Seeing what went wrong can help us beat COVID-19

Summary: As we begin the next, the third phase of the pandemic (after prevention and containment have failed), we must understand how so much went wrong. America was among the best prepared nations, now we no better than the other developed nations struggling with COVID-19. Seeing our mistakes can help us better cope. Seeing our strengths can maintain essential morale. Also, see my reading recommendation at the end.

Stop COVID-19
AdobeStock-324483863 by thanakorn.

I have written for three years about the spreading dysfunctionality of US institutions (public and private). They are falling like a row of dominoes. See this March 2019 post for a description of how and why. But in an amazing display of child-like optimism, in my worst nightmares this did not affect our core public health agencies – the CDC, FDA, and HHS. Nor did I imagine that Team Trump would ignore weeks of warnings from WHO about the severity of the danger it posed and the lessons from China about the steps needed to fight it.

Update, a devastating indictment from the WaPo: “Trump is breaking every rule in the CDC’s 450-page playbook for health crisis.

I was wrong, as described in Why is Trump not mobilizing to fight COVID-19? Whatever happens next, the first lesson we must learn is that this social decay must be stopped. The Left sees it clearly in our private sector institutions (prescribing government regulation or take-over). The Right sees it clearly in our governmental institutions (prescribing privatization and deregulation). Both serve their political interests, neither see nor have any interest in the deeper problem.

As for the epidemic, we are in big trouble. Due to the efforts of China and WHO, America (and more broadly, the West) had two months to prepare for the epidemic. WHO gave specific recommendations. Results show that time was squandered and advice ignored.

Two more notes, before discussing this institutional failure. First, I will not discuss Europe here, except to note that the rapid spread of COVID-19 shows that widespread testing is not a panacea – and that the other measures WHO recommended are equally essential.

Second, our failure to learn from China results to some degree from our belief in the “yellow devils.” Every post about China’s successful struggle was met here and on social media with knee-jerk responses of “don’t believe them, they’re lying.” Even now, when China’s success is beyond doubt (they are having difficulty finding newly infected people for their drug trials) I see this everywhere (such as this idiotic article today at National Review). A people so blinded by bias and unwilling to learn do not have a good future. Especially when a rival is a nation that, like China, has shown a high degree of competence and social cohesion under adversity.

What caused all these mistakes?

In early January, America was among the best-prepared nations for the epidemic.  Our large number of ICU beds plus our stockpiles of drugs and medical equipment (details here). Our massive wealth not just of money but also of talent and infrastructure in the health sciences. Our preparations for bioweapon attacks.

Plus we took an early lead. On January 6, the CDC issued a travel watch at Level 1 (“Practice usual precautions”) for China. On January 7, the CDC established a 2019-nCoV Incident Management group. On January 8, The CDC began alerting clinicians to watch for patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of travel to Wuhan. On January 17, the CDC issued an updated interim Health Alert Notice (HAN) Advisory to inform state and local health departments and health care providers about this outbreak and began screening of passengers on flights from Wuhan to five major US airports. On January 31, the Trump administration announced that they were blocking the entry of Chinese nationals and mandatory quarantines on US citizens returned in affected parts of China (this was widely mocked at panicky and foolish).

Yet all this early action was followed by inaction and mistakes by Federal agencies, now well known. The FDA and CDC totally screwed up the provision of desperately needed tests. Even now the CDC and FDA are announcing there is an inadequate supply of reagents used in the tests, a bottleneck that should have been recognized in January. This is inexcusable, since the rest of the world has run hundreds of thousands of tests by now.

Also, screening at airports of people from hot spots was grossly inadequate. Probably worst of all, it has long been clear that only forced quarantines (not the absurd “self-quarantines) and cordons sanitaire are the most effective containment methods. China proved their effectiveness. Yet the US government has not used them, allowing hot spots to form and the virus to spread from these. Now effective containment will probably be impossible.

