The following article was published by John Ross in Learning From China. It was orginally appeared in Chinese at Guancha.cn on 29 January 2022.
Few issues show more clearly the real difference between the pro-human oriented policies of socialism in China and pro-capital oriented policies of the U.S. than the two countries response to the Covid pandemic. The U.S., while verbally proclaiming support for “human rights”, is actively campaigning for a policy that would already have led to 3.6 million Chinese people being dead and would result in more than two million more dying in 2022. That is the factual meaning of the U.S. call for China to abandon its “Zero Covid” policy. To be more precise, the U.S. in the name of “human rights” is calling for a policy that would kill 6.4 million Chinese people by the end of this year – that is, the U.S. is calling for a slaughter of millions of Chinese people in the name of “human rights”
As someone who works in China, but is not Chinese and by chance was outside China when the Covid pandemic began, I can see in the Chinese media that because China has been so protected against Covid by the policies of the Chinese government, compared to the U.S., U.K. and other major capitalist countries, it is difficult for Chinese people to imagine the scale of the Covid catastrophe that is occurring in the West and which would unfold in China if its Zero Covid policy were replaced by the policies of the U.S, U.K or other capitalist countries.
The aim of this article is therefore simply to present the reality. But the fact that this would involve analysis of a policy that would result in millions of deaths in China means it is still difficult to convey the scale of horror that is unfolding in the U.S. and U.K. for their populations, due to these countries’ acceptance of mass killings from Covid. Nevertheless, it is hoped by giving this data, to see the scale of disaster that would unfold for China if it copied the U.S./U.K. approach on Covid, by abandoning a Zero Covid policy, and how fortunate the Chinese people are to have been protected by the policies of the Chinese government.
Facts on Covid
To start with the “dry” facts, without describing their gigantic effects on the lives of people, Mainland China, has suffered 4,636 Covid deaths since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in January 2020 in a population of 1,447 million – that is 3 Covid deaths per million. In contrast, in the same period, the U.S. has suffered more than 850,000 deaths in a population of 332 million – the number of Covid death per million people in the U.S. is 2,551. The number of deaths per capita in the U.S. is 650 times the number in China!
Turning this into a number in proportion to the population, this means that if the level of deaths per head of the population in China from Covid had been the same as in the U.S. 3.6 million people would already be dead in China as opposed to less than the 5,000 which is the factual situation. That is why it is simply true that if China had pursued the same Covid strategy as the U.S. 3.6 million Chinese people would already be dead.
But the situation in the U.S. is continuing to develop in a disastrous direction. At present, taking a 7-day average to avoid distortion by individual day’s statistics, there are 1,750 U.S. Covid deaths per day. Relative to the population of China this is 7,600 deaths per day, or 2.8 million deaths a year. This is why, on present trends, China would suffer 6.4 million Covid deaths by the end of this year if it adopted the U.S.’s policy.
As sometimes Britain is also held up as an example for China to follow, and to abandon a Zero Covid policy, it is worth doing the same calculations for the U.K. Britain’s death rate from Covid during the pandemic is 2,210 per million people. This means that if China had the same Covid death rate in relation to its population as Britain, 3.2 million Chinese people would already be dead. Britain’s current daily Covid death rate is 262. This would be equivalent in China, in proportion to the population ofa daily death rate of 5,546 in – or an annual death rate of 2.0 million. That is, if China had followed the same policy as Britain, in relation to China’s population 5.2 million Chinese people would be dead by the end of 2022.
Covid deaths in the West are overwhelmingly concentrated among ordinary people
But even these figures do not capture the reality of the horror for ordinary people which is unfolding in the U.S. and other Western countries. Because it is the richest people in the West who are able to receive the best protection against Covid and it is ordinary people, the majority of the population, who are simultaneously subject to the threat of death and also face a huge reduction in living standards. Indeed, in addition to the threat of death, what Covid has been used for in the West is to create an enormous transfer of income from ordinary people to the richest in society.
