By criticizing China’s COVID policies, West is getting its retaliation in first
Published: Dec 28, 2022 11:54 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

For almost three years, China's dynamic zero-COVID policy was phenomenally successful, particularly when compared to other countries like the UK and the US which appeared to place their economies above the health of their citizens.

Those countries in the West poured scorn on China, alleging its behavior was damaging to its economy and therefore - because so much of the world is mutually connected to China's economy - impacting negatively the West's wealth. These criticisms came because those countries, when striking a balance between safeguarding their people's wellbeing and protecting their economies, found a different center of balance than China. They were prepared to take greater risks than China, and for this China was castigated.

Today, those other countries are continuing to pour scorn on China, but this time the criticism is because China has changed direction. But their motivations are the same: they are concerned about the impact not on public health, but on their economies.

In the media, reports are mostly heavily negative. Their tone exposed in language, often at odds with what might be expected to be dispassionate, objective reportage. Terms like a "tsunami" of infections, the state "rushing" to respond, an "abrupt" or "screeching U-turn" in policy are used to suggest that the new measures are unplanned or panic-stricken. There has been frequent, and pointed, mention of China's system, as if this alone was costing people's lives. Correspondents, some of them not even in China, have been relying on what they themselves acknowledge to be unverified anecdotal stories and supposed leaks of information which have not been confirmed.

In their eyes, it seems, China cannot win: it is damned, whatever it does.

China's zero-COVID policy was not perfect, but it is undeniable that it saved many lives. In the US, about 1.1 million deaths have been registered as resulting from COVID. In the UK - where the government knowingly sent thousands of infected elderly hospital patients into care homes where they passed on the sickness to other residents and staff: condemning them to their deaths - about 213,000 have died.

Even allowing for different counting and classifying methodologies and other factors, the differences are stark, and the conclusion is clear: Dynamic zero-COVID worked.

China walked the tightrope to keep its people alive. The US and UK lost their balance and fell. When the protests in China began, they were almost gleefully reported in the West as proof that a policy which saved millions from death or disability was no good. And still the criticism comes. How can countries which sacrifice their own citizens for the sake of their economies then feel able to criticize others? No politicians in the West have earned that right.

Now, we are seeing the media outside China reporting "concerns" that China may lose control and possibly enable new COVID variants to escape into the world. Whether it is the London-based international news agency Reuters, or Germany's state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle, or America's state-funded National Public Radio, stories are repeated, calling for the West to brace itself for a surge in COVID; that China is "losing its grip" on the virus. Those stories regularly suggest that it is the Chinese system to blame. Conveniently, there is no suggestion that Western capitalist "democratic" system is at fault.

Why are they so smug? Perhaps they are getting their retaliation in first. This is a saying which describes the behavior of a cynical individual who knows they are in the wrong, but who hopes that a distraction technique of blaming someone else even before a catastrophe has occurred will lessen the chance of the cynical individual being held responsible.

The author is a journalist and lecturer living in Britain. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn