A Crack in the Great Covid Wall of China
We can now see that the fight against Covid lockdowns is global. The official liberal narrative—that opposition to lockdowns was just “Ron Death Santis” and cranky ultra-conservatives in red states—has long since been shot to hell.
For freedom-loving Americans, it’s heartening to know that people all over the world want to breathe free and to be free. And it’s even more heartening to know that protests can work. December 1 headline from Reuters tells of modest success in one of the most controlled countries in the world: “China set to loosen COVID curbs after week of historic protests.” As the article detailed, “The measures due to be unveiled include a reduction in the use of mass testing… as well as moves to allow positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions.” That is, as opposed to being penned up in a “closed loop” factory or being hied off to a medical-prison camp. On December 5, Chinese official media announced the change, and informal social media provides plenty more evidence. As the BBC observed on December 5, the Beijing regime was “never going to apologize,” but has nonetheless found a “face-saving” way out of its losing battle with human nature.
The protests, from moments of personal courage to larger street clashes—one chant in particular will seem familiar to Americans, “Give me freedom or give me death!”—have had some good effect. China is in no sense a free country, but it’s a freer country, thanks to people power. Despite continuing institutional cruelty, we can now see at least a crack in the Great Covid Wall of China.
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר امیلی شریدر (@emilykschrader) November 27, 2022
Chinese woman refuses to move as security forces move toward her as she is filming them beating up other protesters.
She has been given the name “the new tank man” on Chinese dissident social media. pic.twitter.com/bcWGH5dT33
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) November 28, 2022
Indeed, those old enough might think back to the 1990 pop song, “Right Here, Right Now,” which was inspired by the fall of the Soviet Union’s Berlin Wall the year before:
Right here, right now
There is no other place I want to be
Right here, right now
Watching the world wake up from history
Indeed, some have even speculated that China’s Maximum Leader, Xi Jinping, might be removed in a coup, as was, say, the leader of communist Romania back in 1989. However, we should know that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is acutely aware of the potential parallel and has spent decades planning to avoid that fate–and the latest concessions are a part of that strategizing. The CCP hasn’t lasted this long–it has ruled China since 1949–by being careless about its power.
Communists Play the Long Game
China is for sure a totalitarian country, but it’s a peculiarly sly totalitarianism. Loud public protests happen all the time there, and the CCP has developed clever counter-strategy: It allows demonstrations, and doesn’t necessarily crack down on them, so long as they are just letting off steam. That is, isolated movements are okay, but coordinated movements, not okay.
If things get out of hand, the police spring their trap. They have tracked everyone’s movements by their cell phones—including their health information—and so it’s easy for the authorities to deduct from someone’s social credit score or, of course, to make an arrest. We can add that this use of totalizing power is exactly what digital dissident Julian Assange warned against back in 2011, when he declared the internet to be “the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen.”
Yet there’s a problem with having too much power: It goes to your head. And that’s what has happened to Xi, who has awarded himself god-like (in his view) powers. In Xi’s mind, the battle against Covid—and we’re leaving aside, for space reasons, the not unimportant question of where the virus came from–is a great opportunity to “prove” the superiority of the Chinese model: Comrade Xi and CCP defeat the virus. It’s a great scenario for Reds, starring Xi as the self-declared Core of the party and country. All this commie dramaturgy might sound ridiculous, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Consider the gobbledygook trumpeted by the CCP in May:
Practice has proven that our prevention and control policy is determined by the nature and purpose of the Party, our prevention and control policies can stand the test of history, and our prevention and control measures are scientific and effective. We have won the battle to defend Wuhan, and we will certainly be able to win the battle to defend Shanghai.
Where does one find propagandists who can write this sort of stuff and keep a straight face? And then send out ruthless secret police to enforce the crazy directives? The ridiculousness of it all becomes glaring in light of evidence that it’s all fake.
