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Samizdata quote of the day

The Chinese regime has a deadly calculus put before it, weighing up between suppressing numbers to save face or stopping the epidemic and potentially more deaths. A public choice theory disaster played to the extremes.

It would be nice to say, “well let’s wait and see how they manage it” as many reporters say. But if we still do not know the whole story about how the government managed SARS there’s no guarantee we will know how they managed this epidemic. Worse still, if another epidemic arrives down the line then we will not be anywhere closer to learning from past mistakes.

It would be nice to counter the propaganda videos circulating with facts about how well the government is managing the crisis but sadly this is not possible. All this proves to demonstrate the risks of a state that plays by its own rules, and is unaccountable to the very people it is supposed to serve.

Charles Paice

38 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    The Chinese doctor who warned people about the disease was threatened by the Chinese police – they told him to shut up or face arrest (people who are arrested may be murdered or even used as involuntary organ donors). His speech was not deemed useful by the rulers – so he had no right to express his opinions.

    The doctor is now dead – he died of the disease he was trying to warn people about.

    Still the People’s Republic of China is not the only country to punish the expression of opinions. I can remember when Switzerland was a conservative country – but yesterday the people of Switzerland (after many years of “education” by the media as well as the schools and universities) voted to make the expression of anti Progressive opinions (in this case on homosexual acts) a crime – punishable by up to three years in prison.

    Essentially only the United States of American has a First Amendment – the protections of Freedom of Speech in other countries carry “small print” qualifications (such as “subject to law” – which means “you have Freedom of Speech – to say things that the establishment elite agree with, but not to say things that the establishment elite do not agree with”) which make them worthless.

    Of course – if the Democrats win in November the 1st Amendment will be as dead the 10th Amendment. Because the Dems will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will declare that “Hate Speech” (i.e. speech the left do not agree with) is not covered by the 1st Amendment.

    Then the United States of America will become like the People’s Republic of China – and (tragically) most of Corporate America (and many of the individual rich) would SUPPORT that.

    For example, Michael Bloomberg is quite open in his support for the PRC dictatorship (which he denies is a dictatorship) and his believe that ordinary people are not fit for liberty – and need (for their own good) the government to control every aspect of their lives. He no more believes in the 1st Amendment than he believes in the 2nd Amendment.

    Sadly Mr Bloomberg is not the exception – he is the norm among the international establishment elite. Their hatred of liberty is total – at least as regards ordinary people.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Something else to think about- one reporter in The Australian newspaper is talking about the anger of the people of China towards the communists- because their is a military research base near Wuhan that deals with infectious diseases, and they think the virus might be something that escaped from it! The cult of secrecy is to blame. The government could be totally innocent, but the average person in the street would find that hard to believe.

  • Fred Z

    The comfort and wealth of my Chinese nomenklatura, and me, is a thousand, million – fold greater than the lives and health of every fucking one else on the planet.

    And fuck them others up the arse as well.

    —Xi Jinping

    PS: Piss off too.

  • Ferox

    It seems like perfectly rational behavior from the Chinese government to me.

    The political credibility of the regime is much much more valuable to them than the lives of a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand, people. Their revealed preference for face over (other) life is showing clearly.

    And this is not anything new with the Chinese, or with socialist regimes through history. Why is anyone surprised?

  • Penseivat

    The deaths in China are no more than acceptable casualties in the game of keeping their brand of communism going. The same in North Korea, where there are no reports of coronavirus illnesses or deaths. What about Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and Iraq? While more open, western, media is screaming that the sky is falling, the more repressive regimes are keeping quiet, or playing it down so that their regimes can continue. I wonder if Muslims are aware that, when they get to their paradise, the 72 virgins will all be wearing hazmat suits – for eternity!

  • Jacob

    We all hate vehemently authoritarian and totalitarian regimes like China’s, and for very good reasons. Still, using every calamity (like this virus) for propaganda against the regime and vociferous denouncement of it is way over the top. Blaming anything on the regime is nonsense.

    This epidemic is a natural disaster, it has nothing to do with the regime. Natural disasters occur regardless of regime. They are not caused by the regime. Has the Chines Government handled the outbreak poorly? Probably. All governments (Chinese or otherwise) handle everything poorly.

