More on the riots — and a must-read

Please take a look at this great post about the recent riots in China. It’s extraordinary. I only wish it were clearer what the blogger’s sources are. But it is absolutely essential reading. Great work.

Throwing things and getting violent can be justified under extreme circumstances. This circumstance certainly fits the bill.

The Discussion: 71 Comments

Interesting read, but I know I’ve read parts of it before. He’s plagiarizing someone at a major media source. Not that the internet is the most exclusive of places to find information, but he really should attribute where he gets his sources particularly if he is going to lift entire sentences flat out. I’m almost certain that I’ve read parts of the text verbatim from an article from TimeAsia a week or two ago.

April 21, 2005 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Correction, It wasn’t TimeAsia. The source was actually the SCMP.

Since their archive, hell their fron’t page is inaccessible without a subscription, Simon was kind enough to reprint the entire article in full. You can find it in it’s entirety here.

April 21, 2005 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

Thanks Jing. Maybe it was an oversight…?

April 21, 2005 @ 4:18 pm | Comment

My post on the Huaxi riots has Didi Tatlow’s pieces from the SCMP. I know ACB has been reading them so Richard might be right. However it is a worry he doesn’t attribute his sources.

April 21, 2005 @ 8:01 pm | Comment

This is definitely a very disturbing case, and while there are no doubt many other villages throughout China that have experienced similar problems, I would caution people from assuming that all, or that most villages here in China, suffer from this same kind of dysfunctionalism.

I would really like to know who wrote this article, and where they got their information from regarding village elections, because to the best of my knowledge (and I have read many studies by both Chinese and independent American sociologists) candidates in village elections do not need to be members of the CCP.

The author of this article, however, claims otherwise: “Village committees are communist controlled, only those approved by the party can stand for election as a village leader, and in most cases the party issues ‘advice’ on who to vote for.”

I’m afraid I have to dispute this claim. As Susan Lynne Tillou, coordinator of Asia Programs at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington has noted, after studying village elections first hand in the field: “In China, there are more than 100 million villages consisting of more than 900 million peasants. More than 75 percent of China’s total population lives in rural areas and votes for their village committees every three years. Yet, until recently, the elections have been one of China’s best kept secrets.”

So at the very least, Chinese villagers, like their cousins in the West, are in the habit of regularly casting a vote every so many years. But the average Chinese villager, I would argue, holds more political leverage by doing so than the average American or Australian does when casting a ballot at a State or National election.

As Tillou writes in her report: “The current structure of the village elections has evolved from the defunct commune system which allowed indirect participation in the selection of village committees. But elections are now more participatory and Party control has been dramatically relaxed. Peasants now directly nominate and vote for members on the committees and are involved with practical administrative issues. Candidates for committees neither have to be Party members nor approved by the Communist Party.”

Not only this, but the CCP itself has actually shown a real commitment to making village-level democracy work, as one United States Institute for Peace Report clearly states: “The best of China’s village elections are very good” and are “recognisably competitive even with their distinctly Chinese characteristics. There is no obvious correlation between the level of economic development and the level of rural democratisation. Rather, the villages that have staged the most successful elections are those that have received the greatest attention from higher-level officials most committed to making village democracy work.”

You can read the full report if you can track down a copy. It’s titled, “Muddling towards democracy: political change in grassroots China”. This report, like all other reports that I use to support my arguments, is not the product of the CCP – in this case, the report is the product of US Government-sponsored researchers.

The report also states that: “The competitive election of village committees is a major advance over higher-level appointments of village leaders, election by acclamation, and noncompetitive elections. The free and fair village elections now being fostered by the Ministry of Civil Affairs present rural people with choices they did not have before, give them a voice in the selection of their local leadership…and provide a sense of political participation and empowerment. At their best, village elections introduce the notions of competition, choice, and justice into local societies where submission to authority and domination by local emperors have long been the norm.”

The report also notes that democracy in China will, of course, develop into something which “will necessarily look very different from ours.”

A few years ago, Dr. Anne Thurston argued at a Nixon Center briefing that expanding village-level elections in China “have begun to resolve many pragmatic needs of ordinary citizens, such as the construction of roads, wells, and other quality of life issues, hrough democratic means.” This is why I think that Chinese villagers generally speaking, exercise more (not less) politcal leverage than your average American or Australian voter!

Thurston also suggested that the implications of these developments “are likely more profound than most foreign observers recognise.”

Dr. Thurston has also noted that village elections have led to “significant tangible and intangible changes in local administration”. For example, she said, village finances “are now made public and are usually placed prominently on a community bulletin board.” Less obviously, while many pre-election era officials have retained almost identical positions after the introduction of voting, “they seem to have a new sense of responsibility to their constituents.”

Dr. Thurston, who has witnessed several village elections first-hand, also reports that “after a decade of experimentation with village elections, China has revised the organic law to make village elections mandatory. Four requirements have been established: (1) that elections must be conducted directly by the people of the village, (2) that the number of candidates must be greater than the number of offices available, (3) that elections be conducted by secret ballot, and (4) that candidates must win over 50% of the vote to prevail.”

The prospect for extending democracy in China is, I would argue, not too dire. Dr Thurston for one, thinks so: “the new power and responsibility of elected village officials in China seems to be contagious,” Dr. Thurston argues. “As a result, this effort has already led to unofficial elections in some townships, the administrative level above villages. These less-structured elections typically involve polling to determine the general will of the township residents….[and] some officials are now advocating that democratic elections take place at higher levels of government, such as the provincial level, and some hope even to have national democratic elections.”

So you see, not all CCP officials, including many of the higher ranking ones, are inherently undemocratic or “evil”. There is clearly good room for optimism. And many millions of Chinese villagers exercise some considerable political leverage – more so, I would argue, than many Americans and Australians. By participating in village elections, and by raising issues that are directly relevant to their immediate lives as villagers, I would say, as many other observers have reported, that people in China at the village level have quite a considerable influence on political decision making. As Dr. Thurston concluded in her report, her interviews with villagers demonstrate that the concept of human rights is understood quite differently in China than in countries like the United States. “In a country where 900 million peasants live in conditions that have changed little since the Communist revolution of 1949,” she writes, “human rights are often construed as the rights to food, housing, and roads in China. In the minds of many Chinese, local democracy may be sufficient to guarantee those rights.”

Finally, the author of this article says that “village committees are supposed to be democratically elected by village resident, indeed such ‘grass roots’ democracy is often hailed by Beijing as being a sign of reform, [but] in reality things are a little ‘different’.”

Well, look, in some villages, in many in fact, corruption is rife, and yes, problems like the ones experienced in Hankantou exist. Local authorities need to be challenged in these cases, and it is wonderful to see the villagers of Hankantou coming together in acts of solidarity, to take some responsibility for their own lives, as a collective. Hopefully conditions in their village will improve now that their plight has become more widely known, and the extent of their anger felt.

My intent here is simply to caution readers from assuming that Hankantou is a typical Chinese village, because it is not. There are many others like it, sure. Thousands even. But it is not typical. And most of all, I want to caution readers from dismissing the concept of the village election, as the author of this article does. The village election system has proven to be widely successful, it’s socially progressive – in fact, it represents a real revolution.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 21, 2005 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

MAJ, I’ve been saying since the story broke that this was not a sign of China’s collapse, or of a nationwide rebellion of China’s villagers.

So you see, not all CCP officials, including many of the higher ranking ones, are inherently undemocratic or “evil”.

No, absolutely not all of them are evil or undeocratic. But, unfortunately, enough are because they are tempted by corruption, which can make them do utterly horrific thiungs.

April 21, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

I was watching America’s 60 Minutes program last night, on Hong Kong’s Pearl TV (or maybe it was ATV World – I can’t remember). One of the stories was about how rife (and deadly) government corruption is in the United States, particularly at the state and local levels. The focus was on Miami – but if you were to document all of the known corruption cases in that state alone, over say, the last twelve months, as well as all of the associated murders, you would have a very long list, which could be used by “American-bashers” to portray that country in a light that is in no way different from the way China is often portrayed by the majority of Western media commentators.

Now look Richard, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you are a conscious “China-basher”. But nearly all of the articles you post on this site about China focus on the negative. Rarely, on the positive. One cannot help but to view this site as essentially a forum for those Westerners who like to satisfy their masturbatory tendencies – there are many, it would seem, who derive pleasure from being able to dismiss China at every little chance possible.

The SARS nonesense is a good case in point. I was here during that entire period, knowing, from the WHO website, that SARS was not only incredibly difficult to catch (unless you are in the habit of sharing your saliva with as many complete strangers as possible), but that is was also unlikely to prove fatal unless you had a weak immune system, which is why the sick, the elderly and very young were about the only ones who were dying from it. In fact, they were about the only ones who were catching it as well, not surprisingly.

More people died in America from other strains of the flu during the same period. The same in Britian. And yet, the way the world’s media reacted, you would think that Armageddon had begun. And the focus for all of this hyberbolic nonesense – the CCP, and its alleged failure to acknowledge and to act quickly enough.

If people really want to understand China’s past, its present, and where it may be heading, then they would do much better to read the many excellent sociological and anthropological studies that are available online, rather than relying on Western media sources, which nearly always underscore an arrogant, ignorant, ethnocentric bias, always intent on “demonstrating” just how “superior” we Westerners are. The way China is normally presented in the Western media speaks volumes about the insecurities our political and business leaders feel towards China’s growing influence in the world.

Finally, I did not suggest in my comments above that you, or anybody else was using that article from the SCMP to suggest that China is on the verge of collapse. I was merely, as I expalined, cautioning readers not to assume, from the article, that village elections are undemoctratic, or are merely some kind of joke or CCP facade – because this is exactly what the author of the article in question is suggesting. I also wanted to make clear that the author’s assertion that it is necessary to be a CCP member in order to run for village elections is wrong.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 21, 2005 @ 9:20 pm | Comment

Mark’s points are well taken. But he neglects to highlight that village elections were introduced during the 1980s as part of the nascent political liberalisation before Tiananmen. In all the years since then they have not moved further up the administrative chain than that initial breakthrough. i.e. to townships or counties or municipalities or provinces. This is because after Tiananmen the CPC did not want this to happen, although Zhao Ziyang had said he could forsee provincial level elections within a decade when introducing the reform.

Maybe the fact that since Hu Jintao took power there have been a couple of township direct elections publicised as trial point experiments is a good sign, but its difficult to tell at this stage.

Second, Mark doesn’t highlight the organisation that competes in most villages with the directly elected village committee and that is the CPC village branch office. The elected head of the village committee is by no means making all the decisions in the village, rather he or she has the local party boss to contend with (who is appointed from above by the CPC). If one reads the Chinese (rather than foreign) investigations of village democracy it is clear this is regarded as a key impediment to “true democracy” (apart from the corruption, malfeasance, vote rigging and other malpractice Chinese observers suggest is rampant in village elections).

Finally, it would be nice to see on what basis Mark makes his assertion that the problems in Haixu are not “typical” of Chinese villages. I’m not aware of any statistical research into this issue that is published in the West, maybe Mark is?

April 21, 2005 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

Village protests in China

This blog on the recent protests at Hankantou (Huaxi) in Zhejiang provides some interesting background on the chemical plants near the village and the issue of land acquisition. No sources linked or quoted so I’ll leave up to readers to decide what th…

April 21, 2005 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

Dear Dylan,

Thanks for your interesting reponse to my comments above. I am rather busy right now, with work, but I will try my best to address all of your points sometime later this afternoon, by 5:30pm, China time.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 21, 2005 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

Dear Dylan, you are absolutely correct in pointing out the fact that the elected village committee competes in most villages with the CPC village branch office.

