China Ditched Zero Covid–Maybe It Shouldn’t Have

Photograph Source: David290 – CC BY-SA 4.0

For years China beat the U.S. on covid. While millions died of the disease in the western world and over a million in the U.S., China instituted a supposedly authoritarian zero covid policy, which smacked fatalities down into the mere thousands. This was all the more remarkable, given the gigantic size of China’s population. But then, in late November, protests erupted. The Chinese – or some of them – were sick of lockdowns, constant tests, travel restrictions and quarantines. Next, in a shock to western elites salivating at the delusion that these protests would topple the government, China eliminated zero covid in early December, ending quarantine measures starting January 8. And the protesters got what they wanted. Two-hundred and fifty million Chinese were infected within weeks of ditching zero covid. Millions will now die, and the health care system is overwhelmed. Remember, even the vaccinated sicken in large numbers. It turns out that emulating the west, when it comes to public health, is a very, very bad idea.

That’s because the west, epitomized by the United States, has no public health system. It has a criminal health care racket, as befits a government that behaves similarly in its adventures all over the world. What makes you think it would conduct itself any differently here at home? It doesn’t. But that didn’t stop it from gleefully proclaiming it will now test for covid only arrivals from China. It would be far more effective from a public health perspective to require masks on planes, in airports and other enclosed public spaces. But God forbid the geniuses in Washington should do anything actually helpful. Besides, they’re too busy preening over their supposed victory over China, and vaunting it by testing those who travel there.

Here in the Exceptional Empire, covid was bad for business. Public health is, for many idiot Americans, a commie plot. This nonsense suits American businessmen, never the brightest bulbs in the box anyway, just fine. It enables our late capitalist oligarchy to lie that covid is under control and you don’t need to worry about it. Except of course when you contract it and die. But hey, that’s just the cost of our billionaire class continuing to make a buck, and indeed that class has made out like the bandits they are since covid first struck. They got richer on the blood of ordinary people who believed their prevarications that the virus was no worse than the flu, that they should show up for work feverish and that vaccines were a communist plot to insert chips into their bloodstreams.

China abandoning zero covid may well wind up ranking as one of the major catastrophes of human history. Potentially north of a billion people will now contract the virus. That many sick people mean new variants, some likely more deadly than any we’ve seen. It is cold comfort indeed that those western hypocrites who for years berated China’s sane covid policy – how dare the Chinese control covid! media elites venomously huffed – will now suffer infections from possibly more virulent permutations. It’s cold comfort, because they won’t be alone. Covid doesn’t play favorites. It kills everybody it can. Not just western liars who boomed in the pages of the New York Times that there was something wrong with Beijing for protecting its people. Those fibbers have access to vaccines and antivirals. But the victims of right-wing medical hallucinations do not. Poor whites in the south and Midwest, scared to death to get vaccinated, have little defense against the disease or the new variants surely coming. Well rather, now they have Paxlovid. Those that will take it.

Meanwhile, they’re doubtless breaking out the champagne in Washington. The protests they lusted for have wreaked havoc. Not the havoc our rulers hoped for, namely regime change, but public health chaos. The Biden team is no doubt happy to settle for that. Also, this unfortunate development banishes the problematic truths that China’s zero covid policy so blatantly caused to glare at us, namely that socialized medicine is superior to the capitalist variety. It saves more lives, as zero covid did, because it puts patients not profits first. Now the west can ignore the elephant in the room, namely, its millions of corpses compared to China’s mere thousands. Because the elephant left. Beijing showed itself flexible and responsive to its peoples’ concerns. Sadly, as a result, millions may die. Thus the wonders of so-called democracy, which is often merely capitalist propaganda in disguise.

This is not an argument for zero covid forever. Rather it’s to state the obvious, that China’s approach was successful, and it’s a shame and a tragedy to see the country pushed to forsake it hastily, before it was ready, and the many millions of deaths such abandonment will cause. Calamitously, Beijing may not have used the time bought by zero covid to promote a total vaccination program with, say, Cuba’s vaccines, or to prepare hospitals for the inevitable crush of patients, or to stock up on treatments and medical supplies. Chinese leaders may have done some of this – we’ll never know, because it would never be reported in western media – but it’s already clear that whatever backup plan they had was too scanty.

As many as 37 million people may contract covid per day in China now, according to Bloomberg December 23, citing estimates from Beijing’s health authorities. That adds up to a lot of people fast. “Several modelers predict more than a million covid deaths in China in 2023,” the Washington Post rushed to inform us December 31, before bemoaning the “little information,” wafting out of Beijing. Unstated implication: without our glorious free press, ho, ho, we’ll never know what’s really going on in China. Translation: if Beijing comes out of this somehow looking good, our corporate media will ignore this, but any catastrophe, even just a bit of bad news, will be trumpeted from the rooftops.

“China says its official Covid-19 vaccination rate is around 90 percent,” NPR reported December 9, but then went on, of course, to insinuate that that number was too high. Because heaven forfend! What would an American reader think who learned that unlike so many of his countrymen, either morons or bamboozled by rightist insanity into refusing the shot, most Chinese take a sane, rational, medically sophisticated approach to inoculation?

We can’t have that, and NPR wasn’t about to tolerate it. So it focused on undermining government claims by citing vaccine hesitancy due to…ta dum! “product quality issues.” Because of course a communist country has such issues. It must! That’s what we’ve all been indoctrinated to believe for decades, as if there had been no medical development whatsoever in the communist and socialist world since the rather backward medicine of the Soviet Union. Just, er, don’t tell that to the Cubans, who have more covid vaccines and vaccinated citizens proportionally than do U.S. residents. Oh, and not surprisingly, Cubans have better overall health outcomes too. But that’s another story. You won’t read it in U.S. media.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.