The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Ending Zero-Covid Coming Home To Roost For China

So, as expected:

XBB is expected to result in 40 million infections per week by the end of May before peaking at 65 million a month later. This comes nearly six months after Beijing dismantled its Covid Zero curbs, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among the country’s 1.4 billion residents…

…Zhong’s estimate suggests that this latest wave of infections will be more muted compared to the previous wave that hit China late last year and into January. At that time, a different omicron sublineage likely infected 37 million people every day, overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums and causing residents to scramble for limited supplies of fever medicine.

As in the West, almost everyone in China will get Covid. Many will get it multiple times, indeed, if Covid continues for years, this is guaranteed. As I’ve long said, the primary social issue isn’t deaths (China’s government is probably more than OK with old people dying given its onrushing demographic issues), but Long Covid and asymptomatic damage to organs and to the immune system.

In a couple years China will be like the US and Britain, with about 2% of its population disabled by Covid: in China that’s twenty-eight million people, more than the population of many countries. Two years after that, well, even assuming it’s less than linear due to deaths and (hopefully) improved treatment, thirty-five to forty million isn’t unreasonable.

After ten years?

Zero-Covid was the right policy done stupid, and it shouldn’t have been ended until China had properly changed ventilation and filtering as well as installed proper sink traps (most Chinese homes do not have traps – those bends in the pipes, which block smells). Given China was having economic issues, the extra work would have been useful for the economy anyway.

If Covid doesn’t spontaneously mutate to do less long term damage it’s not clear to me how our societies survive this in addition to climate change. It’s not just that people can’t work or are stupider (there’s a ton of brain damage) or less healthy even if they can work, it’s that medical and disability systems will need a lot more people and resources and if the government doesn’t give them, it doesn’t make the problem go away, it shoves it onto the population.

The sheer level of incompetence and inability to plan ahead in our societies is insane. I had hoped that China might prove an exception. Alas.

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The Debt Ceiling Crisis Is Just Politics


Open Thread


  1. Ché Pasa

    So if it’s not planned out this way, it sure looks like it is.

    A grand bargain with the earth. Rapidly reduce population starting in the West, starting with the Old, then expanding out like ripples in a pond to wash over more and more peoples and age groups, constricting, constricting, and making sure the survivors — of which there will be many — cannot reverse the trend, either with Covid, stupid wars, or climate change.

    Not planned? Well maybe not, but from the outset it’s seemed our rulers were quite content with the course of events — except for the fact that the Orange Menace panicked. Because the whole point is for the rulers to be the only eventual survivors, and they can only do that by staying calm and above the fray. Like Xi and such. Who never even blinked.

    So China’s population will be cut in more than half by the end of the century what with Covid rampaging at will as well as the demographic shift due to previous policies. What of the West? Stupid wars? More stupid policies? Impoverishment and famine? Will China, Russia, and the Global South combine energies to put an end to Western hegemony once and for all? What of India, then?

    I’d sure like to hear Ian’s assessment of India’s place in the New Paradigm.

  2. anon

    I think that governments worldwide decided that they would deal with Covid in a Darwinian way, which is to allow the survival of the fittest, with the oldest and weakest in society given a death sentence. It’s something that many leaders likely want because they see old people as a drain on their society and resources.

    This is short-sighted as you have pointed out. The real long-term problem for governments won’t be the millions of dead people. It’s the people who will live decades more with long Covid disability. It’s not just the old and already disabled, but children and young adults in their prime whose lives have been destroyed. Just one example is Physics Girl, only 34, young, and thin, who got Covid last year and has not recovered: It’s unreal to me that people think it can’t be them or their children who could end up bedridden from long Covid. It can happen to anyone.

    I also thought that China and other Asian countries would be smarter about this than the West, because they did hold out the longest when it came to mask mandates and lockdowns. I guess they weren’t willing to invest in updating infrastructure with proper ventilation and air filtering.

  3. Purple Library Guy

    Che Pasa, there’s just one basic problem with that idea: Lots of people dying from disease, unless we’re talking literal billions, does not reduce world population. Births overwhelm that kind of stuff, and in general when people’s lives suck more and economies are more strained and disorganized (stuff that epidemics make happen), births tend to increase, for a complex of social reasons and in modern times also because access to contraception tends to falter. Far as I know, the only pandemic ever to actually drop the world’s population was the Black Plague, and Covid is no Black Plague.

