Bryan Griffin: China’s Missteps Are The Flaws Of Big Government
If America is increasingly looking to determine how much bigger we should grow the government, big-government China should be the most alarming possible outcome.
The Chinese-originated coronavirus pandemic is the product of an inept government system with a need to compete with the world for ideological superiority.
The Chinese response to the early transmission of the coronavirus among its people—or more aptly put their lies and coverups—are the product of an authority so big and so unquestionable that maintaining its own image was prioritized over the lives of its citizens and the world’s population.
This is the damage that big government wreaks. These are the inherent flaws of big government.
The United States intelligence apparatus is increasingly looking into the activities of the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory. The Washington Post reported that U.S. Embassy officials were aware of “risky studies on coronaviruses from bats” in 2018.
A possible narrative for the origin of the virus is that it accidentally leaked from a lab. Perhaps China was attempting to demonstrate to the world that it can identify and protect against viruses as well as the United States.
Communist countries always feel the need to prove themselves to the world. It was the same story during the Cold War. Communism has thin skin because it has horrific flaws that are easily exposed.
This is also why China largely suppresses news and information from reaching its own citizens from the outside world.
This obsession over self-image is what led the Chinese government to act so irresponsibly after the initial outbreak, and what continues to motivate them to lie and cover up data.
As I wrote in my last commentary, from the first discovery of the virus in December all the way until mid-January, China insisted that the virus could not be spread by human to human contact, despite 739 people becoming infected during this time (including 419 medical providers). Chinese doctors who tried to raise the alarm about the potential dangers of the virus were jailed and charged with crimes like “severely disturbing social order” or labeled as societal “rumormongers.”
The Chinese government insisted they had everything under control all the way through January 20th.
Until this point they kept international travel open to and from China, without passenger screening, and fought the world on Chinese travel bans even as we began to see the infectiousness of the virus.
Then, the Chinese government moved forward with plans for a city-wide Lunar celebration to take place in Wuhan in February that saw 10,000 people gather together in crowded public spaces.
Days later, eleven million were locked down in response to the increasingly uncontrollable fallout from the virus. Once the Chinese government felt the situation demanded their acknowledgement, it quickly moved into full “big brother” mode.
An eleven-million strong lockdown expanded to sixty million. Social media platforms, traffic control agencies, pharmacies, and other institutions were required to report all citizen activity to the government for monitoring purposes. The use of private cars was banned. Local governments offered rewards to people who would report on the movement of their neighbors. Authorities entered private homes and forcibly relocated sick citizens into government quarantine camps.
During all of this, the Chinese government became extraordinarily focused on making sure the citizens expressed gratitude to the government. The Communist party’s Wuhan representative even suggested “gratitude education” for the residents of devastated Wuhan.
“[We] must through various channels carry out gratitude education among the citizens of the whole city as well as cadres so that they thank the general secretary [Xi Jinping], thank the communist party, listen to the party’s words, follow the party’s way, and create strong positive energy,” said Wang Zhonglin, Communist party secretary for Wuhan.
Unable to stand for talk among international media of poor choices, China tried to reorient itself as a leader in providing humanitarian aid in dealing with the coronavirus abroad. It sent a few token teams of doctors to European countries, and ramped up exports of gear and test kits, which were soon found to be abundantly faulty.
In another shocking example of the reckless pride of the Chinese government, it continues to insist that the World Health Organization cannot work with Taiwan, since the Chinese government maintains that Taiwan belongs to China.
Even after the worst of the disease in China, the government is keen on suppressing the reality of the destruction it wrought.
China insisted it has remarkably low death rates and heaped on self-praise in international media. After many found problems with the number of fatalities that the Chinese were reporting, China increased its death toll by 50% in one night.
These enormously irresponsible actions do not belong to Chinese people, they belong to the government. They are the biproduct of Communism. By nature, big government must protect its own image to maintain absolute authority at all costs. Big government like Communism is a suffocating dam on the liberties, innovations, and good will of the citizens of a county. The cracks are always showing, but in this time of pandemic they are bulging.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.