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China's response to Wuhan virus foreshadowed in 'World War Z'

'World War Z' author Max Brooks predicted China's authoritarianism would spawn something like coronavirus outbreak

World War Z cover. (flickr, Terry photo) 

World War Z cover. (flickr, Terry photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the Wuhan coronavirus continues to rage across the world, Max Brooks, the author of "World War Z" has written an op-ed pointing out the numerous similarities between his novel and the way in which China's repressive system facilitated the spread of the disease.

In an op-ed released by The Washington Post on Saturday (Feb. 28), Brooks wrote that "World War Z" predicted that China's authoritarian system was ripe grounds for the spread of a zombie plague. Brooks stated that he chose China because of its vast size, rapidly expanding transportation network, and its instinctual desire to cover up any form of negative news, giving "my plague time to spread."

Brooks was highly prescient in thinking that because of the coverup, the outside world would be blissfully unaware of the impending disaster. He wrote that by the time other countries realized what was going on, it would be too late, and "Our species would be fighting for its life."

Unsurprisingly, Brooks' book was quickly banned in China when it was published in 2006. Despite pleas from his publisher to take the chapters about the communist country out, Brooks insisted on keeping them in, saying that excising them would have played "into the very dynamics that endanger citizens."

The author admitted that much of his inspiration came from China's disastrous handling of the SARS crisis. In a prelude to the much larger and more devastating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis of today, China's suppression of the media and reluctance to share information with the World Health Organization (WHO) led to an outbreak in the summer of 2003 that eventually spread to 27 countries, infecting over 8,000 and killing 774.

Brooks asserted that despite the lavish praise that the WHO has heaped on China's handling of this outbreak compared to SARS, the country's centralized power has only fanned the outbreak further. He pointed out that the epidemic could have been stopped in its tracks if whistleblowers such as Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) had not been repressed.

Ironically, Brooks' novel included a whistleblower figure named Kwang Jingshu who was also stifled by Chinese authorities. Sadly, Li, the real-life hero, succumbed to the Wuhan coronavirus, causing an outcry among Chinese and spurring calls for freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, China has doubled down on censorship efforts, focused on putting a positive spin on the outbreak, and formulated ways to undercount the numbers of infections and death toll.

The writer also pointed out that other authoritarian regimes have responded in ways predicted in "World War Z." For example, in the book, the entire population of North Korea is sent underground and their fate is unknown, while in real-life, the hermit kingdom is claiming that there are no cases, and reports have surfaced that a man who violated quarantine was executed.

Disturbingly for Americans, Brooks' zombie affliction spread accross the U.S. because "Americans are too distracted by greed, apathy, gullibility; they reject science and willfully embrace an incompetent president. President Trump has been widely criticized for downplaying the sickness, comparisons to the flu, and promises of a vaccine being available in short order.

Twitter users recently noticed that Dean Koontz's 1981 novel "The Eyes of the Darkness" included a disease called "Wuhan-400." In chapter 39 of his book, Koontz wrote about a virus developed as a biological weapon by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in military labs near the city of Wuhan.

Updated : 2021-08-02 14:30 GMT+08:00