Where did the swine H1N1 flu virus come from? I certainly don't know, and I gather that epidemiologists are not yet entirely sure. Maybe the US? Maybe Mexico? Maybe someplace else? But for the official health ministry in China to treat the question as a matter of national dignity.... Sigh. It is a reminder of the point raised here, and of the ways in which the government is still learning the basics of expressing itself to the outside world.

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(The Chinese-language version of the story, here courtesy of Danwei, seems to have a similar tone -- as best I can make out. This is the Chinese version of the stalwart concluding quote: "对此, 我们坚决反对.")

After the handling of SARS in 2003 and of the "blue ear" pig virus two years ago, who could possibly doubt assurances coming from the Ministry of Health?

Here's free PR advice from an actual foreign media person: All nations get defensive and try to make things look good for themselves -- as the Mexican governor could well have been doing. But go easy on terms like "driven by ulterior motives" and "ruin China's image" when you're dealing with a scientific matter. Especially if you're representing the Ministry of Health! Just stick to facts and say you're eager to help fellow scientists in other countries get to the bottom of this case.  (And the Chinese government is giving $5 million to Mexico to help in anti-flu efforts, which is commendable.) But, please do keep saying "resolutely opposed" ("坚决反对"). Something will go out of the world when that kind of starchiness is lost.

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