Sunday, November 27, 2022

China and Covid

For those of you who were always convinced, or became convinced, that China's response to covid was good (and by extension that America's was bad) there is this.  

Pradheep Shanker:  I was talking to international public health experts overseas. Their estimates on Chinese dead from COVID? 5 million and counting. He said because of their huge amount of normal deaths, it's easy to hide these deaths.

If his estimate of the dead, five million, which he thinks could be a lowball figure is accurate, then that is worse than the American total. 

And this is a concrete example from yesterday in Beijing

Beijing today reported 4,307 cases, my guess is that the shequ社区 officials are being told of positive cases, but CDC is so jammed up with the caseload that official paperwork needed to enforce Covid measures are not forthcoming - leaving these officials in a bind. 9/N

There is interesting commentary by Naomi Wu about the cultural underpinnings to the possible problems with ZeroCovid policies. Like "supply chain breaking down far worse than last time." Read down through her tweets only and then get out.  Nearly everyone after that is just reciting what they already thought before reading her information. If you agree with them you will applaud or you will dismiss them as fools if you disagree.  But either way, it will bring you back to the default opinions you had before reading her.  Better to follow her Wikipedia link about Chinese bereavement and just think about what that means rather than look for allies in current political battles. She doesn't fit our categories neatly.

Not to mention that the Chinese gave it to us to begin with because of lax safety standards in their labs. 

Yet always, we seem to prefer to blame our political enemies at home for any difficulties. As with the Native Americans and the European settlers, the Britons and the various Anglo-Saxons, and most of human history, peoples will not band together to make common cause against enemies as much as we would expect.  It actually takes high levels of cooperation to manage that, and most tribes won't do it. "The dwarves are for the dwarves!" Ronald Reagan once said that if the Earth was invaded by Mars, he believed the Americans and the Russians would join together. A lovely sentiment, but I now believe he was wrong.


Grim said...

About twenty years ago I lived in China for a while. There's a huge disconnect between Western and Chinese assumptions about right conduct on the issue of telling the truth. It's difficult to phrase in a way that does not sound monstrously insulting to one side or the other while also getting to the truth of the matter.

You could say, "Unlike Westerners, the Chinese prize politeness and social harmony." That sounds like Westerners have little concern for these things, and that the Chinese are especially polite. The alternative, "Westerners insist on telling the truth even if it is hurtful and upsetting to hear, Chinese culture prizes deception and lacquering the egos of the powerful," sounds equally bad and is unfairly flattering to the West. Both together kind of mark out where the truth of it is.

What is really important to know if you're going to operate cross-culturally is that Chinese culture has an idea that there is a moral duty not to upset others, and especially not -- drawing on a long history of Confucian influence -- those who are higher in the hierarchy. In the family, this is the father or grandfather; in the politics, the Emperor; at work, the Vice President and President of the company. Whatever needs to be said to allow them to maintain their earlier claims as continuing to be truthful, everyone below them needs to say that thing. This is how they maintain social harmony.

In the present context, that means you can't trust a damn thing that is said by anyone in China about the numbers you are interested in. The Emperor has declared a policy, and has also claimed that this policy has led to better results than the policies of everyone else. The whole society will bend itself to furthering that story, not because they are under totalitarian rule -- though they are -- but because they were trained from birth in every interaction that this was the duty of a righteous person. They think they're doing the polite, correct, moral, and upright thing by furthering these lies.

There's an argument to be made for the position, but I won't go into that here beyond mentioning it: it's not as obvious as it strikes Westerners that they're wrong, and more work needs to be done to prove that contention. But that's how it is, and you'd better know it if you're going to interact with China in any way.

Anonymous said...

"Not to mention that the Chinese gave it to us to begin with because of lax safety standards in their labs."

This is not true. Its actually more likely it came from an American lab. We have the sewers of Venice in 2019, where Covid was found in Dec. As well there was some found in South Africa in Sept of that year.

sykes.1 said...

Ron Unz at Unz Review argues that covid-19 was created by USMRIID at Ft. Detrick, MD, and planted in Wuhan by US Army athletes during the 2019 International Military Games.

I think is more likely a product of the East Asian rice paddy ecosystem, like other coronaviruses and various influenzas, both animal and human.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Unz is/was brilliant but has become progressively more paranoid over the years. Last personal update from someone I knew him was four years ago, and he was completely neglecting his hygiene at that point.

Philip Sells said...

Grim, that's a very interesting point. What do you think is the best way for an American to reach an accurate understanding of the motivating forces of Confucian-informed cultures such as you described? I mean the virtues that are valued in that civilization, such as your example of social harmony.