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  • Welcome to Ted Connects.

  • This is a new Siri's off live conversations, trying to make sense off this weird moment that we're in Corona virus.

  • Everyone suddenly changing how they lived their lives.

  • It's so jolting, it's so startling.

  • We're all trying to make sense of it, and it ain't easy that much we know.

  • We're trying to make sense of this together in the way the only way that we know how, which is by having wise humans coming on, talking to each other, listening to each other they're trying to learn from each other.

  • We are apart.

  • But we can use this moment to build community together, and that's what we're trying to.

  • D'oh!

  • So this is being produced by a virtual Ted team scattered around New York, currently one of the epicenters really of this pandemic s Oh, it's definitely scary time for people here.

  • I'd liketo welcome to join me in my co host here, Whitney Pennington, Rogers.

  • Uh, she's our current affairs curative.

  • We're gonna be looking a little bit at China's response today.

  • When news surfaced about a strange viral outbreak in Wuhan, China, at the very last days of 2019 I think A lot of people were confused about what was going on there, and in the months that followed, we learned more about the disease that's now known as Kobe.

  • 19.

  • We watched the situation in China quickly worsen and in the most recent weeks dramatically improved on.

  • And I think as all of us around the world grapple with how we can contain and control the spread of Kobe 19 there are a lot of lessons we can learn from what China experienced and how they responded.

  • Though we're really thrilled to be joined today by the CEO of the South China Morning Post, Gary Liu, who's here to share his perspective on and insights.

  • So Welcome, Gary.

  • Thanks for having me.

  • Hey there, Gerry.

  • Think thanks for being with us.

  • And I think before we dive into things I love to hear about just how things have been for you personally and your loved ones.

  • Those close to you.

  • How have you been experiencing this?

  • It's it's complicated.

  • Eso we're here in Hong Kong.

  • I'm working from home like much of Hong Kong.

  • I'm actually actually self quarantined in an apartment here in Hong Kong because there was a confirmed case in our workplace s over the course of the last week.

  • Plus and likely for at least another week.

  • Plus wth e entire organization has been distributed and working from home.

  • You know, when when Hong Kong got its first confirmed case, I was actually back in the United States with my wife.

  • We were taking a small break in the Rockies and we came back to Hong Kong pretty soon after that.

  • Make sure to make sure we got back in the Hong Kong before the airport shut.

  • And at that point it was all of our family in the United States and friends texting us and warring about how things were in Hong Kong as thieves.

  • Situation in China started escalating and people were sending us or trying to send the supplies, masks and sanitizes stuff like that.

  • And now it's the opposite.

  • New York is at home.

  • New York City is at home, so we certainly empathize with what you guys we're dealing with.

  • Right now.

  • I'm going through with City and we're seeing our friends and our family back home in New York and California on Dhe, checking in on them, trying to send equipment and materials back to them.

  • So the script has flipped actually pretty fast over just the last couple of weeks.

  • And, you know, I think that's actually a really interesting place to start.

  • And probably a question that a lot of people who aren't in China have.

  • You know, I think from the outside looking in, it seems, is it What's happened in China is kind of miraculous that to go from, you know, you have a country with more than a 1,000,000,000 people there to go from as many as 80,000 cases toe nearly to nearly zero new cases.

  • Now, you know what can you tell us about how this happened to help us understand the current situation in interest?

  • Really?

  • How?

  • Trying to ended up there?

  • Yeah.

  • A lot has happened.

  • China's been dealing with this for several months now.

  • Several month head start.

  • That's not a good thing, but they have.

  • They have gone through several different phases.

  • I think we need before I jump into it there.

  • Couple of caveats that are really important to make The 1st 1 is that we're still parsing what happened in China.

  • Uh, the information system, as everyone knows is still relatively closed.

  • And so a lot of the information that we're using to piece together what happened in China is still not fully complete.

  • And so with every passing day, every passing week is more information that allows us to retroactively.

  • Make sure that we get the picture of what happened early on in those early days at the end of 2019.

  • Get get that picture right on.

  • And there's still a lot of love that's happening today.

  • Even though I think the information sharing is much more open than it was early on, there's still a lot of stuff that we need to parse on.

  • The second important caveat here is that I think learning sometimes suggest that everything China did was right and good and and hopefully other countries can can can take it and apply it.

  • But that's not 100% the case.

  • China, of course, did a lot that was writing and we walked to the timeline.

  • I think he'll be pretty apparent.

  • The decisions that they made, that that kept the Corona buyers from really exploding across the entire country and really limited to one province and mostly one city But there were also many, many missteps.

  • And those are things that I think the world can also learn from.

  • Most importantly, China should learn from because most of these thes what I think those of us who were professional observers would call missteps are because they're systemic issues with the country because of governance, lack of free information, flow, stuff like that.

  • So those are the initial caveats.

  • But I think the timing of how China progressed from First case too now has been has been fascinating.

  • Yeah, I mean, and so we know now that in Hu Bei province they live lifted, officially lifted the two months locked down on beer.

  • You getting the sense?

  • Do you feel like this is the right decision to make at this moment?

  • I don't think I'm the right person toe to say whether it was the right decision, but it certainly this is This has been a progression off decisions, and I think that they've been sitting on decision for quite some time, uh, behind itself, which was the where the pandemic started.

  • It was the first epicenter on the major epicenter.

  • Hunt is opening up in it on April 8, that's right.

  • Now the schedule on this is really what we're in now is the third off.

  • Three phases from the first discovery of the virus and hunt.

  • Now April 8th will be about 11 weeks after behind.

  • The city got completely shut down and who Bay Province got shut down.

  • And so, for those who are in a shelter at home kind of situations right now in the United States and wondering how long this gonna take in one they've been, they've been locked down for 11 weeks and on Lee now has the Chinese government decided they're ready to start letting people move freely around.

  • And to your point earlier, about some of the awful missteps in terms off reporting, they're still reports now that we might not be getting wth e an accurate number of cases that were singing in Wuhan or beyond that we're hearing some people say there are no new cases, other people saying that they're actually our cases.

  • So are you.

  • Do you feel like there's There is accurate spread of information about the current state of the virus in China right now?

  • Generally, yes, with the caveat that it is based on the Chinese government's definition, and this is one of the problems right now that even the World Health Organization is struggling with Is that the definition of what is a confirmed case?

  • What is an infection is different from country to country.

  • As an example in China, the folks that tested positive but are asymptomatic we understand now that they're not included, since every seventh, they have not been included in the official numbers or the very least.

  • On February 7th, they changed that definition and they're not included in those official numbers.

  • And that could be, you know, another 50% on top of the numbers that we're seeing today.

  • So that's what we've found our reporters have.

  • I've gone their hands on some classified government documents and government data that suggests that 1/3 off total actually positive tests are asymptomatic and therefore not included.

  • An official numbers.

  • Now this is not.

  • I don't think that this is an example of the Chinese government trying to hide information.

  • This is a definitions issue which countries have been debating and people are doing it in different ways.

  • But like I said, there really have been three very distinct phases we're in the third phase that I would I would call recovery and rehabilitation rehabilitation being the rehabilitation of China's image.

  • But the first part was discovery and a lot of denial.

  • And then there was this two and 1/2 month period of response in containment.

  • On that, I think the response of containment part is what is most interesting to the rest of the world.

  • And so maybe we can break some of that down.

  • You know, it's thinking about China's response.

  • You know?

  • What?

  • What were some of the specific things that you think China did write both as a nation, individuals in the country?

  • What were some of the things that you saw that that works really well, okay, Uh, so let let me walk through the timeline.

  • I want to try and get these dates right, Because the dates do matter.

  • I think again, for context, how many weeks it took from one step to another.

