When the clocks struck the midnight hour on December 31, 2019 in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, fireworks lit up the skies to signal the beginning of the new year 2020 and one by one, the skies all over the world lit up, as soon as the clocks of the different time zones permit.
Barely had the new year celebrations died down, the fireworks went off again and this time, its to usher in the Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell on January the 25th.
Almost everywhere and anywhere there is a Chinese community, the ushering of the lunar new year, and this year is the Rat’s turn, was not only accompanied with noisy fireworks but, during the festive period, also with lion dances, loud and boisterous merry making, and the sound of mahjong tiles being slammed and paired with each other.
Social media was, as expected, awashed with lunar new year wishes, from all and sundry. Everybody was having a good time and the future looked fine and prosperous.
In all the merriment and the backslapping and the hugging, little did anyone suspected that ‘little trouble was brewing in Big China’.
The first reported case of what is now known as Covid-19, Patient Zero, was by the Wuhan health authorities, on December 1, 2019 as against an unverified report from the South China Morning Press (SCMP) stating the appearance of Patient Zero being the 17th of December 2019.
The spread of the virus was enough to worry a group of doctors from Wuhan itself, and when a cluster of pneumonia-like cases was observed to have developed, a public health notice was then issued on 31 December 2019.
Whether the public notice got lost in the excitement as well as the preparations to usher in both the New Year and the Lunar New Year is anyone’ s guess.
It is tradition in many parts of Asia, when it comes to festivities like the Lunar New Year, it is the time to travel back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families and as is for the nouveau riche all over the world, the Lunar New Year, as it is for the Gregorian New Year, it is also the time to go on holiday with overseas’ destinations topping the list of places-to-go.
As people flock bus terminals, train stations, highways, and airports to travel to their respective destinations, it presents the virus a very good opportunity to spread itself about.
This point of argument stands true for Malaysia, for the first Covid-19 case in Malaysia was announced on January 25, 2020. The patient was identified as a China citizen who had entered Malaysia, together with four other China citizens, via the southern entry point, with all five originating from Wuhan.
Domestically, in Malaysia, the year 2020 had been declared as ‘Visit Malaysia Year’, where the emphasis is to increase revenue generated from tourists, especially from major tourist markets.
In the whole scheme of things, China and its burgeoning class of nouveau riche, is definitely a major market, if not THE major market.
The speed and the devastation that attacked and enveloped countries as far and wide, and as diverse as they can be, brought about an air of desperation to most of the citizens of the countries under siege.
Most of the citizens, mind you, as there are always groups of people who are foolish enough to believe they are the chosen few and are therefore protected from the virus, on religious as well as ethnic grounds. If only.
As the number of the infected increases together with the increasing number of deaths, the feelings of desperation and hopelessness deepen.
This in turn fuelled the natural tendency to point fingers at anybody and anybody who they think is at fault, justifiably or unjustifiably, for the pandemic.
It has to be made clear that the governments all over the world are not exempted from blame, for one reason or another.
It is an accepted fact that most developed and developing countries have their own health authorities and experts to identify, react and stop a pandemic or a would-be pandemic or epidemic from happening.
Its a matter of when to react, for to have none in place would be considered as gross negligence.
Unless political interests override everything else.
As for the other side of the coin, it would also be fair to say that hard and serious questions will have to be asked of China.
It is noted and pointed out by many that the last two pandemics were said to have originated from China, with the Chinese penchant for exotic foods singled out as one of the main causes for the pandemic.
Or is it?
Or is it just bad luck or coincidence? Is it natural or manufactured?
Another is, when did the first few cases of Covid-19 actually happened?The reports may have been made in December 2019 but there have been suspicions that it may started way earlier.
Another is, why did the Chinese authorities in Wuhan took action against the doctors who issued the public health warning?
If the public health warning had been taken seriously, it stands to reason that the Chinese authorities could have stopped its citizens from travelling not only all over China but also travelling to other nations as well by way of a travel ban.
A travel ban may not have stopped the spread of the virus but it would have gone a long way towards containing the spread of the virus from spreading beyond the borders of China.
In China’s system of government, any measure to contain would have been far easier for them to enforce. unlike say in the US of A and even the European nations.
It is said that the world may not be totally safe until a vaccine for Covid-19 has been found. Earliest estimates point to 2021.
That said, travel would continue to be rigorously controlled and if the self-quarantine or 14-day quarantine is made mandatory, then travel as we know it today would be no more.
It will also be fair to say that any business sectors that are related to the travel and hospitality business are on the verge of collapse, if it has not already.
It has also been stressed on numerous occassions that life after Covid-19 would not be ‘normal’ anymore but instead be replaced by a ‘new normal’, whatever that means.
But what looks very probable is the formation of a new world order, with China and its allies on one side, and other countries on the other, bringing new life to the old phrase ‘Bamboo Curtain’.
Such a development would be reminiscent of the Cold War’s Iron and Bamboo Curtains, bringing back memories of the ‘good ole days of the Cold War’.
Lending support to this line of thinking are events unfolding in what is internationally known as the South China Sea.
China has been laying claim to the Spratlys with face-offs on the high seas between the navies of the different nations having claims to parts of the Spratlys have not gone unreported.
Lately, China has set their sights even further by laying claims to the whole of the South China Sea. Naturally, sovereign nations that have their coastal lines bordering the South China Sea have voiced out strongly against China’s claims and its presumptuous approach to enforce its claims, bordering to being the schoolyard bully.
This at a time when the world is all caught up attending to the pandemic that seems to be originating from, you guessed it, China.
In addition, it has been reported that the US of A is planning to review the trade agreement it recently signed with China, post Covid-19.
Also not good news for China is the report that the UK too is said to be planning a review of its 5G program with China’s Huawei. Also post Covid-19.
The world’s largest companies with manufacturing facilities in China are also said to be reviewing their manufacturing options with a view to downsize their China operations or even relocate, to a bid to reduce their dependence on China.
For companies with emphasis on R&D, the disclosure that China-related companies have been discovered to have bought large chunks of shares in some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, does not have the look of a story with a happy ending on the horizon.
In other words, its not business as usual and by all accounts, it won’t be business as usual, after all that is the pandemic of a Covid-19 is over. Whats really bad news for China and their companies is that, repercussions, if you can call it that, may not even have to wait til post Covid-19.
Too many things are happening at the same time and the common denominator seems to be China. Or maybe not, as there have also been fingers pointing the other way. But to ask the different nations of the world to accept that its all coincidence maybe a bit of a stretch, would it not? Or was it TOO obvious?
And to think, when the concept of a New World Order was first put forward, that group of people who came up with the idea and maybe even coined the phrase, never bargained for the New World Order to be greatly influenced, not by the number and diversity of weapons a country has or by the strength of its claims to being the world’s marketplace, but by a virus that can be hardly seen by the naked eye except with the aid of a microscope.
How humbling can that be. But also how dangerous as well.