Questions to China about the corona virus

07:43 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

I get puzzled every day about China’s numbers for new corona infections. They are extremely low and very even – mainly between 30 and 60 new cases on a daily basis (but with a very limited increase to around 100 people since two days ago). This accuracy may remind China observers of all the even GDP-increases from quarter to quarter in the past years.

To me, Chinese corona statistics still appears as a conundrum. This feeling of mine can be seen as a result of long-lasting shortcomings in transparency and statistical quality. However, I would appreciate to read soon at least some illuminating or clarifying (partial) answers to the following ten questions:

1) What is the explanation for the reported stability of new infection cases, since several weeks ago daily at very low levels?

2) When making comparisons to other – also very advanced – countries: Why are the Chinese numbers for recovered infected people and total deaths so extremely low?

3)  What about the risk for a second corona wave, particularly in Wuhan – and what is done to prevent China from new wave infections in other parts of the country?

4)  What can be said more exactly about the geographical distribution of corona infections?

5)  Are there – though very uncertain – any statistical indicators available, like the time for doubling infections or the so-called reproduction value (i.e. the number of new infections caused by one already infected person)? Are there any statistical improvements worth mentioning?

6)  How big – or rather small – is the fraction of the Chinese population that has been tested?

7)  What is the age distribution for corona-infected people so far? What about the elderly?

8)  How is the official position as regards wildlife markets? Are there strict limitations now?

9)  Are there statistical numbers for people who have returned to their corona-affected jobs?

10) How will the statistical, i.e. political strategy look like for GDP growth in the first quarter? (Are there official hints for interpretation: down more sharply and looking for a good recovery – or a more moderate fall for preserving the face and, consequently, a more modest recovery?). To be published on April 17.

More questions could be raised. Of course, I know that certain questions cannot be answered right now or in the best case only partly – as it is the case in certain corona issues in our part of the world. But I also know that the Chinese could give us a lot of experience and conclusions from the most terrible days in Wuhan, about current conditions there and in the rest of their large country.

An opportunity for China

Since the corona virus indeed is a very global phenomenon, I feel sure that the whole world could benefit from sharing more Chinese openness and transparency in the whole corona issue – and so could China benefit itself.

For example, it seems to be the case – when following debates on TV or comments in the press – that many or even most Western virologists have no clou about how the Chinese system is functioning. How could they? But they do need better information about China as country and about the characteristics of the ongoing corona crisis to come to important conclusions for the future.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for China to contribute actively to this badly needed improvement of international understanding and research? This could be beneficial for the whole world – and certainly for China as well, also when it comes to the creation of good will outside China.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board


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