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Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz Chris Anderson: Welcome to TED Connects This is a new series of live conversations, trying to make sense of this weird moment that we’re in: coronavirus Everyone’s suddenly changing how they live their lives, it’s so jolting, it’s so startling We’re all trying to make sense of it, and it ain’t easy That much we know We’re trying to make sense of this together in the only way that we know how, which is by having wise humans coming on, talking to each other, listening to each other trying to learn from each other We are apart, but we can use this moment to build community together, and that’s what we’re trying to do So this is being produced by a virtual TED team scattered around New York, currently one of the epicenters of this pandemic So it’s definitely a scary time for people here I’d like to welcome to join me my cohost here, Whitney Pennington Rodgers She’s our current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers: We’re going to be looking a little bit at China’s response today When news surfaced about a strange viral outbreak in Wuhan, China at the very last days of 2019, I think a lot of people were confused about what was going on there, and in the months that followed, we learned more about the disease that’s now known as COVID-19, we watched the situation in China quickly worsen and in the most recent weeks dramatically improve And I think as all of us around the world grapple with how we can contain and control the spread of COVID-19, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from what China experienced and how they responded So we’re really thrilled to be joined today by the CEO of the “South China Morning Post,” Gary Liu, who’s here to share his perspective and insights So, welcome Gary Gary Liu: Thanks for having me WPR: Hey there, Gary, thanks for being with us And I think before we dive into things, I’d love to hear about just how things have been for you personally, your loved ones, those close to you, how have you been experiencing this? GL: It’s complicated So we’re here in Hong Kong, I’m working from home, like much of Hong Kong I’m actually self-quarantined in our apartment here in Hong Kong, because there was a confirmed case in our workplace So over the course of the last week plus, and likely for at least another week plus, the entire organization has been distributed and working from home You know, when Hong Kong got its first confirmed case, I was actually back in the United States with my wife, we were taking a small break in the Rockies, and we came back to Hong Kong pretty soon after that to make sure we got back into Hong Kong before the airports shut And at that point, it was all of our family in the United States and friends texting us and worrying about how things were in Hong Kong as the situation in China started escalating, and people were sending us, or trying to send us, supplies Masks and sanitizer and stuff like that And now it’s the opposite New York City is our home, so we certainly empathize with what you guys are dealing with right now and going through in the city And we are seeing our friends and our family back home in New York and in California and checking in on them, trying to send equipment and materials back to them, so the script has flipped actually pretty fast over just the last couple of weeks WPR: And you know, I think that’s actually a really interesting place to start and probably a question that a lot of people who aren’t in China have, you know, I think from the outside looking in, it seems as if what’s happened in China is kind of miraculous That to go from, you know, you have a country with more than a billion people there, to go from as many as 80,000 cases to nearly zero new cases now, you know, what can you tell us about how this happened, to help us understand the current situation and just really how China ended up there? GL: Yeah, a lot has happened China has been dealing with this for several months now Several-month head start, that’s not a good thing, but they have gone through several different phases I think, Whitney, before I jump into it, there are a couple of caveats that are really important to make The first one is that we’re still parsing what happened in China The information system, as everyone knows, is still relatively closed And so a lot of the information that we’re using to piece together what happened in China is still not fully complete And so with every passing day, every passing week, there’s more information that allows us to retroactively make sure that we get the picture of what happened early on in those early days at the end of 2019, get that picture right And there’s still a lot that’s happening today,

even though I think the information sharing is much more open than it was early on, there’s still a lot of stuff that we need to parse And the second important caveat here is that I think learning sometimes suggests that everything China did was right and good, and hopefully, other countries can take it and apply it, but that’s not 100 percent the case China, of course, did a lot that was right, and if we walked through the time line, I think it would be pretty apparent the decisions that they made kept the coronavirus from really exploding across the entire country and really limited it to one province and mostly one city But there were also many, many missteps, and those are things that I think the world can also learn from, most importantly, China should learn from, because most of these — I think those of us who are professional observers would call missteps, are because they are systemic issues with the country, because of governance, lack of free information flow, stuff like that Those are the initial caveats, but I think the timing of how China progressed from first case to now has been fascinating WPR: Yeah, and I mean, so we know now that in Hubei province they’ve officially lifted the two-month lockdown And are you getting the sense, do you feel like this is the right decision to make at this moment? GL: I don’t think I’m the right person to say whether or not it’s the right decision But certainly, this has been a progression of decisions, and I think they’ve been sitting on this decision for quite some time Wuhan itself, which was where the pandemic started, it was the first epicenter and the major epicenter Wuhan is opening up on April 8, that’s right now the schedule And this is really, what we’re in now is the third of three phases from the first discovery of the virus in Wuhan Now, April 8 will be about 11 weeks after Wuhan the city got completely shut down, and the Hubei province got shut down And so for those who are in a shelter, at home kind of situations right now in the United States and wondering how long this is going to take, in Wuhan, they’ve been locked down for 11 weeks and only now has the Chinese government decided they’re ready to start letting people move freely around WPR: And to your point earlier about some of