World Opinion on China’s Role in Coronavirus Prevention Will Depend on its Vaccine Diplomacy

China began 2020 being widely blamed for being the origin of the novel coronavirus that proceeded to infect more than a tenth of the whole globe. Though it successfully managed to navigate around that criticism through its wildly successful response to coronavirus, this success didn’t win it too many plaudits with the world due to its failure to export that response, or even care much about taking a leading role in fighting coronavirus around the world prior to the development of its vaccines. What will ultimately decide world opinion on China’s relationship to the greatest world crisis of our time will not, however, be the origin of the virus or its successful domestic response, but its vaccine diplomacy around the world.

China has three vaccines it plans to widely export: BBIBP-CorV, made by Sinopharm, CoronaVac, made by Sinovac, and Convidicea, made by CanSino Biologics. The first two rely on the killed virus method of vaccine design, and have similar efficacy (~78%), lower than Germany’s and America’s mRNA vaccines (~90-95%), while the last relies on an adenovirus vector similar to the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines, but, unlike these latter two, is injected in only one dose. China has some of the largest vaccine production facilities anywhere in the world. Due to its containment of the coronavirus crisis at home, it can, unlike Russia, safely afford to export vaccines without worrying about this affecting its local death toll. China’s great production capacity may well be able to help its neighbor Russia satisfy its own dire vaccine needs, as well as help China’s ability to export its own domestically designed vaccines by supplying it with the German-designed Pfizer vaccine.

The Sinopharm vaccine has already been approved in China and in several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan -hardly a core partner of China. The UAE, the second most vaccinated country on Earth, as well as Bahrain, the third, rely primarily on the Sinopharm vaccine (though the Pfizer vaccine is also used in both). Chinese vaccines will be a vital part of the coronavirus response in hard-hit Indonesia -again, hardly a core partner of China. 125.5 million doses of Sinovac have been ordered, as well as 60 million Sinopharm, 50 million AstraZeneca, 50 million Pfizer, and 20 million from CanSino Biologics, but only 3 million doses of any vaccine have arrived so far in Indonesia, and only of CoronaVac. Due to its isolation from both the West and Russia, Ukraine, too, will have to rely on Chinese vaccines for 2021, having already ordered 1.9 million doses of CoronaVac. The same goes for much of Africa, with the President of the Seychelles receiving his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine just today, and Morocco’s coronavirus response relying primarily on 40 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Even Brazil, with a relatively Sinophobic leadership, has ordered 46 million doses of locally produced CoronaVac.

A country cannot oppose a country from which it buys its core response to the largest crisis facing humanity in the present time. China’s ability to export its vaccines show substantial Chinese soft power even outside the countries that have signed support for its Xinjiang policies. As is the case for the response to China’s Xinjiang policies, the results of vaccine diplomacy have created a glaring divide on the basis of national income -not a single rich democracy has currently approved or has a contract for a Chinese vaccine, while a whole host of rich autocracies and low and middle income countries have eagerly accepted them. The difference is partly due to the mechanics of storage, with the mRNA vaccines requiring more money to ship than any of the Chinese vaccines. But India, whose leadership is unusually anti-Chinese by third world standards due to border disputes, is relying on a combination of AstraZeneca and Novavax, as well as a bit of Sputnik V. If Sinophobia were a real concern to the third world, we’d be seeing a lot more demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine and a lot less demand for the Chinese vaccines.

All in all, it appears China’s aim to come out from the coronavirus pandemic with its international reputation strong is in good shape.

UPDATE: Once very mild symptomatic cases were included, the clinical efficacy of Coronavac in Brazil was found to be 50.38%. However, too much has been made of this finding by the Western press; this tweet summarizes the actual meaning of vaccines’ clinical efficacy well. So far as we know, all currently used COVID vaccines are safe and effective.

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“Low Count” for Hispaniola completely vindicated

I wrote two posts back in 2014 on the population size of Hispaniola estimating its precontact population at around 250K (generously assuming 9-10% Native population decline per year since contact and Old World urban population density for the island’s largest settlements); it appears the actual population size (based on a genetic study profiled in the New York Times) was closest to Miguel de Pasamonte’s estimate of 60,000.

