Tuesday 23 June 2020

“Let's Blame China": an infantile disorder when Covid-19 comes knocking

How the White House turned "China bought us time" into "China lied, people died" and put the world at risk    

"Let's blame China" has become the lazy go-to for so many politicians and media lacking the will to think outside the Trump admininistration box, it's tragic. Literally. Stupefied by the past three years of a vicious trade war on China, the commentariat allows information which could save our lives to be buried in the mush of memes and accusations put out by the various right-wing think tanks: from Bannon to the fugly Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). Meanwhile, the bodies pile up.

Even LBC radio host James O'Brien, usually one who incisively questions the status quo, went on autopilot the other day to blame China's "appalling conduct" for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blaming China is several degrees north of perverse when the US knew about the coming pandemic at least from November, even briefing NATO and Israel while keeping this vital information from the nation that would be the first to deal with it. [Edit: the Pentagon now denies this.]

Anyone scapegoating the country that lost thousands of lives and devastated its own economy in the drive to eradicate the virus and buy time for the rest of the world, needs to be reminded of what China learnt once they got on top of it. Because that's our collective knowledge, too. 

Up until Trump's U-turn in mid-March, most were impressed with the record time in which China identified, sequenced and shared the "strange pneumonia's" gene code as they struggled to make sense of what was happening since the first case was confirmed on 27th December 2019. Having finally confirmed human-to-human transmission 20th January after initial confusion and missteps, they turbocharged their efforts. Three days later on 23rd January, they shut down the city of Wuhan, and Hubei, a province of 66 million (about the same population as Britain), and halted its air traffic. The purpose was to starve the virus of hosts in order, not just to contain it, but to wipe it out completely. 

I watched the webcam broadcasts of two mega-hospitals being built in 10 days and wondered how – after witnessing these unprecedented feats by a fifth of humanity – anyone could ever return to the incessant dehumanising depictions thrust at us over the three years of Trump's trade war. 

We didn't have to wait very long. As early as January, Senator Tom Cotton; Steve Bannon; the Washington Times; Radio Free Asia; Fox 'News' and other right-wing mouthpieces had begun accusing China of creating the SARS-Covid-2 virus in the Wuhan lab: a patent falsehood now debunked by scientists and the Pentagon. Commie bashers hurled abuse and ridicule at the evhul totalitarian state for clamping down on freeberty, something we would never do in the West. Masks were depicted as a mark of subhuman Them versus superior Us, and we were assured that we would never see these symbols of Asian subjugation on the streets of Old Blighty.

Trump wasted precious time as Covid-19 seeded itself in the population leading to chaos and recriminations. Then on 13th March the president performed his reluctant U-turn and declared a national emergency, saying, "I don't accept responsibility at all." 

Cue blame game.

A week later on 20th March, the same day the UK went into lockdown and news emerged of US senators selling their stocks on the eve of the long-awaited crash finally triggered by the coronavirus Black Swan, the White House sent a cable to State Department officials, issuing "guidelines for how U.S. officials should answer questions on, or speak about, the coronavirus and the White House’s response in relation to China."

The Daily Beast reported that the cable's key talking points to be pressed home were that the Chinese government "... hid news of the virus from its own people for weeks, while suppressing information and punishing doctors and journalists who raised the alarm. The Party cared more about its reputation than its own people’s suffering."

However, Dr Zhang Jixian, the director of respiratory and critical care at Wuhan Hospital had raised the alarm on 27th December, informing the head of her hospital and the local health authorities that the "strange pneumonia" confounding the doctors was not the suspected return of SARS, but a "novel coronavirus". Far from being punished, she was rewarded and honoured for her diligence, an inconvenient fact ignored by Western press. 

The media preferred to turn the late opthalmologist Dr Li into a martyr as proof of a cover-up despite his WeChat message wrongly identifying SARS going "viral" in an email and threatening panicked flight of a possibly infected public after Dr Zhang had already reported her grim discovery. (EDIT: Dr Li's message was to a small WeChat group, a member of which shared it against his specific request.) The World Health Organisation, US CDC and press including Reuters knew of the novel coronavirus by 31st December. Dr Li wasn't arrested as claimed, but was heavy-handedly reprimanded by police on 3rd January — after work had begun on the virus and news was out — and told to sign a document pledging he wouldn't do it again. Tragically, he would become an early victim of the virus, catching it from a patient and dying on 7th February.

Americans would find suppression of critical medical information nearer home in Seattle where Dr Helen Chu found early Covid-19 cases from as far back as January 2020 — "It's just everywhere already"— but was told to shut up and stop testing. Or watch the CDC's director Robert Redfield finally testifying to Congressman Harley Rouda in March that they had been wrongly diagnosing Covid-19 deaths as flu.