    I don’t see how the US gov. or UK gov. would have acted differently than the Chinese one, or how they would have fought or stopped an epidemic more efficiently. All governments usually fail in such circumstances, and probably – not much could have been done anyway. It is a F**king Natural disaster not a man made one. (Unlike – say – the Gulag or the “great leap forward” or the “cultural revolution”).

    The Chinese gov. lied? Sure. All governments lie. The Chinese one probably more than others, but this did not cause the epidemic. I really don’t see how any other government could have stopped the plague.

    I hate when every natural disaster (like the recent Australian fires) is used to promote climate-change propaganda. So, stop using the coronavirus epidemic as a vehicle to promote anti PRC propaganda.
    Reserve the anti-PRC noise for cases where there is real PRC wrongdoing.

  • I don’t see how the US gov. or UK gov. would have acted differently than the Chinese one (Jacob, February 11, 2020 at 10:45 am)

    I do: they would not have sent the police after the alerting doctor. (They might also focus more on disinfecting areas of high risk than areas of high visibility.)

    After the Russians encircled German 6th army at Stalingrad in late November 1942, the steady trickle of Russian deserters continued to cross over (into what was now a giant trap) for some time afterwards. These deserters were astonished to learn from the Germans that what their commissars had been loudly and triumphantly saying for the last few days – that the Germans in Stalingrad were encircled – was actually true. A few Germans captured by the Russians at that time also noted a certain cautious desire for confirmation, and even surprise at getting it, on the part of ordinary Russian soldiers, and one relatively high-ranking officer who fell into Russian hands noted that his NKVD interrogator cautiously but clearly began by checking with him that the encirclement was real before getting down to business.

    There are obviously two messages one can take from this story. Those Russians who were so cynical about communist propaganda that they deserted to the Germans in late November or even on December 1st were making a very bad choice. However there is another message – one the Chinese regime would (but will not) benefit from pondering.

  • staghounds

    Jacob is probably right about how we would handle an outbreak. Look at the joke Ebola response, and the non response to our ongoing domestic insurgency.

    But he’s wrong about the other, any stick will do.

  • Gene

    Like Jacob, I too believe we should restrict the usage of our anti-PRC rhetoric: It should only be allowed on days ending in y.

  • Sam

    Jacob wrote “It is a F**king Natural disaster not a man made one.

    I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on that one. The fact that the only lab equipped to handle and research epidemic-grade viruses in China happens to be at ground zero for this outbreak could very well be coincidence, but how much real money would you bet on such?

  • bobby b

    Certainly seems to have taken the Hong Kong protests right out of the news.

  • Jacob

    If the epidemic was caused by an accident in a Chinese military lab – it is still an accident… not a regime failure. Many countries have bacteriological warfare research centers. Accidents can happen.
    But this is an unproven conspiracy theory. If this is a weapons-grade virus it is very weak indeed for such category.

  • Jacob

    “any stick will do”
    For the pre-convinced…

    I believe criticism should have a solid factual base … It should not be just a “two minutes hate session”.

  • On the one hand, I would agree with Jacob that it seems unlikely this was the result of conscious biowar activities, and also that criticism should be fact-based. On the other hand, this article (h/t instapundit) suggests many in China feel there is a factual basis for much criticism of how the regime has handled it.

  • Sam

    “Fact based” criticism? Where are all of you getting your facts about corona-virus cases and deaths? Oh right, the same murky bucket of speculation and suspect counting of an inherently difficult-to-quantify epidemic that everyone else is drawing from. It’s all speculation at this point and we’re forced into balance-of-probability SWAGs, and given the nature of the autocratic PRC – including its history of killing tens of millions of it’s own citizens – and the mounting video evidence and testimonials from people who bear personal risk by speaking out countering the “official” narrative, it’s not Alex Jones crazy to consider the PRC had nasty stuff that they accidentally released.

    And if you accidentally hit someone with your car the courts don’t usually say, “oh well, shit happens right? No need to attribute responsibility.”

  • If this is a weapons-grade virus it is very weak indeed for such category.

    Sure, but as we know with more severe (but natural) viruses such as Hantavirus, Ebola, etc., if it is too strong it kills the host before it can propagate and effectively burns out too quickly to cause more than localised tragedy.

