In Shanghai, COVID-19 has become China’s political disease
In Shanghai, COVID-19 has become China’s political disease

In Shanghai, COVID-19 has become China’s political disease

In afflicted Shanghai, China’s largest city, residents travel days without food and weeks without medication, pets are slaughteredpeople jump to death and residents break quarantine past flooded streets in protest. There is clashes with the police. Frustrated residents howl from windows and balconies while police drones hover nearby and demand silence. Robot dogs patrol neighborhoods. That Shanghainese talk about “the white terror” and “white culture revolution” because of the hazmat suits seen everywhere.

China’s financial capital has been reduced to a barter economy. Desperate residents exchange goods for food. “Coca-Cola is Hard Currency,” writes New York Times columnist Li Yuan.

As a Chinese resident of a city near Shanghai told one of my friends this month: “Shanghai is in a critical situation now.”

The Communist Party transformed Shanghai, a city of 27.8 million people, into what Tucker Carlson appropriate called “the largest prison camp in human history.” The inhumanity of China’s almost total closure of this metropolis – the party says it maintains a “dynamic zero-COVID” policy – is not an aberration. It is the logical extension of the governing organization’s you-should-put-policy-in-command-system.

As Charles Burton of the Ottawa-based Macdonald Laurier Institute tells me, “The lockdown in Shanghai perfectly reflects the logic of the tyrannical rule of the Chinese Communist Party.”

It therefore does not matter that disease control measures do not make sense for China’s 1.41 billion people. They should only make sense for one person, the ruler Xi Jinping.

The tactics of the Chinese Communist Party do not work. In fact, they are likely to help spread the disease. For example, residents waiting in long queues to be tested – tests are usually performed daily – are expected to transmit the disease, and those transferred to rudimentary quarantine facilities, where mixing under unhygienic conditions, undoubtedly end up doing the same.

At the same time, the strict lockdown rules have, among other things, blocked access to non-COVID health care, split families apart, severely disrupted society and undermined livelihoods and the wider Chinese economy.

The extreme COVID-19 control approach in Shanghai is a reflection of what is happening around China. Nomura discretion that shutdowns and other restrictions are currently affecting 45 cities in China, accounting for about 25 percent of the country’s population and about 40 percent of its gross domestic product.

China’s now totalitarian regime is prepared for anything. On April 6, the party’s branch in Shanghai issued an open letter demanding members “dare to show their swords and fight against all forms of conduct that disrupt and destroy the overall effort against the pandemic.” April 3, China’s military sent more than 2,000 doctors to the city in what looked like a less than subtle warning. If the People’s Liberation Army can deploy doctors and nurses, it can also deploy soldiers.

Because the COVID-19 control campaign in Shanghai is misleading from any perspective, it must be driven by the policies of the Communist Party.

It seems that there are two main reasons why the party has gone out of control. The organization’s elite gather for the 20th National Congress, if tradition holds, in October or November.

Every national congress, now held once every five years, is a crucial event. This year’s Congress is even more. Xi Jinping is aiming for an unprecedented third term as Secretary-General. In other words, this is where he will be – or will not be – China’s dictator for life.

Xi is considered the author of the COVID-19 restrictions, so he can not allow criticism of them at this particularly sensitive time and can not change the COVID-19 policy at least until he gets his coveted third term. Any admission in high-ranking Communist Party circles would be seen as an admission of guilt. Xi is not about to give his many opponents the equivalent of a dagger. “Prevention and control work cannot be relaxed,” Xi saidas reported by the official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday.

Moreover, since the first months of the pandemic, the Communist Party has made the number of the country’s infections and deaths a test of its effectiveness. Persistent propaganda maintains the line that Chinese communism is superior to American democracy because China has been better able to control the disease. The Chinese authorities, despite several reports to the contrary, has not acknowledged any deaths in Shanghai during the current wave.

Any case of coronavirus in China is considered a threat to the rule of the Communist Party. Therefore, the regime is in a full state of information repression. It does not matter if disease control measures are clearly wrong. This has become a question of the legitimacy and survival of the regime.

Half a decade ago, foreigners gossiped about the party’s “meritocratic” rule. Defenders acknowledged the inhumanity of the organization, but nonetheless claimed that it provided superior governance over that of Western democracies. However, as the COVID-19 debacle unfolds in Shanghai and other cities, people no longer make that argument. As Burton points out, “the consequences of the Chinese Communist Party’s hubris have been tragic and unnecessary deaths.”

How can anyone praise China’s political system now? To please one person, Chinese communism is destroying a big city – and an amazing people.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang.


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