The common missing element in these errors: leadership. Organizations do not mobilize effectively without strong leadership. Engrained procedures and thinking rule during even the most severe emergencies. That’s why we have elected leaders in charge of experts, not the other way around. Trump has provided the opposite of effective leadership, and this might sink his 2020 campaign. Nobody cares about his excuses – why he worried about his popularity and mocked expert warnings – during such an emergency. For details, see these devastating articles by Daniel Larison at The American Conservative: “Trump’s Botched Coronavirus Speech” and “The Writing Is On The Wall For Trump.” He gives links to other equally brutal reviews of Trump’s pathetic performance.

Update – Even the right-wing editors at the National Review believe Trump has screwed up. See their editorial, “President Trump Needs to Step Up on the Coronavirus.

Also, what happened to Mike Prence? On February 26, Trump appointed him to lead the government’s response to the epidemic. This was an opportunity for him to build a strong image with the public by exercising the necessary decisive leadership. He has been missing in action so far. Now that window has closed. Trump will have to lead; nobody wants to hear from the VP.

There is one more guilty group. We elected Trump knowing that he was a clown. He skated through the first three years without blowing himself and us up. Whatever comes next, this should remind us of why we need a President who is more than entertaining – more than a figurehead expressing our dreams. We need somebody with experience, demonstrated competence, and character. Today people like that are removed like weeds during the primaries. That is folly America cannot afford.

What comes next?

Nobody can say. Containment worked for China, Singapore, and (apparently) South Korea. Now we will see how public and private health agencies of the US respond to a mass infection. While Federal and State local governments can help, I suspect (guessing) what happens next will result from the actions at the grassroots. How hospitals and clinics, doctors and nurses, community and business leaders, and households respond. We are the strength of America. Now that our national leaders have failed us, what happens next depends on us.

Of course, the economy will have a recession. If the epidemic does not burn out quickly, there will be a depression. These are natural events for which the playbook is known and proven. Let’s hope our economic agencies – and the President and Congress – respond better than they have to the epidemic.

But above all is, as WHO’s Director-General has repeatedly said, the necessity to avoid panic and support each other. Social cohesion is the key in this crisis, as in every crisis.

It’s easy to follow the coronavirus story

The World Health Organization provides daily information, from highly technical information to news for the general public. These are the best sources of information.

Also, see the wealth of information at the CDC website, especially their situation reports.

Posts about the coronavirus epidemic.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a powerful and disturbing story about “The Birth of a Holy War.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also, see these posts about epidemics…

  1. See the ugly cost of the next big flu pandemic. We can do more to prepare.
  2. Stratfor: The superbugs are coming. We have time to prepare.
  3. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2009 swine flu in America.
  4. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2015 ebola epidemic in America.
  5. Important: A vaccine against the fears that make us weak.

The man who predicted 9/11 also predicted COVID-19

In his 1994 novel Debt of Honor, Tom Clancy described how a loaded civilian jetliner could become a powerful weapon – crashing down to destroy a giant building. In his 1996 novel Executive Orders, he describes how a president responds to early signs of a massive epidemic – a highly infectious form of Ebola. This is far worse than COVID-19, but illustrates a national application of the policies China used to contain the COVID-19 to Hubei Province.

Executive Orders
Available at Amazon.

“Therefore containment is the only option,” General Pickett went on.

“How do you contain a whole country?” said Cliff Rutledge, Assistant Secretary of State for Policy.

“That’s the problem we face,” President Ryan said. “The only way to contain the epidemic is to shut down all places of assembly – theaters, shopping malls, sports stadia, business offices, everything – and interstate travel. To the best of our information, at least 30 states are so far untouched by this disease. We would do well to keep it that way. We can accomplish that by preventing all interstate travel until such time as we have a handle on the severity of the disease we are facing, and then we can come up with less severe countermeasures.”

