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BEIJING (AP) — The Daronghe restaurant in Chengdu in China’s west has reopened but, with business down by half, its staff of 150 come to work on alternate days.

Three months after China declared victory over the coronavirus and started to reopen its economy, the restaurant is among thousands of small businesses that are struggling to lure back skittish consumers nervous about the virus and possible job losses.

“People still worry about eating out,” said an employee, Ming Yuan. “We are giving customers coupons in hopes they will come back.”

Official data show many Chinese industries, from auto manufacturing to e-commerce, are returning to pre-virus activity levels. But retailers, restaurants and other businesses that employ millions of people were hit especially hard. That raises questions about how fast the economy can generate new jobs for people who lost theirs in the pandemic.

“The Chinese economy is recovering, but very, very slowly,” said Iris Pang of ING.

China faces a bumpy road to recovery. Demand for exports is weak as infections rise in the United States, Brazil and other markets. Summer flooding set back the recovery in some southern areas.

Already soured by a tariff war, relations with Washington have worsened further over a security law imposed on Hong Kong.

The Trump administration has revoked some of Hong Kong’s trading privileges. That threatens to undercut its status as a major port.

The slow pace of China’s recovery is sobering for countries that are struggling to manage their own viral outbreaks.

In the United States, businesses in some states reopened in May. Employers added a surprise 2.5 million jobs that month. But that followed losses in March and April that have left roughly 30 million Americans unemployed.

Analysts expect U.S. data due out Thursday to show a gain of 3 million jobs in June. But more states are suspending or reversing reopening orders amid new viral outbreaks, suggesting hiring could slow or decline in July.

In China, Citigroup said Monday its measures of business activity indicate a “weakening in the recovery momentum of industrial production” as well as consumer demand and public movement.

Forecasters expect economic growth to resume as early as this quarter after industrial production returned to positive territory in May, when it grew 4.4% over a year earlier. That was boosted by higher government spending on building bridges and other public works, Beijing’s traditional strategy for pumping money quickly into the economy.

Estimates of this year’s economic growth range from the low single digits to a small contraction.

The government has promised to spend 2 trillion yuan ($280 billion) to create 9 million jobs. But Beijing, leery of adding to already high debt, avoided joining the United States, Japan and other major economies in announcing a $1 trillion-plus stimulus packages.

“That has a cost,” said Pang. “It means the Chinese economy will recover only very, very slowly.”

The job-creation target is only a fraction of losses.

Private sector analysts say as much as 30% of the urban workforce, or as many as 130 million people, lost their jobs at least temporarily during the shutdown. They say as many as 25 million jobs might be lost for good this year.

Some city governments have tried to draw customers back to vacant shopping malls by giving away discount coupons. That helped, but the scale of the giveaways was modest in a market of 1.3 billion potential consumers. Spending in restaurants still was off 19% in May from a year earlier. Retail sales contracted 2.8%.

That is a setback for the ruling Communist Party’s long-term goal of reducing reliance on exports and investment by nurturing self-sustaining growth based on consumer spending and service industries that generate jobs with less capital spending.

The ruling party appealed to companies to avoid layoffs during the two months that most business and travel were shut down. Entrepreneurs were promised tax breaks and loans. Premier Li Keqiang said in May the government wants to encourage consumers to spend by making sure 70% of its stimulus is channeled into wages.

But the scale of the aid is limited and the official Xinhua News Agency has acknowledged it has been hampered by red tape and the reluctance of state-owned banks to deal with struggling private businesses they see as a bad risk.

Wu Dani, who owns a snack shop in the eastern city of Jinan, said her revenue is down 90% from before the outbreak. From a workforce of 10, only she and one employee remain.

“We never benefited from government policies. It’s just empty talk,” Wu said. “If the government announced new policies to support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak, it would only benefit my landlord.”

A virus outbreak in Beijing last month sparked fears of a second wave of infections. Authorities imposed travel controls on the capital and ordered testing of thousands of residents. But other local outbreaks have been contained relatively quickly, limiting their impact.

