Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left, the director-general of the World Health Organization, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday. (Naohiko Hatta/AP)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left, the director-general of the World Health Organization, with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday. (Naohiko Hatta/AP)
Jan. 30, 2020 at 3:31 a.m. GMT+8
The coronavirus epidemic in China is far more than a disease; it is the most serious challenge to the rule of President Xi Jinping and the direction he has taken China since he assumed power in 2012. The stakes are extraordinarily high. It is far too early to predict the beginning of the end of Xi’s political career, but the epidemic clearly is shaking China and Xi’s way of governance to its core.
Since the Chinese revolution of 1949, the central tension inside the country’s Communist Party has been between “reds” and “experts,” between ideology and know-how. This tension has real world significance. During the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957, as many as 650,000 Chinese intellectuals (or “experts”) were sent to China’s gulags because they were not sufficiently “red.” The Great Leap Forward marked the climax of red economic policies and resulted in death by starvation of some 30 million Chinese. The Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976 saw millions more educated Chinese murdered by gangs loyal to party chairman Mao Zedong, the chief red of them all.
After Mao died, Deng Xiaoping ended the Cultural Revolution and reappointed experts to many positions throughout China. Deng put China on the road toward economic modernization. There was an uneasy truce between reds and experts. Redness did raise its ugly head, such as on June 4, 1989, when Deng ordered the People’s Liberation Army to crush pro-democracy demonstrations throughout China, killing hundreds.
Still, the general trend in China was to favor the experts. At one point during the 2000s, all seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the most powerful political body in the country, were engineers, a clear sign that, in China, the experts were in charge. In addition, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, China’s government, specifically the State Council and the Office of the Premier, grew increasingly strong, taking more responsibility for critical issues such as the economy and reforms of state-owned enterprises. The Chinese Communist Party was still all-powerful, of course, but the government was strengthening, as well.
Xi reversed those trends when he rose to power. He gutted the power of the government by expanding the number of “leading groups” within the party, which monopolized decision-making. It was no coincidence that he appointed himself chairman of most of those groups, including ones that oversaw economic reform, foreign affairs, internal security, innovation and technology.
In 2018, Xi effectively declared himself president for life, blowing up the architecture of political succession that had been constructed by Deng. Xi also launched a withering campaign against Western ideology, even ordering censors to remove books from the libraries of Chinese universities if their content was not sufficiently red. When Robert Zoellick, the then-president of the World Bank, asked Xi what his priorities were for China’s future development, Xi replied, “the 86.68 million members of the Communist Party.” In Xi’s mind, better red than expert.
But the coronavirus has challenged the system Xi has built like nothing else has.
Xi has been forced to bow to the experts. In a move unprecedented from a man who has sought, as the Chinese say, to become “chairman of everything,” last week, Xi appointed his formerly knee-capped premier Li Keqiang to head the leading group in charge of dealing with the virus. It was Li, not Xi, who went to the virus’s ground zero in Wuhan to supervise the campaign against it.
Why did Xi permit Li to move out from under his shadow? For one, unlike Xi, Li is an expert. He has dealt with epidemics. Not once, but twice. According to Ryan Manuel, a Hong Kong-based political analyst, Li was at the helm in Henan province at the tail end of a scandal during which thousands of Chinese who sold their blood contracted HIV. In 2003, during the severe SARS epidemic, Manuel noted, Li disciplined 800 officials in Henan to enforce health measures designed to fight the disease — far more than any of his counterparts in other provinces. Chinese netizens have hinted at a second reason. “At the critical moment,” a user wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, “the person who heads a lot of leading groups is absent.” The post soon disappeared. Xi, of course, might be setting up Li as the fall guy in case the party doesn’t get the virus under control.
The best chronology to date on the path of the coronavirus, written by a Chinese reporter in Wuhan, underscores the tragic results of this battle between China’s red and experts. Within weeks after the virus first appeared on Dec. 8, researchers in both Beijing and Shanghai sequenced the coronavirus genome and confirmed the origin of the disease. Quickly, the chronology noted, China’s experts developed test reagents and distributed them to provincial centers for disease control throughout China. This was fast, professional work and it was shared with the World Health Organization.
At the same time, however, China’s reds were less forthcoming with China’s people than its experts were with the WHO. Instead of fighting the virus, the apparatchiks who take their orders from Party leaders were obfuscating, suppressing news of the virus and threatening with prosecution those who tried to break the information logjam.
On Dec. 30, the chronology notes, the Wuhan Health Commission issued an order to hospitals, clinics and other health-care units prohibiting the release of any information about treatment of this new disease. On each day between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16, the Wuhan Municipal Health Construction Commission announced that there were no new cases and no close contacts involving the virus. Meanwhile, the virus raged.
As the reporter noted, “Politics first. Stability preservation first.” This is Xi’s system. And now all of China — and perhaps Xi himself — will have to deal with its consequences.


