AMAC Exclusive – Daniel Berman
Having triggered significant controversy in the West, it is interesting that the 2022 World Cup may also have helped trigger one of the most serious protest movements China has seen for decades. The slogan on the ads for coverage of the World Cup in China was “中国第一，世界第二” which loosely translates to “China number one, the world number two.” This byline was run over video of cheering crowds of tens of thousands. It must have slipped the mind of whoever was in charge of state media that these cheering crowds of tens of thousands were not wearing masks, or locked in their homes. There could not have been a more dramatic juxtaposition between the message “China number one, the world number two,” and the reality facing the Chinese people, many of whom have been told that their children would have to attend school remotely for months.
The ill-conceived promotion of the World Cup was hardly the only cause of the protests that have broken out in China over the last two weeks, however. The immediate trigger was a fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, in which nearly a dozen died after being unable to escape and the fire department failed to quickly put out the fire – which according to at least some reports, was due to pandemic barricades blocking the path of fire trucks.
But the World Cup nonetheless helped crystalize the complaints driving the protests. The general feeling among the Chinese population is that the Chinese leadership is unconcerned with the plight of ordinary Chinese, is driven only by the perceived prestige of China on the world stage, and believes that the lives of Chinese citizens can be sacrificed, literally, to the pursuit of that image.
“Zero COVID,” or the policy that restrictions can only be lifted when COVID-19 has been eradicated, has come to symbolize this preoccupation. Officially, the policy is intended to save lives. The CCP justifies it as proof that China is more humane than the “capitalist West,” which the CCP claims sacrificed the lives of a million elderly and vulnerable citizens in America in the name of the economy. The message managed some resonance back in 2020 when certain elements of the Western elite who had always dreamed of technocracy contrasted China’s willingness and ability to mobilize all of society around “stopping the spread” with the laissez-faire attitude of the West. For them, it was proof of the superiority of the Chinese system, and the inability of the West to compete without copying Chinese autocracy.
Such voices have largely fallen silent now, instead begging for a COVID “amnesty.” The credibility of any message based around the premise that the CCP values human life above all other considerations was stretched already in the West, and events like the fire in Urumqi are so explosive precisely because they make the absurdity of such ideas clear to the Chinese people. It was not that 11 people died, or even that they died because of COVID-19 protocols on the part of the government. Rather, it is that they died through negligence, with officials not bothering to enforce their own codes about not blocking access to buildings. It destroyed the official rationale for “Zero COVID,” which was ostensibly to save lives.
What was left was the probable real motivation for continuing to pursue Zero COVID on the part of the Chinese government: Pride. The priority of China’s leaders is not to beat COVID-19, but to maintain the credibility of the Chinese model as an alternative to the West. That means that any policy they adopt to deal with COVID-19 has to be different from that of the West. This is one of the key reasons why China has rejected the use of Western vaccines, even when their own domestically produced vaccines proved ineffective. Accepting Western vaccines would mean acknowledging the superiority of Western science, and would send a message to Chinese client states around the world that they should hedge their bets, as even China still needed the West.
The same is true of lockdowns. The greatest obstacle to abandoning “Zero COVID” is the very fact that the West has long since done so. It would be one thing if China had adopted a herd immunity policy initially. In that case, the West would have been recognizing the superiority of the Chinese system by copying it. Instead, to abandon “Zero COVID” now would be to admit that the West was right. Worse, it would not be a concession to the strength of Western wealth and science as importing vaccines would be. The Western elites favored “Zero COVID” only marginally less than the CCP did. Instead, “herd immunity” was forced on Western leaders by the Western political and social systems which allowed a revolt by ordinary people, both in terms of civic non-compliance with restrictions and at the ballot box.
That is what made the World Cup coverage, as well as any coverage of large maskless crowds outside China going about their lives normally and enjoying themselves, so dangerous for the CCP. It was not just a rejection of China’s own policies, but of the system which produced them. It suggested that protest and civil disobedience actually were a good thing – especially when a government was disconnected, as the CCP portrayed Dr. Fauci and his allies in their own propaganda for the past two years when dueling with anti-lockdown activists.
While comparisons have been drawn with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, those have to a large degree been memory-holed in China. The Chinese talking about “democracy” and “freedom” are not quoting the exiles of 30 years ago, but rather the Western activists of the last three years. They are imitating the Canadian Truckers, which makes Justin Trudeau’s efforts to defend the right of the Chinese to protest all the more tone-deaf. They watched, on their CCP-controlled media, the truckers and many others denounce lockdowns in the language of freedom for three years. Instead of discrediting freedom and democracy, the anti-COVID protests in the West instead have served to vindicate it once the Chinese people began to draw connections between that rhetoric, and well, people being able to enjoy their lives without fear of a virus. The Chinese were taught to associate criticism of Dr. Fauci with “freedom of speech” and “democracy,” and have now associated the criticism of Dr. Fauci with the end of lockdowns, demanding their own lockdowns are lifted as well.
The protests demonstrate the irony of the CCP’s approach over the last three years. In trying to use anti-COVID protests to discredit “democracy” and “freedom of speech,” they have instead identified protests with accountability in the minds of the Chinese people, a far more potent force than whatever vague version of “woke liberalism” the Biden administration tries to sell them. By trying to play toxic nationalism with “China number one, the world number two,” the CCP highlighted how the Chinese government is failing to make its people feel like they are even remotely close to the number one priority.
