|Thursday 06th of February 2020
#Coronavirus Crisis Shows China's Governance Failure @nytimes @LiYuan6 #nCoV2019
Law & Politics
Wuhan’s mayor blamed higher-ups. A senior disease control official
blamed layers of bureaucracy. A top government expert blamed the
public: The people, he said, simply didn’t understand what he told
As China grapples with a mysterious coronavirus outbreak that has
killed at least 490 people and sickened thousands, the country’s 1.4
billion people are asking what went wrong.
Senior officials are engaging in an unusually blunt display of finger pointing.
So many officials have denied responsibility that some online users
joke that they are watching a passing-the-buck competition. (It’s
“tossing the wok” in Chinese.)
The Chinese people are getting a rare glimpse of how China’s giant,
opaque bureaucratic system works — or, rather, how it fails to work.
Too many of its officials have become political apparatchiks, fearful
of making decisions that anger their superiors and too removed and
haughty when dealing with the public to admit mistakes and learn from
“The most important issue this outbreak exposed is the local
government’s lack of action and fear of action,” said Xu Kaizhen, a
best-selling author who is famous for his novels that explore the
intricate workings of China’s bureaucratic politics.
“Under the high-pressure environment of an anticorruption campaign,
most people, including senior government officials, only care about
self-preservation,” Mr. Xu said.
“They don’t want to be the first to speak up. They wait for their
superiors to make decisions and are only accountable to their
superiors instead of the people.”
The Chinese government appears to be aware of the problem. The
Communist Party’s top leadership acknowledged in a meeting on Monday
that the epidemic was “a major test of China’s system and capacity for
Growing numbers of people are questioning the government’s decisions
as China enters a period of virtual shutdown.
As the virus spread, officials in Wuhan and around the country
withheld critical information, played down the threat and rebuked
doctors who tried to raise the alarm.
A reconstruction of the diseases’s spread by The New York Times showed
that by not issuing earlier warnings, the Chinese government
potentially lost the window to keep the disease from becoming an
The outbreak has undermined the myth that the Chinese political elites
win assignments and promotion purely on merit. China has sold this
system as its own unique innovation.
Developing countries have sent thousands of their government officials
to China to learn its model of governance, a political system that
offers security and growth in return for submission to authoritarian
People in China are now questioning that premise. They are focusing
much of their anger on Xi Jinping, China’s top leader and the person
many blame for creating a culture of fear and subservience within the
Few people dare to question Mr. Xi openly, for fear of provoking
censors or the police.
But after Mr. Xi disappeared from public in recent days, some social
media users began asking euphemistically, “Where is that person?”
They are also posting online and sharing pictures of former leaders at
the site of past crises.
Critics say quietly that, under Mr. Xi, the party began promoting
loyal political cadres over technocrats — the experts and skilled
administrators who were the backbone of China’s bureaucracy in 1990s
and 2000s, when the country grew the fastest.
Those officials could often be corrupt, but even the party’s fiercest
critics sometimes acknowledged that they got things done. Liu Zhijun,
the former railway minister, is serving a lifetime sentence for taking
bribes and abusing power. He also oversaw the creation of China’s
high-speed rail system, which vastly improved life in the country.
The wok tossing in China stems in part from the tension between the
technocrats, who hold a large number of positions with China’s
provincial and national disease control centers, and the political
cadres — the mayors, governors and the provincial party secretaries.
The outbreak and lack of disclosure suggest that the political cadres
are winning. In fact, even the technocrats are becoming cadres because
none of them had the courage to tell the public what they knew about
Chinese officials are spending as much as one-third of their time on
political studying sessions, a lot of which are about Mr. Xi’s
Political loyalty weighs much more in performance evaluations than
before. Now the rule of thumb in Chinese officialdom seems to be
demonstrating loyalty as explicitly as possible, keeping everything
else vague and evading responsibility at all costs when things go
The Chinese people may be paying the price. The failures span the system.
Zhou Xianwang, Wuhan’s mayor, said he didn’t disclose the scale and
danger of the epidemic earlier because he needed the authorization
from higher up.
But he could have done something without sharing much information,
including telling the residents to wear masks, wash hands frequently
and stop big gatherings such as the potluck banquet attended by over
40,000 families just a few days before his city of 11 million was
When information began to dribble out, it was vague and misleading. In
a series of online notices issued between Dec. 31 and Jan. 17, local
officials disclosed they were treating pneumonia patients but didn't
say when or how many.
