Gleeful Liberal Pundits Arrogantly Bash China’s Covid “Dystopia:” 10 Reasons to Mistrust Them

The war in Ukraine is far from over. Yet already even the so-called “alternative media” are softening us up for the next conflict – this time with China.

That’s the conclusion easily drawn after witnessing a recent Sinophobic segment of “Breaking Points” with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti (see above). Together they gleefully tag-teamed on China’s Covid-19 “dystopia.” (“Dystopia,” you recall is an “imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.”)

According to Enjeti and Ball, that’s China for you. Under its “authoritarian” regime, the people there lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives. A familiar story this side of the pond.

But are such charges valid? To find out, consider first the accusations themselves, secondly the hubris behind them, and finally a real-life example suggesting caution about indictments of cultures and policies few in the west can understand.

Accusations Vs. China

According to Enjeti and Ball, the People’s Republic lockdown strategy, though admittedly spectacularly successful in combatting the first two waves of Covid, is failing miserably with the Omicron version.

“Whew, thank God,” they seemed to gloat. “That was a close one. Imagine, if we’d have to admit that China’s universal healthcare system and prioritization of citizens’ lives and community health over business profits and getting people back to work has something to teach us.” Close one indeed.

Ball specifically expressed her happy relief by observing that she and others like her initially experienced a kind of “China envy” regarding the way the country so efficiently and effectively dealt with Covid since the pandemic’s dawn in 2020.  She then admired the way lockdowns, testing, contact tracing, provision of personal protective equipment, vaccinations, and expansions of hospital facilities kept Chinese fatalities minimal compared with the nearly one million pandemic deaths in the United States where such policies took months to develop. All of that seemed to explain why even though China has four times the U.S. population, over the first two years of the pandemic, it experienced only a fraction of America’s Covid fatalities.

Thankfully, however, in the welcome light of China’s struggles with Omicron, the truth has come to light. According to a chuckling Enjeti, China’s “dystopian nightmarish lockdown” reveals the sad truth. “This is what full communist collectivism really looks like,” he said.

Say what? “Full communist collectivism?” China?

In other contexts, commentators like our intrepid pair explain China’s economic and social successes as “not really socialism.” Instead, China’s capitalist nature is what accounts for its success.

Now however it’s “full communist collectivism” that explains everything.

Such self-contradictory and infantile analysis enabled Ball to chime in that though there’s “a long way” before we in the U.S. have a real true democracy, “at least the say of the people (she rolled her eyes appropriately at this point) “means something. And I will take that and all of the strife and messiness that it entails on a daily basis over drones circling overhead chastising your soul for wanting freedom.”

Ball’s reference was to Shanghai residents’ being admonished by drone loudspeakers to (according to somebody’s translation) “Please comply with Covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

Oh, the horror! What could be more authoritarian than asking people to control their soul’s desire for freedom and ask them not to sing?  What evil masters the poor Chinese have!

And imagine this: government food deliveries (to Shanghai’s 27 million people!) have been disrupted. Black markets for scarce commodities have resulted. The elderly are especially threatened.

According to a smirking Enjeti, the other end of the mortality table is threatened as well. Officials in Shanghai, he reports, are defending the policy of separating babies and young children from their parents if they test positive for Covid-19. “So, they’re literally taking children, he lamented, who are testing positive for Covid and administering treatment to them in public health centers.

And besides that, “there are people kneeling (sic) in the street and as people pass by, they check their ID passes and swabbing them constantly. This is the full stuff of nightmares of authoritarian lockdown.”

According to the “Breaking Point” hosts, all such horrors are due to Shanghai’s “total zero policy” regarding Covid.

Luckily, Enjeti claimed, we know all about this, while the Chinese people do not. According to young Sagaar, “We probably have a better idea of what’s happening in Shanghai than people in Beijing and in the rest of the country, just because of the Chinese government’s ability in order to crack down. In the Chinese equivalent of Times Square there were signs saying, ‘Don’t believe everything you see on social media and do not share viral videos’.”

Yes, it’s gotten that bad. Shanghai’s government is actually telling its people not to trust what they see on social media. Dangerous advice indeed.

Unhinged Hubris

Please excuse the sarcasm that leaked into my account that I had planned to be simply descriptive. However, the ironies and arrogance of the “Breaking Points” segment was so stunningly slanted and obviously anti-Chinese that I just couldn’t help myself.