A line to buy face masks in Nanning.

Coronavirus crisis hits global businesses in China 
BA and Lufthansa suspend flights as companies scale back operations 

Businesses have scrambled to evacuate staff and close down operations in China as fears rise over the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the global economy. British Airways on Wednesday became the first big global carrier to suspend direct flights to and from mainland China, a move followed by Germany’s Lufthansa along with its subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines. With tech groups and carmakers closing factories in China, economists warned that the country’s growth could be slashed. “The economic pain is currently being felt by businesses dependent on travel and tourism,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, which estimates that China’s growth rate could halve in the first quarter. He added that “the longer . . . factories and businesses in China remain closed, the more production will be affected too, and this will ripple out to suppliers and customers outside China”. Starbucks said it had shut almost half its 4,300 outlets in the country. Hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants and dozens of H&M and Uniqlo stores have also closed.

 Zhang Ming, an economist at government-backed think-tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warned that the virus could push China’s economic growth below 5 per cent a year in the first quarter. Jim O’Neill, former economist at Goldman Sachs and chair of Chatham House, said the crisis “could not have come at a worse time. Just as China appeared to be stabilising from its slowdown, this has caused a major dilemma not just for authorities there but also countries linked to China — not least Germany.” The official Chinese death toll from the outbreak rose to 132 on Wednesday. World Health Organization experts will meet on Thursday to consider declaring an international emergency. The number of cases in China has passed 6,000, exceeding the local total from the 2003 Sars outbreak, while 15 other countries have reported a total of 71 cases. Japan and the US have begun evacuations of foreign nationals from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the heart of the outbreak in Hubei province. Big airlines have been among the worst affected companies by the crisis, as concerns mount over the impact on global travel. The share price of BA parent IAG has slid more than 10 per cent since mid-January, while European rivals Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have also been hit. “We apologise to customers for the inconvenience but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” said BA, which has blocked out sales until the beginning of March. 

Cathay Pacific has halved the number of flights to and from mainland China, causing more than $1bn to be wiped from its market value in early trading on Wednesday. Many regional airlines have also reduced or closed routes. Six mainland provinces have told non-essential businesses to delay the restart of operations following the lunar new year holiday, including tech manufacturing hubs Jiangsu and Guangdong, which are crucial for global supply chains. Big tech groups with plants in the affected provinces include Foxconn and Pegatron, the two largest assemblers of Apple’s iPhone; South Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG; and Japanese components and machinery makers such as Murata and Japan Display. Apple warned on Tuesday that the outbreak could hit its supply chain, widening its revenue guidance to take the uncertainty into account. Recommended ExplainerCoronavirus Coronavirus outbreak: what we know so far