  • Let me actually back up into that initial first phase.

  • That discovery in denial face the first time we heard about the Corona buyers, this mysterious respiratory disease that looks somewhat like SARS was on December 30th.

  • That was the day that there's a doctor that is now his name is known all over the world for the unfortunate reason that he ended.

  • Ended up eventually dying.

  • Named Lee When the arm and we went down, Dr.

  • Lee posted to a private we chat group on December 30.

  • These were some of his old classmates from med school, and he said, Hey, I'm in Wuhan.

  • I'm at the hospital.

  • There is a SARS like illness, SARS being the epidemic from 2000 to 2003 There's a stars like illness that is spreading through these hospitals are hot.

  • A private message.

  • Somebody forded and it went viral across the Chinese Internet the very next.

  • That was the first time we actually heard about something that was going that what was going on behind the very next day, December 31st was the first time that any Chinese officials and on that day it happened to be the actual provincial and the city.

  • Officials acknowledged that there were 27 people at that moment in time who had been diagnosed with this mysterious pneumonia, and they reported the cases to the World Health Organization.

  • That was also the day that Dr Lee was reprimanded, officially reprimanded.

  • So that was really the discovery that the the end of the discovery and denial phase because what we know now is that, um back to mid December, several weeks before Dr Lee wrote his block post, the authorities had already been notified that a SARS, like pneumonia, was showing up in Wuhan.

  • Hospitals and action had already started down the chain of authority.

  • They had now backdated, at least publicly, backdated the first case to December 1st.

  • But actually in their confidential and classified government documents, that again out journalist have seen that we published the story, uh, officially in classified documents.

  • They backdated the First Cove in 19 case all the way back to November 17th as the earliest example that they confined based on symptoms and based on retroactive diagnosis for a covert 19 case.

  • So in effect, there were several weeks before the acknowledgement of the World Health Organization.

  • That was something that was going on, and the first case with symptoms was actually identified about a month and 1/2 before that noticed the World Health Organization, then the second face, which really started.

  • Let's say December 31st when the acknowledgment happened was response and then massive containment.

  • Now this phase, to be clear, still had some denial and a good amount of censorship happening within the country.

  • So on January 1st, the World Health Organization started working with China on trying to identify the virus and trying to figure out a course of action.

  • I wasn't until several weeks later that Beijing, the central government for the first time, broke its silence, and that was on January 18th.

  • And actually they broke the science to deny that this was SARS and effect to quote unquote defy rumors that were spreading around the Chinese Internet.

  • But there was a major date that happened two days afterwards, which was generate 20th because for the first time, a member of the party and a senior government official who is now one of the central gentleman that is actually leading the task force against Cove in 19 name is Dona and Sandy's.

  • An epidemiologist is one of the central figures during SARS.

  • 17 years ago, on January 20th he visited and he admitted for the first time that human to human transmission was possible.

  • Now this is important because prior to that, officials who had spoken up had said that human to human transmission was not likely was not possible on previous to that, all of the cases the majority of the cases were tied to this seafood and on wildlife marketplace that was in the city of.

  • But now on general, 20th human to human transmission, it's possible it's happening.

  • And so, of course, the course of action not only in China for the course of action all over the world started to change.

  • And three days after that, Johan was locked out.

  • It was completely, you know, to shock the world that they could lock down that many people so quickly.

  • Of course, now, India yesterday announced at 1.3 billion people being locked down.

  • So we have another frame of reference now, Um, and then the end of this.

  • This middle second face, I think, really came in March around much tent, actually, on March 10 sugars say, because Chinese President Xi Jinping visited were hot and these things in Chinese politics, because everything is so well choreographed, matters a whole lot.

  • The fact actually keeping visited Wuhan signaled that the Chinese government believed the worst was over.

  • The reality was that probably about 20 days before that, uh, the curve had already been flattened.

  • Eso 20 days before that, probably around February 20 except 20th.

