Shanghai authorities announced a city-wide lockdown split in two stages for mass testing on 27 March 2022, after the city reached its highest recorded daily new cases due to the Omicron variant. Starting on 28 March, residents living east of the Huangpu River would go into lockdown for four days, and the other half for the remaining four. Most people were optimistic that Shanghai would reopen as promised starting April, but surprise surprise, the lockdown has been in force for more than 50 days now.
Ironically, people who advised their friends to stock up on food and be prepared for a long lockdown were arrested and charged for spreading rumours. Will those who wrongfully charged them be punished? Probably not. So not surprisingly, many people were caught unprepared. Though some believers of the system are still putting up a front on Facebook or even thanking the government for the free food that was distributed to them, the more honest ones confessed that they have plucked out all their ornamental plants to grow vegetables. Some people had revealed that groceries (which included Lianhua Qingwen) given by the government were barely enough to line the stomach walls of two people. What about families?
As if that’s not bad enough, residential committees had been hoarding food supplies and blocking deliveries from online ordering which was already a challenge. Donated food supplies were repackaged and sold. Food shortages caused massive inflation. Suppliers with connections were laughing their way to the bank. Someone who stumbled into the estate office and recorded community leaders feasting on Swiss rolls while the community was starving was arrested for disseminating state secrets.
The agonising reality faced by the common people seemed to bear no resemblance to what they saw on TV. People were hopping mad, but their grievances were all scrubbed clean from social media. Belgian YouTuber Ceylan who had just escaped from Shanghai was flummoxed that Chinese people could quietly put up with all this nonsense.
Why? They probably have enough people believing that this is a war that the evil West had waged against China out of jealousy. Quite a number of Chinese influencers had attributed every outbreak in China to the West planting the virus. It may shock or amuse some people, but “prayers” on 抖音 wishing ill of America and Japan had all managed to go viral – with the tacit approval of the authorities of course. How would the rest of the thinking, reasoning, feeling world see Chinese people if they understand what’s going on here? Has the lockdown taken its toll on their mental health? Are they a bunch of idiots trying to be funny?
Someone also made a video parody mocking the authorities. An old lady was called to the door and asked to follow a Big White. The BW said that he received orders to pick up a dead body and bring it to the crematorium. The old lady replied that she was the only one living in that unit. The Big White asked the old lady to follow him. The old lady protested “isn’t it obvious that I’m still alive?” The BW was not interested in whether she was dead or alive. He only wanted to know whether she was coming quietly or they had to use force.
This was what happened to many people whose swab test results were either still pending or even negative. Big Whites knocked on their doors and told them to follow them to the temporary shelters for people who had tested positive. On the other hand, people who had actually tested positive were told they would be picked up but the Big Whites never showed up. Instead, they were left at home for days until they were tested negative. It was only then that the BWs arrived to pick them up. They showed that they had already recovered and tested negative, but no, the BWs were still under orders to bring them to the temporary shelters which had appalling living conditions like lights on 24/7, flooded toilets etc.
Some people who were picked up could spend an entire day on the bus, going around all the temporary shelters, looking for a space. As these shelters filled up, the authorities have ordered home owners to hand over their keys so that their homes could be used as temporary shelters! To prevent some people from leaving their homes, fences were constructed around entrances to apartment buildings. It is now a world turned upside down.
Was the parody an exaggeration? Actually no. It’s a real possibility that living people could have been cremated alive. Will any attempt be made to find out? Probably not.
All this is happening in one of the richest and most advanced cities in the world. The big question slapping so many optimists in the face is : why? There are a couple of obvious points that we can figure out simply thinking with our butts. Just as back in 2001, the WTO believed that China would “naturally” democratise when the country became prosperous and the people well-educated, Shanghai’s progressiveness does not guarantee that it is free from the clutches of the CCP. No matter how smart the people are, they are governed by party secretaries anxious to prove their worth and hide their ignorance. Just as democracy has not found its way into China’s system in spite of those years of opening up, the tradition of 外行管内行 has stuck on till this day.
While not many intelligent and reasoning people truly believe that there could be no New China without the CCP, they could keep their mouths shut and make hay while the sun still shines. Well, even your butt can tell you now that the sun has stopped shining.
Of course, China saw more than two decades of rapid growth, thanks to reforms and opening up. There was a time when China’s official media collaborated with the BBC to do a documentary on the Three Gorges. The root of today’s problem lies in a new ideology that harks back to Maoist days. 毛病不改 积恶成习。 The four points of confidence – 1. Confidence in China’s version of socialism, 2. confidence in its ideology, 3. confidence in the system and 4. confidence in the culture have sown the seeds for a close-minded society.
What did they do if they can’t beat MMA with Taiji? Well, they blocked Xu Xiaodong on social media, slashed his social credit and banned competitions between two different martial art forms. The truth is secondary. Taiji or Wing Chun or whatever Chinese martial artform that had kicked the butts of Westerners or Japanese on the silver screen must never be seen to lose to Western artforms in reality.
The same applies to Covid measures in Shanghai and the rest of China. China led the world with draconian lockdowns and they apparently achieved zero Covid, earning them bragging rights. They even went to the extent of mocking the West and making countries they had help to fly the Chinese flag and thank China. The highly transmissible omicron variant changed the rules of the game. Countries with effective vaccines, high vaccination rates and adequate medical facilities had taken the prudent path of living with the virus. China on the other hand, is still resorting their way. Science and statistics have shown that China-made vaccines are not as good as the mRNA vaccines. An unbelievable number of people are still living in denial due either to loyalty or ethnicity.
Meanwhile, frequent testing had forced Shanghai residents out of their homes into snaking queues. Some people could have been infected that way. Pregnant folks had given birth on the streets just outside the hospitals while waiting for their test results. Folks who had tested positive had their treatment indefinitely delayed. Many previously healthy people became unhealthy. Many lives were unnecessarily lost due to delays and protocols. Millions of people have lost their jobs or income.
Wang Sicong, “crown prince” of Dalian Wanda Group made the daring statement that swab tests are not meant to test whether you’re positive or negative. They are meant to test your subservience and willingness to sacrifice.
Achieving anything “at all cost” 不惜一切代价 means they don’t care how many people die as long as the results are achieved, just like during the Korean War when troops were ordered to charge at the enemy to exhaust their machine gun’s ammunition. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. China can also live with the virus by using more effective vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna but that would mean a tremendous loss of face for Party. Hence, they fight their outbreaks the same way they fight MMA with Taiji. Ma Baoguo (below) is still hailed as a national treasure and given plenty of airtime on national TV.
Why am I so concerned about all this which seem to have nothing to do with Singapore? Not so. Thinking with our butts again, imagine the number of people here who can suffer in “silence”. Sure, they may make a lot of noise, but they take no action in the polling booth. That is what scares me. When people cannot contemplate another party being involved in the governing the country, people will just blow off steam and move on.