Frankly, it isn’t possible to win in this battle relying solely on the strength of the government. The cooperation of each and every citizen is essential.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
In a dramatic address to the nation on February 29, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked the support of the Japanese people in implementing drastic measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19, noting that the following one to two weeks would be crucial in the effort.
Although the government’s response to the threat of the epidemic has been criticized for being less than adequate, now is the time for the Japanese people as a whole, as well as government bodies at the national and local levels, to cooperate in order to triumph over the virus threat.
Nevertheless, if this battle is to be won, Japan must wake up to the nature of the regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing. This was brought into sharp relief by the outbreak of the Wuhan Virus, and the regime’s proclivity for distorting the truth and peddling outright lies.
The most important point in understanding the truth about the Wuhan Virus is that the information being released by the Chinese government is fundamentally bogus.
Beijing has declared that it has the Wuhan Virus under control, even as the number of infected in South Korea and Western nations continues to explode. In fact, on February 25, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that there was a danger of the epidemic morphing into a global pandemic. Yet, the Chinese government wanted us to accept the dubious notion that, despite having only a rudimentary at best health care system, it was vanquishing the coronavirus peril.
Forging the Course of the Coronavirus
Since February 17, the statistical curve for new coronavirus cases in China, outside of Hubei Province where the metropolis of Wuhan is located, has shown a beautiful downslope pattern. Although Guangdong Province had recorded the largest number of infected patients outside of Hubei, as of February 18 the number of new patients in Shenzhen City was zero, the same as for minimally-affected Shanghai farther up the coast.
Guangdong Province, where Shenzhen is located, has a population of approximately 110 million. Although the spread of the disease might indeed have been contained there, since mid-February the Chinese government has been offering free train rides to rural migrant workers so that they will return to factories in the coastal provinces and get China’s manufacturing sector humming again. You would therefore expect the number of human-to-human infections to skyrocket. Yet, as noted above, the Chinese government is claiming that there have been zero new cases of infection.
Beijing is so eager to force workers to return to the cities despite the danger of spreading infections because the Chinese government is desperate to resume full-scale production. Countless small enterprises stand on the brink of bankruptcies, which could in turn swell the ranks of the unemployed.
According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the Purchasing Managers Index for February 2020 dropped to just 35.7, down 14.3 percentage points from the month before. In other words, the economic situation in China is the worst it has been since the Lehman Shock in 2008.
China’s Risk Analysis
Such a drastic economic slowdown threatens the power of the CCP government led by Xi Jinping. More than anything else, a vibrant economy is essential for buttressing that regime. It would appear that Xi Jinping and his minions are prepared to chance further spread of the virus in order to deal with this issue of overwhelming importance to them.
As Akio Yaita, deputy editor of the Foreign Desk at The Sankei Shimbun and a veteran China watcher well acquainted with the sense of values of the CCP, has noted, Xi has in effect decided to sacrifice the Chinese people on the altar of economic stability.
As the situation stands, five million to 10 million rural migrants could soon be working cheek by jowl amidst ongoing danger of infection from the Wuhan Virus. The mortality rate for this novel coronavirus appears to be at least two percent. So, assuming that all of these workers caught the virus, that could result in a death toll of 100,000 to 200,000 individuals.
However, there is no way that the Chinese government can test or screen these people. So even if workers die, their deaths will not be linked to the Wuhan Virus.
Furthermore, since the foreign media are not allowed to investigate independently, such deaths of migrant workers can be concealed. In fact, that would be standard operating procedure for the CCP. Mr. Yaita’s analysis would appear to be right on the money.
China Tries to Flip Black to White
China is trumpeting its overwhelming “success” in controlling the virus. But this is nothing but a case of the big lie technique of labeling “black” as “white.” In fact, it has begun to spin reality so as to make it appear that Japan is the one facing a crisis.
On February 25, authorities in Weihai City in Shandong Province ordered visitors from Japan and South Korea to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Then, during a February 28 visit to Japan, CCP Politburo member Yang Jiechi cheekily announced, “In the fight against this virus, the Chinese government is prepared to support and assist the Japanese government.”
Furthermore, the homepage of China’s embassy in Tokyo boasts of how China is providing face masks and other assistance to Japan. In other words, Beijing is using sleight of hand to change the narrative from “Japan helping China” to “Japan is being helped by China.”
Japan’s Faltering Response
The Japanese response to this Chinese propaganda blitz — engineered in the dark by the CCP leadership — has been faltering at best. One example is the fact that Japan has continued to allow free entry of Japanese tourists from other than the provinces of Hubei and Zhejiang. Although the Foreign Ministry has explained that there is not a need to restrict entry from China as a whole, that simply is not true.
During testimony before the Budget Committee of the Lower House of the Diet on February 27, immigration officials from the Justice Ministry stated that the number of Chinese visitors entering Japan had dropped to around 1,000 per day. However, while China has instituted virus screenings and quarantines for Japanese entering that country, Japan continues to blithely apply relaxed standards for Chinese visitors. This is totally illogical from a medical and hygiene standpoint.
Prime Minister Abe has called for the entire Japanese nation to cooperate in order to vanquish the Wuhan Virus. But in order to win sympathy and acceptance of the Japanese public, even now it is not too late to prohibit entry to anyone coming from any part of China.
Moreover, in order to counter the Chinese effort to create the impression that it is really Japan that is the dangerous breeding ground for the Wuhan Virus, Japan needs to deny this assertion in no uncertain terms. Paying attention to maintaining friendly relations with a neighboring country — and countenancing a sheer fabrication and smear — are totally different things.
Plagues and the Shaping of Chinese Dynasties
The outbreak of the Wuhan Virus is something that transcends bilateral Japan-China relations. Indeed, it has the potential to decide the fate of China as a nation. Both the Ming Dynasty established in the 14th century, and its successor the Qing Dynasty which expanded the borders of the Middle Kingdom to their greatest territorial extent, were at least in part brought down by smallpox and plague epidemics.
Is there any evidence that the current paramount leader Xi Jinping will be able to survive the power struggle that is certain to develop in the days to come?
Xi is on the path of conflict with the United States. Although admittedly the U.S. has its problems, it remains immensely powerful. As Kyorin University professor Tadae Takubo emphasizes, the United States has clear advantages in terms of population structure and energy resources. The Chinese economy is already near rock bottom.
Beijing also faces the problem of a rapidly graying society, with fewer children being born to support it. And although China is far from achieving self-sufficiency in energy, the United States is blessed with basic natural strengths in this area.
As our giant neighbor and our largest trading partner, the importance of China cannot be taken lightly. Nor should we underestimate its power. Nevertheless, Japan must stand with the United States.
The Abe administration must not give Beijing an opening so that it can attempt to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington D.C. Instead, Japan should adopt a clear stance showing that it shares the same basic values as the United States, and that it rejects the values of the Communist Chinese regime.
In order for Japan to be able to take that path, more than anything the Prime Minister needs to achieve constitutional reform.
(Click here to read this Op-Ed in its original Japanese.)
Author: Yoshiko Sakurai