The situation in China seems to be much, much worse than the all-powerful Communist Party is willing to let on.
From an American doctor with a Chinese wife:
My mother-in-law lives in a smaller city – far on the western fringe of China – If Wuhan were Atlanta – she would be in a place like Boise. She had a fever about 8 days ago. Please note – official statistics note that there are 9 people in her province confirmed to have the virus. This belies the fact that she (never known to me to be a liar or fabulist ) has been telling my wife for days that there are hundreds upon hundreds of people all over the sidewalks and streets outside the hospital – and that the hospital is completely filled with patients. And apparently the crematorium has been very busy. Of most grave concern to her – is Beijing nationalized all of their small province’s health care workers and sent them to Shanghai or Beijing – leaving their city of a million with only a handful of doctors. When she had her fever – a nurse looked at her for 10 minutes. They found out she had a runny nose – and because of the runny nose told her she did NOT have the virus. NO TEST WAS EVER DONE – WHY? they simply do not have enough kits – and are having to go by their gut instinct. She was sent back to her own home – and placed in quarantine there – never having been tested. She is unable to leave – and this is being violently enforced in her city. They bring her food 3 times a week. All this to say – any and all numbers coming from China are highly suspect – and basically worthless. And thankfully my mother-in-law is getting much better.
Her younger brother and his young family live in Nanjing. I cannot tell you the grief expressed by my wife the other night – when he called her the last time – and said all international calls have been stopped effective at midnight that day. Nanjing is now under martial law – for the first time since the Japanese occupation before World War II. He told her about the tanks going down the streets and all the main streets being guarded by men with sub-machine guns. All exits out of the city are now being blocked with layers of concrete blocks. Each family has to designate one person who can go outside 2 times a week – to the nearest store for food and supplies. Anyone caught on the streets without appropriate permission – or not wearing a mask is immediately arrested – and placed in quarantine camps themselves. Anyone who thinks this is all being done just because of a “flu” or “a little virus” really needs to have their head examined.
Her father is in Beijing – and has not been heard from in two weeks.
Traditionally, one “advantage” of totalitarian government is their ability to enforce public health restrictions – see also Cuba’s crackdown on HIV, using old-fashioned public health methods reinforced by thugs with guns. But this plague seems to have circumvented even China’s totalitarian reach.
Which – maybe, possibly – is causing “reform”, perhaps even collapse of the central Communist government, to cross peoples’ minds:
Li Wenliang is the doctor thought to be the first person to sound the alarm over the coronavirus. The Chinese government responded by detaining and silencing him for spreading “false rumors.” The authorities’ lockdown on information about the virus undoubtedly increased significantly the magnitude of the epidemic that now plagues China and threatens other countries.
On Friday, Dr. Li died from the virus. According to the Washington Post, within hours of his death millions of Chinese tried to bypass censors to post the hashtag #WeWantFreedomOfSpeech. The censors eventually prevailed, but deleted sentiments are still real sentiments.
The link between the government’s suppression of speech — the lack of freedom — and the public health disaster in China could not be more clear. Li has become the symbol of that link.
This Washington Post editorial tells us that the cononavirus outbreak “is shaking the foundations of a political system built on President Xi Jinping’s assurance that the party knows best for all.” I don’t know if the epidemic actually is shaking the system’s foundations, but it should.
Speaking of Xi, he was scarcely seen in the days following the outbreak. When he finally appeared, after days of speculation as to his whereabouts, it was at an event with Cambodia’s dictator, a stooge of China.
In free nations, leaders can’t get away with going into hiding during times of disaster. Dictators can. However, doing so erodes confidence in their leadership.
Random tangential thought: if the Chinese government is anywhere close to spiralling out of control, I’m happy that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are out of power.