One country, one system

2014 protests (Source)

Hong Kong’s history effectively comes to an end as the once quasi-autonomous city becomes fully absorbed into the Chinese Communist borg — only 27 years ahead of schedule:

A national security law introduced Friday at the opening session to China’s National People’s Congress to tackle the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong would allow Beijing to send its security agents to operate freely in the former British Colony to “fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”

Chinese law enforcement and security agents previously had no purview in Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement that allowed the Chinese international financial hub a certain degree of autonomy to runs its own affairs.

The proposed national security law, which Chinese authorities deemed an “absolute necessity” and is guaranteed to pass, is the latest and most far-reaching attempt by Beijing to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. […]

“This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems.’ This is it. Make no mistake about it,” pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who has been the target of Beijing’s recent ire, told the media after hearing the news of the planned law Thursday night.

This comes after the coup in LegCo on Monday:

Several pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of a legislative council session on Monday in a melee that broke out over a bill that would criminalize any disrespect of the Chinese national anthem, according to reports.

“If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this,” one of the lawmakers carried out, Eddie Chu, told the BBC. “Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber.”

The uproar began when pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the council president last week to oversee the election of a new House committee leader, occupied the chairman’s seat and surrounded himself by more than 30 mask-clad security guards.

The House committee, which decides when controversial bills, including the Chinese national anthem bill, will be voted on, has gone without a chairperson for months. China has accused pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong of filibustering the bill to stall until council elections in September.

As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the chamber, they tried to reach the chairman’s seat but were met with force from the guards in a skirmish that lasted several minutes. At least one person was knocked to the ground, according to the BBC.

Pan-democratic politician hauled away (Source)

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por takes charge (Source)

The Big Lychee reacts:

There is at least a morbid fascination in watching – in real time – a dictatorship destroy a free society. In just seven days since ‘Freak-Out Friday’, we’ve seen the LegCo coup, a ban on the June 4 vigil and choreographed attacks on the once-independent RTHK and exams authority.

Now Beijing has decided to impose a de facto Article 23 national security law on Hong Kong by directly inserting it into Annex III of the Basic Law. Don’t quibble about whether this is legal: if the CCP does it, it is.

All we know is that the new law will ban sedition, subversion, foreign intervention and ‘terrorism’. There are no details as yet, and the final wording will no doubt be intentionally vague. The aim is to hugely expand the pretexts for silencing and punishing dissent.

Whatever the wording, the outcome is likely to include criminalization of opinions, such as mere advocacy of Hong Kong independence or the downfall of the Communist Party. This points to Internet or print censorship. The new law will probably enable suppression of a wide range of opposition activities – for example the banning of websites used to organize protests, or even possession of anti-government banners. It could include the intimidation of lawyers who defend opponents of the regime or people who help fund activist causes (‘subversion of state power’ in the Mainland).

The ban on foreign interference will obviously target ties between the pan-dem camp and overseas politicians or other ‘foreign forces’, and probably enable the freezing of any (allegedly) foreign-sourced funds going to pan-dems. It could also be used to bar more people from Hong Kong – and even to kick out non-locals like teachers or journalists who are deemed to be infiltrators helping the opposition.

China’s emperor-for-life appears to be firmly ensconced in the Dragon Throne, and there is no prospect of the CPC loosening its grip on power anytime soon, let alone some other system of government replacing the 90-million-member party and the totalitarian hell-state over which it presides.

Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that no regime can last forever, and most are quite short-lived on the scale of human history. As long as people desire freedom, as the people of Hong Kong most certainly do, then hope remains. Hong Kong in its glory and splendor will rise again.

Forever lockdown: China edition

Like the song that never ends, it just goes on and on, my friends:

Some 108 million people in China’s northeast region are being plunged back under lockdown conditions as a new and growing cluster of infections causes a backslide in the nation’s return to normal.

In an abrupt reversal of the re-opening taking place across the nation, cities in Jilin province have cut off trains and buses, shut schools and quarantined tens of thousands of people. The strict measures have dismayed many residents who had thought the worst of the nation’s epidemic was over.

People “are feeling more cautious again,” said Fan Pai, who works at a trading company in Shenyang, a city in nearby Liaoning province that’s also facing renewed restrictions. “Children playing outside are wearing masks again” and health care workers are walking around in protective gear, she said. “It’s frustrating because you don’t know when it will end.”

It won’t end. The virus won’t simply go away no matter how antisocial a country is willing (or forced) to be. “Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, and most people will become infected. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it,” wrote the former state epidemiologist of Sweden.