The problem is that the relationship between popularly elected village committee officials and the local branch of the Communist party is extremely ill defined. But it is important to note the fact that the Organic Law does not subject the village committees to the supervision and leadership of the Communist party, as is the case with the national non-Communist parties, for example. But on the other hand, however, the law also does not explicitly direct party cadres to refrain from interference with the affairs of the village committee. Rather, it vaguely states that local party cadres are to play a “key leadership role,” supporting the development of local self-rule by directly exercising their democratic rights.

In practice, the unclear relationship between the Communist party and village committee has created vastly divergent outcomes in Chinese villages. This is indeed true, and you are right to draw attention to this. In some villages, power remains concentrated in the hands of a single official serving both as party chairperson and village committee head. In others, not only has real power shifted to the village committee, selected through competitive open elections, but experimentation has also occurred with the selection of local party cadres through similar processes.

But reforms are always being introduced in attempts to overcome such problems. The law, for example, now gives villagers the right to report to higher levels of government if the Village Committee does not publicise materials in a timely and accurate manner, and responsible persons are now held liable for any violations verified through investigation.

Moreover, the villager assembly must now review the Village Committee’s annual work report, evaluate the performance of committee members, and vote on any request to recall a Village Committee member, thus making Village Committee members directly accountable to the villagers’ democratic supervision.

It is true to say too though, that the present law is weak on explicit enforcement provisions. Most complaints, on issues such as fraudulent financial reporting, failure to hold elections on time, and refusal to install properly elected Village Committee leaders, are handled by administrative appeal to Ministry of Civil Affairs. Nonetheless, villagers have demonstrated a quick grasp of the significance of their rights under the Village Committee system and have not been shy about filing administrative complaints, resorting to press appeals, and taking advantage of the recall provisions to oust corrupt and incompetent officials. One early recall case, for example, involved a village official who misappropriated 660,000 RMB in village funds for personal use. In another, a Village Committee official who illegally sold village land and embezzled funds was ousted.

Elected Village Committees are popular and may be introducing some measure of stability in the countryside. Nonetheless, the thousands of rural protests and riots that have been reported in the press in recent years indicate that Village Committees are no panacea for the myriad problems plaguing Chinese farmers. Indeed, rural complaints primarily involve corruption, charging of excessive and illegal fees, and other abuses of power by township and higher-level government officials – as you have quite rightly pointed out Dylan. These officials hold much greater power than Village Committee members over spending on infrastructure and provision of other government services, but are not directly accountable to their putative constituents.

But the laws regulating village democracy, which are constantly evolving, now make it easier for the Village Committee to challenge the powers of the local Communist Party Branch, and a cursory read through Chinese newspapers from around the country will demonstrate that Huankantou is indeed, not typical, in that the system of village level democracy enable the residents of most villages to successfully tackle the very same type of problems that the Huankantou villagers have suffered from.

Let me just provide you with one example. Take Yinlin Village, located just outside of Jinan City in Shandong Province. When Mr Zhou was elected head of the Village Committee, the previous slate of representatives and the local Communist Party branch refused to hand over the seals of office and account books to Mr. Zhou and the new council members, even after receiving court orders to do so. Finally, after several fights, the old guard gave in. The new council took control of village finances and distributed 1,500 RMB per mu in compensation to each resident that had had land confiscated by their predecessors.

We shouldn’t assume that all Chinese villages are stupid and greedy, and that they exercise little agency when determining their own collective futures. Last year, when Yinlin villagers went to the polls again, Mr Zhou was once again voted in, despite the fact that opposition candidates representing the old, corrupt guard, had attempted to bribe voters: from late at night until six in the morning the night before, mysterious people had knocked on village doors, delivering payments of 200 RMB. Because the village council had been strictly enforcing election laws, the people who made these night-time money deliveries were unable to seize villagers’ voting cards.

Clearly, this system of village democracy is still evolving, but very impressive progress has been made – as most Western and Chinese researchers have noted. What is very important here to note though is this: the future development of village self-governance hinges largely upon the credibility it gains in the eyes of villagers. In some villages local elites and township authorities have, to date, successfully manipulated the elections to prevent any real change in village affairs. For these villagers, village self-governance may appear as little more than yet another finely choreographed political drama, scripted to maintain Party authority and to ensure the continuing extraction of resources from the rural areas. Huankantou village is a case in point. But for other villagers the elections have provided an opportunity to enhance local interests vis-à-vis the township and county governments. Even where villagers harbour doubts about the intentions of the Party-state, some have astutely appropriated the new discourse of rights, democracy and the rule of law to protect their interests.

Apart from Yinlin Village which I mentioned above, villagers in Rongcheng County, Hebei province used the discourse of “free elections” and rule of law to appeal to the central government when the local Party branch, rather than the villagers, nominated candidates. And similarly villagers in Yunman village, Dalu County, Yunnan province recited electoral procedures and rules to support their case against illegal interference in the elections by county authorities. There are many many other such examples discussed in both the media and research papers. Thus we can confidently say that the political openings offered through village self-governance create opportunities for villagers to recognise and assert their rights, negotiate public discourses of democracy and to strengthen their political position.

It is on this basis that I rested my earlier comment, cautioning people “from assuming that all, or that most villages here in China, suffer from [the] same kind of [political] dysfunctionalism” as Huankantou village. I’m not aware of any statistical research into this issue either Dylan, and so my comment was based not on quantitative research, but on what qualitative analysis there is available.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 21, 2005 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

Sorry Dylan,

I think I should just very briefly clarify the last statement from my posting above.

Perhaps you may think that I am being too presumptuous in saying that Huankantou Village is not typical in its dysfunctionalism at the political level, but I think that the many examples that one can easily find online, of villagers that have successfully implemented social and political changes at the grassroots level, provides sufficient enough qualitative and quantitative evidence for me to be able to “caution” people against thinking that all or most villages here in China resemble Huankantou.

I hope this clarifies my postion more clearly for you.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 21, 2005 @ 11:51 pm | Comment


Do “most” villages resemble Huankantou? Probably not.

Do a great many? Absolutely.

April 22, 2005 @ 12:01 am | Comment

Dear Conrad,

Yes, i agree with you. Or rather, it would seem as though you are agreeing with me, because in my first comment on this thread, I said just that: “There are many others like it, sure,” I wrote. “Thousands even.” Go back and read what I said in the last paragraph!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 22, 2005 @ 12:08 am | Comment

Mark and All,

Thanks very much for a fascinating discussion. I’m almost frustrated because the comments are so substantitive that I’m going to need to devote a good chunk of time to reading them. No skimming here!

April 22, 2005 @ 12:25 am | Comment

I found “Muddling towards Democracy” on my first google hit – it’s available at:

And you can download the PDF. The author is Anne Thurston.

April 22, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

Thanks Lisa.

Something else which I forgot to mention, is that there are roughly 100 million villages here in China. While there may be thousands of villages that experience socio-political problems similar to those suffered by the villagers of Huankantou, the vast majority of villages operate quite functionally. I for one have spent considerable time in many.

Image what China would be like right now if even a third of the country’s 100 million villages were all like Huankantou?

Fortunately though, not only for China but for the world, Huangkantou is not typical in the extent of its problems.

Regards again,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 22, 2005 @ 12:38 am | Comment

Sorry – “Image” (the first word in the second paragrpah above) should read “Imagine”.

Ann Thurston’s report, Muddling Towards Democracy, is an interesting and worthwhile read, and in my first commentary posted here on this thread, I summarised her analysis, and drew on her views quite substantially.

I’d be very interested to know your own views on this topic, Lisa.

Mark Anthony Jones

April 22, 2005 @ 12:42 am | Comment

Jing’s right- I read the first line and found it lifted from a Time Asia article I had actually linked a few days back. Thanks for the confirmation.

April 22, 2005 @ 12:44 am | Comment


What I know about village democracy is the sum of what I’ve read in the mainstream media – NYT, LAT, WaPo and the like. Which is to say, not much! Interestingly the tone of what I have read, as I recall, was positive overall – that the development of village democracy, though not without its flaws, was potentially…well, you know…revolutionary.

So I was really happy to see your comments here tonight, because this is an area I’d like to learn more about. I’m looking forward to reading what you wrote at length and also Thurston’s report.


April 22, 2005 @ 12:58 am | Comment


You might want to watch your language, plagiarism is a nasty word. It goes right next to libel, slander and sour grapes.

Yes, you have read a chunk of this article somewhere before, I wrote it, I write a lot of things. The end quote I thought was dramatic and came from a Chinese who visited the site. I do not know their name.

For the record, I got some of the information on the village from a Chinese journalist and the quotes were provided by a journalist in Hong Kong and from a pro democracy blogger. I have the names given by the villagers but I would advice you not to hold your breath too long. I used to name individual sources, but not in this case.

I have had ‘problems’ with source naming, and I thought that as this was an editorial rather than a news article it wasn’t important to name sources.

Part 2 is due soon, so that you know, I didn’t take the photographs myself. They were provided by a ‘tourist’.
If anybody has any more, I would be rather interested in being able to use them.

April 22, 2005 @ 3:39 am | Comment

Jing, which sentences and where?

This is a serious question. You have not considered the possibility that somebody else has put their name something that I wrote. If this is the case then I need to know. Anything that is in a box on my site is a quote though; they are fair game as I only used them and can’t claim ownership.

April 22, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

Three notes on village democracy and happy villagers:
1. One crucial point for healthy democratic structures is the rule of law. Hard to find in China.
2. There recently was a book published about the situation of the rural population by two Chinese journalists: “The Chinese Peasant Study” by Chen Guidi and Chun Tao (Zhongguo Nongcun Diaocha). ESWN translated some parts, don’t know if they are still available. The authors give a quite disturbing description of the arbitrariness and injustice the villagers they interviewed had to endure. No sign of working village democracy.
3. Recently read a study about the increase of uprisings in China. That also does not support the picture of working democratic structures. Quote:
“The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reports that the number of “mass incidents” (e.g. various forms of protest) has skyrocketed from about 8,700 in 1993, to 32,000 in 1999, to about 50,000 in 2002, and surpassing 58,000 in 2003 (See table in Appendix). Especially noteworthy has been the steady rate of increase: protest incidents have apparently increased every year since 1993 (although 2001 data are unavailable), and in no year did they increase by less than 9 percent.”
Available as PDF here:

April 22, 2005 @ 4:34 am | Comment

Last one was me.

April 22, 2005 @ 4:35 am | Comment


Let me provide some cultural background for you. Plagiarism may sound nasty enough for you, but not for some Chinese. They even use lying or lie lightly in debate, though there is absolutely no indication that the other party lied. And they never backed up their accusation with substance – maybe they don’t even think it’s grave accusation. I guess for them there is nothing too nasty to say.

Even if they do speak English, their perception of lie and plagiarism could be very different from native English speaker’s.

April 22, 2005 @ 5:46 am | Comment


I’m not here to challenge you about village election, since I have no knowledge about that. But your story about SARS surprises me, and it’s completely not true.

The point is not whether flu kills more or SARS kills more. The point is Chinese government deliberately blocked the SARS story and lied to WHO team, until a retired PLA doctor broke the news to CCTV and then to the world, risking his own life. CCP had written directive to state-controlled media about how to cover SARS stories. These facts have been well documented even in Chinese language context. Two officials has since lost their jobs, and if we believe you, they lost their jobs because of masturbating westerners’ conspiracy?

I hate to realise that your ever growing love for this oppressive regime reaches a new high that it makes you blind to the very obvious to many Chinese. You are in a mood of denial of every CCP’s failure. I agree with you on the cynical side of American politics, let alone the current lousy administration, but that doesn’t make China an alternative or make it more glorious. Unfortunately looks like you do think so.

