As if there is no new lows Western media can reach…
Paul Krugman – winner of the 2008 Economics Nobel Prize, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and a senior columnist for The New York Times – have always been a China hater. But he had always spewed hate with some intellectual pretense – shallow and insincere as they may be.
I have not read him for years, but for diversion from the suffocating info war that the West is waging against Russia, I thought I would turn to Paul for some good old fashioned China Bashing. I was not ready to be so appalled and disappointed.
Like much of New York Times and the Western Media, not even a shred of class or intellectual rigor is left.
So, here is an excerpt his latest piece, titled “Another Dictator Is Having a Bad Year”.
while we’re all justifiably obsessed with the Ukraine war — I’m trying to limit my reading of Ukraine news to 13 hours a day — it’s important to note that there’s a superficially very different yet in a deep sense related debacle unfolding in the world’s other big autocracy: China, which is now experiencing a disastrous failure of its Covid policy.
But China is definitely not over Covid. Hong Kong, which for a long time seemed virtually unscathed, is experiencing hundreds of deaths a day, a catastrophe reminiscent of early 2020 in New York — back when there were no vaccines and we didn’t know much about how to limit transmission. Major Chinese cities like Shenzhen, a crucial world manufacturing hub, are back under lockdown. And it’s not at all clear when or how China’s new health crisis will end.
All of this represents a huge reversal of fortune. For much of 2020, China’s “zero Covid” policy — draconian lockdowns whenever and wherever new cases emerged — was hailed by many as a policy triumph. Quite a few commentators, not all of them Chinese, went so far as to cite China’s Covid success as proof that world leadership was passing from America and its allies to the rising Asian superpower.
Then three things went very, very wrong.
First, as much of the world was turning to mRNA vaccines — a new approach adapted to Covid with miraculous speed — China insisted on using its own vaccines, which rely on older technology and have proved far less effective, especially against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Not only did China insist on using inferior but home-developed vaccines, it tried to discourage adoption of Western vaccines by spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Second, vaccination rates among China’s elderly — the most vulnerable group — have lagged. This may in part be because disinformation about mRNA technology has not only discouraged people from taking the most effective vaccines, but it has bled into distrust of vaccines in general. It may also reflect broader distrust of the government; China’s leaders lie to their people all the time, so why believe them when they say you should take your shots?
Finally, the zero-Covid strategy is extremely disruptive in the face of highly contagious variants like Omicron, especially given the weak protection provided by Chinese vaccines.
The thing is, all of these failures, like Putin’s failures in Ukraine, ultimately stem from the inherent weakness of autocratic government.
On vaccines, China succumbed to the kind of blinkered nationalism all too common in authoritarian regimes. Would you have wanted to be a health official telling Xi Jinping that his vaunted vaccines were seriously inferior to Western alternatives, especially after Xi’s minions had gone to considerable lengths to claim the opposite?
So first, which nation is the one that has succumbed to vaccine nationalism?
Which nation has been touting its “vaccine effectiveness” in the mid 90% range throughout … even though scientists warned that it was nearly impossible to get such an effective vaccine in real life … and even after so-called “breakthrough” cases have become the norm rather than the exceptions? Which nation has craved about how advanced its mRNA vaccine was – that it would enable the U.S. to keep up with any mutations Covid throws … with followup versions of the vaccine? Isn’t it strange, than, that people through the West are still given the vaccine – targeted against the original strain of the vaccine – after more than two years?
Many Americans rightly wonder: is vaccines about public health or filling the pockets of pharmaceutical companies?
And where is the evidence that Chinese vaccines are inferior? In the early days, the Western media has been badmouthing that Chinese vaccines were only 80%, maybe 70%, or even as low as 50% effective in preventing Covid. The number was derogatorily bantered about to push a narrative on the inferiority of Chinese vaccines (or the superiority of Western vaccines) when scientists were clear that this was not necessarily the case. In the Brazilian Butantan Institute study that supposedly showed only a 50% effectiveness, for example, the spokesman was clear to stress that their numbers on Sinovac must not be taken at face value. As reported by the South China Morning Post,
Ricardo Palácios, medical director of clinical research at Butantan, said the lower efficacy rate was caused by the inclusion of patients who were infected with the novel coronavirus but only displayed “very light” symptoms.
