|Monday 10th of February 2020
Acceleration of evolutionary spread by long-range dispersal @PNASNews
Law & Politics
Pathogens, invasive species, rumors, or innovations spread much more
quickly around the world nowadays than in previous centuries. The
speedup is caused by more frequent long-range dispersal, for example
via air traffic. These jumps are crucial because they can generate
satellite “outbreaks” at many distant locations, thus rapidly
increasing the total rate of spread. We present a simple intuitive
argument that captures the resulting spreading patterns. We show that
even rare long-range jumps can transform the spread of simple
epidemics from wave-like to a very fast type of “metastatic” growth.
More generally, our approach can be used to describe how new
evolutionary variants spread and thus improves our predictive
understanding of the speed of Darwinian adaptation.
.@WhiteHouse asks scientists to investigate origins of coronavirus @abcnews
Law & Politics
The White House on Thursday asked U.S. scientists and medical
researchers to investigate the scientific origins of the novel
coronavirus, as misinformation about the outbreak spreads online.
The director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology
Policy (OSTP), in a letter to the National Academies of Sciences,
Engineering, and Medicine, requested that scientific experts "rapidly"
look into the origins of the virus in order to address both the
current spread and "to inform future outbreak preparation and better
understand animal/human and environmental transmission aspects of
The national academies consist of private, nonprofit institutions
charged with providing scientific support to the federal government.
The director of the OSTP, Kelvin Droegemeier, wrote in the letter to
the president of the National Academy of Sciences, Marcia McNutt, that
a widely disputed paper on the origins -- subsequently withdrawn --
had shown the urgency for accurate information about the genesis of
He called for a "meeting of experts, particularly world class
geneticists, coronavirus experts, and evolutionary biologists."
In response, the presidents of the academies shared in a letter a
synopsis of their research so far, calling the request "timely given
the declaration of a public health emergency and potential for
misinformation to confound the response."
The move comes as governments and social media companies fight the
spread of misinformation about the virus, which since it was first
detected in December has infected more than 28,000 people and killed
more than 560, almost entirely in China.
In the United States, 12 confirmed cases have been reported in
Wisconsin, California, Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts and
Illinois. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a
global health emergency.
The U.S. has evacuated Americans from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the
outbreak's epicenter, and imposed strict entry restrictions on
travelers who have recently spent time in China.
A coronavirus task force led by Health and Human Services Secretary
Alex Azar met with President Donald Trump on Thursday, according to
the White House, which said the president has been receiving daily
The OSTP also supports providing wider access to scientific studies on
ABC News' Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton asked the
director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
about concerns that stem from misinformation online that the novel
coronavirus could have been engineered or deliberately released.
"There's always that concern," Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "And one of the
things that people are doing right now is very carefully looking at
sequences to see if there's even any possibility much less likelihood
that that's going on. And you could ultimately determine that. So
people are looking at it, but right now, the focus is on what are we
going to do about what we have."
The Washington Post reported that some U.S. senators have been
frustrated with the lack of information provided by the federal
government to the states they represent.
#coronavirus is master of [linear]math! @Charlie_Box
Law & Politics
1/30: 170/7821 = 2,1%,
1/31: 213/9800 = 2,1%,
2/01: 259/11880 = 2,1%,
2/02: 304/14401 = 2,1%,
2/03: 361/17238 = 2,1%,
2/04: 429/20471 = 2,1%,
2/05: 493/24441 = 2,1%
2/06: 564/28605 = 2,1%
Right now: 724/34677 AGAIN = 2,1%...
Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in the lung has been recognized as the key receptor of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as people may get infected through the respiratory tract
Law & Politics
Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in the lung has been recognized
as the key receptor of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as
people may get infected through the respiratory tract. However, the
clinical features of other systems have not been addressed yet. More
than the respiratory system, ACE2 also extensively expressed in the
vascular endothelial cells of the heart, kidney, liver, intestine, and
testis, etc. In other words, the new coronavirus may probably intrude
on any tissues or organs as long as the needed number of ACE2 is
available. Therefore, once exposed to the coronavirus (e.g. through
the blood or other body fluid), these organs may also get affected
especially for those the receptor has the direct-acting control. This
paper aims to analyze the possibility of the association between
2019-nCoV infection and the multiple organ failure (MOF) other than
Keywords: Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), 2019 novel
coronavirus (2019-nCoV), blood-air barrier, multiple organ
Next closest is Chongqing at roughly 800ug/m^3. @inteldotwav
Law & Politics
ＩＮＴＥＬＷＡＶＥ@inteldotwav A couple distinct possibilities: This is a power
plant releasing all this gas. Unlikely, considering how deviant the
numbers are from the norm. No other city comes close to how much SO2
is being released from Wuhan.
