Jami-Lee Ross’s speech

A couple of weeks ago I wrote the National Party, Jami-Lee Ross, and the party’s funding from PRC-linked sources.  Of Jami-Lee Ross –  and the desire of some in the media (and, of course, the National Party) to pile on to him, or to gloat – I wrote

Whistleblowers have a wide variety of motives, and not all of them are noble –  and even those with elements of nobility are not infrequently tinged with more than a little of the less savoury side of things.   And yet we rely on whistleblowers to uncover lots of wrongdoing: in specific circumstances, we even have statutory protections for them  (but whistleblowing often comes with costs to the whistleblower, perhaps especially if they themselves have been directly involved in the alleged wrongdoing).

and

Perhaps he just generally was not a very nice or admirable person –  there are, for example, those reports of his flagrant, repeated, violations of his marriage vows etc.  But the fact remains that this wrongdoing (as alleged by the prosecutors for the SFO) would not be known had Ross simply stayed silent, whether that had involved continuing his efforts to climb National’s greasy pole, or just moving on quietly.     Either might have suited the National Party.   But it isn’t clear why such silence – about these specific donations, or about his involvement with others (Todd McClay and the PRC billionaire) that aren’t illegal but aren’t universally regarded as proper either – would have been in the wider public interest. 

and

And to Ross’s credit, since the story first broke (and all the drama of that time) Ross does seem to made some effort to contribute constructively to the public debate on some of the policy issues around donations to political parties.  He participated in the Justice committee’s (rather lame) inquiry into foreign interference, and spoke very forcefully in the House when the government was pushing through its travesty of a foreign donations law in December (the one that accomplished almost nothing useful,but perhaps looked/sounded to some like action).    Who knows quite what mix of motivations he has.  Perhaps some desire to bring down the existing National Party leadership (in Parliament and outside) with whom he previously worked so closely.   Perhaps some element of genuine remorse, or recognition of how far he himself had been part of the system degrading.    In a way, his motives don’t matter –  it is the facts and the merits (or otherwise) of his arguments. 

We heard from Ross again this week.  Or, strictly speaking, Parliament did.  Few of the general public will have heard of his speech or, more particularly, its contents.  From what I could see there was very little media coverage –  I should have been able to say “astonishing little” but, sadly, there wasn’t much astonishing about the relative silence of our media and the complete and utter silence of the rest of our politicians and political class.   All of them appear to prefer to look the other way, and wish the issue would simply go away, whether for fear of upsetting Madame Wu and the PRC, upsetting the CCP’s local associates, or of revealing to the public just how tawdry and sold-out to Beijing’s interests so much of our politics seems to have become.

I could just link to the speech, but not many people click through to links.   So here, as permitted by Parliament, is the whole thing.  It isn’t long. I encourage you to read and reflect on it

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Botany): Facebook memories reminded me this morning that today marks nine years since I was first elected to Parliament. I certainly never expected nine years ago that I would be the centre of a debate over foreign political donations, and I’m using that term deliberately. Foreign political donations and foreign interference is what I want to focus my time on here.

In the Prime Minister’s statement, that we are debating, the Prime Minister lists as one of her Government’s achievements the banning of foreign political donations. It’s true that the new $50 threshold for overseas donations is an improvement. But, as I’ve said previously in the House, I doubt it will do very little to deter those determined to find other ways around the ban, including—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Jackson leave the House.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: —using the wide open gap we still have where foreign State actors can funnel funds through New Zealand registered companies.

The foreign donation ban is one of the few recommendations that has spun out of the Justice Committee’s inquiry into foreign interference activities in New Zealand elections. That has been picked up. Probably the most important submissions that we received through that inquiry were those from Professor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University and what we heard from the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director, Rebecca Kitteridge. It was all eye-watering and eye-opening stuff and sobering for us to hear and read their evidence. We have not, and I think we still do not, take seriously enough the risk of foreign interference activities that we’ve been subjected to as a country. Ms Kitteridge rightly pointed out in her evidence that the challenge of foreign interference to our democracy is not just about what occurs around the election itself. Motivated State actors will work assiduously over many years, including in New Zealand, to covertly garner influence, access, and leverage.

