New information may offer insight into the honesty of China’s coronavirus numbers.
Beijing claims that since the coronavirus pandemic began at the end of last year, there have been only 82,919 confirmed cases and 4,633 deaths in mainland China. Those numbers could be roughly accurate, and in that case a detailed account would be an important tool in judging the spread of the virus. But it’s also possible that the numbers presented to the rest of the world are vastly understat ed compared to Beijing’s private figures. The opaqueness and mistrust of outsiders in the Chinese Communist Party’s system makes it hard to judge—but learning more about the coronavirus data used directly by Chinese officials is invaluable for governments elsewhere. A dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the military’s National University of Defense Technology, leaked to Foreign Policy, offers insight into how Beijing has gathered coronavirus data on its population. The source of the leak, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of sharing Chinese military data, said that the data came from the university. The school publishes a data tracker for the coronavirus: The online version matches with the leaked information, except it is far less detailed—it shows just the map of cases, not the distinct data.
The dataset, though it contains inconsistencies—and though it may not be comprehensive enough to contradict Beijing’s official numbers—is the most extensive dataset proved to exist about coronavirus cases in China. But more importantly, it can serve as a valuable trove of information for epidemiologists and public health experts around the globe—a dataset that Beijing has almost certainly not shared with U.S. officials or doctors. (The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) Read more