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China’s Floods Have Long-Term Consequences

Historic flooding in China’s Henan province could disrupt already rattled global supply chains.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Flood damage in China
Damaged cars rest on debris after heavy rains hit the city of Zhengzhou, China, causing floods in China’s central Henan province on July 21. Stringer/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The death toll from China’s floods rises to 33 deaths, the Olympics begin in Tokyo, and the United States imposes sanctions on Cuba.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The death toll from China’s floods rises to 33 deaths, the Olympics begin in Tokyo, and the United States imposes sanctions on Cuba.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

China’s Flooding Death Toll Rises

As rescue and recovery efforts continue following heavy flooding, residents of Henan province in central China are bracing for even more rain as a historic crisis worsens for one of the country’s poorest provinces.

Since Sunday, record rainfall has led to mass flooding across a region that is home to nearly 100 million people. On Tuesday, the provincial capital of Zhengzhou received the equivalent of one-third of its average annual rainfall in the span of one hour.

The impact has been devastating. At least 33 people have died so far—a toll that will undoubtedly rise—and more than 250,000 people have been displaced. Entire neighborhoods have been submerged. Powerful floods have caused landslides. And although Zhengzhou is the worst-hit area, smaller cities and villages have been deeply affected.

Henan is home to a large number of factories, and as Foreign Policy’s James Palmer noted in this week’s China Brief, consumers can expect several disruptions to global supply chains already rattled by the coronavirus pandemic. Apple and Nissan factories are among those wrecked by the flooding.

Climate change. Regional officials have described the amount of rainfall as a “once in a thousand years” event. And although there’s no way to measure such a claim, there is widespread consensus that extreme climate events are taking place with increased frequency all over the world.

Recent news makes for grim reading. In southwestern Iran, hundreds of people have been demonstrating in often violent protests this week because of severe water shortages. Meanwhile, Germany has been left reeling by floods that killed at least 188 people. Turkey, Japan, and Northern Ireland have set records for high temperatures in recent days. And there have been deadly wildfires in North America and Russia.

Perfect storm. It’s not just the weather and environment that’s wreaking havoc. As FP’s Elise Labott writes, from “Cuba to South Africa to Colombia to Haiti, often violent protests are sweeping every corner of the globe” as a perfect storm of preexisting conditions gets exacerbated by new and deadlier waves of the coronavirus—even as much of the developing world remains unvaccinated and completely exposed.

As new grievances emerge while old wounds fester, this is quickly becoming one of the most unpredictable summers of discontent in recent memory.

What We’re Following Today

Cuba sanctions. On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions on a Cuban security minister and a special forces unit. This is the Biden administration’s first concrete actions following protests on the island earlier this month. In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden warned the move was “just the beginning” and the United States “will continue to sanction individuals responsible for oppression of the Cuban people.” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla called the sanctions “unfounded and slanderous” and urged the United States to reflect on its own “systematic repression and police brutality.” Hundreds of Cubans involved in the protests now face charges of inciting unrest.

The Olympics begin. The opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympics, postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, begins today in Tokyo at 7 a.m. ET. The games—beset by local apathy, cost overruns, bears, oyster infestations, and internal scandals—added one more before today’s launch: Opening ceremony creative director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired the day before the ceremony after old footage emerged of Kobayashi performing a comedy skit mocking the Holocaust.

Daily new COVID-19 infections in Tokyo have increased from an average of 882 cases per day last week to 1,373 cases per day this week. The testing positivity rate has reached 10.7 percent, a level that indicates a higher number of cases in the population than officially reported.

Haiti mourns Moïse. The funeral of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse takes place today in the city of Cap-Haïtien after his assassination earlier this month. Public demonstrations are expected alongside the private event, with authorities hoping to avoid the violent protests that took place in nearby Quartier-Morin on Wednesday. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Daniel Foote, a career foreign service officer, as the new U.S. special envoy for Haiti.

Keep an Eye On

Brazil’s election. Brazil’s political leaders have been forced to deny reports that the 2022 presidential election must meet new conditions before a vote can be held. Brazilian Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto is reported to have told Brazilian House Speaker Arthur Lira the election would not take place unless paper ballots were universally used. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has claimed electronic voting systems in the country are vulnerable to fraud, a claim Brazil’s electoral court denies. Bolsonaro has yet to provide evidence to back up his claim as he trails his likely challenger, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in the polls.

Pegasus fallout. French President Emmanuel Macron has switched to a new phone following revelations from the Pegasus Project that his device may have been targeted as part of a widespread government-led hacking program using spyware licensed from an Israeli company. Prosecutors in Hungary and Algeria have ordered investigations into the use of the program while Israel has formed a commission to review the approval of spyware licenses.

Odds and Ends

Police are investigating after an Indonesian man infected with COVID-19 attempted to skirt the country’s coronavirus restrictions by boarding a flight from Jakarta disguised as his wife. Police say the man used his wife’s name, vaccination card, and negative PCR (or molecular) test to board the flight, concealing his true identity by wearing a niqab. A flight attendant uncovered the ruse after the man changed his clothes mid-flight, and police arrested the man when he landed. He is now self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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