 George Magnus, former chief economist at UBS and associate at Oxford university’s China Centre, said the crisis could cause China to lose a “couple percentage points of GDP growth” in the first quarter. The motor industry, which has plants scattered across the region, has also been badly affected. Toyota and Hyundai confirmed that they were keeping their plants shut. Honda, Nissan, PSA and Renault have started flying out non-Chinese workers. Other companies including HSBC, Standard Chartered, LG Electronics and Facebook have suspended or restricted travel by employees to China. Hong Kong’s stock market, the first in China to reopen after the lunar new year holiday, fell sharply on Wednesday, with the benchmark Hang Seng index down almost 3 per cent. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index, which tracks the performance of large mainland companies listed in the territory, was down by a similar margin. How has coronavirus affected flights to mainland China? Airline Flying? Guidance British Airways No Bookings suspended until March Air Canada Yes Some flights cancelled Cathay Pacific Yes Halved flights to and from mainland China Delta Yes Monitoring situation Emirates Yes Screening passengers departing China Iberia Yes Monitoring situation Lufthansa No Flights suspended Swiss Yes Monitoring situation United Airlines Yes Some flights suspended Virgin Atlantic Yes Monitoring situation

Reporting by Don Weinland and Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Kathrin Hille in Taipei; Philip Georgiadis, Daniel Thomas and Clive Cookson in London; Alice Woodhouse, Hudson Lockett and George Hammond in Hong Kong; Amy Kazmin in New Delhi and Alistair Gray in New York


