|Wednesday 12th of February 2020
Just in case anyone forgot: Sri Lanka is now governed by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a man so sinister he used to keep a tank of sharks in his garden. Death of the Tiger @newyorker H/T @jamescrabtree
Law & Politics
The mobile-phone video clip shows a pair of soldiers pushing a naked,
blindfolded man into the frame. His hands are tied behind his back.
One soldier, dressed in the uniform of the Sri Lankan Army, forces him
into a sitting position on the ground, kicks him in the back, and
steps out of the way as the other soldier comes forward and shoots him
in the back of the head. The man’s body jolts and flops down. Off
camera, the shooter can be heard laughing giddily and exclaiming,
“It’s like he jumped!” The soldiers kill two other men in similar
fashion, and then dispatch a number of wounded prisoners. The camera
turns to show at least eight other bodies, including those of several
half-naked women, lying in pools of blood. All of them appear to have
been freshly executed
A master of battlefield innovation, Prabhakaran devised a form of
execution for collaborators with the enemy: the victim was tied to a
lamppost and blown to pieces with Cordex explosive fuse wire.
He didn’t drink, he said, and didn’t know what he had in the house. He
knew only that he had a bottle of “Fonseka.” Would we like a drink of
that? He grinned. On the trolley was a bottle of Fonseca Bin No. 27, a
brand of port
After dinner, Gotabaya led us outside. Across his lawn, by the
garden’s high security wall, was a huge, illuminated outdoor aquarium.
Inside, several large, unmistakable shapes moved relentlessly back and
“Are those sharks?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said. “Do you want to see them?”
We crossed the lawn and stood in front of the tank, which was eight
feet tall and twenty feet wide. There were four sharks, each about
four feet long, swimming among smaller fish.
Catastrophic Fires Released Billions of Tons of CO2 in 2019 @business
Law & Politics
Total carbon emissions from forest fires in 2019 weren’t anomalously
high compared with previous years’ counts.
They rose last year by 26%, to 7.8 billion metric tons, the highest
since 2002, according to the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED).
But overall they’ve been declining since the beginning of the century.
On Jan. 8, Copernicus declared 2019 the second-hottest year on record,
less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit behind 2016.
Such conditions are making the so-called fire weather—high
temperatures, strong winds, low humidity—likely to occur more often,
scientists say. “The predictions were already there,” Parrington says
of last year’s fire season.
“We already had studies showing if it becomes drier and hotter in
places like the Arctic, at some point there will be fires on a bigger
scale than we’ve seen in a long time.”
Coronavirus 'could infect 60% of global population if unchecked' #COVID19
Law & Politics
The coronavirus epidemic could spread to about two-thirds of the
world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong
Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist.
His warning came after the head of the World Health Organization (WHO)
said recent cases of coronavirus patients who had never visited China
could be the “tip of the iceberg”.
Prof Gabriel Leung, the chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong
University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size
and shape of the iceberg.
Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit
the virus to about 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of
“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,”
Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at
the WHO in Geneva on Tuesday.
Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks
is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll
would be massive.
He will tell the WHO meeting that the main issue is the scale of the
growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out
whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have
worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting
The Geneva meeting brings together more than 400 researchers and
national authorities, including some participating by video conference
from mainland China and Taiwan.
“With 99% of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for
that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of
the world,” the WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said
in his opening remarks.
To date China has reported 42,708 confirmed cases, including 1,017
deaths, Tedros said.
Leung – one of the world’s experts on coronavirus epidemics, who
played a major role in the Sars outbreak in 2002-03 – works closely
with other leading scientists such as counterparts at Imperial College
London and Oxford University.
At the end of January, he warned in a paper in the Lancet that
outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in
China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan.
Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities
globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement
of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and
the absence of public health measures to stop the spread.
Epidemiologists and modellers were trying to figure out what was
likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60-80% of the world’s population
going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe
the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly
doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get
killed as well,” he said.
Experts also need to know whether the restrictions in the centre of
Wuhan and other cities have reduced infections.
“Have these massive public health interventions, social distancing,
and mobility restrictions worked in China?” he asked. “If so, how can
we roll them out, or is it not possible?”
There would be difficulties. “Let’s assume that they have worked. But
how long can you close schools for? How long can you lock down an
entire city for? How long can you keep people away from shopping
malls? And if you remove those [restrictions], then is it all going to
come right back and rage again? So those are very real questions,” he
If China’s lockdown has not worked, there is another unpalatable truth
to face: that the coronavirus might not be possible to contain.
Then the world will have to switch tracks: instead of trying to
contain the virus, it will have to work to mitigate its effects.
For now, containment measures are essential. Leung said the period of
time when people were infected but showed no symptoms remained a huge
Quarantine was necessary, but to ensure people were not still carrying
the virus when they left, everybody should ideally be tested every
couple of days.
If anyone within a quarantine camp or on a stricken cruise ship tested
positive, the clock should be reset to 14 days more for all the
Some countries at risk because of the movement of people to and from
China have taken precautions.
On a visit to Thailand three weeks ago, Leung talked to the health
minister and advised the setting up of quarantine camps, which the
government has done.
But other countries with links to China appear, inexplicably, to have
no cases – such as Indonesia. “Where are they?” he asked.
The Geopolitics of the Novel Coronavirus GPF Futures #COVID19
Law & Politics
Geopolitics is a fairly slow-moving process that unfolds in
predictable ways. This is usually the case. There are then moments
when a wild card enters the system from the outside, unpredictable yet
significant. At the moment, we can’t tell if the new coronavirus is
such an event. We don’t know exactly how it is transmitted, how lethal
it is, whether it causes long-term illness and so on. We know it has
broken out in a Chinese city, Wuhan; that the Chinese government
regards it as serious enough to impose significant controls on
movement in and out of Wuhan; and that a small number of cases in
China, relative to the population, and a smaller number of cases
outside of China have been reported. For this we depend on media
reports, since our own knowledge of viral medicine is limited.
Geopolitically, communicable disease ranges from the common cold to
the Black Death. The former is ever-present but of little consequence;
the latter massively disrupted European society and, in some cases,
shifted the regional balance of power.
There is no evidence – but then, there wouldn’t be – of a fight in the
Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party over Xi’s
The Central Committee is packed with Xi supporters, of course, but a
situation like what has developed must cause concern and generate
The idea that the Central Committee was content with the financial
situation, trade war, Hong Kong and Xinjiang is to me the least likely
Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear An Essay by [ex] Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun @ChinaFile #COVID19
Law & Politics
February. Get out the ink and weep!
Sob in February, sob and sing
While the wet snow rumbles in the street
And burns with the black spring.
Translated by Sasha Dugdale
As the Year of the Pig  gave way to the Year of the Rat
[February 2020], a virus that started in Wuhan, a city famed as the
nation’s major transportation and communication hub, was spreading
throughout China. Overnight, the country found itself in the grip of a
devastating crisis; fear was stalking the land. The authorities proved
themselves to be at a loss and the cost of their behavior was soon
visited upon the common people. Before long, the coronavirus was
reaching around the globe and the country found itself becoming
rapidly isolated from the world. It was as though the China of the
Open Door and Reform policies for more than three decades was being
destroyed in front of our eyes. It seemed as is, in one fell swoop,
the People’s Republic, and in particular its vaunted system of
governance, had been cast back to pre-modern times. Then again, as
word spread about the blockades thrown up by towns and cities to
protect themselves against contagion, and as doors were slammed shut
everywhere, it felt as though we were actually being confronted by a
kind of barbaric panic more readily associated with the Middle Ages.
The cause of all of this lies with The Axlerod [that is, Xi Jinping]
and the cabal that surrounds him. It began with the imposition of
stern bans on the reporting of factual information that served to
embolden deception at every level of government, although it only
struck its true stride when bureaucrats throughout the system shrugged
off responsibility for the unfolding situation while continuing to
seek the approbation of their superiors. They all blithely stood by as
the crucial window of opportunity to deal with the outbreak of the
infection snapped shut in their faces.