If China did everything right on coronavirus

The world economy would have undeniably have been less affected due to the avoidance of inefficient and ineffective lockdowns, but there would have been, if anything, more worldwide deaths due to world leaders delaying travel bans. China would have also been criticized far more for turning Wuhan into a giant prison both for citizens and foreign visitors, as well as for failing to prevent the pandemic for going global. It is known coronavirus was in northern Italy from mid-December onwards, nearly a month before the first recorded coronavirus death in Wuhan, and about the same time the Wuhan pneumonia cluster became notable. This was also two months before the north Italian outbreak made it into the world’s front pages. In order to prevent the pandemic from going global, China would not have merely had to prevent the Wuhan outbreak, it would have had to do contact tracing in northern Italy, France, and New York throughout December and January, something the leadership of these areas would likely have not permitted it to do. It would also have had to destroy the Western anti-mask consensus on its own, and to convince the Western epidemiological community (a pack of rats with the intelligence of bricks if there ever was one) that the pandemic was certain to go global simply due to its form of spread.

Of course, the real China did far from everything right. It opposed travel restrictions on its own citizens, it always verbally supported the deeply flawed and Western-dominated World Health Organization, and, crucially, it delayed travel restrictions, public gathering bans, and attempting to rigorously contact trace and quarantine all those infected as soon as it was aware of the Wuhan pneumonia cluster in December. But that, if anything, reduced the worldwide death toll by making it easy for foresighted leaders like Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Prayut Chan-Ocha, and Luis Lacalle Pou to prevent the coronavirus from ravaging their own countries. Without the terrible Wuhan death toll of January and February, the leaderships of Tunisia, Jordan, Central Europe, and Burma would all surely been much more hesitant about their own countries imposing travel restrictions on Western Europe and America that delayed their own large outbreaks by many months.

Remarks on coronavirus successes turned failures

There are a number of them, Tunisia and Burma being the most notable. Paraguay is another example, as well as Central Europe. Apparently, if a country is far enough apart from the normal airport routes and has no large-scale contact tracing regimen that it could possibly establish, keeping the virus out for many months with travel bans and remarkably strict quarantine rules is remarkably easy, but keeping it contained once community spread has appeared is next to impossible. They’re perhaps the most interesting -as well as the most tragic- countries to have experienced the pandemic to study.

Compatabilist free will: a defense

Yes, there is only one timeline, and yes, the laws of physics necessitate all our choices have all been made in advance. That does not render free will an unimportant aspect of human experience. Free will is action under conditions of uncertainty. Were man to have a book in which all his future actions are written, compatabilist free will would be impossible. Since no such book exists, it is necessary. Since many similar beasts (squirrels, for instance) are similarly unpredictable, it’s an open question to what organisms are able to act under uncertainty in the manner I have above described. Action at least requires a mental weighing of options (thus, uncertainty) before one makes a decision. Whether insects have this capability (they surely deal with uncertainty, but they may rely purely on instinct to respond to it), I know not.

Review: ESV Thinline Bible (Genuine Leather, Black)

No; I did not die back a month ago, but I am still experiencing severe health problems. I donated my old NASB bible to the hospital. Relying on my old translation posts (prefer ESV or NABRE), I bought the bestselling ESV Bible off of Amazon.

The translation is of 2016 vintage. Words of Jesus are colored in red; the book is printed in China (my old NASB bible was printed in the United States). Overall, I rate my new Bible four stars (the red lettering appears purple, the bookmark is insufficiently thin, and the pages are too thin). The translation makes some bold, but good decisions (e.g., Mark 15:28 is excluded from the main text entirely and relegated to the footnotes). The footnotes seem more cramped than in my old NASB- there are more of them, but there’s also less space for them. Sadly, references to the deity are not capitalized. Page corners are rounded (yes!!!) to avoid the constant corner-folding problems I had with my old NASB. The outside of the pages is also covered with some kind of fake gilting (which is a turn-off for me) -perhaps a way to test the wear of the pages. The maps are full-color and accurate. The words “GENUINE LEATHER” and the ISBN are imprinted in gold lettering on the back. The front cover is completely blank. The spine contains “Holy Bible”, the ESV logo, “English Standard Version”, and the Crossway logo. Overall, I am quite satisfied with my purchase.