“Mr Presdient, that’s unconstitutional,” Pat Martin (representing DoJ) sid at once. Travel is a constitutionally protect right. … {But} Mr. President, I do not see that we have much of a choice here. …The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” …

“Thank you” Ryan said, checking his watch. “I am calling the issue on the table.”

Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Commerce voted aye. All the rest voted no. Ryan looked at them for a long few seconds. “The ayes have it,” the President said coldly. …This has absolute nad unconditional priority over any other matter.”

40 thoughts on “Seeing what went wrong can help us beat COVID-19”

  1. Mistakes are made in a crisis, people understand that, its an unprecedented crisis for this generation. Across the west and asia, leaders have made mistakes, but they have been honest mistakes for the most part.

    However, what Trump has done, stands out for it vindictiveness,this travel ban is pure lashing out, the school bully who punches his classmate when he get detention. His motivations seem to be personal, he seems to see America as an extension of himself, kind of like the way Kings before the advent of separation of powers would see the state as personified in there person. An insult to the King was perceived as an insult to the state, and vise versa.

    This “foreign” infection has made Trump look bad, Trump casts around for a convenient punch bag, o, there Europe, I’ll give them a dead arm, that will make me feel better. The man is a pompous fool, no doubt the EU will dispatch an envoy to flatter and placate, and Trump, ego assuaged, will, with a Kingly flourish, rescind his order. The end result will be more bad blood and an increasingly frayed Atlantic alliance. Or perhaps not, maybe the Europeans will not even bother, which in its own way will be worse, a real sign that the decay in relations has its own momentum. Another nail in the coffin of the post WW2 era.

    Perhaps the good things to come of this will be the torpedoing of Trumps reelection, and a renewed sense of community.

    1. Gerard,

      People said much the same about January’s travel bad with China. Now it looks bold and prescient.

      Travel bans from infected areas are SOP for this epidemic, esp. since we have such limited ability to test for COVID-19 at this time.

      I have harshly criticized Trump’s actions in this crisis, but that is imo not one of them.

      1. I personally know of 3 film productions which this travel ban has ended (2 of which I was involved in), hopefully temporally, 100’s of millions of dollars on the table, nearly all the guys working on those films are self employed, for them its immense, there not the money guys, there the joes. I feel strongly about it because its my ass on the line too.
        Maybe they would have been suspended anyway, but all I know is, day after that speech, bam, pack up and find a flight. And why not Britain? there chief medical officer said he thinks the actual infection rate it about 10,000, cause he’s all pally with Johnson, that’s why, it stinks.

        “People said much the same about January’s travel bad with China. Now it looks bold and prescient”
        Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The China ban, with the right polices might have helped, just like an Italy ban 2 weeks ago might have helped, but now? Without even a fuck you to there ambassadors? come on man that’s poor.

      2. Gerard,

        I agree that this implemented badly – Trump’s speech as terrible, and riddled with errors. Omitting Britain was daft.

        The essence of quarantines is that they hurt. It’s painful medicine, but all we have now.

        This is an old and proven playbook. I quoted last week about medieval Florence using a quarantine- and even then they had measures to mitigate the economic damage done. We can do better now, if we have the wit and will to do so.

  2. LK, it appears you need to get the President ahead of the curve a little bit. President Trump is doing more and more to meet your criticisms, but there is a bad lag. He is now about 3 weeks behind you. We need to get him to 24 hours or less.

    For those reading: This is not sarcasm. The effective policies that Trump is implementing have been discussed here after WHO has made them. But WHO has repeatedly pointed out that all the actions need to be done. To understand what this 3 weeks means is that the spread factor is about 10X in two weeks. Three weeks could mean as much as 300 times as many effected that could have been avoided.