However, he who smelt it must have dealt it. Politico got hold of "a detailed 57-page memo authored by a top Republican strategist advising GOP candidates to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China", dated 17th April.

The memo includes advice on everything from how to tie Democratic candidates to the Chinese government to how to deal with accusations of racism. It stresses three main lines of assault: That China caused the virus “by covering it up,” that Democrats are “soft on China,” and that Republicans will “push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.”

The document urges candidates to stay relentlessly on message against the country when responding to any questions about the virus. When asked whether the spread of the coronavirus is Trump’s fault, candidates are advised to respond by pivoting to China. “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China,” the memo states.

Other smears doing the rounds in a tsunami of hate included linking Chinese to filth and pestilence  — very Goebbels — by claiming Chinese eating bats started the outbreak when the heat of cooking would have killed the virus, and bats are eaten in Micronesia, Indonesia, Texas and Louisiana ... but not generally in China. [EDIT: Some minorities in southern China near the border eat bats but the wildlife trade was banned in January following the coronavirus outbreak.] 

In a piece headlined "'Don't defend Trump, attack China': Republican memo reveals coronavirus campaign strategy" the Independent pointed out more talking points and how Republican senatorial candidates were instructed to use them:

... the GOP's messaging effort to attack China for the coronavirus pandemic and blame the country's communist government leadership for "covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical equipment."
...encourages candidates to promote unverified theories that the coronavirus is "likely the result of an accidental release by a Chinese research facility," which China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), among other groups, deny.

Even in Britain, the BBC continues to twist reality by excluding all mention of anything positive done by the most populous nation on Earth, rendering their reports absurd and denying Britons access to the Covid-19 roadmap drawn by China through their trial by fire. In post-Brexit Britain, results of this month's trade negotiations with the declining US superpower have been largely kept quiet but UK media exclusion of positive news from China and hostile reporting as our death toll rises to over 42,600, have generally not improved.

What this means is that, in the absence of vital information learnt by the Chinese as the first to grapple with the pandemic, the nations that set up China as the antagonist have had to reinvent the wheel, squandering months during which the virus has spread, killed people and may be mutating into forms against which the vaccines currently being developed may not work. Six months after the outbreak, we have only just been told that masks do indeed cut the spread of the virus. Yet one Chinese scientist had informed us on Twitter around February that research done at home in Cambridge indicated that as much as 70 per cent of the virus could be stopped with masks. 

If only Trump and Boris Johnson had dropped their egos and learnt, as decidedly non-authoritarian New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern had done, that a lockdown was immediately necessary, we too might only be stamping out flare-ups instead of sinking under the weight of death and sickness. Most Britons and Americans aren't even aware that the lockdown serves a purpose beyond just keeping case numbers down. The virus needs human hosts to survive, and therefore quarantine lockdown starves the virus to extinction. In China, this was achieved within the 76 day lockdown. [Edit: The Covid-19 virus fell to zero in 43 days.]

Scientists are still trying to find out where the virus originated. Current research suggests that the Wuhan outbreak was the B-strain of a coronavirus originating in horseshoe bats that had possibly been circulating the world for years before mutating and erupting in Wuhan, the transport hub of America's upstart rival superpower, three years into a nasty trade war.

President Trump's administration knew about the pandemic threat in November, informing Israel and NATO — which means Britain knew in November and also failed to warn China. It closed down the pandemic team set up by Obama, cut the CDC office in Beijing to a third of its usual 47-team, slashed the funding for its Eco Health Alliance lookout in the Wuhan lab, and continues to trash-talk China. [EDIT: the Trump admin closed down the CDC's Beijing office completely by July 2019.] More to the point, the US couldn't even identify its own early cases, let alone develop a test that actually worked, or collaborate with China on any meaningful strategy for elimination of the virus. Injecting bleach doesn't count. Nor does gargling with anti-malaria tablets.

Some might categorise the US pirating Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from other countries as "appalling conduct" while China was sending out PPE by the ton to Serbia, Iran, Italy, Cuba and a number of other countries, including a medical team dispatched to the UK which was ignored by most of the media. Confiscating PPE and ventilators from blue states and giving them to private outlets under control of your son-in-law and red states that voted for Trump is hardly pretty, either.

There are now 305,289 cases and 42,600 deaths in the UK; 2.32 million cases and 122,000 deaths in the US. Globally, nearly 9 million cases and 469,000 deaths.

But, yeah. Let's blame China.

EDIT 10th September 2020:

Confirmed: Trump admin knew of the Covid-19 dangers on 28th January 2020 but covered it up

We now know that Trump and his admin knew the dangers of Covid-19 from at least the 28th January 2020 when, according to the Washington Post, he was told at a top secret meeting:
“This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,” national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump ... “This is going to be the roughest thing you face.”

