Why China’s Coronavirus Data Should Be Viewed With Skepticism

Why China’s Coronavirus Data Should Be Viewed With Skepticism
Chinese soldiers wearing protective face masks outside the gates to the Forbidden City, Beijing, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

The Chinese government said Tuesday it would start reporting on cases of coronavirus patients who show no symptoms of the disease. The announcement was an implicit acknowledgement that Beijing had been hiding confirmed asymptomatic cases of the virus, as several media reports have alleged. But despite this increase in transparency, there are still reasons to treat China’s coronavirus data with skepticism.

The spread of the virus has slowed in recent weeks and authorities have loosened restrictions in much of the country, allowing daily life and economic activity to gradually resume. Until recently, China was reporting that imported cases of the virus had surpassed domestic transmission, which official data showed had virtually come to a stop. But as people emerge from quarantine, there are growing public concerns about another wave of transmission by asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

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