BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
When news of the coronavirus broke, world leaders from China’s President Xi Jinping to even U.S. President Donald J. Trump assured everyone that the disease would be slowed once the weather started warming up in China.
The logic was simple: the coronavirus affects the respiratory system in human beings. When the weather is cold, it places strains on the human respiratory system, making someone more susceptible to the spread of the coronavirus. Warmer weather ameliorates that–at least in theory.
Yet, other medical professionals, such as Thomas Bollyky at the Council of Foreign Relations (and he is by no means alone in this) are skeptical that the warming weather will stop the spread. As am I.
The Diplomat reported that “storm clouds were gathering” over Singapore. The iconic city-state is an integral component of not only the regional southeast Asian economy but the world economy. It is a trading hub and highly susceptible to a pandemic–especially being so geographically close to China, the source of the outbreak.
So, the great hope among the leaders and people of this cosmopolitan dynamo located at the prosperous maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, is that the disease will be contained both by China’s attempts to quarantine the disease as well as by the warm weather. Because, if the coronavirus is not contained by China’s government and warming weather in the region, then tiny Singapore will be hit hardest.
Here’s what the photojournalist, Robert Bociaga, the writer of The Diplomat piece on Singapore had to say about the economic impacts that the disease has thus far had on the tiny city-state’s economy:
Inevitably, tourism has been badly affected, and that, combined with the fall in domestic consumption and outward trade, is forecasted to translate into much weaker economic growth. Singapore downgraded its range for the expected change in annual gross domestic product to between a 0.5 percent drop and a 1.5 percent gain.
Despite the fact that the economy grew by 1 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of last year — better than the earlier estimate of 0.8 percent by year — Prime Minister Lee fears that the coronavirus could bring a recession and a biggest deficit in 10 years. This might prompt central bank easing. The Monetary Authority of Singapore will publish its semi-annual policy review as late as in April. In the meantime, it has declared that its monetary policy position and inflation forecasts remain unchanged.
The Singapore government should get ready for much worse to come. In fact, the entire world should be prepared. Hopefully the “experts” are correct; hopefully by the summer, the spread of the coronavirus slows down a bit.
But, if my concerns prove out, it won’t just be Singapore’s economy slowing down as the disease spreads. I suspect that warm weather will do little to slow the spread of the disease and that, the longer the disease persists in China and more and more people are revealed to have the infection, the pandemic will be here. This is especially so as the world medical community insists that it will not have a cure for the pernicious disease anytime soon.
The Pathology of Xi’s Lies
Thus far, all of the assurances about the coronavirus have fallen flat. Xi Jinping’s government assured the world that they had it under control. And, as they were issuing such assurances, the number of infected spiked. Beijing told us that the disease was contained to Wuhan, the city in Hubei Province where the disease emanated.
It turned out that as many as 5 million people from the hot-zone may have managed to escape the area before China could quarantine the region of 40 million inhabitants (roughly the same size as California, in terms of population).
Then, we were told that the disease would not spread beyond China. Since December, various reports have proven that claim totally false. While not yet a global pandemic, the world’s medical community is holding its collective breath. Everyone is just waiting for the other disease ridden shoe to drop.
Speaking of false assurances from the Communist regime in China: the Chinese government (and the pliant, compromised, and unthinking Western media and academic elite have accepted) asserts that the disease emanated from a meat market in Wuhan that sold exotic animals–and had very low health standards. They point to the sale of bat meat, specifically.
Yet, as I’ve been reporting, Wuhan is the central hub of China’s ongoing bioweapons program. In fact, a Chinese military-affiliated virology lab is a mere 300 yards away from the meat market in Wuhan where the bad bats were sold for human consumption.
In other words, don’t even buy the Chinese regime’s official explanation for the cause of the disease.
Oh, yeah, and the CCP has been caught downplaying the start of the disease. The CCP officially acknowledged the presence of the coronavirus (coded CoVID-19 by medical researchers) in early January of this year. Beijing then went to the international community and begged for assistance in resolving the crisis medically. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the West’s naïve scientific and corrupt media elites began drooling over China’s calls for “openness” on the disease (which may have resulted from incompetent Chinese bioweapons research). Don’t be fooled, though, the calls for more information sharing were entirely self-serving on the part of Xi Jinping’s government.
This era of good feeling was short-lived, however, as skeptics like myself were proven correct. The death of Wuhan-based ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang in early February of this year, proved that the CCP had been lying to the West about the timeline of the coronavirus outbreak.
As it turned out, Dr. Li was diagnosing the coronavirus at his hospital in Wuhan as early as December.
Li was accosted by the CCP’s minders after he sent a private message to fellow doctors warning them about the infectious disease that had appeared in Wuhan; insisting that his fellow medical professionals take all necessary measures to protect their own respiratory systems from infection as they treated what was sure to be increasing numbers of Chinese infected with the coronavirus (which the Chinese government had yet to officially acknowledge).
