a S2W reactor, Nautilus had a virtually unlimited striking range. Nautilus was a technological triumph, heralding a new age in submarine warfare.

Although successful, Nautilus was a one-of-a-kind, proof-of-concept boat. The Skipjacks, with their improved S5W pressurized water reactors, introduced nuclear power to the bulk of the fleet. The S5W was a highly successful design that produced fifteen thousand shaft horsepower and was the standard U.S. Navy reactor until the introduction of the S6G reactor that powers the Los Angeles class. The reactor was also provided to the United Kingdom, where it powered the Royal Navy’s first nuclear powered warship, HMS Dreadnought.

Still, nuclear power represented just half of what the Skipjack class brought to the table. Although the Navy had introduced the nuclear-powered Skate-class subs to the fleet, they were built to a conventional design that made them more resemble late war submarines. As a result, their speed was limited to maximum of twenty knots. A new, hydrodynamic hull that would fully exploit the power of the reactor was needed.

In 1953 the Navy introduced a new diesel electric boat, the experimental research submarine USS Albacore. Albacore introduced a new teardrop-shaped hull, pioneered by legendary submariner Adm. Charles “Swede” Momsen. The symmetrical, tuna-like hull was a radical break from conventional, cigar-shaped hulls. While the Nautilus emphasized nuclear propulsion, Momsen wanted a submarine that was fast and agile.

Indeed, Albacore was fast—its sleek hull propelled it to twenty-six knots, and with the introduction of silver-zinc batteries and contra-rotating propellers it reached an amazing thirty-three knots. It could also turn quickly, at a rate of 3.2 degrees per second, instead of the average 2.7 degrees per second of conventional submarines.

The two innovations, a teardrop hull and nuclear power, proved complementary in the Skipjack class. Nuclear powered, the Skipjacks did not spend most of their time on the surface, and thus could dispense with design characteristics that improved seakeeping on the surface. A nuclear-powered boat could spend all of its time underwater, so it made sense to make their hulls as underwater efficient as possible.

The Skipjack’s sensor suite was centered around the BQS-4 active/passive sonar array, which had a range of six to eight thousand yards. It also had a BQR-2 passive array with a maximum detection range of thirteen thousand yards. It also had search and attack periscopes in the sail and a surface radar for navigating on the surface.

The submarines were also well armed, with six Mk. 59 bow torpedo tubes. Unlike previous classes, they did not have aft-firing torpedo tubes—their large single propeller made firing torpedoes rearward hazardous. They could fire the Mark 16 antiship torpedo, a veteran of the latter days of World War II. They could also fire the Mark 37 antisubmarine torpedo, a homing torpedo with both active and passive guidance. Eventually the single Mark 48 torpedo replaced both the Mark 16 and Mark 37. Finally, the class could also launch the Mark 45 ASTOR antisubmarine wire-guided nuclear torpedo, which had a range of eight miles and packed an eleven-kiloton nuclear warhead.

Six Skipjacks were built—Skipjack, Scamp, Scorpion, Sculpin, Shark and Snook. The third ship in the class, Scorpion, was lost with all hands in 1968 under mysterious circumstances. Although generally regarded as a success, the accelerated pace of weapon development during the Cold War ensured that a replacement for the Skipjacks was just around the corner. Just halfway though the design cycle, a new class, the Thresher class (later the Permit class, after Thresher was lost), was already on the drawing board. These kept the nuclear propulsion and teardrop hull form of their speedy predecessors, but as a larger, heavier sub were slower.

The Skipjack’s hull was later used as the basis of the first purpose-built fleet ballistic missile submarines, the USS George Washington class. A 130-foot-long missile compartment was inserted between the navigation/control areas and the nuclear reactor. Each of the five George Washington boats was fitted with sixteen Polaris A1 missiles. The first submarine-launched ballistic missile, each Polaris A1 had three two-hundred-kiloton nuclear warheads and a range of 2,500 nautical miles.

The Skipjack class was an example of how innovative new technologies can combine to produce a weapons system with vastly improved characteristics. The design was so successful that it provided a basis for future submarines, not only in the United States, but elsewhere around the world. Skipjack’s motto was “Radix Nova Tridentis,” or “Root of a New Sea Power”—an accurate description of this unique class of submarines.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared several years ago.

Source: National Interest “Why America’s Skipjack-Class Nuclear Submarines Were Too Successful”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


In China, a young diplomat rises as aggressive foreign policy takes root


Keith Zhai, Yew Lun Tian

March 31, 2020 / 12:13 PM / 2 days ago

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) – Diplomats returning from overseas postings don’t usually receive special attention at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a vast government bureaucracy with thousands of staff.

