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What is Xi trying to hide?

Summary:
The New Yorker has a very good article on the origins of Covid. They don’t take a definitive stand on the question, but along the way make some important points: Before the pandemic, President Xi Jinping promoted wildlife farms as a means of poverty alleviation, and the industry, which was largely unregulated, employed more than fourteen million people. “There’s this incredible network of people involved in farming and raising animals and trying out new ideas,” Daszak told me last year. “It’s entrepreneurial, it’s chaotic, it’s the sort of farms that are half falling apart, with mixed species in them.” The W.H.O. report stated that some wild-meat suppliers to Wuhan were located in south China, where horseshoe bats that host sars-like coronaviruses primarily reside.

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The New Yorker has a very good article on the origins of Covid. They don’t take a definitive stand on the question, but along the way make some important points:

Before the pandemic, President Xi Jinping promoted wildlife farms as a means of poverty alleviation, and the industry, which was largely unregulated, employed more than fourteen million people. “There’s this incredible network of people involved in farming and raising animals and trying out new ideas,” Daszak told me last year. “It’s entrepreneurial, it’s chaotic, it’s the sort of farms that are half falling apart, with mixed species in them.” The W.H.O. report stated that some wild-meat suppliers to Wuhan were located in south China, where horseshoe bats that host sars-like coronaviruses primarily reside. Perhaps that is where the virus crossed from bats to animals, and those sickened animals were brought to Wuhan, where they were sold in Huanan and the city’s three other known live-animal markets. ..

From one perspective, proving the virus has a natural origin is even worse for China. If wildlife farms were responsible for the pandemic, that would implicate the policies of President Xi Jinping. If there was a lab leak, just one, or a few, scientists are culpable of an accident. Either way, it is likely that the Chinese government prefers a storm of swirling theories, within which they can continue to push their own: that U.S. soldiers brought the virus to Wuhan in October, 2019, during the World Military Games, or that the American government manufactured the virus in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Or they can blame imported frozen food. The conspiracy theories branch out from there, in their own kind of evolutionary tree.

I’ve made the same point. The animal market theory should be worse for China’s reputation than a lab leak. Do you think Xi Jinping is more worried about the cause of Covid being his grand plan to develop an animal wildlife industry employing 14 million people that threatens to create repeated global pandemics, or more worried about a lab leak from an obscure Chinese scientist doing research funded by the US government? I don’t think people are looking at this from the Chinese point of view.

Or perhaps Xi doesn’t know the source of Covid and is engaged in a cover-up because he’d be embarrassed by either a wild animal market or a lab leak source for Covid. He just wants to confuse the issue with crazy theories of a US origin.

In the end, human beings are probably to blame either way:

Still, humans have changed the equation. Calling viruses zoonotic obscures the role we play in their evolution, whether in the wilderness, a wet market, or a lab. What is an ecological niche when humans have their hands in everything? 

PS. WaPo has an interesting piece on the discovery of a huge cave system with horseshoe bats in Hubei province, with wild animal farms nearby:

A reporter observed human traffic into Enshi caves, including domestic tourism, spelunking and villagers replacing a drinking water pump inside a cave. Defunct wildlife farms sat as close as one mile from the entrances.

But the Chinese government is covering this up:

Beijing has been less than eager to find answers in Hubei, as it touts its own theory that the virus may have originated overseas. One foreign scientist who worked for years with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the institute’s field research in bat caves has been suspended since the pandemic began.. .

A person with knowledge of the Wuhan market supply chains, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his contacts, told The Post that live animals sold at markets in Wuhan were sourced from Hubei, particularly Enshi and Xianning prefectures, as well as from Hunan and Jiangxi provinces.

Chinese authorities have deflected questions about the presence of live wild animals at Wuhan markets before the outbreak. A Scientific Reports study in June that catalogued illegal sales of live wildlife at the markets has not been covered by China’s state-run media. The two Chinese authors did not respond to requests for comment about what they knew about those supply chains.

Why was the evidence from the crime scene destroyed? What is Xi trying to hide?


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Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

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