D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi

ASF in China


                       



The African Swine Fever (Flu) Crisis in China


The current strain of African Swine Fever (H1N1) in China resembles the one which emerged in the Caucasus Region of Georgia in 2007.The disease is quite prevalent in Africa. As a matter of fact, it was first observed by RE Montgomery in British East Africa (Kenya) in 1921. The Canadian government is blissfully unaware in their sunny ways clouded by self-inflicted legal and moral issues what exactly is going on in the People's Republic of China regarding swine flu or for that matter on any other issue since we do not have an ambassador to China. In 2017, 700 million pigs were slaughtered in China because of AFS. (Patton & Gu, Reuters, 1-15,2019) It may be said that the only thing that can be certain with regard to the current ASF crisis in China is that there is little known about it mainly due to government cover-up which has financial motivations.

The ASF crisis is very similar to the SARS epidemic in 2003 which began in China. The author lived through that crisis in Beijing and in the countryside at a time when officials of the Canadian Embassy and other embassies left in droves. It was not as if the author was unaware of the severity of the matter because a restaurant across the road from his apartment building was converted to a make-shift SARS hospital.

At the time, the author was teaching at the graduate school of CASS and then left temporarily to set-up a college at Dawu Village in the countryside of Hebei in May 2003. He was given a full battery of tests for SARS before he entered the gates of the village. Fear was palpable in the air as vinegar was sprayed on the entrances to buildings.





                        



                                                            May 09, 2003




                    

                                  May 27, 2003


The city dwellers and peasants of the countryside were afraid of rumours of deaths attributed to SARS. Those rumours turned out to be true. The government was afraid of social unrest of both migrant workers and peasants as the government tried to tap down the truth. It may be speculated that the main reason they arrested SUN Dawu was that he was the self-appointed leader of the downtrodden. The author was placed under house arrest.

The one positive thing to come out of the crisis was the beginning of the civil rights movement across China. The legal cases surrounding SUN Dawu and SUN Zhigang (who was arrested because he did not have a temporary residence permit and beaten to death in prison) set the stage for advancement of human rights and the private constitutional system of Dawu Group. This movement though was checked in 2015 with the arrest of lawyers and activists. The Liberal think-tank called Unirule is fighting for its existence.

Most recently, an article appeared on Reuters called "Piles of pigs: Swine fever outbreaks go unreported in rural China". It concerns the first outbreak of swine flu in Hebei Province. Specifically, it occured at the Dawu Group. Its farm may be considered a modern one which specializes in breeder sows. However, something somewhat unusual caught the reader's attention in the article.





                           


                                                                      a_012




                   


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There were two pictures which illustrated the report. In the first picture labelled "a_012" there was only one policeman. He was in the far background of the image. In the second picture labelled "a_005" there were no policemen. However, if the reader magnified the picture then he could see police out of sight behind the barred window of the shack. Why were the police keeping such a low profile at this inspection site?




                        

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This reader decided to download the contents of the entire page. He found both "a_12" and "a_005". However, he also found another picture. That picture was labelled "a_008". It did not appear for public viewing. The reader speculates that it was censored by a Chinese hacker. The hacker wished to downplay the police presence at the inspection station and minimize the seriousness of the situation--in other words, there was a cover-up. Basically, it is a health cover-up to mitigate financial loss to the government.

The Dawu Group had set up a sow breeding operation called Xinda Husbandry Co. Ltd as part of its integrated, agricultural conglomerate. In one sense, it mirrored their chick operation which supplied chicks to China and the world. The idea is to sell chicks and piglets to farmers and then follow-up with corn feed. The sow breeding company is actually a joint venture between Hebei Dawu Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Group Co., Ltd. which owns 90% and New Hope Liuhe Co., Ltd., which owns 10%.



                    



                    



                    
                 



ASF was detected on February 26, 2019 by China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on the Xinda farm in Xushui, Baoding. This was the first announcement of the ASF in the province of Hebei. This was four days after Sun Dawu had published suspicion of the outbreak on Weibo on February 22, 2019. The company had also alerted local authorities about seven weeks before the official notification was made by the Ministry.

Basically speaking, 700-800 pigs were dying a day. Yet, the Ministry did not officially announce that there was ASF until 15,000 pigs had already died. There are a total of 20,000 pigs on the farm. The delayed announcement by the Ministry meant that thousands of pigs had already been sold--potentially spreading the disease further. Besides, questions were asked by Sun Dawu as to where exactly the purchased pigs came from and by inference what would ensure that new purchases would not come from the same location?

Legally speaking, regulations prohibit the sale of a test kit for ASF; although, many farmers are buying them. Furthermore, swine flu can only be confirmed by an officially credited laboratory under the Ministry of Agriculture. The first Ministry test at the Xinda farm turned up negative. However, that may be because they tested live pigs and not dead ones.




                                      





                                       






                                       



Situation report: 15,000 dead pigs in Dawu New Big Pig Farm, and nearly 6,000 live pigs. We think it is African swine fever, but the government will not confirm it and will kill it tomorrow. New big company: Dai Yingchun, February 22 18:08

情况汇报:大午新大猪场死猪15000头,还有近6000头活猪,我们认为是非洲猪瘟,但政府不给确认,明天要捕杀。 新大公司:代迎春, 2月22日 18:08 ​​​​




           


My Weibo is 11:30 in the morning and can be forwarded again! It’s dangerous, we are safe! Sun Dawu, February 24 我的微博上午11点半,又可以转发了!好危险,我们平安落地了! 孙大午, 2月24日



Normally, Sun's Weibo account has readership of 100,000+. However, during Sun's first public disclosure of the epidemic his site was viewed a million times and interactions numbered 76,000. He has caught the public's attention during this crisis with his call for disclosure and accountability. One of his critics though says he doesn't understand politics. That actually may be Sun's greatest strength. He is not a politician. When politicians say "look" no one "listens".

According to Reuters, Sun's case is not unique. At one location in northern China local officials declined to carry out a test. With respect to a case in Shandong Province it is said that test results came back negative despite clinical symptoms that pointed to ASF.

Chinese law says that farmers should be paid 1,200 yuan ($180) per pig culled. However, the Group had breeding sows whose cost was much higher. A portion of the 1,200 yuan is paid by the state and some paid by local authorities. Generally speaking, there is a tendency by local authorities to balk at payment. It is difficult to assess the actual loss to the Dawu Group, but it is somewhere between 10 and 30 million yuan.

The Group has been offered subsidies for farm buildings and other investments.This approach though presupposes Dawu Group will rebuild its swine operation. It is understandable that the Group may be hesitant to reinvest in a swine breeding operation with so many uncertainties regarding the spread of swine flu. Would the government compensate them a second time if swine flu was detected six months from now or it became a chronic disease at that location?

Just how serious is the spread of swine flu in China? Officially speaking, there have been 112 outbreaks in 28 provinces since August 2018. However, Dirk Pfeiffer who is a professor of veterinary epidemiology suspects the situation may be more serious. He is baffled by the "spatial randomness" of the reported outbreaks which normally develop in clusters. For example, how could the outbreak at Xushui, Hebei be the first one in that province. Xushui is not on the border of other provinces which have been infected. Pfeiffer is not saying directly that there is a cover-up, but he seems to imply it.

There are 26 million farms with less than 500 pigs each. It appears that many of the cases on small farms have gone unreported. They are either unreported by the Ministry of Health or by the farmer. Many farmers have just buried the problem so that they don't encounter the ire of the government.

On large pig farms, the government is introducing facial recognition of swine to try to detect symptoms of sickness. This pseudo-scientific method is unproven. They are grasping at straws.

One may suspect that large farms have large numbers of infected animals. "Qin Yinglin, chairman of China’s No.2 producer, Muyuan Foods Co Ltd, which raised 11 million pigs for slaughter last year, said most large companies were likely to be infected." He says nothing else, but that word "likely" speaks volumes.

A typical Canadian might say "I'm not going to worrry about ASF in 2018-19 because I'm not going to China". What Canadians have to worry about are pork products coming to Canada from China. The swine virus can survive in frozen form for years. The virus can survive boiling for an hour. It can be present in smoked sausage brought by a little old lady as a present to her daughter. Why do you think that the fines for bringing meat from China are much more heavy than the first-time fines for exceeding the currency limit of $10,000 for a Chinese traveller to Canada. It's because we don't have ASF in Canada and we don't want it in our pork industry. It would devastate it.

In fact, there have been dozens of confiscations of pork products from Chinese travellers in Japan, South Korea and Australia. Let's not forget Taiwan. It reports that 7.5% of pork products taken from Chinese travellers tested positive for the ASF virus gene. The point to remember is that it is not the movement of live pigs that is a concern, but the movement of people carrying pork products or for that matter raw poultry meat.



