Volume 7, Chapter 1, Part 1
The leaves on the trees withered and curled. The scholar trees, whose shallow roots couldn’t absorb enough moisture from the soil, began shedding yellow leaves, as if autumn had come early. The deep-rooted elms remained green, but they attracted legions of insects. The whole insect kingdom converged on their branches and leaves. Small green worms, spotted ladybirds and yellow beetles turned the elms into private fiefdoms, marching up and down the branches, munching on the stems and leaves.
One of the easier themes to identify in times of plague is of the economy. The link is not difficult to grasp: plagues kill people and leave many stuck in their homes, reducing economic activity and thus business.
The blood selling of The Dream of Ding Village begins with the premise of a “strong and prosperous China (Vol 2, Ch 2)” but results in suffering for thousands and in the end, Ding Village is left empty. In terms of the real benefits, Ding Hui was able to exploit the system and made himself enough money to finally leave the village, with even more to spare, despite the villages and people that were crumbling around him.
COVID was not as debilitating, but the damage done to the economy was very clear – people being forced to leave the workforce, areas destabilized and overall loss of confidence. Yet still, there were many that seemingly were able to profit from this situation.
When the virus was very much active, numbers growing and with economies far from recovery, the S&P netted over 60% returns (with NASDAQ over 80%) between March and August of this year. The amount of greed presented in the market parallels that of many officials as well as characters in the novel.
Perhaps on a positive note, the gains weren’t all allocated to those in power as presented in the novel, but there is a concern about the disconnect between a weakened economy (with uncertainty of the future) and a soaring market trying to point out an inefficiency.