Phase 3 trial data for the US-based Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, for example, gives a 95 per cent efficacy rate. The 44,000 volunteers, all of whom had tested negative for Covid-19, included 3,410 participants who displayed Covid-19 symptoms and were not included in the total efficacy rate, according to a US Food and Drug Administration report. In the unlikely event that all of those 3,410 had been false negatives, the total efficacy rate would drop to below 30 per cent.
“Other vaccine manufacturers did not include those that had light headaches even after testing positive for Covid-19,” said Palácios. “The most important number is not the 50.”
Palácios added that the inclusion of those very light cases represented the most “stringent test”, complicating any comparisons to other Covid-19 vaccines.
Regarding Western mRNA vaccines, there have been many criticisms of Pfizer’s or Modern’s so-called 95% effectiveness rate. Not only were the experiment protocols based on shaky grounds, but the researchers who published the studies that purported to show a 95% effectiveness rate explicitly noted that the results were preliminary and did not show any statistical confidence.
From https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577, the authors noted
The findings are descriptive in nature and not based on formal statistical hypothesis testing…. The 95.0% credible interval for vaccine efficacy and the probability of vaccine efficacy greater than 30% were calculated with the use of a Bayesian beta-binomial model. The final analysis uses a success boundary of 98.6% for probability of vaccine efficacy greater than 30%…. Descriptive analyses (estimates of vaccine efficacy and 95% confidence intervals) are provided….
From https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2035389, the authors noted
For analysis of the primary end point, the trial was designed for the null hypothesis that the efficacy of the mRNA-1273 vaccine is 30% or less.
The vaccine efficacy estimate, based on a total of 95 adjudicated cases (63% of the target total), was 94.5%, with a one-sided P value of less than 0.001 to reject the null hypothesis that vaccine efficacy would be 30% or less.
In other words, it is not scientific to banter about 95% vaccine effectiveness as facts … or even as established experimental results with any substantive statistical confidence.
Yet the propaganda went on… China bad vaccine. U.S. great vaccines!
Now it turns out mRNA vaccines cannot escape basic physics after all. With “breakthrough” cases the norm rather than the exceptions, the vaccines are probably more 95% ineffective than 95% effective against stopping the transmission of Covid-19.
Many Americans see through the fog. After a while, many Western PR scientists are now switching their attention of mRNA vaccines’ ability to prevent severe Covid and not transmission. That’s all and well. But, truth be told, the Chinese scientists had been talking about that from day 1. Chinese vaccines have been close to 100% effective against severe covid across all the experiments across the world. In real life, there have been 0 covid death in mainland China over the last two years.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Chinese vaccines are inferior in only one way – it is not supported by Western propaganda.
As for pointing out Hong Kong’s current Covid crisis, perhaps Mr. Krugman does not understand that the majority of Hong Kong citizens actually received Western mRNA vaccines, not Chinese inactivated vaccines.
It’s also curious that in attributing Hong Kong’s crisis to China’s “autocracy,” Mr. Krugman seems to have forgotten that Hong Kong is also a democratically run special administrative area. It is also curious that he fails to mention about the Covid contagion that has been lighting up neighboring “democratically run” S Korea … and Japan.
There will come a day when the scientific community can properly evaluate mRNA vaccines vs inactivated ones. Calling out mRNA vaccines as categorically as better than inactivated ones, without any scientific evidence, is grossly irresponsible if not criminally negligent when the pandemic is still raging across a large swatch of the world – including Europe.
Paul Krugman ended his article this way.
And as I said, a government that lies all the time has trouble getting the public to listen even when it’s telling the truth.
I don’t want to engage in Western triumphalism here. …
Yet China, like Russia, is now giving us an object lesson in the usefulness of having an open society, where strongmen don’t get to invent their own reality.
Mr. Krugman, why do you have stoop so low to politicize everything? China’s Covid numbers now – though high for China – is still several orders of magnitude below that of any Western country.
It is Mr. Krugman and the Western intellectuals who are inventing their own reality. Their triumphalism and myopia are sickening and disgusting.
Mr. Krugman, if you get a diarrhea after eating Chinese food, do you politicize that too by swearing at the Chinese government and Chinese people, too?
I hope you are not back watching and reading 12-13 hours about how the people in Ukraine are suffering. Where was that pity when U.S. waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria? Do you really feel Ukraine’s suffering or is it just war porn to you?