Speculating About the Botched Shanghai Lockdown

Speculating About the Botched Shanghai Lockdown 1

Tonight, I’ll be putting up two posts with “Speculating” in the headline. Each will provide some information which I hope is accurate, will make some additional observations, and then hopefully readers will provide even better information and ideas and correct any mistakes your humble blogger has made. This post, on where China goes after its clearly messed up Shanghai lockdown, is the more speculative of the two.

From the tea leaves I can read, China has no intention of backing down on its zero Covid policy. Since Covid containment and lockdowns are the responsibility of municipal and regional governments, the slow implementation of the lockdown, which has led to an embarrassing and potentially dangerous num and even worse, Shanghai citizens suffering unnecessarily due to a failure to organize adequate food provision and emergency medical care to the quarantined is a huge administrative failure. But it is Shanghai’s failure. And that raises the interesting question of what the Xi regime will do about it.

Shanghai is so big and so West-connected that it was hard to imagine word of what was happening not getting out. For instance, via -email last week:

Wife has been in touch with multiple of her old classmates in Shanghai.

This is apparently not going well at all in Shanghai. Many of her friends are reporting all kinds of elderly family members starving and dying of medical neglect in their homes. If you are going to have a lockdown you should provide food and care, this is apparently not being done at all. She has shown me dozens of videos of random people having meltdowns in the street. Unlike last year, the PLA is nowhere to be found to arrest them. The angst is growing exponentially by the hour.

It does not help that the leaders of Shanghai have been caught on film living it up in Beijing and other places. My wife informs me that Xi has hated these leaders for a long time. And this may very well be used for their execution.

Yesterday, in Links, Lambert featured several tweets about Shanghai, including some by Eric Feigl-Ding, including of hungry Shanghai citizens arguing with police and the police admitting they didn’t have good answers, particularly about where to get food even if they were let loose.

This section, further down in a tweetstorm Lambert featured, seems accurate:

If you dimly recall the pace of the official response in Shanghai when Covid cases were rising, it was the classic neoliberal “because commerce” line, that Shanghai was too big a port and too much activity depended on it to have a hard lockdown. And the central government initially appeared to waffle, allowing for “dynamic zero Covid” and some local experimentation.

It also seems reasonable to surmise that one of the reasons that Shanghai officials so botched food distribution is they were confident that they were too big to be locked down and thus had not prepared. Of course, one obstacle is that nearly all the food the Chinese eat ex rice or other starches is fresh. But hunger makes things like MREs and ramen noodle packs a lot more appealing.

The Shanghai experiment having been a bust, the authorities in Beijing are making it clear that the Western let ‘er rip approach is a bad idea and China is sticking to an apparently tightened up “dynamic zero Covid.” Global Times is an English language house organ and editorializes more (both formal editorials and pieces ‘splain official views) than Xinhua. For instance:

April 7 GT Voice: Western slander won’t undercut Shanghai’s global attractiveness

April 9 Coexistence with virus the West’s choice out of no choice; China still has better choice: Hong Kong professional

April 10 ‘Omicron just a big flu’ a misperception; some in West attempt to delude Chinese public

April 11 ‘Dynamic zero-COVID policy’ the only way out of current complex situation: Global Times editorial

The last article is a good statement of the current Chinese position. Key sections:

Experts say the Omicron strain might be 10 times harder to contain than Delta. It means that to safeguard life and health, more efforts must be made. Previously, when dealing with the spread of Omicron, South China’s Guangdong Province, East China’s Shandong Province, North China’s Hebei Province, as well as Jilin and other regions have taken strict prevention and control measures, such as quarantine, management, lockdown, and screening, which have led the situation to a positive trend. Practice has repeatedly shown that the key to winning the battle against the epidemic is to adhere to the general dynamic zero-COVID policy without hesitation and unswervingly implement the guidance to cope with the ravaging virus.

Stop for a second. Notice the obvious absence of Shanghai from this list. Continuing:

It is worth noting that some specious voices have come out at the critical juncture when China’s epidemic prevention and control is facing difficulties. They advocated that “the Omicron is a big flu” and that countries such as the US and the UK are “successfully coexisting with the virus.” In public opinion, they have tried to create a “prosperous scene” that Western countries have completely gotten rid of the interference of the epidemic, and they even regarded this as a victory of the West’s “herd immunity.” But these arguments are utterly groundless, morally and scientifically.

Due to Omicron’s strong infectivity, fast transmission and reduced toxicity, some arguments such as “Omicron is just a big flu” have been widely circulated. But overseas data shows that Omicron can generate a higher mortality rate than Delta during the epidemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said several countries are now seeing their highest death rates since the beginning of the pandemic. The basic national condition of China is that there are 267 million people aged 60 and above and more than 250 million children. The figure combined surpasses 500 million. Such a gigantic group of seniors and children determines that we must not “lie flat” in any form, but must stick to the dynamic zero strategy, take the initiative in the epidemic fight, and be strict in epidemic control. Only by doing so can we fundamentally avoid a large-scale rebound.

As a matter of fact, “coexisting with the virus” in countries like the UK and the US is nothing but a passive “lying flat” in preventing and controlling the epidemic. The so-called herd immunity essentially means to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity. This is a cruel social Darwinism…

Practice has proved that dynamic zero-COVID policy is the best choice for China to fight the epidemic. The severer the epidemic, the more important it is to fully and accurately adhere to the dynamic zero-COVID policy. It is worth emphasizing that some places are causing complexities to people’s normal lives, precisely because they have not implemented the dynamic zero-COVID policy, resulting in a series of problems.

Um, this sure doesn’t sound like China is changing its stance despite the Shanghai debacle. It does come short of accusing Shanghai officials of being captured by the West and favoring profit over lives. But perhaps accusations like that are being made privately and even in some corners of Chinese social media.

Global Times curiously does not mention morbidity risk, that the social Darwinist approach is backfiring. Covid may be clearing out the weak, but is it also damaging the once robust. If anything community-wide health levels are not rising and may be falling.

Naomi Wu gives an update….

And she mentions why Covid can spread faster in China than some other settings:

This observation suggests that when Covid gets going in an apartment building, it will be hard to tamp out, particularly now that masking discipline has fallen.

Needless to say, China has a big uphill battle in Shanghai, but at least they are still fighting. By contrast, it becomes more and more clear here in the West that they really are trying to kill us. From scientist GM:

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