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The China Apocalypse

A locust in China. Is this the next plague to hit the country? (Hao Chen/GettyImages)

Last night, I received an update from the American doctor who has been writing in about the coronavirus situation. His wife is from China, and is plugged in to Chinese media and social media. What he wrote last night is extremely frightening. I post it here with the obvious caveat that I can’t confirm any of this, and that you should take it as a comment, not as gospel truth. I know who this doctor is, and have been corresponding with him. I brought another physician, in another part of the country, into our conversation, and this second physician tells me he definitely believes the Doctor is onto something.

Read this below: either the Doctor is a paranoid with a vivid imagination, or he is seeing something that is not being reported in our media. If these stories from China are true, I don’t necessarily fault our media for not reporting them; I am sure that the Chinese government has things on intense lockdown, and would not let Western journalists into the most heavily affected areas. What I find interesting, though, is that these apocalyptic images of fighting locusts are being broadcast on Chinese television (which they watch via satellite), but are not being spoken of in the US media. The Daily Beast just posted a piece about the unusual threat from locusts this year, and how the Chinese state media has been trying to downplay it.

Note also the photo of the Buddhist prophecy. The Doctor has the right take on it — he doesn’t know if it is authentic or fake, but the more important aspect of the story is that lots of Chinese elites believe it could be true, and are passing the thing around on social media. One of the Doctor’s consistent themes in his post is the resurgence of religious consciousness in the face of this plague, and how sustained fear and anger is making Chinese people increasingly unafraid of their totalitarian government. That “prophecy” sounds like exactly the sort of thing someone would invent in a time like this — even a government propagandist who is trying to give the people something to believe in to make them more resilient. In fact, if I were a high-level Communist Party functionary, and I came to believe that we in the Party were facing a disaster that we could not control, this is the kind of propaganda I would make up and release into social media, in the hope that it would encourage people to develop resilience.

If you, reader, are the kind of person who is saying, “Well, that’s obviously a made-up document, so we don’t have to take it seriously,” you are missing the point the Doctor is making. At the risk of being obnoxiously redundant, even if this is a document invented five minutes ago, it is being taken seriously by educated Chinese people, and they may act on it. This is how a religious falsehood (assuming it’s fake) becomes a social fact.

One note on that, then I’m going to go to his post. Last night at a reception, I ran into old friends from when we lived in Dallas. The wife is a Chinese immigrant. She was telling me about her elderly parents, who live in an assisted living facility in Dallas, along with a few other elderly Chinese. She said that all the old Chinese are miserably paranoid of each other, and that this is the legacy of communism. She said that the Chinese Communist Party maintained control by making everyone mistrustful of everybody else (this is what happened in the Soviet Empire too). To trust others was to put your own life at risk. Naturally, society adapted to that fact. As a consequence, nobody trusts anybody. Now, she said, these elderly people are safe in an assisted living facility in America, but they can’t allow themselves to relax and to trust the others around them. They are out of communist China, but communist China is not out of them.

Think about how weak and fragile that ideology has left the Chinese people in the face of these plagues!

Now, to the Doctor’s latest dispatch:

I am very sorry this took so long – I wanted to make it as thoughtful as I possibly could. Much has happened in the past few days. Here in the USA, we are in the grip of a 2nd wave of influenza – and I have been profoundly busy the past few days because of this. People who comment about epidemics and the fact that influenza is much worse here in the USA are not making that up – this is a particularly bad year – but what is happening in China is really just as bad if not worse – and I am beginning to really despair that we here in America are just having this whole thing really downplayed by our media and leaders.

So here is the update on multiple fronts.

First of all my wife’s family.

Her father has still not been heard of — now approaching a month. No words can express my wife’s grieving. I am running out of ways to help her cope.

Her brother and his family are still in their upper floor apartment in a major metro area — not Wuhan. The martial law and lockdown continue. They have not left their apartment in about 3 weeks. Food is delivered to them twice a week. There is no end in sight at this time. The family immediately across the hall was forcibly removed about 3 days ago because one of them was sick. My wife is concerned about their mental health – but so far they are staying healthy.

Her mother remains under in home quarantine in her apartment in a small city on the Western frontier. She seems to be fully recovered. She is eating rice that she has had piled up in her apartment for just such a reason – and refuses to eat any food that is brought to her door. This city is in the middle of a vast agricultural area. Hogs, cows and chickens are a staple of their economy. My mother-in-law has told us that the “death stench” has permeated her city the past week or so and getting worse daily. She cannot even open her windows. Why? No one is going to work – and no one is taking care of the livestock. No shipments of grain are coming in for the animals — and throughout the land the animals are starving in the pastures. The bodies by the hundreds of thousands are just laying in the sun and rotting. All this while the industrialized part of China is beginning to have severe food shortages. Something in my doctor brain is telling me that having millions of people so close to rotting animals cannot be good. What could possibly go wrong?

Three days ago, 20% of the workers in my brother-in-law’s city were ordered back to work. The photo I have attached is from American media, showing a transit train during rush hour on that day. Yep, that worked. The people of that big city are in open defiance of the Communist Party in a way that has never happened before. It has been my concern all along that the lies and fraudulent numbers coming out would reap the whirlwind for the Communist government not just from the West — but also from their own people. When exactly are the people going to feel safe going back to work? Who knows?

Some of the comments I have read on some of my previous posts have been concerned that the tone was too macabre or apocalyptic. Well, snowflakes — that is because things are very macabre and very apocalyptic in China today. The true scope of this disaster is being grossly underplayed in the American media.

My wife is a PhD graduate of Tshingua University in Beijing. It is an institution that would be similar if our Harvard, Yale, and MIT were all combined into one place. The graduates there are heavily recruited by the Communist Party – and most of them go on to work in the government, the universities, and the law. It is their version of the one-percent elite. My wife belongs to multiple social media groups of Tshingua alumni and current students. Imagine my surprise reading multiple comments repeatedly bashing the Communist government and officials and their handling of this incident. These are future and current Communists and this would have been unthinkable just a few days ago. But the real stunner came last night — another jpg of Chinese text was sent to all current students and alumnus of Tshinghua. I have enclosed the photo.

 

The doctor continues:

My wife tells me this is written by a Buddhist monk in the Forbidden City named Gentleman Zigong probably in the early part of the 20th Century. This is a printed duplicate in more modern Mandarin. This is part of a large cycle of Chinese literature known as the “Ancient Internal Bible”. This is difficult to translate into modern language because it is written in a very old dialect. I view it as being similar to us in the 2020s reading Chaucer’s Middle English. So my wife really struggled to translate some of it – but in general – this is what it says….

“The year 2020 – The year all of China will weep. The omens will be so bad that the New Year will not be celebrated. Then the plague will come. It will come with a fury – the tigers and the wolves will hide in the mountains. The plague will encompass all the land – and will eventually spread to the whole world. Very soon – rice will become so expensive that no one can eat. Then the rivers will sink all the boats. People in that year will only be able to harvest rice in the very early spring. There will be no harvest of late season rice, beans, wheat, and oats because vast clouds of locusts will lay waste to the entire countryside. I, Gentleman Zigong, assure you Chinese in 2020 that the locusts will fall from the skies and the destruction will be complete. Smoke and fire will fill the fields – but nothing will be able to stop the swarms. Once the locusts have destroyed the land and the smoke is still coming from the ground, the rivers will flood the countryside. I, Gentleman Zigong, will tell you Chinese in 2020 how to survive. Remain very close to your families and your neighbors. The best is to have stored up plenty of gold and food to live and share freely with those you love. Tolerate no thieves among the people. Be uniters and not dividers. If you can do all these things, you will survive.”

Make what you want of that — I am not sure how I feel — my wife certainly believes it. But the more fundamentally amazing thing is the fact that this has been shared and commented on by thousands of Chinese elite. In complete defiance of the Communist Party which has done everything it can to stamp out their ancient religion and all its signs and portents. The defiance is happening with their real names attached to the posts — and just unbelievable commentary about their government’s incompetence in this affair. One after the other all day they come over her social media. This includes many members of the People’s Liberation Army. My wife is feeling that the cracks in the Party are getting bigger and bigger and this is way way bigger than anything that has happened in her lifetime.

