Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Seek Truth From Facts


** WARNING ** This article may cause health problems involving tiredness and upset stomachs. If you have been exposed to the China virus you may be susceptible. ** WARNING **

As most people know the Worldometer measurement of Chinese Coronavirus continues to show that the disease has been stopped in its tracks in China, the place where it got started. For a week now the figures have hardly ticked up at all: almost no new cases or deaths.


The problem is that nobody believes that!

Well, nobody aside from people beholden to China and the US MSM who continue to try and showcase China's "success" as a way of hammering Trump.

As it turns out, the people of China themselves also don't seem to believe their Communist government, judging by what happened the other day when that government announced that the Hubei province, of which the city of Wuhan is the centrepiece, was now out of lockdown and its people could travel freely.

Their neighbours in the Jiangxi province did not agree and decided to stop them at a bridge. This was the result.


The thing is that this did not just see Hubei civilians pitted against Jiangxi civilians. Things steadily escalated over more than eight hours to the point that Jiangxi police were attacking Hubei police.  Following that clash Hubei police and citizens charged the Jiangxi riot line, stealing equipment, pushing over a large police van and pulling Jiangxi Communist Party officials out of another van after the riot lines were over run.

Aside from domestic problems the Chinese Communist Party has seriously miscalculated on its foreign policy by stupidly trying to blame others for the outbreak of the disease, going as far as blaming it on the US Army. But it's not just the US that's reacting:
Boris Johnson has been warned by scientific advisers that China's officially declared statistics on the number of cases of coronavirus could be 'downplayed by a factor of 15 to 40 times'. And No 10 believes China is seeking to build its economic power during the pandemic with 'predatory offers of help' countries around the world.
...
'There is a disgusting disinformation campaign going on and it is unacceptable. They [the Chinese government] know they have got this badly wrong and rather than owning it they are spreading lies.'
And it is not just a matter of simple fury that will pass:
A major review of British foreign policy has been shelved due to the Covid-19 outbreak and will not report until the impact of the virus can be assessed. A Government source close to the review said: 'It is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this. Rethink is an understatement.' 
Another source said: 'There has to be a reckoning when this is over.' Yet another added: 'The anger goes right to the top.'
Meantime, as Michael Auslin points out in this article from RealClaerPolitics, US-China relations are set to worsen further:
In response to his government’s manifest failures during the coronavirus crisis, Xi launched a global propaganda campaign, largely targeting America. As proof of Washington’s bad faith, Beijing objected to use of the terms “Wuhan flu” or “Chinese virus.” In turn, government spokesmen and scientists have blamed the U.S. for creating the coronavirus and releasing it into China, and Beijing has mobilized bots on social media to spread the lies.
Bots eh? I've being hearing a bit about that recently here at No Minister, even as the same accusations that China is hurling are miraculously reproduced by commentators with random names. Fun times. And it’s amazing how much assistance the Chinese are getting in this project from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other US media.

I've long supported the idea of Free Trade between nations: it was one of the great ideological fights of the 1970's and 1980's, with the likes of Thatcher, Reagan and Roger Douglas pitted against domestic opponents like Muldoon who supported the rigid post-WWII world of government import control.

Incredibly, similar things were also happening in Communist China. Starting in 1980 Deng Xiaoping unleashed 改革開放 - literally "reform and opening-up"; Free Enterprise within the nation, starting with agriculture where the leadership had great fears of another famine like the late 1950's and accepted that central command and control in that area had failed. The success of the reforms in terms of food production and increases in wealth for farmers, led similar reforms to be unleashed throughout the rest of China's business and industry.

I also believed that "opening up" China to Free Trade, with FTA's and entry into the WTO, would gradually soften the Communist government there. Nobody expected a democratic government, but it was a dmaned sight better than Cold War II and in some quarters there were hopes of democracy eventually breaking out in China, given what had happened to the USSR and its Eastern European satellites.

The regular, steady and predictable turnover of Chinese General Secretaries after Deng stepped down offered a hopeful view of the future. It wasn't exactly democracy but it also seemed to break the classic Communist pattern of The Great Leader who stays in power forever, complete with a Cult of Personality.