    As has been stated by many experts, the measure of success is to take the rate of China and others and make the curve lower and quicker. Comparing the area under the curve of China and other countries will be the real measure of success. We have just finished week 1 of previous actions. It may be possible to see in the second week a measure of success. If not, two weeks from now will be a huge tell. Unfortunately, to effect this if the actions to date are inadequate will need to be implemented today. See the second graph from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

    I watched the President’s declaration of a national emergency. It is an improvement, but late. As a nation, we need to understand that our political infighting is a sign of our failure. I do not know if Friday was chosen such that a series of actions can be taken Monday. If not, Trump will have wasted another opportunity. I seldom do this, but I will be asking my Senators to ask and support Trump to increase the rate policies are implemented.

    On the personal level, I have taken to cleaning surfaces at the retail business I work to once per hour or better, or shorter when I see fingerprints on glass; then I do every counter. Does not mean much on a national basis, but then if every clerk, especially food, in the nation were to do this, it would make a difference. BTW, I also take that as an opportunity to wash my hands with the cleaner.

    YMMV

    1. John,

      I agree on all points. But there are two sins that Nature’s god always punished: slow and stupid. Trump has been both. We can’t afford that in a leader during a crisis of this magnitude.

      And what happened to Pence? I was happy when Trump appointed him as the captain of this play, having more confidence in him than Trump. I’m disappointed.

    2. Larry, I am disappointed too. Pence obviously likes to work from the shadows. He did have some important points at today’s White House press conference. I agree as appointed by the President to lead, he needs to do more. This does not excuse Trump, IMO. I will include to Graham and Scott the recommendation that Pence start holding press conferences along the lines of Nikki Haley. In fact, I will suggest that with her experience, she should become the President’s spoke’s woman? and let Pence do what he does best.

      Larry, what do you think?

    1. To me, Trump looks to be tentative. Everybody needs to recognize that when the experts state there will be mistakes, it is true. Calling out such mistakes is not finger pointing, it is a call to exert more effort. As a professional responding to emergencies, I can tell you that there are reasons mistakes are made. It is not usually from malice, politics, or incompetence. The word emergency should tell one that it is unusual, it is big, and it is nasty. Most persons will be hesitant, some will be more proactive. But this is not the normal emergency, it is about to become a crisis.

      That said, I find the policies to date inadequate. With a disease with a 10X vector factor and up to 7.5% death rate (Italy), at this point we should pull all stops. The president needs to take a page from Reagan and FDR. If the Dems want $4 billion, demand 8. If they want to guarantee wages for 4 weeks, demand 8. If the Repubs want to support 4 business sectors at $4 billion, Trump should demand 8 at $8 billion.

      The reason is simple: overspending, over addressing, over allocating, is what is need in a regular emergency. The graph from CDC indicates that we have about 3 weeks before it becomes obvious that we are failing. By that time it could be another 300X worse. At that point, we could be at 4.5 million and no way to control the disease without literally shutting everything down expect for medical and food. With mistakes multiplying such as food, medical, sanitary, etc necessities occurring regularly, due to the fact that at that point everybody will be their own guardian, and most have had little training or experience in how to cope. Most will be easy to cope. But in cases like this, the dead will be from the failures.

      That is why looking at the CDC numbers and its potential is so important for Trump and his command to do. We are in the accelerating part of the curve. There is a lag of 2 weeks to detect, and at present,1 week for effective changes. We can’t change the first. We must change the second or prepare for some really rough times as in Italy.

      1. EDIT for my comment:

        With mistakes multiplying such as (in such areas as) food, medical, sanitary, etc (, these will cause more mistakes, due to) necessities occurring regularly, due to the fact that at that point everybody will be their own guardian, and most have had little training or experience in how to cope.

  3. If this disease had arrived 50 years ago, before the widespread availability of ICUs and effective ventilators, it would have made no impression… just another kind of pneumonia that quickly took out old people. No other impact on society or the economy.
    In that sense, this IS a media thing not based on a valid historical awareness. A “hoax”, almost.
    It is only as big a deal as we make it out to be. Or spend on it, one way or the other.

