Thursday 7 May 2009

Locking Up Mexicans

This story has probably had more coverage that it really deserves, but in case you missed it, there was a recent kerfuffle surrounding the Chinese government's decision to respond to the outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico by placing all Mexican residents in quarantine, including those who have been out of Mexico for many months. All the same, it does tell us something interesting about how these kinds of decisions are made:

1) The complete ineffective nature of this measure hardly needs to be pointed out - any half-decent epidemiologist could have told them. This decision was therefore almost certainly taken without reference to expert advice - of which China could hardly be short.

2) It is hard to believe that the people who were in charge of China's measured, targeted, and scientific response to Bird Flu were in charge of this. This smacks much more of the over-the-top response to SARS - something which came from the very top. It seems likely that this decision was made high up and by a very few people.

3) Measure this also against other areas of Chinese policy making, particularly economic policy in which China has been much praised, and you have the suggestion of isolated groupings within government at the highest level surrounding various ministries which do not communicate. Now, there is nothing that surprising about this as it is found in all governments, but in China it seems particularly acute.

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