She also specifically pointed out the risks we face from foreign State actors through the exertion of pressure or control of diaspora communities and the building of covert influence and leverage, including through electoral financing. After Pansy Wong resigned from Parliament, I was selected as the National Party candidate for the 5 March by-election nine years ago. It was made very clear to me at the time that I had to put a big emphasis on getting to know the Chinese community. It was also pointed out to me very early on that I must make good connections with the Chinese consul-general. Madam Liao at the time was very influential with Chinese New Zealanders, and important to my own success as well. In hindsight, it was naive of me to not think carefully about the pull that a foreign diplomat had on a large section of the population in my electorate.

The consul-general in Auckland is treated like a God, more so than any New Zealand politician, except probably the Prime Minister of the day. Each successive consul-general seemed to be better and more effective at holding New Zealand residents and citizens of Chinese descent in their grasp. Consul-generals Niu Qingbao and Xu Erwen were also treating us, as MPs—not just myself, others—as long-lost friends. All this effort, if you read Professor Brady’s paper called Magic Weapons, is a core plank of the Chinese Communist Party’s deliberate and targeted efforts to expand political influence activities worldwide. It’s also the very risk that Rebecca Kitteridge warned the Justice Committee about. Professor Brady’s paper is a 50-page academic work. I can’t do it justice here, but I recommend all MPs read it.

The activities of the Chinese Communist Party here domestically, where Chinese New Zealanders have been targeted, should be concerning enough for all of us. But the efforts that Chinese Communist Party – connected individuals have been making over the years to target us as politicians, and New Zealand political parties, also needs to be taken seriously. Every time we as MPs are showered with praise or dinners or hospitality by Chinese diplomats, we’re being subjected to what Professor Brady calls “united front work”. Every time we see our constituents bow and scrape to foreign diplomats, it’s a result of their long-running efforts to exert influence and control over our fellow Kiwis.

Both Professor Brady and director Kitteridge have warned about the risk of foreign interference activity where funding of political parties is used as a tool. This isn’t necessarily unlawful provided the donations meet the requirements of the Electoral Act. In 2018, I very publicly made some allegations relating to donations. I have said publicly already that the donations I called out were offered directly to the leader of the National Party at an event I was not in attendance at. I did not know at the time that those donations were made that they were in any way unlawful. I never had any control over those donations and I have never been a signatory of any National Party bank account in the time that I’ve been an MP. I never benefited personally from those donations. I was never a part of any conspiracy to defeat the Electoral Act. And the point at which I blew the whistle on these donations—first internally, then very publicly—that point came after I learned new information that led me to question the legality of the donations.

After raising these issues publicly, they were duly investigated first by the police and then the Serious Fraud Office. The result of those allegations is already public and I can’t traverse much detail here, but I will say that I refuse to be silenced and I will keep speaking out about what I know, and have seen, goes on inside political parties. I refuse to be quiet about the corroding influence of money in New Zealand politics.

Last year, I learnt, off the back of concerns I myself took to the proper authorities, that the National Party had been the beneficiary of large amounts of foreign donations. These donations are linked back to China and linked to the Chinese Communist Party, and with ease entered New Zealand. I didn’t go searching for this information. I was asked if I knew anything of the origins of the donations. I didn’t know. It was all new information to me, and I was surprised by what I learnt.

What I learnt was that large sums of money adding up to around $150,000 coming directly out of China in Chinese yuan over successive years ended up as political party donations. Two individuals, _________, were used as conduits for the donations.

These funds eventually made their way to the New Zealand National Party. The New Zealand National Party still holds those funds. The National Party is still holding at least $150,000 of foreign donations received in two successive years. I call on the National Party to return those foreign donations that it holds or transfer the money to the Electoral Commission. I doubt the National Party knew at the time that the money was foreign—I certainly didn’t either—but now that they will have that information to hand, they need to show leadership and do the right thing.

To avoid doubt, this $150,000 dollars’ worth of foreign donations is not the same as the $150,000 from the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry company that they raised last year.