  4. “The thought manifests as the word;
    The word manifests as the deed;
    The deed develops into habit;
    And habit hardens into character;
    So watch the thought and its ways with care”

    Shakyamuni Buddha said this, and I think that the habit has been caution, hesitance, and deference to authority (and at present, that authority is not held by a particularly skillful person).

    But the same principle applies, of course, to courage and wisdom.

    1. For clarity I mean in our leadership (legislators, in particular, especially in the GOP) have become cautious, hesitant and deferential to authority (in this case Trump). In general society we have something of the reverse habit: a lot of people who reflexively reject authority, even if there is ample reason to consider authority rather than accepting it on reflex.

      It’s a shame we can’t edit comments but I suppose it keeps us honest.

      1. Deferential behavior, then… kind of splitting the hair of verbiage, I admit. But I heard they’re waiting for him to make a positive tweet before they support coronavirus legislation, and that seems like deference to me.

      2. SF,

        “But I heard they’re waiting for him to make a positive tweet before they support coronavirus legislation”

        Sounds like nonsensical gossip to me. Do you have supporting evidence for that claim?

  5. The National Review article is definitely not idiotic. Its main claim, in which it is not alone, is that “The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that China forcibly harvests organs from prisoners of conscience…

    I don’t know whether this is correct or not, and doubt there is any way conclusively to verify or falsify it, given the nature of the regime. What can be said is that the transplant numbers reported invite a skeptical view. There is an argument, and its not simply paranoia, that forcible harvesting is going on.

    Before dismissing it, remember the history of denial of the Soviet and German massacres. And for that matter of the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward.

    The argument doesn’t show the regime is lying and concealing in the Covid case. This is quite hard to believe. Its not plausible that the virus is raging unreported outside Wuhan, its just that the regime is denying it. If that were happening there would surely be lots of evidence by now, and there is not.

    But the general thrust of the argument that this is a regime with form whose claims and statistics should be treated with a high level of agnostic skepticism is surely right. Read ‘Tombstone’. And Dikotter. And Stein Ringen. And wait for the translation of ‘World Turned Upside Down’.

    I can’t believe that the wilder allegations that we saw in the early days of the epidemic can be correct. But I also am inclined to look at any numbers the Chinese regime produces, on any politically charged subject, with a very wary eye.

    1. henrik,

      “Its main claim, in which it is not alone, is that “The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that China forcibly harvests organs from prisoners of conscience…”

      False. Here is the thesis of the article: “With the Communist country’s bloody record of forced organ harvesting, can we believe anything it says about its coronavirus efforts?”

      That it does morally abhorrent acts (as does the US) does not mean that its data about the epidemic is false. It certainly an idiotic claim given the ample amount of supporting data provided by international experts, such as the WHO survey team.

      1. “That it does morally abhorrent acts (as does the US) does not mean that its data about the epidemic is false.”

        Agreed. Your point is fully valid as a matter of logic.

        Also, it is very much in its interests to be telling the truth about the epidemic. So it may well be doing so on this occasion.

        But when dealing with a regime with a track record of mass murder and denial of it, not to mention the forced organ harvesting which the article alleges, which levels only when its politically advantageous, skepticism is in order.

        Our own regimes in the West, at least since 1945, have none of them done as terrible things as China did under the later Mao. That regime is in the same category as Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

        You yourself have rightly listed occasions when the US government has been less than fully honest with the people, and advocated skepticism about some of its assurances. There is reason for caution in the other countries in the West, too.

        But how much more reason is there, then, when dealing with a regime with the history of this one, to be cautious and skeptical.

        That’s really the point of the NR article. Its to say, look at the track record before you move to uncritical acceptance of anything these guys say. And then it gives one instance, but it could have given a lot more, a whole track record in fact, going back to the sixties of the last century

        Of course it can be, and it looks indeed as if, this time they are being straight. And it does look as if they have got Covid-19 licked. But still, color me careful.

