Popular culture, competence, justice, values, and the dream of betterment may have been the pillars on which the USA’s soft power was based, but the ground upon which those stood was success. Success made the others attractive; success is the most powerful attraction. The West is losing its aura of success – endless wars, divisive politics, COVID failure, financial crises, debt. And ever more desperate attempts to hold power against ever bolder dissent. It’s just beginning. And not just the USA, the West doesn’t present well any more: protests in Amsterdam, London, Berlin; a year of gilets jaunes in France. The world is watching. Not efficient, not attractive, not law-based. Not successful. Patrick Armstrong
Because Coronaviruses have been with us for as long as conspiracies, it’s natural for people to link them. But the history of epidemics offers better explanations than any conspiracy theory and useful advice to those who study it and respond appropriately.
This is the story of two civilizations: one that studied history and one that ignored it.
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When a Swine Flu scare struck in the midst of the 1976 presidential campaign, Gerald Ford endorsed mass immunization. Surprised, the WHO, which had not been consulted, said, “No other countries have plans for mass inoculations”. But US officials pressured the WHO to endorse Ford’s decision and, “By the next day, headlines quoted WHO officials stating, ‘WHO endorses President Ford’s plan for massive inoculation against swine flu virus.’” The vaccine proved ineffectual for most and lethal for some, contributing to Ford’s loss to Jimmy Carter.
When the AIDS epidemic struck in 1981, Ronald Reagan–concluding that old people and homosexuals were dispensable while political careers were not–ignored it and was reelected in a landslide.
Since that day, governments have treated epidemics as acts of a capricious God, mumbled something about ‘a bad ‘flu season,’ and let herd immunity work its magic. Says UK Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, “I remember distinctly going to a meeting at the Cabinet Office, where we got a lecture about herd immunity. The last time I discussed herd immunity was when I worked on a pig farm 40 years ago. It was absurd that actually [you] would build up herd immunity by allowing people to die. And so, while the government was going into eugenic formulas and discussing all this stuff, they were not making adequate preparations.” And that was in Britain, with its famed National Health Service.
It is difficult to imagine how the US could have made ‘adequate preparations’ when we distrust our our medical industry, our media, and each other.
We even distrust our government. The CDC, born in 1946 as the US Army’s Communicable Disease Center, is still headed by a non-scientist Army officer. It has only ever provided surveillance, research, and advice, leaving execution to the Army’s chain-of-command. The national health department of Swaziland can probably field more public health staff overnight than the CDC.
To complicate matters, expert opinion was divided. Mainstream epidemiology and public health entities doubted–some rejected–the efficacy of lockdowns and mass quarantines as ineffectual and impracticable.
In early 2020, Tony Fauci told reporters, “I can’t imagine shutting down New York or Los Angeles, but the judgement on the part of the Chinese health authorities is that given the fact that it’s spreading throughout the provinces… it’s their judgement that this is something that in fact is going to help in containing it. Whether or not it does or does not is really open to question because historically when you shut things down it doesn’t have a major effect.”
Had Dr. Fauci studied China’s history with the virus he would know that they eliminated diseases in two years that had been endemic for a century, according to the US National Institutes of Health:An exploration of China’s mortality decline under Mao: A provincial analysis, 1950–80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331212/ “Life expectancy under Mao ranks among the most rapid, sustained increases in documented global history”.
- Prevention and Detection, led by George Gao, head of the CCDC. Dr. Gao established a 70,000-node coronavirus detection system that gives physicians one-click access to Beijing headquarters.
- Response, led by 94 million Party members, who took responsibility for shutdown logistics.
- Geopolitical Implications, led by Liu HeLiu, who also handles trade negotiations with the US and the EU, studied at Seton Hall and received his MPA at Harvard University. He has published widely on macroeconomics, industrial and economic development policy, new economic theory and the information industry. (below). Mr. Liu concluded that pandemics often shift the balance of global power and focused on exiting a lockdown at full throttle. Beijing gave him a supercomputer and a thousand PhDs to model the scenario Beijing is currently executing.
