Is Beijing Hiding the Severity of the Coronavirus Threat?

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is withholding the truth about the coronavirus outbreak
By James Gorrie
James Gorrie
James Gorrie
James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, He is based in Southern California.
January 24, 2020Updated: January 26, 2020


According to official statistics, which are being updated several times per day, 41 people have died and over 800 are under observation or have fallen ill from the Wuhan coronavirus. That’s more than double the number of fatalities and three times the number of infected people reported from the day before.

As it stands, these figures would put the fatality rate at two-to-three percent. Compared to the nearly 10 percent overall fatality rate of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003, the lethality level of this new virus looks relatively tame. That’s the story out of Beijing’s official news outlets.

But are those really the facts? Are Beijing’s numbers truthful? Probably not.

Math Doesn’t Add Up

The math just doesn’t add up. It’s not reasonable to think that in a city of 11 million people, where at least tens of thousands of people—and perhaps even hundreds of thousands—were exposed to the virus every day for weeks. Nor is it believable that only 900 cases of infected individuals have turned up since the beginning of the outbreak in mid-December.

That’s over a month of people traveling both into and out of Wuhan without any precautions put in place by Chinese authorities. It was only on Jan. 20 that China conceded that the virus is easily spread by human-to-human contact.

But at the same time, Chinese medical authorities such as Wang Guangfa, a Beijing respiratory specialist, insist that even though the virus can infect a person through unprotected eyes, the contagion effort in Wuhan was performed “swiftly and effectively.”

That’s simply not credible. Such a blatantly politically correct statement contradicts the reality that the virus is now essentially global.

Other Nations Knew Weeks Ago

Meanwhile, in the same period of time, other nations were busy preparing precautions for the outbreak that they knew was coming.

Did those nations have different information than the Chinese authorities? Was any information withheld from Beijing? The answer, of course, is “No.”

Probably much more realistic is an article in the Daily Beast that contends the number of infected people runs into the thousands. That makes much more sense from a statistical perspective. What we already know about the incubation time—about two weeks—would seem to show the CCP’s numbers to be the lies that they most certainly are.

On Jan. 21, the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that, “It’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people.” That’s a very moderate statement. The CDC, however, also said that “this is a rapidly evolving situation.”

‘Totally Under Control?’

President Trump’s assertion that the United States has the virus “totally under control” is at best ill-advised. In the real world, how many other “rapidly evolving” situations are actually “under control?” Not many.

Uncontained forest fires, for example, are “rapidly evolving situations,” as are political revolutions like the one happening in Hong Kong. Going further, neither those events nor the unpredictable actions that occur in the heat of battle, nor the early and unchecked spread of a new strain of a highly contagious virus can be described as, “under control.”

In fact, contrary to the official narrative made by the CCP official news organs, the contagion is nowhere near under control. The fact that it’s quickly spreading to more parts of the world is demonstrable proof of that.

One-Man Rule Is the Worst Contagion

By why, then, did the CCP wait five weeks before taking precautionary actions?

Everyone knows the answer. The Chinese regime has been downplaying the threat and lying about the number of people affected by illness or death to preserve the illusion that it is in control of the situation. Given the past year of failures, it can’t afford to look worse than it already does.

The lesson of this unnecessary and potential global epidemic is political and ideological in nature. One-party rule, with the inherent need to always be seen as the wise, guiding force of the country, is bad enough. Horrendous mistakes are made, and yet Communist Party members are rarely held accountable. But if someone is blamed, they’re used as scapegoats to bring the public satisfaction that justice has been done, while at the same time, exonerating the Party from guilt.

But when just one man rules a nation, it makes every decision personal, and therefore, reflects directly—and often poorly—on him. This makes telling the truth risky. Which advisor wants to suffer the consequences of telling the all-powerful leader the very bad news of a new virus outbreak with the economy crashing?

Such incompetence and fear of being seen as incompetent isn’t new; it’s actually standard operating procedure for the CCP since its founding.

African Swine Fever Showed the Future

Take the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic of 2019, for example. Chinese authorities knew that, with pork being a staple in China, such a highly contagious disease could and would spread and threaten the nation’s food supply if it wasn’t contained quickly and thoroughly. Yet Beijing didn’t act to stop the spread of the disease.

Just the opposite occurred. Lip-service was paid up the Party food chain, but for too long, very little actual preparations and protections were put in place by the Chinese regime. As the situation grew worse, it merely censored what was happening. The result is the food shortage and price inflation that China’s people are enduring today. And yet the whole time, the official Party line was that it had the ASF outbreak under control.

Some Better News?

But the good news is that the Chinese regime is now finally acting. Starting on Jan. 23, the city of Wuhan was put under quarantine. All public transportation traveling into and out of the city has been stopped. Even more drastic, Chinese authorities have widened their quarantine to at least twelve additional cities.

What’s more, Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, the biggest holiday and shopping season of the year, have been cancelled. It won’t stop all travel in and out of China, which may be the wisest course of action at this point, but at least it’s something.

Of course, these actions should have been taken much earlier. Unfortunately, the proverbial infected cow left the coronavirus barn weeks ago, with predictable results. The disease has spread well beyond China to Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, India, and of late, as the BBC reports, Scotland.

The coronavirus infection is risky; but clearly the risks that come with the political virus of one-man rule of a nation are much worse.

James Gorrie is a writer and speaker based in Southern California. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.