From Chinese To American

《三十六计》 无中生有 something out of nothing, the 7th dirty trick in 36 Dirty Tricks . To push a narrative, you may need the concerted effort of a few prominent individuals. But you cannot make every one of them read out of the same script. Otherwise, it won’t be convincing. Below is an example of how this dirty trick (the 7th of 36) has been used recently.

China’s deputy ambassador to Australia Wang Xining said on ABC on 25 February 2020 that the sacrifice China has made for the Covid-19 pandemic has benefited the world.

Many people were left scratching their heads. Did he mean the draconian measures like the lockdown in Wuhan and Wuhan residents sacrificed for the benefit of the rest of the world? But that didn’t stop the virus from spreading to other parts of the world, did it? Mr Wang left many people in suspense. They didn’t have to wait long to see the next part of the plot unfold.

On 27 February 2020, China’s top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan made the shocking claim that the Covid-19 virus may not have originated from China. This got many people wondering. Did some evil foreign power plant the virus in China and the Chinese people had been suffering in silence for the benefit of the rest of the world? Little by little, the 无中生有 veil is drawn. All interested parties were kept in suspense. They waited for the next big revelation.

Finally, China shows its hand. On 12 March 2020, Zhao Lijian, an official spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took to Twitter (blocked in China) to insinuate that “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” Zhao, no stranger to Twitter controversy, added that the United States should “be transparent” and “make public your date.” The “US owe us an explanation.”

The result? Many people believed them! If you have been observing all this very closely, you may see how the plot unfolded with each piece in the plot hinting a little until the final blow, but if you were just casually following, you may find all this pretty convincing and actually fall for 无中生有, just like that bunch of old folks at my local barber shop.

The Safest Place Is China?

The official media in China had always adopted double standards towards “fake news” spread on social media. Folks who criticise the system or talk about events and happenings unflattering to the CCP are swiftly taken to task. Those who spread fake news singing praises for the CCP are allowed to continue misleading the public.

But good news can lead to unintended consequences. That is happening in China right now. It all started with cheerleaders spreading news about the dire, out-of-control Covid-19 situation in “other countries”, creating the impression that China is now the only safe place on earth. You would have thought that the authorities would leave them alone or even encourage them. Interestingly, a social media marketeer from Fujian by the name of Guo Hongming, her husband and their executive Xue Yumin are now under police investigation for spreading . They are suspected of spreading “fake good news”.

Why do the authorities suddenly decide to crack down on “fake good news” that generate “positive energy” or 正能量?The answer lies in the overwhelming flood of gullible overseas Chinese nationals returning home to what they believe is the safest place on earth. This flood has become unmanageable.

The propaganda has backfired. Fake news, fake videos generated by these media and marketing companies have been shared and allowed to virtually go viral into overseas Chinese communities, causing panic and a massive exodus comparable to 春运 . Even former Chinese nationals who have acquired overseas citizenship decided to take a holiday in China to escape from the outbreak in the land they had migrated to. In the wake of this overwhelming response, the latest actions from the authorities seem to indicate that the news spread by their propaganda partners is only intended to make people feel good and proud to be Chinese. It’s not meant to encourage them to return home!

The situation at many congested Chinese airports is quite chaotic now. But did these patriots return home to a safe haven?

Many realised too late that the situation in China is nothing like what the social media marketeers had claimed. The gorgeous baskets of free food, fruits and drinks are reserved for people with connections. Regular returnees had to be quarantined under squalid conditions and charged unreasonably high quarantine fees. One returnee was so disappointed that she committed suicide.

But as they try to put this fire out, the original narrative that China is the safest place on earth must not be changed. They continue to gift medical supplies and expertise to badly affected countries like Italy and the US. How will the situation play out in China? We can only wait and see.