    It also depends upon what your aim is with such a virus. If it is to cause fear and disruption to prevent regime change then maybe COVID19 is doing exactly what it is intended to do?

    Without an inquiry and full disclosure (that we will never receive from the Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks), it’s very difficult to dismiss your “conspiracy theory” with prejudice.

    Even based upon the current “official” CCP numbers released (which we know are being underplayed and under-counted, if not explicit lies), the linear progression of the disease, even under fairly ruthless containment is worrying.

    Why would the CCP lock down 400 million people in numerous cities if it wasn’t “just a bit worried” about this thing getting out of hand?

    What do they know that they aren’t telling the rest of the world?

  • Itellyounothing

    Misplaced, the Communist version of Peter and the wolf must be very very different.

    Jacob, it’s pandemics and other disasters that remind us even the bloated freedom hating governments of the West aren’t as bad as communism.

  • Deep Lurker

    We shouldn’t forget the possibility that the Chinese regime isn’t lying to conceal the truth, but rather is lying because it doesn’t know the truth either.

    It’s more comforting be believe that the Chinese Bosses know the truth and so that learning the truth merely requires choking it out of them. But it’s actually more likely that they don’t know either. That no one knows, because everyone creatively edits their own pieces of the puzzle before passing them on.

    That’s what happened in the old USSR, after all.

  • Perhaps that is why the increase in the numbers has gone up by 2.1% every day like clockwork? Maybe the Coronavirus is smart enough to be able to count? 😆

    A more likely alternative is that the Chinese cannot publish the real numbers, possibly because they would lead to panic, possibly because they don’t know the true numbers.

    Neither of which is particularly encouraging…

    I don’t think anyone outside of China should panic unnecessarily, but the Chinese numbers are bogus regardless.

  • Jacob

    The important point is that this is a NATURAL disaster (as opposed to man-made).
    The Chinese are doing their best to fight it. They may be inept, inefficient, lying etc. But that is standard fare for government employees.
    It is easy to criticize in retrospect. It is not easy for a government or party employee (or district CPC secretary) to decide to quarantine a city of 11 million (to do it in middle December rather than in January, as critics suggested). Probably also among the doctors there were different opinions.
    Imagine someone deciding to quarantine Chicago or London…

  • It is easy to criticize in retrospect.

    This is neither criticism in hindsight nor in retrospect it is direct day-by-day criticism as it happens as the stats are published.

    We’ve been calling the numbers bullshit since they first started publishing them. They are still bullshit.

    As for the ability or inability for members of the PRC nomenklatura to quarantine a city, given that they were arresting the doctors trying to manage the disease at first hand, again that is bullshit.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Jacob — good-faith question: In your own judgment, was Chernobyl a natural vs. a manmade disaster (or not actually a “disaster” at all)?

  • Jacob — good-faith question: In your own judgment, was Chernobyl a natural vs. a manmade disaster (or not actually a “disaster” at all)?

    No doubt Jacob will follow the official party line as reported in Правда and Известия* that the incident at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl was entirely the result of sabotage by the Western Imperialist Powers and their Capitalist running dogs**

    * – As the old Russian saying goes “there’s no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia”
    ** – Other types of running dog MAY be available, for more information visit your comrades at the Ministry of Supply, Dzerzhinsky Square, Moscow

  • Julie near Chicago

    JG, I don’t see what’s wrong with capitalist running dogs. Philosophically I’m a capitalist, and I suppose the Luce would inherit my views as I am (was) her loving mother. And she was surely a running dog whenever she got the chance. (Also wagged her tail often, and would jump up happily on anyone who would permit it. 😀 )

    And I promise you (and Very Indelicate Linen) that neither of us got within 5,003 miles of Chernobyl.

    I say Izvestia and Pravda are the lackeys of Communist laughing hyenas. And just as nasty. 👿 😎

  • Jacob

    Julie: “Jacob — good-faith question: In your own judgment, was Chernobyl a natural vs. a manmade disaster”

    Since Chernobyl was a man-made plant it surely was a man-made disaster. In this respect it was different from the CORV19 virus epidemic. The virus is a natural disaster, not man-made.
    Still Chernobyl was different from what I meant by “man-made”. Chernobyl was an **accident**, it was not intended to happen.