the possible missteps in terms of reporting, I mean, there are still reports now that we might not be getting an accurate number of cases that we’re seeing in Wuhan or beyond, we’re hearing some people say there are no new cases, other people saying that there actually are cases So do you feel like there is accurate spread of information about the current state of the virus in China right now? GL: Generally, yes, with the caveat that it is based on the Chinese government’s definition And this is one of the problems right now that even the World Health Organization is struggling with, is that the definition of what is a confirmed case, what is an infection, is different from country to country As an example, in China, the folks that have tested positive but are asymptomatic, we understand now that they are not included, since February 7, they have not been included in the official numbers Or at the very least, on February 7, they changed that definition, and they’re not included in those official numbers And that could be another 50 percent on top of the numbers that we’re seeing today So what we’ve found, our reporters have gotten their hands on some classified government documents and government data that suggests that a third of total actual positive tests are asymptomatic, and therefore not included in official numbers Now, I don’t think that this is an example of the Chinese government trying to hide information This is a definitions issue, which countries have been debating and people are doing it in different ways But like I said, there really have been three very distinct phases We are in the third phase that I would call recovery and rehabilitation, rehabilitation being the rehabilitation of China’s image But the first part was discovery and a lot of denial And then there was this two-and-a-half-month period of response and containment And that I think, the response and containment part is the most interesting to the rest of the world WPR: And so maybe we can break some of that down, you know, thinking about China’s response What were some of the specific things that you think China did right, both as a nation, individuals in the country, what were some of the things that you saw that worked really well? GL: OK, so let me walk through the time line, I want to try and get these dates right, because the dates do matter, I think again, for context, how many weeks it took from one step to another Let me actually back up into that initial first phase, that discovery and denial phase The first time we heard about the coronavirus, this mysterious respiratory disease that looks somewhat like SARS,

was on December 30 That was the day that there was a doctor, whose name is known all over the world for the unfortunate reason he ended up eventually dying, named Li Wenliang And Li Wenliang, Dr. Li, posted to a private WeChat group on December 30 These were some of his old classmates from med school And he said, “Hey, I’m in Wuhan, I’m at the hospital, there is a SARS-like illness,” SARS being the epidemic from 2002 to 2003, “There’s a SARS-like illness that is spreading through these hospitals in Wuhan.” A private message Somebody forwarded it, and it went viral across the Chinese internet The very next — so that was the first time we actually heard about something that was going on in Wuhan The very next day, December 31, was the first time that any Chinese officials — and on that day, it happened to be the actual provincial and the city officials — acknowledged that there were 27 people, at that moment in time, who had been diagnosed with this mysterious pneumonia, and they reported the cases to the World Health Organization That was also the day that Dr. Li was reprimanded, officially reprimanded So that was really the discovery, the end of the discovery and denial phase, because what we know now is that back to mid-December, several weeks before Dr. Li wrote his blog post, the authorities had already been notified that a SARS-like pneumonia was showing up in Wuhan hospitals And action had already started down the chain of authority They have now backdated, at least publicly backdated, the first case to December 1 But actually, in their confidential and classified government documents that again, our journalists have seen, and we’ve published a story — Officially, in classified documents, they’ve backdated the first COVID-19 case all the way back to November 17, as the earliest example that they can find based on symptoms and based on retroactive diagnosis for a COVID-19 case So in effect, there were several weeks before the acknowledgment to the World Health Organization that that was going on, and the first case with symptoms was actually identified about a month and a half before that notice to the World Health Organization Then the second phase, which really started, let’s say, December 31, when the acknowledgment happened, was response and then massive containment Now this phase, to be clear, still had some denial and a good amount of censorship happening within the country So on January 1, the World Health Organization started working with China on trying to identify the virus and trying to figure out course of action It wasn’t until several weeks later that Beijing, the central government, for the first time broke its silence, and that was on January 18 And actually, they broke the silence to deny that this was SARS, and in fact to “defy rumors” that were spreading around the Chinese internet But there was a major date that happened two days afterwards, which was January 20 Because for the first time, a member of the party, a senior government official who is now one of the central gentlemen that is actually leading the task force against COVID-19, his name is Zhong Nanshan, he’s an epidemiologist, he was one of the central figures during SARS 17 years ago On January 20, he visited Wuhan And he admitted, for the first time, that human-to-human transmission was possible Now this was important, because prior to that, officials who had spoken up had said that human-to-human transmission was not likely, was not possible And previous to that, all of the cases, the majority of the cases were tied to this seafood and wildlife marketplace that was in the city of Wuhan But now, on January 20, human-to-human transmission, it’s possible, it’s happening, and so of course, the course of action, not only in China, but the course of action all over the world, started to change And three days after that, Wuhan was locked down It was completely, I mean, it shocked the world that they could lock down that many people so quickly Of course, now India yesterday announced that 1.3 billion people are being locked down So we have another frame of reference now And then the end of this middle second phase I think really came in March, around March 10 Actually, on March 10 I should say, because Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visited Wuhan And these things, in Chinese politics, because everything is so well-choreographed, matters a whole lot The fact that Xi Jinping visited Wuhan signaled that the Chinese government believed the worst was over The reality was that probably about 20 days before that, the curve had already been flattened So 20 days before that, probably around February 20, the infection rate was around 75,000, 76,000, and it’s effectively stayed within a couple of thousand since then So on March 10, Xi Jinping’s visit to Wuhan kind of signaled the worst is over, and then they moved into the recovery and rehabilitation phase

