Your Friday Briefing: Is China Relenting?

Vigil attendees in Beijing commemorated the victims of an apartment fire in Urumqi, China.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

Is China shifting on ‘zero Covid’?

China appears to be backing away from its harsh Covid rules, after a week of mass protests against its policies. The demonstrations have been the largest challenge to Beijing in decades.

In Guangzhou, residents returned to work yesterday for the first time in weeks after Covid-19 lockdowns were lifted. In Chongqing, some residents were no longer required to take regular Covid tests. And in Beijing, a senior health official played down the severity of Omicron variants, a rare move.

The ruling Communist Party has still not publicly acknowledged the widespread demonstrations against lockdowns. But, after policing measures mostly muted the protests, the party is signaling a willingness to address the root cause of the public anger: intrusive pandemic controls that have stifled economic growth and left millions confined in their homes for long stretches.

Context: Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has staked the party’s legitimacy on controlling the virus better than the nation’s rivals in the West. Any reversal or abandonment could undercut his authority.

From Opinion:

  • Run from anyone who claims to know where China’s protests are headed next, Nicholas Kristof says.

  • Yasheng Huang argues that Xi Jinping has broken the social contract that helped China prosper.

  • The Chinese people have reached a tipping point and are losing faith in the Communist Party, Wu Qiang writes.

E.U. diplomats are still debating an oil price cap.Credit…Alexey Malgavko/Reuters

In Kyiv, life without power

Six million people across Ukraine are without power as temperatures drop. In Kyiv, 3.3 million people face shortages of electricity, water and heat, as well as cellphone and internet service.

Municipal officials estimate that 1.5 million people are still without power for more than 12 hours a day in the capital. Elevators are stocked with emergency supplies, in case the power fails. The National Philharmonic played on a stage lit by battery-powered lanterns. Doctors have performed surgeries by flashlight. A cafe has two menus, one with no hot food.

Residents are exhausted, and threats are mounting. Temperatures are often below freezing now. Extended power outages threaten health care and risk a rise in accidents and hypothermia. Yesterday, Russian shelling also knocked out power in Kherson, which was recently recaptured.

Context: Kyiv has been relatively unscathed since spring. But waves of Russian missiles targeting Ukraine’s energy grid have affected the city.

Understand the Protests in China

  • The Toll of ‘Zero Covid’: The protests come as President Xi Jinping’s harsh pandemic policies have hurt businesses and strangled growth. The Daily looks at what the demonstrations could mean for Mr. Xi.
  • A Roar of Discontent: The protests have awoken a tradition of dissent that had seemed spent after 10 years under Mr. Xi. The effects may far outlast the street clashes.
  • The Economic Fallout: The unrest in the world’s biggest manufacturing nation is injecting a new element of uncertainty and instability into the global economy.
  • Facing Long Odds: The protesters in China hope to bring sweeping change, but three major forces stand in their way, our columnist writes.

Strikes: Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, defended strikes on Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure. (The U.N. said they could amount to war crimes.)

Aid: The U.N. is seeking a record-breaking $51.5 billion from international donors. The war is fueling desperation around the world.

“All options are on the table,” said a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.Credit…Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

South Africa’s president in peril

Cyril Ramaphosa’s future as South Africa’s president hangs in the balance, a day after a parliamentary panel found that he may have broken the law.

Opponents are lobbying for his departure as Parliament readies itself for a possible impeachment hearing for corruption. On Wednesday, a parliamentary report cast heavy skepticism on Ramaphosa’s explanation of how a large sum of U.S. currency came to be hidden in — and stolen from — a sofa at his farm.

When he swept into office four years ago, Ramaphosa was heralded as an anti-corruption crusader. But one of the president’s political foes alleged in June that Ramaphosa had between $4 million and $8 million stolen from his property in February 2020 and that he failed to report the theft to the police.

Ramaphosa: He claims that only $580,000 was stolen and that the money represented the proceeds of the sale of 20 buffaloes. But now, he may be doomed by a corruption scandal of his own making.

Elections: The A.N.C. is scheduled to elect its leadership at a national conference in two weeks. Until he was rocked by corruption allegations, Ramaphosa was favored to win a second term.


