In most of the United States, post-covid normalcy is asserting itself. But in deep blue enclaves, mask virtue signalers illustrate continued commitment in some quarters to unnecessary precautions originating from early pandemic hysteria.
What must follow next is a reckoning for the politicians, health officials, bureaucrats, education officials, and unions who advocated for and imposed more than two years of lockdowns, school closures, and mask and vaccine mandates on the country. The health regime that pushed draconian lockdowns exasperating substance abuse and caused the nation’s education standards to regress must be held accountable.
Indeed, we now know what happens when Americans exchange liberty for the perception of safety. To see this transaction taken to its extreme, one need look no further than China’s continuation of extreme covid restrictions.
As The New York Times reported, Chinese President Xi Jinping says the country must achieve “zero covid,” a feckless and increasingly delusional quest to eradicate the mutating virus that is almost certainly doomed to failure.
The result of this obsession is that China is still enduring widespread lockdowns, according to reports from the propaganda-heavy country. It is estimated that in the last week, as many as 291 million Chinese — approximately 21 percent of the country’s 1.4 billion people — are trapped in their homes, often with limited access to supplies.
In much of the country, people are required to be tested daily by rapid methods that may be far more inaccurate than the ones used in the United States. Furthermore, information about China’s containment strategy is clearly manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its propaganda apparatus.
China’s leaders learned the lessons of Mikhail Gorbachev’s failure to manage the transition of the Soviet Union from totalitarianism to a slightly more benign version of Communism. They didn’t make the mistake of not crushing the freedom protesters in Tiananmen Square as Gorbachev did when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet empire collapsed. In China after Mao, the economy has been allowed to grow while government cronies grew rich and political power remained in the hands of the CCP.
But Xi, who will likely be given a third term as the general secretary of the CCP next month, seems to have discovered the same thing that many American leaders learned from covid: stoking fear over an alleged emergency can increase your power in ways that no one thinks possible in normal times.
In America, this power grab manifested itself in illogical restrictions that closed down schools, places of worship, and small businesses. Protests against covid policies and popular athletic events were branded as “super-spreaders,” while violent leftist riots were exempt from restrictions.
China’s repression, of course, dwarfs even the worst of America’s covid excesses. Chinese society has been mobilized to assist in repressing Chinese citizens and is backed up by the punitive powers of the state. Stories of residents in cities hit by earthquakes being afraid to leave their tottering dwellings lest they break covid rules illustrate the lengths to which China’s rulers have gone to keep their people in line.
Given the consequences for those who resist in a country where dissenters are shipped off to the laogai — the Chinese gulag — claims that the Chinese are more vulnerable to authoritarianism seem unfair. Moreover, given the willingness of so many Americans to embrace the opportunity to play hall monitor over masks and vaccine mandates that resulted in discriminatory policies against minorities, faith in the innate American love of liberty should have been shaken since March 2020.
Beijing puts forward the myth that China’s draconian lockdowns limited the impact of the virus and caused fewer deaths there than in the West. No serious person believes statistics claiming China has experienced only 5,226 covid deaths. But no matter how high the actual number is, the idea that a virus that is constantly mutating and has clearly become far less deadly can be completely eliminated is nonsense.
However, the utility of the “zero covid” policy in manifesting tyrannical governmental control is obvious. The deeper one dives into accounts of life in a country where “zero covid” is a policy goal mandated by tyrants like Xi and the CCP, the more obvious it becomes that this has everything to do with maintaining unquestioned control over the lives of their subjects rather than saving anyone from medical perils, whether real or imagined.
The spectacle of Chinese totalitarianism is something for Americans to ponder when they encounter predictions of future pandemics. What’s happening in China is further proof that so-called emergencies can be a power-hungry official’s best friend and most devastating weapon, something that was also true in the United States, albeit on a smaller scale.
This should reinforce the necessity of congressional hearings and prosecutions, when applicable, of those who are responsible for the harm done here in the name of the public should demonstrate that Americans must never again passively accept the loss of our rights due to a health emergency. But most of all, the example of China’s descent into covid madness should warn us from ever again taking our cues from a totalitarian regime.
Jonathan S. Tobin is a senior contributor to The Federalist, editor in chief of JNS.org, and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.
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