"Just how important is China to the world? "
The joke used to be this: China makes everything. The rest is made by God.
Now, I think China has to make even God Himself. Though a non-believer, China needs divine intervention to cope with the ongoing new 2019 coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019 nCoV ARD) which is showing signs of worsening rather than abating.
As of this writing, nCoV has killed 1,016 (the death toll exceeded 100 for the first time on Feb. 10, at 108). The 1,016 is 2.4 percent of those afflicted—42,638. Reports say more than 7,000 of them are in serious condition; more than 100,000 have acquired the disease but that is not confirmed yet. Using the 2.4-percent fatality ratio, nCoV will kill more than 2,400 before it is put under control.
Scientists say it takes 12 to 18 months to develop an effective vaccine. In the meantime, nCoV will take its deadly toll as it leaps from country to country, continent to continent.
So far, China’s approach has been a lockdown—immobilizing entire cities with a combined population of 60 million.
The Japanese approach is quarantine. In Yokohama, the number of people with coronavirus on the cruise ship Diamond Princes doubled in five days on Monday (Feb. 10) to 135, putting at risk the lives of 3,700 people. The 135 (which include three Filipinos) is the largest number of infected people, outside China. The virus spreads from person to person thru coughing and sneezing.
At least 27 countries or territories have banned Chinese visitors or foreigners who had been to China in the immediately preceding 14 days.
The disease is now considered a severe form of pneumonia. It is not a flu although it has flu-like symptoms.
NCoV originated from Wuhan, capital city of Hubei province and which has a population of 11 million. Just before the Chinese New Year, five million of those 11 million fanned out across China and overseas to celebrate and to spend a much anticipated holiday. Usually, during the Chinese New Year, the Chinese make three billion (yes three billion) trips to celebrate the happiest of their holidays.
Properly then, we should call nCov the Wuhan pneumonia or the new China syndrome, as in SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
The World Health Organization, which is partly funded by China, disdains naming diseases from places where they originate or are best reported. Examples: Spanish flu, the deadliest disease of the 20th century, although the flu did not originate from Spain; Ebola, after a river in Congo 60 kms from the outbreak; or MERS-CoV, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus which originated in Saudi Arabia. Since nCoV originated from Wuhan, it should be called the Wuhan pneumonia.
The old practice was naming diseases after people who discovered them. Examples: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Tourette syndrome.
Since a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, Dr. Li Wengliang first discovered nCoV on Dec. 30, 2019, the epidemic should be called the Li disease or the Wengliang disease. WHO says no.
So may I suggest SARS-3—after the original SARS-1 of 2003, and SARS-2 (MERS-Cov) of 2012. Otherwise, we have to settle for Wuhan pneumonia or the Yangtze River pneumonia (remember Ebola?). It seems every seven to nine years, a new, deadlier form of the coronavirus erupts in China.
Google says Wuhan is actually a portmanteau of the two major but old cities on the north and south banks of the Yangtze—Wu refers to Wuchang on the south bank and Han to the city of Hankou on the north bank.
According to the New York Times, “the new coronavirus is a close cousin of viruses that infect bats. It jumped from an unconfirmed wild source (most likely bats) to an intermediate host, possibly pangolins or other small mammals, being sold as food at a market in Wuhan, a transportation and commercial hub in central China. The infected people unknowingly spread it to others, setting off the outbreak’s deadly journey. …It takes about five to six days—possibly upward of 14 days—for someone to show symptoms after becoming infected.”
How important is China to the world?
China is the world’s factory. It accounts for 27 percent of total global manufacturing and 23 percent of global agricultural production. China’s share of global manufacturing value added increased from 7 percent in 2000 to nearly 27 percent in 2015, the largest increase among all countries.
“China is a dominant global manufacturer, with a strong and broad manufacturing base offering ample scope for product and process innovations to drive future productivity gains,” says the World Bank in a special report. “China’s abundant labor supply, deep economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, and accession to the WTO in 2001 all helped to catalyze its development into the “world’s factory,” with multinational corporations, drawn to its low-cost labor and extensive transportation infrastructure, seeking to set up subsidiaries as export platforms.”
Adds the bank: “China is increasingly important to global value chains. Its export products have be- come more sophisticated, with the share of high-technology manufactures in China’s exports growing from next to nothing in 1980 to around 30 percent in 2017.”
China’s spending on R&D accounts for 20 percent of the world total, second only to the United States. Its number of patents granted annually for inventions increased from 68,000 in 2007 to 420,000 in 2017, the highest in the world. Notes the bank: “China is also a hotbed for venture capital in search of the next technology, raising approximately $110 billion in the decade, surpassed only by the US.”
The Middle Kingdom still has room for growth. Says the World Bank: “China’s next transformation is well under way, and a new economy is emerging rapidly. Chinese firms have developed outstanding manufacturing capabilities, and the value added in high- tech manufacturing is now second only to that of the US.”
“China is leading or closing the technology gap in e-commerce, fintech, high-speed trains, renewable energy, and electric cars. McKinsey ranks China among the top three investors in fintech, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, robotics, and big data. Alibaba, Didi Chuxing, Huawei, and Tencent are already operating at the global technology frontier.”