Asia Pacific

Rakesh Kumar Yadav, 40, died in Dubai. Five weeks later, his body was flown to Nepal.Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times
  • Nepali migrants face inequality and vulnerability overseas. When they die, their families also struggle to repatriate their remains.

  • From Opinion: Many Afghans who worked with U.S. troops were left behind in the withdrawal. Their text messages reveal their desperation.

Around the World

The two leaders lavished praise on each other despite tensions about the handling of the war in Ukraine.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
  • President Biden welcomed Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, at the White House. Biden said that he would be open to meeting with Vladimir Putin, but with conditions.

  • The two leaders will have a state dinner. Check out the menu.

  • The U.S. and Ukrainian Embassies in Spain were targeted by letter bombs. No major injuries have been reported.

The DealBook Summit

  • Sam Bankman-Fried said that FTX’s downfall was caused by “a massive failure of oversight on my part.” Here are key takeaways from his interview.

  • Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury secretary, described the collapse of FTX as a “Lehman moment” and called for more regulation of cryptocurrency.

The World Cup

  • Led by Lionel Messi, Argentina advanced with a 2-0 victory over Poland, which also qualified for the knockout round despite the loss.

  • Japan beat Spain, 2-1. And Germany beat Costa Rica, 4-2, but was eliminated.

  • Belgium, a heavyweight, was eliminated after tying Croatia, 0-0. Morocco advanced with a win over Canada, 2-1.

  • Garment workers in Myanmar earn less than $3 a day to produce soccer apparel for Adidas. Some say they were fired for asking for a raise.

  • Qatar is watching the World Cup, too. Our photographer shot spectators across the country, rejoicing in public.

The Week in Culture

  • UNESCO, the United Nations heritage agency, decreed that the French baguette is a piece of “intangible cultural heritage.”

  • Sight & Sound’s once-a-decade poll of critics crowned “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” as the greatest movie ever made. It’s the first to top the list that was directed by a woman.

  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” got top honors at the Gotham Awards, the first big show of the awards season.

  • Where have all the movie stars gone?

A Morning Read

Credit…George Steinmetz for The New York Times

Few countries ship more live animals overseas than Australia, which has exported a million cattle a year, on average, since 2017. Damien Cave, our Sydney bureau chief, followed the route of some cattle to Indonesia, where they will be fattened and slaughtered byIslamic butchers.

Advocacy groups insist that the journey is unethical, and the route is dangerous. But the business also has its own unique culture, at once a throwback and a modern marvel of globalization.


‘I want my body back,” Aleigha Harris said.Credit…Yehyun Kim for The New York Times

What does it take to breastfeed?

Some 83 percent of babies in the U.S. start out on breast milk. But by 6 months, just 56 percent are breastfed. At that stage, only a quarter drink breast milk exclusively, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

That steady decline speaks to the wide-ranging challenges parents face in trying to breastfeed.

Take Dr. Laiyin Ma, who returned to work four weeks after her oldest daughter’s birth and two weeks after her second arrived. Shepumped milk in stolen bursts in clinic rooms, propping her chair against the door to prevent patients and colleagues from barging in. While performing long operations, she leaked breast milk under her surgical gown.

She is stung by the irony that doctors and nurses struggle to meet the health guidelines they themselves recommend. “I really don’t think that people realize how hard it is for women in medicine to breastfeed,” Dr. Ma said.


What to Cook

Credit…Evan Sung for The New York Times

This cranberry tart riffs on the French tarte au citron.

What to Movies

Watch a great documentary this weekend.

What to Listen to

Christine McVie, who died at 79, was the serene center of Fleetwood Mac. Here are some of her most beloved songs.

Where to Travel

Spend 36 hours in Rome, merging old and new.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and here’s a clue: Take the wheel (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

Have a lovely weekend! See you Monday. — Amelia

P.S. We’ll send you 31 delights, tips and distractions to get you through each day of the holiday season. Sign up here.

“The Daily” is on a Jan. 6 verdict.

Whet Moser wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. Email us at [email protected].

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