Translations of key Chinese articles and blogs about the Covid-19 Outbreak

Gilles Demaneuf
8 min readJul 11, 2022

Some key pieces of information related the Covid-19 outbreak were published in Chinese media. Quite often these articles have now been deleted. Here is a list of pieces I translated.

Shanghai Journalism Review, Issue #2 2020 (translation of front page)

1) Recording the experience of being the first to discover the novel coronavirus (see Post 1)

Source: Personal blog
Author: Little Mountain Dog (小山狗), an identified employee of Vision Medicals
Date: Jan 28, 2020
Takeaway: A key testimony on the near full sequencing and early genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 on 26/27 Dec 2019, with warnings clearly communicated to CDC and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences by 28 Dec.

2) Statement on “Recording the experience of first discovering the novel coronavirus” (see Post 2)

Source: Personal blog
Author: Little Mountain Dog (小山狗), an identified employee of Vision Medicals
Date: Jan 30, 2020
Takeaway: ‘Self-criticism’ statement denouncing her previous post, using standard party-speech.

3) People outside the statistics:
Did they die of “ordinary pneumonia”?

Source: Caijing (财经)
Authors: Fang Gongyiliu, Li Shiyun, Liu Yiqin, Iris Xin, intern Ma Kexin (房宫一柳 ,黎诗韵, 刘以秦, 信娜, 实习生马可欣)
Date: Feb 1, 2020
Takeaway: An excellent article describing the obstacles and systemic biases in the reporting of early Covid-19 cases in Wuhan.

4) Lost opportunity — the case of a small hospital that
was neglected early in the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic

Source: Eight o’clock health news
Author: Wu Jing (吴靖)
Date: Feb 11, 2020
Takeaway: A good article about the Yofu hospital close to the market and the early cases seen there (with a suspected market cluster on Dec 12, 2019). Also good on self-reporting biases and systemic biases.

5) White and Green Manuals:
Changes in New Coronavirus Pneumonia Diagnostic Standards

Source: Freezing Point Magazine (杨海 冰点周刊)
Author: Yang Hai (杨海)
Date: Feb 20, 2020
Takeaway: The key article to understand the reporting bias towards the market introduced by the Wuhan Health Commission and its tug of war with the Hubei CDC.

6) Question | Are pangolins the intermediate host of the new coronavirus? Rodents may also be possible (see Post 4)

质疑 | 穿山甲是新冠病毒的中间宿主么?啮齿类或许也有可能
Source: Personal blog
Author: Little Mountain Dog (小山狗), an identified employee of Vision Medicals
Date: Feb 24, 2020
Takeaway: LMD strikes again and strongly criticize the ‘99% similitude’ pangolin press-conference of the Feb 7, 20020 and the preprint that followed.

7) Why did the infectious disease network direct reporting system built with an investment of 730 million fail for 28 days?

Source: Caijing (财经) with Jeff Zhao (王小, see also #13 and #15)
Authors: Iris Xin and Jeff Zhao (in Wuhan), with help from Sun Aimin and Xin Ying
Date: Feb 25, 2020
Takeaway: A good article looking at the failure of the CDC epidemic reporting system at the start of the outbreak.

Feb 25, 2020: CDC Gag Order issued on the very day the WHO mission left China, targeting CDC offices.

8) New coronavirus gene sequencing traceability: when the alarm was sounded (see Annex 1)

Caixin (财新)
Authors: Gao Yu, Peng Yanfeng, Yang Rui, Feng Yuding, Ma Danmeng (记者, 高昱, 彭岩锋, 杨睿, 冯禹丁, 马丹萌)
Date: Feb 26, 2020
Takeaway: A important article going through all the identification of the virus by different teams (starting with Vision Medicals on Dec 26, 2019) and the reason why that information, including sequences, was not released for more than 2 weeks.

9) Experts judge the source of the new coronavirus:
December 8 last year may not be the earliest time of onset in Wuhan

Source: Health Times (健康时报)
Author: Wang Zhenya (王振雅)
Feb 27, 2020 for 1st Version
- Mar 3, 2020 for 2nd version, with retraction of suspected Nov cases, on the day the the State Council gag order was issued.
Takeaway: A key piece highlighting suspected Nov 19 cases, which were shortly after retracted on the day the State Council Gag Order was issued.

Mar 3, 2020: all-encompassing Confidential State Council Gag Order, which also recommends organizing publications with the propaganda department, like ‘a game of chess’.

10) The Power of “Seeing”: Perspective on Epidemic Reporting and National Governance Modernization

“看见”的力量 — 透视疫情报道与国家治理能力现代化
Source: News Reporter Magazine (记者 杂志)
Authors: Li Hongbing, Zhou Yuqiao (李泓冰, 周玉桥)
Date: Late Feb or Mar 2020
Takeaway: A prize-winning piece that proclaims its allegiance with the party, blames near exclusively local authorities (a safe option that has some merit, but is nevertheless an oversimplification), and looks at the role of the local media reporting and the local propaganda department.

11) Technical governance and emergency decision-making in a risk society: Focusing on the early treatment of the new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic

风险社会的技术治理与应急决策 — 以新冠肺炎疫情的早期处置为中心
Source: China Law Review (中国法律评论)
Author: Chen Baifeng (陈柏峰)
Date: Mar 24, 2020
Takeaway: A piece by a journal of the Institute of Law (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) that ends up strongly questioning the lack of transparency and reporting in the early days, and exposes the tug or war between Wuhan and Hubei authorities as well as the self-censure by the medical profession. Also looks at structural issues faced by the CDC, especially the internal division between the Bureau of Disease Control and the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, showing how the Hubei and National CDCs were sidestepped and without administrative powers against the Wuhan Health Commission.
Last discusses structural (if not existential) issues with the party.