ＩＮＴＥＬＷＡＶＥ@inteldotwav A second one: Wuhan is burning municipal trash
and possibly contaminated animal carcasses. Possible, but why would
they not just dump it where they usually do?
ＩＮＴＥＬＷＡＶＥ @inteldotwav And the third and most morbid: Dead bodies are
being burned on the outskirts of the city, the death numbers are way
higher than the CCP is letting on about, and things are really, really
ＩＮＴＥＬＷＡＶＥ @inteldotwav I don't know the relative probabilities of
these events, make up your own mind as to which is most likely.
Eric Li: 'How do you block a country of 1.4bn people?' @FT
Law & Politics
The pro-Beijing venture capitalist on Trump, China’s rise — and Xi
Jinping’s ‘little red app’
Yu Zhi Lan is located in a modest house in a side-street in Shanghai’s
former French Concession. There is no sign outside to tell you that
you have arrived. Instead, as I step out of the car, a hostess in a
pink tunic and wearing a headset is hovering on the pavement.
She sweeps me across a small courtyard, up some stairs, along a
corridor that is painted black and dimly lit, and into a room at the
back marked VIP. A long table has been laid for two.
I have arrived early, so pass the time looking out at the back garden
— where a ginger cat is doing some stretching exercises. Its portly
figure makes me wonder if it has access to the kitchen bins.
If so, this is one lucky cat. The restaurant’s founder, Lan Guijun, is
one of the most famous chefs in China — and has been described by the
FT as the “new emperor of Chinese gastronomy”.
So this seems like a good venue to discuss a man sometimes described
as the new emperor of China itself — Xi Jinping, the country’s
The guest I am waiting for is Eric Li, a Shanghai-based venture
capitalist and political commentator, who plays a very unusual role in
the conversation between China and the west.
While most official defences of China are written in wooden jargon, Li
is a master of the cut-and-thrust of western debate. His TED talk
defending China’s one-party state has had more than 3m views.
He has appeared in western publications including the FT, Foreign
Affairs and the New York Times (arguing in the last of these that the
alternatives to the Tiananmen crackdown “would have been far worse”
and that the “resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth
And his views seem to be evolving in an interesting direction. Lately,
he has begun to sound like a Chinese version of Steve Bannon,
denouncing “globalism” as a malign ideology that will erase national
borders and cultural distinctions.
Li arrives bang on time at 12:30. Already laid on the table in front
of us is a wooden tray containing exquisite-looking small appetisers,
and another little dish on the side.
Li has told me that this is one of his favourite restaurants and also
warned that it will be expensive. As we settle down, he tells me that
we will be eating a version of Sichuanese cuisine that is less hot and
spicy than the original.
“People in Shanghai couldn’t cope with what they eat down there. It
would kill us.” He laughs loudly.
We are taking the set lunch menu which shows that, after the eight
appetisers, there will be 11 courses to come. There are no prices on
either the Chinese or the English version of the menu.
I decide to make a start and slurp down the “cold jelly with grape
sauce and fried tortillas”. It is utterly delicious — a mixture of
sweet and sour tastes, and smooth and crunchy textures.
Li informs me we don’t have to eat all the appetisers, which I find
slightly disappointing. Before they are whipped away, I make sure to
try the restaurant’s signature dish — “golden silk noodles with
The noodles are made of duck-egg yolks and take many hours to produce
and roughly 30 seconds to devour. Once again, 10 out of 10.
There are still a lot of leftover liberal phrases, liberal thoughts in
universities and other parts of the country. I think these things will
I tell my guest that I have to take a photo, to pass on to the FT’s
cartoonist. Li puts on his glasses and confesses to being a little
“You made that Russian guy [Alisher Usmanov] look really terrible.” I
respond that my wife has complained that the illustration of me in the
FT makes me look like Chairman Mao. “That’s a compliment,” he says,
and smiles broadly.
