News & Politics

AP Report: Communist China Kept Quiet About Coronavirus Through Six Critical Days

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a medical staff member wearing protective a suit works in the department of infectious diseases at Wuhan Union Hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP)

The Associate Press has published a lengthy and detailed report on China’s failure to warn its own people and the world about the coronavirus pandemic through six critical days.

[T]he six-day delay by China’s leaders in Beijing came on top of almost two weeks during which the national Center for Disease Control did not register any cases from local officials, internal bulletins obtained by the AP confirm. Yet during that time, from Jan. 5 to Jan. 17, hundreds of patients were appearing in hospitals not just in Wuhan but across the country.

It’s uncertain whether it was local officials who failed to report cases or national officials who failed to record them. It’s also not clear exactly what officials knew at the time in Wuhan, which only opened back up last week with restrictions after its quarantine.

But what is clear, experts say, is that China’s rigid controls on information, bureaucratic hurdles and a reluctance to send bad news up the chain of command muffled early warnings. The punishment of eight doctors for “rumor-mongering,” broadcast on national television on Jan. 2, sent a chill through the city’s hospitals.

“Doctors in Wuhan were afraid,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago. “It was truly intimidation of an entire profession.”

That treatment of the doctors in the early days is key, both to understanding the culture of fear that always and forever exists under communism, and understanding how this particular pandemic unfolded in one of the worst possible environments and at one of the worst possible times. Communism always creates a culture of fear and punishment. That’s fundamental to keeping order within its totalitarian framework. That culture has existed for decades in China, and the punishment of the doctors in Wuhan reinforced it. No one wanted to run bad news up the chain of command, out of legitimate fear that they too would be punished for it. The communists literally used mass media to humiliate their best defense against the pandemic. Add to that, Beijing allowed travel in and out of Wuhan during the critical Chinese New Year period, and you have the virus exploding outward and the whole world is now suffering for it.

Read the whole thing at the link. And ponder the possibility that this virus escaped from a Chinese lab, as the U.S. and UK governments are investigating. Suppose it did. What effect might communism’s culture of fear have had on everyone who may have been involved?

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