Li was accused of “rumormongering” and was punished by the CCP for trying to warn people about the disease (in pandemic situations, awareness and the sharing of accurate, easily understood information with as many people as possible is essential).
Despite having been confined to an ICU bed in an isolation ward in Wuhan, Li continued documenting the pathology of the coronavirus in his city via internet videos distributed to the BBC World News Service. The CCP fought him at every turn and did whatever it could to silence his truth-telling.
This is why, upon Li’s death, the Chinese people began protesting and the 34 year-old Dr. Li was compared to the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square: standing up to a totalitarian regime that spreads lies and hurts its own people–while threatening the world.
Since Li’s death, it has since been discovered that the Chinese government has been exposed as being totally unprepared for the national health crisis. For example, the face masks that medical professionals, Chinese officials, and ordinary citizens have been ordered to don have been revealed to be totally ineffective in protecting one’s respiratory system from the coronavirus.
It was also determined that there were insufficient number of face masks and medical supplies on hand–and there continues to be severe shortages of medical supplies. More importantly, the medical testing kits required to determine if someone were infected with the coronavirus in the field were in dangerously short supply. Oh, yeah, and according to medical professionals in the West, the Chinese methodology for determining infection are also inadequate.
So much for the glories of central planning, eh, comrade?
And, as for the pathology of the disease itself: the Chinese officials charged with tracking the disease outbreak and relaying it to the international community have been compromised.
First, we will never know for sure if the Chinese government has been honest about the numbers of people infected and the mortality rate of the disease.
Second, the number of infected in China jumped by more than 14,000 after the Chinese government “adjusted” the metrics for determining infected on February 12–spiking the number to nearly 60,000 people infected in a 24-hour period.
Third, as Reuters has reported (and Chinese on the ground in Wuhan have reported over social media):
I’m reminded of that old quip about there being, “Lies, damned lies, and there’s statistics.”
The CCP is notorious for cooking their books, whether it be their GDP numbers or military spending, in order to shape international and domestic audience perceptions. Anything that can benefit or empower the CCP will be championed and all other data will be treated as direct threats to the survival of the regime.
In essence, friends, Communists lie. It doesn’t matter if they’re Soviets; or Stalinist cults of personality, like the regime of North Korea; or “State Capitalists” like the regime in China. Communists lie to survive and remain in power.
Everything about this disease is wrong. It doesn’t make sense and everything that’s being said in official media is either total lies or seriously compromised data, since the source of most of that information remains the self-interested CCP.
Bear this in mind: the leader of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus faced a recall petition after he met with China’s Xi Jinping and, afterward, refused to declare the coronavirus outbreak in China a “global health crisis.”
Even Western scientists, who are usually blinkered by the false notions of the CCP’s technocratic genius and lure of Chinese funding, were skeptical about The WHO chief’s refusal to acknowledge the potential threat that the coronavirus posed the world.
I wonder why the WHO chief flew to China personally to meet with President Xi and after a long meeting behind closed-doors, came out singing praises about the glories of Xi Jinping’s leadership?
I wonder what threats were issued to the WHO Director-General in the course of that meeting.
If only the United States had an immense electronic surveillance capability that could have possibly eavesdropped on that meeting to learn what was said…oh, well…
Here is Laurie Garrett writing in the pages of Foreign Policy from a few weeks ago with an excellent assessment of the matter:
Scientifically, the containment strategy rested on a crucial assumption: The virus could spread from one person to another only if the source had a fever. Temperature checkpoints were thus erected across the nation, along highways, at entrances to large buildings, at all points of transit, even in the hands of police patrolling urban streets hundreds of miles away from Wuhan. Trains, airplanes, buses, and highways were shut down entirely. By identifying every single person in China who was running a fever and placing them in quarantine, the virus would no longer spread, and soon the epidemic would be over.
But by Feb. 3, there was evidence that people who had no fevers, only mild forms of coronavirus illness, could pass the virus to others. And one such person might infect two—even four—other people. Not only could the virus spread through cough droplets, saliva, or nasal fluids, but feces also tested positive for contamination, raising the specter of oral/fecal transmission via handled, uncooked food. Worse, the duration of this mildly symptomatic, potentially infectious incubation period might be very long—up to 24 days. Suddenly, the coronavirus didn’t look much like SARS, which had an incubation time of about three days and was only infectious from febrile individuals. No, this new virus looked more like influenza, which can be spread from a person with no symptoms to another via a handshake or shared airspace. But even then, the comparison fails because few people incubate flu for more than 24 hours, much less 24 days.
Not only has the Chinese government lied about the initial outbreak of the disease, its cause, as well as the number of people infected, but they have also been completely wrong about the transmission of the disease.