But those hopes have turned to dust and I'm taking a hard second look at some of the things I've supported.

Terrified by the same thing that inspired hope in the West, the CCP looked at the USSR and vowed that it would never happen to them. The rise to power of Xi Peng has actually caused things to go backwards.

Moreover, China has actually used its huge increase in wealth and access to Western technology to fund a rapidly growing naval military as well as Cyber warfare units and implement domestic policing controls using technologies like AI and facial recognition, all fed by millions of street cameras, smart phone apps and other software. Observers have noted that much of the latest effort in combatting the Chinese Coronavirus has involved extensive use of those controlling technologies.
Combining capability with massive amounts of coronavirus test data gave China a decisive advantage in epidemic control. This may be the largest and most sophisticated artificial intelligence experiment ever, and it may well establish China as the world's dominant AI power. China exploited the crisis to conduct the largest AI exercise in history. To gain access to public spaces in most cities you need to show a "Green Page" on your Wechat app, and to get this, you have to use another Wechat app with attachments to upload your vital signs to the cloud. A government algorithm decides when you can leave isolation...
There are plenty of control freaks in the West who likely admire that sort of thing, which makes one of Auslin's comments very pertinent:
Beijing has long touted its techno-authoritarian model as superior to liberal forms of government. Ceding victory in the coronavirus battle would help cement the belief that the CCP’s repressive and opaque systems are the wave of the future.
Critics of the lockdown strategy have already been met with claims that such critics don't care about old people dying. In the aftermath of this crisis we will discover to what degree the proponents of lockdown are willing to accept a Chinese model of public health control.

Auslin sums up the coming re-think around China:
Its behavior during the crisis can no longer be swept aside by diplomatic niceties that ignore the facts on the ground.  Given Xi’s coverup, it is not only reasonable but necessary to ask how any U.S. government, let alone the rest of the world, can anymore trust what Chinese officials say. Those who believe that increased engagement is the only way to solve common problems must question how meaningful dialogue between U.S. and Chinese leaders can take place while China continues to lie about the origins of the virus and its own actions.
The question is to what degree New Zealand leadership will re-think this. Judging by the commentary I see, my bet is we won't. What the people may decide to do - particularly when it comes to tourism from China - will be another matter all together.

32 comments:

The Veteran said...

Tom ... fair and balanced post. I agree completely that the figures coming out of China should be treated with skepticism and caution. Post this 'crisis' and insofar as China is concerned and I'm not sure if its possible to de-link trade and tourism (including 'educational tourism). The Chinese government isn't slow to leverage each off the other ... you want trade but you don't want Chinese tourists ... tap turned off a tad. Are there new markets out there? Not sure, could more rather than less trade barriers be the new paradigm?

OTOH one suspects that the world wide tourism industry will take years (decades?) to recover so that my not be a huge factor.

One other point (and I don't mean to threadjack) but I note that the Democratic Republic of Congo suffered 6,000 deaths from measles last year. No-one appeared to get too seized about that.

Andrei said...

"The problem is that nobody believes that!"

I do - I believe the virus has burned itself out in China as is what happens with these airborn respiratory diseases

The problem is the moronic leaders of the Westerm world have totally trashed their economies and world trade with their massive over reaction to this years common cold variant and will soon be faced with how to get things moving again as well as distracting their own citizens from how gargantuan a screw up they have made.

And as the medieval monarchs of old knew the way to prevent civil unrest at home and the peasants burning your palaces down nd quite possibly putting your head on a pike is to go to war with your neighbours

Tom Hunter said...

@Andrei

While every disease goes through those stages and eventually burns itself out, and while I fully expected China to be in the lead on that since it started there, I would have expected the numbers of infected people to crest and then decline at much the same rate at which they increaeed.

But China's figures for infectious cases and deaths fell off a cliff over a week ago. You know that's just not how pandemics go.

Wayne Mapp said...

Are you saying that the NZ govt should ditch the FTA, because that is what you seem to be suggesting.