P.S. You asserted Huankantou is not typical in China. How many more inccidents like that does it take to make it representative? Have you never heard of recent riots in Sichuan and Yunan?

April 22, 2005 @ 6:10 am | Comment

For further coverage of the negative consequences of the demonstrations to China, consider this article which discusses how Chinese IN JAPAN are suffering the backlash there:

April 22, 2005 @ 7:55 am | Comment

There is a very interesting link on Instapundit suggesting that there is a very large number of former military officers and NCOs forced into retirement who are also very dissatisfied with miserly pensions. The author also claims China is reducing its armed forces by about 40,000 officers and NCOs per year thus adding tothis large disgruntled group. The contention is that if the riots become widespread, the Chinese government could find itself facing an opposition that is trained and skilled in the use of military tactics and weapons – and intimately familiar with the Army’s tactics and strategies.

Reynalds is not always the best source for info, but he only links to an article. He makes no claims either way for its accuracy.

As with several of Richard’s readers, I too have only the MSM to rely on for info on China. So…its accuracy is suspect. I find the above discussion between MAJ and Dylan highly engrossing and a hell of a lot more informative thananything available in the MSM. Thanks to both.

April 22, 2005 @ 8:32 am | Comment

InstaParrot has a couple of links to interesting China stories today — but absolutely always to stories that show the country is veering toward collapse, or at least crisis, due to an increasingly unhappy populace. Check out this one.

April 22, 2005 @ 8:35 am | Comment

Yes, I have to say that the idyllic view of China that Mr. Mark Anthony Jones always presents looks like the view of european intellectuals when visited Stalin’s USSR. A sort of paradise. Happy villagers, concerned rulers, satisfaction and progress everywhere. But reality was so… different.
Dear Mr. Jones, democracy is something different than the nomination of a village-chief under the control of the Party.
I suspect that your marxist perspective has something to do with this misperception.

April 22, 2005 @ 9:13 am | Comment

I already provided my examples in the link on my second post. One only has to compare the two articles to see the similarities. I’m not trying to slander you ACB, merely encourage you to attribute your sources to clear up any possible confusion.

Your passive aggressive response was unneccessary unless you really think I’m experiencing a case of sour grapes. Plagiarism is not a nasty word, it is a serious accusation. One I wouldn’t have made if the writing hadn’t seem so familiar or if you had attributed where the information came from.

As for you Bellevue, If you want to call me a liar, come out and say so instead of hiding behind even more puerile passive aggressive crap. If you don’t have the cajones to actively confront someone and must instead rely on roundabout innuendo and racist generalizations, I don’t have anymore to say to you. Well besides the usual eat shit which you have probably heard enough by now from enough people.

April 22, 2005 @ 12:52 pm | Comment


Let me provide some cultural background for you. Plagiarism may sound nasty enough for you, but not for some Chinese. They even use lying or lie lightly in debate, though there is absolutely no indication that the other party lied. And they never backed up their accusation with substance – maybe they don’t even think it’s grave accusation. I guess for them there is nothing too nasty to say.

Even if they do speak English, their perception of lie and plagiarism could be very different from native English speaker’s.

Posted by bellevue at April 22, 2005 05:46 AM

Mr “Chink”, (a quote from bellevue himself)

Congratulation, you have outdone yourself again. I really enjoy your witticism.


April 22, 2005 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

Reading back I found I somehow skipped a few words. I meant “They even use accusation such as ‘lying’ or ‘lie’ lightly in debate, though there is absolutely no indication that the other party lied. ”

And this reference is certainly not made to the first comment here, but a large picture on this blog. Remember the allegation that I am a ‘Japanese’, or a ‘Taiwanese’?

April 22, 2005 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

MAJ: I was watching America’s 60 Minutes program last night, on Hong Kong’s Pearl TV (or maybe it was ATV World – I can’t remember). One of the stories was about how rife (and deadly) government corruption is in the United States, particularly at the state and local levels. The focus was on Miami – but if you were to document all of the known corruption cases in that state alone, over say, the last twelve months, as well as all of the associated murders, you would have a very long list, which could be used by “American-bashers” to portray that country in a light that is in no way different from the way China is often portrayed by the majority of Western media commentators.

Mark, I respect your intelligence, but if you are serious about this point then I am really disappointed. To compare the corruption you saw on 60 Minutes with the kind of corruption you see in China is patently absurd. In America, you can get a license, you can apply for a permit, you get a deed or just about anything else where government bureaucrqts are involved without paying bribes. I know all about bribery in China and how it is simply a way of life for businesses that need to ask things from local officials. I had to do it three times myself, to the fire officials.

Graft is part of daily life. Graft is everywhere. In the US, most people never encounter it. We have shows like 60 Minutes that make a big deal of it when it is uncovered. We set up sting operations. We have a free media that day and night watche our politicians for accepting cash: they proved it again 2 weeks ago with Tom Delay, and this week they seem to be trying to do the same with Hillary Clinton. Can you imagine your average reporter going after that kind of story about Hu or Wen?

Please get real. Your rabid anti-Americanism is really tainting your judgment. Any idiot knows that true, rampant corruption that dominates people’s lives is commonplace in India, Malaysia, much of Latin America and all of China. To begin to compare these places with the US, where, agaion, most people never feel the effects of government corruption in any way (I never have in America) — it’s nuts. I mean, thousands of poor Chinese are thrown out of their homes and cheated of their salaries every day in China by corrupt officials working in collusion with the police and/or hired thugs. Sorry, but while you might find an anecdotal example of this in America, it is NOT our everyday way of life. Do you believe it is? Do you really?

Now look Richard, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you are a conscious “China-basher”. But nearly all of the articles you post on this site about China focus on the negative. Rarely, on the positive. One cannot help but to view this site as essentially a forum for those Westerners who like to satisfy their masturbatory tendencies – there are many, it would seem, who derive pleasure from being able to dismiss China at every little chance possible.

I am a CCP basher, self-acknowledged and proud. I have nothing positive to say about them but I try to portray them objectively. The other day when I saw posts about how they were on the verge of collapse I said they were in fine shape. No one wants to “dismiss China” — maybe we care about the lives of the people there in a way that differs from your own.

Meanwhile, you praise the CCP at every turn, minimize their atrocities, and come up with every kind of excuse to soften criticism against them. I expect that from a self-confessed Marxist, but it does go against the fact that you’re damned smart. How can someone so smart be so capable of being hoodwinked? To honestly compare corruption in the US with China — it’s outlandish.

I’m not done, but I need to so something. Back soon.

April 22, 2005 @ 7:36 pm | Comment

MAJ: The SARS nonesense is a good case in point. I was here during that entire period, knowing, from the WHO website, that SARS was not only incredibly difficult to catch (unless you are in the habit of sharing your saliva with as many complete strangers as possible), but that is was also unlikely to prove fatal unless you had a weak immune system, which is why the sick, the elderly and very young were about the only ones who were dying from it. In fact, they were about the only ones who were catching it as well, not surprisingly.

This crosses the line. “The SARS nonsense”? Do you have any idea how virulent SARS is? Are you aware that there is no cure? To say that flu kills more people and thus SARS was nonsense — that is nonsense itself. We can protect people against the flu, we understand it. Like ebola, SARS is new and not understood. Precious few people relatively have died of ebola. Does that make fear of it nonsense? Would you eat a spoonful of it?

The Chinese government was so scared of the WHO learning of SARS in Beijing that they drove victims around in ambulances so inspectors couldn’t see them in hospitals. They lied and created havoc. It was such a disaster for the government they had to sacrifice Bejing’s mayor and the health minister. While Vietnam and Singapore acted quickly and efficiently, China lied and schemed — all so they wouldn’t distract from their annual bullshit congress. Vietnam and Singapore soon wiped it out. In China, it took off.

Healthy young men and women died of SARS. A young flight attendant in Beijing gave it to her young husband and he died, along with one of their sons. (And what did China do? Why, they arrested her, of course.) In this case you don’t have a leg to stand on, and I have to say you are either lying or ignorant. Sorry, but I have no choice. For the first time, i think you willfully ignoring the truth and giving a very false impression of SARS. Fewer people have died of bird flu than even SARS, and yet the world medical community is terrified — is this nonsense, too? And how the fuck do you know, anyway? Who are you, to declare a serious health crisis — one that is super-contagious and has an extremely high relative death rate — to be “nonsense”?

If you are defending the way the CCP behaved in this, its ugliest hour, I can’t let it go. I was there, I saw the fear and the panic, all brought on by a lying, cowardly, self-serving government that put its vanity before the good of the people it is sworn to protect (ha). Go to the left sidebar and find my stories on SARS and you will see it all.

I have never, ever heard anyone before make light of SARS like this. Just as when you said you believe the insurgents need to achieve victory over the US in Iraq, you again make a statement that calls into question your morality and your judgment. I know this is harsh and may sound like an ad hominem attack (though it isn’t). But I want to call you to account. Where did you find that SARS mainly killed the weak and sick? Patient zero was a doctor in good health. In Singapore when I arrived in 2003, I saw a TV show on the death of a teenage basketball player. So what are your sources? Put up or shut up.

As to your argument over whether things are bad in other Chinese villages, all I can say is that I wish you could hear yourself. The commenter who compared it to the wide-eyed Westerners marveling at the joys and efficiencies of Stalin’s benevolent reign had it just right.

It’s a real shame. I’ve been enjoying your many insights and your keen grasp of history and your writing skill. Why must you destroy my respect for you with arguments that simply cry out with irrationality and blindness??

April 22, 2005 @ 8:01 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

I was not comparing the level or even type of corruption that exists in China with the type of and extent of corruption that occurs in the United States or other Western countries – though I could very well make such a case strongly if I wanted to. After all, there are indeed numerous global corruption reports which do just that.

All I was saying, if you read me carefully enough, is that it is always easy for somebody to be selective with their evidence. It’s easy to portray China is a very negative light when nearly all of the articles you bake on Peking Duck focus on the negative. The point that I was making, is that one could just as easily compile a long list of all of the negatives about any other country, like the US, and use it to produce for readers an image not at all that unlike the image that many are intent on painting of China. Richard, as usual, you are reading too much into me! I DID NOT DRAW ANY COMPARISONS BETWEEN CHINA AND THE U.S. WHERE CORRUPTION IS CONCERNED. You show where I did.

You also claim that I praise the CCP “at every turn”. Rubbish. Those who have read my comments on this thread and elsewhere on this site CAREFULLY enough will know that this charge is simply way off. My comments above for starters, do not praise. They examine the positives and the negatives. I point out several of the ongoing problems and difficulties inherent in the village election system, and in doing do I provide a balanced view. Not only this, but I back up all of my claims by quoting or referring to independent studies, most of which are American – particularly though carried out by the Carter Center. In fact Richard, my comments above largely takes the form a report, in that I am drawing the attention of Peking Duck’s readers to the findings of such reports.

Again, your charge that I am in any way “anti-American” is both insulting and absurd, and I reject the tag outright. If challenging US imperialism makes me anti-American in your eyes, then too bad. I suppose there is an awful of a lot of Americans who are also naughty, unpatriotic self-bashers.

I shall deal with the SARS issue a little later – I shall indeed “put up” rather than “shut-up.”

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 22, 2005 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

Anyone reading your quote about the 60 Minutes corruption piece will be led to the same conlcusion, that there’s just as much that can be said about corruption in the US as there is in China. Which is horseshit.

Please be sure to answer my question: Are bird flu and ebola virus also nonsense, since they kill way, way, way less than flu?

April 22, 2005 @ 8:48 pm | Comment

And diseases of all kinds always kill a disproportionate number of the very young and the very old. They are weaker, of course. So to make your claim you need to show that SARS broke the usual patterns and claimed older/younger people far more drastically than ordinary illness do in comparison. Good luck.