A woman wearing a face mask loads a shopping cart in a supermarket in Changsha, Hunan province, China, on Wednesday. The coronavirus outbreak carries significant political risks for leader Xi Jinping. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)
A woman wearing a face mask loads a shopping cart in a supermarket in Changsha, Hunan province, China, on Wednesday. The coronavirus outbreak carries significant political risks for leader Xi Jinping. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)
Jan. 29, 2020 at 8:01 p.m. GMT+8
BEIJING — As a trade war with the United States accelerated last January, Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a meeting with top Communist Party officials to warn about the surprise emergence of "black swan events" that could destabilize their 70-year rule.
Exactly one year later, an unexpected challenge did emerge — not from the halls of Washington but from market stalls in Wuhan.
While China battles a coronavirus epidemic with potentially far-reaching implications for global public health and the domestic economy, the Communist Party is also scrambling to delicately manage the political risk as citizens fume over how officials bungled the initial response to the outbreak.
“This is the kind of ‘black swan’ moment when the fundamental legitimacy of the party is at stake,” said Kerry Brown, a professor at King’s College London who was first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing during China’s last major epidemic, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002.
“It’s the moment when the party is supposed to show the merit of its highly controlled, highly coordinated system and its side of the social contract,” Brown said. Instead, “people seem to be getting more and more nervous.”
Officials warn of 'accelerated spread' as coronavirus gets stronger
The mystery coronavirus is surging across China as officials struggle to contain it, but some Beijing residents aren’t panicking just yet. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
In recent days, China’s central leaders have appeared to take a bifurcated approach to diffuse discontent: allow citizens to vent about the failures of local officials in Wuhan — who initially covered up and ignored the coronavirus — while circling protective wagons around Xi, the president who has sought to cultivate an image as a beloved “People’s Leader.”
“Public perception will be shaped by the propaganda machinery, and that machinery is going into overdrive right now to protect Xi’s reputation,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London.
As the crisis snowballs unpredictably this week, party media organs have carefully hedged Xi’s political exposure.
Xi says China will defeat 'devil' coronavirus
Russia and Hong Kong have closed some border crossings with mainland China, as more than 100 people in China have died from the coronavirus. (Reuters)
After Xi met World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday, Chinese state media initially carried video showing him telling Tedros that he “personally directed” the response to the outbreak. But later, state outlets quoted Xi saying that his administration was “collectively directing” the response.
Xi has been shown once on television, on Lunar New Year’s Day, decisively ordering the formation of an epidemic response team. But he did not name himself the head of that commission.
Chinese officials may fear a political “catastrophe” if the virus were to continue spreading to major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, said Victor Shih, an expert on the Chinese political economy at the University of California at San Diego.
“If Xi was fully confident of a victorious outcome against the disease, why not put himself in charge . . . and reap all of the glories?” Shih said.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. (Naohiko Hatta/Pool/Reuters)
Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Tuesday. (Naohiko Hatta/Pool/Reuters)
Popular faith in Xi, who has pitched his strongman-style as more effective than the decentralized administrations of his predecessors, could “evaporate” if the situation worsened dramatically, Shih added.
As nearly 55 million people adjust to an indefinite quarantine in central China and international airlines begin cutting flights to the country, frustrations have run high.
On Twitter, a service that is inaccessible inside China without the use of special software, Chinese users widely shared video of a Wuhan woman angrily wondering how the Communist Party could “build a moderately prosperous society if there were no people left.”
Others flocked to Douban, a Chinese equivalent of, where they left coded reviews about the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl.” Many linked the official ineptitude in present-day China and the Soviet Union’s final years and hinted that the Wuhan virus was something of a Chernobyl moment.
“There are so many similarities,” wrote the viewer “jianghai jiyusheng.” “Will there be a show in a few years about the Wuhan pneumonia?”
The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986 is widely seen as hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union a few years later.
By Tuesday, China’s authorities had seen enough. Censors did not take down the Chernobyl reviews outright but rendered the page invisible to anybody who wasn’t logged in with an account.
For all the public’s frustrations about their government, political observers say, many seem to be rallying around the top leadership. On Wednesday, a state-owned outlet called the Paper released a nationwide opinion survey showing Chinese broadly panning the recent performance of Wuhan and Hubei officials but retaining a high level of faith in their central leaders in Beijing.
Dali Yang, an expert on China’s politics and governance at the University of Chicago, said the government appeared to be content to let blame pile up on lower officials as long as people did not question the basic legitimacy of the party or its bureaucratic culture. And authorities seemed to even be allowing a rare degree of dissent and debate about government transparency, he said.
“Blaming the locals is a time-honored strategy,” Yang said.
People wear masks visit a food market in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Dale De La Rey/AFP/Getty Images)
People wear masks visit a food market in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Dale De La Rey/AFP/Getty Images)
Indeed, China’s Internet this week has been rife with users freely mocking the party chief in Wuhan, the new coronavirus’s epicenter, for tripping over his words about how protective masks can be produced. Others poked fun at a Hubei county that turned all its traffic lights red in an effort to enforce the quarantine.
And after citizens broadly condemned Wuhan authorities for detaining and silencing doctors who reported the existence of the new virus four weeks ago, China’s highest court stepped in and reprimanded the local police for silencing whistleblowers.
“Rumors stop when information is public,” the usually conservative Supreme People’s Court said Tuesday on social media as it urged Wuhan officials to learn a “profound lesson.”
In a state television interview this week, Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, offered to resign, saying he was willing to take the fall if that would assuage popular anger.
After the crisis subsides, the Communist Party will probably dismiss a number of local officials depending on how bad things become, said Tsang, the SOAS professor.
“They will conclude the problem was not too much concentration of power, but rather not enough concentration of power” at the top, he said. “A few officials will be held accountable. And none of them will be Xi Jinping.”

Tuesday, 28 January 2020


US accuses Harvard’s chemistry chair of lying about work for China DoJ cracking down on alleged Chinese efforts to get tech from American universities Kadhim Shubber in Washington 

US prosecutors have charged Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department, with failing to disclose income he allegedly received from the Chinese government. The complaint against Mr Lieber, a leading American chemist, marks an escalation in a Department of Justice crackdown on alleged Chinese efforts to obtain technology from US universities. Mr Lieber is accused of lying to the Department of Defense about income prosecutors claim he received from Wuhan University of Technology as part of his alleged involvement in China’s “Thousand Talents Plan”, which US officials have described as a key part of China’s efforts to gather scientific research from overseas. A public defender assigned to Mr Lieber’s case did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did Harvard University. Last year, US prosecutors filed similar charges against a University of Kansas professor.