The warnings sounded from academics and spy agencies are not without reason. These two examples I give are very real examples of foreign money that has entered New Zealand politics. Professor Brady, with reference to the list of overseas members of the overseas Chinese federation, which is part of the Communist Party’s infrastructure, listed three top united front representatives in New Zealand:

_____, _____, and Zhang Yikun. All three are well known to political parties.

In a recent press statement from a PR agency, representatives of Zhang Yikun highlighted the philanthropic approach that he takes in New Zealand. The press statement on 19 February specifically said that he has been “donating to many political parties and campaigns.”, except his name has never appeared in any political party return. When asked by the media if political parties had any record of donations from this individual, all said no. But a quick search online will find dozens and dozens of photos of Zhang Yikun dining with mayors and MPs over the time, inviting them to his home, and his recent 20th convention of Teochew International Federation had a who’s who list of politicians turning up, including a former Prime Minister.

The foreign donations I mentioned earlier all have connections to the Chao Shan General Association. The founder and chairman of Chao Shan General Association is Zhang Yikun. To summarise these two bits of information, the largest party in this Parliament has been the beneficiary of large sums of foreign money. That money is linked to an individual who was listed as one of the top three Chinese Communist Party united front representatives in New Zealand. That individual’s PR agents say he has donated to many political parties and campaigns, yet he’s never showing up in any donation returns in the past.

One of Professor Brady’s concluding remarks in her submission to the Justice Committee was that foreign interference activities can only thrive if public opinion in the affected nation tolerates or condones it. We must not tolerate or condone any foreign interference activities. We must also not stay silent when we see problems right under our nose. It’s time for the political parties in this Parliament to address seriously the political party donation regime that we have.

I realise that both the two main parties in this Parliament often have to agree, but perhaps it’s time to put that out to an independent body. It’s too important for us to ignore, and it’s not right that we should allow these things to go on under our nose.

I seek leave to table two charts that show a flow of money from China into New Zealand and to the New Zealand National Party.

SPEAKER: I seek an assurance from the member that these charts are not integral to any matter currently before the courts.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: These charts have been prepared by the Serious Fraud Office and I cannot give you that assurance.

SPEAKER: You cannot give me that assurance. Well, I’m not going to put the question.

Source: Office of the Clerk/Parliamentary Service. Licensed by the Clerk of the House of Representatives and/or the Parliamentary Corporation on behalf of Parliamentary Service for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. Full licence available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Anne-Marie Brady fills in the gaps –  names – Hansard chose to omit from Ross’s speech.

I thought three things were particular interesting in what Ross said:

  • the explicit guidance given to him as a new candidate/MP about currying favour with the PRC Consul-General et al,
  • the allegation about the new large, apparently disclosed, donation from people with very strong PRC/CCP ties
  • and the suggestion, not verified in what we have there (tho perhaps in that SFO schematic he tried to table) of the funds for these donations having come initially from the PRC  (whether or not National initially knew that).

Quite possibly, none of that activity was illegal.  But even if so, none of it is proper –  at least in a political party that cares anything about the values and interests of the vast mass of New Zealanders.  Then again, this is the same party that just re-selected the former PLA intelligence trainer, (former?) CCP member, clearly still in the very good graces of Beijing, Jian Yang for their list –  the same MP who refuses to face questions from the English langauge media in New Zealand, the same MP in business with the party president who himself has been free with his praise of tyrants of Beijing.

But just as bad is the apparent determination of ever other political party –  but most especially Labour, the alternative main party –  to simply ignore all this. In some cases, perhaps, to envy National’s ‘success’ (until now).   Where is the leader of the Labour Party on these issues (you know her, she happens to be the Prime Minister).   Where are the Greens, who once could have been counted on to deplore this sort of thing?   Where, even, are the tiddler parties trying to convince us they offer something different and better than National and Labour?  ACT?  TOP?  New Conservative?  Maori?  Not a word.

I’m sure there is some sensitivity about not jeopardising the prospects of a fair trial in the specific cases the SFO has taken against three donors and Ross himself.   But there is no way that is anything like the whole story.   After all, all those other parties have been very very quiet on the Jian Yang story, ever since the first of it broke 2.5 years ago.  Prominent National and Labour figures, including Jian Yang, got together to have the Crown honour Yikun Zhang for, in effect, services to Beijing only 18 months ago.  There has been no action on closing the legal window for donations through companies owned by foreigners, let alone the (im)moral window that has had NZ citizens who are CCP affiliates donating heavily.  I’m quite prepared to believe that National is deeper in all this stuff than the other parties, but those other parties lose any excuse, any sympathy, when –  most especially the Prime Minister –  simply sit quiet and walk on past. In doing so, they demonstrate their own standards –  or lack of them.

