Wuhan’s disillusionment

Balance of Power

Tensions between the U.S. and China are playing out at ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wuhan, the city of 11 million where Covid-19 was first discovered, has borne the brunt of President Donald Trump's anger over China's handling of the outbreak. While the city has essentially eradicated the virus, the vitriol from the White House still stings. In Wuhan, it has boosted trust in the Chinese government while undermining America's reputation.

We visited Wuhan in April, as restrictions on daily life were lifting, and explored how the government wanted to portray the city as a success story. During another trip at the end of July, as U.S.-China friction intensified, the mood had shifted: Residents and business executives were reluctant to speak to American media, and in some cases prevented by authorities from doing so.

Conversations that did happen revolved around the fraught U.S. relationship and especially what Trump has said. Chinese state media frame his comments as unprovoked attacks. His remarks are increasingly reaching into the personal lives of many Chinese, including his criticisms of WeChat — an app that's widely used both in China and among the diaspora.

With the U.S. election approaching, a big question is how Democratic candidate Joe Biden would approach an increasingly assertive China. Based on the disillusionment toward America in Wuhan, the decoupling looks set to continue no matter who wins.

As one resident put it: "The fantasy of the U.S. has collapsed, like the heroic images in Hollywood movies. The U.S. and China are no longer in a relationship."

Sharon Chen

People dance in a club in Wuhan on Aug. 7.

Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg

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Global Headlines

Man behind the man | Trump's subdued and austere vice president gets his moment in the spotlight as the keynote speaker on the third night of the Republican National Convention. It's a pivotal moment for Mike Pence — Trump's most loyal lieutenant and, in some ways, his antithesis — ahead of his own potential 2024 bid for the White House.

Campaign 2020

There are 69 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

First lady Melania Trump capped the second night of the convention by attempting to soften the image of her highly divisive husband, while Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in a speech taped during a visit to Jerusalem, said Trump has "pulled back the curtain" on Chinese aggression and made progress toward Middle East peace. Click here for our viewers' guide to night three.

Other developments:

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Saving jobs | The German government is extending a program designed to save millions of jobs in a bid to help Europe's biggest economy recover from its worst crisis in the postwar era. It comes as a report by Ifo's business confidence gauge shows local companies are slightly more optimistic that national output is improving.

Going silent | Saudi authorities have severed contact between some prominent detainees and their families, in a crackdown on dissent that threatens to strain ties with Western allies. As Vivian Nereim reports, dozens of princes, clerics and activists have been arrested in recent years, even as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wins praise for opening up economically, loosening social restrictions and granting women more rights.

Trump and Mohammad Bin Salman in 2019.

Photographer: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council

Fiscal floodgates | Justin Trudeau's selection of Chrystia Freeland as Canada's new finance minister cements her place as his most trusted lieutenant. As Kait Bolongaro explains, it also signals the most decisive lurch to the left in economic policy since Trudeau's father governed in the 1980s.

Wooing the poor | Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seeking to shore up his support among the poor with a new program to help 1.6 million families buy homes. His popularity has already risen among low-income families via a government stipend to informal workers during the pandemic.

What to Watch

  • The head of Africa's largest multilateral bank is poised to win re-election after being cleared of wrongdoing by two probes.
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who helped lead the 2004 Orange Revolution, is in intensive care with coronavirus.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned emergency measures are needed to deal with an approaching typhoon that could hammer an already-damaged agricultural sector.
  • China is set to buy a record amount of American soybeans this year as lower prices help the Asian nation boost purchases pledged under the phase-one trade deal, sources say.

And finally ... Southeast Asia, helped by a wetter-than-normal dry season in Indonesia, may yet be spared the choking haze that has blanketed the region in recent years. Wildfires cost Indonesia's economy $5.2 billion in 2019, so the favorable outlook is a relief for a government that has had to set aside billions of dollars to counter the economic impact of the pandemic.

Haze blankets Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino in Singapore, September 2019.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg



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