China spy suspect casts chill over EU’s vulnerabilities German police probe career diplomat Gerhard Sabathil and his Chinese partner Gerhard Sabathil pictured at a press conference in Seoul in 2016 

Flamboyant career diplomat Gerhard Sabathil touched down in Seoul in late 2015 for what should have been a plum ambassadorial posting: EU envoy to South Korea, a crucial economic partner and strategic Asian ally. Yet 15 months later, he had left after his native Germany revoked his security clearance, the first sign of trouble that culminated this month with a series of police raids in Germany and Belgium. Authorities in Berlin suspect Mr Sabathil — who is in a relationship with a Chinese academic — of spying for China’s intelligence agency. The affair has highlighted fears about the EU’s vulnerability to the threat of Chinese state espionage, especially as relations between the two powers have become more tense. “The EU has become an intelligence battleground, because Europe is so important to China and relations with the US are so strained,” said Janka Oertel, Asia programme director at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank. “And ambassadors provide a route right to the top.” German investigators searched nine offices and homes in Germany and Belgium on January 15 as part of their probe. Prosecutors said the investigation targeted three unnamed individuals. European officials have confirmed that one of those was Mr Sabathil, who did not respond to a request for comment. Mr Sabathil, a career EU official who began working at the European Commission in the 1980s, has led bloc delegations all over Europe. A colourful figure with a fondness for bow ties, he served as the EU diplomatic service’s director for East Asia and Pacific until he moved to Korea in 2015. He was deeply interested in the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula, travelling to Pyongyang to meet North Korean officials just months before he started his posting in Seoul.  The German investigation has focused attention on his sudden departure from South Korea. The revocation of his security clearance was linked to concerns surrounding his relationship with Shen Wenwen, a specialist in China-EU comparative politics and international relations, two people familiar with the matter said they were told. Ms Shen, who has not been accused of any offence, did not respond to a request for comment. The case comes after instances in which western authorities — particularly in the US — have been criticised for their undue suspicion of people with Chinese connections. Details of Ms Shen’s background remain sketchy but according to social media profiles — now deleted — she grew up in Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan province, and studied in the country before joining Xinhua, the national state news agency. She then studied in the UK for eight years and earned a doctorate before working in Brussels in various capacities at the EU-Asia Centre think-tank, the European Parliament and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Mr Sabathil and Ms Shen appear to have known each other since at least 2013, when they were listed as co-authors on an academic paper on European foreign policy. Ms Shen left Brussels that year to take a visiting scholarship at Australian National University, in Canberra, on a European Commission-funded grant. She then moved to New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington and has also been associated with the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Ms Shen left New Zealand in 2015 to take a position as a visiting professor at a European-focused centre at Korea University. Ms Shen has lately been living in Berlin with Mr Sabathil and their children, while he has worked as a lobbyist in the German capital and Brussels, people who know the couple said. During this time, the pair have become associated with the Chinese dissident community in Germany, including Liu Xia, the poet and widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Ms Liu, who was under house arrest in China, fled the country in 2018 after her husband’s death. Organisers of an event held in Prague last April to commemorate Liu claim Mr Sabathil and Ms Shen disrupted plans for Ms Liu to speak at the event by persuading her not to attend. “He asked me if I knew what I was doing and that I risked damaging Czech-China relations,” Bill Shipsey, a convener of the Prague event, recalled of Mr Sabathil’s intervention. “I reminded him that I didn’t work for the Czech government, or the state.” Additional reporting by Jamil Anderlini in Hong Kong, Tobias Buck in Berlin, Christian Shepherd in Beijing and Primrose Riordan in Sydney

Monday, 27 January 2020


‘What if We All Get Sick?’: Coronavirus Strains China’s Health System
To fight the expanding outbreak, the country is relying on a medical system that is overburdened even in normal times.

