China’s coronavirus numbers are fake — U.S. intelligence

The Long March 3B rocket.

Bloomberg says (porous paywall) that “the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House” that China has intentionally under-reported both total cases and deaths from COVID-19. This is according to three anonymous officials.

They did not reveal details but “the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.” Two of them “said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.”

The report was apparently received by the White House last week, which is consistent with recent public statements from the Trump administration:

“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday on CNN. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China…

Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the outbreak, said Tuesday that China’s public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.

“The medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”

What does this mean? We hardly required intelligence services to know that China’s numbers are unreliable, but this news may herald a renewed effort by the U.S. government to hold China culpable.  

Related, from the British tabloid Sunday Mail:

There is fury at the top of [the British] government about the Chinese Communist Party’s misinformation blitz around the virus, restrictions on vast amounts of protective medical equipment being exported, and animal rights abuses blamed by experts for the outbreak.

Finally, does China really have COVID-19 under control? Reports such as this from Sixth Tone suggest not:

Just as China was enthusiastically opening up for business after a weekslong shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have asked the country’s tourist attractions and entertainment venues to close their doors again.

—Jeremy Goldkorn