But when Zhao Lijian, a diplomat known for his pugnacious social media presence, finished a posting in Pakistan in August, he received an enthusiastic welcome in Beijing. A group of young admirers at the ministry gathered at his office to cheer his return, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That admiration was fueled in part by a Twitter spat he had engaged in a month earlier with Susan Rice, the national security adviser to former U.S. President Barack Obama. Each accused the other of being “ignorant” and a “disgrace”.

Now a foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao has come to represent a new generation of diplomatic hawks in China, challenging the restraint that long characterized the country’s engagement with the world, according to a dozen current and former ministry officials and government researchers who spoke with Reuters.

Their emergence has caused a rift with the old foreign policy establishment, amid worries that increasingly assertive rhetoric could put the country on a dangerous collision course with powers like the United States, they said.

The shift followed instructions that President Xi Jinping issued diplomats in a memo last year, calling on them to show more “fighting spirit”, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

This is the first time since 1949 that the ‘new hawks’ have the power to reshape China’s diplomatic policy,” said Qin Xiaoying, who was a director of the ruling Communist Party’s international propaganda department and is now a researcher with the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies in Beijing.

Driving the shift is the widespread feeling among many Chinese that the United States wants to contain China’s rise. Aggressive pushback by diplomats on issues that provoke nationalistic sentiment, like the protests in Hong Kong or the coronavirus outbreak, has proven popular domestically.

Most people who spoke with Reuters for this article declined to be named given the sensitivity of the matter.

In response to a request for comment by Reuters, the ministry said Chinese diplomats from all age groups are determined to “resolutely safeguard” national sovereignty and security.

We will not attack unless we are attacked,” the ministry said, citing a slogan from founding leader Mao Zedong. “But if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack.”

Zhao, 47, did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for Rice, the former U.S. national security adviser, said she would not be available for comment. The U.S. State Department did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

HANDWRITTEN MESSAGE

Xi gave his instructions about adopting a tougher stance in the face of international challenges, like deteriorating relations with the United States, in a handwritten message to diplomats last year, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave the same message to officials attending the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the ministry’s founding, Reuters reported in December.

Over the past year, more than 60 Chinese diplomats and diplomatic missions set up Twitter or Facebook accounts, by Reuters’ count, even though both platforms are banned in China, often using them to attack Beijing’s critics around the world.

Zhao this month promoted a conspiracy theory on his personal Twitter account that the U.S. military brought the coronavirus to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began late last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump escalated the spat, infuriating Beijing by repeatedly citing the “Chinese virus”.

The new Chinese assertiveness is a response in part to Washington’s more confrontational stance towards China under Trump, according to Chinese diplomats.

Why can the Americans criticize us constantly, and we can’t scold the U.S.? Nobody likes to be educated all the time,” said a diplomat who helped one embassy set up its Twitter account.

Among China’s new Twitter warriors is Zhao’s boss, Hua Chunying, who became the ministry’s top spokeswoman last year and began tweeting last month. A rising star, Hua spent several weeks last year at the Central Party School, which trains officials destined for promotion.

The Twitter aggression is aimed not only at Washington.

In Brazil, Chinese Ambassador Yang Wanming shared a tweet, later deleted, calling the family of President Jair Bolsonaro “poison” after his son blamed the “Chinese dictatorship” for the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s embassy in Peru blasted Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa for “irresponsible” comments after the 83-year-old said the virus had “originated in China”.

And the Chinese Embassy in Singapore went after a former Singaporean diplomat, Bilahari Kausikan, after he linked the virus outbreak and China’s political system. The article was “smearing China’s political system and the leadership system,” it said.

These diplomats are not engaging the world with diplomatic language, but they are trying to please the domestic audience,” said Qin. “This is not diplomacy. This is very dangerous.”

Many young diplomats have pushed the Chinese government to take a harder line when dealing with the United States, according to diplomats. This month, the foreign ministry made an unprecedented move by expelling about a dozen American journalists at U.S. newspapers.

WORDS OF CAUTION

Some more traditional diplomats have sought to distance themselves from the new tactics, wary of putting China on a collision course with the United States.

Cui Tiankai, a ministry spokesman in the 1990s and now ambassador to Washington, said in a recent interview with Axios on HBO that it would be “crazy” to spread theories about a possible U.S. origin for the virus.

There is definitely a generational divide,” said Douglas H. Paal, who served on the National Security Council under U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Cui “was and is in the tradition of ‘just the facts’.”

Some retired diplomats and researchers at state think tanks, wary of provoking anti-China sentiment globally, have been writing cautionary internal reports, the researchers said.

Some cite the pragmatism of Communist China’s first foreign minister, Zhou Enlai, who sought to make as many friends as possible for the country and avoid making enemies.

Zhou’s spirit of diplomacy was largely adopted by the later reform leader Deng Xiaoping, whose policy of “biding our time and nurturing our strength” enabled China to keep a low profile internationally while focusing on economic growth.

