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Montevideo, March 21st 2023 - 12:11 UTC



Whatever you call it, Beijing has made a mess of the Covid-19, 'China virus' and jinbu

Wednesday, March 18th 2020 - 07:25 UTC
Full article
Chinese cultural tradition of blaming the messenger, is still alive and kicking in the Communist Party, and deterred local officials from reporting a dangerous virus Chinese cultural tradition of blaming the messenger, is still alive and kicking in the Communist Party, and deterred local officials from reporting a dangerous virus

By Gwynne Dyer – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has run afoul of the language police. Last week, he called the coronavirus, which already has killed 0.000013 percent of the world’s population, the “Wuhan virus.” When challenged about this criminal violation of linguistic propriety, he just said it again. The World Health Organization (WHO) was shocked.

I know how Pompeo must feel, because my innocent suggestion that we call it the “Pangolin Balls Erectile Dysfunction Chinese Wet Market Virus” got an equally hostile reception. It broke the WHO’s rules on naming new human infectious diseases.

The WHO guidelines say that names must avoid geographic locations (e.g. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), people’s names (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), species of animal or food (swine flu), cultural or occupational references (legionnaires’ disease), and terms that incite fear (e.g. “fatal”).

So you may die of it, but at least nobody’s feelings will be hurt. COVID-19 is boring, but nobody will think it has anything to do with China. In reality, however, everybody knows that China made a mess of this.

First of all, the Chinese cultural tradition of blaming the messenger, still alive and kicking in the Communist Party, deterred local officials from reporting there was a dangerous virus active in Wuhan for several crucial weeks.

The mayor of Wuhan, Zhou Xianwang, admitted last month he had delayed taking public action to slow the spread of the virus because he had to get permission from Communist Party headquarters.

Secondly, the Chinese version of the internet is now seething with stories about how the U.S. developed the virus in its secret labs and deliberately planted it in China. There are conspiracy theorists everywhere, but in China, the hundreds of thousands of censors who man the Great Firewall instantly take down posts that deviate from the official line. They aren’t doing it this time, which tells you all you need to know.

It’s not just internet trolls: the Chinese military’s online portal recently published an article claiming that the virus is “a biochemical weapon produced by the U.S. to target China.” But behind all the bluster and denial, China is actually doing the right thing.

Superstitions abound in every culture, but beliefs about the power of jinbu are unique to China, and explain why eating specific wild animals plays a major role in traditional Chinese medicine. The exotic meat “fills the void,” allegedly enhancing sexual performance in men and beauty and fertility in women.

It’s usually wild animals that transmit new coronaviruses to people. The ground-up scales of pangolins supposedly cure cancer and asthma, but also are implicated in passing the Wuhan virus to human beings. Palm civets, suspected of having transmitted the SARS virus to humans, are said to cure insomnia when stewed with snake meat.

China’s “wet markets” sell a wide variety of these animals — and they often sell them live, because that supposedly makes the jinbu stronger. China is not the only source of new viral diseases, but it certainly produces more than anywhere else. Yet popular faith in jinbu is so strong that in past epidemics, the regime did not dare shut down the trade in wild animals.

Now it has finally done it. Late last month, all enterprises breeding wild animals were shut down permanently, markets have been forbidden to sell them and even eating them has been banned. They’re closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, you might say, but it will help a great deal in the future.

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