April 22, 2005 @ 8:58 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

Yes, I will be sure to answer all your questions when I later respond the SARS issue.

As for what I said earlier about 60 Minutes – let me quote myself for you. I said “if you were to document all of the known corruption cases in [Miami] alone, over say, the last twelve months, as well as all of the associated murders, you would have a very long list, which could be used by “American-bashers” to portray that country in a light that is in no way different from the way China is often portrayed by the majority of Western media commentators.”

Notice the words “could be used” by “American-bashers” to “portray” American in a particular light similar to the way in which many try to portray China.

Anybody who is capable of reading will instantly be able to fully comprehend my meaning. There is nothing at all ambiguous in my statements. No comparison was being made – quite clearly, between the type of corruption that is common in the US to the type of corruption common in China.

Mark Anthony Jones

April 22, 2005 @ 9:04 pm | Comment

Here in the Western US (the only part I’ve lived in) we don’t even know how bribes work. No one in my extended family or circle of friends has ever offered or been required to pay a bribe to get any kind of govt. business done. My friends my back East tell me that things aren’t quite the same, and that building permits and such can involve them in the big cities, but that you are at least as likely in such a situation to have to pay ‘protection’ money to the mob, or use their contractors, etc.

The main difference between most corruption in the US and many other places, as I see it, is that here it’s not ‘end user visible’. It tends to not be requiring bribes. It runs more to contract kickbacks and suchnot.

We expect people to try and ‘get their slice’ however they can, but just don’t extract it from ME to deliver a govt. service I’ve already paid for via taxes. Steal from us blind after you’ve got the tax money in the cookie jar, that’s to be expected.

THAT is the big difference with US corruption, and I think you can chalk it up to Western (as in Old West) idealism and the Consumer Culture. Rob me once, but not twice!

April 22, 2005 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

I’ll buy that David. The corruption that we have is between the big boys, the contractors and politicians. It has little effect on us peons on the ground. Every society where taxes are collected will have corruption, because there’s always going to be someone with power trying to siphon some of the booty off for himself. But we in America and most of the Western world have it pretty damned good in this respect. There may be some “hidden costs” we never know about, but none of us is thrown out or denied a pay check. No comaprisin with China, where you can be thrown out of your home at the whim of a corrupt party official, and all you can do is cry behind a tree, with virutally no hope of justice, no free press or open courts to turn to.

April 22, 2005 @ 10:08 pm | Comment

“Here in the Western US (the only part I’ve lived in) we don’t even know how bribes work.”

Your part is very lucky, my part has been embroiled in corruption scandals, with the Republican Czar mayor Joe and long time Republican comptroller Lunacy.

April 22, 2005 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

I’m wondering how an average Chinese would react to the SARS story intepreted by MAJ, the agruably ‘great friend’ of them. As the real victim of all CCP mismanagement, rather than a tourist seeking exotic experience, they’ll never fail to identify the shameful disservice in the name of enlightenment. What they just do not need is more justification for CCP in English context.

For me, it’s a sad case of witnessing that extreme ideology ultimately leads to moral bancruptcy to such unbelievable scale.

April 22, 2005 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

The whole point that I was making about the way that the SARS issue was reported by Western media commentators, is that the crisis was seized upon in such a way as to (a) attack the CCP for its slow response to the growing number of reported SARS cases, and for its at times dishonesty in revealing the number of reported SARS cases on the mainland, and (b) to further push the popular discourse that China is still a very long way from becoming the next global hegemon, and that this has something to do with the CCP’s inability to deal effectively enough with China’s many problems. SARS was being held up as yet another example of China’s inherent limitations. Many articles and newspaper reports thus exuded a certain degree of smugness, a kind of “this proves that we’re better than them” kind of attitude.

The SARS outbreak itself though was greatly over-dramatised, which makes its use as a weapon of propaganda all the more disturbing. The whole hyped-up drama was, I maintain, a bit of a “nonsense.” I was in China for the entire duration of the SARS scare, and my parents came out to China and travelled throughout the country during the height of the scare. They had the Badaling section (the most popular section) of the Great Wall almost entirely to themselves. They couldn’t have chosen a better time to come to China! I myself, along with my Chinese fiancee, Gao Ying, also took the opportunity to do some travelling – to Qingdao and Qufu, in Shandong province. Meanwhile, EVERY SINGLE American teacher living in the city of Huai’an evacuated themselves. This is in a province (Jiangsu) of 75 million people, and where only 4 suspected SARS cases had been reported. The whole scare campaign caused immense anxiety and irrational hysteria among the Chinese too.

But anybody rational enough to have sought the facts by logging onto the WHO website, would have known that SARS is incredibly difficult to catch. According to WHO, the disease is spread from person to person, but only when in close contact. They define “close contact” as being instances where people are caring for, living with or in direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS. Not surprisingly then, almost all reported cases occurred in health workers involved in caring for people with the disease or in several members of a family. WHO even say that there’s “no evidence to date that the disease spreads through casual contact”.

Although the threat of a potentially global infection can seem alarming, BUPA Group’s assistant medical director, Dr Annabel Bentley, stressed that the disease is “UNLIKELY TO POSE A PROBLEM FOR MOST PEOPLE.”

The Western media however, fanned the flames of panic and left people without sound information.

The Chinese state and its media also responded to international criticisms and pressure by fuelling the flames of panic (to prove to the rest of the world that they were responsible and that they were doing all they can to contain its spread) by going overboard in their efforts to “control” the so-called “epidemic”. It wasn’t much of an epidemic though was it? I mean, despite all the media hype, the actual number of deaths from SARS was comparatively very very low.

Compare it to the death rates from other illnesses which we hear little or nothing about. Pneumonia for example, kills more than 40,000 North Americans yearly, and each year millions of North Americans alone contract the flu, killing thousands.

Richard, you ask me whether of not I think bird flu and the ebola virus are “also nonsense, since they kill way, way, way less than flu.”

Look, I never suggested that ebola virus and the bird flu are both potentially harmless, or that they don’t pose a serious health threat. They do. But consider this: during annual influenza epidemics, 5-15% of the population are normally affected with upper respiratory tract infections. Hospitalization and deaths mainly occur in high-risk groups (elderly, chronically ill). Although difficult to assess, these annual epidemics are thought to result in between three and five million cases of severe illness and between 250 000 and 500,000 deaths every year around the world. That’s a very significant number of deaths isn’t it?

Now compare the way the media responded to the SARS outbreak in China to the way it treats the far far far greater threat of flu epidemics. SARS was reported in such a way that it pulled the public’s attention toward our immediate survival – the angel of Death could strike anyone of us, anywhere. The media coverage of this issue was pervasive and overwhelming, and complete with the daily new counts of SARS victims, probable cases, news of mass quarantines, travel advisory alerts, etc.

Well why doesn’t the Western media whip up the same kind of hysteria about the flu for example, since it is far more contagious, and hence results in far far far more deaths? WHY? Why aren’t the world’s governments issuing travel warnings to Australia and the United States right now as I type, because the chances of me getting the flu and dying from it on a trip to New York is incredibly greater than the chances were of me getting SARS back in 2003 during the height of ther crisis here in China.

What is also HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS about the mysterious and terrifying arrival of SARS is its timing. It arrived virtually synchronous with the global war on terrorism, and the Anglo-American war with Iraq. What a great distraction this manufactured crisis proved to be.

Finally Richard, show me where I defended the CCP’s behaviour in its apparent attempts to cover up the number of SARS cases in mainland China? You have this very annoying habit of putting words into my mouth.

The politics of SARS, and the way that China at first responded to the crisis, is a far more complex and layered than I think you imagine too incidentally!

Mark Anthony Jones

April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 am | Comment

“Here in the Western US (the only part I’ve lived in) we don’t even know how bribes work.”

I imagine it taking something like spy-movie secrecy to even bring up the subject in most places. HOWEVER, when I had a ratty old Volkswagen, it always passed inspection at a certain station if I left a $10 bill in the seat. That was around 1980 or so.

April 23, 2005 @ 2:41 am | Comment

Interest MAJ. Did you or your parents go to Guangzhou or Hong Kong during the SARS crisis?

More interesting MAJ. For a person who portrays himself in your writing as studious, intelligent and rational how interesting it is that you would link the outbreak of SARS in South China with the war on terrorism. How do you think they are connected?

And why do you call it a scare campaign? An interesting thought, but without any substance I know of. I was in GZ all during the the SARS period and follow it intensely. The Chinese I knew took precautions as I did, but hardly in a hysterical way. I stopped going to restaurants and cooked at my apartment. I think you might be making a mountain out of mole hill about the media coverage, perhaps to cover the CCP/government for it initial lying, its initial actions to combat the dangerous SARS disease that at the outbreak was unknown and untreatable. Perhaps the media was reacting to the BJ’s initial actions. if it is so bad that BJ is trying to hide it, them BJ and the outbreak better had massive coverage so the disease gets attention and BJ gets a world wide black eye for being cowardly and complicit in the unnecessary deaths of possibly hundreds of people.

I think you are wrong about the transmission of SARS. As I recall, Patient Zero, who seems to be the first person that transmitted SARS ever was not in close proximity to health care workers who caught the disease from him. He was doing normal activities for a traveler to HK for a medical meeting, staying at a hotel from where SARS spread out, using the elevator and such.

April 23, 2005 @ 4:19 am | Comment

Up here in Canada, corruption usually involves a lot of stupidity. The Liberal government is going through a corruption scandal where apparently $100 million dollars was siphoned off to Liberal friendly ad firms and friends. The money was paid off in government contracts for little or no work. The happy companies then filled the Liberal Party coffers with kickbacks. It wasn’t that hard for an honest auditor general to go through the books and find a mess. We’re calling it Adscam. Our Prime Minster, Paul Martin, made a televised speech pleading to Canadians for our support. It’s very likely that the government is going to fall over this and we’re going to hold new elections soon.

On the local level, Toronto has finished an inquiry into how a computer leasing contract ballooned into massive overruns. Apparently, the salesman, Dash Tomi (brother of the NHL star Tie Domi) wined and dined our gullible city councilors. He also appeared to have taken $25000 and given the money to a councilor, Tom Jacobek in kickbacks. The really amusing thing was how Jacobek money launder the money through his elderly parents numerous back accounts to pay for a trip to Walt Disney World. When called to testify, everybody involved seemed to develop a case of amnesia.

We Canadians like to consider ourselves a highly moral and honest country though I’m beginning to have my doubts. Bribery and corruption exist especially in the poorer parts of the country but it’s very well hidden and quiet. For instance the payments to the ad firms went on for many years before anybody noticed.

April 23, 2005 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Dear Pete and Richard,

I am glad that the both of you have brought up the question of patient zero. The famous microbiologist, Liu Jianlun, who probably caught SARS from his lab in Guangzhou, did indeed infect 9 other people, at a hotel where he was staying in Hong Kong. But Liu Jianlun was an elderly man. He was 64 years of age. As I said, it was the sick, the elderly, and the very young that were most at risk of getting SARS – as is the case with all other illnesses. The average age of all those who died from SARS was 74.

Pete – I am not wrong about the transmission of SARS. Go and read the WHO website for yourself. According to WHO, the disease is spread from person to person, but only when in close contact. They define “close contact” as being instances where people are caring for, living with or in direct contact with respiratory secretions and body fluids of a person with SARS. Not surprisingly then, almost ALL reported cases occurred in health workers involved in caring for people with the disease or in several members of a family.

As I mentioned in my initial comment on this thread, the number of people who died in the US from other strains of the flu was far higher than the number of people who caught and died from SARS in China during that same period. The same can be said about Canada and Britain, and no doubt many other countries as well.

