Nikolay Vavilov, a famous Russian expert on China and a specialist in Chinese domestic politics.
TV Host: Nikolay, these days the entire global mass media is literally intently covering the
coronavirus epidemic, which began spreading in the Chinese city of Wuhan. You were in
Wuhan, you know the authorities in Wuhan, you are also one of the biggest experts on China in Russia, could you talk about what is really happening in China?
Nikolay Vavilov: I’ll start first by touching on the recent, unexpected political events in Russia.
In Russia, the most important news is the resignation of the government of the former president of Russia, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had close relations with the U.S.
Democratic Party and in particular with President Barack Obama.
I’m starting from these events because nobody has looked at the virus problem from this
perspective. Today in China, the political situation is extremely aggravated. In March this year, a special session of the Chinese parliament, which consists of regional leaders of China, will be held. Now there is a rotation of all regional authorities in China – all mayors, governors, all party leaders of the Communist Party, and in March there will be a session of the entire Chinese parliament after all the changes have been finalized.
And in this light, the virus and the epidemic are of a completely different nature. The epidemic and actions of the authorities receive different political tint. There are no conspiracy theories here, it’s simply an open policy.
I am a professional Sinologist. I have been working in China for 20 years, of which 10 years from 2006 to 2016 I lived in the epicenter of epidemics – Hong Kong and Guangdong, and even got sick: sneezed, coughed, wore a mask, took Chinese pills, but as you can see, I am alive and well.
However, what is happening in China now – the city of Wuhan is closed, which is a river, air,
road, and rail hub. As a result, transportation in the whole country is down. Winter transportation fell by 40%. Wuhan is China’s largest transportation hub, comparable to Moscow in Russia.
What would happen now if we closed Moscow just because 100 people were sneezing? We see what a setback it is to the country's transport system. The authorities' measures are not proportional to the scale of the threat.
Indeed, the virus is spreading faster than during ordinary flu. However, the number of deaths in China is comparable to the number of people who have recovered, but the press mainly disseminates data on fatalities, which causes a panic.
We see Wuhan is closed, Huanggang is closed, Hubei province is almost completely closed, and the cities of Suzhou and Wenzhou are closing and prolonging their holidays.
The Beijing Transport Committee actually closes road transport, the head of the central
government – the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, prohibits tourists from traveling abroad.
The series of measures taken by a number of local and central authorities looks insane, panicky and disproportional to the scale of the threats. Although there is an epidemic itself, it’s a regular occurrence for China.
We must understand that epidemics occur in China annually. Right now it’s the New Year
holiday period according to the Chinese lunar new year. People are leaving home in large
numbers for the holidays, gathering at train stations. We must not forget that China is a country of labor migrants. In Wuhan alone, 5 million out of a total of 11 million people are labor migrants from neighboring provinces and from Hubei province itself, whose population is 59 million people.
People just get sick. Winter epidemics are an ordinary situation for China, and it is highly
inefficient to close cities and the rationale for such behavior from regional authorities is unclear.
Today, for China, the main problem is that people, including 200 million migrants, will not go to work, schoolchildren will not go to school, students will not go to university, and normal life will be interrupted.
As we begin to study the problem, it begs the question of who are the officials who made such inappropriate decisions? The mayor of Wuhan, the mayor of Huanggang, the mayor and party boss of Suzhou, the Deputy Minister of Culture in charge of tourism, the head of the Beijing Transport Committee are all products of the Komsomol organization, the Russian word is KOMSOMOL. The China Communist Youth Union, an alternative socialist organization of China, more liberal, and has always had close ties with the Democratic parties in the United States, and in Russia always had close ties with Trotsky and Trotskyism.