What Were the Chinese Thinking?

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1103

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.

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Boganboy
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Boganboy

Having been a very petty bureaucrat, I feel the good old saying, ‘Never attribute to malice what can more easily be explained by incompetence’ applies.

But perhaps the Chinese bureaucracy is more competent than our Aussie version.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

If you want something beyond fear at all levels of giving bad news to your boss, then think about this. You are a paranoid, authoritarian state dabbling in viruses. You suspect one of your nasties might have escaped. What do you do? Lie to the world, seal the population in their homes, lie some more, continually disinfect the streets, dusappear doctors, prepare tens of thousands of beds and burial plots, stop all travel from the location of the leak. Then when you discover it wasn’t a leak, just a bat, you have to keep up the pretence and produce fake… Read more »

Pat
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Pat

I’ll believe the CCP would sacrifice a few million Chinese if it suited them. They have form.
But if this is deliberate they’ll have to exploit the panic and confusion pretty soon, the rest of the world is getting its act together.
I tend to the Bogan theory- especially as Chinese bureaucrats are even more terrified of admitting mistakes than the common or garden ones.

Spike
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Spike

Of course China would rather sacrifice a few million OLD Chinese than a few hundred thousand YOUNG AND STRONG Chinese soldiers in an attack that weakens but doesn’t defeat the US.

But they have not done anything during the US’s self-induced vulnerability except continue to assert ownership of nearby international waters. And they have not used their other weapon: The ability to make American gadgetry malfunction (all the stuff made in China for which the blueprints had to be turned over to the Red Army).

Queen of Sheba
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Queen of Sheba

Are you sure, I just KNOW this 5G thingy is all a massive plot to spread Chinese Corona virus, innit?

Spike
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Spike

I am sure, despite your childish ridicule. Turning over blueprints, in exchange for permission to manufacture in Red China, is a concession of military value, and we know the Chinese are willing to use militarily anything of military value. Not “this 5G thingy” but perhaps it would distract the US from responding to an attack if many of our Chinese-made phones and servers failed on that day.

Spike
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Spike

“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.” No liar KNOWS that lying won’t work. Moreover, the best liars (the Clintons) tend not to lie to convince anyone of the veracity of the lie, but rather to change the topic of conversation. (He says it was only oral sex, so maybe that’s not so bad.)

Yes, Chinese culture is a lot about saving face. And Communist culture is about expending any resource, including the population, to stay in control.

Esteban
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Esteban

The “never attribute to malice” line is about as useful as Occam’s Razor, I should’ve remembered that. There’s an old story about war between Japan and China, day 1 they tell the Chinese general 1,000 Japanese killed, 5,000 Chinese. Day 2 2,000 Japanese killed, 10,000 Chinese. Day 3, 5,000 Japanese killed, 25,000 Chinese. The general observes, “ah, good, pretty soon, no more Japanese”. A Communist country with a huge population won’t hesitate to treat its “workers” as another resource in pursuit of the long-term goal. Perhaps they can save face as long as they can stand in front of the… Read more »

Snarkus
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Snarkus

odd you should say that. An internal Chinese rumour is that the virus was created to badly damage western powers economically despite some local damage. China, A Dark History has stories about how power has been wielded there for two millenia. All of them chilling.

Jim
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Jim

My feeling is that the reason for the obvious lying and prevarication by the Chinese authorities is that while they know these lies will be found out in short order, they have a bigger secret to hide, namely where the virus came from. I think it escaped from the local bio-lab, accidentally, and once that fact had been determined it coloured their reaction. They knew how virulent it could turn out to be so they had to over-react – lock down entire cities and regions, build emergency hospitals etc etc, because it could have been something that could kill everyone.… Read more »

Virusago
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Virusago

Pity Tim damages his own credibility by relaying this farrago. 1. it is a ‘naturally evolved’ virus: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9 2. China has refrained from ‘seizing Taiwan’ for decades and shows no sign of embarking on any such activity now, as Spike points out (unlike the ‘military adventures’ undertaken by others in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc etc). 3. It does not need to embark on biological warfare to achieve economic dominance in the East, it has exercised it on and off for millennia already; and globally, it would be marginally more credible if Esteban argued it had tried to wreck the world… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Second bit of childish ridicule on the same page; this one with a scolding for Tim for encouraging a variety of views, won’t work. 1. COVID-19 is related to other coronaviruses occurring naturally, but whether this mutation got an unnatural assist is an open question, despite your one citation. 2. China’s conquest of Taiwan does not seem imminent, but it is not true that it “shows no sign.” Signs include claiming the sea on all sides and requiring trade partners to deny Taiwan’s separate existence. Whether the West has engaged in comparable imperialism is irrelevant. 3. Indeed, China does not… Read more »

John B
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John B

‘… we were beginning to understand how serious the Kung Flu was going to become…’

Compared to what?

Tristram Fuller
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Tristram Fuller

No, ‘I think saving face’ is part of the answer. Yes, they will be found out but it bought them time to get things under some sort of control and start exporting the medical supplies that everyone now requires. Furthermore, if lying is part of your modus operandi then it becomes second nature and you can’t stop yourself.
Also, many will see them as to blame but the majority in the mainstream media across the world are too busy attacking their own governments for the fallout (often correctly) and blaming the Chinese is seen as xenophobic or racist etc.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

It might be seen as racist to the progressives. But I think much of the world isn’t very fond of the CCP at the moment.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

Up until very recently I don’t think much of the rest of the world had given the CCP much thought. We’ve been fed a diet of the Chinese growth miracle in the MSM, it’s only when you read more widely do you get a sense of how evil it really is.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

I think the CCP is lying because they want to end any discussion dead. They know no-one believes them, but it serves their aims. If they were to publish the actual details of what happened, then a discussion would follow in the Western press about their culpability, armed with decent information. The WHO would have to have an investigation — whereas now they’ll just pretend to believe them, and praise their response and no investigation will be started. The rest of the world, starved of facts will only be able to speculate. And it’s a lot easier for the CCP… Read more »