Yet the WHO and the Western press have never, to date, hyped this up in the way that they did with SARS. Travel warning have never been issued advising people not to visit the US due to the threat of the flu.

I know that SARS is nothing to be sneezed at but, as ever, it is necessary to maintain a sober sense of proportion. This is not the bubonic plague with its 100 per cent mortality devastating the towns and cities of medieval Europe. China may have been way out in front with its tally of SARS cases, but that total was not so many in a population of 1.3 billion. Its final death toll from SARS remains an imperceptible blip when added to the 173,000 Chinese who died from respiratory diseases that same year.

Regrettably, the WHO is not very good at maintaining a sense of perspective, as the mayor of Toronto discovered when he woke up to find his city on its blacklist of places deemed “unsafe to visit”, resulting in mass cancellation of flights into the city. This, he pointed out angrily, was something of an over-reaction as the 300 suspected cases – out of a city of three million – were all being safely looked after in medical institutions and were thus scarcely in a position to transmit the infection to visitors.

Meanwhile, for the moment, the WHO’s prominent role in this self-styled “first international health threat of the 21st century” does get it off the hook of having to explain why two-thirds of its staff are concentrated in Geneva and other expensive capital cities rather than in poverty stricken nations whose citizens daily confront a much more substantial threat from readily preventable infections such as cholera and malaria. Or why indeed it spends more on parties and receptions, paper, pens and pencils, and international meetings than the total healthcare budget of many nations.

The point that I was making initially is that this manufactured crisis was exploited by Western media commentators to further push their anti-China discourse, it was hyped-up nonesense, used to embarrass and to be-little China.

My parents, Pete, travelled first to Thailand, then Hong Kong, Shanghai, Suzhou, Xi’an, and Beijing – right in the middle of the SARS crisis. They were not worried, because they knew damned well what the risks were – exceedingly low. The WHO website itself even said so, at the time! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

I was working in Huai’an, Jiangsu Province throughout this SARS period, at the China-Australia Education Centre. The owner and director of that centre is a retired professor and former head of the Germanic Studies Department at the University of Sydney – Professor Reginald St.Leon. He was 75 years of age at that time, and even he wasn’t in the slightest bit worried about SARS. The both of us use to have a good laugh every time we read the news in the Western press online, about how hyped-up and ridiculous most of the SARS reporting was.

Likewise, another member of staff, Ms Narelle Milligan, aged in her 60s, wasn’t at all bothered either. She read the WHO website, telling her how difficult is was to catch SARS, realised that the risks were exceedingly low, and couldn’t understand, like the rest of us, what all the fuss was about. Some of the headlines being touted about in the West were such plain stupid – headlines like “Killer new bug threatens the world” (from a British tabloid, if I remember correctly).

I didn’t stop travelling throughout China during this period, nor did I stop using local buses, nor did I stop eating out in restaurants. And why should I have behaved so irrationally? The risks of me a contracting a serious life-threatening strain of the influenza in London or Sydney or New York was and still is greater, and nobody has ever suggested to me that I ought to avoid eating out in cafes and restaurants in those fashionable places.

Pete, if you do a little research on the web, you will discover what I knew way back when the SARS crisis was in full swing, from the WHO website, that SARS was being treated with exactly same medications as is used for all other forms of the flu (namely, riboflavin) and with similar success rates! It was no less treatable, despite what you like to think!

And Pete, you show me where I have ever linked the outbreak of SARS in South China with the war on terrorism? Where did I ever say that? All I ever said was that the timing was suspicious – something which many others have also noted. At no time have I ever suggested that there is a clear link. If I did, I would have supported it with empirical evidence.

The SARS discourse though is certainly very similar – the wealthy developed world threatened not only by terrorists from the developing world, but now also from new diseases from the developing world.

Oh dear! Everybody buy a mask, run for cover, lock yourselves away safe in your homes, Armegeddon is fast approaching! It’s them Chinese you know, them evil communists, there out to get us…..

Mark Anthony Jones

April 23, 2005 @ 7:33 am | Comment

“At no time have I ever suggested there was a clear link.” Nor did I say you made a clear link. Now that I see you will play word games I can take you with more than a gain of salt. Who are those others that noted the possible, but not clear, link between SARS and the war on terrorism? I have never read or hear that allegation before.

The spread of SARS from Patient Zero does not fit your ideas about transmission. How is that accounted for?

Much appreciate your responses.

April 23, 2005 @ 9:37 am | Comment

JR: Your part is very lucky, my part has been embroiled in corruption scandals, with the Republican Czar mayor Joe and long time Republican comptroller Lunacy.

Bravo — exactly my point! Corruption in America takes place daily on the corporate and political level, and we on the ground know about it only because our free media exposes it. Do we pay a price, are we affected? Yes, by having our tax dollars ripped off, or for having to pay more for drugs because a bought-and-paid-for senator in the pocket of the drug industry voted on a bill that hurts the citizens. And that can never change – as long as taxes are collected, someone will try to steal some of the money for himself via corruption.

China’s corruption is of an altogether different nature. In spite of America’s political corruption, you will never see villagers in the US take over their town, burn government buildings and cars and declare a state of war over corrupt officials. Because they can just vote them out! In China, the corruption affects literally millions and millions of people on a daily basis, whether it’s the poor migrant worker thrown out without getting a penny for the months of work he performed or the American businessman trying to get a permit to put up an electric sign. Zero comparison. Zero.

April 23, 2005 @ 11:45 am | Comment

Let’s go back to your original statement:
More people died in America from other strains of the flu during the same period. The same in Britian. And yet, the way the world’s media reacted, you would think that Armageddon had begun. And the focus for all of this hyberbolic nonesense – the CCP, and its alleged failure to acknowledge and to act quickly enough.

Others have said it, but I’ll say it my way. More horseshit. There would never have been a panic on the scale we saw in Beijing if the government had come right out and told the truth. There would have still been the face masks (I saw that everwhere, Singapore, HK, Beijing) but not the frenzy, where people jammed into stores to buy goods because they thought Beijing would be literally shut down and quarantined. The media never told people they should wear facemasks. The media in Beijing were silenced on the topic as you well know until the coverup emerged, and not even the CCP propaganda machine could hide the fact that the government had lied to the people in the most blatant and dangerous way.

So what do you do? Blame the media for all the “nonsense.” You are literally the only one I’ve seen who goes easy on the CCP for covering up a highly contagious and lethal disease. The only one. The CDC, the WHO, professors and doctors around thw world were all frantically working to understand and contain a new disease, and you minimize it, making them seem rather foolish, as though the efforts were nonsensical because, hey, so many more people die of flu. There was an element of nonsense, and that was the ridiculous over-reaction in China once the cover-up was exposed. But the hysteria was exactly the fault of the government — if they had opened up at once and tried to inform instead of deceive, people would have understood the situation better. As in HK, they would probably still have donned their masks, but again, that’s not because of the media, it’s because of their own superstitions and fears. They also bought every bottle of vinegar and ever drop of a certain brand of Detol soap because of old wives’ tales that said these substances stopped the virus. This didn’t come from the media – it came from an hysterical poulace with no information from the government. Once the government lost all credibility, rumors ran rampant and people seized on anything they heard. It didn’t have to be that way. The nonsense was government architected. And you dare to say it was a case of the media attempting to belittle China. The CCP belittled China. They stabbed their people in the back and you blame the Western media.

On another point. You make a point of implying that mainly the elderly were at risk, that there really wasn’t much to worry about for the healthy young population. Well, the Center for Disease Control did a study of a hospital in Singapore with 19 SARS patients. Here’s a line from their report:

The median age of patients was 28 years. All were previously healthy, except one who had diabetes mellitus and end-stage renal failure and one who had a history of childhood asthma.

You manipulate facts brilliantly. I just revisited your exact words: “The average age of all those who died from SARS was 74.” But that’s the median age for death, not contraction. The SARS virus was extraordinarily indiscriminate when it came to age — it was an equal opportunity killer and no one was safe from contracting the disease. So your point about age, whatever it is, has no merit. Young and middle aged people were at the same risk of getting SARS as the weak and the elderly — as with most diseases, more elderly died from it, as they are…elderly. So what point are you trying to make about SARS and the elderly?

You keep talking about other diseases, flu and malaria, without acknowledgeing the huge differentiating factor: We can guard against those diseases. We can treat them. We are familiar with them. That’s why a single case of mad cow disease will ignite a media firestorm, while a million dead over a year from flu isn’t news at all. The SARS media firestorm was correct and appropriate; I rarely if ever saw false information in those articles. Did they play it up? Of course – that’s what the media does, and in this case it served a purpose. Silence equals death, awareness equals life. Which course did the CCP choose? And instead of attacking them, you only attack those who “belittled” the poor little picked-on CCP, working so valiantly for its beloved citizens. Please Mark, listen to yourself.

April 23, 2005 @ 12:46 pm | Comment

Last thought: You can google around and find a quote to support anything you want. Funny, how the person you find to quote as to how relatively insignificant SARS was is the head of a health insurance company. Were the CDC and WHO all self-deluded? Was the whistleblower doctor in Beijing? Were the only ones with the knowledge and clarity one Mark Anthony Jones and an insurance executive?

April 23, 2005 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

I’m a Chinese university student in Canada, and I’d just like to point out that in one of my classes here, there was an entire discussion on how overblown the SARS coverage was in the media. Mark isn’t alone in his allegation.

Question to Richard:
If the mean age for contraction of SARS was 28, and the mean age of death from SARS was 74, doesn’t this just show that only the old and frail are vulnerable to this disease? After all, aren’t contagious viruses generally unselective among age groups in their spread?

You keep talking about other diseases, flu and malaria, without acknowledgeing the huge differentiating factor: We can guard against those diseases. We can treat them.

If we can treat them so well, then why do people die from them still?

Then again, I think it’s a good thing that the media blew the CCP’s cover so that maybe they’ll handle the AIDS situation a bit better. Despite the CCP’s failures, though, they don’t entirely excuse the media from causing extreme unwarranted panic (even in remote places like Toronto).

I shall wait for Mark Anthony Jones to write a very pithy refutation. He has a good basis for his argument, I think.

April 23, 2005 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

Some good points you make.

What MAJ doesn’t know or ignores is that the DISEASE in Guangdong and maybe HK was being talked about by the people and reported in the local Chinese newspapers and acted on and fear generated before the DISEASE became world wide news. Before the CCP owned up to the problem, before the BJ doctor blew the whistle, before WHO,I remember asking my Chinese friends why so many Chinese in GZ were wearing masks. I was told something deadly was going around; that the cure was believed to be vinegar and all the stores were sold out. At this time there was no public word from BJ. Then I saw information about an unknown illness and deaths from HK, an unknown illness in Vietnam and shortly thereafter a death there, deaths in Singapore and if I remeber correctly someone flying to the U.S. or Canada from HK who might have been exposed. All this and more happened before CCP/government announced the outbreak.

It looks like MAJ is so full of himself and he is prideful he survived because of his superior knowledge of the minimal risks that he has to tell us. Or he is a shill for the CCP trying to deflect blame as you so properly point out from the CCP to the big bad Western media. I guess the bottom line is did the media coverage kill anyone or cause any SARS deaths one on hand, or, did the CCP/government failure to timely inform the public and the world about the mysterious disease and its lies about the situation cause or contribute to unnecessary deaths and illnesses on the other?

I remeber that there were several dedicated healthcare workers, including doctors, who contracted SARS early on and died. I will always wonder if those people could have avoided SARS or at least avoided paying the ultimate price for providing their courageous services, if the mainland had promptly alerted world as to the problem.

