China’s coronavirus response was basically Korea-level

We knew very little about the Chinese response to the coronavirus or about its appropriateness as of the first of January. We knew a lot more as of the first of February. Today, after the experience of over ten dozen countries, we know a lot more than we did on the first of February. It consistently reflects well on China relative to all but half a dozen or so countries, most of which border China- Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Slovakia, and consistently reflects poorly on the imperialist countries.

The novel coronavirus was first discovered in the city of Wuhan on December 26 and was first reported to the WHO on December 31. At the time, the government had almost no information to make decisions off of. How fast did it spread? How did it spread? What was the length of spread? For how long had it been spreading? What was the time from infection to symptom onset? Most importantly, was this basically H1N1 flu (a notorious overreported nothingburger which required no action whatsoever) or a highly deadly infection like MERS? None of the answers to these questions were known in late December. They are known now. It is now known the virus results in a large number of asymptomatic cases. It is now known that asymptomatic spread is quite common, except in children. It is now known that spread varies greatly depending on the nature of activities a person engages in, with mass gatherings with close face to face contact like a seafood market being far more likely to result in a large cluster of symptomatic cases than public transportation on which mask-wearing is universal and talking is rare. It is now known that universal mask-wearing is a great aid to helping keep the reproductive number of the virus down. It is also now known that when a significant spike in deaths is noticed in a city, the number of infections there immediately starts declining, not because of herd immunity, but due to rising social distancing due to growing awareness of the new deaths. It is also now known that counts of cases and deaths are notoriously lagging indicators of actual infections. None of this was known to Chinese authorities at the beginning of this year. Considering all this massive and fully excusable ignorance, their missteps make a great deal of sense and their overall response from December to this day appears quite admirable. The city of Wuhan was limited to some four thousand deaths and four hundred thousand infected, the latter number consistent with by seroprevalence tests and basic logic. Wuhan has the same population as Belgium, but, due to China’s much better response, less than half as many coronavirus deaths. Much worse undercounting took place in Italy; every country that experienced a major pandemic undercounted both coronavirus deaths and cases. The situation in the rest of China isn’t really relevant, since China’s government put out all the sparks emanating out of Wuhan (China’s most important transportation center) successfully, more or less as I expected them to at the time. I was correctly worried about Indonesia and India, though I overestimated the reproductive number in the southerly climes and incorrectly worried about Thailand and Malaysia.

It is pretty clear that China’s original response was less proactive than that of most of its neighbors -Thailand, Korea, Burma, Mongolia, Vietnam, Taiwan, etc. The only truly good way to have prepared for this possibility was to have mandated mask-wearing in indoor areas in public every winter. Ideally, once the novel coronavirus was discovered, Chinese authorities would have engaged in a Vietnam-style strategy to contain its still minor outbreak -massive isolation of contacts combined with a quick rampup of testing to discover asymptomatic cases in order to quarantine them and their contacts, as well as shutting down outbound travel from Wuhan. But given the lack of existing knowledge of sustained community transmission with a high reproductive number until mid-January, this is a rather tall order for a country with no pre-existing knowledge about the peculiar features of the virus, and would have been well above typical First World levels of competence. I, for one, consistently favored the somewhat deficient, but still generally functional Korean-style approach from mid-January until April. Such proactive, affirmative, offensive measures to curb the spread of a virus causing just a few pneumonia cases was an approach only such a sublime republic as Mongolia could pull off with no error. Korea didn’t even begin testing all pneumonia cases for the coronavirus until February 18, more than twenty days after the first recorded case in the country. New viruses are discovered every day. It seems Chinese authorities chose not to respond proactively until more information about the virus could be known to confirm it would neither burn itself out nor would be as as much of a nothingburger as H1N1 flu. The high age of those most severely hit by the pneumonia must also have struck the authorities into some degree of complacency. As a result of mistakes committed by the Chinese authorities, Wuhan had as many as a hundred thousand infections by January 15, when overcrowded hospital videos began to become prominent on Chinese social networks. The long lag between infections, symptoms, and deaths combined with the high rate of asymptomatic cases and spread blindsided the authorities. Wuhan eventually had some four thousand deaths (or possibly as much as 2-3x more). Hong Kong, the pro-CCP leadership of which began to be concerned about the new virus as soon as it was reported and the first government in the world to Tweet out concern over it in English, had four deaths. New York City already has over twenty five thousand, and this pandemic isn’t even over. The situation in Wuhan roughly paralleled that in New York City with a difference of two months, with the exception that Wuhan’s infections obviously fell much faster than those in New York City once the Chinese government began taking anti-pandemic measures there. In both cases, infections during the portion of the epidemic during which they were still increasing were clearly undercounted by the authorities because of lack of early mass testing. It is questionable to the extreme that any but half a dozen other countries could have been as effective in countering the virus had its first superspreader event been within their borders. Overall, I am forced to agree with Ren Yi that “On a 10-point scale, I grade the Chinese government a 9 to 9.5.”. Certainly it confirms China has extraordinary levels of state capacity, far superior to those in any of the imperialist countries, and certainly far superior to any of the other BRICS. Of all the great countries exceeding seventy million in population, it’s clear only China, Vietnam, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, Germany and Turkey have any real ability to combat epidemics (we have yet to see about Ethiopia).

The decision to restrict within-country travel was easily the smartest decision Chinese authorities made relative to most of the world. It greatly decreased the number of sparks the various provincial governments had to put out in the majority of the country while the situation in Wuhan was getting under control. Very few other countries prevented outbound travel from their leading pandemic epicenters. Ultimately, however, the Chinese authorities’ delay in restricting internal travel might have been a highly salutary thing. It demonstrated to the entirety of the world that democracy had no impact whatsoever on good governance, that the Chinese system (so far) is largely superior to that of the First World, and that the West’s riches did not result from current “good institutions” so much as a set of past institutions that resulted in the creation of an innovative private sector in much earlier days. Had the Chinese government snuffed out its pandemic without it spreading to the rest of the world, the rest of the world might have thought China’s mistakes during its pandemic were demerits against its system, rather than common problems the rest of the world currently faces. The Chinese lockdown (or stay-at-home order), the portion of the response that most hurt its economy, was, in retrospect, a blunt, dumb, and unnecessary measure, and was seen as so by Western media at the time. But given the sheer number of supposedly competently administered countries that adopted it, it may well have been one of China’s smartest moves, as it demonstrated the imperialist countries were too racist to learn from their own vassals in Korea and Taiwan. Without the mass unemployment caused by the American lockdown, would the Anglo-American riots of May-June 2020 have even happened? Today in America, Britain, and Sweden, ideologues on both the left and right are actively encouraging people to spread the virus and work to obstruct contact tracing. But Biomaoist America and its English and Swedish pals are so much better than Dengist China!

On a related note, Australia has once again proven itself to be by far the most dynamic country in the Anglosphere in general, and, thus, the White world.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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