Morning Brief

China Could Postpone Top Political Meeting

The Chinese legislature is likely to delay its annual congress amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A man wears a protective mask as he stands on the subway during rush hour on Feb. 17 in Beijing.
A man wears a protective mask as he stands on the subway during rush hour on Feb. 17 in Beijing. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: China’s leadership could postpone a critical legislative meeting due to the coronavirus, the EU announces a new naval mission to enforce the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, and Taliban commanders are still waiting for orders to reduce violence.

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China May Delay Top Political Meeting

State media reported Monday that China’s legislature may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year—its annual congress, set for March 5 in Beijing—due to the coronavirus. The gathering usually lasts at least 10 days, with delegates passing legislation and setting economic targets. One-third of National People’s Congress (NPC) delegates are provincial or city officials working to slow the outbreak.

This year’s annual congress is particularly critical, with delegates set to ratify China’s first civil code as part of President Xi Jinping’s legal reforms and expected to discuss the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The March NPC meeting has not been postponed since 1995. The announcement about the delay came as Chinese authorities reported a decline in new virus cases. So far, China has confirmed over 72,000 cases and 1,870 deaths.

What to make of the new data. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), noted that the apparent decline should be interpreted with caution. “It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue,” he said. “Every scenario is still on the table.” Still, the new data seem to show that four out of five people infected have only a mild case of the disease, the WHO said.

Why did China release Xi’s speech? Over the weekend, a party publication released a speech that indicated Xi was managing containment efforts as early as Jan. 7—two weeks before his first public comments. The timing of the publication is odd, but it could be intended to support the central leadership’s narrative that local officials were slow to respond to the outbreak, Bloomberg reports.

What We’re Following Today

EU steps up enforcement as arms flow into Libya. The European Union reached an agreement on Monday to deploy warships and planes in the Mediterranean to enforce the U.N. arms embargo on Libya. It also decided to end Operation Sophia, the maritime patrols set up to counter human smuggling off the Libyan coast. As weapons continue to flow into Libya, combatants on all sides of the civil war seem to be digging in. The U.N. Security Council held a vote on a cease-fire in Libya last Thursday, but Russia abstained—suggesting it might not be committed to a U.N.-led political solution.

Apple projects lower revenue. On Monday, Apple became the first major U.S. company to announce that it won’t meet its quarterly revenue projections due to slower iPhone production amid the coronavirus outbreak in China, which is rippling through the global economy. While Apple’s factories in China are reopening, there is still a shortage of components that will affect revenues in the short term. Apple had projected record revenue for this quarter—between $63 and $67 billion. It hasn’t yet released an updated estimate.

No reduction of violence yet in Afghanistan. Militant commanders in Afghanistan say they are waiting for orders from Taliban leadership before stopping their attacks on government targets, days after a U.S. official said that a seven-day reduction of violence had been agreed. Attacks against Afghan government forces continued on Sunday night, despite a Taliban official in Doha confirming the deal. Meanwhile, Afghan observers worry because the government is on the sidelines—and they fear more violence as a result, Emran Feroz reports for FP.

Keep an Eye On

The U.S.-India partnership. Ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first visit to India next week, some experts worry that his administration is weakening efforts to make the country a strategic partner. That’s because Trump’s approach to trade talks with India—as elsewhere—is driven by his obsession with trade balance, FP’s Keith Johnson reports.

Pompeo in Ethiopia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues his first African trip today in Ethiopia, where he will meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Pompeo spoke with Angola’s president on Monday, condemning corruption as he promoted U.S. business interests.

Odds and Ends

A ghost ship abandoned by its crew for over a year washed ashore on Sunday in County Cork, Ireland, during Storm Dennis, which caused damage in the United Kingdom over the weekend. The cargo vessel, the MV Alta, was traveling from Greece to Haiti in 2018 when it became disabled and was left by its crew. It was then towed to Guyana, hijacked, and left unmanned in the mid-Atlantic before apparently drifting to Ireland.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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