Surge in China’s military operations reflects ‘new normal’ under Xi Jinping

President has made escalations against foreign powers more common amid drive to beef up People’s Liberation Army

A rush of Chinese military activity across the region this month has capped off a year of increased aggression, as President Xi Jinping displays China’s increased military might despite economic struggles and the impact of the zero-Covid policy and its sudden end.

This month the People’s Liberation Army – the Chinese Communist party’s military wing – has broadened its aerial incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (Adiz), come to blows with Indian troops in the Himalayas, run military drills near Japan and participated in major joint exercises with Russia.

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Vaccines are key to China’s zero-Covid exit but scepticism poses challenge

Backing down from existing policies remains a political problem of the first order

China’s government looks to be starting to roll back its zero-Covid policy. But after three years of saying the resource-intensive, economically damaging elimination strategy is the only way to go, experts say it will be a medical and political challenge to end it.

Much of China’s exit strategy is riding on vaccinations, but this is where Beijing has great challenges. China’s elderly population is disproportionately unvaccinated, leaving tens of millions of vulnerable people at far greater risk from the ravages of Covid-19. About 90% of China’s population is vaccinated, but among those over 60 only about 69% have had at least three doses. Above 80 years of age, the figure drops to about 40%.

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China’s zero-Covid policy explained in 30 seconds

Rampant and sudden lockdowns have sparked anger as pressure piles on officials to curb outbreaks

Since the Covid pandemic began, China’s government has operated a zero-tolerance policy on outbreaks. The resource-intensive system of targeted lockdowns, mass testing and quarantine successfully kept the virus at bay and the death toll extraordinarily low compared with other countries. However, newer and more transmissible variants such as Omicron have challenged, and at times overwhelmed, that system.

This year there have been rampant and sudden lockdowns ranging from buildings to entire counties, prompting frustration, fear and anger. Some, such as those in Shanghai, Tibet and Xinjiang, have been enforced harshly, leading to food shortages and other deprivations.

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Is China doing enough to combat the climate crisis?

While it appears committed to renewable energy goals, China’s international commitments fall short of what experts say is needed

After decades of fossil fuel-driven economic growth and industrialisation, China is now the world’s biggest carbon emitter, contributing almost a third of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2020.

It is also the most exposed to the impact of the climate crisis, in terms of its population size and number of environmental disasters, according to UN figures. Average temperatures and sea levels have risen faster than global averages, and in just one year since Cop26, China has experienced record-breaking floods and heatwaves, bringing with them severe energy crises.

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Rumours of zero-Covid easing spread in China amid anger at restrictions

Despite relatively low case numbers, there are reportedly about 200 lockdowns across the country

Waves of outrage and frustration over China’s lockdown measures this week have demonstrated widening cracks in the general compliance with the government’s zero-Covid policy.

Rising anger has been driven by the tragic death of a toddler, and highly public problematic lockdowns in the Henan capital, Zhengzhou. Officials were left scrambling to control the narrative, amid swirling rumours of imminent policy shifts and a former government health expert saying on Friday that “substantive changes will happen soon”.

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‘My life is wonderful on the road’: the Chinese woman who broke the mould

Feeling trapped amid the expectations of being a housewife and grandmother, Su Min set off, finding freedom and fame as she travelled around China

In late 2020 Su Min left her unhappy marriage behind and hit the road. The 58-year-old retiree had raised her family and done her duties, and her husband, she says, was treating her badly. So she studied online videos about road trips and set off across China alone in a VW hatchback with her pension and a rooftop tent.

As she travelled, Su filmed and posted videos and diaries of her journey, speaking candidly of her dissatisfying life of housework. She also marvelled at the beauty of the country she was finally exploring, and made new friends.

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Rights groups call for inquiries into Uyghur abuses in China after damning UN report

Governments urged to launch formal investigations after UN findings on treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang

Governments around the world should establish formal independent investigations into human rights abuses in Xinjiang, victims and human rights groups have said, after the 11th-hour release of a long-awaited UN report.