    So no, nobody sane would try to reduce world population by triggering a relatively mild pandemic, because it would be obvious that it WOULD NOT WORK. That is why the perennial “diseases are from elites trying to reduce the population” narratives are bunk. If you want to reduce world population you arrange access to free contraceptives, or you create things like China’s One Child Policy.

    In any case, capitalist elites outside of China are largely united in NOT wanting to reduce the world population. They yack about how terrible not growing the population would be ALL THE BLOODY TIME, how it would kill economic growth and make it hard for them to get richer, and how the magic of markets and technological progress will miraculously make the finite resources of earth infinite and anyone who disagrees is a Luddite. They probably paid for the “elites are conspiring to reduce world population” memes in the first place, just to create a political constituency for continuing to grow the world population even though doing so will make most people miserable and probably doom the earth.

  4. Ché Pasa

    If only that were true. The way I see it, it’s not. We’re simply in the way of the Grand Scheme which ends in their Victory. Getting rid of us in batches and one by one is their preferred way of dealing with the trouble we cause them, as true in China it would seem as anywhere else. China’s population is already on the downward slope and it will be at least cut in half by 2100 regardless of Covid. Xi has apparently decided to grease the skids and dump more of the Olds than would otherwise perish.

    Populations in the West would be on the decline but for immigration (The Great Replacement Theory) from the South. That’s being slowly cut off, so the question is what will control and reverse population growth Down There, which is one reason I’m curious about India, soon to be the most populous nation.

    When things get bad people tend not to breed. Birth rates plummeted during the Depression for example, and stupid wars cut birth rates too — ending wars causes birth rates to skyrocket (Baby Boomers forex).

    Anyway, population growth has slowed and in many areas is reversing. Covid is not the Black Plague, but it’s playing its part, and there will be more pandemics, oh yes, some worse than others. Just keep tightening the ratchet.

  5. VietnamVet

    The most disheartening outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is Communist China’s placing economic growth ahead of its people’s health and wellbeing. Chairman Xi is betting that the “Mandate of Heaven” is no more. A drawn-out Taiwan invasion, famine, and/or more pestilence will start a search for a new Chinese Emperor, if a global Nuclear War is avoided.

    If you want to reduce the human population on earth, you do what Japan does or do what the USA did until 1965, you create a majority middle-class (71%) with female education, good healthcare and family supporting jobs. Families will reproduce at a replacement rate of two children. The “invisible hand” cult went into a tizzy at this point last century preaching that the economy will stop growing and instituted an oligarch counter revolt to regain power. Since then the USA is turning into another Brazil. Nigerian and Indian populations are out of control. If there isn’t good government planning for what is in the best interests of its people, shortages from WWIII, climate change, and the pandemics will cause massive human die-offs. A nuclear winter will kill civilization. Already, refugees from the endless wars and shortages are migrating north. Today 50% of the USA is middle-class and the number is declining rapidly along with life expectancy.

  6. mago

    It’s about resource distribution, not population.

  7. someofparts

    Email from my credit union this week announced the death of a nice young loan officer. Left a wife and a couple of kids. Too young for this to be expected, so a sad surprise. I don’t know exactly what caused this, but I do suspect the vaccinations.

  8. altruisticpunisher

    Time will tell. Upon reading the article the figures are based on an “…alarming prediction made by respiratory disease specialist Zhong Nanshan at a biotech conference in Guangzhou.” The article later states “Zhong’s **estimate** suggests that this latest wave of infections will be more muted compared to the previous wave that hit China late last year and into January. At that time, a different omicron sublineage **likely** infected 37 million people every day…” So, a lot of speculation about events and not very many actual facts but as you say, it will take time for the effects to show. I will also point out Bloomberg (the original “source” which CNBC just copied) is well known for their anti-China stance (including economic pessimism).

    Two additional points to consider:
    1) China and Cuba have been cooperating in the field of vaccines related to COVID-19: . China has also managed to increase their vaccination rates prior to reopening, perhaps they utilized this. Maybe it would be misplaced confidence but people seem to laud Cuba’s vaccine based on their performance.

    2) This is an interesting thread from someone who worked on SARS-1.
    It discusses the potential use of HIV ART medication to help mitigate SARS viral persistence (suspected to be a cause of long-COVID) and the fact that China ran trials and authorized the drug for use/manufacture prior to reopening. The thread is a bit old but it was published in early Feb (after the mega-wave that went through the country post-reopening). More information on clinical trials can be found by searching “Azvudine China COVID”. This ART hypothesis may also be related to why African countries have had such low rates of COVID despite almost no vaccinations.