The promised vaccine is a long way off, but for the time being we can at least pretend to contain the virus by inflicting novel types of misery on our fellow human beings. China, always eager to make its mark as an innovation superpower, has certainly emerged as a global leader in the exciting field of Population Control and Mass Sadism:

Still, delivery services have been mostly halted and anti-fever medication is banned at drugstores to prevent people from hiding their symptoms.

China’s latest flare-up is well-timed, as complacent Americans and Europeans are beginning to venture carelessly out of their homes — and we just can’t have that. We are in a curious situation, where countries that barely notice the virus’s existence are considered to be losing the war against it, while those that shut themselves down like a hung computer are considered to be winning. The Japanese, for example, have their heads buried firmly in the sand regarding the virus, and accordingly have suffered a staggering 768 deaths. When will they wake up?! Inquiring minds want to know.

The specter of a second wave — a term that I suspect is not being used accurately by the non-scientists that write these articles — is again invoked to argue that we can never go back to normal, we can never let our guard down, even for a second. We are all Wuhan now. If you want a picture of the future, imagine an infrared thermometer pointed at a human forehead — forever:

While the cluster of 34 infections isn’t growing as quickly the outbreak in Wuhan which started the global pandemic last December, China’s swift and powerful reaction reflects its fear of a second wave after it curbed the virus’s spread at great economic and social cost. It’s also a sign of how fragile the re-opening process will be in China and elsewhere as even the slightest hint of a resurgence of infections could prompt a return to strict lockdown.

As I wrote back on April 4:

“There is no quick fix” is the message that is increasingly coming from our elites. They are preparing us for a long, miserable and ruinous battle against the microbe, one which our economy, society, and political order are not likely to survive. The forever wars weakened and demoralized America. The forever lockdown, if actualized, will finish us off. Buckle up!

He’s not going anywhere

It’s hardly surprising that Sisci would offer a ringing endorsement of China’s “effective” response to the virus – although it is puzzling that he would describe democratic Taiwan and Korea’s own effective responses as “incidents or adaptations of the Chinese way.” Putting that aside, this is a useful reminder that the Emperor for Life probably ain’t going anywhere anytime soon, despite the inane delusions of certain foreign observers with “sources” telling them that “Xi is in trouble”:

This is a recurring story. Over a year ago I wrote:

«Certainly, there is mounting opposition to Xi Jinping’s administration. This opposition considers the issue of getting rid of the top leader according to the rules of the system: you can’t peacefully vote him out of power, you must use force – you have to stage a coup and take him out. So, the attempts on his life were most likely real, and communist China has a history of attempted coups. But did they succeed in their goals? And how were they staged?».[1]

And the only successful coup in the history of the People’s Republic was staged in 1976 against the Gang of Four. Here «the three main plotters controlled all the crucial elements: the party organization, the army, and the personal security of the people arrested».[2] That is, the main plotters were already in control of the party and the military and got rid of the challenge from the opposition. That was quite a different situation from the present one where Xi holds all the cards.

In the Party

Moreover, the CPC has rules limiting and strictly regulating meetings of senior officials outside of the appointed occasions. This was imposed a long time ago by Mao to thwart possible plots and as far as we know the rule is still in place.

In past years, Xi not only arrested a lot of people but deconstructed the party apparatus and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), moving people around to break their chains of loyalties. Everybody now works in environments where they can’t be sure of where other people stand, and thus they are all wary about expressing themselves let alone organizing a coup against Xi.

A coup needs first and foremost a secretive, efficient, and quite pervasive organization. Without it a coup turns into civil war or the putschists are all arrested and killed by a firing squad (or die in a plane crash, as happened to Lin Biao in 1971).

How can there be any organization against Xi in these circumstances?

What some people register, confusing the signals, is that there is widespread, pervasive opposition to Xi among officials and their extended families (all formerly benefitting from the old pre-anticorruption life). But this opposition is scattered, with no glue or mortar to hold it. This sand-like opposition vanishes anytime and anywhere Xi puts his foot down.

Hua Guofeng arranged the coup against the Gang of Four, which included Mao’s last wife Jiang Qing.

Fuzzy math

I don’t know exactly what happened in China, and neither do you, but I do know that the country’s official numbers just… don’t… make… sense. And AEI scholar Derek Scissors agrees:

Of the 3,309 reported deaths in China, Hubei has had 3,187 — or more than 95%.