Chen Qiu Shi Has Proven Himself

Chen Qiu Shi said that few people are like him, having offended bot just the Left but also the right. While it’s definitely true that he had offended the Left, I’m not sure if he had really offended the Right. Most people on that side are not offended by what he said. They are merely suspicious that he could be an instrument of the CCP to show the public that they do allow some freedom of speech; a kind of a bait for the dissenters to come out of the closet. If Chen Qiu Shi can say such things without getting into trouble, maybe they too could do that.

How could Chen prove himself? First of all, is there really a need to when the burden of proof is on the accuser? Secondly, it’s virtually impossible, for instance, to prove that he is not working for the CIA even if he could show us all his bank statements. It’s easy to prove that something exists. You just need to bring out one sample of the exhibit. On the other hand, how do you prove that something does not exist? Can you search everywhere? How do you prove that you have actually searched everywhere?

Chen also pointed out that as a vocal, opinionated and independent-thinking person in China, the authorities can take three forms of action against him.

  1. Ruin his reputation
  2. Bankrupting him
  3. Injuring or killing him

Chen went on to explained why he was not bothered by the first two. As for the last, he said that if the government does anything to his parents, he would become a dissident with nothing to lose.

Chen Qiu Shi has disappeared in Wuhan while reporting on the inadequacies of the hospitals there. We don’t know if he’s dead or alive. One thing we do know, he is not an instrument of the CCP. He had been sincere in his criticisms of the government all along.

In 2002, Deng Liqun founded a New Youth Study Group which was a casual organisation of university students and young graduates. They were fans of socialism and were against Jiang Zemin’s capitalist leanings. Over half of the members were CCP members. They lamented the gradual erosion of Marxist values in China and posited that “Comrade Jiang needs to carry out serious self-criticism”.

Unknown to the group, co-founder Fan Erjun was a spy. He reported the group’s activities to the authorities, resulting in their arrest. Fan Erjun then changed his name to Fan Jinggang, and perhaps it was “survivor’s guilt” that made him stand by the vanquished group’s ideology. He founded Utopia 乌有之乡, a leftist movement in 2003. Unlike New Youth Study Group, Utopia’s timing was right. By then, Hu Jintao had taken over. To boost Hu’s popularity, there was a move to balance some of Jiang’s unbridled capitalism that had resulted in a yawning rich-poor gap. At the same time, popular nationalism was growing and Utopia’s philosophy went along with Hu Jintao’s policies to address inequality. While its website was blocked and censored numerous times to assure businesses that economic reforms would not be derailed, recent years saw its rival 炎黄春秋 shut down. Fan Jinggang did betray his friends, but he had also tried to redeem himself.

A similar kind of survivor’s guilt can also be seen in the late Liu Xiaobo. Most of us see him as martyr, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner was one of the leaders at Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the wake of the massacre, Liu made a statement on TV that he, along with other student leaders had negotiated the military at the eleventh hour and they had managed to get the students to clear the square before the tanks rolled in. Hence, nobody was killed. Liu was let off lightly along with other leaders like singer/songwriter Hou Dejian who “sang the same tune”, but in later years, he continued to push for freedom of speech and the rule of law. Liu had redeemed himself. He may have betrayed the fallen at Tiananmen Square to protect himself from the axe hanging above his head, but he continued the struggle for freedom and democracy and literally gave up his life for it.

Chen Qiu Shi was prepared for the sacrifice and he had already proven himself to all the doubters that he is not the CCP’s propaganda machine.

Saving Face

This may seem like a joke, but it illustrates an interesting phenomenon and devious political manoeuvre.


Why does China or should I say the Chinese authorities, find a term like “Wuhan Virus” so sensitive? Why are they so eager to change its name to Covid-19 and even shockingly shift the blame on the US? The intention is quite clear. They want to rewrite history for a bunch of brainwashed youngsters and some ignorant seniors.

A case in point, veteran HK TV personality Sam Ng revealed in his personal YouTube channel that many mainland youngsters who were still in their diapers during the SARS epidemic now think that SARS originated from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The effort to create this misconception is quite a concerted one. A book I read (published in China) mentioned the outbreak of SARS in Singapore and people from China considering going back to China to escape from it!