The young diplomats are taking control of strategy and want it to be more pugnacious to win domestic public opinion,” said a veteran government researcher who wrote one of the reports.

The younger generation only know a rising China, and think this is a law of nature, said Kausikan, the retired permanent secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry.

It sometimes seems as if this new generation feels obliged to have a public quarrel to prove their patriotism.”

Reporting by Keith Zhai and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Philip McClellan

Source: Reuters “In China, a young diplomat rises as aggressive foreign policy takes root”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s Norinco announces first export of HJ-12E ATGW system


Gabriel Dominguez, London and Juan Ju, Bonn – Jane’s Defence Weekly

31 March 2020

The China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) announced on 25 March that it has completed deliveries of its Red Arrow 12E (‘Hongjian-12E’, or HJ-12E) man-portable anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) system to a foreign customer.

The company said via its WeChat account that the move marked the first export of its third-generation ATGW but did not provide any details about the contract value, the identity of the customer, or the number of systems exported.

The HJ-12E is the export variant of the HJ-12, which is presumed to be in service with China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force.

A full-scale mock-up of the system was first shown at the 2014 Airshow China, with a company spokesperson telling Jane’s at the time that the HJ-12, which weighs up to 22 kg and uses a 1.25 m-long launch tube, is the first man-portable ATGW system to be fully developed in China.

The spokesperson claimed that it is also the first Chinese ATGW system to feature a fire-and-forget capability, enabling operators to withdraw swiftly after a missile launch and improve their survivability. The system also has a soft-launch capability that allows for the missile to be launched within confined spaces such as within a building or a bunker.

According to Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Firepower, Survivability & Mobility the HJ-12 has similar capabilities to the widely deployed and combat-proven US Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin man-portable ATGW system.

The missile of the HJ-12 system has a diameter of 140 mm and is fitted with a tandem, high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) warhead that is claimed to be able to penetrate up to 1,100 mm of rolled homogenous armour (RHA) protected by explosive reactive armour (ERA).

Source: Jane’s “China’s Norinco announces first export of HJ-12E ATGW system”

Note: This is Jane’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s view


Xi vows aid for smaller businesses hit by Covid-19


Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020 11:45 AM MYT

HANGZHOU (Xinhua): President Xi Jinping said China will roll out more targeted measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hit by the Covid-19 outbreak restart production and further develop.

Xi made the remarks during an inspection to east China’s Zhejiang Province which began on Sunday (march 29).

Visiting the service centre of an industrial park producing high-grade auto parts and moulds in Ningbo on Sunday, Xi talked with the managing staff of the park, and representatives of SMEs management and employees returning to Zhejiang.

Various industries and enterprises have been affected during the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, said Xi.

A series of policies have been introduced and will be improved in tandem with the changes of the situation, said Xi, adding more targeted measures will be rolled out to help SMEs restart production and further develop.

“We need to rise to the challenges. With the support of the Party and the government, we must stick together through thick and thin to overcome the difficulties,” Xi stressed. – Xinhua

Source: The Star “Xi vows aid for smaller businesses hit by Covid-19”

Note: This is TheStar’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Despair and pride in China’s Wuhan as coronavirus lockdown eases


Brenda Goh

March 31, 2020 / 2:24 PM / Updated 14 hours ago

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – Residents of China’s Wuhan city, ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic, have mixed emotions as containment measures are lifted and the community infection rate slows to a trickle, with some praising the government and others ruing the economic costs.

The strictest curbs on movement and business were in the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have emerged from a seafood market last year. The city of 11 million people accounts for about 60% of China’s total infections, which stood at 81,518 as of Tuesday.

That market is now boarded up, and an adjacent wholesale fruit center is also closed with more than 100,000 yuan ($14,108) worth of mangos, melons and other fruit rotting outside.

A fruit trader surnamed Fang said the lockdown of the city had ruined her livelihood.

Of course I’m scared,” she told Reuters, gesturing to the two masks she wore, one on top of the other, as she packed apples which she sells to residential compounds at wholesale prices.

But I’ve not made any money for the last three months.”

Wuhan residents’ attitudes towards the curbs are far from aligned, with some expressing immense pride in their government while others say the help they have received has not offset the costs from the lockdown.

Some firms have resumed work and the city will start allowing people to leave on April 8.

China has unveiled numerous measures to ease the devastating economic impact of the outbreak, and has pledged to help Wuhan get back on its feet.

Fang teared up as she described how she had planned to see her children who are back in her hometown after the Lunar New Year in January. She will be unable to return after the lockdown ends because she has to stay and sell her fruit.

