Six years into Vietnam you found yourself “in the middle of SARS” - thereby cementing a close relationship with another communist regime, the CCP. The number of Covid Conspirators who cut their teeth on SARS is striking - yourself, Lipkin, Dwyer, Embarek, Shi, Holmes, Daszak - to name a few - all rusted-on CCP fans.
As you say, through SARS, you "got to know China’s CDC very well” - you count George Gao, the head of China’s CDC, as an "old friend".
By 2014 you were praising China as “transparent and superb” - which is weird language to describe a health regime that was simultaneously involved in the systemic organ-harvesting of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
But you were “very, very happy”(?) to turn a blind-eye to that.
Because if you did, you were allowed a seat amongst the power-elites of totalitarian countries. Where big picture stuff can/does happen.
In the clinic - you felt too 'downstream' - dealing with patients who are the results of something else - you felt helpless - you watched a colleague/friend die from SARS.
...you can (only) do so much as a doctor or a nurse. It makes you question your whole professionalism. It makes you question why you're there and why you're in the hospital looking after people.
You needed to get upstream - with the big boys - where things do happen. That first exercise of 'real' power was an adrenaline rush - instantly addictive - you revel in the surge of this “incredibly strong central CDC in China”. Reaffirmed in your mind: centralized government gets shit done. It’s a constant theme in your speeches. As you nsay with Singapore: (TS 10:20) “You may or may not like the political system - but never-the-less - enormous progress over time.”
From SARS the key lesson you learned is: in a crisis, act fast - “don’t wait for the data”. That’s quite radical for a scientist - and you have been criticized before for launching risky vaccination programs in Africa, Before Covid, without supporting data.
Jeremy, this is speculation, might be rubbish, but i don’t think the nitty-gritty of data and science is your bag - you’d rather talk about cricket? Or big-power - the overarching politics of science - how to get societies to accept our entrenchment as the authority-on-everything. In that quest you are the chosen one. The brilliant general in the War on Freedom.
The goal in this war, as you say, is to “change the fundamentals ... through locking-down and behaviour change and .. particularly vaccines” - all geared towards making individuals subservient to the state. This requires the impost of ‘draconian/new normal’ rules - best enforced by a centralized 'system of government'.
The paradox, as you impressed upon the DI interviewer, is that for those orchestrating the above “… there are no rules - there are no textbooks to follow here - these are judgment calls made in the very best faith.”
That’s the thing about totalitarianism - yes it has its dark-side - but it offers “such hope” for what can be achieved in the One Health sphere - by virtue of this paradoxical dynamic: enforcement of rules - by a benevolent, ‘free’ overlord - unencumbered by rules. It’s just more effective like that. (Ask the experts if you don't believe me.)
In Vietnam, your mind - from a place of intense individuality - solidified ideas of the ‘global-good’. Calculated how best to manifest them.
Totalitarianism made sense - the best system to institute your ambitious plan to 'change the fundamentals'.
Reminds me a little of Julius Caesar - another man with a strong sense of individual destiny who realized early he needed a base of monied, militaried forces - to change-the-world.