Despite repeated warningsBill Gates has warned of it regularly for twenty years. in the West, when the WHO announced the outbreak in January, 2020, Dr. Fauci announced, “The American public shouldn’t worry about the coronavirus outbreak in China. It’s a very, very low risk to the United States.. And we have ways of responding – like we did with this one case in Seattle, Washington, who had traveled to China and brought back the infection.” The President repeated his assurances.
But, while politicians ignored the virus (already widespread amongst us even thenBlood samples taken in the US from December 13, 2019, revealed high levels of Covid-19 antibodies nationwide. Serologic testing of U.S. blood donations to identify SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies. Sridhar V Basavaraju, MD, et al.), media relentlessly insisted that it was an existential threat. The fact that a huge country shut down its cherished economy convinced us that the survival of the human race was at stake. At the same time, the US added fuel to the media’s flames by predicting that the shutdown would wreck China’s economy. Nancy Pelosi cheered on the virus and the State Department circulated ‘Blame China!’ memos to embassies–official acknowledgement that drew even more attention to the outbreak.
Then, with the first domestic deaths, we demanded that governments Do Something. The UK abandoned ‘herd immunity’ as ‘insensitive’ and fired the man who proposed it.
But the CDC hung tough and moved Covid discussions to secure facilities, classified them, and released them on a need to know basis.Excess Patient Visits for Cough and Pulmonary Disease at a Large US Health System in the Months Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Time-Series Analysis. JMIR Vol 22, No 9 (2020): September It banned Covid testing and local health officials who insisted on testing for Covid-19 were served with cease and desist orders until mid-March, when media fixation on the epidemic forced the CDC to lift its testing ban.
Was there a Great Chinese Covid Conspiracy? Did the PRC trick us into emulating them? A European epidemiologist based in China suspected as much and wrote me at the time:
I find the Chinese government’s response extremely interesting, as though it deliberately exaggerated C-19. It seems the PRC is fanning fears on purpose, using maps filled with dark areas and shutting down everything everywhere–on a staggering scale. Few people realize just how big Wuhan is, and how significant Chinese New Year is in terms of people moving around and going in and out of those wet markets every day: literally hundreds of thousands of people leaving them, taking public transport, going home, exposing family and visiting relatives who in turn go to crowded areas and use public transport themselves. Comparing the paucity of cases to the population and the relatively low death rate, I suspect Wuhan was practicing for a really serious outbreak, when people die like flies. And, just as they did with SARS, the government has taken copious notes on how to improve–and showing us how China will respond.
Whether or not they intended their response as a wu-shi move on the West, China benefited greatly from it, testing their civil defense, strengthening management, and boosting social cohesion. For scope, speed, agility, sophistication, and geopolitical impact, nothing compares to it, as this chart reminds us every day:
If China’s Covid response was a conspiracy, our media abetted it by steering Western governments onto well-charted rocks, and their timing could not have been worse. In 2021, the centenary of the Party’s founding, Beijing will reveal an array of social, business, scientific, civil, military, and diplomatic achievements, including three new multi-billion dollar industries.BSN, Blockchain Services Network; CBDC, Central Bank Digital Currency; and QKCD, Quantum Key Distributed Networks. The main attraction is a fully automated Flash Gordon city, home to six million people, whisked around, mostly underground, in autonomous EVs to buildings that expect and summon elevators for them. Built to humanize urban life, its loudest sound outdoors will be chirping birds.
Efficient, attractive, law-based, successful.
Godfree Roberts publishes Here Comes China, a newsletter devoted to information our media ignores and is the author of Why China Leads the World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom.
 An exploration of China’s mortality decline under Mao: A provincial analysis, 1950–80. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331212/
 Liu, who also handles trade negotiations with the US and the EU, studied at Seton Hall and received his MPA at Harvard University. He has published widely on macroeconomics, industrial and economic development policy, new economic theory and the information industry.
 Bill Gates has warned of it regularly for twenty years.
 Blood samples taken in the US from December 13, 2019, revealed high levels of Covid-19 antibodies nationwide. Serologic testing of U.S. blood donations to identify SARS-CoV-2-reactive antibodies. Sridhar V Basavaraju, MD, et al.
 BSN, Blockchain Services Network; CBDC, Central Bank Digital Currency; and QKCD, Quantum Key Distributed Networks.