“The COVID-19 Epidemic in China” was just published by World Scientific Publishers in Singapore. Authors are Yanyan Xiong of Zhejiang University at Hangzhou, China and Lawrence J. Lau of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China. They are economists, not medical epidemiologists. But their data and graphs document China’s rapid response to the pandemic and return to near normal after the first three months of 2020.
Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, and to a lesser extent Japan, also managed to control the coronavirus long before the availability of vaccines. These authors earlier published in March 2020 in Asia Pacific Biotech News how “The lockdown in Wuhan has also been ended. Mainland China has now largely returned to normal”—the same time the first pandemic surge began in Europe and the U.S.
Compared to the coronaviruses causing SARS in 2003 and the Middle Eastern MERS, both with higher mortality rates of 10 and 30 percent, respectively, COVID-19 appeared to vary from a peak of 6 percent to 2.84 percent to 0.56 percent. It took the development of testing and time to understand that people could carry COVID-19 and never have symptoms but yet spread the virus.
This important biology underlies the successful business numbers, but is not fully addressed in this book. It was also soon realized that individuals who came down with COVID-19 were already contagious for several days before they became sick. This made this pandemic quite different from the SARS and MERS, and far more difficult to control transmission. By mid-2020, it became obvious that major transmission was occurring by aerosols and not by surface contact, again different from SARS and MERS. So while the death rate was far less than these other coronaviruses, and perhaps only 15 times higher than the average seasonal flu, the aerosol transfer among asymptomatic persons made the reliance on cell phone tracking technology a critical method to isolate persons who came near infected persons.
Public behaviors such as mask wearing, sheltering in place and using cell phone tracking were fully accepted in Asian communities of pragmatic collectivism but not in self-centered individualist Western cultures. Therefore, China and other Asian countries, where citizens normally wear face masks each winter, were rapid to use masks, maintain social distancing and isolate those who tested positive.
The result was that–without vaccines–China and Taiwan were able to resume business activities and factory production by April 2020. China GDP grew over 2.8 percent in 2020 and Taiwan GDP grew as well.
A big difference exists in their public’s need for assistance. Traditional Chinese continue to save from 40 to 60 percent of their income. Ample family savings and support of extended families was able to bridge the lockdown without massive public food assistance.
The United States used PPP loans with forgiveness to keep businesses afloat. Banks in China operate with Party members on their boards. This state-involved banking system therefore offered extra loans to businesses to remain afloat during their shorter crisis.
But despite the Trump-era 25 percent tariffs still being in place, China’s trade surplus (where exports exceed imports) has ballooned since last July. Many families worldwide are making home improvements, and the major source of furniture and other household items is China.
American economists are predicting up to an eight percent increase in U.S. GDP in 2021. But considering that U.S. GDP went down 4.5 percent in 2020, that would be less than a four percent positive recovery. Meanwhile, China is predicted to have over six percent growth on top of a positive 2.8 percent growth last year.
China’s ability to stop the pandemic with collective action meant that there were not enough cases in China to test its vaccines at home. SinoVax and other vaccines therefore had to be tested in Indonesia, Brazil and other places where the pandemic was raging. This meant arrangements for those cooperating countries to receive a successful vaccine when proven. While China is now underway vaccinating its population, it has shared more of its vaccines with other countries desperately in need. The American press demeans this as “vaccine diplomacy.” This is a shallow diversion from our vaccine selfishness.