(CHINA-435) Feb 26, 2020 – The truth behind THE SICK MAN OF ASIA

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personal note: I am happy to share with you 3 articles about CHINA IS THE REAL SICK MAN OF ASIA: the first article is written by Walter Mead, working for the Wall Street Journal (which got a response from China),  the second article is about why China decided to expell 3 WSJ reporters working in mainland China, and the third article (to me the most important report coming from Hong Kong) is about how China, not foreigners, came to use this Sick Man phrase down the centuries! Steve Ling, USA Feb 26, 2020

China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia
Its financial markets may be even more dangerous than its wildlife markets.
By
Walter Russell Mead WSJ Wall Street Journal
(So who is Walter R Mead?…”Walter Russell Mead (born June 12, 1952) is an American academic. He is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and previously taught American foreign policy at Yale University. … Mead is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and a scholar at the Hudson Institute.” Steve Ling Feb 20, 2020)
Feb. 3, 2020

The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus. While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.
We do not know how dangerous the new coronavirus will be. There are signs that Chinese authorities are still trying to conceal the true scale of the problem, but at this point the virus appears to be more contagious but considerably less deadly than the pathogens behind diseases such as Ebola or SARS—though some experts say SARS and coronavirus are about equally contagious.
China’s initial response to the crisis was less than impressive. The Wuhan government was secretive and self-serving; national authorities responded vigorously but, it currently appears, ineffectively. China’s cities and factories are shutting down; the virus continues to spread. We can hope that authorities succeed in containing the epidemic and treating its victims, but the performance to date has shaken confidence in the Chinese Communist Party at home and abroad. Complaints in Beijing about the U.S. refusing entry to noncitizens who recently spent time in China cannot hide the reality that the decisions that allowed the epidemic to spread as far and as fast as it did were all made in Wuhan and Beijing.
The likeliest economic consequence of the coronavirus epidemic, forecasters expect, will be a short and sharp fall in Chinese economic growth rates during the first quarter, recovering as the disease fades. The most important longer-term outcome would appear to be a strengthening of a trend for global companies to “de-Sinicize” their supply chains. Add the continuing public health worries to the threat of new trade wars, and supply-chain diversification begins to look prudent.
Events like the coronavirus epidemic, and its predecessors—such as SARS, Ebola and MERS—test our systems and force us to think about the unthinkable. If there were a disease as deadly as Ebola and as fast-spreading as coronavirus, how should the U.S. respond? What national and international systems need to be in place to minimize the chance of catastrophe on this scale?
Epidemics also lead us to think about geopolitical and economic hypotheticals. We have seen financial markets shudder and commodity prices fall in the face of what hopefully will be a short-lived disturbance in China’s economic growth. What would happen if—perhaps in response to an epidemic, but more likely following a massive financial collapse—China’s economy were to suffer a long period of even slower growth? What would be the impact of such developments on China’s political stability, on its attitude toward the rest of the world, and to the global balance of power?
China’s financial markets are probably more dangerous in the long run than China’s wildlife markets. Given the accumulated costs of decades of state-driven lending, massive malfeasance by local officials in cahoots with local banks, a towering property bubble, and vast industrial
overcapacity, China is as ripe as a country can be for a massive economic correction. Even a small initial shock could lead to a massive bonfire of the vanities as all the false values, inflated expectations and misallocated assets implode. If that comes, it is far from clear that China’s regulators and decision makers have the technical skills or the political authority to minimize the damage—especially since that would involve enormous losses to the wealth of the politically connected.
We cannot know when or even if a catastrophe of this scale will take place, but students of geopolitics and international affairs—not to mention business leaders and investors—need to bear in mind that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle. A deadlier virus or a financial-market contagion could transform China’s economic and political outlook at any time.
Many now fear the coronavirus will become a global pandemic. The consequences of a Chinese economic meltdown would travel with the same sweeping inexorability. Commodity prices around the world would slump, supply chains would break down, and few financial institutions anywhere could escape the knock-on consequences. Recovery in China and elsewhere could be slow, and the social and political effects could be dramatic.
If Beijing’s geopolitical footprint shrank as a result, the global consequences might also be surprising. Some would expect a return of unipolarity if the only possible great-power rival to the U.S. were to withdraw from the game. Yet in the world of American politics, isolation rather than engagement might surge to the fore. If the China challenge fades, many Americans are likely to assume that the U.S. can safely reduce its global commitments.
So far, the 21st century has been an age of black swans. From 9/11 to President Trump’s election and Brexit, low-probability, high-impact events have reshaped the world order. That age isn’t over, and of the black swans still to arrive, the coronavirus epidemic is unlikely to be the last to materialize in China.