April 23, 2005 @ 7:25 pm | Comment

Pete, absolutely brilliant. Fascinating, how some will go so far out of the way to avoid criticizing the CCP. And your inside view of Guangzhou is invaluable.

Rui, really, you have to do some research before you post comments like “If we can treat them [malaria and flu] so well, then why do people die from them still?” If you did some searching you’d see it’s mainly due to lack of preventitive measures like mosquito control and having enough flu shots available. Of course, it’s mainly the poorer parts of the world who get malaria now because it’s relativey easy to contain. SARS could go after the rich businessman in HK and the poor farmer in Guangzhou; there is no known vaccine or preventitive solution except for hot weather.

As for SARS over-ex[posure in the media, sure there was, just like Michael Jackson and Terri Schiavo and the pope — if it bleeds, it leads, and SARS had all the makings of the great story: no cure, no knowledge of its makeup, high death rates, scheming government officials plotting to deceive their people, young people and old alike coming down with it.

Then you ask: If the mean age for contraction of SARS was 28, and the mean age of death from SARS was 74, doesn’t this just show that only the old and frail are vulnerable to this disease?

The elderly are more vulnerable to DEATH from the disease, as they are from virtually every disease. But they are at the same or lower risk risk of INFECTION than the young. Just because SARS didn’t kill those young people, it sure did a number on their health, sending many to the very brink of death, and many to death, period. Since the young weren’t so likely to die as the old, do you therefore feel SARS wasn’t that important a thing?

April 23, 2005 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

I have become a great fan of Peking Duck and find the discussions a cut above most other blogs about the mainland. Kudos to you Richard and my appreciation for all the generally excellent feedback. I never respond to blogs nor write letters to the editor—until now. And only after reading the comments concerning SARS on the mainland in 2003. Especially those posted by MAJ.

I am a waiguoren that has been in China since 2001 and have lived and worked in Beijing for the last three years. I remember quite clearly the events of March-May, 2003.

As I read through the thread, it seems there is some dispute about the danger of contracting (and surviving) SARS, the government’s handling of the situation (crisis?), and the role of the media. So here’s my two cents worth on those issues.

Prior to the Sunday afternoon sacking of the two government officials, it was impossible to know what was happening in the country except through the internet. Government officials were proclaiming the disease was under control and were actively promoting travel for the upcoming May holidays. They had intentionally hoodwinked the delegation from the WHO that had been in country investigating. It was exacerbating to have to get online (pre-ADSL days) to find out exactly what the hell this disease was all about. In late March, I was relying on friends overseas to report that something was wrong in HK, GZ, and Vietnam. I was telling them there was no problem, come on over for a visit. I am happy that some people knew exactly how contagious, how severe, transmission methods, etc. were, but I can tell you they were definitely a small, very small minority. As I recall at the time, no one, including the WHO knew very much about SARS, to the extent the disease hadn’t even been named yet. I remember going to the CDC website after stumbling through all the scientific jargon, was that it was a respiratory ailment like pneumonia, and transmitted in the same way the common cold is transmitted. And that is usually by contact from the hands to the nose, eyes, or mouth. I do not in any way; remember the WHO or the CDC “downplaying” the risks.

But what caused the panic over SARS were the deliberate, intentional, and premeditated efforts of the government to hide the true nature and extent of the disease. And anybody that lived in Beijing will remember it as anything other than a panic. Food hoarding, entire xiao qu’s (not just individual buildings) being quarantined, empty busses, subway stations that would have a dozen people in them at 5:00 in the afternoon, Wanfujing empty, literally, on a Friday night. I too visited Badaling during SARS, only because the villages outside of BJ had roadblocks refusing entrance to anyone with BJ license plates. (I’ll send you the pictures if you like.) I can’t speak for the reaction in Jiangsu., but BJ was a mess. And in Shanxi, Shaanxi, Guizhou, and Guangxi, there was an undercurrent of tension in the air. Why? Because the government had tried, in a sophomoric effort, to cover it up. My point is this, even if SARS turned out to nothing more than the common cold, the scariest aspect of the whole experience was the CCP’s handling of it. And make no mistake, if it hadn’t been for that doctor at 301 blowing the whistle, they would have continued on the same course.

Whether the western media overplayed it or not, I couldn’t say. I would guess they did as they do in so many other situations. But, if I have to make a choice between underplaying (and manipulating in the case of the mainland) and overplaying, I know which I would choose.

So Richard, your assessment of the situation is spot on. You will get no argument from me on any of your comments regarding SARS (and I have indeed read your past blogs, that is what drew me to this site in the first place.) Other commenters here, I believe, ascribe too much benevolence to the CCP.

April 23, 2005 @ 9:12 pm | Comment

It was SARS that acquainted a lot of people with blog back in 2003 when I started a series of posts, written in a true state of shock about how the government was (mis)handling the issue. I really appreciate your verifying the truth, Doug.

Instead of looking at what actually happened, my friend MAJ creates abstruse arguments going off in all direction with multiple villains but, of course, a wholly innocent CCP. He can always find a source to back up his point of view, though usually it’s someone we’ve never heard of.

Again, no journalist or blogger who was in China throughout SARS that I know of ever, ever concluded that the CCP was a victim of a bullying media whilst it was doing all it could to protect its people. It was the exact opposite. And yet Mark wants to rewrite history to match his vision of a rather bnenevolent China, making “mistakes” now and then but generally better than the corrupt and awful West, led by the Beelzebub, America.

The only problem is, anyone living in China who closely followed the news knows at a glance that Mark’s story is a virtual fantasy. I was right in the heart of it, and it was the most vivid memory of my entire life. What Mark is doing is akin to those “historians” revising Japanese textbook and deleting the truth about the Rape of Nanjing.

April 23, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Since the young weren’t so likely to die as the old, do you therefore feel SARS wasn’t that important a thing?

Actually, it does suggest that it was not incredibly important relative to other diseases, since, as you said, the old are always more likely to die from disease than the young. No one’s manipulating this fact.

As for my other question, what’s the point in telling me to do research? Simple question, simple answer, please. I know that SARS has a higher mortality rate. I was just suggesting that the probability of getting SARS and dying from it was still far less than getting the flu and dying from it or even dying in a car crash. If, like in Canada, the media generated such fear from every thing such as dying from car crashes or falling, what would society become? Sure, we’d all be very healthy, but we may as well forget about living a normal life.

I was not in China at the time, but I know people in China who didn’t see what all the fuss was all about, even foreigners who shared this viewpoint. We obviously come from different backgrounds.

The question is, would SARS have become a devastating epidemic if the CCP was successful in hiding it? I think yes, but so would a lot of other things if no one ever took notice. But if actually took an over-hyped media to punish the CCP, then so be it.
On the other hand, if it did spread, it would have been caught and put under control without reaching epidemic levels, since it wasn’t that deadly or contagious. So SARS most definitely evoked more panic than it deserved.

April 24, 2005 @ 2:29 am | Comment

In case I seem to contradict myself in the last paragraph, I meant that it was good that the media forced the CCP to reconsider its actions, not that the media should have made it seem so deadly or dangerous to the population.

April 24, 2005 @ 2:53 am | Comment

Correction: every thing such as dying from car crashes or falling ill

April 24, 2005 @ 4:13 am | Comment

Rui, there is no doubt SARS created more panic than it deserved. But that never hurt a soul. Go back and read the last few comments from people who were actually there.

You are being very dense on the subject of DEATH vs. INFECTION. A disease can create a huge threat, tremendous expenses and a distruption of society even if its victims do not die from it. This argument is a canard concocted by MAJ to make SARS look like something rather silly, despite the terrible dangers of an untreatable, contagious disease. (After only four cases of AIDS, New York and San Francisco were in a panic — justifiably. The THREAT was huge, even if the numbers were still small.) Oh, and I hope you’ve noticed the response of MAJ to all this: [silence].

April 24, 2005 @ 9:58 am | Comment

Dear Rui,

I thank you for you sober judgement, and would like to point out to you that everything that you have said is ALL that I have ever said or suggested regarding this issue.

Richard and Pete have both taken what I have said, and have blown it up and distorted it, making all kinds of allegations against me, saying that I said this and that, when quite clearly I haven’t. They have also, in doing so, made a number of factual errors, which I shall correct them on later in the day, when I get around to it.

Their claims that I have defended the CCP in any way is outrageous and false, and a complete and utter distortion of my views. I have never defended the CCP’s actions regarding their intitial handling of SARS. I didn’t even mention this issue.

Frankly, I find both Richard and Pete to be way out of order in this regard. In fact, it is most ungentlemanly of them both.

Mark Anthony Jones

April 24, 2005 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

Sorry if you see it that way, Mark. I guess we misunderstood you. By trying to show us SARS was a major threat only to old people and by referring to the coverage of SARS as “nonsense” and by saying the media used it to make China look immature and bad — by saying these things, it gave me the impression you were finding fault only with the media and little if none with the way the government handled this crisis. You never once address what is at the heart of the matter: That it all could have been avoided if the government had been honest. Singapore and Vietnam very quickly eradicated the virus (certainly compared to China) with a huge awareness campaign based on openness and rigorous screening. The CCP, by lying and saying it didn’t even exist, put its people at risk and showed its true stripes. It was their most embarrassing moment, and I fully understand why you would want to block it out.

April 24, 2005 @ 7:43 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

I intend to address all of the factual errors that both you and Pete have made, and I will also address what I think is at the heart of the matter. I will probably not get around to writing it up until this afternoon, as I am a little busy this morning.

For now though, let me just say that I do appreciate your apology. You and Pete ought to be a little more careful in the future though – it is generally not good practice to be so presumptuous. Rather than simply assuming that you know what I thinks on a aprticular issue, and then rushing in and attacking me on “my” position, it would be far more polite and honourable if you were to ask me for clarrification of my views on specific issues which I have not already addressed. I mean, I for one do not appreciate being slandered.

I stand firmy behind all of what I have actually said though, and I will rebutt all of your arguments later in the day.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 24, 2005 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

Mark: I do realize that I didn’t break any new ground at all. I was merely trying to point that there is someone here who agrees with you, but got more involved than I wanted to. Glad you’re finally back.

April 24, 2005 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Dear Richard and Pete,

I intend to make this my last entry on this thread. I shall outline my argument, clarify my position, and address what I think are the weaknesses in your argument. I will also correct a number of factual errors that the both of you have made.

My initial argument can be summarised quite simply:

(a) that SARS, “while no sneezing matter”, is not as serious as most other strains of the flu, in that it is not as contagious or as deadly, and so

(b) the Western media’s coverage of the SARS crisis was hyped-up, over-sensationalised “hyberbolic nonsense” which placed

(c) too much emphasis on the failings and limitations of China’s political leadership to deal with such crises.

Apart from expanding on points (a) and (b), I shall also clarify my position on point (c), since I have been so unfairly misrepresented in regards to this last area of contention by both Richard and Pete – slanderously so, in fact.

Let me begin by developing point (a).

The WHO has been heavily criticised by numerous health professionals for its initial over-reaction to the SARS outbreak, and understandably so. On the strength of a few very un-extraordinary deaths related to breathing difficulties and wheezing problems, the WHO issued a global warning that some new kind of pandemic could be imminent. And from 14th March 2003 onwards, global news agencies were telling us of various health authorities struggling to contain some kind of “lethal” pneumonia, being spread by air travellers across three continents. The world was treated to endless images of masked Orientals scurrying through airports, restaurants and shopping centres. Ex-pats were being interviewed, suitcases in hand, leaving cities across South East Asia – many of these people genuinely afraid of catching SARS. The world over, the main news we were all being treated to was the threat of this new disease, how people were fleeing the “encroaching monster” and how nations should prepare. And then, on the 19th March 2003, after a much-hyped race to track down the cause of this apparently “new” illness (which of course, had been immediately blamed on some kind of virus), researchers named a virus from the paramyxoviridae family, apparently also responsible for conditions such as mumps and measles.

