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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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HomeCOVID-19Why is China madly pursuing Zero Covid? Because it can

Why is China madly pursuing Zero Covid? Because it can

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The writer is in Australia.

IN THE dark days of Victoria’s shameful Covid era, Premier Daniel Andrews suddenly became globally infamous, at least for those of us who cared about massive infringements of individual freedom and rights. One nation that thought Andrews had gone too far was . . . China! Yes, the Chinese Communists thought that Andrews had jumped the shark on Covidmania. 

Victoria has recently come out of the Covid emergency era. The world’s worst former Covid dictator has ‘moved on’. 

Not so in China, which created the virus – with or without help from Anthony Fauci and Peter Daszak – and which patented the infamous ‘China solution’, so popular subsequently in the West. Of course, Daniel Andrews has the inconvenience of an election next month. His buddy in Beijing, Xi Jinping, has no such constraints. He is currently waltzing through the Chinese Communist Party’s Congress with his own future as boss all but guaranteed. 

He wasn’t meant to. Deng Xiaoping, who led China from 1978 to November 1989, put in place a two-term rule for president. Xi has quietly dispensed with all that, just as his regime has quietly dispensed with all moral decency and good sense in fighting the virus. He has locked up great swathes of the country in what can only be described as savage lockdowns, much of the rest of the world shamelessly following him. 

China’s population is currently (2020) 1,402billion. Its official Covid case numbers are puny by any measure, let alone in relation to China’s population. They reportedly had 1,193 new cases on October 15.  

The economic costs of the lockdowns to the country have been severe. Economic growth as measured by GDP, down from an already anaemic (for China) growth rate. Internal travel crushed. Housing markets crashing. Investment down. Manufacturing shrinking. The regime must know the impacts that its own insane approach to Covid is having.  And with such low case numbers. 

So why on earth is China pursuing zero Covid, and in such a maniacal way, when even the most extremist Covid warriors have either toned down their regimes or have abandoned them entirely?   

A case can be made that China spread the virus globally deliberately or at least knowingly. Its motives would not have been all that mysterious. To defeat Trump? Plausible and successful. To crush the West’s economies and societies? Very, very plausible and accomplished magnificently. Sheer hubris in thinking that man can defeat a virus? Maybe. Stubbornness? Yes, of course. The Covid approach in China is owned by Xi. No admitting mistakes, or letting others think that you bungled. Western leaders have, to a large extent successfully, walked back the extreme approaches of 2020-22 with hardly anyone noticing or taking them to task. Perhaps even an all-powerful Xi feels he cannot do the same. Man’s greatest sin is pride. Perhaps Chinese dictators simply cannot abide defeat, even by a virus. A virus that we made! 

China indeed has had a very good Covid, as I have argued at length previously. March 2020 was an opportunity and a teaching moment for China, having manufactured the virus.  Pre-Meloni Italy was the first, infamously, to buy the political cure, what with all those Chinese Italians returning from Chinese New Year celebrations in Wuhan and linked cities. In London, Professor Lockdown couldn’t believe his luck. His modelling plus Chinese totalitarianism would keep him in grants for years to come. All he had to do as convince Boris. Then Chinese lockdowns spread to the rest of the world. Never have so many dominoes fallen so quickly, with such little resistance. 

But that was March 2020. Surely the geopolitical gains China made from teaching the West how to be evil and destructive are now in the past.  While China’s joint control with Bill Gates of the World Health Organisation continues and may even grow, with the proposed Pandemic Treaty likely to give the co-owners of the WHO almost unassailable control of global public health, the big gains for Chinese world domination made through its export of zero Covid policy were one-off, I would think. There is nothing to be gained now internationally through a zero Covid policy at home. 

The American political scientist Graham Allison wrote one of the most influential works of politics in his 1971 book Essence of Decision. Though the book was about the (again highly relevant) 1962 Cuban missile crisis, his way of looking at decision-making is of great interest in thinking about Covid policy. 

Allison constructed three different ways (or ‘lenses’) through which analysts can examine events: the ‘Rational Actor’ model, the ‘Organizational Behavior’ model and the ‘Governmental Politics’ model. 

As has often been suggested by Covid dissidents, there has been precious little during Covid to suggest that the rational actor model is of much remaining use in explaining political decisions. Half a century’s science was overturned in a month. China’s response was never any more ‘rational’ than anyone else’s. Even less so, now. So, if Allison is right, it must be a combination of the other two models, even in totalitarian China with its top-down control of all things political. 

Perhaps no one in China is game to disagree with the regime. If we think that the Western approach to Covid dissidents has been relentless, cruel and inhumane, just imagine what they do to them in China. It wouldn’t do much for your social credit score to go putting anti-lockdown and anti-vaxx messages on WeChat. 

And so the policy madness goes on, with no end in sight. Covid proved that West can do totalitarianism. Rather easily, as it turns out. That doesn’t mean that China can do democracy. From the time of Mao, they have been in the people-crushing business. It was only gullible Westerners who thought, far too optimistically, that China would change once it got a whiff of capitalism under Deng. No such luck. Covid proves that no opportunity is too ludicrous or insubstantial to get back to people-crushing.  No other explanation really nails it.  Certainly not rational decision-making.   

Cruelty and control are in China’s political DNA. Just ask the freedom-fighters of Hong Kong. The martyrs of Tiananmen Square. Falun Gong.  Cardinal Zen. Taipei. Covid brutality is, sadly, a walk in the park. 

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Paul Collits
Paul Collits
Paul Collits is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Quadrant Online

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