There is an overlap in China with what is driving protests in Russia and Iran as well. As much as all three governments wish to portray the protests as foreign-inspired, they are organic movements demanding something more basic. Too basic, in fact, for the Biden administration, which believes the protestors lack either “leaders” or “concrete” political demands. They do have a demand – accountability. In Russia, protestors believe no one in the government is accountable to the parents of soldiers who were conscripted to fight in a war they were not consulted on, then issued weapons that do not work, then sent into combat without air support or supplies, all while their tax money is stolen. In Iran, demonstrators are protesting a political system where it is seen as disloyal for leaders to even consider their own popularity with the Iranian people, and top government officials abuse the people to earn the favor of one man.
Perhaps the reason Western elites cannot see this is because our own leaders, whether Biden or Trudeau, have forgotten or learned to fear the term “accountability.” For them, the government is a means to policy ends. They disagree with Xi Jinping, Putin, and Khamenei, not in the purpose of government, but rather its objectives. They believe in a different set of “universal values” and “objective truths,” but have only marginally more tolerance for those who dissent from them and resent the restrictions placed upon them in dealing with such dissidents. For Biden or Trudeau, the attractions of the West are increasingly esoteric woke abstractions, and parents protesting in school boards are a threat to that. The irony will be that, if the protest movements in Iran, Russia, and China take off, the inspirations for those freedom movements will not be the self-appointed “defenders of Democracy” in the West, but rather the populist riff-raff Western liberals declared democracy’s greatest threat.
Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.
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china needs to put aside a failed wisp of an idea of government. everyone is laughing at you, ccpee.
The revolt in China is nothing compared to the one coming in the United States. When the American people have had their fill of Biden Inc. and their woke agenda, the southern border, and climate change propaganda. Just let the people here get hungry for a week and we will be talking a whole new ball game. And please remember, there is no Main Stream Media. Only Left Wing and Right Wing. Right Wing if you want facts, Left wing if you want lies.
Good. Support and encourage their displays of dissatisfaction.
I am amazed how brave some of the Chinese people are. They are literally risking their lives. Compare this situation to the cowardly leftists who pretend to be brave when they demonstrate and even turn violent. They are actually stupid cowards who pretend to be on the side of liberty and individual rights. Some of them are so evil that they use the demonstrations as an excuse to steal, assault, and even kill. Instead of being freedom fighters, they are actually stupid fascist thugs intent on destroying our Constitutional Republic.
Don’t confuse bravery with survival mode. They are very different animals.
If the Chinese people keep up the protests, there will be tanks. With complete gun control in China, Chinese citizens cannot defend themselves against government violence toward them.
What protest in China.???? AOL dosn’t have articles on it,even the big news rarley has over a 30 or 40 second spot on it. The left is hanging in there.
AMERICA NEEDS PROTESTS TO ROCK BIDEN and HIS PROGRESSIVELY COMMUNIST DEMOCRATIC PARTY!!! Anybody with half a brain and any Common Sense KNOWS Biden DIDN’T WIN THE PRESIDENTCY LEGALLY!
Especially with Jackass Joe and his son, Hunter’s involvement with the Chinese Communists! If that information HADN’T BEEN SUPPRESSED from the American Citizens HE NEVER WOULD HAVE BEEN ELECTED and instead BE IN JAIL!
China has rejected the Western vaccines because they know what’s in them.
Dont recall this in 2020 with 1st wave then
The bell is ringing for all the communist and totalitarian regimes! Centralized total control, and surveillance government imposed on the people through fraud, and brutality is on the way out, all the way out! The Bidens, Schwabs, Putins, Mullahs, and Xi Jinpings of this world, and their useful idiot followers just don’t understand this yet with their limited intellect they are like the dinosaurs, too big to live! Humanity around the world has had enough of their greed, wars, pandemics and self-made crises, propaganda, surveillance, and control. Whether they are politicians, or CEOs and oligarchs they can either work with, and for the people in a system of government of the people, by the people, for the people or they will soon find themselves on the garbage dump of time. People around the world are catching on to them and it will not end well for them unless they repent!
The past two years have exhausted me. ALL politicians are Royal a**holes. Can’t imagine how I would feel if treated like this for decades. I find it amazing that people are being as kind and gentle as they are being…
Very well put, keep up the good work you all are doing. Thank you for speaking the truth!!
Very informative analysis!
A lot of envelopes and briefcases are passed around. Money to be made. Follow it and be amazed.
Communist China puts out More Carbon Emissions than USA, Europe, and Asia COMBINED.
So why is the United States PAYING for it?
Because our Leftist Democrats are brain washed about Climate “Change” and are in the pockets of the government they aspire to be like, the CCP.
I’ll be really blunt and honest here and hope this gets past the AMAC censor. The reason is because most of the western leaders in general are both corrupt (they stand to make substantial fortunes (literally billions per leader) off of this climate change financial scheme) and none of them fear ever being held truly accountable (meaning perp walked into court and then receiving a long, long prison sentence for their actions). Team Biden is willing to sign on to paying for a large part of this because it 1) helps weaken the United States and 2) helps strengthen China in the long run.
On the money.
Ditto Paul E
If AMAC were to censor your truthful remarks, it would be time to dump the memebership!Yes, Beijing Biden and his ilk sold us out in the name of financial gain. Zuckerberg found out how fast you can get kicked to the curb when you bow to the Communist movement, then become their scapegoat. It may be amusing to watch the pawns fall, but the movement is well calculated that way. What is a conservative citizen of modest means supposed to do when leftists in power no longer represent the will of the people?
I suppose that the ‘conservative citizen of modest means’ today will have to do what the ‘conservative citizen of modest means’ of Colonial America did.
Its difficult to get information behind the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ or ‘Great Wall of China’. Turn on the regular ‘news’ programs; and there is very little or dribble about what China is up to. Why are stories from China discouraged or difficult to find?
Very true but I would not call any of the western official figurehead a leader They are spineless clueless lost boys
Ditto PaulE ! Track the $$ !
Isn’t China part of Asia?