Beijing: Locking Down By Degrees
Creeping Lockdown Fits The Definition Of Insanity
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome every time, then China’s leadership is unquestionably insane.
This past Monday, it was becoming apparent China’s Zero Covid policy had had zero success in arresting the latest COVID-19 outbreak in China, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread from Shanghai to Beijing, despite Shanghai already having endured the dystopian lockdown policy for over a month.
Since then, the COVID situation in Beijing has only deteriorated.
Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, is starting to resemble other Chinese cities grappling with the latest wave of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Authorities are moving quickly to try to prevent a massive COVID-19 outbreak that could trigger a citywide lockdown like the one that has paralyzed Shanghai for more than three weeks. The political stakes are high as the ruling Communist Party prepares for a major congress this fall at which President Xi Jinping is seeking a third five-year term to reassert his position as China’s unquestioned leader.
While avoiding a complete citywide lockdown of China’s capital so far, Beijing neighborhoods have nevertheless slowly succumbed to the lockdown edict, as the number of positive cases continues to grow.
As Beijing rolled out three rounds of mass testing this week across most of the city, it locked down a number of residential compounds, offices and a university. Some schools, entertainment venues and tourist sites were also shut.
The capital had a low caseload, but it remained edgy.
Panic Buying And Food Hoarding Redux
Beijing residents have been seen stockpiling food and other necessities, hoping to avoid the fate of Shanghai, where food delivery has been severely disrupted by the lockdown. Video of mobbed stores and empty storeshelves have been popping up all over social media.
Yet even as Beijing residents know the lunacy that is coming for them, even as they have witnessed what has happened in Shanghai, the CCP is pursuing the same draconian policies with the same ideological inflexibility as was on display in Shanghai, creating the same food delivery challenges that has plagued Shanghai, as evidenced by images being shared of food being delivered across fencing and other barriers in China’s capital.
And Still The Virus Spreads
Despite the lockdown measures, the COVID outbreak has continued to spread across China. As of this week, some 44 Chinese cities are under some degree of lockdown and restriction.
Among China's top 100 cities as measured by gross domestic product, 44 are under some form of lockdown, according to Hong Kong-based Gavekal Dragonomics. The 44 account for about one-third of China's GDP.
And still the virus continues to spread. Despite the ever-expanding lockdown, China is seeing more cases in more neighborhoods in more cities.
If the goal of the lockdowns is zero new cases on the Chinese mainland, the CCP is undeniably failing to meet that goal with the Zero Covid Policy.
CCP Belives Zero COVID Is Actually Working
By far the most baffling aspect of Beijing’s creeping lockdown—and the lockdowns across China—is that the CCP appears to believe Zero COVID is actually working.
China failed to stop the disease escaping to other countries and triggering a global pandemic, but at home a mix of quick and aggressive lockdowns, mass compulsory testing and hard international borders kept the virus at bay.
China was able to escape the worst of the outbreak experienced in the US, Europe, and other parts of Asia.
After their initial embarrassment, the relative success was something politicians and bureaucrats relished.
"It's all because of where this started," Professor Chan said.
"We all know it started in Wuhan."
This belief persists, even though the data was unambiguous even after the 2020 lockdown in Wuhan: lockdowns do not stop community spread of COVID-19, and did not stop the spread of the virus in Wuhan or even in China.
To call the 2020 lockdown of Wuhan and ultimately all of China a “success” is to take a vacation from reality. Lockdown was as disastrous a failure in Wuhan in 2020 as it has been in Shanghai this past month. The Faucist pseudoscientific errors of Wuhan were doubled down in Shanghai.
Beijing’s lockdown-by-degrees is proving to be no better a strategy.
Crushing The Economy, Not The Virus
While the impact on the spread of COVID-19 has been nil, Zero COVID has had tremendous impact on China’s economic outlook, causing a significant downturn in the world’s second largest economy:
Beijing's measures are also aggravating concerns about the country's zero-COVID policy weighing down the world's No. 2 economy. Retail sales and factory data for March point to a sharp downturn amid the implementation of draconian measures that have brought activity in the financial hub of Shanghai to a standstill.
Even though the CCP has committed to a variety of stimulus measures to support the economy during these latest lockdowns, there is no support mechanism which can compensate for the arbitrary suspension of economic activity itself. By definition and by design, China’s Zero Covid policy means ceasing economic output at least at the city level, with the unavoidable result of decreased national economic output for the entire year.
A Beijing lockdown would certainly sound the death knell to the government’s objective of 5 percent growth for 2022. "The measures in Shanghai have already led the IMF (International Monetary Fund) to slash down this estimation, and a similar situation in Beijing would confirm that China must considerably downgrade its predictions," said Frédéric Rollin, an investment strategy advisor in charge of the Chinese economy at Pictet Asset Management.
Economic pain with no public health gain seems an extraordinarily poor bargain. Yet that is exactly the bargain being struck by the CCP with Zero COVID—and is the bargain being pushed by the CCP as the Shanghai lockdown is gradually being repeated in Beijing.
Is Beijing Even An Outbreak?
To add a final insult to the multiple injuries of Zero COVID, the total number of cases reported in Beijing during this latest COVID outbreak is fewer than 200.
The city reported 53 new locally transmitted confirmed cases and three new asymptomatic carriers between 3 pm on Wednesday and 3 pm on Thursday. The city's total infections hit 194 since Friday and involve 12 districts, according to the center.
Beijing has a total population of 20 million, all of whom are being importuned because of 194 positive COVID tests. That is a far cry from the 15,032 cases reported in Shanghai on Thursday—which is itself further demonstration of the failure of Zero COVID, as it represents a major increase from the previous day’s total of 9,970 new COVID cases in Shanghai, even after more than a month of near total lockdown.
One can easily argue that the case level in Beijing is merely the calm before the storm, that, left unchecked, daily case counts will surge to the 20,000+ levels recorded in Shanghai multiple times over the past month. Yet even if this is so, the reality of Shanghai is that the record case counts were set weeks after the lockdown began. Even if doing nothing would lead to a mammoth surge in COVID-19 cases, doing a lockdown also leads to a mammoth surge in COVID-19 cases, only with levels of economic damage that may border on the apocalyptic.
As with virtually every other government policy enacted around the world with a view towards containing and mitigating the spread of SARS-CoV-2, China’s Zero COVID strategy simply does not work. Zero COVID has never worked, and arguably makes the situation considerably worse. The data is crystal clear on this point. The images and videos showing the human cost of Zero COVID are crystal clear on this point.
Yet China’s Faucists are determined theirs is the only policy. Theirs is the only way forward, evidence and people be damned.