Ours is a system in which The Ultimate Arbiter [an imperial-era term
used by state media to describe Xi Jinping] monopolizes power. It
results in what I call “organizational discombobulation” that, in
turn, has served to enable a dangerous “systemic impotence” at every
level. A political culture has thereby been nurtured that, in terms of
the real public good, is ethically bankrupt, for it is one that
strains to vouchsafe its privatized Party-State, or what they call
their “Mountains and Rivers” while abandoning the people over which it
holds sway to suffer the vicissitudes of a cruel fate. It is a system
that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made
catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of
Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering
edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.
This viral outbreak, which has been exacerbated into a national
calamity by the power-holders, is more perilous perhaps than total war
itself, for everything is being caught up by the struggle—the nation’s
ethical fabric, its politics, our society, as well as the economy. Let
me say that again—it is even more perilous than total war, for it lays
the nation open to a kind of devastation that even foreign invaders in
the past had failed to visit upon us. The ancients put it well, “Only
thieves nurtured at home can truly despoil a homeland.” Although the
Americans may well be trying to undermine our economy, here at home
The Axlerod is himself beating them to it! Please note: just as the
epidemic was reaching a critical moment, He made a big deal about
being “Personally This” and “Personally That“ [when meeting Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO on 29 January, Xi
made a point of saying that he was “personally commanding” the
response to the outbreak, a statement that was widely derided online].
Empty words that only serve to highlight the hypocrisy. Such claims
served merely to elicit nationwide outrage and sow desolation in the
hearts of the people.
It is true: the level of popular fury is volcanic and a people thus
enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear. Herein I offer my
understanding of these developments in the broader context of the
global system. Being mindful also of the cyclical nature of the
political zeitgeist, and with a steady eye on what has been happening
here in China since 2018 [when Xi Jinping was granted limitless tenure
and Xu published his famous broadside aimed at the Party-State], I
have formulated my thoughts under nine headings. Compatriots: they are
respectfully offered here for your consideration.
1. Politics in a New Era of Moral Depletion
First and foremost, the political life of the nation is in a state of
collapse and the ethical core of the system has been rendered hollow.
The ultimate concern of China’s polity today and that of its highest
leader is to preserve at all costs the privileged position of the
Communist Party and to maintain ruthlessly its hold on power. “The
Broad Masses of People” are nothing more than a taxable unit, a
value-bearing cipher in a metrics-based system of social management
geared towards stability maintenance. “The People” is a rubric that
describes the price everyone has to pay to prop up the existing
system. We are funding the countless locusts—large and small—whose
continued existence depends on a totalitarian system. The storied
bureaucratic apparatus that is responsible for the unfettered outbreak
of the coronavirus in Wuhan repeatedly hid or misrepresented the facts
about the dire nature of the crisis. The dilatory actions of
bureaucrats at every level exacerbated the urgency of the situation.
Their behavior reflects a complete lack of interest in the welfare and
lives of normal people. All that matters is constant support for the
self-indulgent celebratory behavior of the “Core Leader” whose favor
is sought through adulation of the peerless achievements of the
system. Within this self-regarding bureaucracy there is even less
interest in the role that this country and its people play in a
globally interconnected community.
The bureaucrats allowed the situation to deteriorate to a shameless
extent, but even then their shame knew no bounds, for their actions
served only to harm average people. The Core was steadfast as
inefficiencies and chaos proliferated. What they have focused on in
particular, however, is the tireless policing of the Internet. They
have unleashed the dogs and are paying their minions overtime to
blockade the news. Information has been getting out regardless, proof
that even while the government resorts to the tactics of a police
state, and the National Security Commission accrues ever greater
powers to itself, it can never truly achieve its vaunted aims.
The ancients observed that “it’s easier to dam a river than it is to
silence the voice of the people.” Regardless of how good they are at
controlling the Internet, they can’t keep all 1.4 billion mouths in
China shut. Yet again, our ancestors will be proved right.
Nonetheless, since all their calculations are solely concerned with
maintaining their control; they have convinced themselves that crude
exercises of power will suffice. They have been fooled by the
self-deception of “The Leader,” a confidence which deceives no one.
Faced with this virus, the Leader has flailed about seeking answers
with ever greater urgency, exhausting those who are working on the
front line, spreading the threat to people throughout the land. Yet
still the vacuous slogans are being chanted—Do this! Do
that!—overweening and with prideful purpose, He garners nothing but
derision and widespread mockery in the process. This is a stark
demonstration of the political depletion of which I am talking here.
The last seven decades [of the People’s Republic] have taught the
people many lessons about the hazards of totalitarian government. This
time around, it is the virus that is proving the point once more and
in the most undeniable fashion.
One can only hope that our fellow Chinese, both young and old, will
finally take the lesson to heart and abandon their long-practiced
slavish acquiescence. It is high time that people relied on their own
rational judgment and avoided sacrificing themselves on the altar of
the power holders. Otherwise, you will all be no better than fields of
garlic chives, giving yourselves up to being harvested by the blade of
power, time and time again. [The term “garlic chives,” Allium
tuberosum, is often used as a metaphor to describe an endlessly
2. Tyranny in a New Era of Political License
Secondly, tyranny ultimately corrupts governance as a whole and
undermines the technocratic system that has taken decades to build.
There has been a system-wide collapse of professional ethics and
commitment. There was a time, not too long ago, when moral imperatives
found fellowship with systemic self-interest in a manner that led to a
vast corps of competent technocrats taking the stage. Over time, they
formed a highly capable coterie of specialists and administrators even
though, as anyone would readily admit, it produced managerial
arrangements that were far from ideal. After all, the new technocracy
was one riven by its limitations and beset by serious problems of
every kind. Nonetheless, one of the reasons that China’s technocratic
class evolved and managed to work at all was that by combining
administrative competence with a system that allowed for personal
advancement on the basis of an individual’s practical achievements in
government, countless young men and women from impoverished
backgrounds were lured into pursuing educational self-improvement.
They did so with the aim of devoting themselves to both meaningful and
rewarding state service. Of course, at the same time, the progeny of
the Communist Party’s own nomenklatura—the so-called “Red Second
Generation” of bureaucrats—proved themselves to be all but useless as
administrators; they occupied official positions and enjoyed the perks
of power without making any meaningful contribution. In fact, more
often than not, they simply got in the way of people who actually
wanted to get things done. But enough of that. Unfortunately, as a
result of the endless political purges of recent years [carried out in
the name of an “anti-corruption campaign”] and along with the revival
of “Red Culture,” the people in the system who have now been promoted
are in-house Party hacks who slavishly obey orders. As a result, both
the professional commitment and the expertise previously valued within
China’s technocracy, along with the ambition people previously had to
seek promotion on the basis of their actual achievements, have been
gradually undermined and, without any great hue and cry, they have now
all but disappeared. The One Who Must Be Obeyed who talks about the
importance of transmitting “red genes” through the reliable Party body
politic, the man with the ultimate decision-making power and sign-off
authority, has created an environment in which the system as a whole
has fallen into desuetude. What remains is a widespread sense of
hopelessness. The bureaucratic and governance system of China we see
now is one that values the mediocre, the dilatory and the timid. The
mess they have made in Hubei Province, and the grotesque posturing of
the incompetents involved has highlighted a universal problem. A
similar malaise has infected every province and the rot goes right up
to Beijing. In what should be a “post-leader era,” China has a “Core
Leader system” and it is undermining the very mechanisms of state.
Despite all the talk one hears about “modern governance,” the reality
is that the administrative apparatus is increasingly mired in what can
only be termed inoperability. It is an affliction whose symptoms I
encapsulate in the expressions “organizational discombobulation” and
“systemic impotence.” Don’t you see that although everyone looks to
The One for the nod of approval, The One himself is clueless and has
no substantive understanding of rulership and governance, despite his
undeniable talent for playing power politics. The price for his
overarching egotism is now being paid by the whole nation. Meanwhile,
the bureaucracy is directionless, although the best among them get by
as best they can. They would like to take positive action, but they
are hesitant and fearful. For their part, meanwhile, bureaucratic
schemers take advantage of the muddle and, although they have no
desire to be proactive, they are good at making trouble. The situation
works to their advantage; they shove the competent bureaucrats aside
and create in their place an environment of overall chaos.
3. A New Era of Attenuated Governance
Furthermore, the day-to-day governance of China is in a state of
terminal decay. This manifests itself in two ways:
In the first place, the economic slowdown is now an undeniable
reality, and all indications are that things will only get worse over
the current year. This presenting the nation with a situation
unrivaled since the economic downturn that followed in the wake of the
1989 “disturbances” [that is, the 4 June Beijing Massacre]. This can
only serve to exacerbate further the already problematic situation
resulting from the aforementioned “organizational discombobulation”
and “systemic impotence.” Equally undeniable is the state of things
more broadly including:
A collapse in consumer confidence;
Widespread panic about the longterm security of private property;
Administrative and academic frustration and pent-up anger;
A general shutting down of society as a whole; and,
A depressed cultural and publishing industry.
What is thriving, however, is all that ridiculous “Red Culture” and
the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless
pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn. Of particular and
profound concern are the massive miscalculations that have been made:
first, regarding the uprising in Hong Kong; and, then, in forecasts
about the elections in Taiwan. In the pressing political reality [of
the situation in Hong Kong] there has been a continued blatant refusal
to abide by the undertaking stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law
regarding general elections [for the Chief Executive of the
territory]. Repeated missteps in the Special Administrative Zone have
been followed by clumsy and haphazard moves that have led to the
complete collapse of public confidence in political leadership. The
upshot is a fundamental disaffection towards Beijing among the masses
of a place that is, in reality, the most prosperous and civilized part
of Chinese territory. The whole world has witnessed the ugly reality
of the polity that lurks behind this situation.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, as the
Sino-American relationship continues moving into uncharted territory,
the fact that for the Superpower politics are not merely about grand
claims that no one has a right to comment on the internal affairs of
such nations, all of these happenings [in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which
Beijing emphasizes are solely a matter of China’s “internal affairs”]
have a direct impact on the unfolding fate of our own nation. And, at
this very juncture, The Axelrod, befuddled as usual, is for his pains
also having to deal with an America led by a man who repeatedly
“trumps” him by virtue of his own unpredictability [here the author
alters the Chinese transliteration of Trump’s name to read “extremely
befuddling,” that is someone who “stumps” everyone]. What you end up
with is one big mess. There is a proliferation of online comments that
claim He is aiding and abetting the Yankees pursue their “Imperialist
Steadfast Desire to See Us Destroyed.” In other words, [canny
commentators are suggesting that] He is helping the U.S. achieve the
very things it could never have dreamed of accomplishing itself. This
is not just a way to ridicule him, it is a profoundly painful reality
for all of us.
Secondly, the power holders have in recent years accelerated their
attempts to stifle all signs that China might be developing a civil
society. Censorship increases by the day, the impact of which is to
weaken and obliterate those very things that can and should play a
positive role in alerting society to critical issues. In response to
the coronavirus, for instance, at first the authorities shut down
public disquiet and outspoken commentary via censorship; they then
simply shut down entire cities. First people’s hearts die and then
Death stalks the living. It takes no particular leap of the
imagination to appreciate that along with all of these acts of crude
expediency soulless pragmatism can make even greater political
inroads. Given the fact that the country is, in effect, run by people
nurtured on the “Politics of the Sent Down Youth” [that is, of the
Cultural Revolution era—today’s leaders came of age during the late
1960s and early 1970s, a period of unparalleled political cynicism]
this is hardly remarkable. After all, we are living in a time when
what once passed for a measure of public decency and social concern
has long quit the stage.
One could go so far as to say that from the highest echelon to the
very bottom of the system, this lot represent the worst political team
to have run China since 1978. That is why I believe that it is
imperative that the nation act on and truly put into practice Article
35 of the Constitution. That is to say [we ourselves should advance
Five Key Demands]:
1. Lift the ban on independent media and publishing;
2. Put an end to the secret police surveillance of the Internet and
allow people their right to freedom of speech so they can express
themselves with a clear conscience;
3. Allow citizens to enjoy their right to demonstrate as well as the
freedom of assembly and association;
4. Respect the basic universal rights of our citizens, in particular
their right to vote in open elections.
[And, fifthly,] It should also be a matter of pressing urgency that an
independent body be established to investigate the origins of the
coronavirus epidemic, to trace the cover-up and to determine the
responsible parties and to analyze the systemic origins of the crisis.
Then and only then [after the coronavirus epidemic has passed] can we
truly engage in what should be a meaningful “Post [Anti-Virus] War
4. A New Era of Resuscitated Court Politics
Added to this is the re-emergence of court politics or palace
intrigue. The lurch towards the totalitarian along with a concomitant
ratcheting up of policies aimed at insinuating the Communist Party
into every aspect of civil government has, as we have noted in the
above, resulted in the near paralysis of normal bureaucratic
operations. The system lacks any real sources of positive motivation
and the concentration of authority along with the concomitant
impotence of actual power means that the Tail [or underlings] can all
too readily Wag the Dog—ergo the existence of a Security Commission
that imposes harsh punishments as part of the mechanisms used to keep
the show on the road and the bureaucratic game ticking over. Due to
the lack of freedom of speech and the absence of a modern bureaucratic
system, let alone the absence of anything even approaching a “His
Majesty’s Loyal Opposition,” the whip itself knows no restraint and
the National Security Commission [established by Xi] rules through an
iron fist with each layer of bureaucracy answering upwards until it
reaches the pinnacle, The Sole Responsible Person. And that individual
is but a man of flesh and blood who cannot possibly “be across” all
aspects of governance. A Party-State system that has no checks or
balances, nor indeed a rational allocation of duties and
responsibilities, inevitably results in the rule of a clique of
trusted lieutenants. Hence you have the equivalent of a court and the
politics pertaining to one. Put in the most obvious way, the
“collective leadership” with its “Nine Dragons Ruling the Waters”
[prior to Xi Jinping’s rule, there were nine members of the ruling
Politburo Standing Committee. Xi’s leadership saw this number reduced
to seven] and its concomitant claque of rulers is no longer operable.
And with its relative decline in efficacy, the One Leader’s inner
circle becomes a “state within a state,” something that the Yankees
have taken to calling the “deep state.”
Following the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, a bureaucracy
was established to carry out basic administrative tasks. Even Mao was
able to tolerate someone like Premier Zhou Enlai running his part of
the government. With the appearance of the Revolutionary Committees
and Security Organs [which replaced the police and the judicial system
as a whole during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 until the 1970s]
that existing system was overthrown, but in the four decades [after
Cultural Revolution policies were formally rejected from 1978], for
the most part a modicum of balance existed between the roles of Party
leader and state leader [that is, between the General Secretary of the
Communist Party and the Premier who was head of the State Council, and
the formal structures of government]. Even though the Party and State
were still melded, the state bureaucracy had the task of implementing
Party directives. It is only in the last few years that a new kind of
hermetically sealed governance has come to the fore and, due to the
nature of hidden court politics, it is one that has enabled a sole
power-holder while giving license to the darkest kinds of plotting and
scheming. It is a rulership structure that stifles change and
forecloses the kinds of changes that could support regularized forms
of governance. With the way ahead reduced to something akin to a
“political locked-in syndrome,” and since a meaningful retreat is all
but impossible, the system is under constant strain. It is virtually
impossible for anyone to act in any meaningful fashion. Instead, all
are forced to look on in impotent frustration as the situation
deteriorates. This may well go on until things are simply beyond
Faced with such a situation, the social economy ends up in tatters,
and the basic ethical web of society as a whole is rent by the
prevailing winds of political fashion, so much so that people’s
already fragile sense of citizenship ends up being further depleted.
In the absence of anything that can meaningfully be called civil
society, there is no hope that any kind of mature politics can evolve.
The brittleness of the situation is such that, whenever there is the
slightest disturbance—let alone a major disaster—everyone is
endangered, and they are certainly powerless to help each other. That
is why what may start out as a molehill can all too readily become a
The present chaos in Wuhan has thrown Hubei into confusion, but as we
have noted before, the root cause of the expanding problem is in
Beijing: The One who devotes himself energetically to “Protecting the
Mountains and Rivers and Maintaining Rulership Over the Mountains and
Rivers” [of China. “Rivers and Mountains” is a poetic expression for
China as a unified entity under authoritarian control]. His
self-interest is not grounded in the sovereignty of the people, nor in
a system of governance that is about “building a nation on the basis
of civilization, or freedom.” The end result of His style of rulership
is, as commentators on the Internet have widely remarked of late, that
although “Major Tasks Can Be Accomplished by Concentrating Power” in
times of crisis the reality is that “Major Mishaps Are Also Generated
by Overly Concentrated Power.” The coronavirus epidemic is a clear
demonstration of this.
5. A New Era of Big Data Totalitarianism and WeChat Terror
They now turn to rule over the people by means of what could be dubbed
“big data totalitarianism” and “WeChat terror.” Although the
fundamental nature of the Communist Party has remained unchanged over
the past decades, it has articulated its ideology in a constantly
mutable fashion. Throughout it all, however, their underpinning form
of nationalism has been cast in terms of “the revitalization of the
great Chinese nation,” while the general aspiration for wealth and
power has been formulated under the slogan of “[achieving] the Four
Modernizations” [of agriculture, industry, defense and science and
technology]. And so the twists and turns have followed one upon
another, including the Three Represents [of the Jiang Zemin era that
stated that the Party “represents the means for advancing China’s
productive forces; represents China’s culture; and, represents the
fundamental interests of the majority of the Chinese people] and the
The New Three People’s Principles [reformulated from the Republican
era, 1912-1949] right up to the “New Era” announced under Xi Jinping.
The Three Represents and the ideas [and policy changes of the time]
represented a relative apogee of possibility; since then there has
been an evident downward curve which, in recent years, has indicated
that the Communists are ever more obsessed with control over their
Rivers and Mountains, in particular by means of big data
totalitarianism. Of course, the relative move away from the
totalitarian controls of the Maoist era [in the 1980s and 1990s]
seemed to presage a possibility that the system as a whole might yet
be able to transition into something else. However, following the
Beijing Olympics in 2008, that trend all but petered out as Mao-style
means of control were re-instituted. This has been even more evident
over the past six years [under Xi Jinping].
As the technologies being deployed to create China’s big data
totalitarianism have been developed with the largesse possible because
of unlimited government budgets, we are now experiencing a 1984-style
of total surveillance and control. In practice this allows for what
could be called “WeChat terrorism,” something directly targets China’s
vast online population. The masses are, through their taxes, in fact
funding a vast Internet police force that is empowered by the
party-state to oversee, supervise and track every statement and action
made by everyone in the country. This new canker on the body politic
is a direct product of the system itself. People now live in constant
anxiety, for they know that the imposition of this kind of Internet
terrorism is not limited merely to the suspension or shutting down of
personal WeChat accounts, or the larger enterprise of banning whole
chat groups [which are a vital way for individuals to debate issues of
interest]. Everyone is mindful that the online terror can all too
readily escape the virtual realm and become overtly physical; that is
the cases when the authorities use what they have learned online send
the police to deal with online users in real-time. The resulting
widespread social disquiet fosters an atmosphere of constant
self-censorship and people are beset by nagging worries about what
inexplicable punishment may befall them at any given moment.
This is how all potential for public discussion is being stifled. By
the same token, the very channels of communication that should in
normal circumstances exist for the dissemination of public information
are strangled, and a meaningful, civic early-warning system that could
play a crucial role at times of local or national emergency is thereby
outlawed. What we have in its place is an evolving military tyranny
that is underpinned by an ideology cobbled together from strains of
traditional harsh Chinese Legalist thought wedded to an admix of the
Leninist-Stalinist interpretation of Marxism along with the
“Germano-Aryan” form of fascism [the author encapsulates this unique
formulation in the shorthand: Fa-Ri-Si 法日斯, or
“Legalistic-Fascist-Stalinism”]. There is increasing evidence that for
all of its weighty presence, this is in fact a self-deconstructing
structure that undermines normal governance in favor of systemic
atrophy. And this is why we see, when it is confronted with a major
public health emergency such as now, the so-called “All Powerful
Totalizing System” under the Chairman of Everything leads to
real-world effects that expose the profound inadequacies of the system
as a whole which, among other things, has left the country without
even enough face masks to go around.
As I write, in the city of Wuhan, and within the province of Hubei,
there are still countless numbers of people who have not been able to
receive adequate medical attention and who have been abandoned to
wailing in desperate isolation. How can we possibly know how many
people have been condemned to an early death as a result? This then is
the reality of the so-called “all-powerful state,” the
“good-for-nothing” nature of which is now on display for all to see.
It is a system that has systematically outlawed society and the civil
realm [a translation of the capacious term minjian; see Sebastian Veg,
Minjian: Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals], cut off all other
sources of information apart from its own and given licenses only to
its own propaganda apparatus. A nation such as this may well attempt
to strut, but it is little more than a crippled giant, that is if it
can even be called a giant.
6. A New Era That Has Shut Down Reform
The last cards in the deck have all been played and the possibilities
for further meaningful reforms have been locked out. Or, to put it
more directly, the Open Door and Reform policies are dead in a ditch.
From when [Xi Jinping declared], in late 2018 that “we must resolutely
reform what should and can be changed, we must resolutely not reform
what shouldn’t and can’t be changed” right up to the publication of
the Communiqué of the Fourth Plenary Session [of the Nineteenth Party
Congress] last autumn, we can say with certainty that the Third Great
Wave of reform and opening in modern Chinese history [the first dates
from the self-strengthening movement of the 1860s] has petered out.
The shutting down of reform is a process that, in reality, began six
years earlier [following the rise of Xi Jinping in late
2012].Observing the trends in global history throughout the 20th
century it is fairly evident that right-wing governments have proven,
when forced by pressure or circumstance, that they may well be able to
evolve and overcome their systemic dilemmas without having to resort
to mass blood-letting. Even in the case of the “Eastward Wave of
Soviet Change” [Su Dong Bo, literally “the (politically
transformative) wave that broke over the Eastern Bloc controlled by
the Soviet Union.” This clever shorthand is based on Su Dongpo, the
name of a famous Song-dynasty poet]—in particular in the case of the
socialist governments of the Eastern Bloc under Soviet control—even
they managed a peaceful transition, something that, at the time, was
both surprising and a relief. However, in China today, the authorities
have blocked off any possible passage to imaginable change and we must
seriously doubt whether any form of peaceful transition might even be
conceivable. If that truly is the case, one cannot help but think of
the old poetic line [from the Yuan dynasty] that, “The people suffer
whether the state prospers or fails.” One can only hope that in the
wake of the coronavirus, the people of China will rethink their
situation and that this ancient land will awaken to its predicament.
Might it, perhaps, be possible to initiate a Fourth Wave of Reform?!
7. A New Era of Isolation
Given the logical progression of things discussed in the foregoing,
China looks like it will, once more, be isolated from the global
system. The modern global system is one that took shape in the
Mediterranean [with the rise of the European trading powers] and
reached an apogee on either side of the Atlantic Ocean [with the
imperial dominance of the United Kingdom and the United States]. Over
the centuries, China has engaged in any number of tugs of war with
that system, variously rejecting or embracing it. Back and forth it
has gone as the nation has lurched forward and careened back over the
years. For over three decades, a hard-won and painful realization led
to this country “bowing in humble acknowledgement” [as the author
titled an essay in late 2018] as well as “actively pursuing change,”
right up to giving birth to its own new form of engagement that would,
over time, become itself something of a new mainstream.
It is a sad reality, however, that in recent years China has
increasingly acted imprudently and against its own interests.
Furthermore, it has demonstrated that the “Open Door” has opened just
as far as it is going to and that the totalitarian impulses of the
Extreme Leftists have led them to take a stand; they will not tolerate
any further advances that may possibly lead to a peaceful transition
and enable China finally to evolve. That’s why this place has actually
set itself at loggerheads with the modern global system. Despite this,
and after all the back and forth, China by virtue of its sheer scale
and a generally more open mindset was gradually finding its place in
the modern world system and even becoming an important player in it.
Its mere presence also required people to engage with new
interpretations of staid geopolitical narratives related to the
meaning of “the center” and “the periphery.”
However, the country’s increasingly aggressive international posture
in recent years was out of kilter with both realistic assessments of
actual national strength as well as overall trends in global affairs
as a whole. Added to all of that was the changing internal dynamic of
China that has seen a steady drumbeat that has served to egg on an
enhanced regime of what I have termed “Legalistic-Fascist-Stalinism.”
In combination all of this has evoked alarm and trepidation among
other players in the new great game of global politics; they are now
alert to the potential rise of a Chinese “Red Empire” [for more on
this, see Xu, “China’s Red Empire—To Be or Not To Be”]. Just as China
has trumpeted the concept of a global Community of Shared Destiny, the
international community is itself rejecting it. How tragic is that!
Instead of embracing a real community, China is increasingly isolating
itself from it.
No matter how complex, nuanced and sophisticated one’s analysis, the
reality is stark. A polity that is blatantly incapable of treating its
own people properly can hardly be expected to treat the rest of the
world well. How can a nation that doggedly refuses to become a modern
political civilization really expect to be part of a meaningful
community? That’s why although mutually beneficial economic exchanges
will continue unabated, its civilizational isolation will remain an
unavoidable Chinese reality. This has nothing to do with a culture
war, even less can it be encapsulated in—and dismissed by—glib terms
of a “clash of civilizations.” Nor is it simply a matter of some new
wave of anti-Chinese sentiment, or Sinophobia or China put down,
despite the fact that right now, for the moment, dozens of countries
have imposed travel restrictions on people from the People’s Republic.
I would remind readers that fears of a Yellow Peril, that long
occluded and sclerotic ideological construct, must invariably
re-emerge as the present China scare advances. Internationally, the
due appreciation for universal values and human rights was hard won
and it only achieved widespread acceptance following a tortuous period
of contestation. They have long been a standard element in the
treaties and agreements that underpin the international community.
China’s own international engagement and its worthiness of enjoying a
substantive place in the international community depends too on how
these philosophical issues are understood and treated [that is, if
China can evolve to accept internationally recognized universal
values]. Who over time will prosper and who will move against the
tides of history—that is, who will end up being isolated—these are
questions that can only be answered as some places are isolated by
others or decide to self-isolate and end up alone. Such places will
only be able to find their assumed pulchritude reflected back at them
in the mirror of their imperial self-regard.
The way to turn things around, to re-establish the image of China as a
responsible major power that can shoulder its global responsibilities,
demands that the internal affairs of this country must be sorted out;
that can only happen if we as a people join together on the Great Way
of Universal Human Values. What is of particular importance is that
this nation needs to ground itself substantively in the concept that
Sovereignty Resides in the People. But it still all comes down to how
this country manages its own affairs. I believe that the only way for
China to end its global and historical isolation and become a
meaningful participant in the global system, as well as flourish on
the path of national survival and prosperity, is to pursue a politics
that embraces constitutional democracy and fosters a true people’s
republic. When that time comes, and in accord with the flow of events,
it is not unimaginable that China might even be worthy of joining the
G7, which would in turn become the Group of Eight or G8.
8. A New Era in Which to Seek Freedom from Fear
The People are no longer fearful. These are the common people—men and
women who strain to make a living, a populace that has put up with so
much trepidation, a vast population that has only with the most
extraordinary difficulty freed itself from all of those myths about
Power—they are a people who will not forever be willing to hand over
submissively to a tyrannical system the minuscule freedoms they enjoy,
and their right to work for a better life. Indeed, why should they
submit to a system that in its arrogance arrogates unto itself the
sole right to proportion life and death, and survival itself?
Now, as a result of this Great Virus, the People are enraged and
they’ve had enough. They have witnessed how the facts were hidden and
how the health and safety of the common people was ignored by an
unfeeling bureaucracy. Even before now, they have repeatedly paid a
heavy price, that levy demanded to support the grandiose displays of
celebration and self-congratulation that the party-state uses to
advertise prosperity and peace. All the while they are treated as
straw dogs [that is, sacrificial victims to be dispensed with at
will]. They witness the ever-increasing death toll, yet they are being
shut down on WeChat and forced into silence while the power-holders
extol their own heroism and shamelessly heap plaudits on themselves.
Mass sentiment can be summed up in the line [made famous in Bei Dao’s
1976 poem]: I—DO—NOT—BELIEVE! And they won’t put up with it any more.
Well may they say that the human heart is ineffable and inexplicable;
it is something that above all else has no practical use. It seems
that experience has repeatedly proven this to be a fact; it cannot
simply be deemed wholly unreasonable. After all, what about Big Cock
Li [Li Peng, whose personal name, Peng, is also a term for a mythical
huge bird], the man [who was directly responsible for the Beijing
Massacre of 1989 and the nationwide repression that followed in its
wake]? Millions bayed for his blood, but he peacefully lived out his
allotted time [dying in July 2019 at the age of ninety-one] even as
the masses wanted to spit on him in disgusted outrage. How can one not
lament the fact that Heaven does not deliver justice? Although, if
truth be told, Heaven too suffers along with all of us. If we are to
believe that what makes us what we are is the heart—our sense of human
decency—rather than the bestial organs of wolves and dogs, then it is
the heart too that responds most meaningfully to the vicissitudes of
life—be they joys or sorrows, disaster or good fortune, fairness as
well as to profit, loves and hates. It is but human to be conflicted
by wants and needs, to be prone to the agonies of separation and hopes
for happiness. It is in that heart that a way forward may be forged,
through thickets of pain as well as despite the rotten realities of
When humanity itself is tested to the very point of extinction, know
that this may presage the true “End of His Days.” As for those
addle-brained morons and all of those smarmy gadabouts who think
nothing bad can ever happen to them, they are but an undifferentiated
mob: they make no positive contribution to history, nor indeed does
the course of unfolding events change because of their existence, or
anything they do.
9. A New Era in Which the Clock Is Ticking
The deplorable reality is evident and the countdown has started—the
time to establish a meaningful constitutional order is upon us. It
should be recognized that the March 2018 revision of China’s
Constitution [which allowed for Xi Jiping to stay in power beyond the
limited term in office previously stipulated by law] opened the door
to all manner of evil. It has legislated that a totalitarian specter
may once more cast a long shadow over us. However, at that very
moment, things were taking an unexpected turn; just as that stampede
into the past began, systemic decay became increasingly evident.
Putting aside the issue of disgruntled popular sentiment, in the above
we have already noted the bungled policies related both to Hong Kong
and to Taiwan, as well as the disorderly fashion in which the
Sino-American relationship has been unfolding. Added to all of that is
an overall economic decline that eludes simple resolution as well as
the real-time international isolation that China has been experiencing
[due to its increasingly aggressive foreign posture]. All of these
things are symptomatic of policy failure, yet further proof that
“Strong Man Politics”—a phenomenon that cuts against the very nature
of modern political life—produces results that are at glaring variance
with the avowed aim of their author [that is, Xi Jinping].
Amid this suffocating situation, there is a widespread anxiety that we
are caught in a stalemate. People are bedeviled and straining to think
of ways to break through the logjam and inaugurate new possibilities.
There has, of course, been a fervent hope among many that certain
internal dynamics may possibly result in a situation that can clear
the way; perhaps something welling up from below that may positively
influence those above.
Viral Alarm: When Fury Overcomes Fear An Essay by [ex] Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun @ChinaFile #COVID19 B
Law & Politics
Just as such a pipe dream seemed to capture
people’s imaginations, developments in Hong Kong and Taiwan showed how
the periphery can suddenly throw the centre off kilter. Events in
those places have been so dramatic in fact that they may even offer a
ray of hope. For it is perhaps, only perhaps, that with such a path
forward—one in which the periphery gradually influences the centre and
makes imaginable some kind of peaceful transition, that a particular
Chinese Way out of our present political conundrum may be found.
Perhaps too the “besieged city” [of Wuhan], beset as it is by crisis,
may also prove to be a Jerusalem—a place of hope and peace; an old
city proffering new hope.
To put it another way, a breakthrough originating from the periphery
may augur once more [as it did in the 1890s, the 1910s, the 1940s and
again in the 1980s] a moment that favors a push towards meaningful
constitutional and legal rule in China. We may well be at just such a
juncture; even as the faint light of a new dawn is promised on the
horizon, we nonetheless remain in the gloaming—we are no longer lost
in the pitch dark of night, yet still the roseate promise of a new day
eludes us. Still that bastion of power holds itself together tightly,
a crumbling edifice reluctant as ever to acquiesce to the popular
will. But, look there, the draw bridge that leads a way out [that is,
the promise offered by events in Hong Kong and Taiwan] has been
lowered just so far. Is this not a time spoken of by prophets—even
though many will fail and fall before the dawn light ushers in a new
I present these Nine Points for the consideration of my fellow
countrymen and women. It is all too obvious and mere common sense. But
let me reiterate my key point: when a nation has yet to enter a normal
state of rule; when its people and their civilization are yet to
transition into a truly modern era, we must continue forward with
fortitude and hope; we must strive to bring about constitutional
democracy and realize a true People’s Republic. We have now been part
of this long-breaking wave of modernity for over one and a half
centuries [since the fledgling reform movement of the 1860s in the
Qing dynasty]. It is herein that we play a role. That’s right, we, We
the People, for [as I have previously said] how can we let ourselves
“survive no better than swine; fawn upon the power-holders like curs;
and live in vile filth like maggots”?!
As I write these words I reflect on my own situation which also
dramatically changed in 2018 [when the author published his famous
anti-Xi Jeremiad]. For having raised my voice then, I was punished for
“speech crimes.” Thereafter, I was suspended from my job as a
university lecturer and cashiered as a professor, reduced to a minor
academic rank. I was placed under investigation by my employer,
Tsinghua University; my freedoms have been curtailed ever since.
Writing as I do herein, I can now all too easily predict that I will
be subjected to new punishments; indeed, this may well even be the
last piece I write. But that is not for me to say.
Confronted by this Great Virus, as all of us are right now, I feel as
though a vast chasm has opened up before us all and I feel compelled
to speak out yet again. There is no refuge from this viral reality and
I cannot remain silent. To act in any other way would be to betray my
nature. In Western philosophy, they call it “righteous indignation;”
it is a kind of fury that results from repeated abrasion. Our own
thinkers speak of it as humanity combined with a sense of justice. It
is [what Mencius] called “the true way of the human heart” and, thus
agitated, I—a bookish scholar who dares to think of himself as an
“intellectual”—am prepared to pay for it with my life. [Here the
author quotes the Confucian text Mencius: “Benevolence is the heart of
man, and rightness his road. Sad it is indeed when a man gives up the
right road instead of following it and allows his heart to stray
without enough sense to go after it.” Translated by D.C. Lau, Mencius,
Book VI, Part A: 11.]
In the end, it is about Freedom—that Transcendent Quality; well-spring
and fulcrum of conscious action; that secular value proven to be the
most divine aspiration of humankind; that innate sensibility that
truly makes us human; that ineffable “suchness” that we Chinese share
with all others. The spirit of the world, that spirit incarnate on
earth, makes possible a glorious unfolding of Freedom itself. This is
why, friends—my countless compatriots—though a sea of flames confronts
us, can we let ourselves be held back by fear?
Oh, Vast Land beneath our feet, it is You that I now address:
you inspire the most profound feelings, yet you can be cruel in your
dispensation. Despite the bounty of your promise all too often you
assail us with ceaseless troubles. Bit by bit you gnaw away at our
patience, inch by inch you chip away at our dignity. Are you deserving
of all of our praise or are you worthy only of our curses? One thing
there is that I do know, and it is a hard-won truth: at the mere
mention of you my eyes fill with tears and my heart gasps. And so it
is that I say unto You, in the words of the poet [Dylan Thomas]:
I will not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And that is why people like me—feeble scholars though we are—are
useless, for we can do nothing more than lament, take up our pens,
avail ourselves of what we write to issue calls for decency and
advance pleas on behalf of Justice. Faced with the crisis of the
coronavirus, confronting this disordered world, I join my
compatriots—the 1.4 billion men and women, brothers and sisters of
China, the countless multitudes who have no way of fleeing this
land—and I call on them: rage against this injustice; let your lives
burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness
and welcome the dawn.
Let us now strive together with our hearts and minds, also with our
very lives. Let us embrace the warmth of a sun that proffers yet
freedom for this vast land of ours!
Drafted on the Fourth Day of the First Lunar Month
Of the Gengzi Year of the Rat [28 January 2020]
Revised on the Ninth Day of the First Month [2 February]
As a snow storm suddenly assailed Beijing
03-FEB-2020 ‘’escape velocity’’ The #nCoV2019 #coronavirus and the
Non-Linearity and Exponential Risks
Hong Kong Is Showing Symptoms of a Failed State @business
Law & Politics
Grocery runs in Asia’s financial powerhouse have begun to remind me of
shopping in Russia in the chaotic summer of 1998. You grab what you
can find, and if there is a queue, you consider joining it.
Surgical masks and sanitizer gel are bartered for; detergent shelves
are bare. A run on toilet paper last week, after an online rumor, was
reminiscent of Venezuela.
Crowds are irrational everywhere, and social media hardly helps. Yet
the palpable anxiety in coronavirus-hit Hong Kong these days suggests
worrying levels of distrust in a city where citizens have always
expected private enterprise at least, if not the state, to keep things
Both have failed miserably, preparing inadequately even after the SARS
outbreak that killed almost 300 people in the city in 2003.
A fragile state is usually defined by its inability to protect
citizens, to provide basic services and by questions over the
legitimacy of its government.
After an epidemic and months of poorly handled pro-democracy
demonstrations, Hong Kong is ticking most of those boxes. Add in a
strained judicial system, and the prognosis for its future as a
financial hub looks poor.
A snapshot of the situation first. Hong Kong is not, at least for now,
as grim as parts of mainland China, where the outbreak of novel
coronavirus has people building barricades, or being followed around
by drones. This isn't Wuhan.
Yet after 26 confirmed cases and one death, the semi-autonomous
territory of more than 7 million people is in lockdown, with schools,
universities and museums closed.
A $360 billion economy, torn apart by months of anti-government
protests, is in tatters.
Masks are in such short supply that some clinics have closed, and
queues snake daily outside pharmacies.
Official declarations, meanwhile, have attracted derision on social
media: One senior politician argued in the Legislative Council that
disposable masks could be steam-cleaned, ignoring the remonstrations
of the city’s Centre for Health Protection.
For someone who arrived recently from orderly Singapore, it’s a mess
that’s hard to comprehend. Indeed, it has become hard not to think of
creaking states I have studied and reported on, in Africa and the
former Soviet Union.
The problem isn’t the epidemic, or indeed Hong Kong’s health system.
Rather, it’s the mishandling of the situation by the administration of
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, left with so little legitimacy and social
capital that citizens simply no longer believe it will act in their
That’s particularly true when the crisis comes from the mainland.
Lam’s fumbling over the question of masks is indicative of the
Having banned masks last year to stop protesters concealing their
identities, officials began asking people to wear them to prevent the
virus from spreading.
Then, on the day of Hong Kong’s first coronavirus death, Lam appeared
in public without one and said her officials shouldn’t wear masks to
save them for medical workers.
Senior civil servants ignored the directive, opposition lawmakers
accused her of sowing panic and health experts panned the idea as
unsafe. Lam eventually apologized for creating confusion.