“Cases in Hubei are nearly five times higher than outside Hubei province, which is where Wuhan is, even though the population outside Hubei is 22 times larger,” Scissors said.

“So magically, although hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people left Hubei, although there was no quarantine for at least a month, China doesn’t have a COVID problem except in one province,” Scissors said.

“Magically” is the word for it. We are supposed to believe that China’s draconian “lockdown” of Hubei province and the enormous sacrifices of its people somehow stopped the virus in its tracks in a country of 1.4 billion, producing less than 15,000 cases outside of Hubei.

Look at it this way. 3,309 – 3,187 = 122 coronavirus deaths in ALL of China outside of Hubei province. In all the teeming mega-cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Chengdu, Tianjin, Nanjing, Xi’an… I could go on and on… each of them with many millions of people…

122 deaths. Right.

But China’s magical methods were so successful that the West is determined to replicate them here.

And don’t forget the international angle:

The effectiveness of a mass quarantine

Hypothesis: The effectiveness of a mass quarantine is greatly reduced when the target population is given several hours’ advance notice of it.

Item (Wuhan):

A sudden overnight quarantine, with a 7-hour grace period for people to leave, has predictably led to this. Can an epidemic both be severe enough to justify a lockdown of 10m people and sufficiently under-control to allow this?

Item (Northern Italy):

There was chaos and confusion in the hours before Conte signed the decree, as word leaked to the news media about the planned quarantine. Students at the University of Padua in northern Italy who had been out at bars on a Saturday night saw the rumors on their cellphones and rushed back to their apartments to grab their belongings and head to the train station.

Hundreds of passengers, some wearing face masks and rubber gloves, crammed onto the last local train leaving Padua at 11:30 p.m. Anxious students wrapped scarves around their heads, shared sanitizing gel, and sat on their suitcases in the aisles. No conductor came by to check tickets.

Life imitates art

Did China take a page out of a bestselling American author’s book?

The Eyes of Darkness, a 1981 thriller by bestselling suspense author Dean Koontz, tells of a Chinese military lab that creates a virus as part of its biological weapons programme. The lab is located in Wuhan, which lends the virus its name, Wuhan-400. A chilling literary coincidence or a case of writer as unwitting prophet?

In The Eyes of Darkness, a grieving mother, Christina Evans, sets out to discover whether her son Danny died on a camping trip or if – as suspicious messages suggest – he is still alive. She eventually tracks him down to a military facility where he is being held after being accidentally contaminated with man-made microorganisms created at the research centre in Wuhan.

If that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up, read this passage from the book: “It was around that time that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen moved to the United States while carrying a floppy disk of data from China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon of the past decade. They call it Wuhan-400 because it was developed in their RDNA laboratory just outside the city of Wuhan.”

In another strange coincidence, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only level four biosafety laboratory, the highest-level classification of labs that study the deadliest viruses, is just 32km from the epicentre of the current coronavirus outbreak
. The opening of the maximum-security lab was covered in a 2017 story in the journal Nature, which warned of safety risks in a culture where hierarchy trumps an open culture.

There’s a twist, though:

However, Wuhan wasn’t even originally mentioned in The Eyes of Darkness. The first edition of the book, written under Koontz’s pseudonym Leigh Nichols, concerns a virus called Gorki-400 that was created by the Russians and emerged from “the city of Gorki”.

The change to Wuhan came when the book was released in hardback under Koontz’s own name in 1989. The year of the book’s re-release is significant – 1989 marked the end of the Cold War. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country was no longer communist.

What are they spraying?

Episode II: Attack of the Bleach? (Source)

Robots are also being enlisted in the Corona Wars:

SNAFU! comments:

This thing must still be raging in China. It’s obvious too that N. Korea must be getting SLAMMED by this thing if S. Korea and Japan are affected. Wonder if this could lead to the death of the little fat bastard and calamity or an opportunity.

Also its apparent that WHO is not declaring a pandemic for one reason alone. Economics. A pandemic declaration could literally destroy globalization (although many here seem to doubt that).

Last thing.

You know what everyone is missing about the Spanish flu? The first wave wasn’t anything. It was considered a seasonal flu and was basically ignored by any and everyone. When it came around the next year (after mutating) is when we saw massive deaths.

My view of this thing has changed. I think its gonna sputter out by the end of March, early April.

Later this year and early next is when we’re gonna get body slammed by this thing. I think most will forget about this thing (except for govts and the scientist that work for them) and you’ll see everyone attempt to go back to normal just in time for this thing to go sideways just in time for the Christmas season.