WPR: OK I mean, if I’m hearing correctly — thank you for sharing all of that, it sounds like, although there was a slow period of getting the information out initially, eventually there was quick reaction from the Chinese government to respond to this, lock folks down And it seems like that had a real impact on flattening the curve in China, in Wuhan GL: A real impact WPR: Yeah and I — GL: Absolutely WPR: Yes, please go ahead, Gary GL: The date of January 23 was not by coincidence Because the Chinese New Year holiday started on January 24, the very next day And the thing is, with the Chinese New Year holiday, is that it is, every single year, it’s the largest human migration that happens on Earth About 400 million people travel during about a forty-day period that would have started on January 24 And that’s three billion trips, it’s just people traveling all over the country, 400 million people traveling Now, Wuhan is one of the most important cities in China, although before this, I don’t think a lot of people around the world knew the city of Wuhan, but it’s extremely important It is considered the most important city in the center of China for many different reasons, but one of the key reasons is that it is one of the key transportation hubs of the country So all of the major train lines, the high-speed train lines, the normal train lines, the trade lines, they all kind of converge on Wuhan So you can imagine if 400 million people start moving around for Chinese New Year on January 24, a huge number of them were going to go through Wuhan And of course, Wuhan itself is an 11-million-person city The surrounding cities all added together, Hubei province has about 60 million people, and they were also largely going to travel And so if January 23 they had not shut it down, and people had started traveling, the likelihood would have been that this would have been really, really hard, possibly, likely impossible to contain And even though they shut down before the Chinese New Year holiday started, we now also know that at least five million people actually left the surrounding areas and traveled Which is one of the reasons why it did spread a little bit across the country, and then eventually spread to other parts of the world WPR: And I’d like to come back to that as well, just thinking about the five million people who left and sort of where they landed today and how that affected things, but before we do that, I’m interested to talk with you a little bit more about — you mentioned this November date as one of the earliest cases you discovered that was reported was in November, and that’s something actually that I hadn’t heard before, and I imagine that might be news to a lot of people hearing this, and so I’m curious, when you think about the missteps from China’s perspective, in terms of what China did, you know, there is, as you mentioned, suppression of information is one thing, one major criticism of how China handled this And hearing that maybe there was knowledge of something as early as November, if that might have played a role in how we were able to control and contain this a lot sooner GL: I do want to clarify, from what we understand, officials were not notified about this until mid-December It wasn’t — So it was really a couple of weeks between officials realizing that there was a SARS-like pneumonia going around to when the first case was reported to the World Health Organization It wasn’t all the way back to November 17 That was retroactively backdated, but that has not been made public by the government We published it because we’ve seen the data that actually backdates the first case From a misstep point of view, again, it’s a couple of weeks compared to what happened in SARS, which was a long time of locking down on information This was much shorter, the period of time that the government wasn’t in complete shutdown mode But then, after that, of course, there was still continued censorship on the internet, especially within the Great Firewall of China, for communications between Chinese citizens And you know, surprisingly to some, I think for a lot of China watchers not so surprisingly, is that the government has — the central government — over the course of the last several weeks, actually, I should say probably the last two months, has started to change their tone and to some degree admit that there needed to be better free flow of information They’ve changed the official narrative of a couple of different things, including this initial whistleblower, Dr. Li, who unfortunately ended up passing away from the virus, they actually now refer to him as a national hero, they have officially removed the reprimand, the Wuhan police have apologized to Dr. Li’s family, and they have actually been — a couple of policemen — have been punished in Wuhan for the way that they handled the situation So there has definitely been an internal shift and there is a lot more sharing of data and information

I can tell you, from Hong Kong’s point of view, without the open sharing of information between the authorities, between Hong Kong and mainland China, I think Hong Kong’s response would have been much more different and I think Hong Kong would have suffered because of that So that much more open sharing of information has benefited this city for sure WPR: And we have Chris here who has a question, I think, from the audience CA: Hey, Gary The online audience, loving what you’re saying It’s so interesting, you’re giving us amazing new insights here Just in the current situation where much of — you know, there have been these very few reports of new cases How much does it feel like life is getting back to normal? Do people really believe that this problem has been successfully tackled elsewhere? GL: I think the sentiment in mainland China is that yes, in China, the problem has been tackled And people are looking forward to going back to normal life A lot of the other major cities, Shanghai, Beijing, are starting to get back to work Many of the factories have now been reopened The last stat that I saw was that 90 percent of the businesses that had been shut down are now reopened in China So generally speaking, life is getting back to normal Wuhan and Hubei are really the last places that are still shut down, with Wuhan being the city that is shut down until April 8 Hong Kong is a little bit different Hong Kong has actually gone back into a second wave of social isolation and distancing A bunch of different companies, us included, as well as the Hong Kong government and the civil service has now gone back to work from home And it’s because we are starting to see a second wave, but for us, honestly, is the first time that we’ve had a spike of infections, and it’s because of imported cases It’s because a lot of Hong Kong residents who left Hong Kong prior to, well, actually when the virus first came into the city, are now returning, because oddly enough, the places they escaped to are now more dangerous than Hong Kong And as they’re coming back, a lot of them are actually bringing the virus back with them And so we’re starting to see a spike Before this week, the highest infection day that Hong Kong had during the first two months of this was 10 infections in one day Now the highest that we’ve seen in the last week was 48 So this is really the first spike that we’re seeing, and so Hong Kong is returning back to a state of alertness, to a state of caution, and more and more people are holed up at home CA: Is it possible, in mainland China, that because of this redefinition that you spoke about, where if someone tests positive, but they’re not showing symptoms, that is not reported as a case That seems significant to me Is that part of the explanation for why new reports have gone nearly to zero? GL: I don’t know if that’s the answer to it, but I do actually think that even with — and remember, these are folks that are tested, so the data that we have is that these folks have been tested, the tests have come back positive, but have not been added to the official number of infections, because they’re asymptomatic But they have still gone through the process that is part of China’s containment strategy, which has worked extraordinarily well Which is, first of all, lots and lots of people have been tested And then once — if there is a positive test return, regardless of whether or not they’re symptomatic or asymptomatic, regardless of whether or not they’re added to official numbers, what happens next is that they are quarantined, they’re isolated, and contact tracing happens Contact tracing is a key, key, key action And so they go and figure out where this person has been moving, where they’ve been, who they’ve been in contact with, and all those folks that they’ve been in close contact with, they get tested And if they come back with a positive test, then they’re also isolated and they go through the process again So China has not been testing people, finding that they’re asymptomatic and then just releasing them and letting them go home That’s not the case WPR: I think to that point too, Gary, what you mentioned about this trace-testing and being able to figure out who people have been in contact with to figure out who may also have been infected, you know, when you look at what’s happening in other parts of the world, you hear in the United States, where Chris and I are based right now, you’re hearing that people who are experiencing symptoms, have symptoms cannot get tested You know, how does China’s ability to test so many people affect the way that they can respond to this and control this virus? GL: It really matters Without the significant testing and without the contact tracing that comes afterwards, I don’t think there’s a way that China could have contained it

the way that they did The same thing here in Hong Kong If we didn’t have both of those, as minimum requirements in a health system, Hong Kong could not have contained it And this is actually the reason why South Korea is the only other country besides China that has managed to flatten the curve, is because they aggressively tested I think by far the highest per capita testing anywhere in the world, as far as we know right now And they aggressively did contact tracing And because of that, even though South Korea had this huge spike, and we thought that it was going to get out of hand, they were able to suppress it, control it, and now they’re in a much, much better place WPR: One thing you mentioned earlier that I’d love to talk about, too, is SARS and the impact of going through that in 2002 and 2003 for China, other countries in Asia, Hong Kong You know, what effect did that have on everyone’s preparedness in that part of the world for the COVID-19 outbreak? GL: It was significant I think the institutional and social memory of SARS matters a heck of a lot, when you look at China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, a lot of these countries in Asia have dealt with COVID-19 Let me use Hong Kong as an example, because it’s the one that I know the most intimately But a lot of what I’m about to say actually does apply to those other areas of Asia So for context, SARS, November 2002 to July 2003, very, very similar coronavirus to COVID-19, I think there’s about an 80 percent similarity to those two viruses The global infected number was a little over 8,000, 774 deaths So by percentage, deadlier than COVID-19 is but far less infectious than COVID-19 is Now here’s why it impacted Hong Kong so much, and why the memory is so deep, and actually it tells you a lot about Hong Kong’s reaction to COVID-19 Of the 8,000 infected, 22 percent were here in the city of 7.5 million, and 40 percent, actually 39 percent of the deaths, 299 people died in Hong Kong Thirty-nine percent of the global deaths happened in Hong Kong And SARS did not start in Hong Kong, it was imported into Hong Kong from southern China And so SARS, again, deep, deep memory, but it was a massive turning point in the Hong Kong health care system and also the social practices of the city And let me walk through some of that impact, because you can actually still see it, even before COVID-19, you see it every day The health care system was able to really, very quickly, ramp up in capacity, because of preparation post-SARS So after SARS, the Hong Kong health care authorities started preparing for greater capacity, especially for infectious diseases There were new health alert systems, warnings and treatment protocols put in place I can tell you that a lot of folks that were here before SARS will tell you that in Hong Kong hospitals, before SARS, it was actually rare to see even medical professionals wear face masks And now surgical masks are ubiquitous, not only in hospitals, but across the entire city Anytime, anywhere, it seems, especially right now New channels of communication and data and information exchange were opened up with mainland Chinese authorities, and technology was implemented, including now a supercomputer that actually does contact tracing in Hong Kong You could trace the existence of the supercomputer and this contact-tracing ability back to changes that happened post-SARS On the social side, there was also a huge change The first thing I have to talk about is, of course, masks Now, I know that there is still not consensus everywhere in the world about whether or not masks actually help in this situation I know that the World Health Organization as well as governments like the US, as well as Singapore, say that only medical personnel as well as people who are actually sick and showing symptoms need to be wearing masks In Hong Kong, everyone wears masks And the government, even though they flip-flopped a little bit during this epidemic, the general, the guidance is that everyone should be wearing masks That started in SARS Ninety percent of Hong Kongers during SARS wore masks, and that habit actually stayed with Hong Kongers, and so generally speaking, even outside of the pandemic, when people are sick and coughing, you’ll see them wear masks out in public On top of that, there was — it became systemic, or I should say systematic controls for hygiene in social and public spaces So if you visit Hong Kong, again, before all of this happened, you would have noticed that public spaces are constantly being disinfected One good example that everyone notices is that when you go into an elevator in public spaces, in buildings, they will either have one of two things, potentially both

They’ll either have a sign that tells you how often the elevator buttons are disinfected, or there will be a plastic, piece of sticky plastic, like a plastic sheet over the buttons so it effectively becomes a flat surface When you eat out, Hong Kong is obviously famous for its dim sum, and one of the most famous things about Hong Kong dim sum are the dim sum carts, which are also very popular in New York’s Chinatown, as an example Those dim sum carts, they pretty much went away after SARS And so most dim sum restaurants that you’ll go to in Hong Kong now, the vast majority of them, you have to order off of a menu, you don’t have public carts going around because of hygiene issues In most nice Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong now you will get, when you sit down, two pairs of chopsticks per person And those two pairs of chopsticks are different colored, because one is used to grab food from the center of the table to your plate, and the other one is for you to take the food and put it in your mouth And honestly, there are hand sanitizers and hand-washing notices literally everywhere, and this is just part of the social behavior after SARS Safety protocols in offices, everyone knows how to shut down an office and control traffic really well Most major offices have temperature-check machines at the very least available, and then, of course, social distancing People understand social distancing is important, and so the moment there was fear of what was happening across the border, naturally, people started social-distancing activities and self-quarantine became pretty normal So those are all the social things as well as the health system things that kind of changed, and because of that, Hong Kong was able to react really, really fast, not just the government, not just the health authorities but the people of Hong Kong, and I think that’s the most important part, is that the entire city, that the community reacted and went into this mode where you wore masks, you washed your hands, you carried hand sanitizer, you stopped going to public places WPR: I’m curious then, I think a lot of people who are listening at home and figuring out how can we apply some of those things here, and from where you sit, and when you see what’s going on in other parts of the world, where maybe people are struggling to make some of these changes You know, what are some of the specific things you think folks can adapt in their own cultures, in their own countries? GL: I think communication is a huge deal If you talk to local Hong Kongers, they will likely opine that the communication from the Hong Kong government has not been top notch But thankfully, there have been other authorities and certainly even just person-to-person communication has been pretty strong A lot of corporates have done an incredible job in Hong Kong in communicating very transparently with their employees and insurance companies have also been making available all sorts of webinars and materials and made it actually quite easy for people to understand how to get tested, where to get tested, who to get tested And so that communication, I think, has centralized, to some degree, the messaging In a city like Hong Kong, everyone generally believes the same thing, and what they believe is generally true Of course, there’s still misinformation issues, as there are everywhere But I think, possibly also because of SARS, because over the course of the 17 years, a lot of the misinformation has now been vetted, everyone knows what is true, so there is already, sort of, an internal radar or at least alarm bell for things that seem to be wrong So I think communication is really important, from government, from corporates anywhere in the world And I think if there is a recommendation for health systems, I know getting tests is really difficult One of the things that has made testing in China and Hong Kong certainly so effective, is that there is point-of-care testing, that still really doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t exist in volume in the US And so they have to save these tests and only a certain number of people can get tested, the triage system then becomes overflowing Whereas here, generally speaking, everyone can get tested, and then of course, the contact tracing Everyone knows that if somebody that you’ve been in contact with tests positive, you’re going to be called in by the hospital authorities and you’re going to be tested, and then if you’re positive, everyone you’ve been in contact with for the last two weeks will also be called in And people don’t really see it as an annoyance, it’s just what needs to be done And I think because of that, again, the containment has been effective WPR: Great. And we have a question from Chris here CA: Gary, it actually builds on the point you just made, people are puzzled online, how is it that China avoided the explosion of cases in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, where people were coming there from Wuhan How on earth did some of those cases not explode? Was it just down to really diligent contact tracing? GL: I think it was a combination of things First of all, the shutdown of Hubei province certainly helped

And then, the major cities actually went into isolation and quarantine as well Remember, it was Chinese New Year, so there was no one working that week And so everyone just went home And generally speaking, in most major cities, they locked their doors and they didn’t leave Now, China is very prepared for this, because the technology stack in China, including consumer site services, make it really easy to lock your doors and get everything delivered to you This is infrastructure and this is consumer behavior that is already ingrained, especially in major cities across China So people just went home There was also a stigma issue, which is unfortunate for people from Hubei, and especially from Wuhan But there are plenty of stories in the other major Chinese cities where anyone coming from Hubei or with any connection to Wuhan were ostracized during those early days, especially after the Wuhan lockdown And so folks that might have been, in fact, carrying the virus, because they were from the epicenter, they were either self-quarantined, or they were forcibly quarantined, because no one was going to spend time with them anyway So I think for a lot of those reasons, some of them social, some of them systemic, they made it so that there was much less person-to-person contact, especially after the authorities admitted that human-to-human transmission was possible CA: Hospitals here in New York, there are warnings that they’re about to get overwhelmed What can we learn from what happened in Wuhan, some of the scenes from there were horrifying, but there were amazing stories as well What should we learn from what happened there? GL: Well, it started off horrifying So in the early days, post-lockdown, all the stories coming out of Wuhan, we had journalists that were there right before the lockdown, they got out about three hours before the lockdown happened, and we had people what ended up having to be quarantined, because they were stuck in Hubei As well as a lot of citizen journalists that were documenting what was going on, and those images, like you said, Chris, were horrifying There were videos showing people literally laying on the ground Some were just so sick they couldn’t move, others had already died and they were just covered with plastic sheets There were nurses and doctors that were just crying in front of the camera, begging for help And so, I think it’s important to understand that China’s health care system did not just immediately become effective And certainly not in Wuhan There was not that much information, people didn’t know what they were dealing with Certainly, the authorities were trying to help, I think at that moment, but again, the information flow was not that free And during lockdown, people were screaming off of their balconies, because they couldn’t get food, they couldn’t even go to the hospital, because the public transportation systems got locked down Remember, this is not, Wuhan is not a city like New York where most of New York is walkable For people who don’t have cars, and many, many of the Wuhan residents don’t have cars, if the buses are locked down, then they might have to walk three, four hours, to get to a hospital Maybe not that long, but they have to walk a long way to get to a hospital And so a lot of people were just stuck at home, and they were unable to initially get any diagnosis or any health care And so it was a disaster But then the capacity actually ramped up The triage system became extremely effective I think most people have heard now that there were two massive hospitals with thousands of beds of capacity that were built within 10 days And this is true, they came out of nowhere, they were literally just parking lots or flat ground, and two major hospital units were built up To be clear, also, those were the triage units for those who have very mild symptoms But that’s really important Being able to get people with mild symptoms out of the major hospital systems, so that they’re not taking up the resources of nurses and doctors, they are not taking up the diagnostic equipment for the second confirmation tests, and also, especially, they are not taking up isolation wards and ventilators And so the moment people started being moved out, the mild symptoms, the ones that were going to survive and they just really needed to be separate from family and have some antiviral medication, once they were moved out into these new hospitals, the main hospitals in Wuhan and across Hubei could deal with the primary patients, especially those that are critical, of the overall tested population and do their best and try and save them and make sure that they’re not highly infectious At the same time, I think that the health authorities in China, especially the nurses and the doctors, did a very good job of also protecting themselves So there have been far fewer, by percentage, infections and deaths, of medical staff than there were during SARS CA: I mean, to respond that effectively took a kind of top-down drive Plus a willingness of a lot of people to risk their own well-being

in a way for their perception of what they had to do for the public good You are well aware of the cultural differences between China, Hong Kong and the West Do you — how do you rate the chances of, say, the US responding effectively should things really explode here, as they seem like they may be about to? GL: In the health care system side, I have every confidence that the US health care system is going to be able to respond well I have many, many friends who are medical professionals in the United States, and they are raising their hands and volunteering and going to hospitals to see where they can help So I have full trust in the system, and the people that man those systems Our health care capacity in the United States is also significantly greater, doctors per capita, than in China And because of the fact that also, our health care system is not just relying on hospitals, but there are primary care physicians scattered all over the country, as long as the testing capacity and testing kits are available across the country, general practitioners can actually administer those And it certainly sounds like more and more med tech start-ups in the US are now trying to create these home kits, so that people can start testing at home That will help a lot My hope is certainly that the citizens of the US, that people are going to take this very, very seriously and realize that it doesn’t matter that you may not feel sick, it doesn’t matter if you think you are young and that you are not prone to catching this virus, or that you’re not in — you may not be fearful of dire consequences and death Take it seriously and stay home And don’t go to public spaces, and don’t be a carrier, because we now know that asymptomatic folks can be carriers and there is a possibility that you can be infectious as an asymptomatic carrier So yeah, on the cultural side — I don’t think it’s really cultural I would say that it’s because of the impact of SARS, it’s because of the social memory of SARS that has meant people are a little bit more selfless, and have just said, “OK, I will stay home, because I might have come in contact.” CA: Yeah, weirdly, SARS seems to have acted as its own kind of vaccine, sort of just prepped the system enough for people to be ready Yeah, social vaccine, amazing Back to you, Whitney WPR: OK, great, thanks so much, Chris And so I think it’s interesting, Gary, to hear you talk about some of the reactions in Wuhan and some of the stories that you’ve heard, especially running the “South China Morning Post” and running a news organization during this outbreak You know, what are some of the — First, what is that like, to run a news organization, to report during this outbreak? GL: Well, running a news organization in a moment like this, so close to the initial epicenter where the outbreak started, is complicated We were lucky, very, very lucky that most of our senior editors, and certainly the most senior editors, our editor in chief, our masthead leadership, they were all journalists and they were reporters during SARS So there’s a lot of pattern recognition in our newsroom Which meant the moment that we got the first, sort of, the first stories coming out of China, starting on December 30, people already raising their hands in the newsroom saying, “Hey, we’ve got to report about this like it’s going to be the next SARS There’s a high likelihood that this is it.” And we did send people to Wuhan early on in January Like I said, we also had reporters there right before the lockdown After the lockdown, we were lucky enough to pull all of them out of Wuhan But we actually did change very quickly the way that we report Partially to make sure we got the story right, to dig deeper in the places that we knew we had to dig deeper, but also to protect our journalists and employees So one of the things that we did do, and maybe other news organizations would disagree with our decision, was I think in late January or early February, even in Hong Kong, we said to our journalists, “You are not to go into hospitals.” So no more in-hospital reporting Because they were — we knew that it was highly infectious, we were worried that they were going to become you know, points of spread, and we just wanted to protect our employees and our company, so we did that We also had a business continuity plan Which meant that at the drop of a dime we could shut down the entire office and still operate this global news business Some of the most interesting stories we’ve covered is actually how technology has played a huge role in China during this epidemic Because it frankly has changed the way that diagnostics work, it changed the way that containment works, it certainly has changed the way that consumer life works And of course, there’s been a lot of instances of really interesting censorship, but also, more interestingly, how the Chinese netizens have fought that censorship and reacted to that censorship

And I do think that there’s quite a lot of lasting impacts that are likely to happen because of technology deployment during this time WPR: And so I think in talking about some of those lasting impacts, now that you as a country are sort of emerging from this and coming on into a different stage with this outbreak, what are some of the changes you’re seeing to daily life, both as society, and maybe things that you’re hearing that individuals are experiencing as a result of this? GL: Yeah, I think probably the two most interesting changes, actually, I should say three — The first one is on education Now schools have been shut down across China for quite some time now and again, this might feel a little bit stereotypical, or a caricature of China, but education is extremely important to the country and extremely important to the citizens And we were actually just about to come up to the national exams, which these students work 18 years for And so online education — very, very quickly moved online And part of that move online was that courses had to be, and classes had to be recorded Which means that now, there’s this huge repository of recorded classes That means potential democratization of education material, and significantly lowered costs to get this type of coursework from the top tiered schools, whether it’s high schools, universities or primary schools, to the entire country Now whether or not China activates on that, we’re still not sure, but the potential is there The second major shift is really on distributed workforce The idea of working remotely, office work remotely, is not much of a concept in China and across most of Asia Certainly far less than in the United States And I’m from the US tech industry, so it was pretty normal, it’s pretty normal in the US tech industry even before this, in China much less so But because of the lockdowns, not only in Hubei but across China, this has become much more normal And people are kind of falling into a different rhythm of work And most importantly, this has given rise to a whole new set of teleconferencing companies in China Because most of the teleconferencing companies that we know of in the West, whether it’s the Cisco systems, Google Hangouts, Zoom, that everyone uses, BlueJeans, Slack video, they’re not available in China They don’t work in China There is this mirror internet in China, behind the Great Firewall, and so there’s a whole new set of teleconferencing systems that were used, but were not really commonplace, certainly not for distributed workforce, and now suddenly, over the last few months, they are So it will be interesting to see how those companies and those services develop, and whether or not the workplace changes in China And then finally, the third thing that is really interesting is that there was a huge internet response to this censorship issue in China over the course of the last two months It especially exploded after this whistle blower, Dr. Li, died on February 7 All over the Chinese internet hashtags like “we want freedom of speech,” “national hero Dr. Li,” things like that just exploded everywhere And there have been — And actually the Chinese government has had to respond, I think for observers, a lot of observers believe that Chinese government’s change of narrative about Dr. Li was largely driven by this reaction from its citizens across the internet There have been extremely creative examples of people getting around censorship I think China is quite famous for using emojis to get around tech censorship I think most people also know that the primary messaging app that the Chinese internet users use, called WeChat, it is heavily censored, it’s not just text that’s censored, images are censored really effectively, individual conversations are censored And so when there are specific articles or specific posts that are about what’s happening with the virus that people want to share, and the government thinks that it is detrimental to whatever, they will censor and it will be completely and very effectively removed But this time around, Chinese citizens used emojis again They translated these posts into ancient Chinese texts that the censoring machines couldn’t pick up yet, they actually translated one version of this post into Tolkien’s Elvish language, I don’t even know the name of that language, they translated into that and the AI couldn’t pick it up And then finally, I think one of my favorite versions of this was they used the “Star Wars” intro, the angled text scrolling, it became a video, and they had the entire post about what was going on in Wuhan in that format, and that went all over the internet So I do think that there is going to be an increased call Academics now are speaking up about freedom of speech