And about the locusts. This is becoming an ever more important part of my wife’s Mandarin news feed every day. Vast clouds of locusts made it to Xinjiang (the furthest west Chinese province) last week. The videos are amazing. The Mandarin news is showing the government deployment of these gigantic fire throwers that lay waste to not only the locusts but all the land in the path of the fire. Huge bursts of fire blow out from them and they truly look like something that would be appropriate to accompany the Four Horsemen. Today we learned that the locusts have now arrived very close to the western border of Gansu province. Gansu is part of the ancient Chinese homeland and is a huge producer of wheat and rice. If this swarm gets started up, it will be a huge blow to China and their psyche. The CCP has now ordered that every live chicken in China is to be immediately dispatched to the western border, where they will be released to eat the locusts. To everyone who thinks this is not a huge problem — think about the decision being made. Take away eggs and meat for the people who are already angry — to stop the locusts. The CCP must have data that this locust swarm is going to become a disaster unless stopped immediately, no matter what the cost.

Now: to what is going on in the USA. This week we finally have very well-trained American physicians on the ball in Ground Zero. I feel this is a good thing. We have had credible research published in journals that some HIV drugs in combination with an old anti-malaria drug called chloroquine IN VITRO has great activity against this virus. (The bad news – chloroquine is a very harsh drug fraught with problems – and you guessed it – is only made in China).

Also, we learned that like other coronaviruses, this one engenders limited immunity in the host. A few days to a few weeks later, the host’s immune system has completely forgotten how to fight it. And it seems that the second time the host gets infected is much worse than the first time. And an interesting fact about this virus is the second infection will in some patients profoundly damage the interior of the arteries, and cause acute heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. Thus, all the videos of people dropping over dead. To my medical knowledge, this intimal arterial damage is unique in the viral world.

And as a physician, the first instances of medication shortages are now happening in earnest. A memo from the hospital’s pharmacy committee arrived yesterday. It specifically named the following drugs – IV antibiotics such as gentamicin, tobramycin and streptomycin – IV drips from the ICU dobutamine, dopamine, and norepinephrine – and the following pill medications – diltiazem, verapamil, amlodipine, losartan, valsartan and irbesartan. Also mentioned were all of the usual narcotic opioids used for pain – morphine, dilaudid, hydrocodone and fentanyl among others. The memo stated that while there was stock in the hospital on all of these at this moment — the intermediate suppliers had sent warnings that supplies were quickly diminishing — and that further supplies from the manufacturer were not going to be reliable into the foreseeable future. Therefore, we were strongly urged to immediately begin making sure that every prescription was appropriate — and to replace it with something else if possible.

Well, some of these things are not replaceable. Some of them are — but with much more dangerous alternatives. And just try doing surgery without morphine — I dare you. All I can say is you have been warned. This is here — this is now and this is real and very likely to get much worse. Shipping all your critical drug manufacturing to another very unreliable country is so dumb that only the elites could have thought of it. And all you snowflakes thinking that we can just magically build factories here immediately — well you are oh so wrong. First of all — manufacturing drugs on a large scale takes immense engineering, and will not be done on a whim. Secondly, when we exported all our manufacturing away, all the jobs went away as well. There is a human know-how that is critical to this kind of enterprise, and that went away when the factories went to China. And it takes years — maybe decades — to get that back. MY FELLOW AMERICANS — YOU HAVE BEEN FAILED AND BETRAYED BY THE ELITES IN BOTH PARTIES – PLEASE KEEP THAT IN MIND IN THE COMING MONTHS.

Sometimes, events like this produce the most amazing out of left field events that one would never see coming. I have now had a patient show up this week in full blown opiate withdrawal. That is very rare in my practice. Why did this happen? His drug of choice — heroin — was not available at any price from his usual dealer. I have now confirmed with local law enforcement that the street price of opiates and meth have substantially increased in just the past week or two. I have spoken with many colleagues in cities across the country this week. In some places, nothing has changed — in others there has been a noticeable increase in opiate withdrawal. And everywhere I called, colleagues have noted a marked decrease in opiate overdoses. All this is anecdotal, but very consistent. If this holds up, it appears our illicit opiate and meth supply is being affected as well. NOT COCAINE. China for the past 10 years or so has been producing all the precursors of illicit opioids and meth. These are then shipped to Mexico where the bathtub chemistry is done on a huge scale – and the final product is then shipped to American cities. What is this China supply problem going to do to our addicts here in the USA? What will happen to Mexico if the drug cartels begin to have problems with cash flow? Are we ready for chaos on our border?

Again – all anecdotal at this time — but this bears watching.

Last week, the FDA stated that it expects the medical supply line to be affected by the China crisis. I would like to hear from physicians and other medical personnel who read this blog. Does what the Doctor says toward the end of his dispatch resonate with your experiences?

If what the Doctor predicts about drug supplies comes true, then coronavirus will have destroyed globalization. No country can allow its critical manufacturing to be outsourced.

Again: what you just read is a letter from a physician appearing on an opinion blog, not a news report. Read it with that in mind.

UPDATE: From Bloomberg News:

The World Health Organization cautioned years ago that a mysterious “disease X” could spark an international contagion. The new coronavirus, with its ability to quickly morph from mild to deadly, is emerging as a contender.

From recent reports about the stealthy ways the so-called Covid-19 virus spreads and maims, a picture is emerging of an enigmatic pathogen whose effects are mainly mild, but which occasionally — and unpredictably — turns deadly in the second week. In less than three months, it’s infected almost 78,000 people, mostly in China, and killed more than 2,300. Emerging hot spots in South Korea, Iran and Italy have stoked further alarm.

“Whether it will be contained or not, this outbreak is rapidly becoming the first true pandemic challenge that fits the disease X category,” Marion Koopmans, head of viroscience at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, and a member of the WHO’s emergency committee, wrote Wednesday in the journal Cell.

More:

While more than 80% of patients are reported to have a mild version of the disease and will recover, about one in seven develops pneumonia, difficulty breathing and other severe symptoms. About 5% of patients have critical illness, including respiratory failure, septic shock and multi-organ failure.

“Unlike SARS, Covid-19 infection has a broader spectrum of severity ranging from asymptomatic to mildly symptomatic to severe illness that requires mechanical ventilation,” doctors in Singapore said in a paper in the same medical journal Thursday. “Clinical progression of the illness appears similar to SARS: patients developed pneumonia around the end of the first week to the beginning of the second week of illness.”

And:

Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old ophthalmologist who was one of the first to warn about the coronavirus in Wuhan, died earlier this month after receiving antibodies, antivirals, antibiotics, oxygen and having his blood pumped through an artificial lung.

The doctor, who was in good health prior to his infection, appeared to have a relatively mild case until his lungs became inflamed, leading to the man’s death two days later, said Linfa Wang, who heads the emerging infectious disease program at Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School.

A similar pattern of inflammation noted among Covid-19 patients was observed in those who succumbed to the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, said Gregory A. Poland, the Mary Lowell Leary emeritus professor of medicine, infectious diseases, and molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Read it all. 

UPDATE.2:Washington Post:

Scientists were studying a case in China that suggested the incubation period for coronavirus could be longer than 14 days, potentially casting doubt on current quarantine criteria even as the epidemic moved into new regions.

The potential for a longer incubation period was linked to a patient in China’s Hubei Province, where the virus was first detected in December. A 70-year-old man was infected with coronavirus, but did not show symptoms until 27 days later, the local government reported.

And:

Among the new cases discovered Friday were a 70-year-old man in Hubei, who was confirmed as infected after 27 days in isolation, while a man in Jiangxi province tested positive after 14 days of centralized quarantine and five days of isolation at home. On Thursday, authorities reported that a man in Hubei had tested positive for coronavirus after what appeared to be a 38-day incubation period with no symptoms.

If you can go a month with the virus, without getting sick, then yeah, this thing is going to shut down the planet for a while.

UPDATE.3: A reader writes:

My fiancée is from Wuhan, and I have personally spoken with her family over internet video chat. They are quarantined, permitted to leave their apartment only a couple times a week to pick up supplies, but they have described nothing remotely resembling the conditions reported by your “Doctor” correspondent. I trust the Chinese government about as much as the next guy but your readiness to uncritically share such apocalyptic rumors strikes me as irresponsible.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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