    By contrast – the “kolhoz collectivization” the Gulag, or the “purges” or the “cultural revolution” in China – they were deliberate murderous policies and acts carried out by the regime. They were the ultimate man-made catastrophes. They were intentional. It is for such acts that we should employ our strongest condemnation of the regime.

    In the Chernobyl disaster the ineptness of the actors (officeholders of the regime) was the main culprit, rather than the regime’s viciousness. Accidents happened and happen also under other (better) regimes (like the Three Mile accident). Other regimes are also inept, nobody’s immune to it. Some more than others, a difference of degree…

    And, I must add, once the accident at Chernobyl happened, the authorities took vigorous and drastic and responsible measures to plug the leak and contain the damage. (Even if they were late to make info about the accident public.)

    In the CORV19 outbreak – you can criticize the Chinese regime for not acting decisively and efficiently to contain it. You can not criticize them for causing it. And the criticism is speculative. We cannot be sure that if the outbreak had happened in another country the outcome would have been different.

    The Chinese lied about the severity and number of cases? Maybe. We don’t know. Nobody knows the true number of cases, probably the Chinese authorities don’t know either.

    China is an enormous and chaotic country. Not easy to manage, by any regime.

  • Jacob

    About listening to the doctor who first sounded the alarm. Sure, we know **now** that he was right and they should have listened. But at the true time, there were probably some other 10 doctors who had different opinions and recommendations.

    It’s like an economic crisis. After it happens you can dig out opinions of economists who predicted the crisis beforehand and urged some remedial action to prevent it (that was not taken). The opinions of economists are all over the spectrum. You know which opinion was correct only after the fact.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thank you, Jacob. I understand your distinction between “natural,” “man-made on purpose,” and “man-made but accidental.”

    As an aside, there are those who argue that Chernobyl was nowhere near as bad as is reported here. And, of course, that neither was Three-Mile Island; while others insist that the latter was proof that Nuclear Is Inherently Unsafe and was much worse than we are led to believe.

    For the record, I can understand a brief period of fear over TMI, but I don’t see any reason to use it as a poster event for Nuclear Disasters.

    Then there’s Fujiyama….

    .

    The difference with Dr. Li, of course, is that we don’t go executing people just because their opinion differs from most other “experts’.” Even John Snow, who isolated Ground Zero of the London cholera epidemic, didn’t lose his head over it.

    As I understand it, the problem with Dr. Li was that he spoke against the Party Line, at least by implication, in that he held that a competent regime would have (a) recognized that there was a real problem and (b) looked seriously for the cause of it, while reporting honestly on various theories. Whereas the PTB were at pains to make the regime out to be blameless in its handling and reportage of the epidemic.

    Although perhaps his real “crime” was insisting on his understanding of the truth in itself, without blaming anybody for misbehaviour: He just kept stating his own estimation of the facts, which happened to contradict the PTB’s. I am not sufficiently informed to have an opinion on this.

    (Aside: Yes, the EPA has not covered itself in glory in various cases, such as the mess in Colorado’s Animas River. Still, no one was excuted over it — though some call for harsh treatment of the Agency or at least what they see as inexcusable carelessness — and the EPA insists that it was not dumping toxic waters into the river, but rather that the event was an accident.)

    (I am not making a whataboutism argument; just the opposite in fact. The U.S. may not have done enough in this or that disaster, man-made or otherwise, but as a rule we don’t go executing people with different opinions or theories. Although again, it has been known to happen….)

  • Julie near Chicago

    By yhe way,

    “The virus is a natural disaster, not man-made.”

    Perhaps a fact not in evidence? Has the bioweapons facility (if such it be) near Wuhan been completely exonerated of letting a manmade virus get out of hand, not necessarily on purpose but perhaps as an accident?

  • Jacob

    I don’t know that Dr Li was executed (murdered). And I don’t know that the virus was released by a government laboratory.
    I don’t react based on wild speculation and unconfirmed imagination.

  • Sam

    I don’t know that Dr Li was executed (murdered). And I don’t know that the virus was released by a government laboratory.

