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China policy round-up: Chinese Covid-19 vaccine goes into final testing, new Beijing cluster traced to local market, White House adviser causes confusion on trade deal

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By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
26 Jun 2020

In this round-up, China and the United Arab Emirates launch the phase three clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine, the origin of nearly all the new infections in Beijing has been confirmed, and an adviser to the Donald Trump administration stirs the market with comments on the Sino-US trade deal.

China National Pharmaceutical Group, a state-owned healthcare group, launched a new Covid-19 vaccine into the international phase three clinical trial in the UAE on Tuesday. It is the first coronavirus shot to reach the final stage of human testing.

China is looking to test the vaccine overseas due to a lack of new patients at home.

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Some 98.8% of the new cluster of Covid-19 infections — 253 out of 256 by the end of Tuesday — in Beijing can be traced back to Xinfadi, a wholesale food market in the Fengtai district, government officials said.

The Chinese capital reported a total of 269 cases between June 11 and Wednesday, June 24. There were 11 newly confirmed infections on Thursday, three suspected cases, as well as one asymptomatic case.

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The White House defended US president Trump’s use of “kung flu” to describe Covid-19 at a recent campaign rally.

When asked why Trump chose such a "racist phrase", Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said that Trump was merely pointing to “the fact that the origin of the virus is China”, according to the transcript of a press briefing.

“It’s a fair thing to point out, as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history, ridiculously blame the coronavirus on American soldiers. This is what China is trying to do,” McEnany added.

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Delta Air Lines has become the first American airline to resume flights between the US and China.

It said on Monday it will operate flights twice per week between Seattle and Shanghai-Pudong, going through Seoul-Incheon, from June 25. It will also run weekly flights from Seattle and Detroit — also via Incheon — from July.

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White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested in an interview on Monday that the US-China trade deal is “over”, causing a sharp fall in the global equities market.

Navarro later claimed that his comments had “been taken wildly out of context” and that they had “nothing at all” to do with the phase one trade deal, “which continues in place”.

Trump tweeted on Monday evening US time that the deal “is fully intact”.

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The US Senate approved a bipartisan bill proposed by senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and senator Chris Van Hollen for Maryland on Thursday.

The bill, called the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, seeks to impose sanctions on entities that violate China’s obligations to Hong Kong under the joint declaration and the basic law. It will also sanction banks that do business with the entities in violation of Hong Kong’s basic law.

"Today, the Senate stood up to the communist regime in Beijing and stood with the people of Hong Kong," Toomey said in a statement.

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The US Department of Defense has compiled a list of 20 Chinese firms that are deemed to be owned or controlled by the Chinese military, including Huawei Technologies, according to a Reuters report. This could open them up to new sanctions under the US law, including blocking all property of the listed parties, the report said.

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The extradition case for Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, will continue until at least April 30 next year, based on a Tuesday ruling by the British Columbia Supreme Court.

The original schedule was for the hearings to be wrapped up in October. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced courts in Vancouver to suspend normal operations. Under the new schedule, hearings will restart on August 17 and last until March. The last scheduled hearings will conclude on April 30.

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Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry, established a link between Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians detained and prosecuted in China, and Meng’s trail.

In a Wednesday press conference, Zhao said the foreign ministry understood that the Canadian justice minister “had the authority to stop Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process at any point” and such options “could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians”.

By Addison Gong, Rebecca Feng
26 Jun 2020