Then a few weeks later, the “expert” diagnosis of paramyxoviridae was superseded by another “expert” announcement, telling us that SARS was caused by a mutated form of the common cold virus, known as coronavirus.

Almost a lone voice in all the hype, in the 27th April 2003 UK Observer, Dr Peter Marsh, a social psychologist and director of the social issues research centre at Oxford stated: “Humans tend to worry more about the unfamiliar and the improbable. It’s foreign, it’s eastern. The virus has been described as a ‘time bomb’. There has been talk of it ‘mutating’. Once you have that kind of imagery, then rational consideration, rational decision-making really goes out of the window.”

And of course, throughout the crisis, various senior health officials had been stating that because the SARS virus was a new, mutated strain, the only obstacle was the current lack of up-to-date testing kits, new antibiotics and new vaccines. Permission to research and manufacture these items had to be granted to the relevant authorities as soon as possible. Without this funding, the vital vaccines to combat SARS would be a good while away yet – all very telling where WHO motives are concerned.

Many health professionals have since accused WHO health officials with fraud. These WHO health officials are accused of having “sufficiently limited their communications to ‘confirmed’ and or ‘suspected’ SARS cases. At no time did [they] indicate that such ‘cases’ represent a very small, if not minute, fraction of the total infected population limited to only those who reported their symptoms to healthcare workers.”

These health professionals believe that “in essence, vast numbers of unreported, untreated, and naturally healed persons came in contact with areas or individuals considered at high risk for SARS and then developed, and recovered from it.”

In fact, in mainland China most of the confirmed SARS patients, 90% of them in fact, recovered without any drugs.

None of this though, was being reported, which is why numerous health care professionals have accused the WHO of fraud. In fact, a number of Canadian consumer health groups even filed a criminal complaint against Dr Colin D’Cumba, Ontario’s Commissioner for Public Health, and the Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement, for negligence and public health malpractice bordering on fraud. This legal action was supported on by the defendants having (1) CONSISTENTLY AND KNOWINGLY MISREPRESENTING MORTALITY RATES FROM SARS; (2) PROMPTING PANIC, WIDESPREAD PHOBIA AND PUBLIC AVOIDANCE BEHAVIOURS CAUSING ECONOMIC, PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HARM TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES ACROSS CANADA.

Notice that the consumer groups initiating this legal action are health groups (comprising mostly of doctors), NOT business groups!

Dr Colin D’Cumba was consequently even dismissed from his position by the Canadian government. Heads rolled not only in China!

Mortality rates from SARS, officially said to be 4%, were “grossly misrepresented,” argued these doctors who filed the legal action. True mortality rates, communicated honestly, and according to WHO standards, “should have reflected the number of deaths within the infected population as a whole, not simply those reported ‘cases’.”

Now look Richard and Pete, you have to stop and ask yourselves why the WHO applied a very different standard of reporting and analysis to the SARS outbreak than they have in the past? Why?

If you look at the Hong Kong Annual Digest of Statistics for example, you will see that 3,087 people died from pneumonia there in 1996. And if there were that many deaths, then who knows how many non-fatal cases there were? 20,000? 100,000? Who knows?

So why wasn’t there a huge outcry among public health officials in Hong Kong, and by the WHO? Why didn’t airlines go down in oblivion?

Now look Richard, I know what you and Pete will say to this – you will both point out the “fact” that SARS is different to pneumonia, because it is being caused by a new virus, the coronavirus. But this isn’t going to wash with me, because if you take the Canadian SARS cases, this coronavirus was found in only 50% of diagnosed SARS patients. Worldwide, according to WHO, the coronavirus was found in only 40% of all diagnosed cases. Not only this, but the coronavirus was found in such tiny amounts that nobody could figure out why it would even cause a cold. In other words, SARS is just another form of pneumonia. At least that is what many microbiologists now believe.

Aside from this, the WHO statistics for 1997 show that worldwide, in developing countries, there were 2 million cases of diseases of the respiratory system, many of which also feature the coronavirus. Those most likely to fall ill with SARS, like with all other forms of pneumonia, are those with compromised immune systems – the sick, the elderly, the very young. This, from the very beginning, beginning with patient zero, proved to be the pattern with SARS.

Tens of thousands of immune compromised persons died across North America in 2002 following flu virus infections (nearly 36,000 people in the United States alone that year) – a death toll that barely received any media attention, or the attention of the WHO too far that matter.

The fact of the matter is, I could have gone to either China or the United States for example, in say, 1997, and documented all sorts of deaths from the flu and pneumonia. With enough money and enough PR back-up, I could have announced a plague roaring out of either of these two countries.

Look, there is no joy in death, but there is less joy when death is re-framed and re-packaged to cripple economies and terrify populations and bring on 1984-type political clampdowns and – as is exactly what happened in both China and Canada, and to a lesser extent, in many other countries like Australia, and even as far a away as Britain. The Canadian doctors who initiated court action over this fraud, also charged the WHO with having deliberately issued “false and misleading health communications…in efforts to direct the public’s response, which has been definitely debilitating in terms of economics, pathological and specifically phobic.” Phobia, of course, is a psychological pathology effecting social behaviours in which an individual’s level of fear and arousal is disproportionate to the actual size of the threat – and that is exactly what I witnessed here in China, not only among the Chinese, but equally among many foreign expats.

Richard, the simple fact is, as I have said a few times already, is that SARS is nowhere near as contagious as most forms of the flu, nor is it anywhere near as lethal. As Dr Julie Gerberding, director of the Centre for Communicable Diseases in the US made clear, way back in the April of 2003, before the SARS scare reached its height in May, “SARS is spread by droplets rather than by aerosol, making it less easy to infect lots of people in confined areas. Flu, by contrasts, is spread by aerosol, where tiny particles of virus are widely distributed. You can be infected by someone on the bus you didn’t even see.”

Dr Maria Zambon, director of the Enteric Respiratory and Neurolgical Virus laboratory at the Health Protection Agency in London, also made it very clear, way back as early as April 2003, that SARS is transmitted by much closer contact than the flu, “through bodily fluids and secretions such as droplets.” And she noted too that “most people who have been infected by SARS have been in close contact with someone who has the disease.”

Even the WHO, who started all of this hype, were admitting by this time, on their website, that SARS is hard to catch, and unlikely to prove lethal unless you are immune-compromised. Yet they allowed the media scare campaign to continue!

I now rest my case, as far as point (a) is concerned. SARS is and was nothing extraordinary. In fact, it was much less contagious than the flu and the common cold (if it was spread via aerosol, “ten to a hundred times more people would have been infected” according to Dr Zambon for one) and it is also far less lethal than both the flu and the common cold – but both of these facts were, from the very beginning, deliberately ignored by the WHO (in violation of their own professional standards), as well as by most of the world’s media.

Richard – your charge against Rui, that s/he is being “very dense on the subject of DEATH vs. INFECTION” is not only rude and insulting, but also completely unfounded. It is you who is wrong. The threat was never huge, and that is scientifically verifiable, and it was verified as early as April 2003, before the manufactured crisis even reached it peak.

The other myth that Richard is trying to peddle is that SARS was not treatable. The fact is that 90% of diagnosed SARS patients in China recovered without any drugs at all. Most people, as numerous doctors stressed, even throughout the period of the crisis, required only a good rest and support to beat the illness – the same applies to both the flu and pneumonia, except that in the case of the flu and pneumonia, being somewhat more lethal than SARS, patients are more likely to require drug treatment.

The antiviral drug, Ribavirin, also helped many of the more seriously affected patients recover, particularly in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, some patients recovered without any drugs, some with antibacterial treatment alone, and all 17 patients that were given methylprednisolone together with Ribavirin recovered. Once again, SARS was and is nothing too extraordinary. In the United States, where more than 100 SARS infections had been confirmed, there wasn’t even a single death. By contrast, 26,000 Americans died that very year from the flu.

I shall address points (b) and (c) in my next posting, when I get back from my meeting.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 25, 2005 @ 2:47 am | Comment

I shall now turn my attention to point (b) of my argument – that the Western media’s coverage of the SARS outbreak was sensationalised “hyperbolic nonsense”.

Bearing in mind that back in 2003 when the WHO first sounded their alarm, the world’s microbiologists had yet to prove that SARS was anything other than the flu or a strain of pneumonia (which most now say it is), in the United States, as I mentioned a little earlier, more than 26,000 people die every year of flu, most of whom are elderly, infirm or very young. Doing a few simple sums, the US death rate works out at 71 deaths per day – this in a country of 290 million. To population statisticians, this death rate is not at all extraordinary. However, on the 27th April 2003, the UK ITV Ten O’Clock News breathlessly announced that 23 people had died from SARS across the whole of South East Asia in a single day, including 12 in Hong Kong and 9 in China alone! But if the ITV news reporter had been doing his job correctly, he would have contextualised these “SARS deaths” by drawing attention to the lack of evidence that SARS is a new disease and that when compared to the US death rates, the reported Chinese death rate of 9 people in one day and only 23 people across the whole of South East Asia falls well within the daily average death rate – with acres of room to spare! None of this was explained for the audience. Instead, we are awash with charged, emotional accounts of a “new disease” and a “new virus” that at the time of writing, had claimed the lives of just under 300 people worldwide.

Dr Peter Marsh even made the point, during the crisis, that “260 people have died. But for every Chinese person who has died, 10 million have not. In an ordinary rational world, that sounds like quite good odds, but not in this context. In this country, every year, 1,500 people are killed falling down the stairs. The implication would be that people should only be allowed to build bungalows.”

Any medical journalist worth his or her salt should know that omitting such statistics from any news report on a so-called “new disease” is a complete, professional no-no. While these so-called SARS deaths will of course be upsetting for the families, it is a dismally un-shocking line of story. Hence the criminal charges filed by Canadian doctors and consumer health groups against both their own government and the WHO.

Throughout this entire period I read many of the newspaper reports online from the West, and laughed to see such titles as “Chilling SARS Update” and interviewed on the 24th April 2003 BBC Breakfast News, Dr Dixon even stated that the British government should get properly prepared for an inevitable epidemic. His “Truth About SARS” website contained the following: “We are in an urgent race against time, leading potentially to many tens of millions of deaths over the next two years.” I mean, this “expert” chosen by BBC journalist for his views about SARS is the same “expert” on AIDS, whose solution to the problem is to have all HIV and AIDS infected persons sterilised.

I could go on forever providing you all with examples of how the media hyped-up the SARS scare, and how it whipped up phobia by failing in its ethical responsibilities to report accurately and with balance. Richard prefers to let the media off the hook, explaining away their sensationalism by arguing that “if it bleeds, it leads, and SARS had all the makings of the great story: no cure, no knowledge of its makeup, high death rates, scheming government officials plotting to deceive their people, young people and old alike coming down with it.” The fact is, and once again, this is why the WHO has been accused of fraud, SARS DID NOT HAVE ALL THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT STORY. Sorry Richard, but you are wrong. Death rates were NOT high, diagnosed SARS patients were being successfully treated at higher rates than flu and pneumonia patients, and most recovered without the use of any drugs at all. It was nothing extraordinary at all. It was the WESTERN MEDIA WHICH DID MOST OF THE DECEIVING, in collusion with the WHO.

And yet Richard, you and Pete prefer to blame the CCP’s poor handling during the initial stages of the “crisis” as being the prime factor in causing all of this hysteria.