              


Then, there is smuggling on a much larger scale. At the port of Newark, NJ, customs officials seized one million pounds of pork products from China. They were found in 50 shipping containers. The pork was smuggled in various ways from ramen noodle bowls to Tide detergent. The Department of Agriculture will now test the pork to determine if it is infected with ASF. "Whether for personal consumption, for profits, or even for purposes of agro-terrorism - the threats from the illegal importation of illegal food products, agricultural diseases, and/or invasive species are very real - and when successful - could prove disastrous to agricultural interests."

The SARS crisis of 2003 and the ASF crisis in China are similar in terms of cover-up. With respect to the SARS crisis it was a matter of governments which suppressed the extent and severity of the health problem affecting people in order to avoid social unrest. SARS then became a world-wide pandemic. There is evidence to suggest in the ASF crisis of 2018-19 that governments again were not transparent nor did they take full responsibility for the swine epidemic in terms of testing, disclosure and compensation. The major reason for the cover-up is financial. The result is that ASF has spread rapidly throughout China and has crossed the borders into neighboring countries.

The major difference between the two crises though was that SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is caused by a cornonavirus which infected the lungs of chickens and then was transmitted to people. The main symptom in people was a high fever. With regard to the ASF crisis it generally does not affect humans except those who may be in close contact to the animals such as butchers or veterinarians. ASF is hemorraghic in nature meaning that it causes bleeding of internal organs of the pigs. One finds the mortality rates quite different. SARS causes death in people between 0%-50% of the time while the rate for pigs is 100%. There is no treatment or cure. So much for the year of the pig.

While SARS is devasting to pigs the main consequence to humans is economic. It may be said that China could face devastating economic losses to its swine industry. It was officially announced in February that almost 1,000,000 pigs have been culled. However, it is suspected that the actual rate of culled pigs is much higher. Statistics show that China had 433 million animals in 2018 or more than one-half of the pigs world-wide. The latest herd size estimate comes from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs showing that in February the hog herd had declined by 16.7% YoY. The sow herd contracted by an estimated 19% YoY. The entire inventory of Chinese pigs is at risk as the disease spreads.

Normally, a strong economy can weather weakness in a particular sector such as swine. Officially, the Chinese economy grew at 6.6% for 2018. This seems like respectable growth. However, this growth was the lowest pace in 28 years. Third quarter GDP came in at 6.5%, but final quarter growth slowed to 6.4%. However, no one really believes in the official statistics for GDP growth. It is estimated that the real GDP growth may be around 5%.

The problem with the economy is debt. Officially, the debt to GDP ratio is 47.60%. Unofficial estimates peg the ratio much higher. For example, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) recently placed China’s debt to GDP at 300%.

If the economy were strong then it could shrug off losses in the swine industry. However, these losses may be too much for a struggling economy. It might be like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back or more likely just another symptom of general economic decline.

When a pig is buried without record kept by the farmer or by the Ministry of Health then one can say there is both a literal and figurative cover up. No compensation is paid and there is a financial loss sustained by the farmer. However, what if a government overestimates GDP and underestimates the debt to GDP ratio. Can one not say there is a financial cover-up on a much grander scale?

In conclusion, SARS was a new disease that emerged in China during the year 2003. It was caused by avian influenza. Its main symptom was fever and it affected people in terms of bacterial pneumonia. It induced mass hysteria in the population. The various levels of government covered-up the crisis in order to avoid social disorder and to maintain control. The result was that the disease became a world-wide pandemic.

The ASF crisis of 2018-19 affects swine. It induced hemorrhages in the internal organs, but did not affect people. Genetically speaking, it showed a similarity to the Georgia outbreak in 2007. H1N1 found fertile environment in China due to the close proximity of swine and humans. It has spread rapidly throughout China on both large and small farms which hold more than one half of the world's swine population. It is spreading to other nearby countries. The government has covered up information and data of the disease. It is suspected that the problem is much more widespread than admitted because of the lack of clustering cases. The reason for the cover-up is financial; although, it is also said the government has stopped reporting of ASF because of a fear of panic.