That debacle was followed by the toilet-paper panic, unthinkable in
any other international powerhouse. All of this should worry
executives, bankers and traders almost more than street clashes: It
suggests deterioration. The next shock will be worse.
It’s indefensible for a city that lived through severe acute
respiratory syndrome to have failed to stock sufficient masks for its
population, or to put in place clear, practiced quarantine measures.
In an indication of ill-conceived priorities, consider that this time
last year, the chief preoccupation of health authorities was to ban
e-cigarettes, a concern that now seems almost frivolous.
Lam was quick to bring in draconian measures — briefly shuttering even
parks and the postal service — but those weren’t matched by efforts to
calm the population, isolate visitors or hand out cheap masks.
Travelers from mainland China were only to be quarantined as of 12:01
a.m. Saturday, weeks after the seriousness of the outbreak became
The comparison with Singapore is unflattering. If official statistics
are accurate, the Southeast Asian city currently has more cases than
A higher alert level on Friday did prompt Singaporean shoppers to
clear supermarket shelves, but not with Hong Kong’s sustained levels
of frenzy, at least not yet.
For now, school events there are curtailed, companies have been told
to consider contingency plans and to cancel large-scale events — in
accordance to a clear system laid out after SARS — but otherwise life
Face masks are not only stocked, but handed out free, and earlier last
week, at least, there were no queues to claim them.
The city-state has had its own bungled moments, such as the Zika virus
outbreak, and is hardly known for its liberal leanings.
It undoubtedly could have handled Friday’s announcement better. But it
still looks far more competent and prepared.
Hong Kong’s wealthy clients were only opening accounts in Singapore
before. They may now start to move money.
Consider what centers of banking and trading need. They require money
to move freely, a dependable legal system, and ultimately the ability
for their staff, expatriate and otherwise, to travel and work safely.
Hong Kong is becoming increasingly unable to provide those. A relative
advantage remains, so long as China keeps constraints on financial and
information flows, but it is shrinking.
This isn’t Caracas, at least not yet. But watching a group of women
jostle for the last packet of antibacterial tissues, I am back in
Moscow, watching people panic-shop as the currency collapses, eroding
their life savings.
Failed states, as with Anna Karenina’s unhappy families, each fail in
their own way.
Benin Plans to Sell More Than $550 Million in Bonds @markets.
The $10-billion economy, which sold a debut offshore bond of 500
million euros ($548 million) in March, will probably sell a bigger
amount of debt in a issuance that would probably take place in the
second quarter, said the people, who asked not to be identified
because the matter is private.
The government hasn’t yet made a final decision on a sale or whether
it will issue dollar-notes instead, said the people. Benin is rated
five notches below investment grade by Fitch Ratings and one step
higher by S&P Global Inc.
'We're definitely not prepared': Africa braces for new virus @AP
LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — At a Chinese-run hospital in Zambia, some
employees watched as people who recently returned from China showed up
with coughs but were not placed in isolation.
A doctor tending to those patients has stopped coming to work, and
health workers have been ordered not to speak publicly about the new
virus that has killed hundreds around the world.
“The problem is, even if it’s mild, it can paralyze the whole
community,” said Dr. Michel Yao, emergency operations manager in
Africa for the World Health Organization.
Those growing worried include employees at the Sino-Zambia Friendship
Hospital in the mining city of Kitwe in northern Zambia, near the
Chinese companies operate mines on the outskirts of the city of more
than half a million people. One company is headquartered in Wuhan, the
city at the center of the virus outbreak. Hundreds of workers traveled
between Zambia and China in recent weeks.
“We’re definitely not prepared. If we had a couple of cases, it would
spread very quickly,” physiotherapist Fundi Sinkala said. “We’re doing
the best we can with what resources we have.”
The Sino-Zambia Friendship Hospital, or Sinozam, a low-slung facility
near the city’s train station, has taken some precautions, including
checking patient temperatures with infrared thermometers and
establishing isolation areas.
Employees wear masks. Gloves, disinfectant and oxygen inhalers have
been stockpiled. Sinozam treats many Chinese in Kitwe and its
precautions go further than other hospitals in the area.
But the employees and others familiar with the matter, some of whom
spoke anonymously under the new rules, say some Chinese patients
checked in with coughs and fevers but did not get placed in isolation.
Visiting Zambian health officials concluded the patients did not merit
special treatment and did not take samples to test for the virus.
After the people recovered, they were sent home with antibiotics,
On Wednesday, the hospital set up a new fever clinic, where people
arriving with a high temperature are now taken to right away. It’s
“unfortunate” the ward wasn’t set up earlier, Sinkala said.
Two people familiar with the matter say a doctor tending to the sick
has fallen ill. Dr. Yu Jianlan has not come to work in the past week
and hospital administrators have not explained her absence, Sinkala
said. The other person spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of
Hospital administrator Li Zhibing said there were no patients with a
fever and said Yu had a urinary tract infection, not a fever.
But a notice posted by the Zambia-China Cooperation Zone, which
manages the hospital, quoted an employee as saying on Jan. 27 that the
facility “probably sees 120 fever patients a day, and at least 70 of
them are carrying germs” of various diseases.
Earlier this week, a Zambian official acknowledged for the first time
that his country was following up on an unspecified number of
suspected cases. Zambia is one of 13 African countries identified by
WHO as a high priority because of busy travel links with China.
Copperbelt provincial health director Dr. Robert Zulu, who oversees
Kitwe and the surrounding region, told The Associated Press he would
not discuss details, citing privacy. But he added, “when any case is
confirmed, you will be informed.”
Crucially, no one in Zambia has been able to test for the virus so
far. Like most African countries, it has been waiting for a substance
known as a reagent, which labs require to confirm whether a patient is
Labs in just six of Africa’s 54 countries were equipped as of
mid-week. That means a wait of two or more days to know whether a
sample shipped to South Africa or even outside the continent tests
Without testing, officials are “just relying on the symptoms” and
whether they persist. “But from what we are learning right now, some
people show hardly any symptoms at all,” Sinkala said, calling that
the hospital’s biggest worry.
Zambia is one of the additional countries WHO planned to equip by the
end of the week. As of Friday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan
said 28 labs across the continent could diagnose the new virus.
Adding to concerns at Sinozam, three employees say Zambian health
officials visited on Tuesday and have been testing the bodies of two
Chinese patients that have been in the morgue for days, though some
added it was out of an overabundance of caution.
Li, however, dismissed the accounts of testing the bodies as “rumors.”
He said one died last month of malaria and the other of a heart
The bodies are still there because family members in China wish to
come and pay respects but cannot because of the outbreak, he said.
Zambia’s health ministry spokesman, Dr. Abel Kabalo, called the
employee accounts of events at the hospital “very strange.”
He vowed that if Zambia confirms a case, authorities “will definitely
inform the world.”
It’s “pointless to hide information,” Kabalo said.
The WHO says countries are obligated to inform it of any confirmed
cases and are requested to report suspected cases as well.
The WHO chief has publicly urged countries to share information. So
far, African countries appear to be complying, a WHO adviser on health
security, Dr. Ambrose Talisuna, told reporters.
Several African nations such as Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia have
announced their precautions, including updates on negative test
results for suspected cases and demonstrations of surveillance and
Ethiopian Airlines, however, faces questions by some in Africa about
why it continues to operate more than 30 China flights a week while
other African airlines have suspended theirs.
Adding to the difficulties in diagnosing the new virus are numerous
diseases in Africa with symptoms that include fever or coughing or
It’s impossible to diagnose the new virus by symptoms alone, Gates
Foundation CEO Mark Suzman said, adding that there is a “significant
likelihood” that the virus will be confirmed in Africa.
And there is a risk that “panic overtakes good public health and good science.”
The foundation has committed up to $20 million to help health
authorities in Africa and South Asia, another vulnerable region,
improve their disease surveillance, isolation and treatment for the
Concerns are high among some in Kitwe. A local pharmacy manager,
Edward Goma, estimated that his business had sold more than 800 face
masks in the past few days.
