With over 200 countries and territories coping with the coronavirus pandemic, many government officials and people in general have been searching for a cure. Some have begun to reflect on some fundamental issues of our society and ourselves.
“Epidemic diseases are not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning,” wrote Frank Snowden, a professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine at Yale in his book Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, published in October 2019, several weeks prior to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.
“Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are,” he explained during an interview with The New Yorker on March 3, 2020. “They also reflect our relationships with the environment—the built environment that we create and the natural environment that responds. They show the moral relationships that we have toward each other as people, and we’re seeing that today.”
With that in mind, we may want to explore what has been happening during the coronavirus pandemic, what can be learned from history, and what we should do to find a solution.
The CCP Virus
Since December 2019, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has spared no effort in covering up the initial outbreak, downplaying its severity, under-reporting numbers, and blaming others to shirk its responsibility. “The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record,” reported The Atlantic on March 19, 2020.
To make things worse, the Chinese government censored and detained the doctors and whistleblowers who bravely tried to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the imminent danger.
Because the CCP is mainly responsible for the pandemic, the New York-based Epoch Times newspaper referred to the disease as the “CCP virus” in its March 18 editorial “Giving the Right Name to the Virus Causing a Worldwide Pandemic.”
Josh Rogin with the Washington Post agreed. In his article on March 19, he also called it the CCP virus, adding this name is “more accurate and offends only those who deserve it.” “We must all be specific in blaming the Chinese Communist Party for its actions. It was the CCP that hid the virus outbreak for weeks, silencing doctors, jailing journalists and thwarting science — most notably by shutting down the Shanghai lab that publicly released the first coronavirus genome sequence,” he explained.
Route of Infections
Government officials, scientists, and medical professionals have been examining the transmission route of the virus, hoping to learn more about the disease. “Every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities,” Snowden wrote in his book.
Outside of China, where real data is unavailable due to the CCP’s cover-up, Italy topped the world with the most deaths (14,681 in total and 243 per million population), followed by Spain, which reported 10,935 deaths (234 per million population), as of April 2. The United States reported the most cases of infection (266,558) and 6,803 deaths (21 per million population).
So what do these countries have in common? They all share close ties with the CCP.
Many analysts were wary of China's ambition to become a world power and suspect the One Belt and One Road (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI) could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development and military expansion.
Ignoring warnings from the EU and the United States, however, Italy became the first and only G7 country to sign onto the program in March 2019, opening “an array of sectors to Chinese investment, from infrastructure to transportation, including letting Chinese state-owned companies hold a stake in four major Italian ports. The deal gave communist China a foothold in the heart of Europe,” reported The Federalist in an article on March 17.
After a total of 29 deals were signed between the two countries, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister told CNBC, “There is nothing to worry about.” The first coronavirus infection case in Italy was reported in the Lombardy region on February 21, two days before Wuhan was locked down in China. This area, which had drawn large investments from China, is now the hardest-hit region in Italy.
Spain is a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and has participated in the BRI summits while encouraging greater Chinese investment. “In 2009, then-Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao called Spain “the best friend of China in Europe.” Spain was the first EU country to have a foreign minister visit Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and later sought to lift the EU arms embargo against China,” according to an article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October 2019 titled “Spain and China: A European Approach to an Asymmetric Relationship.”
In the scientific and technological area, Telefónica, one of the largest telephone operations and mobile network providers in the world, has invested heavily in Huawei’s 5G equipment. Not only that, with Spain as a bridge, China successfully extended the BRI to Latin America (with an emphasis on Venezuela) and “has taken over the European Union as the second-largest trading partner (after the United States) in the region.”
“As far as Chinese human rights are concerned, Spain has been careful not to renounce or defend them,” the article added.
By far the United States has the highest number of infections but relatively low deaths (21 per million population). The U.S.-China relationship is still evolving. According to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, “allowing China to enter the WTO in 2001 was a historic mistake that cost the U.S. millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in accumulated trade deficits.”
