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CHINA: Country Achieves Positive Economic Growth of 2.3% in 2020

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China was the first country to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic. For the whole of 2020, it recorded 2.3% growth. With the lockdown, economic activity has been severely slowed. In the first quarter of 2020, the country thus experienced a historic decline in its growth (-6.8%). But the economy was able to rebound from the spring, after good control of the epidemic.

In the last quarter, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) posted an increase of 6.5%, returning to its pre-pandemic level. China’s GDP is at its lowest for 40 years but it posted positive growth of 2.3% in 2020 with a GDP of 6.5%. Figures above the predictions of analysts who expected 2% growth. The recovery in activity in China was particularly noticeable at the end of the year, due to “very strong demand” abroad for medical products (masks, medical protection, syringes) and equipment for teleworking (in particular computers), explains an analyst at IHS Markit. In December, industrial production in China reached its highest growth rate of 2020, growing 7.3% year on year.

China was the only major economy in the world to record positive merchandise trade growth in 2020. Its foreign trade even exceeded expectations, reaching an all-time high. According to government officials, the latest foreign trade data released by the General Administration of Customs released on Jan. 14 shows that, China’s foreign trade grew 1.9 percent year-on-year to reach 32,160 billion. yuan ($ 4.970 billion) in 2020, compared with 2.970 billion yuan in 2010, while its exports grew 4% year-on-year and imports fell 0.7%. The trade surplus jumped 27.4% to 3.7 trillion yuan.

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ASIA

CHINA – Chinese Navy “Friendly Visit” to Nigeria

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Three Chinese navy ships stopped Sunday for five days in the waters of Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, during a rare visit to the Gulf of Guinea, it was learned on Monday from the Nigerian and Chinese authorities.

“This is a friendly visit” to “improve diplomacy” between China and Nigeria, Nigerian navy spokesman Rear Admiral Ayo-Vaughan told AFP on Monday.

One of the ships docked on Sunday in the port of Apapa de Lagos, where a ceremony was held. The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, said that this “visit was a major event in recent years”. This event ‘demonstrates a high level of trust’ between the two countries, which will ‘strengthen’ the links between the two navies, especially in terms of ‘joint resolution of regional security issues,’ he added, quoted in a statement published on the embassy’s website.

The Gulf of Guinea, which stretches over 5,700 kilometres between Senegal and Angola, is a crucial maritime route bordering countries rich in hydrocarbons and has been the new black mark of global piracy for several years, even though piracy has recently taken its toll. China has very close economic and financial ties with Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. It has invested heavily in infrastructure, such as the new deep-water port of Lekki, on the outskirts of Lagos.

In terms of security cooperation, Nigeria, in the grip of a serious insecurity between piracy and jihadi conflict in the northeast, is mainly turned towards the United States, one of its main suppliers of military equipment. Last year, American defence officials expressed concern about China’s plans for a military base on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.

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ASIA

INDIA – A new and even more worrisome variant of Covid-19

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India has lost control of the virus. Covid-19 is beginning to rise to alarming proportions with a new variant. Over the past seven days, 250,000 infections have been recorded every day in the country. The day of Wednesday, April 21, 2021 broke the records of daily infections since 300,000 positive cases were counted. This remarkable spike in the number of cases in the country could be due to the new “Indian variant”.

India is now going through difficult times with this health crisis that is difficult to control. After several months of calm, the country is experiencing a worrying daily contamination rate. The appearance of a new variant called B.1.617 could be the cause. First detected in October 2020 in Nagpur, central India, it is described by medical experts as a “double mutant”. Patrick Berche, microbiologist and member of the Academy of Medicine, explains that the complexity of this variant is that it is the junction of several other variants already detected in Brazil, South Africa or the United States. According to him it is a mutant that has mutations that are found in a Californian variant, on the one hand, and another mutation on the same variant that is found in the Brazilian and south-African and would be more contagious and less accessible to vaccine protection. 

Still according to him, the “Indian variant” would be more virulent and even more contagious. It is responsible for more than 55% of cases of contamination in the state of Maharashtra, in central-western India. In the rest of the country, it is the cause of 10% of Covid-19 positive cases. What is special about this virus is that it quickly reaches young people with a higher risk of lethality. This is what explains the anxiety of Indian doctors especially since so far, no study allows to master the contours of this variant.  

The French doctor always specifies that vaccination campaigns must be accelerated because if the virus continues to circulate, there will inevitably be variants. The other major difficulty is that when studying the characteristics of one variant, another one appears with its specificities. “What is very disturbing is that the faster the virus multiplies, the more likely it is that mutants will appear. We will not control this pandemic if we do not vaccinate third world countries that cannot afford the vaccines. We really need a global vision, a global vision to fight this virus. There will always be the possibility of a variant coming by plane, for example, seeding Europe or the United States,‘ adds Patrick Berchel.

It should be noted that beyond the Indian territory, the new variant named B.1.617 is also present in England, Germany, Canada and Singapore, according to information from Public Health France.

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BURMA: Calls for civil disobedience multiply on social networks

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Two days after the coup d’état in Burma, calls for disobedience are multiplying on social networks, especially on Facebook. People are showing the first signs of resistance and are calling for the restoration of the rule of law.

On Monday, the military seized power in Burma. They then declared a state of emergency for one year and placed Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint under house arrest. But already, the first signs of resistance are showing in the population even if the fear of reprisals remains strong in the country. The population received the order to knock on pots, every evening at 8 pm, on the balconies and the front of houses in protest against the presence of the army.

A group called «the civil disobedience movement» was launched on Facebook and had nearly 150,000 followers on Wednesday morning. “Shame on the army,” “the military are thieves,” it says. Doctors and health professionals have announced that they will refuse any work, except in the event of a medical emergency. “We will obey only our democratically elected government,” they wrote in a joint statement.
Members of the medical staff of the Yangon General Hospital also gathered in front of the institution, saluting with three fingers, a gesture of resistance already adopted by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong or Thailand.

The UN Security Council met urgently behind closed doors on Tuesday, but failed to agree on a common text. To be adopted, this joint declaration requires the support of China, which exercises a veto as a permanent member of the Security Council. However, Beijing remains Burma’s main support to the United Nations. Negotiations are ongoing, according to a diplomat who requested anonymity.

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