By destroying all clues linking this coronavirus pandemic to Wuhan or even to China and presenting this new narrative to the younger generation, the obvious plan for the youngsters is to indoctrinate them with a misconception. Even for those who followed the saga right from the beginning, a lie told often enough can also make them forget the facts and adopt the new narrative.

Minamata disease (named after Minamata is a city located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan), is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech.

The initial reaction of the Japanese authorities in 1950s and 1960s was not different from that of the CCP. The company (Chisso Corporation) involved in polluting the water of Minamata Bay with mercury sent gangsters to beat up the American journalist who reported on the matter. It was not until the 1970s that cover up finally ended with the disease gaining official government recognition.

By 2004, Chisso Corporation had paid $86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination. It’s still called Minamata disease today.

The Fall Of Zhong Nanshan

Zhong Nanshan (钟南山) born 20 October 1936) is a Chinese epidemiologist and pulmonologist who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003. He was president of the Chinese Medical Association from 2005 to 2009 and is currently the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Thoracic Disease.

Zhong earned international fame for managing the SARS outbreak and was renowned for refuting the official line which downplayed the severity of the crisis. He was voted one of China’s top 10 scientists in 2010. During the 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, he was an advisor in managing the crisis.

On 11 March 2020, an article written by insiders reported that Dr Zhong has been replaced by Prof Liang Wannian. The article soon disappeared.

Zhong came onto the Covid-19 scene on the same day President Xi announced the outbreak on 20 January 2020. He revealed that the virus can spread between humans and one patient had even infected 14 medical personnel. Zhong quickly became a national hero.

Many Wuhan residents (and citizen journalists) doubted the claims and numbers given by the authorities. Dr Zhong’s reputation started to go downhill with his assurances that the numbers given by Guangdong and Wuhan were accurate, swearing bu the transparency of the system and the process. He even confidently declared that there will be no repeat of SARS.

Unofficial estimates from Wuhan residents themselves put the number infected at about twice the official figure. People were wondering if Dr Zhong was putting the interests of the Party before the interests of the people.

28 January, Dr Zhong made another announcement, saying that the situation would reach a peak in a week to 10 days as long as all measures were in place. He forecast that by 8 February, the number of cases would gradually decline. For the majority of Wuhan residents in the know, that was not the reality on the ground. Zhong’s reputation took a heavy beating.

27 February, Dr Zhong made the shocking statement that the virus might not have originated from China! At the same time, he criticised foreign media for being negative. He also urged the local media in China to provide more encouragement and report on the positive aspects of China’s system and processes.

Waiting in line was China’s foreign ministry which tried to trace the connect the virus to the Military World Games 2019 in Wuhan, attended by military personnel from over 140 countries. They demanded an explanation from the US and haughtily asserted that the world ought to be indebted to China.

The US gave a robust rebuttal.

While the audacity of the Chinese foreign ministry was appalling, many Chinese people actually believe what the foreign ministry said! 2 March 2020, official media revealed that Dr Zhong had just joined the CCP. The propaganda machine went into overdrive with footage of patients singing loud praises for the CCP to show that they have recovered. Dr Zhong’s blatant support for the CCP earned him the disgust of many thinking netizens who conducted investigations into his lavish lifestyle and palatial real estate.

While it easy to find such comments and viewpoints online, I find it curious that among the Chinese people on my WeChat account, almost every one of them believes everything Dr Zhong’s insinuations! At a barber shop in Singapore where the average age of the barbers and customers is 65, everyone was talking about Covid-19 and not a single one of them challenged the barber who confidently declared that the virus was created and released by the US. The internet in Singapore is a lot freer than that in China. Yet, many Chinese Singaporeans choose to get on the other side of the firewall and support Chinese propaganda.