12) When the ‘prophecies’ of the epidemic came true one by one, I dared not speak (see Post 3)

Source: Personal blog
Author: Little Mountain Dog (小山狗), an identified employee of Vision Medicals
Date: Apr 4, 2020
Takeaway: Little Mountain Dog expresses her pain and anger at seeing that the occasion to sound a proper warning based on her sequencing and analysis of Dec 26/27, 2019 was missed. Questions the authorities’ rationale for not not sounding the alarm.

13) Design and Application defects
of the National Epidemic Direct Reporting System

Part 1 — Why the system is virtually useless

Source: Personal blog
Author: Jeff Zhao (王小)
Date: Apr 3, 2020
Takeaway: A careful piece that stays within the official praises for Xi Jinping and the central government, but nevertheless exposes the design and conceptual flaw in the CDC epidemic reporting system that was hardly used in the early days of the outbreak.

14) Zhongnan Hospital physicians in the Wuhan Epidemic:
There were sick people everywhere

Source: Caixin (财新)
Authors: Xiao Hui, Bao Zhiming and Gao Yu (萧辉, 包志明, 高昱)
Date: Apr 13, 2020
Takeaway: A strong piece on the early cases at the Zhongnan hospital in Wuchang (on the other side of the river, not on the market side) and the reporting blocks it faced, including actual unexplained deletions of early cases it entered into the CDC epidemic reporting system. The piece is careful and starts by asserting its supposed alignment with the party’s objectives.

15) Design and Application defects
of the National Epidemic Direct Reporting System

Part 2 — How to optimize and improve the system

Source: Personal blog
Author: Jeff Zhao (王小)
Date: May 5, 2020
Takeaway: A dive down on the practical flaws in the CDC Epidemic Reporting system and how a proper system should instead be designed.

16) A series of articles by Watson (Hua Sheng) on the initial cover up in Dec 19 / Jan 20

Source: Personal blog reproduced as articles
Author: Watson (Hua Sheng, 华生)
Date: Feb 17 to Apr 3, 2020
Takeaway: Watson (Chinese nickname for Hua Sheng) is a successful and respected Chinese economist who was sent to reeducation in the countryside at age 15, during the Cultural Revolution, just like Xi Jinping. He wrote a series of popular blog entries about the cover up by the Wuhan and Hubei authorities in Dec 19 and Jan 20. He tends to totally absolve the party and central authorities, to which he seems to be rather close, but nevertheless offers some interesting elements on the local power dynamics in the early days of the outbreak.

17) Why did the medical staff in Li Wenliang’s hospital suffer heavy casualties?

Source: Caixin (财新)
Authors: Bao Zhiming, Qin Jianxing, Gao Yu, Xiao Hui (包志明, 覃建行, 高昱, 萧辉)
Date: Mar 10, 2020
Takeaway: This is much more than a description of the situation within Wuhan Central Hospital. The politically acceptable link to Li Wenliang’s story is actually the occasion of a most ravaging article on the tug of war between the Health Commissions and the CDC, and on how the CDC was totally bypassed for political reasons, with a detailed description of the institutionalized mis-reporting and a long list of tricks (deletion of cases, likely fake test results, etc) used till around the 20 January 2020.

18) Doctors in private clinics fighting against the new coronavirus

Source: Caixin (财新)
Authors: Xie Haitao, Zhang Yingyu (谢海涛, 张颖钰)
Date: Apr 7, 2020
Takeaway: A description of some front line small clinics in the early days of the epidemic, following the superspreading event at the market. Focusses on the story of Liu Deyan and his wife, who managed the ‘Wuhan Zhongsheng Outpatient Clinic’. The article also includes some reporting on the Influenza A wave in Wuhan at the time.

19) Interview with the second batch of experts appointed by the Wuhan Health Commission: Why no human-to-human transmission was found?

Source: Caijing (财经)
Authors: Yu Qin, Li Shiyun (俞琴, 黎诗韵)
Date: Feb 26, 2020
Takeaway: An interview with a member of the second group of expert sent to Wuhan, detailing the limitation of their work in front of lies from local authorities, while resulted in a denial of human-to-human transmission and the epidemic getting out of control.

20) Caixin Internal Information Document: More than 600 medical staff have been infected in Wuhan

财新内参: 武汉已有 600 医务人员感染
Source: Caixin (财新内参)
Authors: Caixin, confidential memo
Date: Feb 3, 2020
Takeaway: Testimony of a CT-scan radiologist at Xinhua hospital (Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine), describing the total chaos in his hospital, with large number of suspected cases, medical personnel infected, CT-scan machines eventually breaking down under the load, all while no new case was being officially reported between the 5 and 17 Jan 2020.

21) The medical staff of Wuhan Central Hospital confide the truth:
The epidemic is the mirror of a demon

武汉市中心医院医护人员吐真情: 疫情是面照妖镜
Source: Global Times (环球时报)
Authors: Fan Wei (樊巍)
Date: Mar 16, 2020
Takeaway: A surprising article from a normally very obedient publication, detailing how the reporting of new cases at Wuhan Central Hospital was blocked.

22) Wuhan Central Hospital: Description of the handling of the novel coronavirus epidemic

Source: Wuhan Central Hospital, confidential memo
Authors: Department of Public Health, Wuhan Central Hospital
Date: Feb 8, 2020
Takeaway: The head of the Department of Public Health of Wuhan Central Hospital sets the record straight about the obstructions medical staff faced there in trying to report cases.



Gilles Demaneuf

Opinions, analyses and views expressed are purely mine and should not in any way be characterised as representing any institution.