I should have expected that. You can’t fight beliefs with data, and that’s especially true when the data challenge an entrenched worldview. To understand that, just try to discuss the limits to economic growth with an economist. Or maybe try to teach stratigraphy to a biblical literalist — I never did that, but I suppose the results would be the same.
So, it seems that the Chinese society pushed itself into a self-reinforcing memetic loop, where nobody can admit that their initial success with containing the pandemic was not due to their cultural and genetic superiority but, most likely, to the fact that the virus had been already circulating for some time in China so that the Chinese had acquired a certain degree of natural immunity against it. When the virus mutated into a different form, it started diffusing rapidly, as viruses do, without giving a peduncle about lockdowns, face masks, dead pets, and vaccines developed for earlier viruses.
The problem is that an authoritarian government can’t admit having been wrong. Let me cite again from Chuck’s post,
So what do you do, if you’re the CCP, and especially if you sit on the Central Committee of the CCP
, who extremely likely knows the whole backstory (as do our various organs, like Fauci/NIAID and the CIA)? You double down. Because you now know that you’re in Nazi High Command territory
, where when the Big Lie comes due, your head will roll. Forget about Grandma. People in China love their kitty-cats too, and no one wants to be the one that tells the general public they murdered their pet for a failed governmental strategy. (Note — I am not inserting easily found Youtube videos on this because it is so upsetting.)
Conversely, it seems that, today, the West has at least a chance to shake off its fixation with the zero-covid policy and with the disastrous and ineffective measures that were taken as a consequence. It is a fighting chance, but it is a chance. The Chinese may arrive at that point, too, but it may turn out to be a longer and more painful road.
On the other hand, don’t make me take the opposite, and just as wrong, position that the West is somehow culturally superior to China because of our democracy and freedom of expression (by now, both purely theoretical). True, the Western governments didn’t arrive to the point of exterminating people’s pets, but the Covid pandemic showed how similar Westerners and Chinese are: both easily coerced into submission by authoritarian governments. The main difference seems to be that the Chinese still trust their government, and we bloody don’t.
Then, I also understand — and appreciate — the position of my Chinese colleague on harmony. I wish that here, in the West, we cared more about harmony instead of dividing ourselves into tribes of angry individuals who then spend most of their time insulting the members of other tribes. This attitude is not going to do us any good when the chow mein hits the fan. And that may be soon.
On China and Covid, you may read other posts on The Seneca Effect Blog here
, and here
. Below, an excerpt from the excellent post by Eugyppius
, that I mentioned at the beginning:
As late as last year, my theory was that China had exported lockdowns to the West while quietly redefining testing criteria and taking other steps to make the pandemic disappear domestically. It turns out that I was totally wrong. The Chinese remained deeply committed to Zero Covid the whole time, while benefiting from the strangely mild behaviour of SARS-2 in East Asia. As the virus has drifted genetically from the wild type and in response to growing immunity across the world, it’s only become more virulent in China. The Chinese have responded not by ignoring infections, but by cracking down ever harder.
There’s obviously shades of the old mid-century Communist regimes here. You have the General Secretary and other high party officials setting lunatic policy goals, which are then eagerly implemented by corrupt and sycophantic bureaucrats, who hope only to curry favour within the Party and secure promotion. But the infamous Five Year Plans at least had the ostensible economic purpose of industrialisation. Zero Covid is wholly pointless, and there’s no way for China ever to end this except by admitting defeat.
I often wonder if there isn’t something addictive about lockdowns, at least to the bureaucrats who get hold of these policies and implement them. Or perhaps it’s a disease of administration, subject to the same three-step progression everywhere. There is, first, the initial act of mass containment, followed by a seasonally-driven collapse in infections and the illusion of victory. The second step is the winter, when infections spike again despite all the masks and the tests. In response, the pandemicists intensify the old restrictions, now far less effective and far more costly than anybody had imagined. The third and final step is then a gradual abandonment of containment as counter-productive and futile. The only thing that’s different in China is that two years, rather than six months, intervened before their the first and the second stages of their disease. They’re like a nightmare version of what we were in Fall 2020.