The South China Morning Post reports, “Many mainlanders also question the accuracy of official case numbers as they notice more people around them with infections.” Indeed, in many instances, the police themselves have tested positive, and yet they have kept detaining others for this “crime.” As the Daily Mail put it, “It’s clear that zero-Covid is now primarily about politics, power and mass surveillance, not health. Its rigid enforcement has become a gauge of loyalty to the president. Defeating the virus has become central to the cult of Xi.”
If all this mendacious and cultish behavior seems like bad performance art, that’s because it is. Communists have done it before. For perspective, we might think back to Russia scholar Adam Ulam, who wrote in his 1973 book Stalin: the Man and His Era that the Stalinist system in the middle of the last century, was, in a word, “preposterous”:
Pompous slogans, grotesque rituals, doctored production figures, literature and art and scholarship harnessed by senseless formulas, the whole style of the period one of contrived vulgarity as well as of contrived unctuousness, an all-pervasive bureaucracy that was at once the most meddlesome and the most frightened of any in history—these are also important aspects of Soviet reality in Stalin’s day.
By the way, a half-century ago Ulam compared Josef Stalin to Mao Zedong, who was then still alive. Today, of course, Mao is dead, and yet the Stalin-Mao way of thinking still permeates the CCP. As The New York Times reported in September, “The zero-Covid campaign is probably the clearest testament to the power of Mr. Xi, who proved that he is as capable of mobilizing the masses as Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, who launched the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.”
And if all that Maoism hurts the Chinese economy? Forces other countries to reconsider their China-based supply chains? Plunges foreign business confidence to an all-time low? Even that of longtime friend Apple? U.S. business orders down 40 percent? Well, Mao never cared about the economy and supply chains and all that. Maoism was about the ostentatious display of power. And the same is proving true of Xiism.
We can add that another aspect of Xi’s pseudo-religion is that the Core can never admit a mistake. In the words of Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, Zero-Covid was “supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the ‘Chinese model,’ but ended up demonstrating the risk that when authoritarian regimes make mistakes, those mistakes can be colossal.” But, Nathan added, “The regime has backed itself into a corner and has no way to yield. It has lots of force, and if necessary, it will use it.”
The Lockdown Industrial Complex
In pursuit of Xi’s vision, China has created a “Lockdown Industrial Complex” (LIC) that spent $230 billion last year. With that much money, and with millions of people on the LIC payroll—doing everything from forcing testing on the street to spraying disinfectant over cities to sanitizing library books on the shelves—we can see that China has created a huge constituency for more testing, more lockdowns.
This is true for any bureaucracy: bureaucrats naturally wish to permanentize themselves by entrenching their activity, whatever it might be. In this case, of course, the bureaucracy is at war with the economic productivity of the Chinese, to say nothing of their little liberty. To which the LIC bureaucrats say, too bad.
Beyond the LIC is the CCP, which is itself a giant bureaucracy, and so it, too, is primarily focused on its own survival. That’s why, by a wide margin, China spends more on internal security than it does on national defense.
The lopsidedness of the CCP system means that other solutions to Covid that might work better are given short shrift. For instance, the CCP doesn’t wish to admit that its home-made vaccine works only 50-60 percent of the time. By comparison, Western vaccines are around 90 percent effective. So in an attempt to make up for that deficiency, Xi launched his lockdown policy. And that policy kept getting scarier.
The Financial Times explains, “In recent months, the expression ‘white guards’ has been used online, invoking the Red Guards of the past.” And adds of the CCP’s white-clad bullies, dabai in Chinese, “Their sense that what was happening at [a Covid detention site] was normal . . . It was as though the bureaucracy . . . was the natural phenomenon.”
The Lockdown International
Speaking of bureaucracy as a supposedly “natural phenomenon,” we might recall that on this side of the Pacific, the U.S. has been through its own milder version of Xi/CCP lockdowns. Remember, back in 2020, when people were arrested for gathering in a religious service, outdoors? To be sure, the elites in the U.S. have cooled their enthusiasm for such preposterously cruel measures, and yet there’s still plenty of Xi-ish zeal about masks.
