29th December 2020
Changed my clothes today (really, put some on rather than just gliding round in the bathrobe all day). Cut my hair, had a shave, showered and doused my locks in a panoply of product -water, paste, hat for half an hour, paste some more, gel, hairspray, water, in that order to get it to fall right. Welcome to Asian hair, which if it isn’t long stands up like a straight ‘fro or colludes into becoming a bowlcut when you’re not looking. Even cut my toenails and removed errant hairs that sprout at randomised places around the face (eg forehead, side of nose, ear lobe) that if left unattended will start reproducing. It’s annoying I can’t get enough manly stubble on the jawline but have to shave my cheekbones. There’s a global secret out there, we’re all freaks.
I am rejoining the world. I’m wondering if there’ll be burning wrecks outside and zombie streetkids -the UK healthcare system is a shade away from full capacity at the mo. Deaths are 6.6% higher in this last week (while in Germany it’s 21%), a sign of the new variants at work. What has been happening out there, while I’ve been gone?
Well… it all started when a lawyer in Shanghai travelled to Wuhan.
Yes, China has been at it again, busy jailing reporter/ blogger Zhang Zhan for 4 years, for her reportage of the new disease, and overflowing hospitals. The CCP is like that kid who innocently opened the door to the zombies, and has now been caught rewiring the security cams. Now it’s been very convenient to scapegoat a highly unpopular dictatorship for the virus -it fits with our civilisational narrative -but China is not entirely to blame for the infection. Though now it’s obvious the country isn’t doing itself any favours by further shooting itself in the foot, publicly, while still prancing about as stage villain to an audience of billions.
I will again remind in summary all our recent global goings on.
As acknowledged, the virus was first detected in South America and Europe 3-9 months before it hit Wuhan (likely in a less infectious format), notably as early as March 2019 in Barcelona, and following on in Buenos Aires, Florianopolis (Brazil), Barcelona again, Paris and London, Milan and Turin by November and December, according to sewage sampling done this summer, and coordinated by Oxford University. China’s patient zero was also in November, traced to the countryside around the city (and incidentally site of the World Army Games the month before). It took till December for it to spread to Wuhan, via a site where rural and urban folk meet -a farmer’s market.
China’s mistake was to treat it as a purely animal > human zoonotic disease, that could only be passed from beast to man. We get about three new types each year somewhere in the world, and they don’t warrant lockdowns other than the closure of the spreader site and track and trace of the attendants. As per policy, the authorities shut down the market and formally alerted the WHO on New Year’s Eve, only two days after it was first detected in a Chinese lab as a new strain of pneumonia. It also released the genetic profile to open source, public forum before a second death anywhere in the world. So far, so not guilty.
However, when evidence was increasing that it was human>human, with multiple doctors flagging the fact patients were coming in without any contact with the market or countryside, still nothing was acted on. A ‘super-spreader’ event was even allowed to continue by the mayor, a big city convention that many Chinese consider let it into neighbouring provinces.
China’s second mistake was following WHO advice (after presenting the evidence) that more was needed to confirm it was human > human. It took three whole weeks for the green light, or should I say red light.
The third mistake happened at a low level, but was by far the most damning in the eyes of the world: at about this time, well after it had already been officially documented and released to netizens and the press, the local police reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang. They’d taken a shine against his chatgroup about the disease, fining him for fearmongering and making him sign a statement -his treatment in turn started to spread like wildfire across China’s social media.
In short the local authorities did not conform to the provincial or state authorities dealing with an epidemic, who’d learned the hard way that cover ups could never be effective. They only resulted in shame, more infections, public investigations and reforms, as happened after SARS. Following public furore state missives swiftly followed up that any attempts at cover up would be ‘nailed to a post of shame for all of history’, and the police made to apologise to the doctor. But too late, the narrative was already on the wall, not just in China but the world. Li’s death from the disease only magnified him into a martyr for the cause, for free speech too.
So these mistakes are no different to many that have played out across the world, given the fact they had even more warning and knew the coming severity, plus gifted an M.O. on how to deal with it from China and Asia. But putting all that into context the Party, now jailing a citizen journalist for four fucking years, hasn’t appeared to have learned its lesson. Actually many Wuhanese critics ultimately disappeared for weeks at a time, reappearing to suddenly amend their blogs and acknowledge the govt were, yes, trying very hard and doing very well. Zhang Zhan has been on hunger strike since June; her lawyers are trying to persuade her to appeal.
It appears pattern recognition may not be the strongest aspect of China’s PR machine, or maybe it doesn’t give a flying fuck any more. The ‘wolf warrior diplomats’ (named after China’s dire bestselling, nationalistic film) that have worryingly been infiltrating China’s foreign policy admin -in response to Trump’s sabre-rattling since 2016 -are just stretching their muscle. For long China’s foreign envoys smiled politely whenever an awkward question was raised, noting how pretty the flower arrangements were -then sprinting for the door and overturning all manner of vases n shit. Nowadays they launch Twitter wars with Trump and activists on either side of the spectrum, or even peddle conspiracy theories online (hinting C-19 was deliberately spread by US soldiers in the Army Games).
However, in better news the original wolf warrior Liu Xiaoming, who also happened to be the UK ambassador, just resigned two years before the end of his tenure. Infamous for his defence of Xinjianger ‘reeducation camps’ (really, they’re just colleges for vocational studies and puppy breeding and happiness), Hong Kong democracy blitzing (look at your own record, monster), and congratulating Britain on Brexit (hi five, new puppet!), he has marked his position throughout with many a memorable headline.
Hopefully it’s an end to his droning, and this phase of global repositioning, inline with the coming exit of Trumpist demagogue. Hopefully also a sign of things to come, not just in the public face, but in genuine reforms behind the state facade, as infamously there are several competing lobbies beneath the smile. It appears both sides have scored wins against each other.
Honestly though, we have enough on our plates -CCP, please, just get with the programme, if not for our sake (collectively, the world), but yours. Many thanks in advance.
Free Zhang Zhan.