2nd article: Coronavirus: China expels Wall Street Journal journalists for article it deemed racist
• 19 February 2020 BBC NEWS

ordered toleave China in five daysChina has ordered three foreign journalists of the Wall Street Journal to leave the country over an opinion piece it said was “racist”.
The article published on 3 February criticised the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it had asked the newspaper to apologise several times but it had declined.
The newspaper said the journalists – who had not written the opinion piece – were given five days to leave China.
China’s decision came a day after the US State Department tightened rules on Chinese state media organisations operating in the US, classifying them as foreign missions.
It told five outlets including state-run Xinhua news agency and the China Global Television Network that they had to submit lists of all employees, even though there would be no restriction on their reporting.
The WSJ article called the authorities’ initial response “secretive and self-serving” and said global confidence in China had been “shaken”.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the article was “racist” and “denigrated” China’s efforts to combat the outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people in the country.
“The Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and maliciously attacks China,” Mr Geng said, without naming the journalists being expelled.
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The Wall Street Journal identified the reporters as two US citizens – Josh Chin, who is the deputy bureau chief, and Chao Deng – as well as Australian citizen Philip Wen.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the expulsions.
“Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement.
The newspaper’s publisher, William Lewis, said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” with the decision and emphasised the “complete separation” between the outlet’s opinion and news departments.
“Our opinion pages regularly publish articles with opinions that people disagree – or agree with – and it was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece,” Mr Lewis said. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”
It is the first time in more than two decades that journalists holding valid credentials have been ordered to leave China, the BBC’s John Sudworth in Beijing reports.
The article in question was entitled “the sick man of Asia”, a derogatory term used to describe China in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. At the time, the phrase referred to internal divisions and the country’s weak position compared to global powers.
According to the New York Times, members of the Wall Street Journal’s own staff deemed the headline to be offensive and had requested that it be changed.
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The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China called the decision “an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organizations”.

Press freedom in China
 China is consistently rated poorly for press freedom and can be a difficult place for foreign journalists to work
 In 2019 Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 177 of 180 countries for press freedom, after measuring media independence, respect for safety and freedom of journalists, and pluralism
 The BBC is blocked in China and in 2019 it launched an international news website on the dark web via Tor, in an attempt to thwart censorship attempts by governments including China
 Nine journalists have been either expelled or effectively expelled through non-renewal of visas since 2013, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China

Last year, the government declined to renew the credentials – necessary for the work of foreign journalists in the country – of another Wall Street Journal reporter.
The journalist, a Singaporean national, had co-written a story that authorities in Australia were looking into activities of one of China’s President Xi Jinping’s cousins suspected of involvement in organised crime and money laundering.
And in 2018, the Beijing bureau chief for BuzzFeed News Megha Rajagopalan was unable to renew her visa after reporting on the detention of Muslim minority Uighurs and others in China’s Xinjiang region.
Meanwhile, two Chinese citizen journalists who disappeared last week after covering the coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in Hubei province, remain missing.
Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi had been sharing videos and pictures online from inside the quarantined city.

3rd Article: Opinion
Elaine Yau
China enraged by ‘Sick Man of Asia’ headline, but its origin may surprise many
• The term was coined in 1895 to describe Qing officials by Chinese scholar Yan Fu after China lost a war against the Japanese
• The term is usually used to refer to bad governance – and is more often used by Chinese people than Westerners

Elaine Yau
27 Feb, 2020 SCMP

(Based in Beijing, Elaine is a senior reporter on the culture desk. She covers food, fashion, travel, health and fitness, music, film and TV, arts, lifestyle, as well as insider tips on the best of Beijing. She studied translation in Hong Kong and taught secondary English before joining the South China Morning Post.)