It certainly is important to ensure a fair trial. But voters are also entitled to a fair election, where the sorts of material Jami-Lee Ross has highlighted, allegations made, are properly scrutinised and the actions of parties and key individuals contesting the election are put under the spotlight before the election.  The trial isn’t going happen before then, Simon Bridges refuses to answer even basic factual questions, and the media and his political opponents seem happy to just let it pass.   That is little more than a betrayal of the public interest.

 

17 thoughts on “Jami-Lee Ross’s speech

  1. Among the MSM, i noticed only Newshub and RNZ covering the story. As far as I can tell, the NZ Herald made no mention of it.
    But Newshub cut to its parliamentary reporter after an intro by the newsreader, and she began her coverage with the sentence: “Here we go again!” before a clip of JLR addressing Parliament.
    I guess those words could mean anything but it seemed to me to be setting up the viewer to see JLR as a tedious man on a pointless mission — a depressing sign of the media’s indifference to the momentous and valuable revelations Ross is making.
    The moral bankruptcy of most of the media over this issue is unbelievable. Have they no sense of outrage at our democracy being bought? I guess the only answer is “apparently not”…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Who are the top 5 of National Party Royalty?

      It’s not these people although Goodfellow comes out of the lineage of Sir William Goodfellow

      National Party Board of Directors
      https://www.national.org.nz/board_of_directors

      Oldlaker says
      “The moral bankruptcy of most of the media over this issue is unbelievable”

      Bankruptcy? Really?
      You should be looking at the royals of the party who condone and protect Jian Yang – it is by their patronage that Jian Yang is there in the list – where the proletariat can’t vote him out – and the royals have continued to protect him

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Coronavirus does seem to have an affinity for older people. I do not think the older ministers are the right people to head teams in NZ, we need young military officers in charge of this now

    Like

  3. It beggars belief as to whether our parliamentarians are so stupid or are so prepared to sell out the country for a couple of pieces of silver and a promise of a job in the future.

    Either way they are an example of how far our system has fallen. Is it really salvageable or should we start to learm Mandarin.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Members of the National Party Caucus should be very concerned about the potential for this issue to undermine their election prospects later this year, especially as the revelations keep coming. They should be questioning their leadership and party hierarchy about these matters. The way in which senior National politicians have parroted the pro-China line on issues like the repression of the Uighurs, Huawei and the ordering of the P8 maritime patrol aircraft suggests the rot may run deep. Labour are also under suspicion but not, perhaps, to the same extent. Are we to exchange the most incompetent government in our history for one that may be beholden to a hostile, fascist (in the true sense of the word) power?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Replying to
    @neil_ferguson

    @RELenski
    and 6 others
    @neil_ferguson

    >”grown ~10 fold in 3 weeks”

    Unfortunately no.
    Runaway #COVID19 epidemics grow at less than 3 days doubling interval (Wuhan, Italy : 2.6 days doubl. exponential fits tightly R2=0.96

    So infections grow 2^(21/3) = 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 100 𝗳𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗶𝗻 3 𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗸𝘀

    great chart but i dont know how to insert in your blog MC

    Like

      • No , this is talking about the speed at which the virus infects a population. read below from NY times

        TLDR 1-2% if you dont swap health system 3-4% if you do

        As the leader of the World Health Organization team that visited China, Dr. Bruce Aylward feels he has been to the mountaintop — and has seen what’s possible.

        During a two-week visit in early February, Dr. Aylward saw how China rapidly suppressed the coronavirus outbreak that had engulfed Wuhan, and was threatening the rest of the country.

        New cases in China have dropped to about 200 a day, from more than 3,000 in early February. The numbers may rise again as China’s economy begins to revive. But for now, far more new cases are appearing elsewhere in the world.

        China’s counterattack can be replicated, Dr. Aylward said, but it will require speed, money, imagination and political courage.

        For countries that act quickly, containment is still possible “because we don’t have a global pandemic — we have outbreaks occurring globally,” he added.

        Dr. Aylward, who has 30 years experience in fighting polio, Ebola and other global health emergencies, detailed in an interview with The New York Times how he thinks the campaign against the virus should be run.

        This conversation has been edited and condensed.

