The US Is Not Responsible For China's COVID Policies
A response to a bad post.
The United States of America is a democracy. It’s a flawed democracy, but it’s a democracy. What does that mean? Well, you know, it could mean a lot of things, but for our purposes let’s reduce it to this: in the US, if an overwhelming majority of Americans want to fuck chickens, eventually the government will legalize fucking chickens. If an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want their chickens to ever get fucked, then eventually the government might pass some prohibitions on chicken fucking.
There is an imperfect but real connection between what the people in the country want and what the government does.
Not all countries are like this!
In some countries, if the dictator says “you will fuck chickens” and you say “but, gov, I don’t want to fuck a chicken,” you are chopped up into little pieces and fed to the chicken who is then fucked by the person you were standing next to in line.
In many countries, this “will of the people” shit exists on a continuum. Not every country that is undemocratic is going to force you to fuck a chicken. Some might force only felons to fuck the chickens. Others might force you just to watch someone else do it. There is a whole universe of differences.
China is a country that is much closer to the “you have to fuck the chicken now or you die” end of the continuum.
So they can force their citizens to do stuff that the citizens might not want to do very much! But it can also be hard to tell, right? Hard to gauge public opinion in China because the Chinese government is not only an authoritarian regime but also controls the Chinese media so maybe it’s changing minds further upstream and getting people to want to fuck the chicken way before the chicken is ever shaved and presented to them for fucking.
China is not, however, North Korea. North Korea is a place where if you don’t want to fuck the chicken then you are dead and your family is dead and that chicken is going to fuck you as you’re dying. China has some very nebulous and ill-defined guardrails. If a billion Chinese people all get together and shout “Xi will fuck the chicken,” then that’s a lot of people and Xi is going to have to fuck the chicken.
Very unlikely! But possible!
China can’t be entirely deaf to the will of the Chinese people, is my point.
The world has been stricken by the COVID pandemic for a couple of years now. Each country has had to deal with it in different ways. Democracies have had to handle it in a way that the people support. This meant that it was really messy.
Sometimes people didn’t want to do the stuff that the scientists thought was best. Sometimes some people only wanted to do some of it for so long. Some places took very proactive steps, while some other places took more of a “let’s let the herd immunity come naturally” approach.
Like everything else in a democratic society, this basically meant that no one got exactly what they wanted but they did get a rough approximation of what a majority of people wanted at any given time.
In China, that did not happen. In China, the government instituted a very stringent “zero COVID” policy that involved lots of very extreme lockdowns for months on end. People kept throwing themselves out of windows because they were quite literally starving to death.
Beijing has claimed that because of the zero covid policy their casualty rate from COVID has been incredibly low. Not many people trust those numbers. But they are probably directionally true. The lockdowns in china probably did go a long way to stopping people in china from dying of COVID. But it was at a great cost. Economically, and socially; it had costs. But China is a sovereign country and that’s their trade-off to make.
But it is a trade-off and one that increasingly no other country on earth was making.
Then a month or so ago, the discontent with zero covid among the Chinese burst beyond the daily drumbeat of suicides and turned into some of the largest demonstrations in China since 1990.
The Chinese people had had enough! And, to the surprise of many, the authoritarian leader of China decided to change face and in the last few weeks has abandoned zero covid.
Now China is facing a huge COVID spike. There are scary numbers being thrown around of the number of people who will die.
There are apparently lots of reasons for this. Their vaccines are not as good as ours. The people do not have as much natural immunity as we do because they’ve been in lockdown for two years. Etc…I am not an immunologist.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking “tough situation! Sorry for your trouble, china! It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of the hard questions that we have dealt with in America over the last few years.”
What you’re probably not thinking is “good. Yay, love death.” I know you’re probably not thinking that because people rarely cheer death.
It is possible that you might look at what is happening in China and think about how it reflects on the United States’ course of action comparatively.
One possible conclusion someone could arrive at—one that I’m not necessarily endorsing—is that China shows that a full-on zero COVID policy in the United States never would have worked even if it could have happened.
If you express that belief it is reasonable to expect that some other people who wanted stricter lockdowns in the first place will get very defensive and scream at you.
Most of America does not want to fight about COVID anymore. But there are extremes on both sides. And those sides do want to argue about it.
They will never not want to argue about it. A lot of people on the left literally think that a lot of people on the right have blood on their hands. And a lot of people on the right will never forgive people on the left for calling them murderers.
They will be arguing about this while playing Hearts in the old age home. But in the US and most of the world, there isn’t actually much left to argue about with regard to COVID that has any consequence. For a while there were! There were lockdowns and mask mandates and the question of whether to require vaccinations and what not.
But those are in the past. The last substantive thing like this was the airplane mask mandate which was axed earlier this year.
