Pneumonia outbreak infects China’s children

Parents question whether the authorities are ‘covering up an epidemic,’ according to media reports

Welcome to the 23rd edition of Between The Lines. This week we look at the mysterious pneumonia outbreak in China infecting children. Is this another cover-up? Also, we focus on the European Union’s backlash against Chinese high-tech subsidies and the battle for Taiwanese hearts and minds.

Health experts have raised the alarm over a mysterious “pneumonia-like” illness that has left Chinese hospitals “overwhelmed with sick children.”

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization “requested detailed information” about an “increase in respiratory illnesses” among the young amid fears of a “cover-up.” Television network Al Jazeera reported:

FTV News, a Taiwanese media outlet, [described] children’s hospitals in Beijing, Liaoning, and other places in the north [of the country being] “overwhelmed with sick children.”

“Parents were [also] questioning whether the authorities were ‘covering up an epidemic’,” FTV News said, as reported by ProMed, which monitors human disease outbreaks worldwide.

Chinese health officials believe the rise follows the “lifting of Covid-19 restrictions” last year. But after Beijing’s lack of transparency that triggered the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in 2020, red lights are flashing among the medical community. 

At least 772 million people were infected globally with Covid-19 and nearly seven million died.

“Dr Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician who is part of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said testing and making those results public was crucial, adding that the illness ‘could be anything’,” the Daily Mail in London pointed out.

China and the EU are heading for a bust-up. Image: Dreamstime

China won’t knock the EU’s bloc off this time

It promises to be quite a scrap. In the red corner is China. In the blue corner is the European Union determined not to make the same mistake in an economic rematch.

With relations remaining tense between the world’s second-largest economy and the world’s largest trading bloc, blunders from the past will not be repeated. Cue the Financial Times:

The EU has learned its lesson on China, according to former European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht. The bloc is ramping up pressure on Beijing over its ballooning bilateral trade deficit.

“De Gucht said, its policy must be influenced by the outcome of a previous bout of trade tensions. Back in 2013, he was investigating alleged Chinese subsidies for solar panel production,” the FT said. 

But “we were not hard enough. We were not quick enough. And by that time there were no European producers anymore,” De Gucht added in an interview.

The EU is determined not to fall for another sucker punch after rolling out “two new anti-dumping investigations into China” last week.

PLA Navy ships in the Taiwan Strait. Photo: China Military

War between Taiwan and China ‘is not an option’ 

Taiwan’s Vice-President hopeful Hsiao Bi-khim has warned that “war” with China “is not an option.” 

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party announced this week that the high-profile diplomat would be the running mate for presidential favorite Lai Ching-te in January’s elections, the Reuters news agency revealed, adding:

Hsiao, a fluent English speaker who became Taiwan’s envoy to the United States in 2020, [pointed] to cross-strait communications as key to easing tension that has raised concern about the region’s stability.

“We have reiterated our position that we remain open to dialogue [and] that we are also committed to the status quo. War is not an option,” she said.

Beijing has branded “Lai and Hsiao as separatists” and considers the democratic island a “renegade province,” vowing to take it by force if necessary. 

Still most Taiwanese distrust Beijing and view the Communist Party as a growing threat, according to a survey by research institution Academia Sinica, media site Axios reported today. 

And finally …

Catch up with the “Chinese mafia’s downfall in a lawless casino town” in Myanmar. Check out the full story on the BBC website.