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 nervously: why 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.