On the way to the restaurant, I had read reports of a mysterious new
virus in Wuhan. It didn’t seem important enough to discuss over lunch
in Shanghai, 800km away.
But in the weeks since the coronavirus has become a global issue.
Li describes it as “the medical equivalent of a natural disaster” when
I email him later for his assessment of the situation.
“State capacity and a collective culture are the two uniquely strong
characteristics of China’s political system and social construct that
will ultimately enable the country to successfully combat this
I ask if he wants to order some wine. Li initially demurs, saying that
he has a business meeting to go on to (“boring, end of year stuff”).
But when I press ahead anyway, he orders us a select Riesling, the
wine traditionally said to go best with Chinese food. Two glasses of
Schloss Johannisberg 2016 from the Rheingau are produced.
Although he has not chosen the Chinese wine on the list, Li is
intensely proud of his Shanghainese roots. He lives around the corner
from the restaurant and his three children go to the same Shanghai
public schools he attended.
Now 51, he was brought up in the city by his grandmother while his
parents, who were academics, stayed in Beijing.
I ask why that was and he replies, cautiously: “It was during the
Cultural Revolution, which was a chaotic time. So my mother thought it
was a better idea for me to be with my grandparents here in Shanghai.”
Like many intellectuals, his father was imprisoned for a time.
A transformative moment in Li’s life came when he moved to the US as
an 18-year-old — studying first at Berkeley in California and then
doing an MBA at Stanford.
He stayed in America nine years, including a spell working on Ross
Perot’s 1992 presidential campaign. He retains close links there, with
a home in California and a place on the advisory board of the Stanford
He has used the Californian model of venture-capital funding for his
own firm, Chengwei Capital, which was founded in 1999 and now has
about $2bn in capital under management.
I ask him to name an investment that worked out well and he mentions
Youku, an internet-based television service, as well as a chain of
Chinese budget hotels, Hanting, which Li says is “like Hampton Inn,
but much much bigger”.
Both companies have floated on the New York Stock Exchange, so I ask
Li if he is worried that the US-China trade tensions may damage his
He seems unconcerned, arguing that America will be hurting itself if
it closes itself off — and that besides, there are many other places
to raise money, such as Hong Kong and Shanghai itself.
I push further, pointing out that some of Donald Trump’s advisers seem
determined to stop China’s rise in its tracks.
Li briefly looks angry and says firmly: “Well that would be
unfortunate. I think they wouldn’t succeed in that. How do you block a
country of 1.4bn people — who work hard, who aspire to a better life?
I mean that position is morally questionable. Are you saying that, for
some reason, Chinese people permanently have to have a much lower
income-per-capita than Americans? That’s just morally indefensible.”
The first of the main courses appears, perched on a jade plinth. I am
momentarily confused, wondering whether there is more food concealed
inside the crockery. But our dish is a delicate little thing.
“It’s a caviar and shrimp parfait,” explains Li. Then he adds, with a
laugh: “We’re living the corrupt Shanghai life — this is bad.”
Ostentatious displays of wealth are out of fashion in Xi’s China. “I’m
glad I’m not a politician,” says Li.
“No government official could eat like this now. None.” He roars with laughter.
The remark is made just in time for the arrival of what is regarded as
one of the ultimate luxury foods in China — abalone, a sea snail that
is both super-expensive and (I later guiltily discover) endangered.
It is a dark brown meat, strongly flavoured and slightly rubbery in
texture. Although it is probably the most expensive single item on the
menu, it is not my highlight.
Sipping slowly on his wine, Li compares the rise of modern China to
that of other great powers, such as Greece, Rome, the British empire,
imperial Japan and the US.
“China’s rise so far has been bigger and faster than them all,” he
says. “Yet not a single shot fired, not a single country invaded.”
By contrast, the rise of others was accompanied by “incredible
bloodshed, violent wars, colonisation, the subjugation of entire
peoples, slavery, even genocide”.
