Your Monday Briefing

Good morning. We’re covering Singapore’s testy reopening, mounting tensions over Taiwan and China’s fraught custody battles.

People walked in an outdoor area in Singapore last month.Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

Singapore’s uncertain reopening

Vaccines were supposed to be the city-state’s ticket back to normalcy. But even with an 83 percent vaccination rate, Singapore is not opening up.

Instead, the government reinstated restrictions and urged people to work from home. For many residents, there was a feeling of whiplash and nagging questions about what it would take to reopen if vaccines were not enough.

But even though nearly all infections, 98.4 percent, present mild or no symptoms, the country is unaccustomed to large outbreaks. It’s a sobering case study for nations like New Zealand and Australia that are trying to transition from a zero-Covid strategy.

Background: Singapore’s initial handling of the coronavirus was widely considered a success. It closed its borders, tested and traced aggressively and was one of the first countries in Asia to order vaccines.

What’s next: One vision of how the pandemic might play out in Singapore includes face masks, limited travel and social distancing, perhaps until 2024.

Quotable: “In a way, we are a victim of our own success, because we’ve achieved as close to zero Covid as we can get and a very, very low death rate,” said an infectious disease specialist. “So we want to keep the position at the top of the class, and it’s very hard to do.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Pfizer will vaccinate all people over 12 in a Brazilian city to study its Covid-19 vaccine. More than 600,000 people in Brazil have died from the disease.

  • Moderna is selling nearly all of its coronavirus vaccine to wealthy countries.

  • France will start charging unvaccinated people for Covid screening tests.

  • An emergency physician wrote about the fight to save patients during Australia’s latest outbreak.

Taiwanese helicopters flew over Taipei last week, rehearsing for the island’s National Day.Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

China flexes power over Taiwan

The self-ruled island has moved to the heart of U.S.-China tensions. The saber rattling between the superpowers could ignite a military conflict and, ultimately, reshape the regional order.

“Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi Jinping, China’s leader, said on Saturday, almost a week after dozens of Chinese warplanes tested Taiwan’s beleaguered air defenses.

China’s growing military might has made a conquest conceivable, but few believe it is inevitable. The economic and diplomatic aftershocks would be staggering for Beijing.

Analysis: The U.S. wants to thwart any invasion but has watched its military dominance in Asia erode. In October 2020, when the Pentagon simulated a war game, the American team struggled against new Chinese weaponry.

Brinkmanship: Many Chinese officials believe that U.S. power has faltered as the country continues to limp through the politically divisive and economically devastating pandemic.

Children playing in Beijing.Credit…Roman Pilipey/EPA, via Shutterstock

China’s bitter custody battles

China has outlawed a practice in which parents kidnap and conceal their own children in a bid to get sole custody. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of children have been abducted and hidden.

The kidnappings rose with the divorce rate. By one estimate, fathers are behind 60 percent of the apprehensions. The abductions involve mostly sons younger than 6, reflecting the traditional emphasis on boys as carriers of the family name.

Background: Chinese custody battles are notoriously acrimonious. Courts rarely grant joint custody, and judges often opt to keep children in their existing living environment. Some abductions are part of a broader pattern of domestic violence, which affects about one in three families.

Numbers: In 2019, experts estimate that parents hid about 80,000 children. Many say the figures are most likely higher.

Quotable: “It’s become almost a game — whoever has physical custody has legal custody,” said one advocate. “It’s a free-for-all.”


Asia and the Middle East

“The Battle of Lake Changjin” depicts an against-all-odds American defeat in the Korean War. Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
  • Chinese police detained a journalist after he questioned the country’s role in the Korean War, the subject of a government-sponsored blockbuster movie.

  • Lebanon’s sputtering national electricity grid went back online on Sunday after the army provided emergency fuel supplies.

  • Iraqis voted on Sunday in parliamentary elections called a year early, after huge anti-government protests.

The Nobel Peace Prize

Dmitri Muratov, left, and Maria Ressa, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press; Mark R. Cristino/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Two journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitri Muratov of Russia, won the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of their work amid the growing repression of independent media.

  • Here’s our 2019 profile of Ressa, who is only the 18th woman to win the honor. Her newsroom, Rappler, remains under siege from the government.

  • The Kremlin praised Muratov, even as it steps up its assault on independent news. Muratov said he would have given the honor to Aleksei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader.


  • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria announced that he would resign, amid accusations that he used public money to produce favorable polling.

  • Poland’s highest court ruled that its Constitution trumps some E.U. laws, a threat to the bloc’s cohesion.

  • A performer at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow died in an onstage accident during a live performance.


  • On Friday, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed dozens of people praying in a Shiite mosque in Kunduz, continuing the group’s campaign against the Hazara minority. Here is a video of the damage.

  • My colleagues spoke to five Afghans about the abrupt end of the war.

  • The Times photographer Tyler Hicks first arrived in Afghanistan in late 2001, and returned more than 30 times to chronicle the two-decade war.

What Else Is Happening

  • The world’s first malaria vaccine, which requires four doses, poses logistical problems for African countries.

  • A nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy, and his wife, have been charged with trying to sell some of the country’s most closely held secrets on submarine technology.

  • More than 130 countries agreed to set a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent, a move designed to end global tax havens.

A Morning Read

Credit…Jacques Nkinzingabo for The New York Times

In Rwanda’s capital, milk bars are a popular place to come together, reminisce about rural life and enjoy a favorite national drink. “When you drink milk,” said a motorcycle taxi driver, who drinks at least three liters daily, “you always have your head straight and your ideas right.”


India’s virtual art market

The pandemic struck India hard. For the past 18 months, the country has grappled with lockdowns, internal-migration crises and soaring outbreaks.

But the coronavirus has also forced the art scene to rethink and recalibrate. Some artists, often unable to get to their studios to produce large pieces, made smaller-format works or played with different materials. Galleries, trying to stay afloat, collaborated in digital exhibitions and opened up online viewing rooms.

“There were no art fairs, there was no glamour, and we were reduced to the most important part of the art world, the act of making the art,” said Aparajita Jain, who co-leads a premier contemporary art gallery in New Delhi.

It has worked. A crop of new collectors discovered galleries and artists in part through online connections, and have begun buying with gusto. Since the pandemic started, sales of Indian modern and contemporary art have repeatedly set records at auction.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

These poached pears are a classic cool-weather dessert.

What to Listen to

Our pop critics recommend 12 new songs by Mitski, Arca featuring Sia, Kelis and others.

What to Read (Aloud)

In “Born Behind Bars,” a children’s book, a boy born in an Indian prison prepares to leave for the outside world.

What to Watch

Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of the new James Bond film “No Time To Die,” narrates one of its action sequences.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The Times won eight 2021 Lowell Thomas Awards, travel writing’s top honor.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on an explosive admission from the C.I.A.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

Related Articles

Back to top button