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The New York Times, after deciding that lockdowns are authoritarian and bad when China does them, is now mildly terrified as Xi Jinping reopens and infections rise
You can take the New York Times out of lockdown, but you can’t take the lockdowns out of the New York Times.
“From Zero Covid to No Plan: Behind China’s Pandemic U-Turn” is the headline of the latest highly revealing Times reporting on the end of Zero Covid in China. “After micromanaging the coronavirus strategy for nearly three years,” we read, “…Xi Jinping has suddenly left the populace to improvise.”
The essence of the piece is that the Chinese have rightly regained their freedoms, but they’re now left to face a terrifying virus alone and undefended by their government, which is also very bad, and possibly worse than the lockdowns, as bad as they were.
China’s party-run media has cast the shift [from Zero Covid] as a stressful but well-considered exit, opening the way back to good economic times. Warnings about the dangers of the coronavirus have swiftly disappeared, replaced by official claims that the Omicron variant is generally mild. By holding off from easing until now, the government has saved many lives, the People’s Daily said on Thursday in a long article defending Mr. Xi’s pandemic strategy as “totally correct.”
In reality, an examination of how the shift unfolded in Chongqing and elsewhere reveals a government overtaken by a cascade of Covid outbreaks, confusion over directives, economic woes and then rare political protests. …
It’s almost like mass containment doesn’t do anything aside from wrecking the economy and ruining everyone’s lives. I’m glad the Times can finally come close to admitting this now, in the last weeks of 2022.
By changing only a handful of words, you could make key sections of the article apply to Germany, or any western nation aside from Sweden or Belarus:
Even the Chinese Communist Party, a virtuoso at controlling the narrative, is finding it difficult to sell the policy lurch to anxious residents.
[Xi] turned China’s intense top-to-bottom mobilization against the pandemic into a showcase of the party’s organizational strength. For two years, his Covid war enjoyed widespread public acceptance, but eventually the effort exhausted staff, strained local finances, and appeared to drown out attempts to discuss, let alone devise, a measured transition.
Whereas in the West, we had totally open and honest discussions about the insane, enduring closures, that weren’t marked by massive censorship and government intimidation at all. Otherwise, Western nations were themselves locked in exactly this same international competition, eager to display the fruits of their superior pandemic planning to the world, and terrified that failure that failure would cost them legitimacy. One of the reasons Germany locked down so hard during Fall 2020, was that the Merkel government had collected many international plaudits for their handling of the first wave—effectively taking credit for the seasonality of infections. They were unwilling to surrender the regard they had earned so easily.
Mr. Xi has no likely successor and could stay in power for at least another decade. But the scars from the abrupt change may feed distrust in his domineering style.
It’s not subjecting his whole country to absurd containment theatre over what is no more than an influenza-level risk that poses a political problem for Xi, but rather “the scars from the abrupt change” in policy.
Finally the reporters get around to discussing the protests.
In Zhengzhou in central China, thousands of workers clashed with police at an iPhone plant, angry about a delay in bonuses and the handling of an outbreak.
In Haizhu, a textile manufacturing district in southern China, laborers poured onto the streets over food shortages and hardships under lockdown. Migrant workers, who depend on daily work for their livelihoods, went weeks without jobs.
“I couldn’t make a living this year,” said Zhou Kaice, a street porter in Chongqing. “Some bosses I worked for started up for a few days but were then shut by lockdowns.”
Despite the strains, officials still insisted China must win its pandemic war. Provincial leaders throughout November declared their commitment to “zero Covid,” often citing Mr. Xi as their lodestone.
“If pandemic controls were loosened, that would inevitably create mass infections,” said a Xinhua editorial on Nov. 19. “Economic and social development and the public’s physical health and safety would be seriously hurt.”
How many times did we have to read that lockdowns were the ultimate way to grow the economy, because without them, the virus would somehow destroy all business activity?
It’s also interesting how anti-lockdown protestors in the West are thugs and stupid conspiracy-crazed Nazis, while in China they are “students, workers and homeowners.”
By [November], China’s most widespread protests since 1989 had begun. Students, workers and homeowners in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere vented against Covid controls, angered by a fire in western China that many believed, despite official denials, had killed residents trapped in their apartments by lockdowns.
“I tell you that in this world there’s only one sickness, and that’s poverty and having no freedom, and we’ve got plenty of that,” said a Chongqing man whose tirade went viral in China.
“Give me liberty or give me death,” he shouted, using the Chinese version of the American revolutionary battle cry.
Sounds like the Canadian trucker protests—you know, those guys who posed such a threat to freedom and democracy that it proved necessary to freeze their bank accounts.
At the end, the Times assures its heavily masked and vaccinated readership that “most people are staying home,” but that “if deaths rise sharply, public anger could revive” because “infections could hinder a quick economic rebound.”
Until we Decovidify the newsrooms, there will never be sane reporting on SARS-2 in any major press outlet, ever.
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