How China Is Handling COVID Nowadays
What do you do when there's an earthquake?
Well, the safety rules all depend on where you are.
If you're in a car, stop the car and stay inside. If you're outside, find an open spot, far from power lines. If you're inside, and your building is damaged, get outside right away, in case it collapses on you...
Unless you're in China, under lockdown, that is. Then the safety rules don't apply.
Case in point: The politburo in Beijing dictated last week that Chengdu go into lockdown — maybe just for a few days, they said. we'll see how it goes.
Then, on Monday, there was an earthquake in the area, estimated at 6.6 on the Richter scale.
If you were in Chengdu, like many of the other 32 cities currently under various lockdowns, you couldn't leave your apartment building. Doors are locked — in some cases, maybe even welded shut, just to be sure.
In the United States, if a town suffers a natural disaster, the National Guard, the Salvation Army, and lots of other groups, both public and private, rush to the town's aid. Not in China.
In China on Monday and Tuesday, in the aftermath of the earthquake, plenty of government employees in hazmat suits were seen in Chengdu — guarding the doors of apartment buildings, making sure the residents don't try to leave.
It's not the first time Xi Jinping's government has reacted to a natural disaster this way. Remember when the illness now known as COVID-19 was first reported, in the city of Wuhan? Chairman Xi directed that buildings be closed, that doors and windows be welded shut, that the population be locked in their apartments, as underground reports of morgue vans and mobile crematoriums filled the city.
China isn't exactly forthcoming with verifiable statistics. The Chinese will report numbers of positive cases and the numbers of cities on lockdown; they'll boast how this shows their commitment to the "zero COVID" goal of the government that all but certainly created and released the virus in the first place.
But they won't share such data as how serious these cases really are, whether people are still dying of this at all, or whether there is in fact any scientific justification for these closures today...especially after two years of global experience indicating that lockdowns don't have any real effect on the spread, and the fact that current iterations of this very flexible virus aren't substantially different from the traditional "seasonal flus" to which the world has been accustomed for generations.
All this leaves one to wonder, as we see city after city go into lockdown at Chairman Xi's direction, 2.5 years into this thing, if, just perhaps, something else is really going on here.
These lockdowns sometimes last a weekend, sometimes weeks. Numerous major manufacturing and shipping areas like Shanghai and Shenzhen have been closed for over a month each over the past year.
Every time an area is locked down, it's another direct punch to the gut of the global supply chain. Truckers can't pick up needed cargo...or employees can't enter their factories to manufacture goods...or inbound air and sea shipments can't get in to be delivered, contributing to nightmarish overcrowding at seaports and airports, all full to bursting with cargo containers and warehouses full of loaded pallets.
Mainland China (or the People's Republic of China, or Red China, call it what you will) has spent forty years successfully making the rest of the world dependent upon it.
Europe, North America, and Latin America all need raw materials, components, and finished products from China for our own respective economies. Every one of Chairman Xi's lockdowns hurts all these other economies that much more.
Chairman Xi knows all this. So does his politburo. They're fine with it.
They know that these lockdowns don't help stamp out the virus. They know that their own people suffer and die from the lack of commerce, lack of food, lack of health care, lack of human contact, that comes from lockdowns. The whole world has 2.5 years of data on this; it's not exactly a secret.
And yet they do it anyway.
We can't know for sure; we can't get inside the heads of the politburo in Beijing. But what we can do is look at two historical snapshots: the past ten years and the past seventy years.
In the past ten years, we have seen numerous reports — from all sides — detailing concern with the current Chinese model. They can't create jobs fast enough; they can't support the standard of living their people demand. As they become a more modern country, their people need better salaries, which gradually loses them the advantage of being the lowest-priced of the "low cost countries."
China has become less and less competitive in recent years; the Chinese are losing work for their existing workers, and the constant influx of new business from a global economy eager for their cheap labor is dwindling.
What to do?
Now let's look back and consider the past seventy years. Ever since the communist revolution that installed Chairman Mao at the helm, the Chinese way has been to institute lethal policies to reduce the country's economic needs and coldly increase its GDP. (We must remember that, if you take morality out of it, there are two ways to increase per capita GDP: either leave the population alone and increase product, or leave product alone and reduce the population.)
These programs included the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and so many more. A few million killed in one, tens of millions killed in another... Overall, at least a hundred million of their own people — their fellow Chinese — were killed in the Chinese Communist Party's quest to build an enduring communist empire.
The Soviet Union fell in 1991. Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the rest of its onetime satellites were quickly freed. While some heirs of the Soviet era remain on the scene (with Vladimir Putin a particularly chilling exception), the governments of the Warsaw Pact were at least overthrown and replaced.
No such change has ever occurred in Mainland China.
China has been run by the same form of government in a seamless line from the 1940s to the present. The politburo has remained in place, growing and changing as members died or retired and were cycled through the dictator's chair.
There is a clear and direct succession, as current members remember their mentors, and even their mentors' mentors. These are the people — over the long years — who gave the orders to arrest or starve or evict or conscript or torture or kill — not enemies in a time of war, but neighbors in a time of peace.
When we consider what these men and their mentors have been capable of in the past, is it so difficult to consider what they may be capable of today?
Might they be ordering shutdowns — not out of concern for health over profit, as they wish to have it appear to caring Westerners, but perhaps as an opportunity to create an excuse for a lack of profit that was unavoidable anyway?
If China, after decades of growth, suddenly came to an economic standstill, losing market share up and down because it simply wasn't so competitive anymore, that would reflect badly on Chairman Xi and his politburo. It would reflect badly on the communist model.
But if the Chinese could blame some virus for these manufacturing and transportation closures — if they could show that it's not communism's fault that the country is no longer providing sustainable growth — then that's a win, no matter how painful a win it may be to the individual.
Don't worry about those truckers who can't get work because they are banned from driving. Don't worry about the urbanites who can't get food because it's not allowed to be transported from the farms into the locked down cities. Don't worry about the residents locked in their apartment buildings for weeks.
The individual doesn't matter in a communist system. We Americans would have compassion for the struggling workers, the starving families, the imprisoned renters...the Chinese government does not, cannot, must not.
In communism, all that matters is serving the dialectic.
And so, in his way, that's what Chairman Xi does.
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international transportation professional. A onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman, he has been writing a regular column for Illinois Review since 2009. His book on vote fraud (The Tales of Little Pavel) and his political satires on the current administration (Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes I and II) are available on Amazon.