Amid rising global racism and hostility towards people of Chinese descent following the coronavirus outbreak, one epithet stands out and stings Chinese to the quick.

The sobriquet “Sick Man of Asia” – used in the headline of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this month about the pandemic – led Beijing to announce the expulsion of three of the newspaper’s reporters from China.

A day later the incident escalated into a diplomatic crisis, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warning that the newspaper “must be held responsible for what it has said and done”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in, saying “mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions”.

However the derogatory term was not first used by what Beijing calls “imperialist forces”. It was coined by renowned Chinese thinker, scholar and translator Yan Fu, who introduced Western ideas including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to China in the late 19th century.

In 1895, Yan wrote an article describing China as the “Sick Man” following its humiliating defeat in The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Yan’s target was the Qing officials who had signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, which ceded Taiwan to the Japanese.

The following year, the British-run Shanghai-based newspaper North China Daily News also ran a piece attacking the Qing court’s poor governance, stating: “There are four sick people of the world – Turkey,Persia,China,Morocco … China is the Sick Man of the East.”

Hong Kong author Leung Man-tao, now a frequent commentator on mainland Chinese talk shows, wrote in a 2015 article that Chinese people are more likely to use the epithet.
“In the West, the term ‘Sick Man’ is used often to describe a weak state. It was first coined to talk about the Ottoman Empire’s degeneration from its former glory. [Later], the outcome of the First Sino-Japanese War shocked the world when the big Qing empire was defeated by tiny Japan,” Leung wrote.

“So Westerners took the term ‘Sick Man of Europe’, reserved for the Turkish, and applied it to the Chinese, calling them ‘Sick Man of East Asia’.

“Later, the term ‘Sick Man’ gained widespread popularity in China, but those who used it the most were not foreigners but the Chinese themselves.”

In 1902, another Chinese thinker, Liang Qichao, was the first to use the term “Sick Man” more literally, to describe the ailing physical state of the Chinese population, racked as they were by opium addiction. Liang also advocated replacing the Qing imperial system with a constitutional monarchy.

The person who put the term into the wider public consciousness in modern times was action star Bruce Lee, who, in his 1972 movie Fist of Fury, yells “Chinese are not the sick man of East Asia” as he battles a group of Japanese judo fighters.

Lee plays kung fu master Chen Zhen, who is overcome with humiliation when his foes bring a framed sheet of paper inscribed with the phrase “Sick Man of East Asia” to the funeral of his mentor, Huo Yuan Jia. In retaliation, Chen beats them up then forces them to eat the message, warning them: “This time you’re eating paper. The next time it’s gonna be glass.”

He then goes to a park, sees a sign reading “No dogs and Chinese allowed” at the entrance, and kicks it to pieces.

Since Fist of Fury’s release, the term Sick Man of East Asia has taken on deep racist connotations that instantly raise Chinese hackles. However, as Leung Man-tao points out in his 2015 article, when Westerners first used it in the 1896 North China Daily News piece, it was not intended as an insult.

“Liang Qichao was the first to associate ‘Sick Man’ with the Chinese people’s physical health. Due to his great influence … the use of the term was extended from its description of a weak country to that of the population’s weak state of health,” he wrote.
“[When North China Daily News used the term], they were not talking about Chinese people’s health. They used it as a metaphor for poor Chinese governance and the Qing dynasty’s failed military and political reform, hoping that the corrupt Qing government would be prompted to mend its ways before it was too late.”

Giving this context, and The Wall Street Journal’s refusal to retract its opinion piece, Beijing – while seeing red over the term’s racial connotations – might want to consider its historical use.

It could then be taken as a wake-up call to the government to overhaul bureaucratic and health care system failings exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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