Well, that ain't going to happen, as I am sure you know.

NZ will still try and do the balancing act between the US and China, especially when it comes to economics. There is almost zero chance that NZ (either Labour or National) will take the same attitude to China as the US, especially the way Trump does it. Though he does blow hot and cold on China.

I imagine the govt will look for ways to subsidise key industries to ensure we always have a sufficient internal resource base. But one can't go very far down that track without other countries saying, "if you do that to our exports, we will do the same to you." But I imagine all industrialised nations will want a bit more internal industrial resilience.

As for their numbers, well I agree they seem too low. Could the deaths really be 40 times higher, that is 132,000? That seems unlikely. Too hard to hide for any length of time. And too damaging to the CCP, given the level of social media in China. However, 10,000 deaths, more like Italy, definitely yes, especially if Chinese govt has been saying only a full Covid death counts, there can be no other factors.

Has China been more effective than the US in controlling the spread within their own country? Probably yes, that is something the CCP can do, whereas that is clearly hard to do in the US. It seems likely the US is on track to 10,000 deaths, maybe more. Some of their social controls look pretty wobbly.

Andrei said...

Aha Tom you are making the same error as the bright boys in Wellington are making, you can only measure something if you observe it and if you don't know it is there you can't measure it.

So in the early days of the pan(dem)ic nobody was aware of COVID-19 and nobody had the tools to measure its spread.

And it took time to identify the virus and longer still to develop tests to identify it in patients and longer again to produce enough of the test kits which were limited in number to start with and still are to an extent

Meanwhile the virus is spreading and people are getting it without being aware they are getting it and for the most part getting better. And those that don't get better and die get whatever underlying health condition(s) they had. And that is what gets written down on their death certificate - as of course is exactly what would have happened with the West Coast woman who died had nobody tested her for COVID-19. And her death would have been interpreted as an entirely unremarkable everyday event, which it was.

But as test kits become available and more people being tested more active infections are found which seems to the naive as though the virus is quickly spreading - when the truth is it has been there all along but hasn't drawn attention to itself.

The reason why it exploded in Wuhan is that it established itself in the hospitals before it had even been identified, and in the hospitals it found a large pool of elderly, sick people to infect, thus making its prescence known and leading to its initial identification.

And the exact same thing has happened in Lombardy - it became intrenched in health care facilities - a lot of people who came into the hospitals came in with serious pre existing health conditions and picked up the virus there but unraveling whether their death was virus related or they died because they were going to anyway will be very hard to determine in many if not most cases.

Tom Hunter said...

Yes, Andrei I'm going to address some of those points in another OP since I'm well aware of them.

Incidentally so too is the so-called "Oxford Model" out together by epidemiologists in Oxford University.

And while I also agree with your point about the disease getting into the hospital systems in Italy - something I pointed out that the South Koreans had avoided - your statement that what happened to hospitals in Lombardy also happened in Wuhan simply emphasises the point that there's something screwy about the Chinese stats, since the Italian numbers continue to increase, even as their growth rate predictably slows.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Tom

I think 'fishy' probably is more accurate than 'screwy'

There is intent to deceive.

Judge Holden said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom Hunter said...

Are you saying that the NZ govt should ditch the FTA, because that is what you seem to be suggesting.
Well, that ain't going to happen, as I am sure you know


Well Wayne, as a former Minister of Defence I suggest you go have a chat with the folks at the GCSB. They'll let you know pretty quickly who their main concern is nowadays.

And while as you guess I do not advocate ditching the FTA we have with China I would suggest that changes to areas outside that with regard to China will be in order on things like them not interfering with our domestic affairs, plus full disclosure on things like this crisis. I'd also argue for a greater emphasis on good faith efforts but I don't think communists should ever be counted on in that regard.

The Veteran said...

Andrei ... can I give you 10.5/10 for consistency. The certainty of the 'true believer' is wondrous to behold. Reminds me of a convinced Marxist I once engaged with ... his belief in the inevitable triumph of the proletariat was naively touching although his commitment to equality was someone suspect because whenever it came time for his 'shout' he suddenly developed very deep pockets and very short arms.