Real financial losses to farmers are hidden while losses to the government with respect to compensation are mitigated. There is a lack of confidence in the government by the farmers because of transparency issues and uncertainty of the magnitude of the crisis. This sectoral problem reflects the more general problem with the economy which is almost impossible to measure correctly with respect to GDP and the GDP to debt ratio. It may be that the economy is much more weak than officially indicated.



D.卡尔顿 罗西 D. Carlton Rossi

2019年3月25日







References



DURDEN, Tyler, Big Trouble in Shrinking China, February 02, 2019

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-02-01/big-trouble-shrinking-china




FANG, Di, African Swine Flu Hits Hebei, en People.cn, February 25, 2019

http://en.people.cn/n3/2019/0225/c90882-9549272.html



HIRTZER, Michael, US seizes one million pounds of smuggle Chinese pork, March 15, 2019

http://afludiary.blogspot.com/2019/03/feds-sieze-1-million-pounds-of-illegal.html



https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-15/u-s-seizes-1-million-pounds-of-smuggled-chinese-pork



MULVANY, Lydia and and Michael Hirtzer, China Is Back in the Market for Hogs, and So Are Hedge Funds, Bloomberg, March 22, 2019

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MOURDOUKOUTAS, Panos, Debt, Not Trade War, Is China's Biggest Problem, November 24, 2018

https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2018/11/24/debt-not-trade-war-is-chinas-biggest-problem/#2cc537bc4c4d




PATTON, Dominique, GU Hallie, China Has Culled More Than 900,000 Pigs Due to African Swine Fever, Reuters, Successful Farming, January 15, 2019

https://www.agriculture.com/markets/newswire/update-2-china-has-culled-more-than-900000-pigs-due-to-african-swine-fever




PATTON, Dominique (reporter) China Urges Subsidies to help disease-hit pig farms to restock, Reuters, March 21, 2019

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-swinefever-supply/china-urges-subsidies-to-help-disease-hit-pig-farms-restock-idUSKCN1R305C




PATTON, Dominique, Piles of pigs: Swine fever outbreaks go unreported in rural China, Reuters, March 20, 2019

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-swinefever-reporting-insight-idUSKCN1R10VQ




Radio Free Asia, China Clamps Down on Public Discussion of ASF Outbreaks, September 09, 2018




SUN Dawu, 情况汇报:大午新大猪场死猪15000头, 情况汇报:大午新大猪场死猪15000头, Weibo

https://www.weibo.com/p/1005052646367831/home?from=page_100505_profile&wvr=6&mod=data



https://www.weibo.com/p/1005052646367831/home?from=page_100505_profile&wvr=6&mod=data#_rnd1553454392946




SARS virus




Swine Flu (H1N1)

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swine-flu/symptoms-causes/syc-20378103




Swin Flu spreads across Georgia




2009 Flu Pandemic in Asia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009 _flu_pandemic_in_Asia#China_(People%27s_Republic_of_China)




XIE Echo, ELMER, Keegan, WANG, Orange, China declares victory over African swine fever but cover-up claims call success into question, March 22, 2019



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Addresses


https://www.bannedbook.org/bnews/cbnews/20190224/1086435.html


https://twitter.com/gaoyu200812/status/1099187736735436800



https://twitter.com/oubiaofeng/status/1098969226105184256



https://www.aboluowang.com/2019/0225/1251487.html




明镜焦点|河北大午自曝死猪破万,政府不确认非洲猪瘟急扑杀, Mirror focus: Hebei Dawu self-exposure dead pigs broke, the government does not confirm the African pigs rushed to kill, 明鏡火拍 Published on Feb 22, 2019, Video 3.48 minutes




河北大午集团自曝死猪过万 政府不确认疫情, 2019年2月24日星期日, Hebei Dawu Group has exposed more than 10,000 dead pigs. The government does not confirm the epidemic, Sunday, February 24, 2019.

http://www.bannednews.org/2019/02/blog-post_354.html




王中 河北的脸皮那么厚,是怎么被“炸”开的?Wang Zhong, Hebei’s face is so thick, how was it “fried”? 2019-02-24 19:43

http://www.sohu.com/a/297356970_305991



STRONG, Matthew, Chinese farmer accuses authorities of African swine fever cover-up Hebei still officially free of African swine fever, Taiwan News, 2019/02/23 19:33

https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3644574




DU Caicai and TENG Jing Xuan, Farmer Accuses Province of Dragging Feet on Swine Fever Outbreak, Caixin, Feb 25, 2019