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Help! Apologize to our jailers in the Chinese bakery

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Scott Johnson

Feb. 24 2020

I enjoyed Walter Russell Mead’s February 3 Wall Street Journal Global View column published under the headline “China is the real sick man of Asia.” Beginning with China’s respose to the coronavirus outbreak, Mead widened the scope to economic issues:


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.


Tom Friedman, call your office.

This somehow could not stand. China’s Communist rulers took offense to the column — allegedly to its headline, but also, we may assume, the substance of the column itself. Kimmy Yam reported for NBC News “The Wall Street Journal criticized for op-ed with derogatory reference to China in title.”

And not just China’s rulers! Yam consulted Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Choy opined: “The consequences of publishing an opinion like this by mainstream media include stoking more fear and anxiety, and increasing hostility against Chinese and other Asians throughout the world. This is extremely harmful and wrong.”


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