Excellent Caixin piece on COVID-19: who knew what and when

Caixin recently published a good piece on COVID-19; consistent with the Chinese government’s attitude toward good information about this disease, it praised the authors and encouraged even more in-depth reporting immediately harmonized the article off the website. Here at The China Collection, however, we have a copy of the original text as well as a translation (mostly done by Google Translate, for what it’s worth).

I don’t have time to summarize the whole thing; instead, I will provide below the (very slightly edited) comments of a colleague in the China studies field:

This story needs to be known more widely. It tells us some very important details about the early days of the virus. They already had the genome sequencing of the virus as early as Dec 27, and were told by higher authorities to destroy all samples and keep all data secret on January 1. And on Jan 3 the central government issued Document No. 3 to ban testing of samples and disclosure of any findings without authorization from the highest authorities.

This means Beijing knew what was going on all along and chose to keep the public and the world in the dark instead of deploying serious efforts to contain the disease when it could still be contained locally. Its responsibility for causing this mess to the Chinese people and the world is undeniable, though these days they are very aggressive in mobilizing its propaganda machine to control the narrative about it globally. It is amazing to watch Beijing attacking travel restrictions and all precautionary measures by US and Taiwan etc. as overreaction and racist, while criticizing Japan, Korea, Italy, and Iran for being too slow and too complacent and blaming them for the recent outbreak there now, as if all countries in the world are either overreacting or underreacting and the Chinese government is the only one that does the perfectly right thing.

What is even more amazing is that the WHO appears to be playing along with Beijing’s playbook, telling the world not to overreact and downplaying the seriousness of the virus instead of urging China to be more transparent in the early days, and now accusing other countries which got the outbreaks from China for not reacting quickly and aggressively enough….

The whole thing is just dismal to watch, not only in an epidemiological sense but also in a political sense.