The Phones that Didn't Ring

The United States has now surpassed China as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. As of this writing, total US cases stand at 85,498 while the Chinese total is 81,340.

Or is it?

Made Up Numbers

Contra the famous quote about lies, damned lies, and statistics, you could probably find some egghead with reams of calculations making an airtight case that the implausible plateau above is accurate. Maybe the Chinese really did find an answer to Corona-chan that everybody else missed.

That's possible, but the smart money is on the Chinese Communist Party lying through their teeth.

Lo and behold, evidence for a massive cover-up of Chinese coronavirus deaths has surfaced from the depths of the web.
Potentially 7,254,000 dead in China according to Chinese telecom account cancellations
Due to the nature of Chinese telecoms, your national ID is bound to your mobile number account, which is in turn bound to your Alipay account, the one-stop mobile app that manages all monetary transactions, including banking. When phone number accounts are not paid for 2 months, they are automatically cancelled. Since we can't trust the CCP coronavirus death numbers, we have to look at other datapoints. China Unicom (mobile telecom) lost 862,000 subscribers in January. They lost 7,254,000 subscribers in February.
How does one telecom company lose 7 million subscribers in one month? Sure, some folks might not be able to pay their bill, but without your phone you're screwed in China. People would take out loans to keep it running. Unfortunately, most of these folks are probably dead. What will March's numbers look like?
Submitted for your consideration:

Chinese Net Customer Loss

China Telecom

Monthly Chinese Telecom

This dramatic drop-off in Chinese telecom customers is unprecedented, and we've got years of records to prove it.
Obviously, the CCP is lying about the number of deaths.
Let's be generous and ascribe half of the seven million cancellations to accounts falling into arrears due to sudden unemployment and/or medical bills. That still leaves millions of vanished Chinese mobile subscriptions in need of explanation.

Keep in mind that in China, your mobile account is your wallet. The American equivalent would be Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal, and every ISP reporting two million combined account cancellations in as many months.

What happened to those seven million Chinese telecom customers?

We'll probably never know.

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  1. In China, you pay ahead. When the money runs out, the phone stops working. (That happened to me there in the middle of the night.)

    My daughter's friends in China are all healthy... But they were not allowed to go to work for a month. They are all broke.

    I don't think these numbers mean what everyone is saying.of course, it is unprecedented...China has never shut their work force down like this.

    What we need to do is go back in three to six months and compare with last fall...that will give a much more accurate number.

    1. Jagi, do you know if it's true what OP said about people routinely taking out short-term loans to keep the phone running? If so, that makes this seem more significant, because people who are still alive would be able to keep the phone on unless lending services had collapsed.

    2. Thanks for the insight. I pray you're right and there's nothing more sinister at work!

  2. Argh! I wrote a long answer and somehow lost it.

    Brian, I do think that there might be more going on there than China has told us, and I think cell phone data is a clever way to find out more. I just think we have to be patient and wait a few months before we assume that the missing accounts are actually missing people. so to speak.

    Scholar, I would not be surprised if they had such loans. But I also know that if your money runs out before you renew it, in some areas, at least, you have to walk down to the physical location and hand them money...something they could not have done on lockdown. Things really stopped there. So it is very possible that there were people who couldn't pay their bills.

    It may be that these numbers are close to the numbers of people lost, but I think we shouldn't assume that until a bit more time goes by.

    1. It's annoying when Blogger does that! Thanks for re-posting. I think you are right.

    2. Thanks so much for the explanation, Jagi! Glad to know someone who knows people on the ground there :)

    3. Pick a screen name, Anonymous.

  3. Jagi

    Thanks for your insights. I think it prudent not to jump to conclusions about possible deaths.

    Nevertheless I completely distrust anything the chicoms publish or report.


  4. When saying "it's your entire electronic presence", remember that China is... messy. When you say "it's your entire online presence" remember that means IF you are employed IF you are in a wealthy region and IF you are in a city in that region. Even a lot of people with online contacts in China kindof have a mental construct where all those IFs bound the entirety of China, instead of maybe 30% of it.

  5. It was hard to believe this 1 week ago. It it hard to not believe this 1 week later.

    1. Just imagine what it'll be hard not to believe next week.

    2. Remember to warm up your credulity first, so you don't sprain your imagination!

  6. Athletic and WhitesplosiveMarch 28, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    "Maybe the Chinese really did find an answer to Corona-chan that everybody else missed.

    That's possible, but the smart money is on the Chinese Communist Party lying through their teeth."

    Why not both? The numbers are likely underestimates to save face, but I doubt it's on the order of millions. As well, China (and all of east asia in general) has employed those illiberal measures which are seen as ideologically impossible under liberalism in order to contain the virus (like extensive electronic surveilance, temperature monitoring at almost all entrances, contact tracking, removing of confirmed infected from their household so that they can't infect family, huge-scale travel restriction and lockdown).

    The scale of the disaster has already forced the neoliberal order to concede and implement some of these (though far too late), but the reluctance to implement all of them will continue even as the bodycount rises so as not to legitimize the use of illiberal methods to address problems. The way in which they carefully try to frame every move as consistent with liberalism shows that their greatest fear is people seeing things like closing the borders and going "hey, if we can close borders to combat a virus, than we can do it to stop immigration". If illiberal methods are used against a virus, that opens the pandora's box of people wanting to use them for all the other problems to which they are obviously applicable.

    1. The dead giveaway that China's official numbers are bogus isn't just their comically low daily new cases, it's that their reported deaths have been 5.555% of their new cases every day for about a week now.

      The icing on the cake is the 5,000 urns delivered to one Wuhan funeral home this week--twice as many as the city's official death toll.

    2. China isn't even reporting ANY new deaths or cases anymore. There is no possibility they cleansed their population of a pandemic that's ravaged them for over three months in less than a week.

      Unless they've massacred or imprisoned large swaths of people, that is.

      Either way, far more people are dead there than have been reported.

    3. JD

      There's a short video on Twitter between Wuhan and Jubei cops and residents staring each other down on a bridge.

      That tells the world what ordinary Chinese really think of the chicom's information about the pandemic.
      I really see China returning to the 1920s warlord period


  7. In possibly related news, my 3G flip phone suddenly ceased to have coverage yesterday, just when I and presumably a good many other people need it for job interview.