        Do we know what this virus’s lethality is? We hear some estimates that it’s close to the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 2.5 percent of its victims, and others that it’s a little worse than the seasonal flu, which kills only 0.1 percent. How many cases are missed affects that.

        There’s this big panic in the West over asymptomatic cases. Many people are asymptomatic when tested, but develop symptoms within a day or two.

        In Guangdong, they went back and retested 320,000 samples originally taken for influenza surveillance and other screening. Less than 0.5 percent came up positive, which is about the same number as the 1,500 known Covid cases in the province. (Covid-19 is the medical name of the illness caused by the coronavirus.)

        There is no evidence that we’re seeing only the tip of a grand iceberg, with nine-tenths of it made up of hidden zombies shedding virus. What we’re seeing is a pyramid: most of it is aboveground.

        Once we can test antibodies in a bunch of people, maybe I’ll be saying, “Guess what? Those data didn’t tell us the story.” But the data we have now don’t support it.

        That’s good, if there’s little asymptomatic transmission. But it’s bad in that it implies that the death rates we’ve seen — from 0.7 percent in parts of China to 5.8 percent in Wuhan — are correct, right?

        I’ve heard it said that “the mortality rate is not so bad because there are actually way more mild cases.” Sorry — the same number of people that were dying, still die. The real case fatality rate is probably what it is outside Hubei Province, somewhere between 1 and 2 percent.

        What about children? We know they are rarely hospitalized. But do they get infected? Do they infect their families?

        We don’t know. That Guangdong survey also turned up almost no one under 20. Kids got flu, but not this. We have to do more studies to see if they get it and aren’t affected, and if they pass it to family members. But I asked dozens of doctors: Have you seen a chain of transmission where a child was the index case? The answer was no.

        Why? There’s a theory that youngsters get the four known mild coronaviruses so often that they’re protected.

        Get an informed guide to the global outbreak with our daily coronavirus newsletter.

        That’s still a theory. I couldn’t get enough people to agree to put it in the W.H.O. report.

        Does that imply that closing schools is pointless?

        No. That’s still a question mark. If a disease is dangerous, and you see clusters, you have to close schools. We know that causes problems, because as soon as you send kids home, half your work force has to stay home to take care of them. But you don’t take chances with children.

        Are the cases in China really going down?

        I know there’s suspicion, but at every testing clinic we went to, people would say, “It’s not like it was three weeks ago.” It peaked at 46,000 people asking for tests a day; when we left, it was 13,000. Hospitals had empty beds.

        I didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers. A rapidly escalating outbreak has plateaued, and come down faster than would have been expected. Back of the envelope, it’s hundreds of thousands of people in China that did not get Covid-19 because of this aggressive response.

        Is the virus infecting almost everyone, as you would expect a novel flu to?

        No — 75 to 80 percent of all clusters are in families. You get the odd ones in hospitals or restaurants or prisons, but the vast majority are in families. And only 5 to 15 percent of your close contacts develop disease. So they try to isolate you from your relatives as quickly as possible, and find everyone you had contact with in 48 hours before that.

        You said different cities responded differently. How?

        It depended on whether they had zero cases, sporadic ones, clusters or widespread transmission.

        First, you have to make sure everyone knows the basics: hand-washing, masks, not shaking hands, what the symptoms are. Then, to find sporadic cases, they do fever checks everywhere, even stopping cars on highways to check everyone.

        As soon as you find clusters, you shut schools, theaters, restaurants. Only Wuhan and the cities near it went into total lockdown.

        How did the Chinese reorganize their medical response?

        First, they moved 50 percent of all medical care online so people didn’t come in. Have you ever tried to reach your doctor on Friday night? Instead, you contacted one online. If you needed prescriptions like insulin or heart medications, they could prescribe and deliver it.

        But if you thought you had coronavirus?

        You would be sent to a fever clinic. They would take your temperature, your symptoms, medical history, ask where you’d traveled, your contact with anyone infected. They’d whip you through a CT scan …

        Wait — “whip you through a CT scan”?

        Each machine did maybe 200 a day. Five, 10 minutes a scan. Maybe even partial scans. A typical hospital in the West does one or two an hour. And not X-rays; they could come up normal, but a CT would show the “ground-glass opacities” they were looking for.

        (Dr. Aylward was referring to lung abnormalities seen in coronavirus patients.)

        And then?

        If you were still a suspect case, you’d get swabbed. But a lot would be told, “You’re not Covid.” People would come in with colds, flu, runny noses. That’s not Covid. If you look at the symptoms, 90 percent have fever, 70 percent have dry coughs, 30 percent have malaise, trouble breathing. Runny noses were only 4 percent.

        The swab was for a PCR test, right? How fast could they do that? Until recently, we were sending all of ours to Atlanta.

        They got it down to four hours.

        So people weren’t sent home?

        No, they had to wait. You don’t want someone wandering around spreading virus.

        If they were positive, what happened?

        They’d be isolated. In Wuhan, in the beginning, it was 15 days from getting sick to hospitalization. They got it down to two days from symptoms to isolation. That meant a lot fewer infected — you choke off this thing’s ability to find susceptibles.

        What’s the difference between isolation and hospitalization?

        With mild symptoms, you go to an isolation center. They were set up in gymnasiums, stadiums — up to 1,000 beds. But if you were severe or critical, you’d go straight to hospitals. Anyone with other illnesses or over age 65 would also go straight to hospitals.

        What were mild, severe and critical? We think of “mild” as like a minor cold.

        No. “Mild” was a positive test, fever, cough — maybe even pneumonia, but not needing oxygen. “Severe” was breathing rate up and oxygen saturation down, so needing oxygen or a ventilator. “Critical” was respiratory failure or multi-organ failure.

        So saying 80 percent of all cases are mild doesn’t mean what we thought.

        I’m Canadian. This is the Wayne Gretzky of viruses — people didn’t think it was big enough or fast enough to have the impact it does.

        Hospitals were also separated?

        Yes. The best hospitals were designated just for Covid, severe and critical. All elective surgeries were postponed. Patients were moved. Other hospitals were designated just for routine care: women still have to give birth, people still suffer trauma and heart attacks.

        They built two new hospitals, and they rebuilt hospitals. If you had a long ward, they’d build a wall at the end with a window, so it was an isolation ward with “dirty” and “clean” zones. You’d go in, gown up, treat patients, and then go out the other way and de-gown. It was like an Ebola treatment unit, but without as much disinfection because it’s not body fluids.

        How good were the severe and critical care?

        China is really good at keeping people alive. Its hospitals looked better than some I see here in Switzerland. We’d ask, “How many ventilators do you have?” They’d say “50.” Wow! We’d say, “How many ECMOs?” They’d say “five.” The team member from the Robert Koch Institute said, “Five? In Germany, you get three, maybe. And just in Berlin.”

        (ECMOs are extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines, which oxygenate the blood when the lungs fail.)

        Who paid for all of this?

        The government made it clear: testing is free. And if it was Covid-19, when your insurance ended, the state picked up everything.

        In the U.S., that’s a barrier to speed. People think: “If I see my doctor, it’s going to cost me $100. If I end up in the I.C.U., what’s it going to cost me?” That’ll kill you. That’s what could wreak havoc. This is where universal health care coverage and security intersect. The U.S. has to think this through.

        What about the nonmedical response?

        It was nationwide. There was this tremendous sense of, “We’ve got to help Wuhan,” not “Wuhan got us into this.” Other provinces sent 40,000 medical workers, many of whom volunteered.

        In Wuhan, our special train pulled in at night, and it was the saddest thing — the big intercity trains roar right through, with the blinds down.

        We got off, and another group did. I said, “Hang on a minute, I thought we were the only ones allowed to get off.” They had these little jackets and a flag — it was a medical team from Guangdong coming in to help.

        How did people in Wuhan eat if they had to stay indoors?

        Fifteen million people had to order food online. It was delivered. Yes, there were some screw-ups. But one woman said to me: “Every now and again there’s something missing from a package, but I haven’t lost any weight.”

        Lots of government employees were reassigned?

        From all over society. A highway worker might take temperatures, deliver food or become a contact tracer. In one hospital, I met the woman teaching people how to gown up. I asked, “You’re the infection control expert?” No, she was a receptionist. She’d learned.

        How did technology play a role?

        They’re managing massive amounts of data, because they’re trying to trace every contact of 70,000 cases. When they closed the schools, really, just the buildings closed. The schooling moved online.

