China is being condemned worldwide for hiding as well as mishandling the coronavirus outbreak thanks to country’s supreme leader Xi Jinping, whose governance model has seen a system-wide collapse of professional ethics and commitment during his tenure. Chinese authorities chose not to misrepresent the facts about the virus spread but use internet policing or WeChat terror—famous term in China—to block the information about what was happening. There are reasons why common people were left to defend themselves even when bureaucrats were well aware of the disaster that was awaiting.
China has been an authoritarian state since the Communist Party took over in late 1940’s. However, during Jinping’s time it has turned into a totalitarian state with all powers overly concentrated in his hands. He could offer himself limitless tenure thanks to sycophant party workers who now have occupied all important positions in the bureaucracy. They have mastered the art of supporting the self-indulgent celebratory behavior of Jinping but have failed miserably to act swiftly when the outbreak started spreading fast and subsequently shrugged off the responsibility for the unfolding crisis.
Jinping remained steadfast showing complete lack of interest in the welfare of the normal people. Instead the claque of his slavish supporters constantly heaped praises on Jinping for his so-called achievements even as the fear about devastating disease gripped the country. While people being in isolation were struggling to get adequate medical treatment, Jinping government unleashed policing dogs to choke off the information about burgeoning disaster. Under Jinping, the authoritarianism has intensified and so are its reflex for secrecy and obfuscation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advised China to provide more information on cross-government risk management measures, including crisis management systems at national, provincial, and city levels, and other domestic measures. Communist Party leaders have resorted every possible –no matter how brutal—trick to hold on to power. They made people to acquiesce to false narratives peddled in the name of nationalism.
This time, however, the coronavirus epidemic exposed profound inadequacies of the system, which people are expressing freely on social media—without naming Jinping to avoid internet censorship. People reacted sharply after Wang Zhonglin, Communist party secretary of Wuhan made an appeal to show gratitude to Jinping. Chinese people unleashed a torrent of anger on social media. “Next the government should apologise to people as soon as possible. It’s time to reflect and find people who are responsible for today’s situation,” said Fang Fang, a well-known author on Weibo, equivalent of Facebook. Taking a dig at Jinping, another Weibo user said “What should I be thankful for? Please go back to wherever you came from, OK? Thanks”.
The death of Li Wenliang, the doctor who raised alarm over the coronavirus but was reprimanded by police for spreading “rumours”, has led to widespread outcry in China. His death has become a symbol of mismanagement by Chinese authorities.
The mishandling of the natural disaster by Chinese authorities turned it into a man-made catastrophe, which harmed every country alike. China was condemned for the paltry donation money despite being the root cause of the great problem. China donated just USD 20 million or less than 3 percent towards the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) coronavirus fundraising drive. Beijing not only censored information about the viral outbreak and detained the brave Chinese doctors and whistleblowers who warned people about the crisis but also trolled other countries over raising genuine concerns. In February Qin Gang, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, blamed Italy of “overreacting” after direct flights between the two countries were stopped to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Gang even pressurised Italy to resume the air services. In next couple of weeks, Italy saw coronavirus spread spiralling out of control and killing people at alarming rate. The total death toll in Italy reached 11,600-figure by March- end. China also slammed the US and other countries for stoking fear and panic. Beijing also ordered ouster of at least 13 journalists including those from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for criticising the communist government over mismanagement of coronavirus outbreak. Even those who Chinese attacked Jinping or his government were not spared. A property executive who called Jinping a “clown” over a speech he made about the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus went missing overnight. Journalists are being threatened to be put in jail if negative views about the government in relation with coronavirus outbreak is published. Even normal people can face permanent blocking of their social media accounts or jail term of seven years for circulating critical information.