Waiting for medical attention at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital on Saturday.Credit...Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

·        Published Jan. 27, 2020Updated Jan. 28, 2020, 1:01 a.m. ET
o     After suffering from a fever and breathing problems for more than 15 days, Xiao Shibing, a 51-year-old resident of Wuhan, China, finally sought help at a hospital. Despite the symptoms, he was not tested for the new coronavirus — a lapse suggesting that there may be far more cases of the virus than are being officially reported.
Instead, Mr. Xiao was told that he had a viral chest infection, so he went back home. As he grew sicker, he went to three other hospitals. But they told him they did not have enough beds.
Like many of the thousands of Chinese patients who are concerned about the new coronavirus, Mr. Xiao is scrambling to get help from a health care system straining to serve even the basic needs of patients.
“It is like kicking a ball from here to there,” said his wife, Feng Xiu.

Mr. Xiao, who was eventually hospitalized on Sunday — about a week after his initial attempt — still hasn’t been tested for the pneumonialike virus.
As it struggles to combat a coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 4,500 people and killed 106, the Chinese government is relying on a medical system that is overburdened and overwhelmed even in normal times. While other parts of everyday life in China have significantly improved in the past decade, the quality of health care has stagnated.
In major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, many people have to stand in line in the wee hours of the morning to secure appointments with doctors. When they do get an appointment, patients get only a couple of minutes with a doctor. During flu season, residents set up camp overnight with blankets in hospital corridors.
China does not have a functioning primary care system, so most people flock to hospitals. On an ordinary day, doctors are frustrated and exhausted as they see as many as 200 patients.
Those weaknesses are most pronounced in the poorer areas of China — like Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus. Panicked residents of the city are heading to the hospitals if they have any sign of a cold or cough. Videos circulating on Chinese social media show doctors straining to handle the enormous workload and hospital corridors loaded with patients, some of whom appear to be dead.

Despite having dealt with the SARS coronavirus nearly two decades ago, many Chinese hospitals in smaller cities are not fully prepared to deal with a major outbreak like the current virus. Wuhan hospitals have posted messages online urgently appealing for medical equipment. The situation is even more desperate in poorer, rural areas nearby.
Last week, eight hospitals in Hubei Province — where Wuhan is situated and where most of the cases have appeared — put out a call for N95 masks, goggles, surgical masks and surgical gowns. In the absence of proper equipment, some medical workers have resorted to cutting plastic folders to jury-rig goggles.