Clearly your meme is 'hope for best and plan for it. I prefer the 'hope for the best but plan for the worst' scenario.

Good luck with #1.

Andrei said...

I'm looking at the data Veteran - data being collected by the World Health Oranization

A few days ago we were being told 80,000 New Zealanders could die.

Tonite on the news it is down to 26,000 in a worst case scenario.

And when this doesn't come to pass J. Ardern will take the credit for it eevn though she will have trashed the economy totally pointlessly in the process

The real metric, which wont be publicly available for a couple of years will be what was New Zealands overall mortality rate for 2020 - and I'd be prepared to wager the farm that it will be within ±5% of what it was for last year, 2019.

Here is the Italian data, from the Italian Government - its 2 weeks old to be sure but it says it all. Sorry it is in Italian bu it is the best I can do for you.

And what does it tell us, old sick people are dying - people you would expect to die in the normal course of events

Here's the thing my friend if someone dies and tess positive for COVID-19 it is recorded as a COVID-19 death but if the same person died untested or testing negative it is a natural death and totally unsurprising.

I am a numbers man Veteran

In engineering when we cock up (which does happen more often than you might think) we 'fess up and then figure a way to get out of the mess. The result is cock ups generally stay minor. But when they are not minor they make world news like that walkway collapse in Florida

Politicians and public servants never admit their mistakes when they cock up - instead they double down on stupid.

"“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” - Frank Lloyd Wright.

Andrei said...

Way back in the stone age when I was a boy at Doxford's, now gone forever alas, there was a maxim

"Measure twice. cut once"

And despite the name of their party, no Labour politician has ever worked in a place like Doxford's. in fact most of them have never held a real job at all - they are the very exemplars of clueless middle class twits.

And yet here they are making policy on the hoof which will have a significant impact on ordinary New Zealanders lives for years to come and that scares me way more than the virus.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

(Reposted to correct atrocious grammar.)

Vet

Every day evidence mounts pointing to the fact that the initial data used to fuel the panic measures being put in place are at best, fudgy and at worst, seriously flawed.

The classic example is the admission by reliable epidemiologists that early data for CVD deaths included all those who died and had tested positive. Thus. it was a figure showing how many people died WITH Corona virus. I've seen many estimates, suggesting a realistic estimate of the numbers who died FROM Caronavirus is far lower - by 30% to 60%.

Therefore I wonder for how long we are supposed to continue smashing our economies until we change course and get young, healthy people back to work while we continue to focus on protecting the vulnerable minority.

Psycho Milt said...

A few days ago we were being told 80,000 New Zealanders could die.

Tonite on the news it is down to 26,000 in a worst case scenario.


FFS, could you at least make some kind of attempt to argue in good faith? The figure of 80,000 was a worst-case scenario in which nobody does anything to respond to the virus. It's included for the sake of completeness. If we now have a worst-case case scenario of 26,000 in a lock-down of the entire country, that's not exactly surprising, is it?

Bottom line: any government, left or right, that adopted your and Adolf's "useless eaters" approach to this would cease to be the government in short order, and rightly so.

Andrei said...

"Bottom line: any government, left or right, that adopted your and Adolf's "useless eaters" approach to this would cease to be the government in short order, and rightly so."

Apart from the fact that neither I nor Adolf have used the term "useless eaters" or even acknowledge theh concept

Sweden has adoptd the approach we suggest

And so has "this guy" in the Nation he leads...

Only time will tell for sure if they have got it right but asof today it doesn't seem if these nations are collapsing under mass deaths of their citizens

Anonymous said...
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Jim Hunter said...
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Tom Hunter said...

Bots are a little cleverer now than they used to be - purloining the names of blog authors and re-purposing them for example.

I've given more slack to the "Hunter" commentators today than I should have, but it's bye bye to you now. If you want to comment, pick a single name and stick with it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see who is going to be the new “enemy” of the Trump campaign. He was elected on the back of Immigration and Muslim fears whipped up by far right but the same trick does not work twice, it sort of loses it’s impact because the US public have now realised nothing has changed and the “threat” was overblown.

When Bernie was charging down the back straight and looking unstoppable the Trumpeters unleashed a frenzy of socialist/communist attacks and always deliberately confusing the two. But then Bernie hit the wall and all that ammunition and effort was wasted, shot into the ether.

Now were are back with Joe Biden who really does not have a lot of dirt that can be dished, his main failing seems to be saying stupid things at times which in my humble view makes him eminently qualified to be President compared with the incumbent who says stupid things all the time.

North Korea?.....been there done that and got the photo’s. The small pudgy one has fired off more missiles into somebody else’s sea and the world could not give a shit. Trump can’t go back thee as he “fixed” it.

Iran wont do, we have been there and it has lost it’s impact, a severe case of Republican premature ejaculation would be good way of describing it. No, I’m afraid it has to be China. It may not be the perfect “enemy” but it will have to do as it moves attention away from the blustering and arm waving going on in the White House.

Be prepared for a great deal of China bashing, some of it will be true but most will be events that happened spun out of context and always the whadadboutery.

Tom l'Tankengun

Tom Hunter said...

Ah! Another person willing to carry water for a Communist regime. I thought that died out with the Cold War but I guess hope springs eternal.

Anonymous said...

Stupid comment

Tom Hunter said...

Well yes, anybody who simply parrots Chinese Communist propaganda is very stupid, but that's what TDS gets you.

Anonymous said...

I'm finding hard to relate Tom's rather eloquent posts with his terse and unimaginative responses. Am I alone in thinking that after reading his posts you have the feeling of digesting someone else's pre packed lunch?

Tom l'Tankengun

Tom Hunter said...

Meh - I tailor my responses to the comments. If it looks like a cut-n'-paste or just a free-form rant of the same old stuff then it's obvious that the commentator is not engaged so not worth the effort.

You should consider yourself lucky. Over on Bowalley Blog dear old Chris Trotter simply does not allow comments to see the light of day if he doesn't like them, with no word of explanation.

I'm beginning to see the appeal of that approach.

Anonymous said...

Judge, jury and executioner. If you don't like the name, the poster or the content out comes the blue pencil.

You are coming across as a bit arrogant and a knowall and when some one cobbles together a readable post he is accused of cut,n paste.

The message underlying your post is the Chinese are lying and not to trusted. The same is true of the US except the administration is lying to their own people. It has now been discovered the British death toll is lower than it should be because they are only counting hospital deaths. If the same applies to other countries then it's a different ballgame. I read the post you deleted and agree with poster no one knew the true scale of the 1918 flu epidemic until 1920. We are in early days yet.

Lcpl Jones

Anonymous said...

@Veteran, the numbers coming out of ALL countries need to treated as notional until properly collated. The French now admit that their death toll is higher due to care homes and private hospitals under reporting or righting deaths off as pneumonia.

Russia it is completely unknown and we will probably never know, same as India where storm is yet to hit.

I had to laugh at Toms Boris Johnson bit then uses the MSM that he despises so much to make a point. The point he deliberately misses is that the UK Govt like Trump is in the shit over it's handling and they are doing a Trump and blameshifting onto the Chinese.

When the dust settles in about two years when the facts and figures are collated and it is all written up properly we will look back at some of these posts and laugh.

I think after he has left politics Macron will be credited with saving hundreds perhaps thousands of British lives.


I the meantime I will leave you with Nancy. (Boris is facing the same accusations)

"The president’s denial at the beginning was deadly,” she said. “His delay in getting equipment to where it’s needed is deadly … As the president fiddles, people are dying.”

Asked by host Jake Tapper if she was saying Trump’s early downplaying of the severity of the coronavirus crisis “cost American lives” Pelosi replied: “Yes I am. I’m saying that.”

She said that after the crisis was over, there would need to be an investigation into Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“What did he know?” Pelosi asked. “When did he know it?”

But for now it was a question of making sure he stopped failing to act.

“We still don’t have adequate testing,” Pelosi said, “and we still don’t have protective equipment for our health workers who are risking their own lives to save lives.”