  6. Looking at the death rate from Spanish Flu of 1918, quarantines, approximately reduced the death rate by 2/3 and increased the time by 1/3 based on the graph from the Washington Post “Effects of Social Distancing on 1918 Flu Deaths” by Hatchett, et al. NAS 2007. They compare Philadelphia to St. Louis. h/t WattsupwithThat and Matt Ridley.

    This will give us a stick to measure Trump’s and our actions against. Though with different diseases, there will be different curves, we can use other countries and different cities, who have maximums at different times, and estimate approximately how many lives were saved.

    I am sure there will be other methods used by the epidemiologists to estimate this and other numbers, such approximate number of unreported cases, total ill, etc. But for those keeping score, this method will give a thumbs up or down for our efforts.

    1. John,

      Comparing the experience with COVID-19 vs. another disease is not a valid way of evaluating the US response. Also, the US response consists of those of federal, state, local govts – and businesses – and individuals. It is not “Trump’s” actions.

      A better comparision would be between nations – China, S. Korea, and Singapore vs. western Europe vs. Britain (which has a unique strategy) vs. that of the US. But that won’t be valid until its over.

      1. Larry, I agree. I meant to convey this with: “Though with different diseases, there will be different curves, we can use other countries and different cities, who have maximums at different times, and estimate approximately how many lives were saved.” Though I mean that we do this after we get the data from other countries. I think Italy will be the defining western rich country. I don’t know if China, Japan, or Korea are good for US comparison.

        I also agree about Trump. It was that he will get credit either way.

  7. The number of coronavirus cases doubles roughly every 4 to 5 days. By distracting everyone with travel bans, Trump has likely guaranteed the problem will be at least twice as hard to deal with when people finally get serious.

    1. 1729,

      “By distracting everyone with travel bans”

      That’s not correct in several ways.

      First, many levels of preparations are necessary for the fight against COVID-19 – as epidemiologists at WHO and CDC have long said. That’s the “whole government” and “whole society” methods China and Singapore used so successfully. No one kind of defense “distracts” from the others.

      Second, limitations on travel are most effective – almost the only effective – tool we have at this point. Quarantines and cordons sanitaire.

      It is amazing how many people are willing to deny science and put America at risk if it furthers their hatred of Trump.

  8. We are in uncharted waters. I get the appeal of “Better to err on the side of caution” but that is, potentially a blank check that we cannot afford or soon recover from. In Italy, there appears to be developing what used to be called a “general strike.”. The purpose in the old days was to crash an economy and change its form of government. Now its intent is worker safety but the impact on the economy will be hard to tell apart.
    Close all factories… for as long as the virus is around and herd immunity is not? A year? 2 years? By then, there would be nothing to re-start.
    Most medical students in clinics are probably going to be sent home indefinitely (Has not been announced yet). When will they graduate?

    The 1918 flu pandemic stopped because first, WW 1 and its mandatory crowding did and 2. its virulence returned towards the mean, 3. no one is really sure. But it was hardly because of public health measures. They only slowed it down. The fundamentals of public life changed.

    What is now on the table to effect something on a comparable scale?

    1. Rum,

      “Close all factories… for as long as the virus is around and herd immunity is not? A year? 2 years?”

      First, I don’t know the plans of Italy’s government, but widespread social distancing – including closing down public activities – is not as you describe. China used it to contain the virus, so that after 2 months (not years) they are re-starting the economy. There will still be cases, but aggressive contact tracking will limit them – and in numbers that the health care system can handle.

      I do not understand why you believe that would not work for us.

      Second, it is not clear that a population builds up a “herd immunity” to COVID-19. The usual sense of herd immunity comes from vaccinations.

      (2) I don’t understand your comparison with the spanish flu. What is your point?