I will conclude this series of posts later this afternoon, when I address point (c), my final argument.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 25, 2005 @ 3:00 am | Comment

Let me turn my attention now to point (c) of my argument. The handling of SARS was a very political issue. The country of origin (China) had the lowest death rate of any country with a large number of cases, and yet Hong Kong which has better medical care than China had three times the death rate. The large number of foreigners included in China’s total also suggests many deaths may be ascribed to other causes.

I will agree with both Richard and Pete that the Chinese authorities, by initially keeping quiet, fearful that public anxiety would scare away business investors and tourists, can be attributed to some of the anxiety that occurred here on the mainland, which I witnessed first hand. The Guangdong Provincial Health Bureau eventually had to hold a press conference on February 11th, and although they admitted that there had been an outbreak they said that it was now “under control.”

But the fact remains that the Chinese government’s fears about the economy were founded upon the very reality that both the WHO and the corporate media of the West were already in the throws of whipping up unfounded, hyberbolic nonsense – as I have already demonstrated. The world was already in a panic. The number of diagnosed SARS cases confirmed in the mainland was at that time un-extraordinary. It was never extraordinary, and so this must have left Chinese microbiologists and provincial government health authorities in a state of confusion and puzzlement. Guangdong province had, for many many years, suffered from a far more lethal and contagious strain of the flu (it still does), and in fact, the government had been pouring enormous financial resources into finding better treatments for this strain. Patient Zero was in fact heading the team of microbiologists involved with this project.

I am not condoning the actions of individual politicians from both the provincial and national levels, but their choice to suppress negative news like the number of suspected and diagnosed SARS cases is at least understandable in these circumstances, though wrong as it was.

But Pete wants to suggest that the CCPs “failure to timely inform the public and the world about the mysterious disease and its lies about the situation” may have “cause[d] or contribute[d] to unnecessary deaths and illnesses.” This is mere conjecture on Pete’s part I know, but I think it most unlikely, because all diagnosed SARS patients as well as suspected SARS patients were being carefully treated nevertheless, and SARS itself isn’t any where near as contagious or as lethal as the flu. Pete might like to argue that nobody really knew this at the time, in those early days, and that authorities on the mainland should have thus acted more cautiously, more quickly, more openly, if you like. This is a fair enough argument I think. But I have NEVER argued otherwise.

The corporate media of the West seized on this manufactured crisis as an opportunity to embarrass and be-little China, and to further push their commonly used discourse of Western superiority. The genuine failings of individual Chinese provincial and national bureaucrats (both the result of political inexperience in dealing with international health crises of this nature, and because of different moral sensibilities which are both cultural and historical). Many of the criticisms levelled at the Chinese bureaucracy are warranted, without a doubt, but what was reported seriously lacked balance.

Little was mentioned, for example, of the WHO’s praise for Chinese efforts to control the SARS “epidemic” – the epidemic that never was! WHO officials highly praised China’s efforts in May 2003, and it would seem as though Chinese government health authorities now have a much better understanding of how to deal with such health crises, at least in terms of appeasing and meeting international expectations. In April 2004, for example, the WHO once again highly praised China’s “quick and serious response to SARS after the reappearance of SARS cases in Anhui Province and Beijing since April 22.”

My initial criticism on this thread concerned discourse – the way that so many Westerners view China in general, and the way that the corporate media in particular focuses on and accentuates mostly the negatives. I used the “hyperbolic nonsense” of SARS to help me make that point, though Richard and Pete both chose to read all sorts of other meanings into my short, simple statement.

Like any other disease SARS has no deep-rooted meaning. It is caused by a mere virus although a “very potent” one as far as many people like Richard and Pete are concerned. SARS has thus acquired its enormous significance and meaning from its cultural and ideological contexts. It may have infected and killed just a few thousand but it shook the lives of millions, elicited diverse public reactions, expressed underlying dark fears and redefined segregation and interventionism.

SARS was not simply another case of an “Asian Disorder” because when it crossed the seas to strike North America it challenged the cosy assumption of the divide between the developed sanitised West and a fast growing but upstart Asia. This was the main point that I was initially making. I stand by it.

What is really at core here, and it is the deep underlying, largely unconscious reason why blogs like this one exist in such large numbers, blogs that focus on China’s negatives, and the reason why the corporate media of the West push their subtle anti-China discourse (sometimes not so subtle) – the core here is that China’s emergence as a world economic and political superpower threatens the very intellectual and ideological foundations of the West – ideas that the West preach with smugness. China’s development nationalism and modernity threatens the very idea that there is only one valid universal post-enlightenment modernity, and that there cannot be successful alternative models of modernity.

I fully accept the idea Richard and Pete, that even if one accepts the notion of modernity with Chinese characteristics, the need for a critical reading of it cannot be denied because Western modernity itself has been subjected to sharp criticism. It is right to analyse China critically. But the development paradigm of Chinese modernity displays both a complicity and difference with ideal-type Western modernity – something which you Richard, rarely acknowledge. The key question is: has China become a mere consumer of Western modernity because so far it has proved spectacularly successful on its economic front but will it also be able to produce its own theory and practice of modernity that is different from the one engendered by the bourgeois-capitalist global system?

You can see why so many arrogant Westerners, with their ethnocentric bias, feel so threatened, even if unconsciously, by China’s rise. SARS as global hyped-up threat, seen in this light, is simply a metaphor for China, as global hyped-up threat.

I rest my case.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 25, 2005 @ 4:22 am | Comment

CCP itself would not believe that there are actually so many diffent ways to defend their every mismanagement, each to be much more sophisticate than Central Propaganda Department or al-Sahaf could do. To be honest, if I had never been living in China for the past 30 years, I would have been tricked into believing those intelligent trash!

April 25, 2005 @ 4:36 am | Comment

Dear Pete – one last thing. You asked “who are those others that noted the possible, but not clear, link between SARS and the war on terrorism? I have never read or hear that allegation before.”

Easy to answer: Dr Rath for one, has argued this. Throughout the Iraqi war, Dr Rath busied himself in exposing the Rockefeller Group and the pharmaceutical/ petrochemical cartel as the largest benefactors of any war with weapons of mass destruction. This war would be abused, argued Rath, to abolish civil rights worldwide, guarantee the survival of the pharmaceutical industry and to establish the monopoly of the pharmaceutical cartel over global health.

Unmasking the “war plan” of these corporate interest groups behind the military war against Iraq and exposing these groups as even benefiting from a war led with weapons of mass destruction, made it impossible for them to do just that – to risk a war with weapons of mass destruction. This is what Dr Rath believes.

The very same week that Dr. Rath published his open letter exposing the “Rockefeller-financed Trilateral Commission” behind the Bush-Administration’s war, the plan for the use of weapons of mass destruction was dropped. That very same week the Pharma-Cartel launched their Plan B: the SARS epidemic – so Rath argues.

By the middle of March, all of a sudden, the news was dominated with the buzz-word “SARS” and a global scare campaign was launched. The SARS epidemic was a man made PR-stunt with the goal of creating the global psychological state that would allow the pharmaceutical cartel to create in people the state of mind enabling it to continue its rule – even with an Iraqi war fought only with conventional weapons, argues Rath.

Dr. Rath and his team recognised this strategy and called their bluff. He knew the scientific fact that all viruses including the virus that causes SARS (coronavirus) can be largely blocked by optimum use of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and other essential nutrients.

Dozens of studies with different viruses have all confirmed that there is no known virus that does not respond to vitamin C. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, it was shown that vitamin C alone can block even the HIV/ AIDS-Virus by more than 99 % (Proceedings Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 1990, 87, 7245-9).

Knowing these facts, Dr. Rath decided to publish full page Public Health Alerts in newspapers in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore, spending $30,000 of his own money to do so. The title was “Vitamin C against SARS”. The subtitle read “What everyone should know – but the World Health Organization (WHO) does not tell you – about natural protection from the new epidemic.”

Others have also drawn a link between the biomedicines industry and the WHO-sponsored manufacturing of the SARS crisis, like Horowitz for example.

Kalpana David and Professor John V. Pavlik, of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, argue that the manufacturing of the SARS crisis was a deliberate ploy by the corporate media to damage investor confidence in China, and Asia more generally. They have produced a study on this, titled “Agenda Setting and Media Coverage of SARS”, first delivered at the International Agenda Setting Conference 2003, Bonn, Germany.

I could go on Pete. There are many who argree with both Dr Rath, Holowitz, and David and Pavlik.

Do not assume that I agree or endorse Rath’s argument, because it sounds a little too over the top to me. While I do not buy the argument that SARS was manufactured with the intent of damaging investor confidence in Asia, I do believe that it was nevertheless exploited in this way by the corporate media.

There are many doctors in Canada, particularly among those instigating the court action that I mentioned earlier, who believe in a “probable” link with the WHOs need to promote itself in a better, more useful and important light, in order to attact funding, with the SARS crisis. They are also able to demonstrate a real link between such WHO-sponsored and endorsed reasearch programs and the interestes of the biomedicines industry.

But all that I ever said was that the timing of the SARS crisis was suspicious. Nothing more. I did not draw any link. I have not been playing with words.

Finally, you accuse me of being either “so full of [myself]…[and] prideful [that I] survived” SARS, or I must be “a shill for the CCP trying to deflect blame…from the CCP to the big bad Western media.”

Your spiteful and vindictive tone is unnecessary, and your charges against me ridiculous.

I trust that you will read me more carefully from now on, and that you will kindly refrain from reading more into me than what I actually say.

Best regatds,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 25, 2005 @ 5:47 am | Comment

Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up and see Mark Anthony Jones in action! Look at how he proves SARS was a hoax — by quoting one “Dr. Rath” who insists it was a non-issue that could be treated with vitamin C and the amino acid lysine.

So of all the great scholars and proven medical detectives on this earth, Mark Anthony Jones chooses to quote “Dr. Rath.” Who is “Dr. Rath,” you may ask? Well you can start by going here, where you’ll instantly see the guy is a raving loon, exactly the kind of conspiracy nut MAJ loves to quote, even though literally thousands of true experts tell a very different story. In MAJ’s world, all these experts are co-conspirators, wicked men in the grip of wicked American companies who control the world on puppet strings.

So now we all know. This is the man on whose writings MAJ bases his incredibly groundless accusations about SARS. “Dr. Rath,” perennial quack and snake oil specialist. If “Dr. Rath” says it, it must be true, the CDC and WHO be damned!

All I can say Mark is “Whatever.” You have away of moving from the heart of the matter off into tangents supported by evidence so hare-brained it boggles the mind. As someone said earlier, even if it was the common cold, the fact that China went out of its way to consciously and persistently lie about it was inexcusable. Everyone in Beijing knew that they had been lied to and that people caught the disease who well might not have had they been warned of measures to take, as were people in Singapore and Vietnam. You can drone on all you want, quoting insurance executives and self-parodying quack “doctors” and blasting the WHO and the CDC, and in the end we are back to the usual formula. Marxist revolutionary Mark Anthony Jones has all the answers and the conniving doctors and government officials and health organizations were being scoundrels to embarrass China and everyone got mean to the poor little CCP which was doing the best it could under the circumstances. Boo-hoo. Only in your world was SARS not dangerous. Was the danger overstated? Of course, just as it was a couple years ago with hoof-and-mouth disease in the UK and mad cow disease in Canada. But better to over-react than take China’s head-in-the-sand approach, which ultimately led to the greatest over-reaction ever — total panic and a collapse in trust.

All of the statistics you quote from “Dr. Rath” are a testament to how you operate, going on at lengths utterly horrifying to contemplate, full of sound and fury and ultimately signifying far less than nothing.

Aside from that, I enjoy your perspectives and hope you continue to post. Meanwhile, after your last few book-length comments I am closing this thread which is getting not only bizarre but tedious as well. Thanks for your participation.

April 25, 2005 @ 11:48 am | Comment

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