Edit three days later: the text being organized into paragraphs better than verses is a good choice, and something I noticed just now. The gold dust on the page edges is a serious bug; I had to flip through every single page to make the pages not stick together, and the fake gold dust got in my lungs and on my fingers in the process.

Three Industrial Revolutions

There were three industrial revolutions. All peaked in invention in the 60s-80s, and there will likely be a fourth one in the 21st century.

The first was based on coal, rail, steamboats, etc. This was the era of the beginning of modern economic growth and the “rise of the West” over the rest”. The peak of it all was the peak of Anglo-American population concentration around rail lines, ports, and coal fields during the later 1920s.

The second was based on petroleum and power lines and was fundamentally equalizing. It resulted in the rise of the Second World and the various Middle Income countries (Japan, Mexico, the U.S. South, Puerto Rico, South Italy, etc.). South Korea, India, China, etc. were latecomers, but were still part of the same process.

The third was that in communications and computer technologies and primarily benefited Africa and Silicon Valley.

WWII took place between the peak of the first (thus Germany being poorer than Britain and Britain being Europe’s leading economy), but on the cusp of the spread of the fruits of the second (thus the growing importance of the automobile, electricity, and the aeroplane). The fall of the USSR took place after the maturation of the second and in the late phase of the third. We are undergoing the spread of the fruits of the third.

On the Future of the Chinese Economy

Scott Sumner, a generally smart, insightful, and well-read economist who has frequently visited China, has a Chinese wife and half-Chinese daughter, and claims to have predicted the rise of China in 1980 (though has shown no pics of this amazing feat) claims China will catch up to the GDP (PPP) per capita level of the former Axis powers. I thoroughly dispute this assertion.

Unlike Sumner, who sees modern-day Communist-ruled China as simply a Westward extension of the East Asian miracle, I view China as a corrupt, though fairly economically successful, descendant of Communist administration. I see its economic institutions to be somewhat less advanced than those of Russia today, although I, like Sumner, recognize the high intelligence of the Chinese people.

Today, the highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the post-Communist world (excluding Germany) is in the Czech Republic and Slovenia-two democratic countries with strong capitalist institutions bordering advanced Germanic democracies formed by the U.S. and Britain out of the ashes of the Third Reich. Communist China does not, cannot, and will not have institutions as good as this, at least, for another half-century, or until Communist China reunifies with Nationalist China. Neither the Czech Republic nor Slovenia has a GDP (PPP) per capita even 87% of that of Italy, the poorest Axis country, despite the fact that Italy has been in a depression since 2011. As no post-Communist country has ever surpassed any Axis power in GDP per capita (PPP), despite a quarter century’s worth of catch-up opportunities, with some countries starting from a much higher base than Communist China, there is no reason whatsoever to expect Communist China to surpass any Axis power in GDP per capita (PPP) terms any time soon, even a quarter century from now. There is also no reason to expect Communist China to surpass Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, or Estonia in GDP per capita (PPP) terms any time soon, even with a democratic government.

The best existing parallel to China today is not Taiwan, Japan, or South Korea, but Belaroos’. Like China, Belarus today is a dictatorial industrial country which frequently uses protectionist policies and restrictions on foreign investment while developing its manufacturing exports to the First World. Of course, China, due to its people’s higher natural intelligence and work ethic, as well as its higher urban productivity (which is probably the most important factor here) can probably surpass Belarus’s GDP per capita (PPP) within fifteen years, despite the huge gap between Chinese and Belorussians in working full-time for an employer. And the best existing economic parallel to China twenty or thirty years from now is unlikely to be Germany, Austria, or Finland, but is more likely to be Russia- a large, post-Communist Great Power with a machine-style political system with real elections, but no real political choices. To those who say “but is not Russia simply a fossil fuel exporter” I reply “but what would it be doing if it weren’t”? Does Russia have no auto industry? No tech talent? No agriculture? No ability to develop high-value-added services? And is Russian economic success no less worthy than Chilean economic success, as these two have pretty much the same natural resource rents as a percentage of GDP, as well as a similar GDP per capita?

