Covid-119

Dan O'Heirity

Victoria’s State of Disaster is a Complete and Utter Disaster

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews provides Victorians with a Covid-19 update every Sunday afternoon. Here’s a summary of his opening statement. There were 394 more coronavirus cases confirmed since Saturday, with 17 new fatalities. The deaths included two males in their 50s, four males in their 70s, four females and two males in their 80s, as well as two females and three males in their 90s. Ten of the reported deaths along with 1,748 cases have been linked to outbreaks in aged care. Let’s stop there for a moment. 14 of the reported deaths have occurred amongst the elderly and a whopping 1,748 cases out of 7,854 confirmed active cases of the virus are linked with aged care facilities. Meanwhile the death rate from Covid-19, which has been trending downwards for months now, has dropped but a further one percent to 5%.

Given that only 1% of all active cases worldwide are serious or critical, the death rate will keep trending downwards and I would conjecture that we will ultimately see a death rate of 1% or less. Granted that those who contract Covid-19 may find it “lingering like a chronic condition” but exactly the same is true for seasonal flu which can knock people out for weeks on end. I am making this point for the same reason that I always make this point. Victoria is in a state of emergency and a state of disaster. Stage 4 lockdowns are in place. We can only leave our homes for four reasons, food shopping, exercise, medical reasons and for work and education that cannot be conducted from home. There is a curfew from 8PM to 5AM enforced by police patrolling the streets. And the reason for these draconian measures. There have been double digit Covid-19 deaths in aged care facilities.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley has announced $59.7 million in funding to tackle mental health problems arising from the pandemic. The reasons for this additional funding is, rather obviously, that we are seeing significant increases in people reporting to “acute settings” and other facilities with mental health problems. Anyone who has read my posts will know that I have bipolar and a secondary dissociative personality disorder and, to be absolutely honest, I just have no time for other peoples’ mental health problems. My general view is that people are not sufficiently rational and they lack the fortitude and will to be able to manage themselves appropriately.

Perhaps, too, they are currently buying into the ridiculous narratives that are presented to us in the news each day. Take a statement from Daniel Andrews, for example, in which he is talking about the severe challenges that healthcare workers are facing. Daniels states, “You can’t unsee what you’ve seen. There is a degree of trauma, a degree of previously unknown levels of really, really challenging circumstances.” Seriously, in one reporting period there have been 14 deaths in aged care facilities. Would nurses find this any more challenging than dealing with deaths that must occur in aged care facilities every week. Daniels also said, “a failure of people following the coronavirus restrictions in the state meant “sadly, tragically … more families are planning funerals“. This is just complete and utter nonsense.

I accept that my rational and emotionless response to what is currently going on with Covid-19 will win me no plaudits from readers. However, it is a fact that the response to Covid-19 in Victoria has been a shambles from beginning to end. It started with bungled hotel quarantine using untrained private security guards who ultimately spread the virus in their communities. Instead of enacting a strategy to protect the most vulnerable, particularly those in aged care facilities and healthcare workers, whilst keeping the economy alive we have seen a response that failed to protect those in aged care facilities. In a single day, 16 out of 21 new cases were linked to aged care facilities. As for healthcare workers, they make up 15% of all new Covid-19 cases. This response is costing the Victorian economy hundreds of millions of dollars a week and it has resulted in a massive increase in unemployment rates.

If you follow the opinion of the “Daily Mail” then Daniel Andrews, “will be seen as responsible for the economic destruction of Victoria and for driving the levels of suicide, domestic violence and mental health to unprecedented levels.” To be fair, in reviewing that list I’d probably only hold Andrews responsible for the destruction of the Victorian economy because people really should be more robust and better able to manage themselves. The question now concerns what will happen next. Apparently the reproductive rate of the virus is under 1 which means that cases of infections in Victoria will likely being to fall in the near future. Let’s say that the infection rate falls substantially. Do we then ease lockdown restrictions and “open up” Victoria? This action would really only be feasible if we were sure that the virus had been eradicated otherwise a single infection could lead to community transmission and we would be right back where we started.

China’s Generals Are Exhibiting Signs of Dissent Over Xi Jinping’s Leadership

Just before I look at some specifics around the ways in which countries are jockeying for position in the new world order, it is worth noting that that there are signs of dissension in China around Xi Jinping’s leadership. In a point that I have mentioned on previous occasions, Xi Jinping seems to have adopted a strategy of trying to bully and intimidate the world in the same way that the CCP bullies and threatens its citizens. However, countries around the world, Australia included, have stood firm and this is, apparently, “embarrassing” for Xi Jinping. Although the article does not use the term, the Chairman for life has “lost face”. Voices of dissent have surfaced from Major General Qiao Liang and a serving PLA Air Force Senior Colonel Dai Xu.

Interesting Major General Qiao Liang was one of the authors of the book “Unrestricted Warfare” which I have mentioned in previous posts. The book, published in 1999, essentially argued that China could not win a military war with the United States but that there were other means, economic warfare for example, by which China could supplant the United States as the leading global power. These two military personnel are not alone in questioning Xi Jinping’s leadership. Senior Colonel Dai and People’s Liberation Army Senior Colonel Zhou Bo have also been outspoken with respect to the wisdom of China taking on the United States. The irony is that if Xi Jinping had not adopted bullying and belligerent tactics then, in a few years time, China would likely have found itself in a position of world supremacy. Now, however, the world is wary of China.

US Technology Sanctions Point to the Emergence of a New World Order

A key dimension of what we might refer to as China’s arrogance, is the fallout for companies such as Alibaba, Huawei and Tencent, significant Chinese companies facing an international backlash. There is a recent report that Huawei will no longer produce its flagship chipset due to sanctions by the United States. There is a mind-boggling backstory to the US sanctions but the long and the short of it is that the United States has hurt Huawei’s business. For example, the sanctions have meant that Google has broken its relationship with Huawei meaning no Google pay services, no Google Play Store and no Google Play Services. That’s a significant loss for an Android based phone.

Moving beyond Huawei, which has a robust in-house chip design capacity, the US-China trade war could could restrict or cut-off the supply of processors to Chinese Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs) such as Oppo, OnePlus, and Xiaomi. The reason for this is that the big players in the chip manufacturing industry use American technology and the sanction would mean that Chinese companies would no longer have access to these companies. Even if these companies did manage to produce a chip design, they would still need the chips to be manufactured and sanctions would make this next to impossible. This is the situation in which Huawei now finds itself. The company has the chip design but no means to manufacture the chips.

All of these sanctions have, of course, been put in place for “security reasons” and who’s to say that the United States does not have legitimate security concerns about Chinese manufactured phones. However, one can also see how these sanctions might play out in favour of the United States having manufacturing control over a significant technological sector. The United States can squeeze out China and control manufacturing of smart phones through controlling the supply of chipsets that use US technology. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there would be economic benefits to the United States in the form of new manufacturing relationships with companies in different countries around the world.

Trump has also had his eyes firmly set on TikTok, owned by the Chinese parent company ByteDance. Once again, “security concerns” are given as the reason for “banning” TikTok in the United States. Enter Microsoft which seems to be in the process of brokering a deal to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Now, get this. The value of TikTok’s US arm has been put at between $15bn and $30bn and the purchase of TikTok by Microsoft would see them having a presence in the social media space that they just do not have. So security concerns over TikTok lead to a win-win situation for Microsoft. Am I the only one thinking that the ulterior motive of having Microsoft acquire TikTok is just too obvious?

China is Defining its Own New World Order War Through Seizing Control of Hong Kong

China is pursuing an aggressive policy to take over regions and territories including Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea. The new security law imposed by China on Hong Kong is, at one level, about China being able to arrest and detain Hong Kong Citizens accused of crimes such secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. This much is made clear in the Chapter 2 of the Hong Kong Security Law, which covers offences and penalties. Chinese security and intelligence agents are now sanctioned to operate in Hong Kong on an official basis as detailed in Chapter 5, Article 48 of the Law which explains the function of the “Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region“.

It seems clear that China is concerned with far more than punishing criminals. A report on the full extent of China’s interference in Hong Kong states that China is determining the curriculum to be taught in schools and teachers are being investigated on the basis of anonymous accusations made against them to the Education Bureau. These actions are justified under Chapter 2, Article 10 of the new Security Law. Finally, the newly formed Committee for Safeguarding National Security has sweeping powers to ensure National Security in Hong Kong and according to Chapter 2, Article 15 of the Security Law, “No institution, organisation or individual in the Region shall interfere with the work of the Committee“.

According to ABC news Hong Kong and Chinese officials “have repeatedly said only a tiny number of people will be targeted by the new laws and that the rights and freedoms of ordinary people will not be affected“. One might almost be fooled into believing this rhetoric particularly given that, Chapter 1, Article 4 of the new law states that, “The rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration”. However, the reality would seem to be very different. Jimmy Lai, the owner of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily Newspaper has been, ” arrested over suspected collusion with foreign forces under the new national security law”.

Hong Kong police can, under the new law, order Internet service providers to censor content. Police can also require that service providers hand over user data. FaceBook, Google and Twitter have said that they will not comply with the new laws. The United States has taken the most decisive action against China for imposing the new Security Law on Hong Kong. Trump signed a law “to sanction individuals and banks deemed to have aided the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and an executive order ending the city’s preferential trading status”.

Trump has followed through on the new law by imposing sanctions on 11 Hong Kong officials including Carrie Lam, the leader of the government in Hong Kong. I remember reading about this aspect of the law some months ago and I wondered just how America could actually enact sanctions against individuals in Hong Kong. Well, it seems that the sanctions include blocking accessing to assets in United States jurisdictions and not granting visas to those named in the sanctions. Carrie Lam has expressed that she has no assets under United States jurisdiction and that she is not particularly fond of going to the US. I will give her some points for being unintentionally humorous.

The South China Sea Could Be a Flash Point for a War Between China and the United States

I have written about the South China Sea region on many occasions. This article form “The Express” whilst being somewhat lightweight, does cover the main points about China’s aspirations in this region. Essentially China has its own view of the regions and along with “underwater” entities that fall within its jurisdiction. China designates these regions on all Chinese manufactured maps in terms of what is called “the nine dash line”. The trouble is that China is the only country that recognizes the nine dash line. Other countries in the region, including Taiwan, all make their own claims to ownership of various islands within the “nine dash line”. These disputes have been going on for years but matters are different now.

The article from “The Express” makes the very cogent point that there is concern that, “China will target Taiwan now that the Hong Kong security law’s been passed“. I have commented before that there is the added danger that Trump might well see a war in this region as a way to bolster his chance of re-election in the upcoming presidential campaign. Margaret Thatcher was successful in this respect in going to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. If China and America were to go to war in the region then other countries, Australia for example, would almost certainly join forces with America and forces from Taiwan. Retired Major General Qiao Liang has said that the dream of China’s national rejuvenation could not be achieved by “taking back Taiwan”. However, Xi Jinping has shown himself to be strategically aggressive over the last six months and so armed conflict in the South China Sea region would seem to be a distinct possibility.

First Published August 10th, 2020

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