SARS in a Wilderness of Mirrors

“The Chinese government, fiercely vigilant when it comes to any manifestation of press freedom, are learning this lesson the hard way with regard to the viral condition known as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It used to be thought that in China, the only way of confirming if a story was true was if the state-owned press had already emphatically and categorically denied it. The belief persists.” David StanwaySARS in a Wilderness of Mirrors (Butterflies and Wheels)

A few hours ago, I got an e-mail from somebody named Kelvin Law:

The worst is over for Hong Kong with SARS, the number of cases is on the way down, and the number of recovered people discharged from hospital significantly outnumbered new cases. I hope very soon you will have confident again to come over to visit, to shop and or to open up the 1.2 billion people market here for your products.

I don’t know about you, but this e-mail does absolutely nothing to boost my confidence about the ability of China’s leadership to control SARS (which seems of late to be gaining ground in the copyediting battle against “Sars”).

I imagine I got that message because a long time ago I used to participate in a listserv devoted to teaching English to international audiences (because the engineering school where I used to work had more than half of its students who had learned English as a foreign language). I get periodic invitations to submit proposals to academic conferences in China. As fun as that might be, with 2 small children at home and a career track that rewards teaching instead of globe-trotting, I’ve had to prioritize lately.