    Anyway, just some food for thought. My own personal take is China has shown an ability to respond to data and in general they plan and execute pretty well. They obviously can also make mistakes just like everyone else but again, time will tell.

  9. Steve

    I recall Naomi Wu saying on Twitter that zero COVID was entrusted to local bureaucrats who were mostly then covering their hindquarters. This resulted in things like trucks ostentatiously spraying down streets with disinfectant fogger. I don’t believe that China ever had a coordinated response and left local officials to figure it out themselves. It’s no wonder it was a fiasco.

  10. StewartM

    I think PLG is mostly correct. Our capitalist-y overclass wants population increase (that’s why they are funding the repeal of abortion rights and access to contraceptives, and interested in driving gay relationships/non-procreative relationships back into the proverbial closet). The reason why they want both population increase and Catfood commissions is that they want an underclass willing to take a job, any job, and shut up and not complain.

    Oh, and the racists/xenophobes in our overclass don’t want an underclass contaminated by any experiences with nations with universal healthcare or other ‘nice things’ (which, even nations with modest wealth/incomes, say Cuba or Vietnam, have). So best if the underclass stays native and ignorant that there is an alternative. Some people say this is the real reason why Americans don’t have vacation compared to other developed countries; if they did, they could travel elsewhere and find out “wow, things can be a LOT better…”

  11. Fear and Consumption

    The Chinese elite weren’t concerned with covid any more than the western elite were.

    Interestingly, the entire front row of the Congress, including Xi and Hu, are unmasked. There were a lot of older men there. Xi himself is almost 70.

    As most here know, China has taken a “zero-covid” approach with regard to their population, the reason being that they feel it’s the only way to “eradicate” this particular coronavirus. We have also been told they care much more about their people than “the west” or even most of the rest of the world does.

    The plain image of the entire front row without masks on would seem to belie that entire narrative.

    This was true in Russia as well, where Putin ordered a nationwide mask mandate in spring/summer 2020, but then you’d see pictures of him surrounded by politicos and generals – all without masks on.

  12. different clue

    I suspect that the ChinaGov suddenly reversed zero covid after Chinese in some cities blew up into spontaneous riots. The ChinaGov decided to reverse zero covid rather than risk the spread of riots all over China.

    ” What do you call it when a billion Chinese riot?”

    ” A problem on your hands.”

  13. bogeylady bugbear

    John Campbell unpacks the new/changed verbiage in the WHO’s “Amendments to the International Health Regulations”

    From flora over at NakedCapitalism:

    U.S. Presidential candidate RFK Jr – currently polling at over 20% of the Democratic electorate with his campaign barely having begun – was asked about the WHO treaty in relation to U.S. covid measures and he stated immediately that he’s less concerned with the WHO per se, rather he’s much more concerned with the all-out denial of multiple provisions of the constitution of the nation-state of the United States:

    John Titus on how the covid pandemic is being used as an economic event:

    “In this video I am going to explain, forensically, how bankers have started implementing totalitarian control across the world under the cover of what I’m going to call “PANDEMIC!”

    And by pandemic I don’t mean THE pandemic. I mean the 24/7 saturation news coverage, the horror stories and fear porn, all the rest. Bankers don’t care about any sort of scientific pandemic, they don’t care about your health. They do care, however, about 24/7 fear porn and news coverage because it can drive behavior, and that’s exactly what they’re after.

    So, I’m just going to refer generally to what’s going on as PANDEMIC! like it’s a feature film that we’ve all been treated to for the last eighteen months.

    The censorship and open criminality that you see now are child’s play to what is coming. And that is Central Bank Digital Currency, or CBDC, which is a tool of choice for the criminal bankers in charge, that they are going to use to control every transaction that you might propose to undertake.

    The people running our monetary system now are quite open and brazen about their desire for totalitarianism, and for complete financial control over everyone’s life.

    And, in that vein, I want to show you two examples of VERY high-ranking bankers who’ve been instrumental in building out the monetary gulag that they admittedly are dreaming about.”

    Titus goes on to highlight Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock which has upwards of ten trillion dollars (that we know about) “under management.”

    Fink states, quites unironically, that “markets don’t like uncertainty, markets like, actually, totalitarian governments where you have an understanding of what’s out there, and obviously, uh, the whole dimension is changing now, with the democratization of countries and democracies are very messy, as we know in the United States, uh, you have opinions changing back and forth.”

    Can’t have that. People changing their opinions in democracies!

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