In fact, within the American public-health apparatus, there’s still at least residual support for lockdowns. For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci has expressed, albeit in polite terms, mild opposition to the extremes of China’s lockdown policy. (Fauci might be thinking to himself he doesn’t want to get the Chinese mad enough to release their files on him.) And yet, Fauci added, if lockdowns were linked to mandatory vaccines, “then you could see how a temporary lockdown like that [would be useful].” In other words, American public-health powercrats still sort of agree with their Chinese counterparts. And MSM handmaidens agree: On December 9, The New York Times cited “medical experts” urging China “to conduct a six-month vaccination campaign before opening up.” Think about that: Six months of being told to get vaxed, or else.
In fact, the quiet similarity of thinking goes right to the top. One headline nailed it: “Biden mute as protests demand freedom around the world.” (That is, not only is Biden soft on China’s hard policy, he’s still, almost two years into his presidency, trying to restore the discredited Iran nuclear deal, dealing with its despotic government, even as the Iranian people use their people power to force change. Indeed, the similarity between the Chinese and Iranian protests led Chinese dissident Cao Changqing to tweet, “…only by fighting can some rights be won back. The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage.”) Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted that the Biden administration’s response to all these protests has been “pitiful.”
For its part, Main Stream Media coverage also reflects a quiet agreement that tough policies, dictated by the overworld, are needed to keep the masses in line. For instance, here’s the way Time describes the situation in China: “experts suggest that ending the strategy now would invite a public health crisis.” In other words, China might be stuck doing what it’s doing. Interestingly, Time added of China, “Prolonged isolation has also stunted the population’s herd immunity.” Oh. So herd immunity was a good idea all along? So all the “trust the science” experts who ripped the idea of herd immunity when, for instance, Sweden was doing it—were wrong? Now that the Swedes have been proven right, how many of those trust-the-sciencers have changed their mind a wee bit without ever admitting publicly that they were wrong?
While we’re on the subject of Europe, we can add that Ursula von der Leyen, president of the 27-country European Commission, tipped her hand recently when she declared that Europe was must “flatten the curve” on energy consumption—that is, learn to live with rationing and scarcity. Hmm. Justifying suppression and control in the name of flattening the curve—now where have we heard that before?
Closer to home, just on December 1 the Los Angeles Times reported on local Covid conditions: “Should hospital measures worsen, L.A. County could be on track for the return of a mandatory mask mandate in indoor public settings.” We can note the strange passive-voice construction in the story: Why, it’s as if the masks will just mandate themselves. So what’s going on? We can surmise that no L.A. elected official wants to get the blame for actually ordering re-masking, so the diktat will just emerge from the bureaucracy, with reporters obliging as transmitters.
This is the stubborn groupthink—one part mask-mandate, one part lockdown, one part Great Reset, all parts top-down domination—that’s shared, at least to some extent, by those atop the commanding heights of China, the U.S. and Europe.
In the face of all this collective stifling, one does, for sure, yearn to breathe free. Fortunately, to help clear the air, we have Florida governor DeSantis, who says:
This zero-COVID policy is draconian, it violates people’s liberties, and it is completely unscientific. And the people of China are right to be able to speak out and protest against what the Chinese Communist Party is doing. We need these draconian COVID policies to go to the ash heap of history where they belong.
Hmm. The ash heap of history. That phrase, once much beloved by Stalinists and other Marxists, was used against them by Ronald Reagan. Thanks to Reagan’s policies back in 1989, it was the Soviet Union and its Berlin Wall that ended up on the ash heap.
So now to today in 2022: Right here, right now, dare we dream that the Chinese people will wake up from their totalitarian history? To defy the CCP and to tear down their wall? The answer is, Yes, we can dream, and sometimes, as in 1989, dreams do come true.
If the people of Eastern Europe could do it then, hopefully the people of China can do it today, long odds notwithstanding. But of course, it’s their country and their fight.
In the meantime, Americans should defend our hard-won rights. And part of that defense means making sure that the preposterous lock-downers are put in the policy equivalent of a lockbox, where they can’t hurt the rest of us. And yes, in that box, they can wear a mask. Two, if they wish.