• Sun. Oct 24th, 2021

    Your Wednesday Briefing


    Oct 12, 2021

    China’s home buyers are frustrated.

    Melina Delkic

    We’re covering the standstill in China’s housing market and flaws in Britain’s early pandemic response.


    The Chinese housing market’s high prices, borrowing and spending are increasingly seen as a national threat.
    Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

    Evergrande Group’s financial troubles, and the government policies that helped push it to the brink of collapse, have threatened an important economic driver: home sales.

    For years, homes have been the main savings vehicle for Chinese families. Nearly three-quarters of household wealth in China is tied to property and real estate has grown to provide more than a quarter of the country’s economic growth by some estimates.

    Now companies like Evergrande can’t afford to keep building. Some 1.6 million home buyers remain in limbo waiting for their apartments. Others are scared to put down money for apartments that might never be built.

    “We are indeed seeing a very serious slowdown in the property market, with falling prices, sales and construction activity, and this is likely to drag down economic growth in the next couple of quarters,” said the director of an independent economic research firm.

    Big picture: China’s 100 biggest real estate companies are expected to report that sales in September plummeted by more than a third compared with a year earlier.

    Response: Beijing has been largely silent, but regulators have started to make moves to bolster the sector. The central bank has opened emergency spigots to make it easier for local banks to draw more money, just in case. Local governments have set up task forces to help manage the potential fallout.

    Latest on Evergrande: On Monday, the company missed another round of interest payments on two U.S. dollar bonds, a person familiar with the matter said. Waiting for a lifeline, it halted trading of its shares last week in Hong Kong and announced the potential sale of a lucrative unit.


    Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

    Britain’s initial response to Covid-19 “ranks as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,” a parliamentary inquiry published Tuesday found, blaming the British government for “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided.”

    In effect, the report indicated, the government pursued an ill-conceived strategy of herd immunity when it failed to carry out widespread testing and delayed imposing lockdowns or border rules in the early months of the pandemic.

    Officials’ assumption that British people would not accept lockdowns or contact tracing was “one of the critical things that was completely wrong,” said Dominic Cummings, a former chief adviser. It was only in late March 2020, with infections doubling every three days and the health system at risk of being overwhelmed, that Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown.

    Data: Britain has experienced one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks among wealthy nations, with 162,000 deaths officially attributed to the disease. The report did praise the government’s vaccine strategy; 78.6 percent of people aged 12 and over have now received two doses.

    Bigger picture: The findings do not require the government to act, but could help shape the public debate ahead of a full public inquiry into the pandemic response promised by Johnson in 2022.

    Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

    In other developments:


    Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

    For the second time in three months, China is grappling with the aftermath of violent floods, caused by days of unusually intense rains that have left at least 28 people dead and displaced more than 120,000 across the northern parts of the country.

    The death toll included 13 people who died after a commuter bus fell into a river on Monday from a flooded bridge near the northern city of Shijiazhuang, according to Chinese media reports. In Shanxi Province, China’s coal country, floods shut down 60 mines and destroyed at least 17,000 buildings.

    The floods in northern China are the latest reminder of the challenge that global warming and extreme weather pose. Just months ago, flooding in Henan Province killed more than 300 people.

    Asia Pacific


    Credit…Xavier Galiana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


    Credit…Hadi Mizban/Associated Press


    Credit…Josh Robenstone

    Our T Magazine writer went to Shanghai’s teahouses. Historically, the spaces were like populist pubs. Modern-day iterations allow for an individual retreat — among strangers — in a city lacking privacy.




    Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times