China Update

China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia

Its financial markets may be even more dangerous than its wildlife markets.

The mighty Chinese juggernaut has been humbled this week, apparently by a species-hopping bat virus. While Chinese authorities struggle to control the epidemic and restart their economy, a world that has grown accustomed to contemplating China’s inexorable rise was reminded that nothing, not even Beijing’s power, can be taken for granted.

We do not know how dangerous the new coronavirus will be. There are signs that Chinese authorities are still trying to conceal the true scale of the problem, but at this point the virus appears to be more contagious but considerably less deadly than the pathogens behind diseases such as Ebola or SARS—though some experts say SARS and coronavirus are about equally contagious.

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.

Events like the coronavirus epidemic, and its predecessors—such as SARS, Ebola and MERS—test our systems and force us to think about the unthinkable. If there were a disease as deadly as Ebola and as fast-spreading as coronavirus, how should the U.S. respond? What national and international systems need to be in place to minimize the chance of catastrophe on this scale?

Epidemics also lead us to think about geopolitical and economic hypotheticals. We have seen financial markets shudder and commodity prices fall in the face of what hopefully will be a short-lived disturbance in China’s economic growth. What would happen if—perhaps in response to an epidemic, but more likely following a massive financial collapse—China’s economy were to suffer a long period of even slower growth? What would be the impact of such developments on China’s political stability, on its attitude toward the rest of the world, and to the global balance of power?

China’s financial markets are probably more dangerous in the long run than China’s wildlife markets. Given the accumulated costs of decades of state-driven lending, massive malfeasance by local officials in cahoots with local banks, a towering property bubble, and vast industrial overcapacity, China is as ripe as a country can be for a massive economic correction. Even a small initial shock could lead to a massive bonfire of the vanities as all the false values, inflated expectations and misallocated assets implode. If that comes, it is far from clear that China’s regulators and decision makers have the technical skills or the

political authority to minimize the damage—especially since that would involve enormous losses to the wealth of the politically connected.

We cannot know when or even if a catastrophe of this scale will take place, but students of geopolitics and international affairs—not to mention business leaders and investors—need to bear in mind that China’s power, impressive as it is, remains brittle. A deadlier virus or a financial-market contagion could transform China’s economic and political outlook at any time.

Many now fear the coronavirus will become a global pandemic. The consequences of a Chinese economic meltdown would travel with the same sweeping inexorability. Commodity prices around the world would slump, supply chains would break down, and few financial institutions anywhere could escape the knock-on consequences. Recovery in China and elsewhere could be slow, and the social and political effects could be dramatic.

If Beijing’s geopolitical footprint shrank as a result, the global consequences might also be surprising. Some would expect a return of unipolarity if the only possible great-power rival to the U.S. were to withdraw from the game. Yet in the world of American politics, isolation rather than engagement might surge to the fore. If the China challenge fades, many Americans are likely to assume that the U.S. can safely reduce its global commitments.

So far, the 21st century has been an age of black swans. From 9/11 to President Trump’s election and Brexit, low-probability, high-impact events have reshaped the world order. That age isn’t over, and of the black swans still to arrive, the coronavirus epidemic is unlikely to be the last to materialize in China.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-is-the-real-sick-man-of-asia-11580773677?fbclid=IwAR2zi2Id-UYoTNy8KABH_dcYGJjo5IDm-9jafGgaA9_KOiC7yHOkfH5TG9s

Why China’s statement targeting The Post is a cause for concern

https://kathmandupost.com/editorial/2020/02/19/why-china-s-statement-targeting-the-post-is-a-cause-for-concern?fbclid=IwAR0qxm9JNsKxIWcCYobgwoARXSQ0rQFUUOwRMpmBoDpKgnoW5O8jOtQomvM

China enraged by ‘Sick Man of Asia’ headline, but its origin may surprise many

  • The term was coined in 1895 to describe Qing officials by Chinese scholar Yan Fu after China lost a war against the Japanese
  • The term is usually used to refer to bad governance – and is more often used by Chinese people than Westerners

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The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP
The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP

The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP

Amid rising global racism and hostility towards people of Chinese descent following the coronavirus outbreak, one epithet stands out and stings Chinese to the quick.The sobriquet “Sick Man of Asia” – used in the headline of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this month about the pandemic – led Beijing to announce the expulsion of three of the newspaper’s reporters from China.

A day later the incident escalated into a diplomatic crisis, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warning that the newspaper “must be held responsible for what it has said and done”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in, saying “mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions”.

Geng Shuang a spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry said The Wall Street Journal should be held responsible for its headline.

Geng Shuang a spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry said The Wall Street Journal should be held responsible for its headline.

However the derogatory term was not first used by what Beijing calls “imperialist forces”. It was coined by renowned Chinese thinker, scholar and translator Yan Fu, who introduced Western ideas including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to China in the late 19th century.