The U.S. is now bypassing WTO rules and threatening Beijing with tariffs on up to “$500 billion of imported goods,” reported a Wall Street Journal article titled “When the World Opened the Gates of China” in July 2018.
Contrary to what WTO advocates had hoped for, “Beijing tamed the internet by limiting its use to commerce, technology, and social media. It blocked political organizing by threatening and sometimes jailing those who posted critical comments. More recently, it has turned the internet itself into an instrument of the state by using it to identify and track dissidents. ‘It’s Orwellian,’ says Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor and China specialist.”
“Greater economic growth led to greater political control,” added Mark Wu, a professor at Harvard Law School whose research focuses on China and the WTO.
Current Situation in China
Fang Fang, a writer and blogger in Wuhan, recorded her experiences in her diaries which she later posted online.
“It seems death comes closer to us day by day. My neighbor’s cousin died, my friend’s brother died, another friend’s parents and wife died followed by himself. People have cried so much that their tears have dried....” she wrote on February 9.
“For those who were infected earlier, what bothers them the most is not death, but despair. Those people called for help, but nothing came; they contacted doctors and sough medicine, but no help arrived. The pain and desperation people had before their death is worse than any abyss,” she continued.
On February 15, Fang wrote that one of her high school classmates had died of the disease. Although many other classmates usually praised the CCP, this time they knew the death was caused by the government cover-up and disinformation. “They [officials] kept saying ‘no human-to-human transmission,’ and the disease was ‘preventable and controllable.’ These liars must be held accountable!” one classmate said.
“Wuhan is a disaster now,” she wrote in her diary on February 26. “Disaster doesn’t mean you have to wear a mask or stay at home; disaster means the death certificates in the hospital—one book used to last months and now only days; disaster means the truck to the crematorium that used carry one body in a coffin at a time now hauls bags and bags of dead bodies; disaster means an entire family dies in days or two weeks.”
Fang’s posts were soon deleted on social media such as WeChat or Weibo, reported Quartz in an article titled “A diarist who chronicled life in Wuhan during the coronavirus lockdown has penned her final entry.”
The Inherent Nature of Communism
After Li Wenliang, one of the eight Wuhan doctors punished on January 1 for raising the alarm about the epidemic, died on February 7, officials promised an investigation to ease the public anger.
A month later, two local police officers were disciplined, with one receiving a demerit and another issued a warning. “How can you let these police at the very bottom bear the burden?” commented one post on the social media site Weibo. “They were just carrying out orders.”
Such a scapegoat tactic is often employed by the CCP. After every major campaign or man-made disaster, the Party singles out certain individuals and punishes them. Since the Party is “innocent” and “capable of solving problems,” people forgot their pain and side with the CCP again, only to face the next tragedy.
“Like any great historical development, the failures of communism cannot be reduced to any one single cause. But, by and large, they were indeed inherent,” wrote David Satter, American journalist and author. “If we add to this list the deaths caused by communist regimes that the Soviet Union created and supported—including those in Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia—the total number of victims is closer to 100 million. That makes communism the greatest catastrophe in human history,” he wrote in a 2017 Wall Street Journal article titled “100 Years of Communism–and 100 Million Dead.”
Among the losses was the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, during which time 45 million people starved to death. Instead of selecting certain individuals to blame as in its previous campaigns, the CCP simply brushed it off, claiming it was the result of a natural disaster.
To join the CCP, everyone has to swear devotion to the Party. In the oath, one pledges to “...strictly observe Party discipline, guard Party secrets, be loyal to the Party...fight for communism throughout my life...and never betray the Party.” This ideology permeates the education system, the media, and almost every other aspect of Chinese society.
Given the incessant brainwashing, the communist machine had no problem churning out the countless lies we have heard in the past few months.
During this pandemic, many people, including government officials, have been looking at past pandemics, hoping to find clues to a solution for the current crisis. For example, what was the worst pandemic in the past century?
Many believe it was the Spanish Flu in 1918, which caused about 50 million deaths. But the CCP's political campaigns and movements over the past few decades have resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 million Chinese.
The U.S. government had been wary of the potential harm of the CCP until Nixon visited China in 1972. Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet Union’s leader between 1964 and 1982, once warned Nixon about China. According to a report from National Security Council of Harvard Law School in September 2015, Brezhnev believed that “Chinese policies would not change, even after Mao’s death; he was certain that the entire Chinese leadership was instinctively aggressive”
Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, fervently followed Nixon’s advice to open China’s economy. Meanwhile, he “never forgot Mao’s teaching that 'political power grows out of the barrel of a gun'”—in both the domestic and international realms. He “taught a lesson” to Vietnam in 1978 and to Chinese students in 1989.
After Jiang Zemin rose to the top during the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, he tightened control over ideology. One example is the persecution of Falun Gong, a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Since July 1999, tens of millions of its practitioners have been discriminated against for their belief. A large number have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured, often with forced labour and psychiatric abuse.
As in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic cover-up, the full extent of the persecution of Falun Gong in China is not yet available due to the CCP’s censorship and disinformation. But since 2006, increasing evidence has confirmed the existence of large-scale organ harvesting from living practitioners in China. The cruelty was so shocking that investigators referred to it as “a new form of evil never before seen on this planet.”
An independent people’s tribunal in London, established to inquire into forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, announced its findings on June 17, 2019. The panel concluded that the CCP has been harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners in China for many years and that it continues still.
A Time for Reflection
Throughout the coronavirus incident, the world has witnessed how the CCP has lied about the initial outbreak and continued to lie after the epidemic worsened into a pandemic. But will we be able to prevent this from happening again?
A holistic approach is needed since the CCP has encroached into nearly every corner of our society and now poses an immediate threat to our own survival. “That [The CCP’s] influence is nothing new. Direct pressure from the CCP, self-censorship, and fears of complicity in Chinese illiberalism have beguiled American tech companies, Hollywood, universities, hotel chains, high fashion, and even video game companies,” according to an article in The Diplomat in February 2020, adding Google and Apple to the list of companies that yielded to the authoritarian power.
Government officials, including the current U.S. administration, has also recognized this. “The American inheritance and the American promise are both precious and precarious. If we don’t defend them vigorously, no one else will,” wrote U.S. Senator Ben Sasse in an article in The Atlantic on January 26, 2020, titled “The Responsibility to Counter China’s Ambitions Falls to Us.”
Since Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party was published by the Epoch Times in 2004, over 353 million Chinese have withdrawn their memberships in the Party, which also includes the youth organizations the Youth League and Young Pioneers.
This pandemic, on the other hand, has changed the attitudes a large number of journalists and ordinary Chinese citizens such as Tu Long, a millennial in Beijing. “The majority of Chinese, myself included, are not innocent. We condone [the CCP leadership] to do evil, some even assisted them to do evil,” he said in an interview on Voice of America.
Such an honest remark would not have been unusual in the China of the past several thousand years—at least until the communists seized power in 1949. People in general believed in the harmony of heaven, earth, and mankind. When major disasters occurred, everyone, from emperors to ordinary citizens, tended to look within to see if they had done anything wrong to cause an imbalance. To some degree, it was similar to the ancient Romans repenting during the plagues following the persecution of Christians.
During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Snowden reflected on our relationship with the pandemic. “For all the modern West’s biomedical prowess, some of its blunt tools against a poorly understood disease are similar to what was first attempted in the 14th century,” he said in the March 27 article, adding that, after World War II, “there was real confidence that all infectious diseases were going to be a thing of the past.”
As bad as it could be, this pandemic does provide an opportunity for us to reflect on our society and on ourselves. The advancement of science and technology has changed our lives. But as mankind, either as individuals or as a whole, we still need to live up to our moral obligations rather than simply indulge in material possessions, to challenge tyranny instead of acquiescing in silence, and to uphold principles instead of drifting with the tide.
Although the pandemic came as a surprise, it is not accidental; rather, it is a product of the massive, intricate CCP system. The events of the past few months have taught us just how harmful that system is. One question is, though, what does the machine have in store for us next, before it falls apart?
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