Maybe that is bad! Maybe we should be doing more still to combat COVID through preventative social measures. But in the world that exists, people have overwhelmingly decided that it is time for society to move on. They decided this over a year ago basically.
But the need to argue about this hasn’t diminished among the extremists on either side. Only now it’s just about screaming at each other.
OK, caught up?
This brings us to a viral substack post by Jessica Wildfire called “China doesn’t deserve our judgment.”
It begins: “Americans are almost celebrating the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in China right now.”
What is “almost celebrating”? Who knows.
“Western media seem to be treating it as some kind of moral victory, a vindication of our own “let it rip” approach….In some ways, it’s human nature to project your shortcomings onto someone else while looking for distractions. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now with China. Politicians and pundits are all too happy to point at “Zero Covid” as a failure, when the truth is that their own Covid policies have set us up for economic ruin. Plus, it just makes them awful people.”
There are no links to any examples of Americans cheering for Chinese people to die. We’re just supposed to take it for granted. But it’s a rather insulting allegation! It also defies everything we know about humanity if we look inward for our understanding of humanity. By which I mean, if you just assume that people are like you, then you’d never think that they would be “nearly celebrating” death and destruction because you personally have never seen a breaking news segment on cable news about people dying tragically and thought “good.”
But if you’ve come to believe that people are not like you, that they are monsters, then you can easily conclude that they are evil and thus have evil thoughts.
At this point, you’ve become a crazy person. You’ve stopped writing full characters in your brain. You are now writing 2D cartoon villains.
The post continues by saying that all these evil Americans are going to feel very stupid when problems in china produce negative downstream effects on the US economy. China produces a lot of stuff. If they are making less stuff, it has negative knock-on effects outside china.
This is true. It is one of the many reasons no one is actually “nearly celebrating” suffering in China. (The main reason is, as I said, people aren’t normally in the business of cheering for mass tragic deaths.)
“Americans seem to forget that China supplies a huge portion of the world’s raw and finished goods. They manufacture most of our consumer electronics and appliances. They make our drugs. There’s no way China’s suffering doesn’t spill onto the rest of us. I hate to say it, but the western world had this coming.
They asked for it.”
We asked for what? The Chinese people to en masse protest their country’s lockdown policies?
“Most American states and cities never implemented Chinese-style lockdowns. None of us recommend those. China had to implement them because western countries wouldn’t stop circulating the virus and reintroducing it. Americans never implemented the plans that would allow us to truly live with Covid, and they never gave China a chance to do that, either.”
The idea that Americans are responsible for China’s covid policies is ridiculous.
China’s zero COVID policy came from its authoritarian government. Its recent move away from that came from the belated recognition that Chinese people were tired of that policy.
If America had that much sway over China, China would be a very different country.
“China has proven that lockdowns work. You can criticize how the lockdowns were conducted. You can’t deny that they virtually eradicated Covid. “
Of course, I can! Setting aside the fact that inevitably the lockdowns would have to end and we are seeing exactly what that looks like, the idea that China “virtually eradicated Covid” means you have to take the Chinese government’s word for it. But there is no reason to do that!
The entire premise of this post is that China is facing a massive covid spike at the moment, but you know who denies that? The Chinese government.
So the author thinks that Americans caused China’s zero COVID policy, that we now are responsible for those policies going away, and that we are delighting in the suffering.
Pretty insulting and false view of America!
But that’s not all. The author would also like you to know that any hardships you’ve experienced over the last few years? Those are bullshit.
“The average white, middle-class American has never suffered human rights abuses, not even at the height of the pandemic.”
I don’t know what the white middle-class part has to do with this but yeah if you live in the United States you aren’t subject to many human rights abuses. Pandemic or not.
“They got irritated at having to wear masks and order takeout. They complained about gaining weight.
Most of these points don’t hold up.
They aren’t human rights abuses.
Whether they are “human rights abuses” or not, telling people that their pain doesn’t count is not a nice thing to do. It’s also not a terribly effective tactic for changing minds.
“Americans have greatly exaggerated the impact of our so-called lockdowns. For example, a Harvard study found that only 10 percent of Americans gained more than 12 pounds during the worst part of the pandemic.”
That’s a lot!
“True, it was rough giving up our gym routines. We found other ways to stay fit.
We rediscovered walking.
We ate healthier.”
A lot of people clearly didn’t do those things.
“American institutions and mainstream media have invented a wide range of reasons to detest lockdowns, ranging from “immunity debt” to “learning loss.” Data debunks every single one of these claims.
Again, no links. Learning loss has not been debunked.
This is an important line though because it makes clear that this writer is talking about mainstream America. They are not talking about some whacko fringe. They are saying that mainstream America and its institutions have exaggerated the costs of the lockdowns because they’re selfish pricks.
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