This provides an opening to raise an obvious and sensitive issue — the
Xi government’s imprisonment of more than 1m Uighur Muslims in
“re-education” camps in the province of Xinjiang.
The Chinese government reacts ferociously to any criticism of its
policies towards the Uighurs, so I’m interested to see how Li will
handle this topic.
“I don’t know a lot of the details,” he says. “I’m reading the papers,
like you are.” But, he continues, China faced a growing and
threatening problem with domestic terrorism, and the camps are its
attempt at a response.
While they are a harsh solution “they’re not Abu Ghraib”, he says, in
reference to the prison in Iraq where American troops were found to
have tortured detainees.
It strikes me that Li is an expert practitioner of “whataboutism”,
countering any criticism of China by pointing to a different sin
committed by the west — though in this case I find the comparison
In contrast to Abu Ghraib, he argues, the Xinjiang camps are “peaceful
places, they are almost like schools. But if you ask me would I want
to be there, of course, the answer is no . . . Whether or not this
will be judged a success, only history can tell.”
As we talk, we are sipping on a blood-red soup with sea cucumbers
floating in it, which look a little like grenades.
Emboldened by the wine, I ask my highly westernised guest what he
really thinks of President Xi.
He pauses and, with the air of a man taking a calculated risk, says:
“I’m a Xi Jinping fan. I might as well put that on the table. I might
as well come out of the closet.”
I ask if he really spends his time studying “Xi Jinping Thought” and
he assures me that he does. “I’m on the app,” he says reaching for his
phone, which has the “little red app” of Xi Jinping Thought installed
“Look, it’s on the first page.” He taps on the app, glances at it and
then says: “Whoops, I didn’t register today.” Using the app regularly
is seen as a sign of loyalty to President Xi.
Slightly needlingly, I ask him “what are the best bits” in Xi Jinping
Thought. “Oh, there’s so much to choose from,” he says, “but I guess,
for me, the stress on the environment.”
Li likens Xi to Teddy Roosevelt, the US president of the early 20th
century noted for his emphasis on conservation, tackling corruption
and national greatness.
“If you think about it, China today is at a similar stage,
domestically and economically, to Teddy Roosevelt’s America . . .
becoming a world power, but not quite out there yet.”
As Li tells it, when Xi took power, China desperately needed firm
leadership to tackle corruption and inequality. Xi, he says, has
provided that “charismatic” leadership.
So, I ask, does that mean you didn’t like Hu Jintao (Xi’s
predecessor)? The reply is emphatic: “No, no, no.” He laughs
manically, and splutters “I’ll kill you” — before pretending to turn
off my tape recorder.
Li is not only a fan of Xi but also, in certain respects, of Donald
Trump. He argues that while Trump is wrong to blame China for
America’s problems, he is right to repudiate “the traditional American
elites, the globalist elites”.
The American South was solid for Trump and Li says that he
particularly likes that part of the country because of its respect for
history and tradition, and its sense that “there is a community that
matters more than the individual”.
We are now on to a dish that I have never eaten — chicken feet. I find
their texture slightly challenging and order another glass of Riesling
to wash them down.
Li is not even halfway through his first glass and I wonder whether
this is to keep his mind clear for the meeting later, or to make sure
that he remains careful in how he discusses political issues.
Even though I find many of his views alarming, I enjoy talking to Li,
who is lively, well-read and intellectually agile. But I cannot help
wondering if he can really be happy with the ever-narrowing scope for
debate in China.
He is a trustee of the China Institute at Fudan University in
Shanghai. But, in a move that has appalled Chinese liberals, Fudan has
just removed a commitment to “freedom of thought” from its statutes.
I ask Li about this and he gives a slightly chilling account of
China’s new order. “For a period of several decades, the Chinese
nation has been debating what kind of government and society they want
. . . There are people who are liberals, who want to be a liberal
country. I think that debate is over.”
However, “there are still a lot of leftover liberal phrases, liberal
thoughts in universities and other parts of the country. I think these
things will be changed.”
In any case, Americans are not in a position to lecture China on free
speech. “They’re banning speakers everywhere,” he says. “At some of
the top American universities . . . they cannot invite certain
academics to speak. So what is academic freedom?”
I point out to Li that he is somebody who appears to relish debate and
argument. Isn’t he going to be very bored in this new world? “Maybe I
will be, maybe boredom is the price to pay.”
Li, however, may already be paying another price for the increasingly
authoritarian tone of Xi’s China — and the rise in antagonism between
China and the west.
It could be making it more difficult for him to move easily between
the two worlds in which he is so comfortable.
Li has already experienced some pushback. In October, the FT reported
that the London School of Economics had rejected an offer of funding
from him for a new China Institute, after LSE academics had raised
objections to Li’s involvement.
Li’s own version of the story is that he was approached by the LSE and
asked if he wanted to be one of several sources of funding for a new
He says that he expressed interest, heard nothing for months — and
then later heard that the project had been scrapped.
In accordance with FT tradition, Li will not be providing funding for
our lunch. We have been eating for almost two and a half hours and,
reluctantly, I have to call a halt and ask for the bill.
I cannot read the Chinese characters but I can understand the numbers.
The total comes to Rmb4,066 — which is around £450.
Like a guards officer who has lost big at the roulette table, I try
not to show any emotion.
Li asks me if the FT will be OK with the expense, then laughs. I
should take it as “payback”, he says, for that story on him and the
Gideon Rachman is the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator
Yu Zhi Lan
851 Julu Lu, Shanghai
Yunnan black tea
Glass of Schloss Johannisberg Riesling x 3
Jelly with sauce and tortillas
Mushrooms with bamboo
Chicken with peppers
Sour and hot mushrooms
Spiced beef shin
Lacquered cashew nuts
Noodles with lobster
Noodles with cabbage heart
Caviar and shrimp parfait
Crab and croaker meatball
Sliced beef in chilli oil
Chicken feet with peppers
Rice with pork
Boiled pork dumpling
Rose after-dinner tea
Total: Rmb4,066 (£450)
President Xi Jinping told a gathering of senior officials that they must be on guard against "black swans" and "grey rhinos" which could threaten rule of the Communist Party @SCMPNews
Law & Politics
Back on January 21 last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a
gathering of senior officials that they must be on guard against
“black swans” and “grey rhinos” which could threaten the rule of the
Communist Party amid a slowing economy.
At that time, Xi’s use of animal metaphors sparked discussions among
observers who generally interpreted his warnings as being related to
different kinds of economic risks.
“Black swans” are events that cannot be predicted but have a profound
impact on markets, while “grey rhinos” are known risks that have the
potential to cause great harm but which people choose to ignore.
One year later, Xi’s wildlife metaphors about the dangers facing the
country have proved prophetic on a more literal level.
Scientists and medical experts have pinned down bats as the probable
source of the coronavirus outbreak originating from a wet market which
has stalls for trading wildlife animals in Wuhan of Hubei province.
The bats are believed to have infected other animals which transmitted
the virus to humans.
Banning the sale of all wild animals is the least of the concerns
facing Chinese leaders. How to contain the spread of the coronavirus
is their top priority.
There are good reasons why Xi said on Monday that epidemic prevention
and control would not only affect people’s lives and health but also
China’s social and economic stability and its opening up to the
In other words, the country’s current public health crisis could
threaten the party’s rule and erode the people’s trust in the
authoritarian centralised system which the Chinese leaders have been
plugging as the be all and end all for building up the country into
the second-largest economy in the world.
Xi presided over the Monday meeting of the party’s Politburo Standing
Committee, the country’s highest governing council, to discuss the
epidemic control and a statement released by Xinhua said the leaders
acknowledged the epidemic posed “a major test of China’s system and
capacity for governance, and we must sum up the experience and learn
After a slow start, with mounting evidence pointing to an initial
cover-up by the local Hubei provincial and Wuhan city officials along
with some national health officials early last month, the Chinese
government has since taken increasingly forceful or even draconian
measures to contain the spread of the disease.
A number of cities in Hubei, including Wuhan – the epicentre of the
outbreak which has a population of 10 million – are under lockdown and
now an increasing number of cities in other provinces, including
Zhejiang, have followed suit.
By Friday, the number of confirmed deaths from the virus had risen to
at least 636 and the number of confirmed infections stood at more than
30,000, far outpacing the number of infections during the Sars
outbreak in 2002 to 2003, which killed nearly 800 worldwide.
While the new virus has spread much more rapidly than Sars, it appears
to be less deadly. Compared to a mortality rate of about 10 per cent
for Sars patients, about 2 per cent of the people infected with the
new coronavirus have died.
The latest figures also show that the number of patients recovering
from the illness is rising rapidly.
More importantly, as experience from the Sars outbreak shows, the
severity and transmissibility of the virus are expected to lessen as
the weather gets warmer in the coming months.
But the Chinese government is still facing an epic battle against the
spread of the virus in the short term. As the authorities have not
fully grasped how the virus is transmitted and have not yet developed
vaccines against the disease, encouraging people to stay at home and
avoid crowds has become the most effective approach.
But that has proved very difficult as tens of millions of people are
expected to return to the major cities after the Lunar New Year
holiday, which had already been extended for one week.
In Beijing alone, local officials expect about 8 million residents
will have returned to the city between this past week and the next few
Already there have been reports that the returning residents have been
barred from their own apartments, causing resentment and anger.
In addition, a shortage of surgical masks and daily necessities such
as vegetables and meats in many parts of the county has also caused
As the government has encouraged people to work from home and
factories to delay operations, serious concerns have been raised about
the impact on the Chinese economy and its implications for the global
In 2018, China contributed about 28 per cent of the global economic
growth, according to official data.
But the adverse economic impact is mainly to be felt in the first
quarter if China’s forceful measures succeed in containing the spread
of the virus in the next two months.
Traditionally, the country’s first-quarter economic growth rate is
always the lowest of the year because of the Lunar New Year holiday,
to be followed by a rebound in subsequent quarters.
Beijing has already started to pump more money into the economy and
more stimulus programmes are expected to follow.
However, as the virus has spread to more than 20 countries and many of
them have effectively put China under quarantine by cancelling flights
to the country and barred travellers from China, the country’s role in
international trade and as a key player in the global supply chain
have also been put to an acute test.
Hyundai, the world’s fifth-largest car maker, announced its decision
on Tuesday to suspend production lines at its factories in South Korea
as it relies on auto parts from China.
Many companies have started to relocate their operations from China,
the world’s factory, to other countries because of the trade war
between China and US. If the outbreak is not contained soon enough, it
could accelerate the trend.
As a number of countries, including the United States and Australia,
have started to evacuate their citizens stranded in Hubei, Britain and
France have advised their citizens to leave the country altogether to
reduce the risk of infections.
But what worries Chinese leaders most is that the epidemic and the
initial cover-up by the local officials could prompt mainland citizens
to direct their anger towards the party’s authoritarian centralised
Since Xi came to power in late 2012, the country’s massive propaganda
apparatus has ramped up rhetoric that the party’s dictatorship has
made the country strong economically, militarily and technologically,
making a grand showcase of China’s high-speed trains, cutting-edge AI
applications, space ambitions, and new aircraft carriers as well as
its Belt and Road initiative promising trillions of yuan for
infrastructure developments from Asia to Africa.
But the epidemic has highlighted a woefully inadequate public health
system and its emergency response mechanism.
Until recently, doctors and nurses working in Wuhan and other cities
in Hubei province where the most infections and deaths have occurred
had experienced an acute shortage of medical-grade masks and
Thursday’s sad news about the death of Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan
who was cautioned by the police for sounding the alarm over the virus
before he was sickened by it, has become a rallying cry on social
Having realised the bubbling public anger, the Chinese leaders have
now promised to address “shortcomings and mistakes” in their response
to the epidemic, promising to put the people’s lives and health as the
It is not hard to imagine that when the outbreak is contained, the
Chinese leadership will again hail the wisdom of the authoritarian
model as the key to mobilising national resources to defeat the
Local officials in Hubei would take the blame and be punished for
their slow response to the outbreak and failure to implement measures
by the central government in Beijing. Just like what happened in the
aftermath of the Sars outbreak more than 17 years ago.
But this time round, restoring people’s trust and confidence in the
party’s “system and capacity for governance” will be a lot harder. ■
Wang Xiangwei is the former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning
Post. He is now based in Beijing as editorial adviser to the paper
In a way, this epidemic exposes another kind of virus in China, which is the "virus of bureaucracy." China's governance system remains totalitarian and hierarchical rather than modernized @zhanglifan @dwnews @WilliamYang120
Law & Politics
Zhang Lifan: The epidemic exposes the flaws in the modernization of
governance that the Chinese government has been boasting about.
It is clear that China hasn't truly modernized its governance system,
and 17 years after the SARS epidemic, it also hasn't established a
public epidemic prevention system.
In a way, this epidemic exposes another kind of virus in China, which
is the "virus of bureaucracy." China's governance system remains
totalitarian and hierarchical rather than modernized.
That's why when Beijing has to deal with a large-scale epidemic, its
governance style remains fragile.
Beijing has been trying to control the narrative about the coronavirus
epidemic, including censoring relevant conversations online.
How do you assess the motivation and impact of Beijing's tight control
over freedom of speech?
The Chinese government's mishandling of the epidemic has a lot to do
with its censorship.
However, in order to maintain the stability of the regime, they have
no bandwidth for actually containing the virus outbreak.
The most important thing to the Chinese Communist Party is to
safeguard its regime.
If we take a look at the people in charge of leading the efforts to
contain the virus outbreak, it is obvious that none of them has any
expertise in public health.
This is an "amateur" team trying to give orders to a group of public
health experts, and their real function is not to contain the virus,
but to maintain social stability in China.
From the perspective of enforcing censorship, the taskforce has done a
brilliant job. CCTV has been broadcasting how developing countries are
"praising" China's efforts to contain the epidemic.
However, since these are all countries that have taken huge amounts of
loans from China, they are paying China back by praising its behaviors
Internationally, China focuses mainly on preventing any kind of
criticism towards its mishandling of the epidemic.
I believe that they are willing to safeguard the regime by ignoring
all the facts and basic ethics.
Do you think this virus outbreak will pose a serious challenge to the
This is one of the most challenging moments in the Chinese Communist
Party's 70-year history.
The first major crisis it faced was the Great Chinese Famine during
Mao Zedong's era, and the second major crisis was the Tiananmen Square
Protest in 1989. Now we have this public health crisis.
Unlike the first two crises, the internet has allowed information
about the epidemic to be shared very quickly and widely, which
exacerbates the level of challenge that the Chinese government has to
Even though Beijing tries to censor online discussion about the
coronavirus epidemic, they still can't achieve a total blackout.
Chinese people already know most of the facts about the epidemic. Even
many Chinese officials probably know that they are lying about the
However, this doesn't mean that a large-scale protest is in the
making, as some analysts might suggest.
From my observation, the Chinese government is monitoring society
through tracking the development of the epidemic, and many methods of
"maintaining stability" used in this epidemic could be applied to
similar events in the future.
Additionally, most people in China are still afraid of dying from the
coronavirus, so they would rather stay at home than taking it to the
street at a time like this.
The Chinese government is taking advantage of this and imposing strict
control over road traffic and other aspects of people's everyday life.
I think the Chinese government is using this epidemic to strengthen
its control over society.
How will the Chinese government handle the epidemic going forward?
The Chinese government is used to sharing positive news and concealing
When they can no longer hide the negative news, they try to find ways
to turn negative news into positive news. This also happened during
the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic.
When leaders at the highest level didn't say anything about the
epidemic, all media outlets reported that the virus is not
transmittable between people.
However, when an outbreak happened, the entire national system
wouldn't start functioning unless the leader gave an order. This is
the trait of authoritarian politics.
I think the next thing that China can do is to try to address the real
issue. They will likely try to contain the outbreak and at the same
time, keep controlling society.
Once they can secure the regime, they will start framing the epidemic
as a reflection of the superiority of socialism. I think this is the
However, it is still hard to say if the whole epidemic would force a
regime change within the Chinese Communist Party or not. Right now,
everything is still very murky.
Africa Girds for Tough Fight Against Virus @WSJ.
KAMPALA, Uganda—In hospitals across Uganda, the government is hastily
constructing isolation units awaiting their first patients. In
Ethiopia, officials are exhorting citizens to report on anyone
displaying virus-like symptoms. In Zambia, the government is pleading
with citizens stuck in China not to return home. Across Africa,
nations are scrambling to strengthen health defenses in preparation
for the spread of the coronavirus from China, the continent’s largest
trading partner, amid rising fears the fast-spreading disease could
overwhelm some of the world’s weakest health-care systems.
