US general’s ‘gut’ feeling of war with China sparks alarm over predictions

Leaked memo forecasting Taiwan strait conflict in 2025 triggers debate about ‘undisciplined’ comments

A leaked memo from a US four-star general saying his “gut” told him the US would be at war with China in 2025 has prompted warnings about the danger of “undisciplined” predictions of a Taiwan strait conflict.

The memo, by the head of the US Air Mobility Command (AMC), Gen Mike Minihan, was the latest prediction of a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan, which have ranged from 2022 to 2049. It has triggered a debate about US readiness, accusations of warmongering, and concerns about desensitising people to the real risk of invasion.

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Chinese province ends ban on unmarried people having children

Sichuan measures aim to encourage more people to have children after population fell for first time in 60 years

A Chinese province of more than 80 million people will lift restrictions on unmarried people having children and remove caps on the number of babies as part of a national drive to increase the country’s birth rate.

Sichuan’s health commission announced on Monday it would allow all people to register births with the provincial government from 15 February. It will also remove limits on the number of birth registrations for any parent.

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China claims Covid wave has peaked with severe cases, deaths falling fast

But reporting from inside China during the lunar new year period suggests rates of infection and fatalities exceeding official reports

China’s health authorities have said the Covid wave is past its peak, with rapid decline in both severe cases and deaths in hospitals, but experts remain wary of the government’s official data.

According to China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of critically ill patients in hospital peaked in the first week of January, then rapidly declined by more than 70%. The number of deaths also reached its highest level that week, the data said.

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Eight in 10 people in China caught Covid since early December, say officials

Reported death toll surges to 72,000 after zero-Covid restrictions lifted; some experts estimate 1m deaths

About 80% of China’s population has been infected with Covid-19 since restrictions were lifted in early December, Chinese health authorities have said.

The figure, which equates to about 1.2 billion people, prompted some pandemic experts to estimate that more than 1 million may have died – far more than the government’s official tally of about 72,000.

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Xi’s authority dented by sudden Covid U-turn but iron grip on power is undimmed

Analysts say Xi has consolidated power so successfully that he is in effect the Communist party. With no opposition, it doesn’t matter if he makes mistakes

Just a few months ago, the thought of questioning the strength of Xi Jinping’s leadership was inconceivable. He had just secured his third term, conducted a brutal purge of factional rivals and ensured he and his beliefs were inextricably and existentially tied with the Chinese Communist party. The zero-Covid policy – despite some societal grumblings – had been enshrined as the best and only way out of the pandemic.

But zero Covid was already growing unpopular in China in the latter half of 2022. It was playing havoc with people’s lives with increasing lockdowns and quarantines, and a string of tragedies had been linked to the policy’s enforcement. Then in early December, after protests in major Chinese cities and rising cases of Omicron, the government suddenly ended the policy. Travel restrictions, quarantines, mandatory tests and other restrictions were drastically scaled back or dropped altogether.

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China announces lunar new year censorship crackdown to silence Covid ‘rumours’

Plan to target ‘gloomy sentiments’ across festival period comes as independent health forecasters estimate over 600,000 deaths from Covid

Chinese cyber authorities have announced an internet censorship crackdown to ensure there are no “gloomy sentiments” caused by pandemic “rumours” during the lunar new year festival.

It comes as health forecasting firm Airfinity estimated more than 600,000 people have likely died since zero-Covid restrictions were lifted in December – 10 times more than Chinese authorities have officially declared.

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Chinese woman says she is detained in secret location after Beijing protest

Video purportedly shows 26-year-old editor, who accuses police of forcing her and friends to sign blank arrest warrants

A Chinese woman has accused police of forcing her and friends to sign blank arrest warrants and detaining them in secret locations over their attendance at a protest vigil in Beijing last year.

A video, purported to be of Cao Zhixin, a 26-year-old editor at Peking University Press, began spreading online on Monday. In it, Cao said she and five friends attended a riverside vigil in Beijing on 27 November, to mourn the victims of a building fire in Urumqi. The fire had been linked to the enforcement of China’s strict zero-Covid policy and became a catalyst for vigils and protests.

