Ol’ Blind Joe
By Stirling Hamilton
ONE CANNOT help but feel that the idea of Chinese malfeasance in all things has become so deeply embedded that to challenge any charge against China is now beyond the pale.
No claim, no matter how unfounded or contrary to fact, is too brazen to report without a moment’s consideration and may harm the career of a rising journalistic ‘star’.
Well, not this black duck, “En guarde monsieur”, my sword of Truth will eviscerate your sword of condemnation and then I’ll print the entrails.Read more
Politics and the media play a particularly inglorious role here. Instead of focusing on their own failures, the population is distracted by continued China and Russia bashing.
Our government’s approach to China is clumsy, inept and bone-headed as we watch Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison try to outbid each other to be China’s worst enemy.
Good timing Scomo.
In the middle of a pandemic, you’ve emptied the cupboard and now you wanna pick a fight with your biggest economic neighbour over an inquiry.
China last year accounted for more than a third of Australian merchandise exports and one-fifth of services trade.
Every Australian media outlet, including the ABC, has jumped on board with condemnation that China is threatening Australia while Foreign Minister Marise Payne accuses it of “economic coercion”.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye merely warned that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia as well as sales of major exports, including beef and wine.
It’s a perfectly reasonable assessment to make and to understand this you must remember that it took only two decades for 800 million Chinese to emerge from poverty and they’re pleased with that progress.
Centuries of humiliation
Chinese people suffered two centuries of humiliation while being force-fed opium as their lands were stolen and treasure plundered.
But they’ve now got pride galore in their country and governance if you accept that things can get tricky with 1.4 billion people.
Asian societies ‒ communist or capitalist ‒ know how to snap into line when facing a common threat, how to subordinate the needs of the individual to meet the needs of society.
And because the Chinese psyche fears chaos more than any other force, the people welcome a strong state.
Apart from Confucius, East Asian societies have believed in the wise insight of economics Nobel laureate Amartya Sen that for societies to succeed they need the invisible hand of free markets and the visible hand of good governance.
Where socialism encourages adherents to view the international realm as a sphere of cooperation, capitalism highlights competition and domination.
What has shocked many in Asia is the reluctance of some Western governments during the current Covid-19 crisis to allow science and basic epidemiological modelling to determine policy responses.
It highlights the contrast between the competent Covid-19 pandemic responses of East Asian governments (notably China, South Korea and Singapore) and the incompetent ones of Western governments such as Italy, Spain, France, Britain and America.
It is no accident that the US is a global leader in neoliberal efforts to reduce or privatise public services and, having proved itself incapable of mounting an effective testing campaign, now leads the world with one million Covid-19 cases.
Incidentally, the ‘wet market’ in Wuhan did not have hygiene problems. A ‘wet market’ is comparable to a farmers’ market and provides fresh products like fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
A ‘dry market’ provides complementary products such as rice, flour, tea, and sugar.
China has yet to be overrun by supermarket chains and some 40 per cent of the Chinese people source their daily food at wet markets.
When doctors in Wuhan first saw patients in local hospitals last December, they thought the patients had pneumonia.
China informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) of mysterious cases of a “viral pneumonia of unknown origin,” on December 31` when just 27 cases (and no deaths) had been identified.
The new virus was identified on January 3 and within a week, Chinese scientists had sequenced the genome and shared the data with the world.
It was unclear throughout nearly all of January whether the virus was capable of human-to-human transmission.
But by January 23, Wuhan was in precautionary lockdown though it was not until January 30 that the WHO’s international committee of experts found the outbreak constituted a “public health emergency of international concern”.
China ‘bought time’
China shut down factories and 20,000 wet markets, and 50 million people took a huge economic hit for eight weeks while government fed them and rents were forgiven.
Because of those efforts, China’s response has been lauded by the United Nations and the WHO.
Even The New York Times newspaper published an opinion piece lamenting that China bought time for the world and the US wasted it.
Back home, the tender for a Covid-19 phone app to track people’s movements was a limited, invitation-only opportunity run by Minister Dutton and awarded to US cloud computing giant, Amazon Web Services.
Australian Digital Transformation Agency bureaucrats voiced concerns about it after several wholly Australian-owned cloud storage services were security vetted for precisely such high-level contracts.
New surveillance powers tend to stick around and two decades after New York’s 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US National Security Agency is still conducting dragnet internet surveillance.”
Anyone with a passing familiarity with anti-encryption laws, Centrelink robodebt or our government’s My Health Record online service may have a question or two about its new ‘CovidSafe’ phone tracking app.
“Two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe” – German-born theoretical phycisist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) who developed the theory of relativity.