What might have happened if China had quickly reacted to the coronavirus and warned the world what was happening instead of spending several critical weeks covering it up? It’s impossible to know for certain but it seems probable the entire would could have been at least a little better off and maybe a lot better off.
That’s the theme of a new documentary financed by HBO called “In The Same Breath.” The film was made by director Nanfu Wang and focuses on the early weeks when we were all just hearing about the virus for the first time:
The documentary premiered Thursday night at the virtual Sundance Film Festival, where it is expected to stir up much attention as a damning indictment of the leadership of Chinese president Xi Jinping in the early days of the pandemic.
“We think of the virus as ‘it was an inevitable disaster and the government responded the best way they could,’” Wang, who was born 200 miles outside Wuhan and currently resides in New York City, said in an interview. “And that’s not the reality. No one can make the calculation of how many lives could have been saved if precautions and warnings were given on time.”…
“Breath” argues that Xi’s government was eager to sweep away talk of covid during the critical early period, both with suppression tactics and with propaganda dismissing the dangers. The film highlights many reports, well into January 2020, stating “no clear evidence shows human-to-human transmission” — even as victims are dying in the streets and thousands of people desperately upload their medical information hoping someone will see it and offer them care.
It was only later — after, Wang notes, the Communist Party held its annual Lunar New Year meetings and wrung maximum public-relations benefits from them — that the government began publicly acknowledging the risks and imposed the famous Wuhan lockdown.
Criticizing China on this topic is obviously a risk for everyone involved. Director Nanfu Wang says people working on the film in China have repeatedly been questioned by police. Police also questioned her mother about her filmmaking last November.
You may recall the way the woke voices of the NBA buckled under pressure after one of it’s GM’s made a statement supporting freedom in Hong Kong. China stopped airing games on television which cut off a big source of revenue for the league. In this case, HBO is taking a pretty significant risk. They have other programs airing in China and that seems likely to stop once this film is released.
The fact that China is still delaying an investigation into the origin of the virus a year later suggests they are very worried about the truth coming out. But they can’t stop it. It’s not just this film, there are others telling a similar story. The impact of this virus on the entire world makes it far too important to allow the CCP to spin their way out of this.
Finally, there’s a brief trailer for the film which is both simple and chilling: