Editor’s Note: A long-term Western resident in China responds to conspiracy theories about the country benefitting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of what is being spread is untrue he says, but he does worry that the country is on the brink of another, dystopian Cultural Revolution.
I have been living here for almost a decade. While there are many amazing things here, it is about the last place on earth I would advise anyone to move to.
The vast majority of people I have met are generous and warm-hearted, and will go out of their way to help you out. The government on the other hand is an authoritarian regime that treats its people as a commodity, and at times like animals to be snuffed out without a second’s thought.
People are imprisoned without trial and their families subjected to cruel social exclusion and house arrest for years as ‘enemies of the state’; entire ethnic groups are herded into camps for ‘re-education’.
I have every reason to hold up ‘China’ in a bad light, but in fairness you cannot bundle the people and the government into one group. This is an idea fostered by the authorities, who say the country, the people and the government are one and the same. Insulting any of these entities is treated as an attack on all three.
I feel it necessary to respond to conspiracy theories suggesting China developed Covid-19 as a biological weapon, which was unleashed on the world to increase its own economic power. It has been claimed that China’s main cities of Beijing and Shanghai are unaffected – that it is business-as-usual. I can tell you what is really happening.
Did China Create Coronavirus To Become Superpower?SOMETHING IS FISHYY!!!!!
Gepostet von The Digital Phablet am Freitag, 10. April 2020
After Christmas I returned to China through Beijing where we intended to spend time before returning to the city I now live in. On the flight we arrived in on everyone was fully masked. Beijing was in lockdown – NO-ONE was out on the streets.
I had booked a hotel – but ended up alongside five families living in a large apartment for seven days. Only two of us were allowed outside to buy food – everyone else had to stay inside. Before leaving we were covered head-to-toe, in gloves, face masks and head coverings. On our return we went through elaborate cleaning procedures before re-entering the apartment. We had to remove our ‘outside’ clothing and spray everything with 75% alcohol.
No cars with registrations from outside the capital city were allowed in. The schools were on holiday and due to return the first week in March but are still closed all over China. Only students doing important exams at the end of term will be allowed to return initially, which hasn’t happened yet.
Leaving Beijing, I returned to my home city of ****. You are supposed to scan your phone so they can track potential carriers arriving into the city – which I hadn’t, having used a private firm for the airport collection. This meant my car registration didn’t show up on the cameras. So the next day the authorities were in touch to find out how I made it back from the airport.
People here can now move around with less restrictions, but are still obliged to wear face masks. If you want to enter any premises you have to show a ‘health pass’ on your smart phone. It is generated by the local government who have – as it is the same all over China – complete control over every business (according to Chinese law).
I was in compulsory lockdown, graded a higher risk having spent time in Beijing, and had to stay indoors for two weeks. Only then could I apply for a health pass, which I duly received.
They can now monitor my movements – the pass tells a business that I have not been to a particular area, shop, or been in the company of a person who has the virus; or someone who has been in contact with someone who has the virus. I cannot enter any shop without this.
Businesses are taking extreme precautions. If someone gets the virus their movements can be tracked and anyone who might have been in that shop is deemed a potential carrier.
Lots of people are still working from home. All non-essential businesses, including restaurants, are closed. In my city you can only find fresh fruit and vegetables from the local area.
Cinemas, KTV (a chain of Karaoke bars very popular here) and other entertainment centres (concert halls, stadia etc.) are still closed. One lot of KTV personnel I am aware of were jailed last week for breaking the restrictions.
Only one plane per week from each foreign company is allowed to fly in or out of my city, which has over five million inhabitants. I know this because we sent masks to my home country, along with legal documents. It took DHL a week to get this onto a cargo plane out of here, before proceeding to Shanghai. Once it had left Shanghai it went through Seoul in Korea, and from there took about fourteen hours to arrive in Europe.
If you do arrive in China – you can’t land in Beijing – your plane is diverted to one of twelve regional airports. You will then be placed in compulsory isolation for fourteen days in a hotel at your own cost. If you take a train to or from Beijing without your health pass, your temperature will be taken on arrival.
I have a friend who comes from a northern province close to Russia where there has been a surge in cases from Chinese returning from Russia. You cannot now enter my province from there. Cars from other cities aren’t allowed in either.
We didn’t see a live report or recent photo of the big boss or any of his minions for about three weeks. All media is strictly controlled. The government controls the narrative.
