The Grand Bazaar in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, reopens after China controls COVID-19

Last year, Xinjiang Autonomous Region posted one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, at about 20 percent. This is a fundamental realisation of the Chinese Marxist approach to human rights (see here and here), in which the right to socio-economic wellbeing is the core. Further, Xinjiang has seen no terrorist acts for about three years due to the highly effective de-radicalism measures undertaken in Xinjiang (a model that Muslim majority countries all support).

Today, the fabled Grand Bazaar in Urumqi re-opened, like so many places like this across China as the COVID-19 pandemic has been contained in this part of the world.

Debunking the myth of the Wuhan seafood market: multiple origins of COVID-19

The scientific research becomes more intriguing day by day. The early narrative that was spun focussed on a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, then turned to bats and pangolins and so forth, but no conclusive link has been found. These all turned out to be hypotheses at best, not that some outlets repeated these speculations thousands of times.

I copy below an article from the Global Times, which summarises the state of research. I would add that more and more patients of COVID-19 are turning up around the world who have had no contact whatsoever with anyone from China or indeed an infected person. An obvious reason could be a relatively high number of asymptomatic patients, who show no symptoms but can pass on the virus. But the clear point that arises from the research summarised below is that COVID-19 was already circulating in a number of countries well before it was first identified in Wuhan – due to superior Chinese testing procedures.

Here is the article:

As scientists worldwide work around the clock on tracking the mysterious origin of the COVID-19 pathogen, Chinese experts warned against following the example of some US politicians who have hyped the question for political purposes and interrupted the investigation.

In an article published on Nature on Thursday, two scientists who took samples from the Wuhan seafood market said the “genome sequences of ‘environmental samples’ – likely surfaces – from the market have now been obtained and phylogenetic analysis reveals that they are very closely related to viruses sampled from the earliest Wuhan patients.”

But “not all of the early [COVID-19] cases were market associated, it is possible that the emergence story is more complicated than first suspected,” wrote Professor Zhang Zhenyong from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre and the School of Life Science at Fudan University, and Edward Holmes, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney.

While many people in the West, especially some politicians and media outlets in the US, believe the virus originated at a seafood market in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei Province, Robert Garry, a professor at Tulane University School of Medicine, told the ABC News on Friday that was a misconception.

“Our analyses, and others too, point to an earlier origin than that,” said Garry, who is also the author of a new study on the origins of the virus that concluded that the pandemic-causing strain developed naturally.

That natural theory opposed popular conspiracy theories that COVID-19 was engineered in a lab as part of a biological attack on the US.

“There were definitely cases there [the seafood market in Wuhan], but that wasn’t the origin of the virus,” Garry said.

Early in January, seven Wuhan doctors published an academic paper in the Lancet after examining a cluster of 41 patients among the first batch of people diagnosed with COVID-19.

They found the first patient had no contact history with the market.

This paper was the first to throw into question the conclusion that the virus originated in the seafood market.

In late February, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research analyzed genomic data from 93 samples of the novel coronavirus. They suggested the coronavirus was introduced from outside the market.

Several experts reached by the Global Times said the COVID-19 may have multiple birthplaces around the globe.

Given the complexity of the disease and limited knowledge so far, experts said people should not rush to a conclusion, and instead they should respect science.

Even the widely believed theory that bat or pangolin was the origin of the virus has been challenged.

An article published in Nature on February 26, “Mystery deepens over animal source of coronavirus,” suggested pangolins were the prime suspect, but a slew of genetic analyses has yet to find conclusive proof.

A Beijing-based expert on epidemic prevention and control, who asked not to be named, said that regardless of the origin – China, the US or somewhere else – it was a question of science, not politics, which required cautious investigation based on science and facts.

“If the politicians, especially some in the US government, would like to hype it for political purposes to pass the buck, that will surely interrupt scientists from doing their jobs,” the expert said.

“We should be honest and humble to science. We are not making any claim to totally exclude any possibility. Regardless of origin, the country or region should not be blamed as a criminal, as it could be the first victim of this disaster for the whole humanity,” the expert said.

People with a limited knowledge of the virus at the outbreak would surely make mistakes. But a whole country and people should not be blamed, he warned

Divorces to skyrocket after COVID-19 lockdowns are eased

As one wit put it recently, after the COVID-19 lockdowns, we can expect to see a spike in pregnancies (the Coronavirus boomers), divorces or mysterious disappearances.

As for divorces, there are many things to be learned from the China Model (as more and more countries are finding out). But one unexpected – or should it be expected? – outcome is a skyrocketting of divorce applications after the lockdown eases. Since China has managed to contain the COVID-19 epidemic through stringent and effective measures, they are now beginning to return to normal life. My friends tell me that the streets are full, as are the shops and restaurants. Schools and universities too will soon reopen.

At the same time, divorce applications have skyrocketted. As this article from China Daily observes, offices in major cities have been overwhelmed with such applications. Some point out that there is always a spike after Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), which may be compared to the spike after Christmas in countries with a Christian tradition. But the current spike is unprecedented. Local officials in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, have implored couples to talk through their differences and think twice.

Obviously, living at close quarters for weeks on end, with children (if you have them) taking online courses, perhaps a parent or two also in the same space, all the while trying to work from home and manage exercise, ordering food deliveries and so on will take their toll on any relationship.

