Signs of recovery and change in China’s ‘Golden Week’
China has kicked off Golden Week, the annual spree of shopping and travel built around the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations, and the first major holiday since the country brought its coronavirus outbreak more or less under control.
Each year, the weeklong holiday is a closely watched barometer of China’s economic health, and that’s even truer this year. Early signs seem to confirm two trends: The country has returned to normalcy far more than others around the world, and yet the ripple effects of the pandemic are hard to shake off.
Hotels are full and tickets to tourist attraction are sold out. Most years, millions of Chinese people go overseas, but this year they will mostly travel domestically. China’s official tourism research institute predicts that 550 million domestic trips will be made, less than last year but a significant number. “The energy has been pent-up for too long,” said Lisa Li, a manager at a Shanghai travel agency.
In other developments:
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has been isolating in a virus-free bubble, taking far more intense protective measures than many of his foreign counterparts. His government has largely declared the virus vanquished.
Israel is imposing an even tighter lockdown, in an attempt to curb one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the virus. Starting Friday, everyone except essential workers must stay home from work.
Despite a surge in cases, India is taking more steps toward reopening. The country will allow cinemas and entertainment parks to open with limited capacity, and states may be allowed to open schools.
Italy’s prime minister will seek to extend the country’s state of emergency until at least the end of January.
Hong Kong protests quashed
One year ago, China’s National Day was a day of protest and turmoil in Hong Kong. Demonstrators set fires and blockaded streets. The police responded with tear gas and pepper spray. One officer shot a young demonstrator with a live bullet.
This year, police quickly silenced dissent. The small turnout of protesters was smothered by thousands of police officers. The officers corralled and searched dozens of people at a time.
The stark contrast shows how the authorities have used social distancing rules, an overwhelming police presence and a sweeping national security law to silence pro-democracy rallies.
The scene: Some demonstrations looked like performance art. Instead of seas of people chanting, people held up copies of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper, as though they were reading them. A teenage boy played popular protest tunes on a recorder at an intersection and some sang along.
Taiwan’s biggest chip maker is caught between the U.S. and China
As China and the U.S. vie for tech dominance, Taiwan’s chip companies are feeling the heat. They are forced to heed American tech policy, but many of their customers — and their customers’ customers — are in China.
Last month, the Trump administration effectively forced chip makers in Taiwan to stop taking orders from the 5G giant Huawei. And the U.S. last week told American companies that they would need permission to export to China’s most advanced chip producer.
In the high-stakes fight, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, a leader in the industry, can no longer be a friend to both sides. And China has been promoting its own chip industry — and trying to hire experts from Taiwan.
Bigger picture: The Trump administration’s stranglehold on Huawei shows that despite China’s economic progress, the U.S. has maintained a final say over the technologies without which the modern world could not run.
If you have 5 minutes, this is worth it
What canceling Carnival means in Rio
Wars, disease and political turmoil have never prevented Rio de Janeiro from putting on its famous carnival — but the pandemic has. It’s unclear when, and how pared back, Carnival will be next year.
For Rio residents, the loss is financial, personal and even political. Our reporters and a photographer explored the city’s mood. “Carnival is a cleansing of the soul,” Nicilda da Silva, a samba dancer, above, said.
Here’s what else is happening
Aleksei Navalny: In an interview with Der Spiegel, the Russian opposition leader said that the use of a military-grade nerve agent was proof that President Vladimir Putin was behind his poisoning.
New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a debate that she had used cannabis, and most New Zealanders shrugged. But she stopped short of saying she backed legalization of marijuana, which people will vote on in a referendum with the national election on Oct. 17.
Tokyo Stock Exchange: The exchange’s operator said it planned to resume trading on Friday after a technical problem left investors unable to place orders and shut it down on Thursday. The episode could shake investors’ faith.
Snapshot: Above, Beadnose the bear in Katmai National Park and Preserve. Each fall, the park in southern Alaska celebrates its 2,200 brown bears with Fat Bear Week (which Beadnose won in 2018). The online competition brings levity and raises awareness about the preserve. You can vote for your choice of the fatter of two bears each day through Oct. 6.
What we’re reading: This Atlantic article about the career costs of our new offices. “This thoughtful piece got right to the heart of why endless working from home can leave one feeling so adrift,” writes Natasha Frost, on the Briefings team.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Tangy, salty-sweet pasta brings together well-seasoned eggplant and creamy ricotta for a hearty vegetarian meal.
Dine: If you’re heading out to a restaurant, you might want to review this list of warning signs and situations to avoid.
Read: We’ve compiled a list of 17 new books to watch for in October. New biographies shed light on Malcolm X, Sylvia Plath and the Beatles, and there’s new fiction from Tana French, Martin Amis, Sayaka Murata and others.
Let us help you find fun ways to stay safe with our At Home collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
A clash in the Caucasus
Our Moscow correspondent Andrew E. Kramer has covered the simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for years. We drew on his current and past reporting, and other Times articles, to help explain the dispute.
Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian separatist enclave in a remote mountain area of Azerbaijan, is threatening to pull in two major powers in the region, Russia and Turkey.
Ethnic tensions have long divided predominantly Christian Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan, which are both former Soviet republics. In 1921, Stalin attached the Armenian-dominated Karabakh to its hostile Azeri neighbor, using the ethnic conflict to consolidate overall control from Moscow, now needed to keep the peace.
In 1988, the enclave’s governing body petitioned President Mikhail Gorbachev to unite it with Armenia. Instead, he sent Soviet troops to try to force out its ethnic Armenian population, and Azeri forces encircled the enclave with a punishing military siege.
Then, starting in 1992, ethnic Armenian troops pressed the offensive, creating a land corridor to Armenia and pushing outward to occupy nearly one-fifth of Azerbaijan. Open war had broken out as the Soviet Union fell, and the clashes claimed 20,000 lives. A cease-fire was declared in 1994, but there was no final settlement, and periodic border skirmishes have broken out ever since.
The fighting that began last weekend stands out for two reasons. First, it is on a much larger scale than prior clashes. Dozens of people have been killed as the two sides launched missile strikes. Second, Turkey is openly backing Azerbaijan, a fellow Muslim and Turkic-speaking country.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared all-out support for the Azerbaijanis and castigated Armenia for ignoring efforts to negotiate a resolution. He also demanded that Armenia withdraw from lands it occupied 30 years ago.
Armenia has a mutual defense treaty with Russia, but so far has not asked that it be activated.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
— Melina and Dani
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news and Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor, for the Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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