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Chinese flock to Hong Kong to get private Covid booster shots

Travel packages also advertised in Macau as interest grows in mRNA vaccines unavailable on mainland

Private services offering Chinese travellers access to mRNA vaccines are attracting droves of mainlanders to Hong Kong and Macau seeking a booster shot that their government has refused to approve.

As part of its dismantling of the country’s zero-Covid policy last month, China’s government also lifted quarantine and other border restrictions. It prompted a wave of interest in overseas travel, particularly for the upcoming lunar new year holiday later this month. However, there also appears to be a large contingent chasing the mRNA bivalent vaccines.

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Chinese warned not to visit elderly relatives as Covid spreads from cities

People urged ‘don’t go home’ during lunar new year holiday if older family members not yet infected

People in China have been warned against travelling to visit their elderly relatives during the lunar new year holiday, as Covid spreads rapidly through cities and into regional and poorer areas.

Prof Guo Jianwen, a member of the state council’s pandemic prevention team, urged people “don’t go home to visit them” if elderly relatives had not yet been infected.

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China’s ‘wolf warrior’ foreign affairs spokesperson moved to new role

Zhao Lijian's shift to low-profile department seen by some as a sign of Beijing softening its diplomatic strategy

The face of China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy, Zhao Lijian, has been moved from his role as foreign affairs spokesperson to a low-profile department, in what some analysts say is a demotion.

Zhao is the most well-known of the ministry of foreign affairs’ public-facing spokespeople, making a name for himself during his three years fronting the foreign press, with strong criticism and hostility towards the west and combative defence of China’s policies.

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Pro-democracy Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai requests Rishi Sunak meeting – report

The British citizen is awaiting trial on national security charges in Hong Kong that could see him jailed for life if convicted

Lawyers for the Hong Kong activist and media mogul Jimmy Lai have reportedly requested a meeting with the British prime minister to discuss his case.

Lai, a dual Hong Kong and British citizen, is awaiting trial on national security charges in one of the most high-profile cases brought by Hong Kong authorities against the pro-democracy movement. If convicted he could face life in prison.

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China enters uncharted waters as Xi tightens his grip

The leader’s unprecedented third term opens with Covid protests, economic and housing issues and Taiwan strait crisis

As 2022 began, while swaths of the world were struggling with Covid and a looming war in Ukraine, life in China was relatively calm. Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid strategy was working and cases were low. There were lockdowns but they were orderly and people were compliant. This stability was exactly what Xi probably hoped would surround his taking of a historic third term, at the helm of a rising China. Economic dominance, domestic control, an annexed Taiwan, and increased global influence were all on the agenda.

But as the year closes and 2023 begins, China is, instead, entering uncharted territory.

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China rushes to boost intensive care beds, doctors and stocks of medicine as Covid surges

State media reports on increased efforts to boost health infrastructure, staffing and supplies

Chinese authorities are rushing to boost the number of intensive care beds and health workers and increase medication supplies as Covid-19 surges through the country.

Since the abrupt dismantling of the stringent zero-Covid regime, cases have skyrocketed in China. A full picture of the impact is difficult to gauge. Authorities have conceded it is “impossible” for the testing system to keep track, and the narrow parameters for attributing deaths to the virus mean the official count – fewer than 10 this week – is at odds with widespread anecdotal reports of fatalities and high traffic at funeral homes.

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China’s cities fall quiet amid warning of three Covid waves over winter

Chief epidemiologist says China is in the first of an expected three waves of Covid cases, despite official figures showing low numbers

Chinese authorities have warned of successive waves of Covid infections over the coming months, as cases continue to surge after the lifting of restrictions earlier this month.

Across major cities people appear to be staying inside, either with the virus or in fear of contracting it, but authorities have pushed on with the reopening.

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Chinese doctors and nurses reportedly told to work while infected as Covid surges

Some Beijing hospitals have as many as 80% of staff infected, according to one doctor, leading to serious staff shortages

Chinese doctors and nurses are being told to keep working even when infected with Covid-19, staff and residents reported, as the virus rips through the population in the wake of eased restrictions.

Some hospitals in Beijing have up to 80% of their staff infected, but many of them are still required to work due to staff shortages, a doctor in a large public hospital in Beijing told Reuters, adding he had spoken to his peers at other big hospitals in the capital.

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