Thursday, March 19, 2020

Have We Reached A Political Inflection Point?

Probably not. Nevertheless it was quite remarkable to read Shadi Hamid's article at The Atlantic--especially his defense of Donald Trump and sharp criticism of liberals playing the race card: 

Beijing is successfully dodging culpability for its role in spreading the coronavirus.

While I don't expect the rest of the Liberal world to listen to Hamid en masse, it's possible that some will listen to a voice of reason.

The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. ... 
Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic. ... Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders. 
China has a history of mishandling outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and 2003. ... The end of last year was the time for authorities to act, and, as Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has noted, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”

This is what allowed the virus to spread across the globe. ... The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

This is an important reason why we should probably not trust Chinese numbers at all. Five million people fleeing a city of eleven million? Can you say, Out of control epidemic? Five million refugees from a highly infected city fanning out across the country, and we're supposed to believe it didn't spread everywhere?

... In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.  ...” It was ignored. 
The political scientist Andrew Michta has drawn controversy and accusations of racism for stating what any measured overview of the evidence makes clear. “The question about assigning agency and blame is pretty straightforward to answer,” he writes in The American Interest. The Chinese state, he says, is culpable. 
But is this a time for blame? Yes, it is. ... 
Those American critics who raise the racism canard are themselves inadvertently collapsing the distinctions between an authoritarian regime and those who live under it. Too many also seem comfortable drawing moral equivalencies between the Chinese regime and Donald Trump. This attitude is hard to take seriously. Trump didn’t block the media from reporting on the coronavirus; he did not disappear his critics. The nature of a regime matters. And this is why I, for one, am glad to live in a democracy, however flawed, in this time of unprecedented crisis. 
After the crisis, whenever after is, the relationship with China cannot and should not go back to normal. Nothing, in any case, will go back to normal after the sheer scale of destruction becomes clear. Of course, the rest of the world will have to live with the Chinese leadership as long as it remains in power. But this pandemic should, finally, disabuse us of any remaining hope that the Chinese regime could be a responsible global actor. It is not, and it will not become one.


  1. I'm a racist
    He's a racist
    She's a racist
    We're a racist
    Wouldn't you like to be a racist too?

  2. While an Atlantic article by ("nobody") Shadi Hamid (of Brookings) is better than nothing, I'll have more hope when "somebodies" like Krugman get on board this implicitly "pro-Trump" train.

    1. It's true. As a Muslim, Hamid probably gets a pass from liberals. Whether they'll actually think about what he's saying is another matter.

  3. Things that will never happen but should:

    1. The world should present China with a bill for all losses incurred
    2. The world should embargo China and all companies should move their manufacturing elsewhere
    3. End the ten-year visa program.
    4. Require all Confucius Institutes to register as agents of a foreign government.
    5. There should be a non-stop parade of navy-escorted merchant vessels passing through the South China Sea. Let them give us an excuse to demonstrate that we're serious.

    Ah, but if only we were serious.

    After all, how would Biden feed his family if these things happened?

  4. I'm fascinated that The Atlantic article has pointed out the 5 million evacuees from Wuhan pre-Jan 23 quarantine--that I've repeated. I got a ton of pushback when making that observation at Powerline: "Where are the skyrocketing cases from those who evacuated Wuhan?"

    As if 5 million in a sea of 1.5 billion is more than a drop in the ocean. It's as if, seven weeks in, and after the onset of the Wuhan quarantine, people were not sufficiently forewarned to take precautions with social distancing, hygiene, and mask wearing--steps not fully in practice prior thereto.

    1. I read somewhere that 100 people would be quite sufficient to infect most of America, given how transmissible this thing is.

      Re chloroquine, apparently it's a drug with quite a variety of possible uses. No wonder people turned to it when Covid 19 showed up: (2012)

    2. -->given how transmissible this thing is.<--

      But that's just it--people have changed their behavior out of fear/risk/concern with transmissibility. Unknown and unknowing, 100 people might have been sufficient to infect most of America.

      Even on the cruise ship Princess Diamond, a veritable petrie dish for contagion, the numbers are not scary at all, IMO, as the case fatality rate was 1%, with a skewed older/elderly population. (3,700 passengers and crew, 700 infected, 7 deaths)

      A cruise ship is a non-typical setting, so I wouldn't extrapolate to US population. My only point is once knowing (as the passengers did), people alter their conduct which changes the risks. It's not an answer, but it's a start.

    3. I agree. I read about the cruise ship this morning and there were a variety of outcomes that didn't fit with what you'd expect from the news. True, not a representative population for the country, but still strange outcomes.

      A day or two ago I offered my reasons for cautious optimism re the US. First reason was that, for whatever reason, the virus didn't seem to arrive here until the end of January, which gives us some leeway--especially in a large country with a population more widely dispersed than most. It may come down in the US to several 'hot spots' of infection, and the rest of the country more manageable. That's my optimistic view.

      The bottom line is that we don't really have a handle on it yet. I don't doubt that our number of cases will still increase quite a bit--but maybe not to the extent per capita as in Europe. For reasons I can't really explain. OTOH, given what we know from the history and science of SARS, and the new and alarming characteristics of this version of coronavirus disease, I don't see that Trump or other officials had much choice except to take drastic action. That's the point of my other post.

    4. Re drastic action, Ron Paul is quite suspicious, that these measures will become permanent:

      "Government over-hypes a threat as an excuse to grab more of our freedoms. When the “threat” is over, however, they never give us our freedoms back."
      See .

      And, the Z Man argues, TPTB are playing with fires they don't understand, such that there may be no limit to the instability these policies risk spurring:

      "... messing with big complicated things always has unanticipated results. This is an iron law of systems. Even if the response is appropriate to the danger, taking a *sledge hammer*, to the very complex system that is American society, will have *consequences* that no one can anticipate.
      Another rule of complex systems is, you need to understand the iron law of systems, before you are allowed to even tinker with the system. That rule has been violated."
      See .

      With politicians all-but emptying the jails (to protect the Poor Sweeties, from giving each other the virus), while the law-abiding are quarantined in their homes, the stage is being set, for the streets to be taken over by the Poor Sweeties.
      Groceries will never get to the stores, if the trucks containing groceries have drivers who all get the Reginald Denny treatment, because the cops are, say, distracted by e.g. chasing quarantine violators.

      As a reasonably-healthy guy in his late 60s, I'd rather that the youngsters be allowed to keep living more-or-less lives, rather than being turned into serfs, in order to make more likely that we oldsters be able to squeeze out a few more years or so.

      If the virus were to (despite my decent health) bump me off w/in a few months from now, I'd celebrate a life well-lived.
      But if we oldsters get a few more years, at the price of drastic measures risking this place becoming an Orwellian state, or another Mogadishu, I'll die soon enough anyhow, but with a broken heart to boot.

    5. "Never let a crisis go to waste".

  5. Politically, it strikes me that the Left has adopted the Chinese Communist Party as their new ally, replacing the long lost but not forgotten Soviet Union, for sheepherding heaven-on-Earth to the upland hills of Utopia in America.

    It certainly explain their antipathy for today's Russia, having succeeded the collapse of the communist Soviet Union.

    1. It's because they so admire China's social control total surveillance regime. It's what liberals want to impose here on those they deplore.