Experts in China interpret the news as a sign that the Chinese leadership is drawing a line under the panic and confusion in the battle to bring the disease under control. Unfortunately, it is the second shock or revised account from China since early January when it was found to have covered up the outbreak.

There was a bombshell from China on Thursday within 72 hours of a PR drive in which the Communist authorities heralded that the virus was being brought under control as moves were made to restart the Chinese economy. The cause of the adjustment has been linked with a lack of test kits in Hubei and Wuhan at the centre of the emergency. The infection rate was hiked up over 45% in one day as a new reporting requirement from Hubei province where the infection has become chronic, was included in national figures for the first time. It comes after Wednesday assurances from Chinese diplomats to a Thai parliamentary committee in Bangkok that the threat was now under control.

Today’s figures were shocking and came after yesterday’s assurances to Thai parliamentarians by China’s Charge d’Affaires in Bangkok Yang Xin (inset right) that the virus was being brought under control. Some Chinese experts suggest that this may still be the case and what we are witnessing is the leadership in Beijing drawing a line under the situation in Wuhan and Hubei province.

For the second time in the midst of the coronavirus emergency, authorities in China have been found to have misled the world about the extent of the virus.

Just hours after the Chinese Charge d’Affaires Yang Xin briefed parliamentarians in Thailand and tried to assure them that the epidemic in China linked with the Covid 19 or Chinese coronavirus was under control, comes news that both the infection rate and the mortality rate has shot up to astronomical levels.

‘Reset’ figures from the Chinese Communist Party

Today’s ‘revised’ or ‘reset’ figures from the Chinese Communist Party and its apparatus that controls the people of China comes the news that the infection rate has risen by 15,152 infections alone in one day and now stands at 59,855 people in China with 494 cases outside China, 33 of Thailand where 10 have already been cured.

Over 14,800 of the new infections come from Hubei province. The death toll has also seen the highest rise so far with 242 new cases bringing the total deaths across the world including China to 1,369. Over 99.5% of deaths are still contained within China.

These figures, according to Chinese authorities are due to a new method of testing for the virus which has caused the figures to spike by over 45%, again mostly in Hubei province.

Confirms suspicions of western experts

The new announcement only confirms the long-held suspicion among western experts who have been stating for weeks that the number of infections has been under-reported in China.

However, it has raised serious questions about the trustworthiness of Chinese authorities, now at the highest level.

In the last few days, the Chinese leader embarked on a PR campaign while at the same time, a respected scientist as well a President Xi himself expressed optimism that the virus will be under control by April.

Senior Communist Party figures replaced

Alongside today’s bombshell from China comes news that the authoritarian regime has replaced senior Communist party apparatchiks and the leader in Hubei province. Experts in China say that this is the most serious political reaction to the setback so far by the party.

It has seen a confidant of Chinese President Xi Jiping, Shanghai Mayor Ying Young, replace Jiang Chaoliang as the Communist Party boss in Hubei province, the province with a population of 60 million and a key manufacturing centre which has been decimated by the outbreak.

Chinese experts say it is a sign of progress

Chinese analysts such as Ether Yin of Beijing consulting firm Trivium China sees the move as an attempt to catch up with the numbers so as the new leader on Hubei can start on a clean slate.

‘It’s politically important for them to get the number right before the new party boss comes in so that all the new confirmed cases happened under Jiang Chaoliang’s watch. The new party secretary needs a new starting line,’ he was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s leading English speaking daily.

Heightened concerns about Chinese credibility

However, the events of today and the controversy surrounding the cover-up earlier in January are bound to heighten concerns about China. Doubts had begun to be generally expressed about Chinese economic data even before the virus outbreak.

The announcement today initially caused a wobble in Tokyo stocks as it came before the New York stock exchange opened.

EU does not rule out closing borders to Chinese visitors if the crisis worsens any further

The European Union does not rule out cutting off the Schengen zone to visitors from China in a move similar to the United States if the situation worsens. This was according to the EU’s commissioner of crisis management on Thursday.

For now, the bloc is open to Chinese flights although many major airlines have suspended flights to and from China.

‘We have to act as a Union. It is obvious that any measures taken are more effective if they are taken in a coordinated aligned manner,’ Janez Lenarčič, the European crisis management commissioner disclosed to the press. 

Some see this as a decisive move

However, many commentators on China ironically see today’s shocking announcement as a decisive move by Chinese authorities indicating that this may be the start of the Chinese government facing up to the problem.

Data linked to a shortage of virus test kits

Officials in Beijing are explaining that a new test was introduced by authorities on February 5th and is linked to a shortage of test kits for the virus.

It is being reported that authorities included a new reporting of ‘clinically diagnosed cases’ which resulted in today’s surge which has also been accompanied by the highest spike in deaths since the outbreak began.

‘Not hiding the numbers this time’

Mr Yin of Trivium put it thus: ‘If the government is willing to see numbers jump by over 10,000 overnight, I would say that actually shows the government is not hiding the numbers this time.’

The world now awaits the latest sequence of updated figures from China but surely it is time to adopt a sceptical and questioning stance. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Further reading:

Thailand awaits Chinese recovery as oil shoots up amid hopes that the crisis may be over by April this year

Health Minister in an outburst against western foreigners as 7 more are infected by the coronavirus

80% of China’s economy remains shutdown as Thai Deputy PM warns of another economic storm

Thailand repatriates nationals from Wuhan with 6 more infections announced by the Health Ministry

US Commerce Secretary Ross calls on US firms to review investments in China after coronavirus outbreak

Thai King offers solidarity and support to the Chinese leadership during the coronavirus crisis

Thai Airways suspends flights to six Chinese destinations as coronavirus outbreak grows

Bank interest rate cut anticipated as a devastated tourism industry battles with the Chinese coronavirus threat

Taxi driver is infected by Chinese tourist as Public Health Minister supports scrapping visa on arrival

Thailand awaits Chinese economic recovery as oil shoots up

+ Thailand awaits Chinese recovery as oil shoots up, hoped that the crisis may end by April – Thai authorities wary of US owned cruise ship Westerdam trying to dock. O Connor reports from Bangkok

Posted by on Wednesday, February 12, 2020