So there’s going to be this increased volume of netizens calling for freedom of speech It will be very, very interesting to watch how the authorities in China deal with that WPR: Great. And Chris, you have a question? CA: Yeah, it sort of picks up on that about, you know, the stories that could come out of this I mean, there are definitely optimistic stories that people are feeling, that this could lead to more free speech of a certain kind in China Certain things you can’t suppress Maybe in the US it might lead to the government taking scientific predictions more seriously, not clear that’s happening yet And there’s hope that this whole thing, because it’s a common enemy for the world, will actually bring the world together in some ways But I’m curious how you think about this President Trump started referring to this as the Chinese virus I’m curious how that’s being received in China, and how people are feeling on this issue Do you think it’s increased sympathy for other countries or actually dialed up animosity? GL: Well, it’s certainly not being received well across China I think one thing that is still really undercovered is the intensity of rising nationalism at the grassroots level across China over the last several years And they’re very protective of their country, and their people and their history And President Trump’s comments and the fact that so much of the US government is now referring to this as the Chinese virus is not received well You know, my fear of course, is that even prior to the virus, the US-China conflict was escalating beyond anything that I think most of us as observers want to see Trade, tech, military, ideology, and now we can add information conflict and health conflict, health tech conflict especially, to the list Of course, the hope is that these heightened tensions will actually dissipate and that the two countries can actually, at this moment in time, choose to go down one of two paths Either one that further damages the relationship or one that actually shows what the possibilities are if the two largest economies in the world, the two most powerful countries in the world, actually cooperate You know, this week, Thursday is the G20 conversations that are going to happen remotely It will be interesting to see how US and China actually coordinate, cooperate, how they communicate during those talks CA: I think people want to know how you think this will play out You’ve got a very special seat there, you know, looking at all parts of the world in it What’s your take on how this plays out? GL: I desperately want to be an optimist, Chris But I think that everything we see, especially the data, shows that it is going to get far worse before it get better And I’m very fearful for what’s going on in the United States It’s because of the amount of data we have across all these different countries, you can very clearly layer countries and the way that the pandemic has been spreading, on top of one another, and we know that the US is a week and a half, maybe two weeks, behind Italy, and we know what happened in Italy and what’s going on in Spain The US is catching up on that spike and it’s going to come much faster, and it’s going to be much higher than I think most people originally believed or hoped for So it will get worse So the hope is that, again, this is going to be the optimistic side of me, that the nations will come together, that those in charge, our governments, will make the drastic, necessary moves, and we will be able to come out on the other side faster than it looks right now Remember, when China went to shutdown, on January 23, there were only 830 confirmed cases And even if those numbers are not exactly accurate, it’s nowhere near the confirmed cases that we have in the US right now, that we see in the US So that is something to be very, very concerned about At 830 they shut down And even after the shutdown, two weeks later, the cases had grown to 35,000, two weeks after that, it was at 75,000 So at this point, it is late in the US But, we, you know — it can still be fixed And I think most experts that we talk to believe that it can be fixed with fast and decisive action CA: Yeah, people struggle with understanding the power of exponential growth And a number can seem smallish today, but if you believe the science,

yeah, you have to act Gary, look, I hope somehow you will convey to whomever you can convey that regardless of what some people might say, in government or elsewhere, there are millions, there are tens of millions, there are probably hundreds of millions of people in the US, on both right and left, who are amazed by what happened in China You know, yes, missteps early on, whatever But they’re amazed, you’ve really — you know, both the Chinese government, the Hong Kong government, several Asian governments, Singapore, South Korea, have shown astonishingly wise and disciplined action against this thing And we’re grateful, we feel there is much we can learn from you and so — People, most people want this to be a time of bringing the world together I genuinely believe that, it’s maybe the optimistic part of me believing it But I believe in it, it’s partly what these conversations are for, to try and make those kinds of connections We want to keep in touch You’ve got an amazing seat there, and I have loved listening to every word you’ve said today here It’s just I’ve learned so much from you So thank you for that GL: It was a great conversation WPR: Thank you for your insight CA: And thank you to our whole online audience, I mean, this is a journey, every day we’re learning something new And just in case anyone out there is feeling a little bit powerless, and afraid or you know, at the situation, I mean, the one thing that everyone can do right now, I think, is we can reach out to the people we know, we can encourage each of us to be our best selves in this moment I really think it’s what the world is going to need, when people are angry and fearful, we can turn into nasty people But when we’re — When we realize how much we need each other, and are willing to just reach out and share stories of hope and share what we’re feeling and share possibilities, we can really impact each other, and I see so many incredible instances of that from around the world, whether it’s Italians singing to each other joyfully from each other’s balconies, or these sort of tales of heroism that some of our health workers have been engaged in all around the world There’s going to need to be a lot more of that And honestly, every single person can play a part in how they are online, what they share, how they react So I don’t want to be overly, embarrassingly Kumbaya, but I kind of think we need that spirit right now a little bit We need each other, and TED is going to try and play that role a bit So if you hate that, maybe you don’t need to be here, but I hope you don’t hate that I hope you like that and will be part of it Whitney, it’s so fun cohosting these, thanks to the rest of the amazing TED team who are everyone in our individual homes, they are sort of racing around, trying to make this stuff work technically We’re learning a bit each day, I hope Thanks so much for being part of this WPR: Thank you, everyone, thank you We’ll see you all back here tomorrow

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