So overwhelming are the numer of applications in some parts that couples have to wait up to two months for their application to be processed. This may not be such a bad situation, since it may encourage some to sort out their differences. The article also points out that many couples have drawn closer together, especially medical workers who faced the danger of death on a daily basis, as well as couples who previously did not have much time together due to busy work schedules, often in different parts of the country. Many of them will of course be responsible for the Coronavirus boomers.

How to deal with an epidemic: a short documentary by Takeuchi Ryo

This short documentary by the Japanese film director, Takeuchi Ryo, shows how the city of Nanjing has managed not only to limit COVID-19 infections to 93, but to reduce them very quickly to 0. He and his family live in Nanjing, a city I have visited many times and where I have good friends. Note the integration of strict controls everywhere, the widespread deployment of technology (focussing on contactless interaction), and the uniform use of face masks and gloves.

Clearly a model for the rest of the world.

A brief account of China’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic

In the few former colonising countries known as the West, a number of irresponsible media outlets wasted time trying to criticise China while the World Health Organisation (WHO) was urging the countries in question to act. So it is worth going over the facts in relation to the epidemic.

I begin with three points consistently made by WHO:

1. China`s complete transparency and assistance of other countries throughout.
2. The achievement of containing and preventing the disease in China, especially when there was a real danger it could get out of control, is unprecedented in human history.
3. Other countries should follow the China Model.

Although these points were hard to believe by the chattering classes in the West, the WHO made these recommendations from the perspective of medical science and not politics.

How did the WHO come to make these points? Let us follow the course of events, which are freely available on Chinese media outlets, which are not afraid at all of the truth.

In late December about 10 doctors reported cases of an unknown or SARS- like virus. These were immediately reported to WHO and thorough investigation was undertaken in China and by WHO. One doctor, Li Wenliang, posted two notices, sent from his colleagues engaged in the investigation, on wechat and weibo, and the local police reprimanded him for inappropriate use of social media. Importantly, he was not silenced or fined but kept working and he was by no means the only one involved in the research. I must admit, I am in two minds about this move. Of course, the Western media made a big brouhaha about a supposed ‘whistleblower’ who was ‘silenced’, but this was a clear distortion of the actual situation. Why am I in two minds? On the one hand, I am all in favour of responsible social media practices, and the need to curtail severely the spreading of rumour and gossip. On the other hand, should a qualified doctor make medical information available during an ongoing investigation of a new disease? There is much debate in China about this question as I write and I do not have a clear answer.

I recommend that you read this report of the 40-day investigation of the matter by the National Supervisory Commission (on China Daily). The report noted that there are very strict laws concerning the verification, release and reporting of epidemic information. Li had not followed those laws and provided some incorrect information at the time. Thus, the actions by the local police at the time had followed the law. At the same, Li – as a member of the CPC – had acted in good faith and for the social good. The report also finds that two of the police officers involved had followed substandard procedures. Thus, a sincere apology was given to Li’s family and the official letter of reprimand rescinded.

No system is entirely perfect: a few other local officials were found not to be up to the task of dealing with an emergency (including the mayor of Wuhan). Widespread criticism was made, very openly. An inspection team was quickly dispatched to Wuhan and the incompetent local officials dismissed and replaced. It would be like a prime minister going to Hawaii during a bush fire emergency (think of Australia). Upon return, he would be out of a job. Clearly, the early mistakes in China were incidental and not systemic.

Meanwhile, WHO sent a team to China, the sequence of the unknown virus was identified in a record 7 days by a Chinese laboratory, a diagnostic kit was developed by a German lab, and a full diagnosis was possible by 20 January. The WHO notes that this was the fastest identification made in the case of a new disease. The plan developed was a WHO-China joint plan, and the WHO urged the rest of the world to act immediately since China had given the world an opportunity to change the course of the disease. Unfortunately, too many countries did not listen and we find ourselves in the current situation.

In China, the ability of its socialist system to control and manage a new edpidemic is now history. Through widepsread testing (1.6 million a day), integration of AI, 5G and big data, it was able to keep the epidemic to a miniscule fraction of one percent of the whole population. As for the population itself, the old Chinese cultural – and socialist – reality of the greater social good kicked in and almost everyone cooperated (those who did not soon did so). Notably, public health was paramount, and not the economy. Of course, the economy too would benefit from a focus on public health, as China’s staged resumption – as I write – of production indicates. By contrast, the totally inept response in a place like Australia seeks to prioritise the economy and make public health a secondary issue. This will have greater economic repercussions, as more get infected.

As for the China Model, we can also note that those countries that followed it to some degree (Singapore and South Korea come to mind, but also – to its credit – Denmark, which still has a strong and able public sector, despite efforts to erode it over the last few years) have been able to control the epidemic.

A brief account, I must admit, but it explains why the WHO has made its three points consistently throughout: complete transparency; unparallelled containment of an epidemic, and the China Model for dealing with such an outbreak.

What would happen if Australia followed the China Model?

A short post. I have been doing some calculations. If Australia followed the China Model (as more and more countries are doing, the latest being New Zealand), the results would be as follows:

80,000 infections in a population of 1.4 billion is equivalent to 1370 infections in a population of 24 million (Australia).

There is one problem: the regime in Australia is totally inept, so it clearly will not be able to keep COVID-19 infections to anywhere near 1370.

Meanwhile, I am taking the slow route home from Sydney, riding my bicycle through the mountains for a week or more and sleeping in my tent.