In 1895, Yan wrote an article describing China as the “Sick Man” following its humiliating defeat in The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Yan’s target was the Qing officials who had signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, which ceded Taiwan to the Japanese.

The following year, the British-run Shanghai-based newspaper North China Daily News also ran a piece attacking the Qing court’s poor governance, stating: “There are four sick people of the world – Turkey,Persia,China,Morocco … China is the Sick Man of the East.”

Link Copied

The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP
The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP

The Wall Street Journal story with the headline “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”. Photo: SCMP

Amid rising global racism and hostility towards people of Chinese descent following the coronavirus outbreak, one epithet stands out and stings Chinese to the quick.The sobriquet “Sick Man of Asia” – used in the headline of a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this month about the pandemic – led Beijing to announce the expulsion of three of the newspaper’s reporters from China.

A day later the incident escalated into a diplomatic crisis, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warning that the newspaper “must be held responsible for what it has said and done”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in, saying “mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions”.

Geng Shuang a spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry said The Wall Street Journal should be held responsible for its headline.

Geng Shuang a spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry said The Wall Street Journal should be held responsible for its headline.

However the derogatory term was not first used by what Beijing calls “imperialist forces”. It was coined by renowned Chinese thinker, scholar and translator Yan Fu, who introduced Western ideas including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to China in the late 19th century.

In 1895, Yan wrote an article describing China as the “Sick Man” following its humiliating defeat in The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Yan’s target was the Qing officials who had signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, which ceded Taiwan to the Japanese.

The following year, the British-run Shanghai-based newspaper North China Daily News also ran a piece attacking the Qing court’s poor governance, stating: “There are four sick people of the world – Turkey,Persia,China,Morocco … China is the Sick Man of the East.”

Writer, critic and host Leung Man-tao. Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

Writer, critic and host Leung Man-tao. Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images

Hong Kong author Leung Man-tao, now a frequent commentator on mainland Chinese talk shows, wrote in a 2015 article that Chinese people are more likely to use the epithet.Post Magazine NewsletterGet updates direct to your inboxSUBSCRIBEBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

“In the West, the term ‘Sick Man’ is used often to describe a weak state. It was first coined to talk about the Ottoman Empire’s degeneration from its former glory. [Later], the outcome of the First Sino-Japanese War shocked the world when the big Qing empire was defeated by tiny Japan,” Leung wrote.

“So Westerners took the term ‘Sick Man of Europe’, reserved for the Turkish, and applied it to the Chinese, calling them ‘Sick Man of East Asia’.

“Later, the term ‘Sick Man’ gained widespread popularity in China, but those who used it the most were not foreigners but the Chinese themselves.”

Bruce Lee in a still from Fist of Fury, in which the phrase spurs him into a furious battle in a Japanese dojo.

Bruce Lee in a still from Fist of Fury, in which the phrase spurs him into a furious battle in a Japanese dojo.

In 1902, another Chinese thinker, Liang Qichao, was the first to use the term “Sick Man” more literally, to describe the ailing physical state of the Chinese population, racked as they were by opium addiction. Liang also advocated replacing the Qing imperial system with a constitutional monarchy.

The person who put the term into the wider public consciousness in modern times was action star Bruce Lee, who, in his 1972 movie Fist of Fury, yells “Chinese are not the sick man of East Asia” as he battles a group of Japanese judo fighters.

Lee plays kung fu master Chen Zhen, who is overcome with humiliation when his foes bring a framed sheet of paper inscribed with the phrase “Sick Man of East Asia” to the funeral of his mentor, Huo Yuan Jia. In retaliation, Chen beats them up then forces them to eat the message, warning them: “This time you’re eating paper. The next time it’s gonna be glass.”

He then goes to a park, sees a sign reading “No dogs and Chinese allowed” at the entrance, and kicks it to pieces.

Since Fist of Fury’s release, the term Sick Man of East Asia has taken on deep racist connotations that instantly raise Chinese hackles. However, as Leung Man-tao points out in his 2015 article, when Westerners first used it in the 1896 North China Daily News piece, it was not intended as an insult.

“Liang Qichao was the first to associate ‘Sick Man’ with the Chinese people’s physical health. Due to his great influence … the use of the term was extended from its description of a weak country to that of the population’s weak state of health,” he wrote.

“[When North China Daily News used the term], they were not talking about Chinese people’s health. They used it as a metaphor for poor Chinese governance and the Qing dynasty’s failed military and political reform, hoping that the corrupt Qing government would be prompted to mend its ways before it was too late.”

19th century Chinese academic Liang Qichao used the “Sick Man” quote to describe the health of the Chinese population racked by opium addiction.

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/3052434/china-enraged-sick-man-asia-headline-its-origin-may-surprise-many

Categories: China Update

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