And while it is, indeed, true that China likely has higher urban productivity than Russia, as China’s GDP per capita is more than half of Russia’s, what will happen when the rural population is all sucked up into urban apartments, which I expect to happen within the next thirty years? At that point, due to lack of Chinese w

The Power of Evil

Sometimes, I am impressed by the power and the banality of evil. Look, for example. at the President of the United States. He gloats about his destruction of nations before the press*, he openly admits his use of the Islamic State to overthrow an Iraqi Prime Minister with, in early June 2014, the approval of over 75% of the population of those parts of Iraq under the rule of the Iraqi government in July 2014. And, yet, not even Fox News dares say what needs to be said. The United States is the Great Satan, and Obama is its head. There is no doubt the Great Satan has no good intents. He has no plans to overthrow Assad, nor the Islamic State, but, rather, desires to maintain them both in a predeliberated perpetual struggle of planned chaos. He had plenty of opportunity to accomplish the dream of a Syria ruled by so-called “moderate” rebels. Syrian rebels breached Islamic State defenses in Raqqa twice over the course of 2014, once in January and once later that year. They also held most of Deir ez-Zor as late as July 2014. Yet, the Great Satan decided it was not to his liking that they be free of his control, so he removed them from the lands of the Euphrates, step by step.

Today, the Great Satan indiscriminately supplies Syrian rebels of every stripe with anti-tank weapons, ostensibly to fight the Islamic State. But the Islamic State does not have tanks. The Syrian government does. There is no doubt that any serious attempt at peace in Syria and Iraq is an abhorrence to the Great Satan, who desires nothing more than those countries be kept in a perpetual state of conflict. The Russian airstrike campaign’s hope, no matter how faint or fleeting, to bring a lasting peace to Syria

Yet, no matter how bad the Great Satan is, his lackey manages to openly express even more evil. The regime in Ankara demands the gateways to the Islamic State be kept open; that Syrian Kurdistan not be re-united as one, with the regions the Kurds lost over the course of 2014 from Carchemish to

Syria should never have de-mined the border with Turkey. Never trust the West.

No doubt Israel stands behind all this. Though the mover winding the Islamic State is the nation of the Turks, and the nation is the Great Satan, all this fundamentally happens in a Zionist context. Likud rules Congress; were it to challenge even a jot of

Certainly, George W. Bush was no saint. But it is clear that his campaigns worked; by January 20, 2009, he replaced the Taliban with a corrupt open anocracy, as well as a near-totalitarian dictatorship with a clearly popular elected anocratic government with the potential, however weak, for the creation of stability throughout Iraq.

As an end note to these remarks on the Syro-Iraqi war I note the surprising effectiveness of the Syrian Kurds, the complicity of the Kurds in Erbil, and the amazing phenomenon of regime-Kurdish cooperation in Hasakah and Qamishli. There was also this in Shaddadeh, too, before the area was captured by IS. When the Islamic State threatened Qamishli, regime soldiers defended it. When IS forces threatened Hasakah, it was Kurdish forces who fought to keep it secular. Despite common goals Arabization campaigns Such cooperation must be the cornerstone fo

Stalin and Kim Jong Il

I must not end this exploration of the power of evil among the powers of this Earth without examining the curious resuscitation of neo-Nazism among the Christie Nazi.

*Let us use our heads to analyze the relevant passage:

The Best Arguments for Jesus’s Historicity and Ahistoricity

Arguments for ahistoricity:

Leadups for Plausibility/Excuses:

The concept of a ‘Dying Anointed One’ is not unique. Daniel 9:26 explicitly states the anointed One will be cut off.  (see a Carrier post for a further examination of this concept

There is no certain evidence of a mention of Jesus in any account not influenced by the Gospel tradition (which originated, at latest, c. 70 AD). Tacitus, writing some years after that date, may well have been influenced by the historicist tradition.

Actual arguments:

The use of the Septuagint to write the life of Jesus, even in Mark.

The ‘silence of Paul‘.

The reliance of visions in Paul’s narration of the life of Jesus (Galatians 1:11, 1 Cor 11:23).

Arguments for historicity:

Leadups/Excuses:

The story

Actual Arguments:

Paul seems to view Jesus as temporarily being an earthly character.