At the earliest the stock might only clear by June,” she said, declining to give her full name due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Advertisement

CHEAP RIBS

Hu Yanfang, who was supervising the unpacking of boxes of protective equipment and food at her housing estate in Wuhan, had a different take.

The lockdown on residential compounds like hers was recently eased and she feels optimistic that the government has the crisis in hand.

It’s much better now,” said Hu, who heads the compound’s residents committee.

Her voice cracked with emotion as she recounted how she had worked through the past two months to support her neighbors and sanitize the compound. She thanked the government for sending ample supplies of protective gear like masks.

It makes me feel like our country is strong – just look at countries like Europe,” she said, referring to the surging infection and death numbers in countries like Italy and Spain.

The government helped us to get these,” she said, as slabs of pork ribs arrived in the boot of a taxi. They were to be sold to residents at less than half the usual price.

Another resident, Yu Tianhong, agreed with Hu as she queued for ribs.

This shows how the government is giving support and love to those of who stayed at home. It’s not just about the meat and the money. This makes us feel like someone is concerned about us,” she said.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Tony Munroe and Stephen Coates

Source: Reuters “Despair and pride in China’s Wuhan as coronavirus lockdown eases”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


From zero to hero: Italy’s Chinese help beat coronavirus


Silvia Ognibene

April 1, 2020 / 6:13 AM / Updated 3 hours ago

FLORENCE (Reuters) – In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato.

Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attack by people who feared they would spread the coronavirus through Italy.

But in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s biggest single Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early, strict adoption of infection-control measures.

We Italians feared that the Chinese of Prato were to be the problem. Instead, they did much better than us,” said Renzo Berti, top state health official for the area, which includes Florence.

Among Chinese resident in Prato there isn’t even one case of COVID contagion,” he said, referring to COVID-19, which has killed almost 12,000 people in Italy, more than in any other country.

Ethnic Chinese make up about a quarter of Prato’s population, but Berti credits them with bringing down the entire town’s infection rate to almost half the Italian average — 62 cases per 100,000 inhabitants versus 115 for the country.

Prato’s Chinese community, built originally around the textile industry, went into lockdown from the end of January, three weeks before Italy’s first recorded infection.

Many were returning from new year holidays in China, the then epicenter.

They knew what was coming and spread the word: stay home.

So as Italians headed to the ski slopes and crowded into cafes and bars as normal, the Chinese inhabitants of Prato had seemingly disappeared. Its streets, still festooned with Chinese New Year decorations, were semi-deserted, shops shuttered.

There is some anecdotal evidence that Chinese people elsewhere in Italy took similar precautions, though national data on infection rates among the community is unavailable. The health ministry did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Milan restaurateur Francesco Wu, a representative of Italian business lobby Confcommercio, said he urged Italian counterparts in February to shut down their businesses, as he had done.

Most of them looked at me like a Cassandra,” he said. “No one could believe it was happening here … Now Troy is burning and we are all locked inside.”

ITALIAN FRIENDS LOOKED AT ME ODDLY’

When Chinese-born businessman Luca Zhou flew home from China on Feb. 4 to rejoin his wife and 28-year-old son in Prato, he put himself straight into quarantine in his bedroom for 14 days, separated from his wife and son.

We had seen what was happening in China and we were afraid for ourselves, our families and our friends,” said the 56-year-old, who has a business exporting Italian wine to China.

After emerging from his self-quarantine, he ventured outside in mask and gloves. He said the few other Chinese on the streets also wore them, anxious not to spread the virus to others.

My Italian friends looked at me oddly. I tried many times to explain to them that they should wear them … but they didn’t understand,” Luca said.

When I came back to Prato, no Italian authority told me anything. We did it all by ourselves. If we had not done it, we would all be infected, Chinese and Italians.”

Italy was one of the first nations to cut air links with China, on Jan. 31, though many of its Chinese residents found their way home via third countries. On Feb. 8, almost a month before closing all schools, it offered students returning from holidays in China the right to stop attending classes.

In Prato, there was a boom in take-up,” said local health director Berti, saying families had been obliged to contact his authority if they wanted to pursue this option. It was then that he began to realize how differently the Chinese were behaving.

More than 360 families, or around 1,300 people, registered as having put themselves into self-isolation and also signed up to his authority’s health surveillance scheme, which monitored symptoms remotely and communicated with them in Chinese.

As Italian infections began to take off in late February and early March, some families, many of whom retain Chinese citizenship, even began sending children to relatives in China, alarmed at the attitude and behavior of Italians around them.

Another who went into self-isolation after returning home from China was 23-year-old university student Chiara Zheng.

I was conscious of the gravity of the situation. I felt a duty to do it for other people and those close to me.”

Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan and Angelo Amante in Rome; writing by Mark Bendeich; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Source: Reuters “From zero to hero: Italy’s Chinese help beat coronavirus”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.