Jan 25, 2019

China at Davos, and in Africa

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

DAVOS, Switzerland — The question of whether China is a partner or a predator hung over the World Economic Forum this year.

One Davos veteran told Axios the Chinese participants were the "rockstars" of this year's forum. "Every panel has one or two Chinese people, speaking perfect English. They used to linger in the back. Now they are setting the agenda," she said.

  • Another said attendees tend to be sympathetic to China, both for economic reasons and "because they don't understand the Chinese model" and desire for influence around the world.
  • Both asked not to be named because they weren't representing the views of their companies.

The big picture: With all that in mind, three fresh perspectives on what we should make of China's investments around the world, particularly in Africa:

1. Chin Okeke, a Nigerian-born, Mandarin-speaking entrepreneur, said at a panel on the Davos sidelines: "If China is a welcome alternative to what we've had before, and if what China is offering is more attractive, then other players have to step up."

  • On Chinese "debt traps," he said: "As much as we point at China ... as a Nigerian I'd rather look inward, and look at the corruption of African leaders" who are making these deals.

2. Lina Benabdallah, a professor at Wake Forest University, writes in Foreign Policy that if President Trump really wants to counter China's influence in Africa, the U.S. "needs to recognize how China’s influence actually works."

  • "Chinese presidents and premiers make a point of making official trips to Africa as soon as possible after taking office. ... Every year, the Chinese government sponsors thousands of exchange visits, short-term trainings, and scholarships for civil servants, young entrepreneurs, and high-ranking military officers."

3. Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes for Axios Expert Voices about a growing worry that "China is using Belt and Road for political gain."

  • "History is filled with examples of states using foreign infrastructure to access territory, harvest resources, shape government policy, dominate technology, and undercut their competitors. In many ways, China is merely updating the playbook used by Western powers during the 19th and 20th centuries to expand its influence."

Go deeper: Trump's new Africa strategy aims to counter China, Russia

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U.S. coronavirus updates: New York tops previous day's record death toll

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York's death toll surged to its highest one-day total on Wednesday — beating the previous day's record. 779 people died in the state in 24 hours. The state has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe.

Why it matters: Public health officials have warned this would be a particularly deadly week for America, even as New York began to see declining trends of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,504,971 — Total deaths: 87,984 — Total recoveries: 318,068Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 424,945 — Total deaths: 14,529 — Total recoveries: 23,292Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism.
  4. States latest: Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.
  5. Business update: One-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing, mostly affecting low-income workers.
  6. World update: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  7. Environment update: COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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The pandemic and pollution

New York City's skyline on a smoggy day in May 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.

Why it matters: Old-fashioned air pollution is almost certainly the single biggest environmental health threat, contributing to the deaths of some 7 million people a year according to the WHO, making it comparable to deaths from smoking.

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