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, agreed. He told the president that after reaching contacts in China, it was evident that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

A reminder that Trump closed down the White House Pandemic Team and shut the US CDC's Beijing office, which was supposed to help China monitor new diseases, by July 2019. Despite being told about the deadly dangers of SARS-CoV-2 at least by the 28th January 2020, Trump ran a super-spreader policy, playing it down, calling it a hoax, stigmatising masks and holding massive unmasked rallies. PPE was pirated from both international supplies and red states at home. As soon as cases grew too numerous to ignore, the White House issued instructions on how to blame China, as reported by The Daily Beast and others.

EDIT 2 31st August 2021

CHINA BECOMES THE FIRST COUNTRY TO END A DELTA OUTBREAK making five times that China has zeroed Covid.

Sky News 24th August 2021:  "China records zero Delta cases in a world first. First country to prove they can crush the Delta outbreak after reporting zero locally acquired cases for the first time since July."

The Lancet: How China Managed COVID-19. Active case finding with case management: the key to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic

Sharp timeline observations by K J Noh: How to Yellow-Cake a Tragedy: the NY Times Spreads the Virus of Hatred, Again

The Gray Zone: How a Trump media dump mainstreamed Chinese lab coronavirus conspiracy theory

Peter Beinart in The Atlantic: Trump’s Break With China Has Deadly Consequences. After scuttling its partnership with Beijing on public health, the U.S. was unprepared for the pandemic.

Foreign Policy: China Deserves Some Credit for Its Handling of the Wuhan Pneumonia. "Within weeks of detection of the initial outbreak in December in Wuhan, China has already identified the novel coronavirus ... Beyond the credit Beijing should rightly take for acting relatively swiftly on this disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also played a key supporting role."

LA Times: Trump administration ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronaviruses

CDC: While China took days to identify the novel coronavirus (27th December to 8th January 2020) the US's CDC took six months to identify H1N1 Swine Flu in 2009 which had likely been circulating in different forms for years. Why the aggressive response to China on Covid-19 when they did so much better and faster?

FAIR: No, China Didn’t ‘Stall’ Critical Covid Information at Outbreak’s Start

A Twitter thread by Anna Chen on Trump's Covid timeline from his covfefe tweet in 2017 to catching Covid-19 in late 2020. Original Twitter thread.

People's Covid Inquiry report summary 1st December 2021: Mike Mansfield chaired months-long inquiry into misconduct in public office. Why did so many thousands die unnecessarily?

PODCAST Media Roots Radio: Bannon, Tom Cotton, Bill Gertz & Anti-China Neocon Propaganda In the Wake of COVID19 (Part 1 of 2)

1 comment:

Blissex2 said...

There is a fairly popular hypothesis in the USA that the virus was brought to Wuhan by some participants in the military games of Autumn 2019, in particular the USA ones some of which had symptoms. The USA military forces are in dozens of countries and might be a global center of infections.

But whatever the reality of where the infection started, it does not matter: accusations against the chinese government will continue. That is both inevitable and even discussing or debunking them will not change much.

The fundamental issue is that the USA offer a simple and effective deal to their protectorates: you can export (some) people and (most) trade manufactures to the USA, as long as we control your foreign and security policies and can veto your your political appointments, and you give our corporations a chunk of your markets. This is a deal that most european countries have accepted happily, and most central and south american and third world countries have been made to accept, one way or another.

Given that, the chinese government has started to act too independently, so it is no longer under USA protection. As part of that the chinese economy is trying to expand its sphere of influence across other countries.

The USA elites know very well that the european elites are opportunists (the UK elites have been particularly friendly to chinese business, the italian and french ones have a "whatever" attitude) and would like to be in both spheres of influence, and that most central, south american and third world elites are very bribable. If the USA wait too much, their protectorates may eventually choose instead of being in both, to be only in the chinese sphere of influence (especially if China becomes a net importer of trade manufactures). So the reaction of the USA elites is very understandable:

* To act right now, while the chinese economy is still smaller and less influential, to gradually surround, isolate and break it up, as they did to other empires and countries before (spanish empire, english empire, USSR, Yugoslavia, ...).
* As part of isolating China, use propaganda to push the voters of european etc. protectorates towards breaking up with China, so their elites would have an extra incentive to be exclusively in the american sphere of influence.

The propaganda relies on a very common technique: most people cannot verify hearsay, so they trust claims that are repeated by several sources that look independent. So the media of the global american sphere of influence will endlessly repeat old and new claims as if they were independent of each other. Only a (small) minority of the public in the american sphere of influence will try to wonder how realistic the claims are. For their sake it is good that there are various sites like this that point out different stories, but they are not going to be able to do much. The situation is not going to change.

It is quite sad that China will end up isolated from the american sphere of influence, because China has enormous potential to improve science, innovate in business, create new art in a new wave to follow the european and american waves of the past 200+ years, but the logic of empires does not take that into account.