Thursday 13 February 2020

China: an Update

So, continuing our watching brief through the lens of the virus, and with the same caveats as before, how are things panning out?

Badly for China, I'd say.  Early gushing approbation from the WHO worthies has subsided just a bit, notwithstanding the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James feeling able to harangue us for our insolent ingratitude (you can easily imagine the tone they hope to be able to employ a few years down the road whenever the fancy takes them ... or perhaps that's hoped).  And they've definitely achieved promulgation of a meme that says any aspersions are racist - a meme that finds receptive carriers on the left, of course.

On the other hand.

The Chinese people are evidently getting restless, as well they might.  It didn't take Peter Mandelson to advise Xi to keep his head down (though he probably did, with invoice in the post), but Xi will struggle to avoid opprobrium.  Notable is this fine, brave essay which will probably cost the author dearly.  Less eloquent people in their millions will probably be thinking parallel thoughts; and "when fury overcomes fear..." well, who knows?  There have been rumblings about other disasters in the past, but perhaps this is the Big One.  It will be if it triggers a serious economic downturn coupled with a drying-up of trade - the very thing the CP fears most.  (What price a favourable trade deal soon, eh?)

There's another strand to this: the reaction in Hong Kong.  When I was last there, a couple of years ago, I was a bit surprised to hear strident admonitions over the tannoy in various public places: "Use your handkerchief when you spit!", and "Do not urinate in the street!".   I was told these are occasioned by the reprehensible habits of "foreigners", by which is meant mainland Chinese.  Increased tension - from an already heightened level - is only to be expected.

So we watch and wait and hope for various developments that might, in the long run, be for the greater good.  It has to be said, though, any week now we may get the answers to the dread questions being whispered nervouslywhy no news of the virus from the sub-continent?  And why none from Africa?  But we all think we know, really.  And that may truly take the heat off Xi altogether.



Raedwald said...

Looks like being a 'black swan' event in many ways. It's highly infectious (I've read evidence that it has an R of 3, where flu is 1 - i.e. each sufferer infects 3 others) but only as lethal as the 1918 flu pandemic in the west (1% or lower). However, in Africa, ME, Asia, India lethality may be 5%.

Personally, I don't think it will be contained without shutting down all international air travel now - I mean today. So governments over the world, including China, are weighing up the alternatives of carrying on normally but planning for a cull of billions of older citizens or shutting down their economies and facing violent revolution.

As that 1% is an average it may mean that those under 50 are 0.5% and over 50s are 2% - so many of us will be in the high risk group.

It seems that for the overall good, the global approach will be to let it take its course. Which will be a death sentence for say 600,000 in the UK - 420,000 over 50.

All governments will, in the end, opt for mass graves rather than revolution and economic collapse.

Anonymous said...

With Africa, I'm taking the view that the ebola kills the coronavirus.

I think it'll be like SARS in the west, it'll be fairly successfully contained, not sure about India and the like though.

Xi's in a bit of a bind, he wanted maximum power and got it, now he's juggling tackling HK, the mishandling of the virus and keeping the West relatively happy.

I'm sure there's an ancient Chinese proverb about being careful of what you wish for, perhaps someone can point Xi in the right direction?

Nick Drew said...

Wise words, Radders.

Who'd be a barber / hairdresser in the coming months? Ain't gonna be much business coming through ...

E-K said...

The fact is that 1% of those admitted to hospital die of it - and, in perspective, a relatively small minority are having to go to hospital with it.

Take the cruise ship. If this was anything like the Spanish flu epidemic 30% of those on board should be dead by now. To date ? Not one death.

A bit of perspective here. We are keeping Mum stocked up with food and we'll visit her with masks and gloves if there is an outbreak near her. Vulnerable people will need precautions.

E-K said...

Thank goodness we are on the way out of the EU. This could be the death of the Brexit vote and I'm sure that's crossed many a Remainer's mind.

Elby the Beserk said...

"And they've definitely achieved promulgation of a meme that says any aspersions are racist - a meme that finds receptive carriers on the left, of course."

My WTF? moment wrt the above was making the mistake of turning on R4 news, to find an item re Cornavirus suddenly become one on racism against the Chinese. But then I only ever listen to BBC news to remind me why I don't.

Raedwald said...

Correction to the worst-case mortality figures I quoted - this assumes a 100% infection rate. Likely infection rate is somewhere between 25% and 60%, reducing overall mortality to around 150,000 to 360,000

If lethality is 0.5% overall, these figures will halve.

Death tolls in UK from flu pandemics-
1918/19 Spanish flu - 250,000
1957/58 Asian flu 33,000
1968/69 Hong Kong flu 30,000

So even more certain that Covid19 will not close travel / transport / business down - we can take the mortality hit.

Nick Drew said...

Elby - at least one ray of sunshine today:

dearieme said...

I looked at the report on flu in the UK in the 2014/15 season, expecting to remark on the results it shows. Instead I am dismayed by the standard of report-writing: if that had been handed to me as a report on an undergraduate project I'd have given it a third class mark.

Elby the Beserk said...

Nick Drew said...
Elby - at least one ray of sunshine today:

12:04 pm

yYes - we've been following that case closely. However, another such ended with a negative judgement

"A mother-of-two who called a transgender woman a ‘Pig in a Wig’ in a series of offensive social media posts has been spared prison. Three police officers arrived at Kate Scottow’s home and arrested her in front of her children after receiving complaints from Stephanie Hayden. After a two day trial she was today found guilty of persistently making use of a public communications network to cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety to her target."

I have decided that if anyone refers to me as a CIS male, I shall report them for misgendering me. Time to use the weapons of the enemy!

Mark Wadsworth said...

Nick, off topic, but as the acknowledged world champion in energy related questions, can you check the workings in my blog post on the subject of whether it is feasible for us to all switch over to electric cars.

I think it just about is, actually, even though completely pointless.

Nick Drew said...

MW - done, in 4 parts, BTL at yours

Mark Wadsworth said...

ND, many thanks for the comments!