        Contact tracers had on-screen forms. If you made a mistake, it flashed yellow. It was idiot-proof.

        We went to Sichuan, which is vast but rural. They’d rolled out 5G. We were in the capital, at an emergency center with huge screens. They had a problem understanding one cluster. On one screen, they got the county headquarters. Still didn’t solve it.

        So they got the field team. Here’s this poor team leader 500 kilometers away, and he gets a video call on his phone, and it’s the governor.

        What about social media?

        They had Weibo and Tencent and WeChat giving out accurate information to all users. You could have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram do that.

        Isn’t all of this impossible in America?

        Look, journalists are always saying: “Well, we can’t do this in our country.” There has to be a shift in mind-set to rapid response thinking. Are you just going to throw up your hands? There’s a real moral hazard in that, a judgment call on what you think of your vulnerable populations.

        Ask yourself: Can you do the easy stuff? Can you isolate 100 patients? Can you trace 1,000 contacts? If you don’t, this will roar through a community.

        Isn’t it possible only because China is an autocracy?

        Journalists also say, “Well, they’re only acting out of fear of the government,” as if it’s some evil fire-breathing regime that eats babies. I talked to lots of people outside the system — in hotels, on trains, in the streets at night.

        They’re mobilized, like in a war, and it’s fear of the virus that was driving them. They really saw themselves as on the front lines of protecting the rest of China. And the world.

        China is restarting its economy now. How can it do that without creating a new wave of infections?

        It’s a “phased restart.” It means different things in different provinces.

        Some are keeping schools closed longer. Some are only letting factories that make things crucial to the supply chain open. For migrant workers who went home — well, Chengdu has 5 million migrant workers.

        First, you have to see a doctor and get a certificate that you’re “no risk.” It’s good for three days.

        Then you take the train to where you work. If it’s Beijing, you then have to self-quarantine for two weeks. Your temperature is monitored, sometimes by phone, sometimes by physical check.

        What’s going on with the treatment clinical trials?

        They’re double-blind trials, so I don’t know the results. We should know more in a couple of weeks.

        The biggest challenge was enrolling people. The number of severe patients is dropping, and there’s competition for them. And every ward is run by a team from another province, so you have to negotiate with each one, make sure they’re doing the protocols right.

        And there are 200 trials registered — too many. I told them: “You’ve got to prioritize things that have promising antiviral properties.”

        And they’re testing traditional medicines?

        Yes, but it’s a few standard formulations. It’s not some guy sitting at the end of the bed cooking up herbs. They think they have some fever-reducing or anti-inflammatory properties. Not antivirals, but it makes people feel better because they’re used to it.

        What did you do to protect yourself?

        A heap of hand-sanitizer. We wore masks, because it was government policy. We didn’t meet patients or contacts of patients or go into hospital dirty zones.

        And we were socially distant. We sat one per row on the bus. We ate meals in our hotel rooms or else one person per table. In conference rooms, we sat one per table and used microphones or shouted at each other.

        That’s why I’m so hoarse. But I was tested, and I know I don’t have Covid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You can’t test everyone because you do not have enough test kits and the way this works is you are only counted if you are tested. Therefore the more testing you do the more cases you report.

        What it also means is that at that rate of spread then there is at least 70% more people who are already infected but not tested and more than likely already recovered which makes the death rate less than the ordinary flu as it supposedly spreads faster than the ordinary flu.

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  6. Its my gut feeling that the ,WHO are scared declaring a PANDEMIC will a allow “force majeure” in many contracts causing massive impact to third world countries economic systems, more will die from economic collapse here then Covid19, no job = no money = no food = starvation for massive %’s of the world

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  7. my twitter is @petersmith7012 please follow but be warned some of the videos coming out of Iran are very disturbing, mass burials etc.

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  8. It is quite improper for an electorate MP to have direct contact, let alone curry favor, with a foreign government outside of the regular Minister/Ministry of Foreign Affairs channels*. The Chinese consul does NOT in any way represent NZ citizens or residents of Chinese ethnicity here (or even Chinese nationals if they do not request diplomatic assistance in NZ) and to allow Chinese Communist Party officials to insinuate themselves into the relationship between constituents and their MP is completely unacceptable.

    * I do not know the law here but such ‘back channel’ activity is actually illegal in the United States.

    Liked by 1 person

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