The lab leak hypothesis for SARS-CoV-2 seems highly unlikely, and yet this still made me laugh out loud.
The most bizarre conspiracy theory in a year filled with bizarre conspiracy theories is the QAnon conspiracy theory that China is actively at war with the United States on the Canadian border.
On December 8, 2020, a small earthquake was detected in Maine, near the border with New Brunswick, Canada.
The QAnon conspiracy version is that there were nearly 50,000 Chinese soldiers massed on the US-Canadian border ready to invade. But the soldiers were destroyed by bombs that were the real cause of the earthquake.
The Maine National Guard actually put out a statement denying that there was a military conflict between China and the United States at the Canadian border,
“The Maine National Guard has no knowledge of any such troop movement or military action, and would undoubtedly have been made aware through military or emergency management channels if such a significant event were to occur in the state of Maine,” Maj. Carl Lamb told Task & Purpose in a statement on Wednesday. “In addition to constantly maintaining a ready force, our focus right now is assisting our fellow citizens by responding to requests from Maine Emergency Management Agency and Maine CDC in response to COVID-19.”
On December 8, an Air National Guard pilot involved in training exercises was killed after his F-16 crashed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. QAnon folks quickly claimed was that Chinese forces on the Canadian border shot down the F-16.
Qanon folks picked up the thread this week in the aftermath of the horrific Christmas Day suicide bombing that occurred in Nashville when Anthony Quinn Warner detonated his explosives-filled RV. QAnon folks started circulating videos and claims online that the explosion was actually a missile strike, possibly connected to China.
China is apparently blocking all HTTPS traffic that uses TLS 1.3’s ESNI. The folks at the Geneva project have a detailed report about what triggers the censorship.
With previous version of TLS, although the traffic between a computer and a server would be encrypted, the Server Name Indication (SNI) field allowed ISPs to determine which website the user was communicating with.
TLS 1.3 fixes that by introducing Encrypted SNI (ESNI), so that it is impossible for ISPs or other entities to see what website the user is trying to access. As the report notes,
ESNI has the potential to complicate nation-states’ abilities to censor HTTPS content; rather than be able to block only connections to specific websites, ESNI would require censors to block all TLS connections to specific servers. We do confirm that this is now happening in China!
. . .
Comparing the traffic captured on both endpoints, we find the GFW [Great Firewall] blocks ESNI connections by dropping packets from clients to servers.
This has two differences from how the GFW censors other commonly-used protocols. First, the GFW censors (non-encrypted) SNI and HTTP by injecting forged TCP RSTs to both server and client; conversely, we have observed no injected packets from the GFW to censor ESNI traffic. Second, the GFW drops traffic from server to client to block Tor and Shadowsocks servers; however, it drops only client-to-server packets when censoring ESNI.
We further note the GFW does not distinguish the flags of TCP packets when dropping them. (This is different from some censorship systems in Iran which do not drop packets with RST or FIN flags.)
The Geneva project report goes on to describe a number of strategies to evade this censorship.
According to Wikipedia, Rock Paper Scissors can be traced back to 3rd century BCE China,
The first known mention of the game was in the book Wuzazu [zh] by the Chinese Ming-dynasty writer Xie Zhaozhi [zh] (fl. c. 1600), who wrote that the game dated back to the time of the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). In the book, the game was called shoushiling. Li Rihua’s book Note of Liuyanzhai also mentions this game, calling it shoushiling, huozhitou, or huaquan.
Mushi-ken, the earliest Japanese sansukumi-ken game (1809). From left to right: slug (namekuji), frog (kawazu) and snake (hebi).
Throughout Japanese history there are frequent references to sansukumi-ken, meaning ken (fist) games where “the three who are afraid of one another” (i.e. A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A). This type of game originated in China before being imported to Japan and subsequently also becoming popular among the Japanese.
The earliest Japanese sansukumi-ken game was known as mushi-ken, which was imported directly from China. In mushi-ken the “frog” (represented by the thumb) triumphs over the “slug” (represented by the little finger), which, in turn prevails over the “snake” (represented by the index finger), which triumphs over the “frog”. Although this game was imported from China the Japanese version differs in the animals represented. In adopting the game, the original Chinese characters for the poisonous centipede were apparently confused with the characters for the slug. The most popular sansukumi-ken game in Japan was kitsune-ken. In the game, a supernatural fox called a kitsune defeats the village head, the village head defeats the hunter, and the hunter defeats the fox. Kitsune-ken, unlike mushi-ken or rock–paper–scissors, is played by making gestures with both hands.
As Donald Trump has taken to referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus”, it is worth remembering ahead of the election this year that he initially had nothing but praise for China’s handling of the virus, including the possibility that they weren’t accurately reporting cases.
Trump had the following exchange with Geraldo Rivera during a February 14, 2020 interview,
Geraldo Rivera: Are you worried about this virus affecting … I mean, obviously, you’re worried about the virus and people getting sick, but what about the economy as another victim of the [inaudible]
Donald Trump: Well, we’re working on it very closely. I spoke to President Xi two days ago. They’re working on it very professionally. It’s a problem. We think and we hope, based on all signs, that the problem goes away in April because … which is not too far down the road … because heat kills this virus. We think. Now we’re going to find out, Geraldo, but we think. And they are having difficulty in China, but they’re working very, very hard. We’re working with them. We’re sending a lot of people, and CDC has been great, but it’s a problem in China. Has not been spreading very much and, in our country, we only have basically 12 cases, and most of those people are recovering and, some cases, fully recovered. So it’s actually less. But-
Geraldo Rivera: Did the Chinese tell the truth about this?
Donald Trump: Well, you never know. I think they want to put the best face on it. So I mean, if somebody … If you were running it, you’d probably … You wouldn’t want to run out to the world and go crazy and start saying whatever it is because you don’t want to create a panic. But, no, I think they’ve handled it professionally, and I think they’re extremely capable. And I think President Xi is extremely capable, and I hope that it’s going to be resolved. Again, the April date is very important, but this is a big thing. The April date is very, very important because, if that’s the case, if heat does in fact kill … That’s when it starts getting hot, and this virus reacts very poorly to heat and dies. So we’ll see what happens.
Trump praised China’s response, including any efforts they made to hide the spread of cases, because this precisely how Trump would and did handle the pandemic.
Like Xi, the only thing that matters to Trump is the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has on him personally, not the lives lost and irreparably damaged because of his incompetence and failure to act.