Now for the big surprise. Rumour has it that Dr Zhong Nanshan has been removed from office and replaced by Prof Liang Wannian. It’s possible that he had refused to declare China Covid-19 free. It’s also possible that he criticised the team of experts handpicked by President Xi. Has Dr Zhong’s conscience been bugging him? Did he meet his ghost of Christmas Future and decided not to be an obedient servant? Whatever the reasons, we may never know. One thing we do know is how we should read the news and numbers coming out from China.

Two Suns & A Spike

There has been an astronomical miracle. Two suns appeared on 10 March 2020. Anybody noticed it? 🤪

A friend who saw this video found it unbelievable. Certainly, they can afford to hire more competent Photoshop professionals. Sure, but is there a need to do so when the IQ of the audience is so low?

ying yong

Hubei’s new party secretary must have superhuman capabilities. Just before he took over, there was a spike in the number of cases and almost immediately after he took over, the spike was gone. They don’t need to go to such lengths to impress and convince the WHO, let alone the people.

The Crash On Wall Street

A summary of Prof Wen Zhao’s analysis:

The Dow Jones crashed more than 2,000 points on Monday 9 March 2020. Trading had to be suspended for 15 minutes to calm sentiments and also to rule out computer glitches. The obvious explanation for this crash is the coronavirus fear reaching a peak as Europe and America grapples with the pandemic. Reports that China may be beating COVID-19 fell on deaf ears as few investors trust China’s data. We’ll come to that in a moment.

Prof Wen Zhao believes that this crash is due more to the crash in oil prices than fears over the pandemic. The short term trend for the market is downwards. How does a crash in oil prices affect China? For this we need to go back to Phase One of the trade deal between the US and China.

The deal takes steps to root out several practices that irked the White House and bipartisan members of Congress, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, in exchange for Chinese market access, according to text released by the White House. It also details a $200 billion increase in Chinese purchases of US goods over two years — a priority for Trump. What is the most valuable commodity that China buys from the US that can balance the trade deficit? Oil. But if China buys oil from the US, Russia is going to suffer.

Some background info from The New York Times 9 March 2020

For the last three years, two factors have been hugely influential in the oil markets. The first has been the surge of shale oil production in the United States, which has turned the country from a large oil importer to an increasingly important exporter. The second is the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which recently have cooperated in trimming production to try to counter shale’s impact.

Now that cooperation between two of the world’s three largest oil producers — the third is the United States — appears to be at an end. Saudi Arabia, as the dominant member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, last week proposed production cuts to offset the collapse in demand from the spreading coronavirus outbreak. Russia, which is not an OPEC member, refused to go along. And the impasse has turned into open hostilities.

The standoff was ominous for the industry. Not only had OPEC and a wider group of producers — together known as OPEC plus — failed to agree on new cuts, but they had also failed to sign off on the extension of 2.1 million barrels a day in previous trims that would expire at the end of March. That created the danger of a tremendous flow of oil coming onto a market that was already hugely oversupplied and experiencing a steep slump in demand.

The natural gas pipeline from Russia to China was only opened in December 2019. Only a few months after operation, China is going to buy oil and gas from the US instead. Understandably, Putin is enraged. One retaliative strategy the Russians could adopt to prevent a wastage of their natural gas pipeline is to destroy the market for oil by increasing output. On 11 March 2020, Saudi played the same game and increased their output to 13 million tonnes a day. They are even offering a discount to their regular customers. With this latest move, the price of oil may dip below $30 a barrel.

Of course, slashing prices won’t benefit any of the producers. The Saudis are hoping to squeeze Russia’s profits and bring them back to the negotiating table so they could set a new price for oil. Meanwhile, it has been estimated that if oil price drops below $58 a barrel, Saudi would be in deficit. The Russian economy, on the other hand, is less dependent on oil. Even at $30 a barrel, it would still be pretty much business as usual in Russia. But Saudi has an edge over Russia in another area. It has more customers.

