The Coronavirus contagion has not been contained or humbled by China. And now it rages unsympathetically throughout the world exacting its price from the weak and the old, and, on occasion, adding to its enormous bounty by wresting life from some of our most able.
Social distancing and hibernation are not, nor will they ever be the answer [I think most of us realize this by now]. These measures only hope to slow the contagion down – while wreaking havoc on every aspect of our life. There’s no need to list everything from child abuse to isolation to economic devastation that is visiting each and every one of us. But sooner or later, this contagion will come to rest. A combination of herd immunity, effective treatment, and a variety of inoculations will halt its rapacious march of death. But what of the collateral damage that will linger for a generation?
But, back to China. This is where it all began, and this is where the real damage is being done.
My concern about the dire consequences of shuttering an entire world as well as adding my voice to the sounding of the China alarm are not based on any political agenda – so don’t shoot the messenger. I am not political. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I am a merchant. I am the grandson of immigrants. I was raised by my father and the Jesuits – while finding a polestar in Will Durant.
But, back to China.
I admire the political adroitness and the economic potency of China. Premier Xi Jinping has maneuvered nearly 1.4 billion people, and I believe he will come out as an even more powerful and dominant world figure when this crisis passes. This is no small feat considering what China unleashed on the world.
The contagion has not been subdued in China. Herbs, face masks, and acupuncture have not saved a nation. Quarantining tens of millions of people did not work. But, at some point, China not only realized it MUST get back to work before the entire country devolved into complete mayhem and insurrection, but it also recognized the opportunity to gain an even stronger foothold in the world market.
China convinced the world to shut down [knowing full well it only delayed the inevitable] and then went back to the business of feeding the world’s insatiable thirst for cheap, readily accessible, and increasingly sophisticated products. And while this is just a new riff on an old China song, what makes it even more effective this time around is that they are not only back producing cheap and readily accessible crap – they are also producing our drugs, our highly advanced equipment, and our everyday technology devices. We have ceded production of nearly everything to China, and now with our economies grinding to a halt – they are on the cusp of imposing their economic will on the entire world in the way centuries of imperialists never dreamed possible. China isn’t rising, it is rising again.
And that’s what I am thinking of this morning as I prepare for another day of damage control and relief assistance for the many who are in dire need.
1. don’t shoot the messenger in Antigone by Sophocles as “no man delights in the bearer of bad news” (Greek: στέργει γὰρ οὐδεὶς ἄγγελον κακῶν ἐπῶν).