Communist and post-Communist oppression China | 24 February 2023

China: Miracle or catastrophe?

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The Polit Bureau Standing Committee announced that its dynamic COVID-19 policy represents a “miracle in the history of human civilization” (Neican, 17 February 2023).

World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “This declaration illustrates once more that Communist Party propaganda continues to trump absolutely everything. The policy of severe lockdown-measures, suspended overnight in December 2022, did not prevent a wave of infections among the population. It is unclear whether it is justified to speak of a ‘catastrophe’ hitting China, as some observers have done (Foreign Affairs, 16 February 2023), since statistics coming from China are either non-existent or seriously flawed, but all calculations agree that at least one to 1.5 million people died from COVID-related causes. In addition, the Foreign Affairs article reported that, according to data from the National Health Commission, deaths caused by cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases in urban areas suddenly increased in 2020–2021 by 700,000 in comparison to 2019 levels. Although the cause is uncertain, that is a soberingly large number, even taking into account the sheer size of China’s population. Even if numbers can always be debated and doubted, it seems safe to say that citizens of China do not feel as though they are living through a miracle right now.”

Thomas Muller adds: “Such a widely diverging analysis of the situation in China points to another factor. Since fewer expatriates are currently resident in China and large numbers of independent journalists have left the country (or were silenced), it is sometimes difficult to correctly interpret the little information coming out of the country. This is true for the situation of Christians in China as well. A good overview of how the recent changes can be interpreted was recently provided by Andrew Batson in his Blog (8 February 2023). He identified four different modes of interpretation:

  1. ‘Don’t get fooled again’ – there are no real changes and the Communist Party is following its priorities as it always has;
  2. ‘A more benevolent dictator’ – Ideology is not trumping everything and the Party is able to react flexibly and prioritize the economy;
  3. ‘The new technocrats’ – As rank and file are following Secretary General Xi Jinping now, he trusts them to implement all necessary policies, even if this means some embarrassing changes;
  4. ‘A quiet revolt’ – There is genuine opposition to Xi Jinping’s leadership and his position is not as strong as it looks.

Only time will tell which interpretation (or combination) comes closest to the truth.”


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