On Thursday 21 May, China’s top leaders convened in Beijing for the annual Two Sessions meetings after it was delayed for two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Two Sessions refer to the annual meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – an advisory body of over 2,000 members, and the National People’s Congress—China’s top legislative body, to enact policies and agendas.
When the CPPCC meeting began at 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon, Beijing skies was suddenly enveloped by darkness, turning completely black at around 3:45 pm as fierce lightning and thunder struck, followed by torrential rain.
BBC camera journalist Edward Lawrence captured the ominous scene on his twitter, as did many other observers.
— Edward Lawrence (@EP_Lawrence) May 21, 2020
Sky Turns Dark When "Two Sessions" in Beijing Begin 北京开两会 惊雷伴黑昼On May 21, the skies in Beijing turn dark at 3:00 pm local time, on the day when the Chinese Communist Party's biggest political gathering of the year, "Two Sessions" is finally taking place. Chinese people call this "God's Indignation and People's Resentment"5月21日下午三点，北京二会召开之日， 惊雷伴着黑昼，降临在北京。这就叫「天怒人怨」？
פורסם על ידי Jennifer Zeng's blog 曾錚的博客 ב- יום חמישי, 21 במאי 2020
Other parts of China also experienced severe weather. The next day on 22 May, while the National People’s Congress was holding its opening ceremony, southern China’s Guanzhou city suffered severe flooding with water up to 25 inches deep in some neighborhoods.
This occurred on the heels of hail storms a few days earlier in eastern China’s Shandong province and western China’s Chongqing city, with hail the size of chicken eggs that destroyed farmer’s lands.
For China, it seems the annus horribillis of 2019 is showing no signs of abating in 2020.
Pestilence and plagues
Since the summer of 2018, the Middle Kingdom has been hit by a series of plagues with implications for food security, public health, and economic growth.
The first one actually began in June 2018 when US threatened to slap tariffs up to $550 billion worth of Chinese products. This is followed by deteriorating Sino-US relations with tariff wars, coupled with US allies slowly shifting their supply chains out of China.
The second plague was the African swine fever outbreak two months later in August 2018, which wiped out a third of China’s pig population numbering over 100 million by September 2019. This sent pork prices skyrocketing up to 110% year-on-year, causing more than $140 billion in direct losses according to the College of Animal Science and Technology at China Agricultural University.
The third plague is the impending invasion of locusts currently in neighboring Pakistan and India. Since September 2019 a swarm of 360 billion locusts have made its way from East Africa across the Middle East and South Asia, and these swarms could now enter the Tibet region from Pakistan and India, the southwestern province of Yunnan through Myanmar, or via Kazakhstan into China’s Xinjiang region.
Agriculture in China had a difficult year in 2019, hit by the fourth plague of crop-gobbling fall armyworms which spread across a million hectares of farmland, as well as African swine fever that decimated the country’s herd of pigs.
Fall armyworms mainly feed on rice and corn, which makes them one of the most destructive agricultural pests. They target cotton, tobacco, sweet corn, rice, peanuts, and even fruits such as apples and oranges.
Coupled with the fifth plague of Covid-19, this locust swarm of Biblical proportions could drag China’s coronavirus-stricken economy down farther and threaten its food security. Desert locusts are one of the world’s oldest and most destructive pests, causing damage to crops, pasture, and according to the United Nations, a swarm measuring a square kilometre can consume as much food in a day as 35,000 people.
Wars and rumors of war
Now with the Covid-19 pandemic and many countries coalescing against China to investigate the origins of the virus, there are rumors of a new cold war between China and the West.
European countries, traditionally seen as agnostic in Sino-US rivalry, began to view China differently after the pandemic. For the first time in December, NATO recognized China “challenges”, and subsequently NATO chief Stoltenberg censured Beijing over its coronavirus disinformation and cover-up.
EU also jumped into the fray calling for an investigation, and recently rebuked its Beijing envoy for censoring EU letter referencing Covid-19’s origins in China. Angry and resentful over devastating economic losses as a result of the pandemic, various countries throughout the world are now riding a rising wave of hostility towards China.
Sensing this threat, in April China’s intelligence agency issued an internal report to Chinese leaders warning that that global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for armed confrontation in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Hopefully, these rumors of war remain rumors. Given China and the international community already have a full plate of plagues and pestilence, humanity is better off by heeding the sign of the times, and coming together to collectively end the very long annus horribilis.