Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering the standstill in China’s housing market and flaws in Britain’s early pandemic response.

The Chinese housing market’s high prices, borrowing and spending are increasingly seen as a national threat.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

China’s housing market rattles buyers

Evergrande Group’s financial troubles, and the government policies that helped push it to the brink of collapse, have threatened an important economic driver: home sales.

For years, homes have been the main savings vehicle for Chinese families. Nearly three-quarters of household wealth in China is tied to property and real estate has grown to provide more than a quarter of the country’s economic growth by some estimates.

Now companies like Evergrande can’t afford to keep building. Some 1.6 million home buyers remain in limbo waiting for their apartments. Others are scared to put down money for apartments that might never be built.

“We are indeed seeing a very serious slowdown in the property market, with falling prices, sales and construction activity, and this is likely to drag down economic growth in the next couple of quarters,” said the director of an independent economic research firm.

Big picture: China’s 100 biggest real estate companies are expected to report that sales in September plummeted by more than a third compared with a year earlier.

Response: Beijing has been largely silent, but regulators have started to make moves to bolster the sector. The central bank has opened emergency spigots to make it easier for local banks to draw more money, just in case. Local governments have set up task forces to help manage the potential fallout.

Latest on Evergrande: On Monday, the company missed another round of interest payments on two U.S. dollar bonds, a person familiar with the matter said. Waiting for a lifeline, it halted trading of its shares last week in Hong Kong and announced the potential sale of a lucrative unit.

A temporary morgue set up in the parking lot of a mosque in Birmingham, England, in April 2020.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Report: Britain’s pandemic response killed thousands

Britain’s initial response to Covid-19 “ranks as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced,” a parliamentary inquiry published Tuesday found, blaming the British government for “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided.”

In effect, the report indicated, the government pursued an ill-conceived strategy of herd immunity when it failed to carry out widespread testing and delayed imposing lockdowns or border rules in the early months of the pandemic.

Officials’ assumption that British people would not accept lockdowns or contact tracing was “one of the critical things that was completely wrong,” said Dominic Cummings, a former chief adviser. It was only in late March 2020, with infections doubling every three days and the health system at risk of being overwhelmed, that Johnson ordered a nationwide lockdown.

Data: Britain has experienced one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks among wealthy nations, with 162,000 deaths officially attributed to the disease. The report did praise the government’s vaccine strategy; 78.6 percent of people aged 12 and over have now received two doses.

Bigger picture: The findings do not require the government to act, but could help shape the public debate ahead of a full public inquiry into the pandemic response promised by Johnson in 2022.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Thailand announced that fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries including the U.S. and China may be allowed to visit without quarantining, starting Nov. 1.

  • The I.M.F. warned of inflation and a slowing recovery, lowering its growth forecast amid the resurgence of the coronavirus and supply-chain disruptions.

  • Our science writers look at what past pandemics and current science can tell us about our future with Covid.

An area of Jiexiu, in the city of Jinzhong, was flooded after heavy rainfall on Sunday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

China’s deadly floods

For the second time in three months, China is grappling with the aftermath of violent floods, caused by days of unusually intense rains that have left at least 28 people dead and displaced more than 120,000 across the northern parts of the country.

The death toll included 13 people who died after a commuter bus fell into a river on Monday from a flooded bridge near the northern city of Shijiazhuang, according to Chinese media reports. In Shanxi Province, China’s coal country, floods shut down 60 mines and destroyed at least 17,000 buildings.

The floods in northern China are the latest reminder of the challenge that global warming and extreme weather pose. Just months ago, flooding in Henan Province killed more than 300 people.


Asia Pacific

Student activists shouted slogans after being released from jail in New Delhi in June.Credit…Xavier Galiana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • India is using a colonial-era antiterrorism law to jail thousands of critics, poets and political organizers, but courts are increasingly challenging the legal tactic as an abuse of power.

  • Samsung’s chief, Lee Jae-yong, pleaded guilty to a prescription drug charge, the latest chapter in his legal saga.

  • North Korea’s latest provocation: It showed off its arsenal of missiles on Monday in one of its largest ever exhibitions of military gear.

Around the World

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrated after the announcement of the results in Baghdad on Monday.Credit…Hadi Mizban/Associated Press
  • The big winner in Iraq’s parliamentary election was a Shiite cleric whose fighters battled the U.S. during the occupation.

  • Éric Zemmour, a far-right TV pundit in France, is surging in opinion polls before presidential elections next year, even though he’s not yet a candidate.

  • Most Nobel winners are still men. A top official from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says it is unwilling to use measures like quotas to change that.

  • The top U.N. court largely sided Tuesday with Somalia over Kenya over a disputed area in the Indian Ocean thought to be rich in oil and gas.

  • The F.B.I. says that a couple accused of selling submarine secrets to a foreign government were sloppy would-be spies. They appeared in court on Tuesday.

A Morning Read

A private room within a branch of Shanghai’s Yinxi mini-chain of teahouses, where visitors enjoy loose-leaf and powdered tea alongside snacks in a casual environment.Credit…Josh Robenstone

Our T Magazine writer went to Shanghai’s teahouses. Historically, the spaces were like populist pubs. Modern-day iterations allow for an individual retreat — among strangers — in a city lacking privacy.


Netflix says “Squid Game” is their most watched original series.Credit…Netflix

A closer look at “Squid Game”

Netflix’s “Squid Game” is a global hit. A thriller series from South Korea, it follows desperate characters in severe debt as they compete in deadly children’s games for cash. It has drawn attention for its graphic violence, fantastical sets, class commentary and candy.

More context: “Squid Game” taps into South Koreans’ worries about costly housing, rising debt and scarce jobs.

The Times review: Our critic calls it “empty, bloody calories.”

Listen in: The podcast “Time to Say Goodbye” analyzed “Squid Game” (and its polarizing ending).

What to watch next: Fans can try these six shows and movies.

What to wear: It’s made tracksuits hot.


What to Cook

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times

Vermicelli and tofu make this tom yum soup a quick and filling dinner.

What to Watch

The killer doll Chucky is back — with a queerer sensibility.

What to Read

“Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds,” Mondiant Dogon’s poignant memoir about post-genocide refugee life rendered with delicacy and insight.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Have a conversation (four letters).

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. — Melina

P.S. What’s the best book of the past 125 years? The Times Book Review is asking for nominations from readers.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on America’s broken child care system.

You can reach Melina and the team at

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