In all my time here I have never seen a live interview with a Chinese politician. Even those conducted abroad, when the President travels, are closely monitored.
‘Offensive’ online content is taken down by algorithms. I remember one time a friend sending me material via WeChat (the Chinese WhatsApp/Facebook equivalent) and when I went to look for it again the following day it had been deleted – and not by either of us. So bad news is not broadcast.
There is no way any of the leadership would admit if they contracted the virus, as they would be losing ‘face.’ It would suggest they were not up to their jobs, and couldn’t even protect themselves.
The Chinese stock market lost just over 8% of its value at the height of the crisis, which is considerably less than the global average, but the vast majority of the large companies are under state control, which gives them control over strategy.
The government has also pumped over $256 billion into the economy. Because of its ability to lockdown very rapidly – though not as early as they should have done – the government was able to halt the spread more easily than any Western country could.
I have friends in the army who were pleading with the public to donate PPE, as they were in real danger.
The local government officials in Wuhan severely chastised medics for alerting their colleagues about the virus – they were called traitors. There are banners on the streets here – ‘beware of traitors and foreign spies’ – I kid you not.
All training schools (including extra English classes after school) are also closed, with teaching moving online. University lecturers are also working from home.
Another Cultural Revolution?
Quite a few of my Chinese friends are convinced there is another Cultural Revolution in the offing – even worse than Mao’s original.
Universities and primary and secondary schools are strictly controlled. Teaching materials come from an ideological standpoint. History is bent to suit the narrative. There is now social engineering in motion.
Every piece of information on social media can be commented on by text or emoji. You ‘gain’ points by liking anything the government says or does. If you criticise (which only an idiot would) you will receive a phone call to attend your local cop shop to receive a warning.
If you don’t make a comment or just give a thumbs up you get left behind in the points race. You will then be at the back of the queue when it comes to purchasing train tickets, plane tickets or concert tickets; ANYTHING you might like to see or partake in which is up for grabs.
They also marshal a non-uniformed thuggery unit to surround reporters from foreign countries who want to interview independent candidates, which literally stops them from moving.
I saw a BBC unit’s video of an attempt to interview a woman who was running for local government. Her husband had been arrested as an enemy of the state. He had been trying to defend a house owner who was having his property stolen from him by unscrupulous developers in league with the local police.
A group of fifty or sixty agents squeezed up against the interview team, without using their hands, and prevented them from getting to the woman’s door.
It’s like the mafia but on a grand scale – everybody is on the take and you all have to send ‘gifts’ upstream.
You now can’t get money out of the country – or at least not much. If you want to emigrate, give up your passport etc., and liquidate your assets you still can’t get more than approximately $50,000 out per year. They have you bound up and stitched tight.
Most of the large companies have now been taken over by government. Jack Ma was forced to give up Ali Baba; the owner of Hainan Airlines Wang Jian refused and met death in mysterious circumstances while on holiday in France. The owner of JD Liu Qiangdong, their best and most trusted shop portal, was forced out as well. These are just the ones we know about.
The law states that if the government needs your company’s co-operation for ‘security reasons’, which they define, you must comply. This is why Huawei’s position as a provider of 5G gear is being resisted in some quarters as the Chinese Govt could have access to anything they like through those servers, routers etc.
Australia has been fighting Chinese interference in its political arena for over a decade.
Chinese students may disrupt a classroom if they meet any fact that diverges from the official line. I once had a student threaten to fight me because I was bringing his attention to established historical facts contradicting what he was being taught in school.
Older students are encouraged by cyber units to put malware on public computers that foreigners use so as to eventually gain access to their private computers. I had to give up using a USB and the school’s hardware. I now use my own laptop and only send files to students or teachers as an attachment to a message via the in-house intranet and the school passes that on.
I have two phones – a Chinese one with a Chinese SIM for public use – and the other one for Facebook/WhatsApp etc. with a VPN to let me access the outside world.
The Falun Gong hate the government. They had a huge following in China. Unfortunately their rule book more or less stated that the government should be overthrown. So they were purged from top to bottom in the most merciless way. The nation has been poisoned against them.
I once saw an older Chinese tourist being given a Falun Gong leaflet while in London. When she worked out what was in her hands she looked like she was about to have a heart attack, and looked around furtively to be sure no one had seen her accepting it.
I am really looking forward to getting back to the ‘real’ world – but when exactly that is I don’t know.