Tuesday, 17 March 2020

How China Handled the coronavirus, vs the US

China stumbled at the beginning, Nov-Dec 2019.  Some missteps were accidental and understandable. Some were the reflexive secrecy of Leninist apparatchiks.  But when they knew what they were facing, they really stepped up.
The US, by contrast, was led by a president who as recently as month ago -- that is to say, well after the world knew that this was a new (*novel*) coronavirus, very transmissible and with a death rate orders of magnitude higher than the flu -- a president who said “it’s only fifteen in the United States, and it will soon go to zero”. That was not only ignorant -- he couldn’t possibly know that -- but also dangerous, as it delayed the response by weeks, maybe months.  And we all know now just how fast things are changing. So, he’s responsible for deaths that could have been avoided.
Trump has now got what some have described as a “Dream Team” in charge, and not before time.
China quickly ramped up testing kits. The US fumbled, handing out faulty testing kits, and even now there are not nearly enough. China built quarantine centres in quick time; the US has no plans even now for quarantine centres. China locked down early; the US is only now in lockdown. Shanghai lab shared the genome with the world on 11 January. China uses AI to control virus. The US?
In short: the US comes up short in the comparison with China. And, By the way, I’m no fan of Xi Jinping. Neither of Trump. But one has said he “bears full responsibility”. The other has said “I’m not responsible”. The only thing Trump has ever taken responsibility for was the late lamented bull market...
Here’s a Cornell Student, now in China, reflecting on how China has handled the coronavirus:
Wuhan closed the city on January 23. This day was one day before the eve of Chinese New Year. Almost all manufacturing industries stopped, and workers had left their posts.
Not only was the whole country not prepared for a pandemic, it was in a state of shut down, people are on holidays. The entire measures to combat the epidemic were implemented from a total cold start. The information about the situation was also very limited.
In one week, traffic began to tighten everywhere in the country. Key industries of medical supplies had resumed work.
In two weeks, from the city to the countryside, from top to bottom, south to north, east to west, a complete blockade was completed. Relevant industries in logistics were mobilized. Two hospitals were built from scratch to house over three thousand beds in Wuhan ready to treat infectious diseases. At the same time, two stadiums were vacated and equipped to treat patients having mild symptoms.
In three weeks, the supply of food and basic materials in the blocked areas was operating normally. People from everywhere volunteered to transport food and beverages, and to donate masks, medical suits to the quarantined areas. Almost every province of China convened their best medical teams each composed of around 103 staff members to go to the frontline in Hubei, the epicenter of this epidemic.
The whole process was fraught with chaos. It was messy. But before the virus could spread further, the basic goals were achieved, i.e. to quarantine Hubei province and everyone else stayed indoors while suspected cases were singled out and quarantined all over the country. Commodity prices in the meanwhile were strictly regulated to ensure stability.
The strategy was quite simple: sacrificing Wuhan and Hubei province to save the country, and then the whole country put together its resources to save Hubei.
By the fourth week, companies in other industries also began to shift production to strategic materials. 278 medical teams, a total of 32395 white angels were sent to Hubei province to treat coronavirus infected patients. They are heroes.
From Chinese point of view, this was a painful, chaotic and intense process. But from another perspective, this speed was very scary. We can notice that there were two major disadvantages: there was no plan, and the society started cold.
What if there were a plan? What if it weren't a cold start?
The blockade, material deployment, personnel deployment, and strategic material production mobilization might be completed within seven days. Within 14 days, companies in other industries could start to switch to the strategic materials production.
In other words, starting from zero readiness, the government showcased the ability to complete a comprehensive social mobilization.
This societal architecture design is completely prepared for an all-out war, just that we may not have realized it yet.
Comparing to Europeans and Americans, Chinese people have surrendered a lot of personal rights to the government, including personal privacy. And in return, Chinese people ask for their government to continuously improve their lives and to protect them in catastrophes.