Workers in Wuhan are rushing to construct a new hospital to treat patients infected with the virus.Credit...Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that China had invested a lot in building a robust public health infrastructure in the wake of SARS and that many of them were mostly well equipped to deal with infectious diseases.
“But they apparently didn’t anticipate something so sudden, so acute and so tremendous,” he said.
The government’s response to the crisis could exacerbate the problems. Across China, the authorities are sealing off cities, closing down schools and checking on residents. But the lockdown — affecting 56 million people — could make it difficult to get medical supplies to hospitals that desperately need them.
Chinese officials have acknowledged that they are struggling to deal with the outbreak. At a news conference last week, the Wuhan health commission said there were long lines and a shortage of beds. In response, it said it had designated hospitals as “fever clinics” for people to go to for treatment.
With medical facilities in short supply, the local government has also pledged to build a new 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days, and vowed that another new 1,300-bed hospital would be ready by the middle of next month. It is taking a page out of the government’s playbook during SARS, when it built a new hospital in Beijing in just a week.
Yet it is still not clear that there will be sufficient beds to deal with the virus, which remains highly contagious.
Chen Xi, an assistant professor of health policy and economics at the Yale School of Public Health, said it was more important to have a working system of family doctors who can act as gatekeepers for the hospitals.
“Without an efficient screening process,” he said, “these two hospitals would not be very effective.”
The central government is under increasing pressure to show that it is adequately coping with the crisis. On Monday, Premier Li Keqiang, who has been assigned to oversee the national response to the outbreak, visited Wuhan to inspect efforts to contain the disease. He pledged to provide local health centers with 20,000 pairs of safety goggles.
As the government scrambles to contain the outbreak, the sick are just trying to get medical attention.
Cai Pei, 41, of Wuhan, said his wife had begun coughing and developed a fever three days ago. He wrote on Weibo, a popular social media platform, that hospitals would not admit her, and that he had difficulty finding masks and cold medicine in pharmacies.
Making matters worse, three Chinese medical companies have said that they do not have the capacity to make enough test kits for the new coronavirus, according to local news media reports.
Mr. Cai and his wife still do not know whether she is infected with the coronavirus or another more common ailment.
“Sometimes I can only hide and cry, but I couldn’t tell her and had to reassure her that it is not the virus,” Mr. Cai said by telephone. “It is very scary. If it’s real, we have a child and elderly parents at home. What if we all get sick?”
With no proven drugs to treat the new virus, the health authorities have told doctors to prescribe a combination of treatments — anti-viral H.I.V. drugs as well as traditional Chinese medicine — to patients. Some of the medicines being prescribed are a mixture of ingredients like buffalo horn, jasmine and honeysuckle as well as anti-viral H.I.V. drugs like Lopinavir and Ritonavir.
As happened with SARS, traditional Chinese medicine — an industry that the government has pledged to develop — is prominently being touted as a way to treat this new coronavirus. But there is no clinical evidence that the gallstones of cattle, the roots of plants and licorice could work in combating it.

Medical workers accompanying a patient, second from left, to a hospital in Wuhan on Sunday.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Journals have published studies by Chinese scientists saying that traditional Chinese medicine helped alleviate symptoms of SARS. China’s ministry of science and technology said in 2003 that it had found banlangen, the root of the woad plant, as well as a liquid made up of ingredients like cholic acid, jasmine, buffalo horn and honeysuckle to be effective in curing an acute inflammation of the lungs.
“There has never been a good antiviral agent, so that means that people would try things that have some effect,” said Dominic Dwyer, a medical virologist at the University of Sydney. “But there’s no evidence of significant benefits with any antiviral drugs or traditional Chinese medicine.”
The problem with finding a drug that can effectively fight an infectious disease like this coronavirus, SARS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is that it needs to be tested in sufficient numbers in a randomized way in proper clinical trials. Patients must also give informed consent.
“That is very difficult in an outbreak situation,” said Kanta Subbarao, a senior researcher on respiratory illnesses at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
In Wuhan, Mr. Xiao’s daughter, Xiao Hongxia, said her father had been diagnosed with severe pneumonia and was now labeled a “highly suspicious case.” He is relying on ordinary fever medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs, she said.
“There is no special medicine for the coronavirus so far,” Ms. Xiao said, “so we can only rely on the patient’s own immunity.”
Amber Wang, Yiwei Wang and Elsie Chen contributed research.

Bravo Wall Street Journal !

Of all the brief analyses of the Ratland health crisis that we have read lately, this one in a WSJ Editorial is far and away the best. Instead of the usual adulation about the "incredible " advances in Ratland, or guilty complicit silence about its evident colossal lacuna, the WSJ focuses on the utterly manifest flaws of the Ratland totalitarian system  - the complete lack of accountability and, more important,  the near-total paralysis of the administration due entirely to the violent and virulent despotism imposed on Chinese people by the Butchers of Beijing.

Furthermore,  the Editors place the greatest emphasis on the misallocation of resources (between health and,  say, the military-industrial complex) and the inequality between the large cities favored by the Dictatorship and the populous countryside almost entirely neglected and in a state of abject disastrous penury. Once again,  these are crucial analytical points that are either negligently or, more likely, culpably and collusively ignored by the Western bourgeois media and "experts ". 

