How Does China Compare to Democratic Countries in Its Handling of Coronavirus Crisis?
(Minghui.org) As the coronavirus pandemic rages through the world, infecting more than 1.6 million people in over 200 countries, many governments have implemented stay-at-home policies to stem the virus spread.
This article compares and contrasts the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and democratic countries in their handling of the crisis.
China's Draconian Lockdown Vs. The U.S. Stay-At-Home Policies
The United States has no national lockdown policy. The stay-at-home policies implemented by various states generally do not forbid people from going outside to purchase groceries, seek medical care, look after family members, walk dogs, or engage in outdoor recreation activities. The key is to maintain a social distance—6 feet apart from each other—while outside. As older people are more susceptible to catching the virus, some stores offer special shopping hours just for seniors.
China's lockdown was more like implementing a marshal law. Take Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as an example. The municipal government announced at 2:00 a.m. on January 23, 2020, that starting at 10:00 a.m. that day all public transportation would be suspended and no one would be allowed to leave the city without permission.
During the next 76 days, the entire city of Wuhan was sealed off, with people stuck in their homes. In the early days of the lockdown, people were not allowed to leave home at all and had to have groceries, which were often very expensive, delivered to their residential compounds. Later, each household was allowed to have one person go out for grocery shopping every few days. That person was required to wear a face mask, and some people were arrested for non-compliance.
The Wuhan-style lockdown may have quickly contained the virus spread, but it failed to respect the most basic human rights, with many people experiencing shortages of food or medicine, and some even dying as a result.
In Shiyan, Hubei Province, a volunteer temperature-checker stopped by a house on February 24, 2020. A six-year-old boy opened the door and said that he and his grandpa were the only two residents in the house. The temperature-checker asked to speak to the older man, but the little boy said that grandpa had died several days earlier, and said, “Grandpa told me not to go outside since there was virus outside.”
The volunteer discovered the old man's body in the bathroom. The little boy had been eating crackers for the past few days. Had the volunteer not shown up that day, the little boy may have also died, just like his grandpa.
China lifted the lockdown of Wuhan on April 8, though there have been reports that many residential compounds still have tight restrictions in place.
No Lifeline in China yet, while the West Hurries to Offer Financial Support
China is where the coronavirus originated, but it has not announced any stimulus packages to help struggling families and businesses. On the other hand, many western countries, which were weeks behind China in terms of discovering the first confirmed cases, have quickly taken actions to help their citizens and save their economies.
As the worldwide case reached 100,000 on March 6, the U.S. President Trump signed a $8.3 billion emergency spending package, $3 billion of which was allocated for vaccine research. Trump declared national emergency on March 13, which opened up $50 billion to fight the pandemic, and on March 18 signed an economic relief bill to provide paid sick and family leave for workers impacted by the pandemic, expand unemployment insurance, and increase resources for testing.
On March 27, Trump signed the $2 trillion stimulus bill called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which aims to help families, retirees, small businesses, student loan borrowers, and others affected by the pandemic. “This is a wartime level of investment into our nation,” remarked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The coronavirus stimulus bill creates a tax rebate of $1,200 per taxpayer plus $500 per child. The amount of the rebate is gradually reduced for those whose incomes exceed $75,000 per year for individuals, $112,500 for heads of households, and $150,000 for joint filers. It directs the Treasury to send these payments to families in need, with a family of four receiving up to $3,400.
Similarly, Canada has rolled out an $82-billion emergency support package for workers, employers, parents, students, indigenous communities, and other groups. The package consisted of $27 billion worth of “direct support” to workers and businesses, and another $55 billion through tax deferrals.
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said, “Usually my job is to ensure we maintain our fiscal track. But right now, as minister of finance, my only job is to make sure that Canadians can keep food in the fridge, that they can keep a roof over their heads, and that they can afford the medicine that they need.”
The United Kingdom government said it would offer a £330 billion loan guarantees and a further 20 billion pounds in tax cuts, grants, and other help for businesses hard hit by the pandemic. Finance minister Rishi Sunak said the country would do “whatever it takes” to help the shuttered retailers, bars, airports, and other firms, as “We have never in peacetime faced an economic fight like this one.”