All of their containment strategies were based on the wrong notion that the disease would not spread like influenza does.
In a crisis such as this, information dominance is key to stem the potential outbreak to the rest of the world. Yet, the CCP has striven for information dominance for a different reason: to deprive its critics of weapons with which to rightly bludgeon the twisted regime for its shabby handling of this crisis as well as so many others that have afflicted China recently.
Here is Laurie Garrett again with a realistic assessment, confirming that which I’ve been saying for weeks now:
Even if the coronavirus disease kills only 1 percent of its victims, 1 percent of 60 percent of 7 billion people is a staggering death toll, placing the coronavirus alongside the three biggest pandemics of human history—the 14th-century plague, the 1918 influenza, and the current HIV/AIDS toll.
Of course, this could be avoided if the regime would just tell the Truth about the disease–not just the outbreak pattern, but the source as well. So long as the regime in Beijing continues to lie about what is happening in Wuhan; as long as they refuse to acknowledge the extent and duration of the disease and continue manipulating data being disseminated to the international community a greater outbreak–a pandemic like the Spanish Flu–is headed our way.
A Final Thought: Where This Is Going
This, then, moves us into the next and final part of the piece: the impact on global markets and international politics.
The coronavirus–and the poor handling of the outbreak by the Chinese government–is an inherently destabilizing event. It will not stop and, so long as the regime continues its behavior, it will not be stopped.
As you saw from the Singapore example above, the coronavirus has immediate, stultifying impacts on the economy in the near-term. The more exposed a country is to international trade and globalization, such as Singapore (or the United States) is, the more exposed to economic decline caused by the shabby response to the coronavirus on the part of the Chinese regime a state is.
We’ve already seen the impact on oil prices worldwide, as China has been forced to turn tankers away due to the coronavirus outbreak. This has caused a sharp drop in demand, causing a massive slowdown.
As I wrote in 2016 in an article at this site entitled “They Were Wrong: Forget Brexit, Focus on Slowing Chinese Demand,” the only thing that could be the equivalent of the “surprise” the world’s elite encountered with the election of Donald Trump or the “Brexit” decision would be if something befell China’s seemingly boundless demand, which would naturally pull down the rest of the world.
Well, it seems that I was onto something.
Of course, it remains to be seen, though, if the coronavirus is merely the end of Xi Jinping’s reign or if it truly collapses everything. I am usually skeptical about apocalyptic scenarios such as the latter. And, whether China continues its meteoric rise as a near-peer challenger to the United States or it collapses, it will remain a threat to U.S. national interests over the long-term.
There is already a global deceleration underway thanks to the coronavirus and the Chinese government’s inept (and corrupt) handling of it.
As Vandana Hari of the Singapore-based private energy intelligence firm, Vanda Insights, wrote in the Nikkei Asian Review recently:
In the meantime, OPEC is worried about the slump in Chinese oil demand pressuring oil prices below the pain threshold of its members. An emergency meeting of technical experts over February 4-6 recommended a deepening of collective output cuts to 2.7 million barrels per day in the second quarter from the cut of 2.1 million barrels per day agreed for January-March.
OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, was looking for quick action, presumably to stem the downward spiral in crude prices. However, non-OPEC heavyweight Russia, which has been a relatively dovish counterforce in the alliance, asked for more time to decide, leaving the proposal in limbo.
If the global economy decelerates in 2020, defying earlier predictions of a slight improvement from 2019, OPEC and allies would need to guard against propping up crude too much. It would not be in their interest to have prices so high that it slows down recovery from Covid-19, especially in China and broader Asia, their most important market.
At the same time, if crude prices stay at current levels or continue sliding for a prolonged period, they could batter OPEC economies and tip over a handful of oil-rich countries in the Middle East and North Africa that are already struggling with regional political conflicts, violent domestic strife, or both. These include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria.
Whatever ultimately happens, it is important to understand that the coronavirus is not going away and that, unless major changes are made in the way that China is handling the information flows and response to the disease–and unless world governments force China to respond more effectively–the disease will become the next Spanish Flu. This will force sterner measures to be taken by world governments to stem the spread of the disease, including severe travel restrictions.
Inevitably, the world supply chain that is so readily dependent on China, will need to be moved away from the country. This will be a huge undertaking that will cause massive declines in the world economy, notably America’s in the near-term.
As I wrote earlier this week, the Great Global Contraction has begun and the coronavirus was the last straw. The end of globalization is at hand and a new paradigm is being birthed.
Are you ready? (Because world governments are not).
Of course, there will be financial opportunities ahead, but navigating these troubled waters will require insights that our stilted neoliberal transnational elite are utterly incapable of providing. Whatever opportunities may exist for investors and nations, it will require a total paradigm shift in thinking and that will require courage and leadership.