Are you wearing a mask yet? No doubt apothecaries across the country will soon stock up just in case there’s a widespread outbreak of the latest coronavirus. Fortunately, for those of us in the good ol’ U.S. of A., the malady has yet to barely infiltrate cities and towns across our land. 

Thus far, the vast majority of reported instances are in mainland China. Latest reports mention South Korea, Iran, and northern Italy as new areas of major interest (with almost 40 countries, as of this writing, having at least one of 80,000 known cases). And while that’s nothing to sneeze at, it is comforting to have oceans on both sides of our shorelines to inhibit the spread of the disease. 

You know, this isn’t the first time China has caused epidemiological panic in the world. Perhaps you’ll recall another coronavirus, SARS, from 2003. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome originated in Guangdong, which is about 500 miles from Wunan where the latest infection began. But the two bug-originating Chinese cities do have something in common. 

Best guess scenario for both SARS and this newest coronavirus (COVID-2019, as it’s being called) is that apparently animals are ground zero. Bats in particular for SARS. No one creature has yet to be blamed entirely for the newest ailment. But it’s believed that infected domesticated beasts such as cats led to humans getting sick. 

(On an unrelated note, do you suppose the sale of Corona beer has declined of late? There’s no connection to the virus, of course, but with the abundance of hype, are people opting for Bud Lite or Dos Equis instead? Just thinking out loud here.)  

Health agency officials are saying it’s almost inevitable that more than a few Americans will become infected. Right now, international travelers entering our ports who may be exhibiting signs of the virus, such as coughing and sneezing, et al, are being asked to step out of line and are even put into quarantine. But there’s bound to be a slip-up somewhere along the way. Unless, of course, for the first time in its existence, the federal government actually runs something perfectly.  

Considering both these viruses and the annual flu shots we’re all supposed to get (to ward off Asian strains of the latter), I’ve started wondering lately just what else China sends our way. Historically speaking, the Chinese have a decent track record of creating things and exporting them. You can’t deny the big four: paper, compass, gunpowder, and moveable type. But we’re talking at least a thousand years or so ago for all of those.

The Chinese also lay claim to noodles, ice cream, eyeglasses, and toilet paper. Tea, silk, martial arts, crossbow, and hot air balloon can all also be traced way back in time. Many centuries ago, the Chinese did great things with metal, built big ships, and developed agricultural advancements. But, hey, what have they done for mankind lately?

When I was growing up, China was “Red China.” Mao Zedong (or Tse-tung as he was then known) basically cut off the country from the outside world in 1949 when he and his brand of Communism took control. Those with intellectual capabilities who dared to voice opposition were summarily executed or sent to “re-education” camps from which there was little or no escape.

At present, China and the U.S. are major trading partners. Electrical machinery, computers, phones, plastics, lighting, prefab buildings, and more highlight the country’s exports to us. But ask yourself this: Did the Chinese invent any of those or, as has been frequently alleged, did they steal the intellectual property of others to create those items?

Not a whole lot of residents of the People’s Republic have won Nobel Prizes (certainly not before the turn of the 21stcentury). In the latter part of the 20th century the worthiness of goods labeled “Made in China” was not just questionable but often downright terrible. Even now, Chinese quality control leaves a bit to be desired.

Also, when’s the last time you hummed a Chinese song, went to a Chinese movie, or read a Chinese book? How about sports? Sure, there are a couple of gymnasts and divers who surface at every Olympics, but badminton and ping-pong are apparently the closest thing the country has to national sports. 

Perhaps I just don’t get out enough. But doesn’t it seem as if the only thing that comes out of China today is trouble? And is this a coincidence? I bet all the masks we may soon have to wear to combat COVID-2019 will be made where else? In China.

©MMXX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer