From our American correspondent, Esteban:
A month or so ago, when we were beginning to understand how serious the Kung Flu was going to become, I came across a video rather heatedly taking China to task for lying about it. (I think it was Jonah Norberg, but somehow that doesn’t seem quite right, and the who isn’t critical.) The speaker seemed to believe that the reason the Chinese lied about it was that they needed to save face, that admitting to the world that they had a big problem was unacceptable to them, culturally or politically.
I have a problem with this theory about the “why”. Rational adults don’t generally lie about something to avoid immediate pain if they KNOW that doing so will bring about a ton more pain in short order. Children, sure. Teenagers, yeah, pretty much. Even adults with serious issues, OK. But the leaders of a country? In a few weeks the whole world will know we lied and helped kill hundreds of thousands and started a global Depression, but the embarrassment will be a bit lower until then.
So, if not saving face, what is it? The only thing I can come up with is that they wanted the rest of the world to suffer too. A few options for why come to mind:
Fear of falling further behind the West
A show of force/will (look at what we’re willing to do)
Economic or military advantage by hurting your opponents, even at great cost to yourself
However, unless they intend to strike fairly soon in some fashion (seizing Taiwan or some other military adventure) it seems they are going to pay a tremendous price in trade, international relations, influence, you name it. Could they have hashed this out and concluded that it’s worth it? There is a line from Game of Thrones – “he would see the realm burn if he could be king of the ashes”. Better we lose 20% and our competitors lose 25% than we lose 10% and they lose 5%?
There is an old fable about the Russian mindset. A Russian man catches a golden trout, and the fish speaks: “I am a magic fish and if you release me, I will grant you one wish” the fish promises. “But there is a catch, whatever I grant you, your neighbor shall receive double”. After a moment’s thought the Russian says “pluck out one of my eyes” and throws the trout back into the river.
I can’t see another explanation, anyone else? If this is our best understanding, the implications are chilling.