  • The infection rate was around 75,000.

  • 76,000 on it's effectively stayed within a couple of 1000 since then.

  • So on march 10th seating things visit to Hunt kind of signaled the worst is over.

  • And then they moved into the recovery and rehabilitation face.

  • Okay.

  • But, I mean, if I'm hearing correctly, Thank you.

  • Thank you for sharing all of that.

  • It sounds like although that there was it was it was a slow period of getting the information out initially.

  • Eventually, there was quick reaction from the Chinese government to respond to this lock.

  • Folks down.

  • Um, and then and it seems like that had a real impact on flattening the curve in a Really?

  • Yeah, Yes.

  • Please go ahead.

  • Gary.

  • The date of January 23rd was not by coincidence, because the Chinese New Year holiday started on January 24th the very next day.

  • And the thing is, with the Chinese New Year holiday is that it is every single year is the largest human migration that happens on Earth.

  • About 400 million people travel during about a 40 day period that would have started on January 24th and that's three billion trips.

  • That's just people traveling all over the country.

  • 400 million people traveling.

  • Um, now Hon is one of the most important cities in China.

  • Or though before this I don't think anyone, not a lot of people around the world knew the city of Hunt.

  • But it's extremely important.

  • It is considered the most important city in the center of China for many different reasons.

  • But one of the key reasons is that it is one of the key transportation hubs of the country.

  • So all of the major train lines, the high speed train lines, normal train lines, the trade lines, they all kind of confer Jong hun.

  • So you can imagine the 400 million people start moving around for Chinese New York General.

  • 24th a huge number of them.

  • We're gonna go through, huh?

  • And of course, we'll hunt itself is an 11 million persons city, the surrounding cities all added together who?

  • Bay Province has about 60 million people, and they were also like largely going to travel.

  • And so if General 23rd they had not shut it down and people started traveling, the likelihood would have been that this would have been really, really hard that possibly likely impossible to contain.

  • And even though they shut down before the Chinese New Year holiday started, we now also know that at least five million people actually left the surrounding areas and traveled, which is one of the reasons why did spread a little bit across the country and then eventually spread to other parts of the world.

  • And I'd like to come back Thio so that it's well just thinking about the five million people who left and sort of where they landed today and how that affected things.

  • But before we do that, I'm interested to even talk with you a little bit more about you know, you mentioned this November date as one of the earliest cases you discovered.

  • A book that was reported was in November, and that's something actually that I hadn't heard before.

  • And I imagine that might be new.

  • So a lot of people hearing this and and so I'm curious when you think about the missteps from China's perspective in terms of what China did, you know there is, as you mentioned, suppression of information, eyes, one thing, one major criticism of how China handled this, Um, and hearing that maybe there was knowledge of something as early as November, if that might have played a role in and how we were able to control and contain this a lot sooner.

  • I do want to clarify, I think from what we understand, officials were not notified about this until mid December.

  • It wasn't so.

  • It was really a couple of weeks before between officials realizing that there was a stars like pneumonia going around to when the first cases report the World Health Organization.

  • It wasn't all the way back to November 17th that was retroactively backdated, but that has not been made public by the government.

  • We published it because we've seen the data that actually back dates the first case from a miss that point of view again.

  • It is a couple of weeks compared to what happened in stars, which was a long time of locking down on information.

  • This was much shorter, the period of time that the government was in complete shutdown mode.

  • But then, after that, of course, there was still continue censorship on the Internet, especially within the great firewall of China for communications between Chinese citizens.

  • And you know, surprisingly to some, I think for a lot of China watches, not so surprisingly, is that the government has over the course off the central government over the course of the last several weeks.

  • Really?

  • Actually, I should say probably the last two months has started to change their tone and to some degree admit that there needed to be better free flow of information.

  • They changed the official narrative of a couple different things, including this initial whistleblower, Dr Lee, who unfortunate, ended up passing away from from the virus.