As neither country stands to gain from this price war and the US is likely to suffer quite badly, there is a chance that they will come to an agreement. As for oil producers in the US, they have the advantage of low cost extraction technology. During the last crash in 2014, most US oil companies were able to hang on for at least 2 years. Nevertheless, Trump has every reason to pressure China into buying close to $200 billion worth of oil from the US.

Still, Xi Jinping is caught between a rock and a hard place. He could either offend Russia, its political ally or offend the US, its economic ally. Stocks, like water, will find their own level. They will eventually bottom out. Low oil price supports the US economy, lowering production costs. As companies move back to the US from China, some US industries stand to gain from low oil prices. Prof Wen Zhao believes that money that has been drained out of Wall Street will eventually return to Wall Street because there is no better place in the world to park it.

This is evidenced in the aftermath of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Money that have fled from Wall Street ended up in even less reliable markets like European and emerging markets like China. That was when China took bold steps to compete with America for world leadership. China was very attractive till 2015 when it overstretched itself. It’s now a ticking time bomb.

In bear market now, Prof Wen Zhao estimates that Wall Street may show signs of recovery from May. As for China, resuming production may not help much in its recovery as overseas orders are few at this time and may get even fewer.

In recent days, communist cheerleaders appear to be gloating as the pandemic spreads like wild fire in Europe and America. The long term outlook for the American economy, however, is good. China’s economy, on the other hand, is unlikely to recover any time soon. Going back to Phase One of the trade deal, the agreement may have been inked, but it’s not known when China could import that $200 billion worth of goods from the US. It’s an important lesson for Trump. Agreements with China don’t count and in recent weeks, they have taken a step in the direction of recognising Taiwan even if it means offending China.

The US House of Representatives on 4 March 2020 unanimously passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act (TAIPEI Act). The lightly revised TAIPEI Act was passed with a unanimous vote of 415 to zero. The bill aims to discourage Taiwan’s diplomatic allies from cutting ties with the island country due to pressure from Beijing.

Taiwan may be the place to watch in the coming months.

Face Mask Diplomacy

Things are often not what they seem. That’s the case with Thailand. That’s the case with China as well. On the surface, a gift of 1 million surgical masks seems like simply a very kind gesture. A Singaporean academic (screenshot above) even referred to Jack Ma as a “private citizen”, again showing how cloistered and simplistic our population is.

On 2 March 2020, former Alibaba CEO Jack Ma announced on US media that he would donate 1 million surgical masks to Covid-19 stricken Japan. He included the message 青山一道,同担风雨 (same path, weather the storm together)。It’s a reply to the Japanese government whose earlier gift of 1 million face masks to China was accompanied by the message 山川异域, 风月同天 (different land, same world under the sky)。I’m not sure if there’s anything to read between the lines.

On the next day, 3 March 2020, Jack Ma’s donation arrived in Japan. The aid was not handed over to incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but to Japanese politician and former minister Toshihiro Nikai (二阶俊博). Why Nikai? He is known to have close ties with Chinese leaders. How close? Well, he had tried to build a statue of Jiang Zemin in his district.

It was not lost on astute Japanese netizens that CCP member Jack Ma was not acting in his capacity as a private individual. What is the real deal behind this to and fro? Japanese social media was abuzz with discussions. The vast majority of Japanese people had mixed feelings about all this. The most common stand is that Japanese people should be thankful towards China and put aside differences and work together with China to combat this pandemic, but to trust the CCP? No way. A few netizens were not so positive. They feel that there would have been no shortage of masks in Japan if the Chinese residents had not already been sending loads of masks back to China.

Fortunately, Japan realised early in this epidemic that they could not be dependent on China for masks. That’s why many electronics manufacturers in Japan had refitted their factories into surgical mask production lines. It has been estimated that by mid March, Japan should be able to produce 15 million masks a week. The ultimate target is 100 million a week.

Looks like China is still not ready to bury the hatchet. Anti-Japanese propaganda films are likely to resume soon.