While there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in any of the
continent’s 54 nations, the World Health Organization has warned that
Africa’s ill-equipped health-care infrastructure could be a soft
underbelly for global defenses against the virus, which has already
spread to 25 countries since December.
Hundreds of hospitals across the continent lack basic supplies, and
face shortages of medicine and erratic electricity connections that
can amplify the impact of medical emergencies. The international
humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday that
6,000 people have died from a measles outbreak in the Democratic
Republic of Congo alone since mid-2018. Some 96 new infectious disease
outbreaks were reported across 36 countries in Africa in 2018,
according to the Center for Strategic Studies, a Washington-based
Africa isn’t the only continent with poorly funded health-care systems
that officials fear could compromise efforts to contain the virus.
Lawmakers in Brazil passed a bill this week empowering the government
to shut ports, airports and roads in the event of an outbreak.
Pakistan—a close Chinese ally that is already struggling to cope with
an alarming spread of illnesses including hepatitis C, typhoid and
polio—suspended flights to China last week, before reinstating them
two days later.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose above 31,000 on
Friday with some 637 deaths, according to the WHO.
But international agencies say the risks are especially high in
Africa, where underfunded health-care systems lack adequate supplies.
Hospitals in some countries are already overburdened by deadly
infectious diseases, including Ebola, measles and malaria. The WHO
said Thursday it had dispatched additional “surge staff” to 13
priority countries on the continent.
Moreover, an estimated one million Chinese nationals live in Africa
and around 80,000 African students live in China, according to Johns
Hopkins University, including many in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter
of the outbreak. Chinese-owned enterprises have invested some $300
billion in African economies from 2005 to 2018, according to the
American Enterprise Institute, rapidly expanding bilateral transport,
business and tourism links.
“Considering the size of the Chinese population in Africa and the
large number of people who continue to go back and forth, it’s either
incredible luck or poor screening that explains why there’s still not
a confirmed case on the continent,” said Eric Olander, managing editor
of the China Africa Project at the University of Witwatersrand in
Nations including Kenya, Botswana, Ethiopia and Angola have been
testing for possible coronavirus infections in recent days, but with
only two facilities able to run accurate tests in all of sub-Saharan
Africa—one in South Africa and one in Senegal—there are concerns that
cases are going undetected. On Thursday, the WHO said it planned to
send testing kits to at least 29 laboratories in Africa to boost quick
detection and response to potential cases.
Six Africa-based airlines, including Kenya Airways and RwandAir, have
suspended or restricted flights as China struggles to contain the
But Africa’s preparedness has been limited and uneven, with countries
failing to put in place a uniform policy on basic travel restrictions
and airport screenings, Ugandan and WHO health officials say.
Ethiopian Airlines, which operates around half of Africa’s flights to
China, hasn’t canceled any of its services, saying it is working with
Chinese and Ethiopian authorities and is in compliance with WHO
guidelines. But critics say the airline, which operates from a $360
million Chinese-built airport in Addis Ababa, is putting commercial
interests above the safety of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.
In Uganda, medics at the new isolation unit at the Chinese-financed
Naguru General Hospital in Kampala say they are rushing to make
preparations but concede they would be overwhelmed if the coronavirus
“The available bed capacity nationwide cannot accommodate more than 30
patients,” said one doctor. “Isolation units lack oxygen supply
systems and laboratories. We are really still short on supplies.”
Robina Nebanja, Uganda’s junior health minister, made a passionate
televised appeal on Wednesday urging the 30 Ugandans in Wuhan to “be
patriotic and stay in China for the safety of other Ugandans.”
Beijing has asked nearly 2,000 of its nationals who live in Zambia and
had traveled to China for last month’s Lunar New Year festivities to
remain in China for now, China’s ambassador to Zambia, Li Jie, said
“The government of China will take full responsibility of the health
of foreign nationals studying and doing business during the outbreak,”
Mr. Li said. “The epidemic is a devil and we will not let it hide.”
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.