This can be seen most dramatically in the U.S., where an enormous transfer of resources is taking place from the working class to capital. This is reflected most dramatically in the stupendous increase in U.S. billionaire wealth since the Covid pandemic started. As a study of U.S. billionaires noted: “America’s billionaires have grown $2.1 trillion richer during the pandemic, their collective fortune skyrocketing by 70 percent — from just short of $3 trillion at the start of the COVID crisis on March 18, 2020, to over $5 trillion on October 15 of this year , according to Forbes data analyzed by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality (IPS).
“The $5 trillion in wealth now held by 745 billionaires is two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50 percent of U.S. households estimated by the Federal Reserve Board.
“The great good fortune of these billionaires… is even starker when contrasted with the devastating impact of coronavirus on working people. Almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.”
While U.S. billionaires were increasing their wealth during the pandemic by $2 trillion, as the New York Times noted:” The purchasing power of the average worker’s weekly pay declined by 2.3 percent from December 2020 to December 2021.”. The attack on the most vulnerable, such as the old and the disabled, who have the highest Covid death rates is even worse. In short, in the West a literal slaughter of ordinary people is taking place while an enormous transfer of wealth is taking place to the richest in society.
Because the Western policy on Covid has been such a savage attack on ordinary people it has also been deeply politically destabilizing – almost every major Western government has seen its support collapse during the Covid pandemic.
As the British Daily Telegraph noted regarding the West: “almost no leader… can claim their pandemic strategy was a success… Now, the political reckoning begins.
“From Australia to Israel, most of those who were in power at the start of the pandemic have either lost power – or look as if they soon will….
It noted “Joe Biden… was elected president on a promise to “shut down the virus”… He failed… His approval ratings have now fallen faster than any leader in modern American history…. Micah Roberts, a Republican pollster, summed it up: “As goes Covid, so goes the Biden presidency, and that’s really proving to be quite true.” In Australia the government of Scott Morrison has led to it being eight percent behind the opposition in the opinion polls, with an election due in May at the latest. In Canada the approval rate for how the Trudeau government has handled the pandemic fell from 59 per cent last year to 41%. In Sweden the Prime Minister lost power.” Meanwhile in Britain the direct and indirect political effects of Covid has led to the Johnson government falling 10% behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls.
In short the Covid health disaster unfolding in the capitalist countries, with more than 5.5 million dead, is deeply destabilising politics.
U.S, propaganda against China to conceal the truth
Confronted with the extreme contrast between China’s success in controlling the pandemic and their own results the Western capitalist governments, led by the U.S. have launched two huge ideological propaganda offensives. First, to attempt to conceal China’s success in dealing with Covid from their own populations. Second, to attempt to get China to abandon its Zero Covid policy – even although, as has been seen, this would lead to the death of millions of people in China.
Taking the first of these, it is difficult for people in China to grasp the scale of lying and misrepresentation which is occurring in the Western media. In particular any survey of this completely destroys the myth that the Western media exists to “reveal the truth”. Instead, what is occurring is systematic lying on a gigantic scale.
For example take the New York Times analysis of the build up to the Winter Olympics. This admits in its headline that: “China’s Games: How Xi Jinping Is Staging the Olympics on His Terms. From Beijing’s unexpected bid through the coronavirus pandemic, China has managed to fulfil its promises.” But the New York Times then declares China: “has insisted on sustaining its “zero Covid” strategy… regardless of the cost to its economy and its people.” This so called “cost” to its people is that China has suffered less than 5,000 deaths from Covid while the U.S. has suffered more than 850,000 deaths! While even in terms of the economy, which is less important than people’s lives, the U.S. has fallen far behind China since the beginning of the pandemic – in 2020 and 2021 China’s economy grew by a total 10.5%, which will be far higher than the U.S., given than U.S. GDP fell by 3.5% in 2020 and will grow by less than China in 2021.
The economic success of China’s Zero Covid policy
In fact as Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under the National Health Commission (NHC) noted: “From the early-day emergency control, to exploration of precise control until the current dynamic zero, Chinese approach protected people’s lives and health and ensured economic growth…
“Liang noted that to evaluate costs and results of the approach objectively, it is important to consider… how many infections and deaths have been prevented – the costs for a country of 1.4 billion population are widely considered as being reasonable so far…
“That is the mobility and convenience of a few are compromised for the normalcy of the widest regions possible, Liang explained.
“To evaluate economic losses and gains of the control methods requires a macro view of the nation over a longer time span, rather than focusing on the affected city during a single control period.”
In summary, China’s Zero Covid policy, most importantly has been a gigantic success in saving the lives of millions of Chinese people but it has also been a huge economic success compared to the U.S.
The proven efficiency of China’s Zero Covid policy
Global Times accurately noted the extraordinary efficiency of China in controlling the pandemic compared to the U.S. : “Tianjin… has become the epitome of China’s miracle of speed in containing the virus from further spread amid the first real battle against Omicron on the Chinese mainland as domestically-transmitted cases linked to the strain were discovered in Tianjin’s local communities for the first time.
“While nucleic acid testing systems in many places in the US have been on the verge of collapse due to a system overload, China’s orderly and efficient community grid management in large-scale testing reflects China’s determination to win the battle against the virus…
“The first round of nucleic acid test screening in Tianjin, which started on January 9, the second day that two local Omicron cases were reported, has concluded with more than 12 million samples collected, resulting in 77 positive cases…
“Well-organized scheduling to avoid long queues in chilly winter weather, quick channels set for vulnerable groups, door-to-door notification – Tianjin’s community-based screening campaign, which started right after local Omicron cases were confirmed, has received a flood of praise from netizens. An efficient and speedy screening is the most powerful weapon to win the fight against Omicron, Wei Sheng, a department head at the Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times… “Residents in each building in our community go downstairs for testing in real-time sequences, in groups of ten..” Most of their testing process took only about 10 minutes. “We also distributed heating pad to those who lined up for the nucleic acid test to keep warm.” …
“Information on waiting times at over 51 fever clinics and 40 nucleic acid testing sites in Tianjin is updated every two hours on the internet and broadcasted on TV channels, according to media reports. Detailed and timely information has impressed local residents… National support is also the backbone of Tianjin’s quick response…. ‘Once an outbreak occurs in a place, the government would issue an order to dispatch a national expert team to provide support as soon as possible, and assist in the tracing of the transmission chain of the epidemic within 24 hours,’ Wu Liangyou, deputy director of the Disease Control and Prevention Bureau under the National Health Commission, said…
“Using big data technology, Tianjin successfully set up an end-to-end “health code – venue code” evaluation model to monitor and evaluate the code information dynamically in real time and optimize it quickly, which significantly reduced the confirmation delay to less than 55 milliseconds on average when the code scan volume doubled, according to media reports…
“High technology has widely been used in the current war against Omicron.”
This type of protection is unimaginable in the West, where literally millions of people are being killed by Covid. In the capitalist states literally billions of people are, at best, left to try to protect themselves, without effective government support as the huge death tolls show, and where also enormous numbers of these are forced back to work, to generate capitalist profit, in unsafe conditions.
In the international financial crisis of 2008 hundreds of millions of people in China learnt in an entirely practical way that China’s economic system was far superior to the West. In the Covid pandemic they saw something else – that the Chinese government keeps the Chinese people alive while Western capitalist governments do not keep their own people alive.
And the people of China should also decisively understand from the pandemic what total hypocrisy is the U.S. claim to stand for “human rights”. By campaigning for China to abandon its Zero Covid strategy, and adopt an approach in line with the capitalist West, the U.S. is calling for a China to adopt a policy that would kill literally millions of Chinese people.
An attempt to kill millions of people in China – that is the real content of U.S. “human rights”.