Xi’s chance to cast himself as indispensable
President Xi Jinping of China has seized on the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the Chinese Communist Party after early mistakes let the pandemic spin out of control.
Shaping the narrative: Beijing is focusing on the disarray in the U.S. and other countries as China appears to have its outbreak under control. It is a dramatic turnaround from only months ago, when Mr. Xi faced a shaken public whose frustration even censors could not fully silence.
What Mr. Xi wants: To restore the pre-pandemic agenda, including his pledge to eradicate extreme poverty this year, while cautioning against complacency that could lead to a second wave. If he succeeds, he could chart a path to another term.
Biggest challenge: The economy contracted for the first time in more than four decades. Mr. Xi will have to keep hope in his leadership alive even as rise in prosperity on past levels is no longer certain.
“Great historical progress always happens after major disasters,” Mr. Xi said during a recent visit to a university. “Our nation was steeled and grew up through hardship and suffering.”
Cyclone slams into India’s coast
Cyclone Amphan knocked down trees, brought ropes of rain and sent villagers rushing into shelters when it made landfall on India’s eastern coast on Wednesday afternoon. Meteorologists say it is one of the most powerful storms in decades.
India and Bangladesh are still under coronavirus lockdown, which complicates a huge evacuation operation. One of the biggest challenges is how to protect people from getting infected while they are packed inside emergency centers.
Around three million people have been sent to shelters, but there are now fewer of them because the government converted many into quarantine centers.
First reports of deaths: At least two people were killed, including one child who died after a mud wall collapsed on top of him, according to Indian news reports.
What we’re tracking: Nearly a million Rohingya refugees are preparing for the worst in camps near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. And Kolkata, one of India’s historic cities, sits directly in the cyclone’s path.
Since the coronavirus broke out, the Trump administration has deported hundreds of migrant children alone — in some cases, without notifying their families. This is a reversal of years of established practice. Above, Sandra Rodríguez with her son Gerson, 10.
Our reporter looked at the policy shift and spoke with families, who described confusion, fear and chaos. One 16-year-old, Pedro Buezo Romero, was taken from his bed in a shelter in New York and told to pack a suitcase for a court appearance in Miami. Instead, he was put on a series of flights over two days and finally told he was being deported to Honduras.
Israel cyberattack: Israel was behind a cyberattack on May 9 that disrupted operations at a major port in Iran, according to intelligence officials and experts. The hacking of the port’s computers was in response to a failed Iranian cyberattack on an Israeli water facility last month.
What we’re listening to: The podcast “Wind of Change,” which explores a rumor that the 1990 ballad in the title, by the German band Scorpions, was written by the C.I.A. as part of a plot to change hearts and minds behind the Iron Curtain. Mike Wolgelenter, one of our editors in London, writes: “What’s not to love about a heavy metal-tinged deep dive into Cold War espionage?”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: A comforting, one-pan tuna casserole is just what we need right now. It has creamy white beans and a crunchy potato chip topping.
And now for the Back Story on …
Coronavirus rejiggers Germany’s politics
Germany’s measures for containment and careful reopening have been viewed as a model of a science-led approach. Melina talked to Katrin Bennhold, our Berlin bureau chief, about how the coronavirus crisis has shifted the political landscape in Germany, with the far right sidelined.
Something seems to have shifted for the far-right AfD, or Alternative for Germany, party during this pandemic. Their approval rating has been down in some national polls. Can you explain?
The pandemic has marginalized them. In February, the fallout from an inconclusive election in a small eastern state showed what a potent and disruptive force the AfD had become. It ultimately brought down Angela Merkel’s anointed successor. But when the pandemic hit, everything changed. Their narrative didn’t cut through anymore.
They struggled for three reasons: Merkel rose to the occasion. Her government basically managed to avoid the disaster that was unfolding in neighboring countries. Her approval rating surged — and this was a chancellor whose party had been tanking. So it became hard to attack her when about 80 percent of public opinion was behind her.
Second, AfD’s signature issues — especially migration — were no longer salient.
Third, the government was doing a lot of the things in the context of this health crisis that the AfD had been arguing for. Suddenly Merkel was closing borders — she became emblematic of a strong nation-state.
Will that last?
The reopening has given them a chance to step back into the national conversation. They’re trying to sort of turn Merkel’s measures around and say, Look, it’s possible to close the borders, and the nation-state is actually the relevant entity, not Europe, not the world. They are trying to co-opt some of the corona protests that are currently playing out on the streets of Germany.
The ultimate test will be the country’s mood after the economic crisis that has only just begun. The far right is banking on a meltdown, and the government is throwing money at this. For example, a short-term work program allows employers to cut employee hours while the government makes up some of the difference.
What does Germany’s reopening actually look like, and why did the containment work so well?
Success in this pandemic is basically a combination of some things that were already in place, like a robust health care system, and then a science-led approach. Merkel consulted very early with scientists, got testing off the ground and then coordinated with state governors. There was a sense of unity.
The reopening is happening in phases, and Merkel handed it back to the states this month. First it was shops and some schools. Restaurants opened last week in Berlin, where I live. It felt like a big moment.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
— Melina and Carole
To Melissa Clark for the recipe, and to Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the rest of the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is on racial disparities in the coronavirus death rate.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Worker in Santa’s workshop (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The Times won six medallions and three merit awards in the Silurians Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism competition for work from the Metro desk.