A Made-in-China Contagion

The coronavirus is exposing Beijing’s public-health deficiencies.

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Opinion: China’s Coronavirus Exposes Beijing’s Public-Health Deficiencies

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Opinion: China’s Coronavirus Exposes Beijing’s Public-Health Deficiencies
Opinion: China’s Coronavirus Exposes Beijing’s Public-Health Deficiencies
The spread of coronavirus in China has led to a massive quarantine. However, the Government’s delayed response could have far-reaching consequences for Beijing. Image: Nicolas Asfouri
China has reported more than 2,700 infections and 82 deaths from its latest coronavirus, and some experts say there could be hundreds of thousands of cases not yet confirmed. The outbreak is exposing the vulnerabilities of China’s top-down government, and the damage is spreading far beyond the mainland.
China has been more transparent than it was with the SARS virus in 2002, no doubt in part because its leaders realize they need foreign assistance. But its response hasn’t been up to global standards, and accounts from officials seem to be changing by the hour.
Scientists suspect the virus originated in November or December at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Local officials at first downplayed the contagion risk despite evidence indicating humans could transmit the virus. The National Health Commission confirmed only last week the virus could be transmitted between humans.
The delay allowed the disease to spread rapidly as medical staff took fewer precautions. One patient with coronavirus reportedly infected 14 hospital staff members in Wuhan. Epidemiologists estimate that each infected individual will transmit the illness to two or three others. “Super-spreaders” such as doctors can pass the bug to more than a dozen.
This math may explain why confirmed cases in China have increased more than 10-fold in a week. But it also seems likely that cases were underreported from the outset. Local officials take a political risk when they highlight problems, though Wuhan’s mayor on Monday blamed Beijing for restricting information.
Beijing is now trying to compensate for its dilatory response by deploying 1,230 medical experts to Wuhan, and the People’s Liberation Army is sending 450. The Wuhan Health Commission is converting 24 general hospitals into containment units and plans to add 6,000 beds by the end of the month. Beijing has quarantined more than 50 million people—about as many as in California, Oregon and Washington combined—in cities where large numbers are infected.
Any country would struggle to cope with a viral outbreak of this scale, but the deficiencies in China’s public-health system are endemic. Hospitals outside of Beijing and Shanghai have long struggled to contain infectious diseases. China’s incidence of tuberculosis has fallen by half over two decades but is still almost three times higher than in Mexico.
China also has about 20% fewer physicians per capita than Mexico and 70% fewer general practitioners than World Health Organization standards. About 96% of its doctors are specialists because general practitioners are poorly paid. Hospitals are overcrowded, and people in rural areas rely on medieval village clinics. Doctors at a small city near Wuhan are wearing ponchos because they lack hazmat suits. Hubei province needs 100,000 suits each day, but Chinese manufacturers can produce only 30,000. Village clinics are rationing face masks.
Yet Beijing in recent years has steered tens of billions of dollars into life science parks, gene therapies, cancer research, medical devices and other expensive research to win global prestige. Biomedicine is a central plank of the Communist government’s “Made in China 2025” plan to dominate global manufacturing.
Many of China’s government dysfunctions were also apparent in its haphazard response to African swine flu, which killed nearly half of its hogs. Beijing ordered local governments to compensate farmers a modest sum for culling pigs in herds with ill animals, but most could make four times more selling them so the disease continued to spread.
China has blocked imports of some U.S. livestock for “sanitary” reasons while allowing wild animal markets that breed disease. (See the op-ed nearby.) Government officials were afraid of angering people by banning these markets, but now they’re confronting an epidemic that is undermining public order and confidence in Communist Party leaders.
If the virus spreads, China might have to resort to a draconian lockdown that could trigger a recession that its trade deal with President Trump was intended to prevent. Stocks plummeted Monday, signaling investor fear about a global economic contagion. When China sneezes these days, the rest of the world catches more than a cold.