  9. My point re the Spanish Flu is that the lessons supposedly learned from it might not be as valid as we like to think. I mean, if the 1st WW had continued with its crowding and mass movement of persons, would the quarantine measures taken at the time actually made much difference? There were a few towns, etc. that strictly kept everyone away and had no cases – during the short time the epidemic was active. But that only mattered in the long term because the virus subsequently disappeared (or became attenuated.). If it had not disappeared, it would have got them as soon as they re-opened the gates – like small pox, or polio, etc. has done thru out history before vaccines.
    Remember, US society was never able to eliminate or much slow down polio until the vaccine was available despite all the public health measures. Because it did not disappear itself like the SF virus did.
    Why did it disappear? Something as huge as the mass de-concentration and halt of travel of people as occurred after 1919 such that it lost the needed habitat? Say that it did.
    What would be comparable today? The end of mass air travel? Permanently tight borders?

    1. Rum,

      “My point re the Spanish Flu is that the lessons supposedly learned from it might not be as valid as we like to think.”

      That’s certainly false. Here’s a typical “lessons learned from the spanish flu.” It is absolutely applicable today, and the foundation of the successful containment efforts in China, Singapore, S. Korea, and Japan.

      “Of primary importance is developing a plan ahead of time that incorporates all levels of government health infrastructure and describes clear lines of responsibilities and roles. Plans for surge capacity and community containment must be discussed with stakeholders and consensus must be achieved.

      “Further, general approaches should be put forth for public comment and approval. The public health benefit of isolation should be weighed against the possibility that some people would be discouraged from seeking care. Clear explanations of the reason for isolation, generous employer support, and providing food, medicine, and social service to those in isolation may mitigate fears and increase cooperation. The public must also be educated about the reasoning behind other health measures (i.e., closures), should those methods be implemented.”

  10. The 1918 pandemic was an influenza type virus. That type is known to mutate so fast on their own that they tend to self attenuate after a season or 2. Corona viruses are much more stable.
    What will happen in China after they go back to the factories and airports? The virus is still there and is not going to disappear itself.

    1. Rum,

      The great constant in this epidemic : westerners confidence that the Chinese just aren’t as smart as they are.

      My guess (guess!) is that after this is all over, that attitude will be considered quite mad.

      Anyway, I answered your question in my reply.

  11. Also, the concern of the governments in 1918-1910 was to prevent young people from die-ing in mass.
    In 2020, it is to keep old people from die-ing while complaining on youtube that they could not get an ICU bed.
    The difference is not subtle.

  12. I do not consider the Chinese to be less capable. That would be crazy. But I do regard them as way less transparent. Also, they are more obedient to authority and way too good at un-knowing things.
    A few hundred years ago, the Chinese were building 1st rate sailing ships. Then their Emperor told them to stop doing it and to forget how to build ships… and they did both.
    I find that scary.

    1. Rum.

      As I said, people of the West will go to extreme lengths to avoid learning from China.

      “Then their Emperor told them to stop doing it and to forget how to build ships… and they did both. I find that scary.”

      Do you have any concept of the things western societies were doing 500 years ago? Scary beyond the imagination of most people alive today. I doubt you lose sleep over the deeds of your distant ancestors. But I suggest that you give more concern to them than the deeds of Chinese 500 years ago.

  13. I find it scary when there are a type of persons around who have tight control over what their mind&thoughts attend to. They are going to be really good at lying and not do the conscience thing very well.. They will instinctively want to control others as they can control themselves.
    Westerners are more on the ADD/ADHD spectrum. Chinese are mostly on the other end of that spectrum. They are not so good at realizing original – untaught-to-them ideas. And are way too comfortable with shutting down unwanted thought in general.
    The Chinese Emperor was able to cause the unknowing of ship technology because the Chinese people were good at internal thought suppression.
    Or do you think anything like that could have been pulled off in the West?

    1. Rum,

      “Or do you think anything like that could have been pulled off in the West?”

      If you are referring to the quarantining of Hubei Province, it would have been easy for Trump to do. Americans have historically applauded bold strong moves by their leaders, and condemned weak leaders without mercy.

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