    Good enough for me. So long as nobody from the PRC says “we murdered Dr Li and accidentally released something from our Wuhan lab” we can all keep chanting NATURAL DISASTER and avoid that silly habit of considering all evidence and questioning official narratives.

  • Paul Marks

    As Ayn Rand used to say – philosophy matters.

    For example, where did Mr Michael Bloomberg get his idea that there is no such thing as a dicatorship because every government must have the support of “the majority of the people” or it “would not survive”?

    Did the diseased mind of Mr Bloomberg just think that up? No it did not – he got it (directly or indirectly) from Mr David Hume.

    David Hume was deliberately trying to blur the distinction between tyranny and constitutional government – by pretending that all government (the “Sun King” of France, the Despot in Constantinople, any regime at all) “must really” have the support of the people.

    The little fact of FEAR – that if you voice opposition the regime will cut you up and cut up your family, is hid away by David Hume.

    That even some self described Conservatives can not see the evil hiding under the smiling face of David Hume bewilders me.

    “But he was a Gentleman”.

    The Devil is also a Gentleman.

  • I don’t know that Dr Li was executed (murdered). And I don’t know that the virus was released by a government laboratory. I don’t react based on wild speculation and unconfirmed imagination.

    Sure and just remember folks “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia” and nothing happened in Tiananmen Square on April 15th 1989. Absolutely nothing. The Tiananmen Square Massacre is a capitalist lie. The Anti-Rightist Struggle is propaganda. The Great Leap Forward wasn’t a mistake. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution wasn’t a Maoist lie. The Chinese Communist Party fully recognizes and supports the path to Democratization, Freedom, Independence and a Multi-party system. Tibet and Taiwan / Formosa has always been a part of the Republic of China and anyone saying otherwise will be shot. The Dalai Lama has betrayed the people of China.

    Sorry, I’ll have to stop at this point as my pants have just spontaneously combusted for some unknown reason.

    🙄

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, that’s what happens when even the dust bunnies abandon the holes in your head.

    😡 Fujiyama 😡 —> Fukushima 👿 😥

  • Perhaps a fact not in evidence? Has the bioweapons facility (if such it be) near Wuhan been completely exonerated of letting a manmade virus get out of hand, not necessarily on purpose but perhaps as an accident? (Julie near Chicago, February 14, 2020 at 2:10 pm)

    It has not been exonerated but the reported data so far seems wholly consistent with animal transfer via the Wuhan wet-market, so for most people Wuhan’s wet-market is “the suspect” with Wuhan’s biowar facility merely being “also present at the scene”.

    I don’t know that Dr Li was executed (murdered). (Jacob, February 14, 2020 at 3:42 pm)

    Neither do I know it nor have specific evidence for it. We know the doctor was hassled by the police, and some actions he argued for withheld. We know theses actions were intended to aid public safety, so their withholding risked it (assuming the doctor was well-judging, which seems likely – events are bearing out his warnings so far). Whether they went further than this by intentionally endangering his life we do not know. On the one hand, nothing is more sadly normal than for the doctor who first recognises a plague outbreak to become a heroic victim of his dedication to his work. On the other hand, they likely had a motive – he, and maybe he alone, was a record (beyond state records they can edit) of how early he warned them and how late they responded. I gather from a Chinese-speaking acquaintance who got out on the very last flight before lockdown that reports of intense suspicion of their government by Chinese citizens have much content.

    My guess FWIW is that he died of the disease, and if he had lived then the authorities might not have risked killing a possible source of valuable information, but would have made him even less free than the simple Chinese citizen he was before it started.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks for your take, Niall. I was trying to cover all the conceivable ground, with neither fear nor favor. This approach apparently does not set well with some people, whose own opinions seem often enough incongruent with one another.

    Your conjecture seems more likely to me than some of the others I’ve heard.

  • Jacob

    Here are two good articles on the epidemic and the state.
    First Nick Kristof in the NY Times.

    Second – Xu – a Chinese critic of the regime.

    Of course, if you hate the regime, like Xu (quite justified) you use every catastrophe, including natural ones to promote you opinion.

  • Sam Paris

    I’ve not been paying as much attention to this as I might, but has the PRC shut down, or at least made an effort to clean up the Wuhan wet market? Or others? (I presume there are others.)

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