Welcome to Zooming In China. I’m Simone Gao.
As China enters its fourth week dealing with a second outbreak of the Coronavirus within its borders, the CCP has reverted to its prior tactics of shutdowns and silence. Official reports show 583 new cases last week, an 85% increase over the prior week’s total. The increase is due to the highly transmittable nature of the Delta variant, a challenge multiple countries are now navigating, including the U.S. But China remains in the spotlight with this outbreak, in large part because of their own secrecy and their own deception.
The numbers are not likely to be true. As CNN reported during the early days of the pandemic, based on leaked health data, thousands of daily new cases were not reported by Chinese health officials.
On just one day—February 10, 2020—officials reported only 2,478 cases when the total privately recorded was 5,918.
Later evidence shows even that was an underestimated number. We can be sure that the numbers being released by the CCP on this second round of infection are underreported, too.
What we do know is that the majority of the new Coronavirus cases in China are among those who have been vaccinated. One cause of that may be the quality of Chinese vaccines. As has been reported, Chinese vaccines continue to be a concern to the international community, because they have not been shown to be as effective as those produced by other nations. Still, those who have been vaccinated are showing less serious symptoms and having better outcomes than those who are not.
Despite those better outcomes, the Chinese government has returned to the strategies used during the early outbreak in dealing with this second round. The Delta variant has now been found in more than a dozen cities since it was first identified in Nanjing in late July. But their “zero tolerance”
tactics have drawn criticism. Xi Chen, a health economist at the Yale School of Public Health, told the Associated Press that “I don’t think ‘zero tolerance’ can be sustained. Even if you lock down all the regions in China, people might still die, and more might die due to hunger or loss of jobs.”
The worries he shares have been seen by university students in Yangzhou. One of those students, Zhou Xiaoxiao, told press sources that food items like eggs and other necessities were difficult to find once shoppers stocked up to prepare for the lockdown they knew would come. She also noted that the price of vegetables has risen and, while it is not a problem for her, she said “to the kind of family whose life isn’t very good and who have no income, it’s very troublesome.”
To offset the real risk of vulnerable Chinese citizens starving during these lockdowns, Xi Chen says that China needs to learn how to “allow the virus to exist” in areas with high vaccination rates and stronger health care. The Chinese leadership disagrees. Responding to the suggestion that they allow the virus to exist, former health minister Gao Qiang said that “we not only cannot relax epidemic control but have to further strengthen weak links, plug loopholes, and resolutely monitor the epidemic situation and issue early warning. This is not to ‘coexist with the virus’ but to engage in long-term struggle to eradicate the virus.”
And that is the approach they are taking. On Tuesday of last week, the Zhangjiajie government announcing that no one would be allowed to leave the city, mimicking the approach in Wuhan and other cities last year. For those who want to leave the province of Jiangsu, they must provide a negative coronavirus test taken within the last 48 hours. Flights to Nanjing and Yangzhou were cancelled. Domestic flights are allowed to leave some cities with reported cases, except Nanjing, Yangzhou and Zhangjiajie, but flights and trains coming into Beijing from areas with reported cases are forbidden. 93 highway checkpoints have been established in Jiangsu province to test drivers for Covid.
Those are just the actions that have been made public. Citizens within China are telling a far bleaker story. On a site for CCP-banned news, one author says that they are timid and afraid to resist and now the “country is closed, and I can’t leave” offering readers the advice that they should “prepare for winter and think about how to live in a black-market environment.”
Officials in Beijing have taken even more oppressive measures for those they believed helped to spread the virus, issuing warnings, fines and even imprisoning some. While the government at first said that the earliest cases of this second outbreak came from those who passed through Nanjing’s airport, and that employees may have been infected from improper handling of trash, that was later corrected to show that the virus had come from a Russian airliner that arrived on July 10th. Employees involved in the cleaning of that plane, who later gathered in improper ways in an employee-designated area, have been punished. One traveler, a 64-year-old woman suspected to carrying the Delta variant from Nanjing to Yangzhou, has been arrested on charges of hindering disease prevention. And 47 officials across China, including heads of local governments, health commissions, hospitals and airports, have been punished for negligence.
The U.S. has played no part in this second round of coronavirus transmission in China, just as it played no part in the first. Yet, instead of using the press to calm and inform their citizens, the CCP has used it to attack America, its favorite scapegoat. As the U.S. and the rest of the world seek to find the origin of the virus and the CCP’s responsibility in covering up the pandemic, Beijing launched a media and diplomatic campaign to accuse America as the maker and spreader of the virus, a familiar tactic by the CCP.
We know the truth that the coronavirus began in the city of Wuhan sometime in 2019. That it began in that region is not in question. How it started has remained a source of debate. The international community believes that the virus emerged either through transmission from animal to human in that region or from a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China, however, is claiming that American soldiers attending a military sports games in Wuhan, China in october 2019 brought the disease with them from Fort Detrick, the original location of the U.S.’s biological weapons program prior to the dissolution of that program in 1969. This is a baseless claim. The U.S., as a member of NATO, does not have a biological weapons program. No NATO member country does. What we have is a biological weapons DEFENSE program to guard citizens of this country and of the world from a potential bioterrorism attack.
China is battling the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19, as is most of the world. They are struggling to find a way to control the outbreak, just like many other nations. They are attempting to find a balance between controlling the spread through quarantine and keeping a stable economy by allowing work and socializing to continue, with proper precautions. So are the United States and our allies. So why, in the midst of a struggle common to all countries and economies, is China pointing fingers and placing blame? And why is that blame centered on a biological weapons argument?
Because the Wuhan Institute of Virology is far more than a benign research facility studying bats. It is an institute connected to the Chinese military where they are studying biological elements for use in bioweapon programs. That is the reason that several researchers at the lab became ill prior to the first identified case of the outbreak with symptoms “consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses,” according to the State Department. That is the reason for the rush to destroy records as news of the virus outbreak began. It is the reason for the resistance to any investigation, by the World Health Organization or others, into the activities there around the time of the earliest cases. And it is the reason they have tightly guarded all research from that facility.
Until now. On August 5th, CNN reported that U.S. intelligence agencies had obtained and were sorting through “a treasure trove of genetic data” that they had extracted from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. That data includes genetic blueprints of virus samples from bats and rats being studied at the lab.
There is a lot to talk about regarding this database, including the Biden administration’s approach of searching for origins of the virus based on science instead of intelligence findings. Why take an approach like that? What could it mean? We will analyze this in our next episode.
That’s it for today. As many of you may have known, we released a documentary movie on the Clean Network this week, it is part 2 of the documentary series “The American Dream Takes on China Inc”, that tells the story of a group of Silicon Valley veterans beating the CCP in the economic battlefield. We first published it on our membership website, now it is available on our YouTube Channel Zooming In with Simone Gao and Zooming In China. Be sure to check it out. And if you like our production, please sign up for our membership website or donate to me. Our website is zoomingin.tv. Thanks for watching, I am Simone Gao and I will see you next time.