The National Health Commission, the ministry with the authority to
declare an epidemic emergency, didn’t issue its own notice about the
outbreak until Jan. 19.
But the notice essentially kicked blame back to the local authorities.
The first sentence cited a rule that required the commission to work
with local officials on epidemic prevention.
A top government health adviser, Wang Guangfa, who had reassured the
public that the disease was controllable only to be sickened himself,
said in an interview after he recovered that he had limited
information at the time.
He also defended his phrasing as a “misunderstanding” by the general
public, saying most outbreaks of infectious diseases are controlled in
Local officials don’t seem to have local people at the top of their
list of priorities.
In an interview with state television, Ma Guoqiang, the Communist
Party secretary of Wuhan, acknowledged that Wuhan residents “are a
little anxious and a little nervous” and said he would mobilize all
party cells to comfort them.
“But the most important comfort,” he added, “came from Party Secretary
Mr. Xu, the novelist, said Mr. Ma’s remarks demonstrated how officials
had more concern for pleasing their bosses than taking care of the
people they allegedly served.
“If they can rearrange the order in their hearts," Mr. Xu said, “we’ll
see a very different governance style.”
As they try to contain the spread, local governments are showing that
they are better at looking busy than they are at finding a solution.
Many are now finding ways to track down and even expel residents from
Hubei Province to keep the coronavirus from spreading.
Tracking potential spreaders is sound policy, but punishing or
persecuting them risks driving them underground, making it even harder
to fight the outbreak.
Even outside the hardest hit areas, local officials are showing they
don’t make rules with the well-being of the people in mind.
A video that went viral across China showed a couple stuck on a bridge
connecting Guizhou Province to the city of Chongqing.
The two governments had halted travel between them, and the couple —
she from Guizhou, he from Chongqing — had no place to go.
On social media, low-level cadres are complaining that they are
receiving so many instructions from the higher-ups that they spend
most of their time filling out spreadsheets instead of getting real
In a social media post headlined “The Formalism Under the Mask,” the
author wrote, “Most people in the system don’t do things to solve
problems. They do things to solve responsibilities.”
After the epidemic, the Chinese leadership will have to punish a few
officials, even severely, to save face and win back some credibility.
But for people who are suffering from the epidemic and the failure of
governance, the Communist Party may have a hard time winning them
“I know before long this country will go back to being a peaceful,
prosperous society. We will hear many people screaming how proud they
are of its prosperity and power,” a Wuhan resident wrote on the social
media site Weibo.
“But after what I have witnessed, I refuse to watch the applause and
In Wuhan, one person has died for every 23 infections reported. That number drops to one on 50 nationally, and outside mainland China, one death has been recorded per 114 confirmed cases.
Law & Politics
“In an outbreak your really have to interpret fatality rates with a
very skeptical eye, because often it’s only the very severe cases that
are coming to people’s attention,” said Amesh Adalja, an expert in
pandemic preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
“It’s very hard to say those numbers represent anything like the true
burden of infection” said Adalja, who estimates current fatality rates
are likely below 1%.
As of Tuesday, 24,551 cases have been confirmed globally. A 1%
fatality rate would put total cases at over 49,000, based on the
current death toll of 492.
“As the denominator is growing in terms of case numbers, and case
fatality goes down and down... you start to realize it’s everywhere,”
@TencentGlobal Tencent may have accidentally leaked real data on Wuhan virus deaths says @TaiwanNews886
Law & Politics
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many experts question the veracity of
China's statistics for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Tencent over
the weekend seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially
the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically
higher than official figures.
On late Saturday evening (Feb. 1), Tencent, on its webpage titled
"Epidemic Situation Tracker", showed confirmed cases of novel
coronavirus (2019nCoV) in China as standing at 154,023, 10 times the
official figure at the time.
It listed the number of suspected cases as 79,808, four times the
The number of cured cases was only 269, well below the official number
that day of 300. Most ominously, the death toll listed was 24,589,
vastly higher than the 300 officially listed that day.
Moments later, Tencent updated the numbers to reflect the government's
"official" numbers that day.