France, on the other hand, plans 45 billion euros of crisis support to the economy to assist companies and workers.
Similar measures were also taken in Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan.
Daily Press Briefing in U.S. Vs. Xi's Lack of Public Appearances
During the past few weeks, President Trump and Vice President Pence have held briefings every day including weekends, providing updated information about the pandemic and advice for the next steps. The same is happening in the U.K., where high-ranking officials are available to answer questions.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping, however, was rarely seen during the epidemic crisis, even though he usually made high-profile appearances on a regular basis.
On the day when Wuhan was locked down, January 23, 2020, Xi gave a speech marking the Lunar Chinese New Year, but he didn't mention the coronavirus. He attended a banquet celebrating the new year the next day, but again said nothing about the outbreak. On January 28, he met with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. On February 5, he met with Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen.
Xi wasn't seen in public again until February 10, when he visited Beijing's Chaoyang district to inspect the local officials' work in fighting the virus. The next time Xi was seen was on March 10, when he visited Wuhan for the first time since the epidemic broke out in December 2019.
Across the Taiwan Strait: Two Different Worlds
Taiwan was considered to have the best response in fighting the coronavirus.
As of April 10, about 1.7 million people have been infected by the coronavirus, with a death toll of over 100,000. Taiwan has a population of 23.8 million, about half of Spain and one third of Italy, yet it has only so far reported 382 cases and 6 deaths, even though it is only 100 miles from China.
The Taiwanese have practiced distancing themselves from the CCP for decades, long before the coronavirus outbreak. Right after medical professionals in Wuhan circulated news of the coronavirus outbreak on December 30, 2019, Taiwan wrote to the WHO requesting more information. No response was received from the WHO, and Chinese officials did nothing other than punishing the Wuhan doctors for “spreading rumors.”
Before nightfall on December 31, Taiwan had “decided to begin health inspections for all passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan,” wrote an article on The Nation on April 3 titled “The WHO ignores Taiwan, The world pays the price.”
It was a different story across the Taiwan Strait. Zhang, a software programmer in Shandong Province, told a reporter from The Epoch Times that he had been using software to circumvent the Internet blockade since 2016, so he could access Google and YouTube, which are otherwise unavailable in China. Recently upon hearing of billionaire Ren Zhiqiang being detained for criticizing the CCP for the pandemic, he re-posted an article from Ren online and called on others to do something to help improve the situation.
“It’s strange that none of my friends replied with anything,” Zhang said to the reporter. Zhang learned that one friend’s WeChat account had been blocked. Disappointed, he posted another message urging people to dismiss Xi Jinping and the CCP. By evening, he found that his account had been permanently deactivated.
Many people have fared much worse than Zhang. Ren Chunhua (no relation to Ren Zhiqiang), a resident in Wuhan City, used to run a home-based barber shop. After officials seized her private property and sold it to developers, her shop was demolished in 2013, with no state compensation. She has been appealing for years to various government agencies, only to be arrested and beaten to the point of becoming disabled. She and her two children have since been living in a roadside tent.
“The pandemic makes things even worse,” Ren explained. With no food or money, she asked for help from local officials and no one replied to her phone call. “In fact, I have given up hope for the CCP,” she added. “When they demolished my shop, they already deprived me of everything. Counting on them is like purely daydreaming.”
Since the lockdown began on January 23, Ren had been relying on her neighbors to offer her and her two children some food to eat. Many donations have been reported, but she received free food only once and had to pay for food at much higher than normal prices, the rest of the time.
Ren had no choice but post a message online on April 2 asking for help. Although she could hardly reach officials previously, several police officers came a few hours later—not to offer help, but to warn her to stay quiet and away from trouble.
Ren said that the CCP treats her like dirt. “You can sue those officials,” one officer once said to her, “But it will be useless. The Party is the boss. Officials won’t admit it even if they are wrong.”