Manufacturing activity improved in June but export demand was weak, according to a survey released Tuesday by the national statistics agency and an industry group, the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index rose to 50.9 from May’s 50.6 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity expanding. Its employment sub-index sank to 49.1 from May’s 50.2, indicating employers were cutting jobs.

“The external environment is very severe,” the Federation said in a statement. It said production is “still significantly higher” than demand.

Business “hasn’t turned around yet,” said the owner of a clothing factory with 20 employees in the western city of Xi’an.

The owner, who refused to give her name, said she used to make 100,000 yuan ($16,000) a year but has lost tens of thousands of yuan (thousands of dollars) this year.

“I am almost on the verge of closing the factory,” she said.


AP researchers Yu Bing and Henry Hou contributed.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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New Joe Biden plan sees millions of jobs in aggressive climate action

On Wednesday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden revealed a revamped climate and energy plan that raises spending, expands efforts to address racial disparities, and sets an earlier deadline for cutting greenhouse gases.

Biden’s plan aims to eliminate carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035. Biden had previously committed to reaching a 100 percent “clean energy economy” by 2050. The plan comes with a $2 trillion price tag over four years, higher than his previous ten-year $1.7 trillion plan. Forty percent of clean energy investments will be earmarked for “disadvantaged communities.”

“Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms.”

Biden’s more ambitious climate plans reflect recommendations made by a joint task force that he assembled alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in an effort to win over more progressive voters. Some influential groups like 350 Action and Sunrise Movement initially backed Sanders, who had taken a tougher stance against fossil fuels. Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash was part of the task force.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been critical of Vice President’s [sic] Biden’s plans and commitments in the past. Today, he’s responded to many of those criticisms,” Prakash said in a statement today.

Alongside his new clean energy plan, Biden rolled out a separate plan to address the disparities that pollution and climate change create. “Any sound energy and environmental policy must advance public health and economic opportunity for all Americans, in rural, urban, and suburban communities, and recognize that communities of color and low-income communities have faced disproportionate harm from climate change and environmental contaminants for decades,” the environmental justice plan says.

We cannot solve the climate crisis without advancing racial, social, and economic justice. We are thrilled to see LCVAF-endorsed @JoeBiden release two new environmental plans today that center on advancing justice and equity as we solve the climate crisis. #BuildBackBetter

— LCV – League of Conservation Voters (@LCVoters) July 14, 2020

Biden’s campaign doesn’t describe its new plan as a Green New Deal, but it follows a similar strategy of emphasizing how aggressive climate action could create jobs. In particular, the plan presents this climate push as a way to help the US recover from the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He foresees 1 million new jobs tied to making electric vehicles and charging stations. Millions more union jobs could come from building greener infrastructure. Biden wants to build sustainable new housing and upgrade millions of buildings and homes, which he says would create at least another million jobs. He also wants to invest in zero-emissions mass transit.

Millions more union jobs could come from building greener infrastructure

Biden’s plan to tackle climate change calls for “net zero” emissions by the middle of the century, which — unlike Sanders’ plan — leaves the door open for continued fossil fuel use as long as the resulting carbon dioxide emissions are drawn down by new technologies or tree-planting initiatives. He also doesn’t explicitly call for an end to fracking, which environmentalists have pushed for him to do but could cost him key swing votes in states like Pennsylvania. Biden also calls for investments in nuclear energy — which is a hot-button issue among environmentalists because it doesn’t generate greenhouse gases, but it still entails digging up uranium and leaves behind radioactive waste.

Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 falls in line with targets set in the landmark Paris climate agreement, which Biden hopes to recommit the US to after President Donald Trump moved to remove the US from the accord. Failing to reach net-zero emissions globally in that timeframe would have disastrous consequences, according to the United Nations panel of climate scientists, including the destruction of the world’s coral reefs and the exposure of 37 percent of the global population to dangerous heat waves at least once every five years.

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