When President Trump called the novel corona virus the Chinese virus the libertarian and ultra-human-rightist questioned it as a racial slur which he denied and explained that it is a Chinese virus because it has come from China. This reply of President Donald Trump unsettled my mind and therefore I looked through the pages of history and found some startling information. The current corona virus originated from the Wuhan city of China and there is no doubt it is in China. Calling it a Chinese virus simply gives the location of the virus at its birthplace. However, one should know whether this birth is accidental or there are predisposing factors that give rise to such dangerous biological organisms which become a danger for the entire world.
Interestingly enough, China has given birth to many such biological organisms in world history, which have finally produced global pandemics and enormous damages to the world society. The first and foremost that comes to mind is the plague of the middle ages. Most Europeans knew it by the name of Black Death in the 14th century. This plague infestation occurred between 1347 to 1350 and beyond and wiped out about 50 to 60 percent of the population of Europe at that time and it became a recurring problem every ten years until scientists found the antibiotic cure of the disease in the 19th century. The plague started following a famine in the Chinese provinces of Jiangxi and Zhejiang as early as 1330; it later spread to Beijing and other provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Henan, and Suiyuan (historically existed but now part of Inner Mongolia) by 1353-54. That was also the time when the Mongols ruled China, parts of Russia and India, Korea, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Chinese thus traded with Europe through silk routes and thus the plague also traveled together with trade. Another event when the plague was used as a biological weapon by Mongols who ruled China at that time to defeat Europeans is in 1345 when Jani Beg the Mongol King attacked the Caffa port (modern name Feodosiya in the Crimean Peninsula) with the Black Death by throwing plague-infected bodies of his soldiers inside the port. From Caffa port, the plague was taken to Italy through sailors and then it spread to the rest of Europe. The second pandemic of plague also originated from the Yunnan province of China in 1855 and further spread to Hong Kong, India, and later to San Francisco in the United States through shipping routes. It killed some 2 million Chinese and 10 million Indians.
In recent times, a number of such virus-based diseases have emanated from China. The Asian flu pandemic was caused by a virus known as influenza A Subtype H2N2 or Asian flu virus which spread in Guizhou province of China in the month of January 1957 and later traveled to the United States and other parts of the world. It killed nearly 2 million people. In the same manner, the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 was caused by a virus known as Influenza A subtype H3N2 (also called Hong Kong virus). Within a few months, it spread worldwide and killed about one million people, of which 50 percent were in Hong Kong. In 2009, the H1N1 Swine flu also emerged from China and impacted some 61 million people worldwide and about 575000 died. Similarly, the SARS outbreak in 2003 emanated from the Guangdong province of China. Now the corona scare and how it is killing people and economies of the world, one by one is well known and we are trying to contain it.
The question that one would like to ask is that why these viruses generally originate in China; why not in India–the other populous country. Somehow it is not a well-researched area by scientists, but experts have now started exploring the development of viral diseases. It is now becoming obvious that these viruses are associated with the Chinese love for wildlife meat such as bats, snake, Pangolin, and so on. Both SARS and COVIT-19 originated from wet markets where wild animal meat is mixed and sold with other fresh produce. Most dangerous viruses of HIV-AIDS, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu have their birth in wild animals and are known as Zoonotic diseases. Wildlife farming in China was promoted by the late Den Xiaoping in the late 1970s to allow peasants to provide sustenance. Over time, it grew into a strong industry and it has now become an integral part of the Chinese lifestyle. Since China became the trading nation in recent years and supplying goods to the entire world, the risk of spread of local disease to worldwide destinations has also increased alarmingly in the modern era. The Covid-19 is the testimony of this. As Corona scare is going on, we now hear about another Hanta virus and death in China in the social media. China thus poses a great risk to the world community. However, the damage and the human cost of these diseases originating due to lifestyle consumption is unbearable, particularly in population deficient countries of Europe and America; this is much more important for the west which is population scarce, unlike China. The West values the human population as the most valuable wealth as the population growth is either zero or low. Somehow the western countries when trading with China missed or have not considered at all this risk of enormous demographic loss for the long-range survival of their economies. Indeed, this is now an exogenous risk for many countries of the world to be developed or developing in today’s time. Besides above, the economic loss to businesses, individuals and unemployment costs are certainly very large and cannot be written off as such. The current corona crisis has almost thrust the world into a recession and loss of human resources is enormous for the West. The West needs to rethink its trading strategy with China and history teaches us that trade with China involves the civilization extinction risks and we need to design the strategies for compensation and civilization insurance policies. Perhaps United Nations should develop a framework for handling such world community risk which arise due to increased trade worldwide.
The Author has written this article in his personal capacity and it does not represent the opinion of his employer.
Professor Dev Tewari
Department of Economics
University of Zululand