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China Virus? Divest, Boycott

An angry call for action...
 
IGNORE the anti-"racist" virtue-signalling social justice warriors, writes Tim Price on his ThePriceOfEverything blog. Here are some facts.
 
In February 2020, Botao Xiao of the South China University of Technology uploaded a research note, 'The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus'. It concluded as follows:
"In summary, somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk biohazardous laboratories. Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from city center and other densely populated places."
Don't bother looking for it now. The original article has been removed and the two named researchers have since deleted their profiles from the ResearchGate website completely.
 
While the generally accepted Chinese cover story is that the novel coronavirus originated in a so-called wet market, the Huanan Seafood Market, there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it might have originated elsewhere. One possible source is the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, which happens to be located less than 280 metres away from the market in question.
 
Another possible source is the Wuhan Institute of Virology, China's only Biological Security Level 4-certified lab (the highest level in the hierarchy of biosafety and biocontainment procedures codified by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention).
 
A paper that appeared in the medical journal The Lancet at the end of January has lent credibility to speculation about the origins of the virus. The paper quoted seven doctors at Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital as saying that the first patient admitted on December 1 had "never been to the wet market," nor had there been any epidemiological link between the first patient and subsequent infection cases, based on the data from the first 41 patients treated there.
 
It is possible that any release of the novel coronavirus from a virology lab could have been accidental. As this document suggests, China's rate of occupational accidents is about ten times higher than in North America, and twenty times higher than in Europe, these being the only other regions in the world with high level virology labs. Beijing has, for example, experienced four known accidental leaks of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus in recent years.
 
On April 14th, the Washington Post reported that the US State Department received two cables from US Embassy officials in 2018 warning of inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting "risky studies" on bat coronaviruses.
 
Let's consider some other facts.
 
On December 30th, Dr.Li Wenliang sent a message to a group of other doctors warning them about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled SARS, urging them to take protective measures against infection.
 
On January 1st, The Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued a summons to Dr.Li Wenliang, accusing him of "spreading rumours." Two days later, at a police station, Dr.Li signed a statement acknowledging his "misdemeanor" and promising not to commit further "unlawful acts." Seven other people were arrested on similar charges and their fate is unknown. 
 
On the same day, after several batches of genome sequence results had been returned to hospitals and submitted to health authorities, an employee of one genomics company received a phone call from an official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission, ordering the company to stop testing samples from Wuhan related to the new disease and destroy all existing samples.
 
On January 3rd, the Chinese government continued efforts to suppress all information about the virus: "China's National Health Commission, the nation's top health authority, ordered institutions not to publish any information related to the unknown disease, and ordered labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them."
 
A fuller timeline of China's mismanagement of the initial spread of the novel coronavirus, and suppression of information relating to it, can be found here. From the moment that infected Wuhan residents were allowed to travel abroad (though not within their own country), the rest is history.
 
Historians might well agree with the thesis that the Chernobyl disaster – the result of costcutting due to economic expediency, then dangerously sloppy safety standards compounded by the cack-handed way that the reactor explosion was handled by the Soviet authorities – accelerated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the USSR's Communist empire.
 
Objective observers who aren't apologists for all things Chinese might conclude today that everything about the Wuhan Plague – from the cloudy nature of its genesis, to the misinformation that accompanied its initial stages, to its global spread, to the fact that the Chinese authorities were quick to shut down domestic travel from Wuhan but happy to export infected carriers of the virus to the rest of the world, and the ultimate impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic in both lives and dollars – has the potential to bring down the entire Chinese Communist Party and its totalitarian hold on the people of China.
 
If you believe that this outcome might be desirable for a) the people of China (outside the leadership of the CCP), and b) the people of the rest of the world, it is in your power to try and advance that outcome, entirely peacefully.
  • First, boycott all Chinese goods and services, and goods and services that incorporate the use of Chinese labour or capital.
  • Second, boycott all the investment products of fund management groups that continue to invest in China and that, by doing so, implicitly support the Chinese Communist Party.
We can all, of course, also lobby our representative politicians to ask China for reparations. Perhaps Blackrock, for example, could give us a rough assessment of the cumulative economic cost (since the human cost is evidently incalculable).
 
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
London-based director at Price Value Partners Ltd, Tim Price has over 25 years of experience in both private client and institutional investment management. He has been shortlisted for the Private Asset Managers Awards program five years running, and is a previous winner in the category of Defensive Investment Performance. Tim regularly shares his views on his blog, The Price of Everything.
 
See the full archive of Tim Price articles.

 

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