I mean, think about the pomposity of young pundits living in a country that has experienced many more per capita Covid deaths than China criticizing a 6000-year-old culture that apparently places the common good above individual “freedom.”  Consider 10 such overreaches by Enjeti and Ball:  

  1. To begin with, they adopt a moral position that amounts to the pot calling the kettle black or people in glass houses throwing stones. To repeat, Americans whose government failed miserably to protect their citizens from a viral pandemic, have no moral right to criticize a government like China’s which did.
  2. That U.S. failure is never seen by commentators like our 2 exemplars as indicating the systemic failure of capitalism. Yet, China’s successes with the first two waves of Covid along with its vigorous efforts to combat Omicron somehow indicate the failure of Enjeti’s “full communist collectivism.”
  3. Enjeti and Ball also naively take at face value a 4 second video (showing buildings somewhere at night with sounds of people wailing in the background). They present the footage as unquestionably demonstrating the plight of Shanghai’s suffering millions. Instead, in the light of recent revelations about CIA and Pentagon deceptions, such easily faked video should have evoked strong journalistic skepticism.
  4. Similarly, Enjeti imagines Shanghai residents’ understandings of complex concepts such as “soul” and “freedom,” and “sing” (and of “government” for that matter) are accurate, non-ideological, non-propagandistic CIA translations of the Chinese terms involved.
  5. He further imagines that such terms have the same meanings for Chinese as they do for Americans.
  6. Moreover, Enjeti actually claims that he, a 20 something American, and the rest of us have a better understanding of what’s happening in Shanghai than the Chinese do. Such hubris needs no commentary.
  7. “Breaking Points” also gives the impression that children separated from parents “to be taken for treatment in a health center” represent permanent involuntary separation of child and parent (like that practiced by the U.S. at the Mexican border) instead of simply taking children (with their parents’ permission?) for treatment.
  8. Perhaps worst of all, “Breaking Points” never explains or even speculates why the Chinese government has adopted its lockdown, zero tolerance policy. The program simply leaves the impression that zero tolerance is a question of the mean communists exercising arbitrary power for the sake of doing so. Could it be however that Beijing actually cares about the health of the Chinese people and prefers saving lives to a return to normal that will increase corporate profits while causing preventable losses of life?  
  9. Finally, the “Breaking Points” hosts assume that the term “authoritarian” is univocal in meaning. China is “authoritarian;” the U.S. is not. “Communism” is authoritarian; capitalism is not. Such misunderstandings fail to reflect the undeniable fact that ALL extant systems of political economy are authoritarian, be they capitalist or socialist. Certainly, it’s undeniable that by definition America’s capitalist “empire” (a term enthusiastically embraced by its politicians) can never claim to be democratic or a respecter of human rights. It’s essentially authoritarian. That is, by nature, empire is imposed upon (not chosen by) its subjects. The same goes for capitalism itself. Yes, it has its Tweedle Dum vs. Tweedle Dee elections. But under capitalism, most of our time is spent working for wages under completely authoritarian bosses who give us no say over how we spend our time and who can fire us at whim.
  10. With all systems sharing authoritarianism, the question is which kind do we prefer – one that takes care of ordinary people or the type that prioritizes the needs of the rich. It’s clear from the examples like “our” allies Brazil, the Philippines, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, etc.., which type of authoritarians the United States prefers. Policies towards China (which has virtually eliminated poverty among its people and enjoys their 85% approval) as well as towards Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba, do the same thing.

Conclusion

I have a Chinese friend who takes part in a prayer circle my wife and I participate in.

Recently, at one of our sessions with our Chinese friend absent, members of our circle were lamenting the plight of Shanghai’s residents as reported by news outlets like “Breaking Points.” “It just all seems so inhumane,” most prayer circle members lamented.

The next night we checked it out with our this-time present Chinese sister. We knew her elderly parents lived in Shanghai. We were worried about them.

“Well, what about the horror of Shanghai?” we asked her.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” she replied. “It’s just the Chinese government overacting a bit to Covid. My folks are o.k.”

“Wow,” was the response of others in the group. “I guess you just can’t be sure whom or what to believe.”

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “Gleeful Liberal Pundits Arrogantly Bash China’s Covid “Dystopia:” 10 Reasons to Mistrust Them”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Many thanks for this.

    I had just registered my annoyance and strong viewpoint on a Russell Brand Youtube video where he got into the same China-bashing you dealt with so well. One point I made was that had China behaved like the U.S. did they would have approximately 3,494,400 deaths instead of 4638.

    Best wishes, Brian Smyth

    Maybe International Ireland


    27 Fitzwilliam Square

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    E: brian@maybe.ie W: http://www.maybe.ie

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    1. Thanks, Brian. I watched that Brand video just this morning. I normally like Brand (as I do “Breaking Points.” However, both have gone off the deep end here. Brand was almost worse than Enjeti and Ball. More incoherent and all over the place.

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