“So far everyone is scared,” he said. And yet he has not noticed the
stricter surveillance measures seen in other countries, beyond
temperature checks at the international airport an hour’s drive away.
The 15th Metallurgical Construction Group, based in Wuhan, said on its
website that its overseas operations in Zambia and Congo must purchase
masks, disinfect living quarters and workspaces daily and check
workers’ temperatures three times a day.
Chinese employees are temporarily barred from returning to Africa,
while those in Zambia are not allowed to go to China, said Li, the
Chinese embassies in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa have been
unusually outspoken, giving news conferences and television interviews
to discuss their response to the outbreak.
Embassies require arriving Chinese citizens to declare where they have
been in China. They also urge citizens to voluntarily isolate
themselves for 14 days.
“We are now practicing hygiene, even in the mines,” said the
Kitwe-based president of the Mine Workers Union of Zambia, Joseph
Chewe. “Any report of a person with coronavirus here will be very
The coronavirus fallout is 'battering' African economies, Capital Economics says @CNBC @ELLIOTSMITHCNBC
Port closures in China are causing oil importers to cancel purchases
and forcing sellers to look elsewhere.
In Angola, state-owned petroleum group Sonangol has been forced to
re-sell at a discount at least one shipment which was already en
route, according to Capital Economics Senior Emerging Markets
Economist John Ashbourne.
Brent crude prices have been in steep decline since the outbreak hit
the headlines, down 16.96% since the turn of the year, and was trading
at just over $54 a barrel on Monday afternoon.
The indirect economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak is hitting
Africa, with the sharp fall in commodity prices “battering” economies
across the continent, according to Capital Economics.
Much of the international ripple effect from China’s mass shutdowns
has been concentrated in areas like tourism and manufacturing, which
have been roiled by a ban on outbound tour groups and supply chain
disruption arising from factory closures.
However, port closures in China are causing oil importers to cancel
purchases and forcing sellers to look elsewhere, John Ashbourne,
senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, highlighted in
a note Friday.
In Angola, state-owned petroleum and natural gas company Sonangol has
already been forced to re-sell at a discount at least one shipment
which was already en route, according to Ashbourne.
“While the price effect will hit all of Africa’s commodity exporters,
these trade disruptions will mostly affect West African oil
exporters,” Ashbourne said.
Brent crude prices have been in steep decline since the outbreak hit
the headlines, down 16.96% since the turn of the year, and was trading
at just over $54 a barrel on Monday afternoon.
Other base metals heavily relied upon by the African export market,
such as iron ore and copper, have also seen sharp depreciations in
In terms of economic exposure, industrial commodity exports from
Republic of the Congo amount to almost 70% of GDP (gross domestic
product) with exports to China accounting for more than 50% of total
Angola relies on Chinese industrial commodity exports for more than
20% of GDP. Other countries with significant exposure include Zambia,
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Ghana.
Though the virus itself has not yet been diagnosed on the continent,
experts have warned that the subcontinent is susceptible given its
strong ties to China.
Last week, upon declaring the virus a global health emergency, World
Health Organization (WHO) Chief Tedros Adhanom said the body’s
“greatest concern” was the potential for it to reach countries with
“weaker health systems.”
02-SEP-2019 :: the China EM Frontier Feedback Loop Phenomenon.
This Phenomenon was positive for the last two decades but has now
undergone a Trend reversal.
The ZAR is the purest proxy for this Phenomenon. African Countries
heavily dependent on China being the main Taker are also at the
bleeding edge of this Phenomenon.
This Pressure Point will not ease soon but will continue to intensify.
Baby desert locusts in Somalia will become East Africa's next plague wave, @UN agronomy experts have warned. Climate change-driven rain has triggered "unprecedented" breeding, says @antonioguterres @dwnews
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Sunday that
nymph (baby) desert locusts maturing in Somalia's rebel-held
backcountry, where aerial spraying is next to unrealizable, will
develop wings in the "next three or four weeks" and threaten millions
of people already short of food.
Once in flight and hungry, the swarm could be the "most devastating
plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don't reduce the
problem faster than we are doing at the moment," said UN humanitarian
chief Mark Lowcock.
The locusts were now "very hungry teenagers," but once mature, their
progeny would hatch, generating "about a 20-fold increase" in numbers,
warned Keith Cressman, FAO locust forecasting officer.
"Mother Nature" alone would not solve the crisis, said Dominique
Burgeon, resilience director of the FAO, which has urged international
donors to give $76 million (€69.4 million) immediately.
Swarms, which left damage across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya in
December, could also put Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti at
risk, making it the worst such situation in 25 years, the FAO said.
East Africa already has 19 million people facing acute food
insecurity, according to the regional inter-agency Food Security and
Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG).
09-DEC-2019 :: Revelation 6:12-13 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth
Revelation 6:12-13 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and
behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as
sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky
fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken
by a gale.
@Total Chief @PPouyanne dismisses @TullowOilplc takeover idea @Reuters
Total Chief Patrick Pouyanne dismissed the idea it might buy its
partner in East Africa and Guyana, Tullow Oil, whose share price
slumped to 19-year lows in December over a string of bad news, stoking
Total is a partner in all growth markets for Tullow Oil whose market
capitalisation shrank to around 633 million pounds as of Wednesday
from 3.28 billion pounds in September.
It is slashing its workforce and restructuring its portfolio.
Amid industry speculation about a potential Tullow takeover target,
Pouyanne told Reuters when asked whether Total might buy Tullow: “Stop
As of late 2019, Tullow was saddled with $2.8 billion in debt, a
hangover from the last oil price crash which saw Brent crude futures
plummet to below $30 a barrel in 2016.
High debts can make buying assets a more attractive option than a
Offshore Guyana, Tullow owns 60% and Total 25% of the Orinduik block,
estimated to hold around 5.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Total also holds 25% in the Kanuku block, adjacent to Orinduik, in
which Tullow holds 37.5%.
While two of Tullow’s previous wells in Orinduik produced heavy oil,
calling into question the quality of the reservoir, other wells
targeting deeper layers have produced lighter oil - reviving hopes for
the commerciability of wells targeting the so-called Upper Cretaceous.
Pouyanne said he expected two or three wells to be drilled offshore
Guyana this year.
Total, Tullow and their Orinduik partner Eco are due to meet this
month and discuss next steps for their drilling off Guyana.
In Uganda and Kenya, Total and Tullow have partnered to bring the
countries’ first oil projects onstream, but both projects have hit
Onshore Uganda, a deal for Tullow to sell a chunk of its stake to
Total, fell through in August due to tax disputes with the government.
Uganda’s government said in December it had settled the dispute with
the companies, but they have not yet confirmed any such deal.
Pouyanne told Reuters discussions were still ongoing, but that
Tullow’s “financial issues” must also be dealt with.
In Kenya, Tullow and Total aim to reduce their stakes with a joint
sale that could see Tullow exit completely amid uncertainty over the
project’s launch, banking and industry sources said.
Tullow declined to comment.
Satchu said the shilling is surfing higher on a trifecta of positive developments. @TheStarKenya
Aly Khan Satchu said the shilling strengthening against the dollar is
noteworthy given how muscular the dollar has been overall since the
onset of the Corona Virus.
Satchu said the shilling is surfing higher on a trifecta of positive
“Firstly, remittances running at $2.4b a year have beefed up the
country’s forex position,” he said.
According to the World Bank, remittances contributed a 2.9 per cent to
the country’s GDP.
Kenyans in the diaspora sent home Sh285 billion($2855 million) in 2019
recording a 10-year high, World bank data shows.
The remittances in the country have risen to become the biggest source
of foreign exchange.
According to the Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA), citizens living and
working abroad have the potential to invest more into the country’s
Satchu also attributed the strong shilling to the 17 per cent drop in
oil prices since the start of the year as oil remains our biggest
single expense item.
''There is an obvious inverse correlation between the price of oil and
value of the shilling,” he said.
He is also said that this is the right time for Kenya can float
another Eurobond on the shilling strength.
Foreign exchange reserves remained adequate at $8,510 million (5.17
months of import cover) as at February 6.