Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Six questions for Xi Jinping

Nearly three weeks ago, historian Niall Ferguson posted six questions that Chinese political leader Xi Jinping needs to answer about this coronavirus -- not in any expectation of them being answered, but instead to highlight how far China still seems to be from enjoying the free and open society at which it sometimes poses. (Ferguson has since been updating the questions online as new information comes to hand.)

At times like these, they are the sort of questions we would expect to see New Zealand's largest trading partner to be answering openly ...
First, what exactly was going in Wuhan that led to the initial emergence of Sars-CoV-2?...
Second, how big a role did the central government play in the cover-up after it became clear in Wuhan that there was human-to-human transmission?
Third, after it became clear that there was a full-blown epidemic spreading from Wuhan to the rest of Hubei province, why did you cut off travel from Hubei to the rest of China — on January 23 — but not [it appears] from Hubei to the rest of the world?
Fourth, what possessed your foreign ministry spokesman to start peddling an obviously false conspiracy theory on social media and why has he not been fired?
Fifth, where exactly are the tycoon Ren Zhiqiang and Wuhan doctor Ai Fen, to name just two of the Chinese citizens who seem to have vanished since they expressed criticism of your government’s handling of Covid-19?
Finally, how many of your people has this disease really killed?
As the full answers are finally revealed, as they undoubtedly will be, we will almost certainly see revealed the true nature of this Chinese government, with whose people we do so much business.

And there is perhaps a final question for our own government. Since Taiwan (aka the Republic of China) and South Korea have both successfully focused on widespread testing and high-tech contact tracing rather than "lockdowns" and house arrest as China did ... with both the RoC and SK performing markedly better than the People's Republic of China only a few hundred miles away ... why is it that we seem to be taking the more authoritarian lessons from the latter, while ignoiring those of the former.

In short, as Niall Ferguson asks [VIDEO], why is it that so many western nations seem to be taking their lessons from the wrong China?


  1. People in western countries would probably not put up with "high tech contact tracing" such as done in Taiwan and South Korea, as it is not voluntary, and more to the point, they are just not set up for it. These systems were ready to go there in those nations as a result of their experience with SARS. Places like NZ and Australia would have a chance to do such things if their culture and laws permitted it (I doubt they do) due to the low numbers of cases. In the US, that's a hopeless endeavor now. Testing and contact tracing of any type could never, ever catch up. Wishful thinking.

    1. Be interested to see how Australia's experiment with it goes. I haven't studied it in detail, but in principle there's nothing wrong with an opt-in approach. And a friend who does study such things went "under the hood" and reckons there are no obvious back doors or other security issues ...

    2. PS: And as Eric Crampton was saying this morning, if there *is* a multi-billion dollar pricetag on locking us all up instead of decent contact tracing, then even a billion dollar tracing app would be a bargain.


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