I want the sequel to be.. Nancy meets Jaquinda

Petri Dish

Tom Hunter said...

"The president’s denial at the beginning was deadly,”

Well, this aged badly, as Pelosi toured San Francisco's Chinatown:

"We do want to say to people, come to Chinatown, here we are.... come join us..."

... on Feb 24.

think after he has left politics Macron will be credited with saving hundreds perhaps thousands of British lives.

Chuckle. Posted AT 4:08. Ever the FrancophIle

France - per million people
799 cases
54 deaths
First case Jan 23

USA - per million people
546 cases
11 deaths
FIrst case Jan 20

Tom Hunter said...

Judge, jury and executioner. If you don't like the name, the poster or the content out comes the blue pencil.

As Trotter have said to me about not allowing one of my comments to show up: "If you want to get through, chipping at the Ref won't do it

Back on topic:

The message underlying your post is the Chinese are lying and not to trusted.

I thought I was being explicit about that.

The same is true of the US except the administration is lying to their own people.

Uh huh. "There's no meaningful difference between the USA and the USSR"

It has now been discovered the British death toll is lower than it should be because they are only counting hospital deaths.

Is that so? And the German death toll is perhaps lower than it "should" be because they're not counting death-by-COVID-19 until they're sure they were actually killed by it and not some other condition that it worsened. That actually seems sensible in light of the news that the Italians were counting every death of a person carrying the virus as having been killed by it, which is likely making their death-toll higher than it should be.

Tom Hunter said...

Oh look....FORBES: The Coronavirus Is Becoming A Public Relations Disaster For China

It covers two reports from the BBC. The first one deals with the reaction of Boris's Conservative government in Britain which I already covered in the OP.

But the second one looks at other European nations...

The wide spreading disease throughout Europe is turning people off to China in leadership positions who, only a few months ago, were fine with Beijing and thought the U.S. trade war with China was just Trump being Trump. Three years ago, Davos Man invited Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum, heralding him as the new leader of the free trade world.

The other signal today comes from news reports that Spain, Turkey and The Netherlands are angry with their Chinese partner over what they described as faulty medical equipment used to combat COVID-19.


Looks the US is going to get its way on Huawei equipment. And the Chinese can kiss goodbye to their dreams of dominating the 5G market.

Andrei said...

Tom Hunter said...
Oh look....FORBES: The Coronavirus Is Becoming A Public Relations Disaster For China

Oh look....a squirrel, a squirrel.

Here we are so frightened by the sight of our own shadows that we are allowing our economies to be totally devasted by the mediocrities we have allowed to assume leadership positions and now the very people who have encouraged this irrational panic with its totally irrational response are trying to point the finger at the Chinese for this self inflicted wound

It might work in the short term but given a lot of people wont have the disposable income to buy 5G phones anyway and the cell providers wont have access to the capital to build the 5G networks it is all kind of irrelevant

All this shows is that the West is on its way out and this century will be dominated by the East

Tom Hunter said...

... are trying to point the finger at the Chinese for this self inflicted wound

I take your point that as our economic destruction grows due to our decisions it will be tempting to blame everything on China.

I don't agree with that.

But they cannot escape criticism for how they handled this through December-January in terms of giving the rest of the world more warning. For example, if as you suspect, the disease is not so dangerous as to merit nationwide lockdowns, then perhaps Western decision makers would not have been so panicked had they had accurate information from China, or at least as accurate as can be done when dealing with something like this.

Even then, I did not hear much criticism of China aside from concerns about things like Wet Markets, until Xi Peng decided to launch his own full-scale propaganda war against the West, blaming them for the outbreak and boasting about how brilliantly China has dealt with it.

That sort of traditional, stupid, Communist agit prop stuff is what has got people's backs up. Including, it would seem, Chinese people in places neighbouring Hubei province.

Tom Hunter said...

All this shows is that the West is on its way out and this century will be dominated by the East

We've had this debate before and it's off-topic here, but to put it bluntly, China is going to get old before it gets rich.