Stock up on masks this summer. I believe you’ll be ok for the first wave of this thing.

Corona’s extremely low death toll

This is what I can’t wrap my head around. If coronavirus is a true global public health emergency… then why have only ~3,500 people (reportedly) died from it, the vast majority of them in China? As pandemics go, this is pretty lame. Furthermore, the death toll seems to be increasing in a linear rather than exponential fashion:

Not to be callous, but that is a really *tiny* number of people on a global scale. For comparison, the swine flu epidemic in the US killed some 11,690 people, including 1,180 children, in 2009, and as I recall, the US mostly shrugged that off.

On a Chinese scale, ~3,000 deaths over two months is basically a rounding error. That’s fewer than the number of people that died in the flooding of May through August 2010, which barely elicited comment at the time (I think it was mentioned once in my office in Shanghai that summer and I never heard anyone speak of it again).

Of course, the death toll could get way higher as this virus spreads to every corner of the globe… but the point is, it hasn’t yet. We’re still chugging along in the low 4-digit range, and it seems we’re going to be “stuck” there for a while, unless there is a sudden surge in the number of deaths – perhaps in a country or region where the health care system has broken down and the hospitals become super-incubators of the disease. But so far (with the possible exception of Iran), that doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

if this virus is truly dangerous – dangerous enough to warrant locking down half the population of the world’s largest nation – we should be seeing tens or hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of deaths worldwide by now, should we not? What gives?

Final thought: the above assumes that China is accurately reporting the death toll. If the actual body count is far greater than 3,000 – could that be hidden? Could China sweep 100,000 deaths under the rug? As returned expat Nate Mesics suggested to me, in a country with 14,000 times that number, it’s possible. How about a million? In China, anything is possible.

760 million people on lockdown

One-tenth of the human race is under some form of quarantine… but “it’s just the flu, bro”…

From the NY Times:

To stop the spread of the coronavirus much of China has effectively shut down. What’s not been fully appreciated is how extensive the closures are. By our calculations 760 million are living under some kind of residential lockdown.

A friend of mine in a large city not in Hubei province wrote (Feb 7):

A lot of companies are going to shut down soon. No business is allowed to open. Shopping malls are closed. There is nobody in the street. It’s like a zombie movie.

This person, who runs a small business, a few days later told me his office lease was about to expire and he had fired all his staff.

I cannot even go to my office. The government is asking all companies to apply for a certificate to open a business. Before you get the certificate you cannot go back to the office. But you are still paying for the rent and your staff. Amazing. In order to get the certificate, you need enough supplies: masks, sanitizer… make sure it’s enough for all your staff to use for at least a month. Nobody is going to want to do business after this. I cannot even get enough supplies for myself, now I have to provide for my staff.

Today I received the following messages:

Supermarkets and pharmacies are open. All restaurants are shut down. Malls are open but nobody goes shopping. They only go to the supermarkets in the mall. Cinemas are closed. Some companies are back to business. Most are still not open. Employees work at home. There were some incidents where employees got diagnosed with the virus after back to office. Then the whole company/floor has to lock down. All people have to be isolated.

A Reddit user comments:

It might not fit the true definition of a a quarantine, but the restrictions are still locking everything down. You can’t enter certain cities, currently, schools are going all online or cancelling altogether, 95% of all businesses are closed or operating on a skeleton crew with limited hours, and restaurants are banned from dine-in in most cities. Couple that with being required to wear a mask outdoors and constant temperature checks, plus most housing districts not allowing visitors inside, it’s as close as you can get without locking the front doors.

John Robb, a former advisor the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff who is not given to hysteria, comments thusly:

Top tier US Government national security insiders all saying the same thing:

China’s extreme mismanagement of the virus (Chernobyl-like reflexive information control, refusing intl aid, etc.) makes it very likely it will become a pandemic. US needs to prepare.

Simple way to think about this:

Very easy to get sick with this virus (possibly very high % of people getting sick).

80% get a little sick (as little as a slight fever).
20% get very sick.
2-3% die (mostly elderly + smokers) vs. 0.1% w/flu.

And this is hardly reassuring:

As the number of coronavirus cases jumps dramatically in China, a top infectious-disease scientist warns that things could get far worse: Two-thirds of the world’s population could catch it.

So says Ira Longini, an adviser to the World Health Organization who tracked studies of the virus’s transmissibility in China. His estimate implies that there could eventually be billions more infections than the current official tally of about 60,000.