Although it’s hard to remember now, just over a year ago there were people in Britain still advocating a zero Covid strategy – not reducing infections to manageable levels but seeking to eliminate every last case through hard mass. . Regular testing and imprisonment of the population. It should have been obvious at the time where this would lead, but for those who’d rather wait for solid, truly global evidence, they can see what’s happening now in China.
Almost alone among nations, China has never given up on its dream of eradicating Covid, and this week the result has been the announcement of more lockdowns. Six million people in the city of Guangzhou — Canton in ancient times, just 100 miles from Hong Kong — have been ordered to stay home. Unless the country quickly changes course, there will be a lot more of this to come. Recorded cases of the virus in China, at around 30,000 a day, are higher than at any point in the pandemic.
Zero-Covid may have seemed smart for a while, as in the new year 2021 when many western countries were trying and failing to control Covid with a late lockdown, but the Chinese were allowed to celebrate the festival in an almost normal way. But that faded quickly once the West was vaccinated and the inevitable outbreak continued in China. It didn’t help that China’s vaccines were far inferior to those developed in the West.
In his obsessive attempt to show superiority over Western countries in dealing with the pandemic, Xi Jinping has doomed his country to send life back to 2020 forever. If this policy continues, China will never return to normal. The world has been tremendously successful in eradicating the smallpox virus, but eradicating an endemic coronavirus like SARS-CoV-2 is pointless — just ask the staff who worked for years at a defunct British cold research laboratory.
No matter Ukraine, no matter the gas shortage, Xi’s pig’s head has become the biggest threat to the world economy. For years, China has been the driver of global economic growth, but not anymore. Guangzhou is a major producer of silicon wafers, and its shortage has already brought the auto industry almost to its knees. Having weaned ourselves off Russian gas, we will then have to start thinking about how we can live without Chinese electronics and other goods, if our importers do not find their supply chains regularly cut by frequent shutdowns.
But can Zero-Covid lead to the end of Xi Jinping itself? It takes a lot to get the Chinese to riot – there is too much to lose, too little support. However, this week, Guangzhou saw crowds take to the streets, overturning cars, throwing objects at police and chanting “no more tests”.
At the height of Covid in Britain, Professor Neil Ferguson and a few other scientists professed admiration at how the British public had accepted serious restrictions on their freedoms — far more easily than they had imagined. In short, it seemed as if the entire world was turning toward China — that authoritarianism was triumphing over freedom, and freedom of speech in particular. But with China’s population depleted by the zero-Covid policy, now in its third year, things have turned around. Not only have authoritarian public health policies proven ineffective, but the Chinese people are responding to a rare collective challenge.