China’s protests are not just about Covid ⋆

There’s no reason to think the Chinese are bizarrely immune to the universal human desire to not be trampled too horribly by others

Are Chinese protestors really risking their freedom if not their lives just because of anger over the Zero Covid policy, or is the unrest in Shanghai and other cities happening for a more profound reason – like discontent about living under perpetual Communist dictatorship?

In a TV debate, I argued that the Zero Covid policy was actually not indefensible: Widely accepted numbers show that China, with 1.4 billion people, has suffered around 5,000 Covid deaths – which is about 800 times fewer per capita than the United States (and less than half the figure in Israel).

Yaqui Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, argued that there was real anger at the economic consequences of the lockdowns – but while that is again doubtless true, the economic numbers (which one might actually question) show China’s economy growing at a more than 8% rate – which is lower than in the 2000s but higher than in recent years and, again, about 4 times higher than in the United States.

While I agree that the extreme lockdowns in China need to end (despite a recent surge in Covid cases, if not yet deaths) and I suspect the regime will take heed of the evident discontent, I’d bet there is an element of pretext in the protests.

Gong Jiong of the China International University in Israel disputed that notion, arguing that liberal democracy is not for everyone; indeed, even China experts who are not Chinese (and therefore presumably less likely to be brainwashed or intimidated) often argue democracy is somehow antithetical to Chinese culture.

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