Netizens noticed that Tencent has on at least three occasions posted
extremely high numbers, only to quickly lower them to
Netizens also noticed that each time the screen with the large numbers
appears, it shows a comparison with the previous day's data which
demonstrates a "reasonable" incremental increase, much like
comparisons of official numbers.
This has led some netizens to speculate that Tencent has two sets of
data, the real data and "processed" data.
Some are speculating that a coding problem could be causing the real
"internal" data to accidentally appear.
Others believe that someone behind the scenes is trying to leak the
However, the "internal" data held by Beijing may not reflect the true
extent of the epidemic.
According to multiple sources in Wuhan, many coronavirus patients are
unable to receive treatment and die outside of hospitals.
A severe shortage of test kits also leads to a lower number of
diagnosed cases of infection and death.
In addition, there have been many reports of doctors being ordered to
list other forms of death instead of coronavirus to keep the death
toll artificially low.
a @Harvard epidemiologist says that it's likely as many as 100,000 are already infected @HarvardChanSPH
Law & Politics
“Many epidemiologists and people who are following this outbreak
closely are assuming that it’s probably quite a bit more widespread
than the case counts suggest,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor
of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Many people also think that there’s probably over 100,000 in reality
out in mainland China, for example. We just don’t capture all of those
through the case reporting we have. … We can assume that this is
growing at somewhat of an exponential rate, and it will continue
increasing in scale.”
More Than Pneumonia, The Potential Occurrence of Multiple Organ Failure in 2019 Novel Coronavirus Infection Ming Yang, Jinming Zhao, Zheng Zhang :: SSRN #nCoV2019
Law & Politics
ACE2 also extensively expressed in the vascular endothelial cells of
the heart, kidney, liver, intestine, and testis, etc. In other words,
the new coronavirus may probably intrude on any tissues or organs as
long as the needed number of ACE2 is available.
Therefore, once exposed to the coronavirus (e.g. through the blood or
other body fluid), these organs may also get affected especially for
those the receptor has the direct-acting control.
With Little Policy Room, Africa Central Banks Sound Debt Alarm @economics
Central bankers in Africa are joining a chorus of voices, which
includes the International Monetary Fund, who are worried about
surging public debt levels on the continent.
Nigerian central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele warned last month
rapidly rising debt and a lack of fiscal buffers could threaten
That same week Kenyan central bank Governor Patrick Njoroge said in an
interview his country is running out of room to increase its credit
For nearly two years the IMF and credit rating companies have
admonished African governments about the dangers of accumulating too
much debt as their revenues dwindle.
Rising obligations are depleting the fiscal space the continent’s
governments have to buttress economic growth, raising pressure on
central bankers to do more to prevent a deeper slowdown in a region
that is home to two-thirds of the world’s poor.
Stubborn inflation and currency pressures also limit monetary wiggle
room in some economies.
“They are sending a warning to policymakers that if your debt levels
become unsustainable, then it is going to have consequences on growth
and the financial environment and that raises monetary risks,” said
Colin Coleman, the former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs
Group Inc. in sub-Saharan Africa who now lectures at Yale University’s
Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
To pay for infrastructure and civil servants’ wages, African
governments have tapped debt markets like never before to take
advantage of investors’ appetite for high-yielding paper.
Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product in sub-Saharan
Africa has doubled to more than 50% since 2008, IMF data show.
While that’s below the average for emerging market and developing
economies, the continent’s debt ratio rose faster than that of any
other country grouping over the period.
About 40% of governments on the continent face difficulties honoring
their obligations, according to the IMF.
The African Development Bank is less worried and said last week it
doesn’t see a systemic debt crisis on the continent.
Still, it complicates the job of central banks. Rising government debt
crowds out lending to the private sector and weakens the transmission
of monetary policy to boost demand, the IMF’s Africa department
director, Abebe Aemro Selassie, said last year.
Lowering interest rates in countries with rising debt levels could add
pressure to local currencies by prompting foreign investors to leave
in search of higher-yielding securities elsewhere.
“Higher debt has clipped the wings of monetary policy,” said Andrew
Roche, managing partner at Paris-based financial consultancy Finexem.
“In Nigeria, if the governor wants to lower interest rates, that could
weaken the currency and increase the debt burden, which creates
another set of problems when you are trying to find a solution.”
Faced with limited monetary space, Nigeria’s central bank has stepped
in to help cover the government’s widening fiscal gap with cash
advances worth 2.5% of GDP, which are more expensive than debt funded
on the domestic market.
Moody’s Investors Service warned against “opaque and costly options”
to finance the government’s rising debt burden when it changed the
outlook on the country’s credit rating to negative in December
“High debt levels will lead to the expansion of these non-conventional
policies,” said Adedeji Adeniran, a senior fellow at the Abuja-based
Centre for the Study of The Economies of Africa.
Central banks “will be expected to print money and become more
activist in policy orientation,” he said.
09-DEC-2019 :: Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes
This week Moody’s Investor Services downgraded Nigeria to negative and
we learnt that Foreign Investors are propping up the Naira to the tune
of NGN5.8 trillion ($16 billion) via short-term certificates.
Everyone knows how this story ends. When the music stops, everyone
will dash for the Exit and the currency will collapse just like its
collapsing in Lusaka as we speak.
@qatarairways to Buy @FlyRwandAir Stake to Gain African Foothold @business
Qatar Airways plans to purchase a 49% stake in Rwanda’s national
carrier, stepping up its presence in the market weeks after taking a
majority holding in the African country’s new airport.
The Gulf airline is investing in Rwandair after identifying Africa as
a market with significant potential, Akbar Al Baker, its chief
executive officer, said in a briefing at the CAPA Qatar Aviation
conference on Wednesday.
The holding being negotiated will be its first in the continent after
a string of deals elsewhere.
Qatar Airways agreed in December to acquire a 60% stake in Rwanda’s
new Bugesera International Airport, located south of the capital
Kigali, where an existing hub is at full capacity.
As part of the deal, the Gulf carrier will help build and run the $1.3
“It will be a very efficient hub in a very stable country in the heart
of Africa,” Al Baker said.
“And we’re going to take a stake in their national carrier because we
see that Africa is another region that has huge growth potential.”
The CEO said that Qatar Airways remains intent on investing in
InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., India’s biggest airline, but is waiting for
the right opportunity and the resolution of a clash between existing
Al Baker praised China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying
the Asian nation is doing a “fantastic job” in dealing with the
epidemic, while suggesting that the global reaction has been “out of
The executive said he plans to attend next week’s Singapore air show
regardless of the outbreak, and won’t be wearing a face mask.
Kenya sees no conflict in pursuing close ties with both the US & China and has no interest in being drawn into some proxy war. @ReutersAfrica
Trump could send a formal notice to Congress as early as next week,
paving the way for negotiations on a comprehensive, high-standard
agreement with Kenya, said Scott Eisner, president of the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce’s Africa Business Center.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who hosted a
bipartisan meeting with Kenyatta on Wednesday, signaled support for a
new U.S.-Kenya trade pact but said it would require measures to
enforce worker rights, environmental protections and good governance.
A U.S.-Kenya free trade agreement (FTA) would be the first such pact
signed by Washington with a country in sub-Saharan Africa, and only
the second FTA with any African country. An FTA was signed with
Morocco in 2004.
Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton in 2018 announced
plans to expand U.S. economic ties with African nations to counter
what he called aggressive efforts by China and Russia to expand their
“Kenya can have several best friends - the United States, China, Great
Britain, the European Union and others. They need to do what is best
for them to progress their economy, build their infrastructure and
push the country forward,” said Johnnie Carson, a former U.S.
ambassador to Kenya.
The country is keen to secure its economic future ahead of the expiry
of AGOA in 2025.
Uhuru: Kenya to evacuate students trapped in China @dailynation H/T @eolander @AtlanticCouncil #nCoV2019
Kenya will evacuate its students trapped in Wuhan, the Chinese
epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, President Uhuru Kenyatta has
However, President Kenyatta said Nairobi was putting in place
stringent measures to ensure the virus does not enter Kenya.
“We are also working; because we have got a good number of our
students there, to see how we can support them and find out how we can
also, when they do come and insist they are coming, ensure that they
are put in quarantine for the required 14 days and ensure that they
are not going to spread that virus around,” President Kenyatta told a
forum at the Atlantic Council, an American think-tank on foreign
policy, business and politics in Washington.
At least 200 Kenyan students are based in Wuhan, the capital of Hebei
Province in China.