The report by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) was published minutes before Michelle Bachelet ended her tenure.

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Russia-Ukraine war: South Korea set to reopen embassy in Kyiv; Lavrov says Russia working to prevent nuclear war – as it happened

This live blog is now closed, you can find our latest coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war in our new live blog

German chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected criticism of Germany’s reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

He said it was untrue that Germany was not showing leadership in attempts to supply the country.

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Hong Kong domestic workers left homeless after being fired for contracting Covid-19

Dozens of live-in workers have been forced to sleep rough in the Hong Kong winter after bosses refuse to allow them back in the house

Live-in domestic workers in Hong Kong have been left homeless after they were diagnosed with Covid-19 and their employers fired them or refused their return to the residence, support groups have said.

Many of the workers, who are mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines, were also left without insurance to cover their medical bills.

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Beijing fines 7-Eleven for calling Taiwan a country

Company fined 50,000 yuan for ‘errors’ including failing to use China’s names for disputed South China Sea islands

Beijing has fined and issued a warning to 7-Eleven over its website listing Taiwan as a country and displaying maps it said contained erroneous borders for Xinjiang and Tibet.

The Beijing municipal government fined the company 50,000 yuan ($7,842) for the “errors” including “wrongful act of assigning Taiwan province as an independent country”.

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China fires hospital officials after pregnant woman loses baby due to Covid lockdown rules

The woman was allegedly denied entry to a hospital in the city of Xi’an because her negative Covid test was four hours too old

Chinese hospital officials have been fired after a pregnant woman lost her baby after she was denied entry at a Xi’an hospital due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

On the night of 1 January a woman in labour was denied entry to the Xi’an Gaoxin hospital because her negative test result was four hours too old. She began bleeding heavily while waiting outside, and was eventually admitted but the baby died.

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Desperation as China’s locked down cities pay price of zero-Covid strategy

Reports emerge of fatal hospital delays and food shortages as more than 14 million people are confined to their homes in the cities of Xi’an and Yuzhou

Strict lockdowns in the Chinese cities of Xi’an and Yuzhou are taking their toll on the population and healthcare systems, according to residents, with complaints of food shortages and dangerous delays in accessing medical care.

Xi’an, a city of 13 million people, has been under a strict lockdown for nearly two weeks, while Yuzhou’s 1.2 million residents have been ordered to stay inside since Monday evening, after three asymptomatic cases were discovered. Public transport, the use of private motor vehicles, and operation of all shops and venues not supplying daily necessities have all been suspended.

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Taiwan ‘buys 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum rejected by China’

State-owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor steps in after row between Vilnius and Beijing

Taiwan’s government is sharing cocktail recipes with the public after it reportedly bought 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum bound for China amid a row between Vilnius and Beijing.

The state-owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor (TTL) said it made the purchase in December to support Lithuania after learning the shipment was going to be blocked by Chinese authorities.

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Tesla criticised for opening showroom in Xinjiang despite human rights abuses

Elon Musk and Tesla must consider human rights in the Chinese region or risk being complicit, says Human Rights Watch

Tesla has opened a new showroom in the capital of Xinjiang, a region at the heart of years-long campaign by Chinese authorities of repression and assimilation against the Uyghur people.

Tesla announced the opening in Urumqi with a Weibo post on 31 December saying: “On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022 let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!”

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Detained, missing, close to death: the toll of reporting on Covid in China

Activists say crackdown is driven by Xi Jinping, who has ‘declared a war on independent journalism’

Chen Kun was living in Indonesia with his wife and daughter when he learned from his brother Mei’s boss that he had been “taken away for investigation” by Chinese police.

He immediately suspected it was to do with his brother’s website, a citizen news project called Terminus 2049. Since 2018 Mei, his colleague Cai Wei, and Cai’s partner – surnamed Tang – had been archiving articles about issues including #MeToo and migrant rights, and reposting them whenever they were deleted from China’s strictly monitored and censored online platforms. It was April 2020, and for the last few months Terminus 2049 had been targeting stories about the Covid-19 outbreak and response.

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