The texts of the historian Qin Hui 秦辉, have always captivated me. His voice in China stands out from the official song and observes reality with a wish of objectivity.
He wrote a very long 30,000-word text about the success and failure of the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic in China and worldwide. He does not fall into the usual binary trap, where everything is black or white in China or elsewhere, depending on one’s place on the political chessboard. He believes that China has taken advantage of its weak human rights advantage to apply a coercitive lockdown to society and effectively combat the epidemic. I would add that China’s populations and neighboring countries and territories (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam) have a greater awareness of the epidemic phenomena, which are numerous in China. In January, I was in northern China, and there was concern about the plague outbreak.
On the other hand, these countries have a better collective discipline, and one avoids anything in the name of supposed freedom that some Westerners think they have, see an article on the subject. Qin Hui added that its high human rights advantage had handicapped the West. This is something to give some grain to grind to the praise of the Chinese model. David Ownby organized the translation of this text into several languages. Its introduction and translation can be downloaded here.
“The facts of the epidemic in both China and the West show that it is not appropriate to shut down the whistle-blowers, but this is not adequate in and of itself. The Western experience in the West has shown that not shutting down whistle blower does not cause panic, which means that it unreasonable for China to use the prevention of panic as a reason for doing so. But the absence of panic does not in itself prevent epidemics. Suppressing the whistle-blowers indeed spread the coronavirus, but when that spread is a fait accompli, it doesn’t really matter what you do with whistle-blowers, it matters whether you can effectively lock down a city.”
“But what is sobering and frustrating is that, when a serious epidemic occurs, the soft-heartedness of democracies towards their citizens is not helpful in fighting the epidemic, while China’s ‘ruthlessness,’ the harsh quarantines and tracking, has proven to be effective. In fact, this is not difficult to understand. Logically speaking, there are only three ways for humans to deal with virulent infectious diseases: if you are already infected or are inevitably are going to be infected, you have to use antibiotics or other means to destroy the germs in your body, which is curing the disease; if you cannot eliminate the disease, you have to rely on a vaccine, so as to avoid infection even if you come in contact with the pathogens, which is preventing the disease; and if you do not have a vaccine, then cutting off the spread of the pathogens is the only way forward.”
“The fierce criticism of the early days of China’s ‘Wuhan lockdown’ has almost disappeared now that the effects have become clear. Knowing what we know now, if we could turn back the clock, I think European and American governments would have chosen to copy China’s ‘lesson’ at the beginning of the epidemic (of course, this in fact would have meant reviewing the ‘lesson’ from their own medieval experience). Whether the democratic system would allow them to do so is another question. But today, as the second wave of the coronavirus hits already devastated economies, the dilemma of choosing between ‘dying from the virus’ (where continued laxism worsens the still spreading disease) and ‘death by starvation’ (where renewed control leads to the collapse of an already weakened economy) is all the more painful.”
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17 November 2020