by Peter Franklin
Monday, 14
March 2022
Reaction
13:19

As Britain escapes lockdown, China is still stuck

Over 35 million Chinese citizens are facing new restrictions
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

If you think Covid is over, then think again. The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, home to 17 million people has just locked down. Other cities including Shanghai (26 million people) are also imposing restrictions.

The consequences won’t just be felt in China, but around the world because these are major global hubs for manufacturing and trade. Western companies with outsourced factories are suffering halts to production. With rocketing energy prices already stoking inflation, further disruption to supply chains is the last thing we need.

It not very long since the western media was full of breathless commentary about China’s Covid response. Though qualms were expressed about the more draconian measures, there seemed to be little doubt as to their effectiveness. For instance, back in April last year, the New York Times published this:

With equal measures of coercion and persuasion, [China] has mobilized its vast Communist Party apparatus to reach deep into the private sector and the broader population, in what the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, has called a “people’s war” against the pandemic — and won.
- NYT

We were told that China was “reaping long-lasting benefits” as a result. And yet just one year on, which country is the first to shake-off the shackles of lockdown? Certainly not the People’s Republic, but some godforsaken place that the New York Times, in a separate report, was pleased to call “plague island” — i.e. the United Kingdom. 

Of course, it’s too early for us to declare victory against Covid either. Cases are currently trending upwards. Nevertheless, something close to normal life has been restored. It turns out that the British state isn’t quite as dysfunctional some narratives would have us believe.

A classic of the genre, is Pankaj Mishra’s essay on “Anglo-America” for the London Review of Books. Lumping together Brexit Britain and Trump’s America — always a sure sign of impending nonsense — he seized upon government failures on either side of the Atlantic. Thus, “British ministers, chosen for their devotion to Brexit and loyalty to Johnson, have revealed themselves as dangerous blunderers.”

Well, they certainly made mistakes — as have decision-makers in every government across the world. But the overall thrust of UK government policy has been vindicated. Despite EU attempts to sabotage the early roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the hysterical ‘expert’ reaction to the start of unlocking last summer, the British approach has prevailed and succeeded.  

To be fair to Mishra and the other Brit-bashers, the UK’s share of failure was front-loaded. We got better as we went along. However, the foundations of our eventual success were laid down at the outset — especially in regard to vaccines. 

While there’s ample room for improvement, the British state is not completely dysfunctional. And while there’s always an opportunity to learn from others, the Chinese state is not the scarily-effective super-government it’s been cracked-up to be.

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Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago

This is a feel-good, Union Jack-waving puff piece. And who am I to get in the way of a nice round of patriotic back-patting? Especially as it is true that the UK fared better than many regimes with regards to covid: draconian, ineffective lockdowns were kept somewhat shorter than elsewhere. Mask mandates were upheld and enforced with much less religious zeal. And England at least avoided the temptation to plunge itself into a digital dystopian nightmare of QR codes.
But when the final line of Rule Britannia has been sung, it behooves us to look critically at how slavish Britons really were, and how cheaply their liberty was traded away. Billions in tax money were spent on vaccines that have proven to be less safe and effective than we were originally told. Shutdowns of the economy have set back living standards and exacerbated inequalities, and the whole debacle has been used as a shield to introduce more police powers and set dangerously illiberal precedents.
That China is prepared to ‘get it even more wrong’ is no cause for celebration.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

“That China is prepared to ‘get it even more wrong’ is no cause for celebration.”
Amen to that.

Also it has to be said that at this moment in time England is “free” and Wales shall soon. However in Scotland we don’t know yet. Our benevolent Prince will let us know tomorrow, although I don’t see her holding out any longer, FOR NOW, so we will have a return to normal life when “cases” are at record high, as opposed to 6 weeks ago when they were low – go figure…

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

The difficulty she faces, is that since there was no science for any of this nonsense to begin with, it is difficult to find a objective, credible point at which to back down.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

It will be interesting to read about the contortions she will have had to perform…

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

I for one look forward to wee crankie getting her comeuppance some day. She has politicised this pandemic in an obvious and extraordinary way,

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 months ago

I agree. She is one of the more disgusting faces of political profiteering from covidism.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Excellent analysis!

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago

To be fair to Mishra and the other Brit-bashers, the UK’s share of failure was front-loaded. We got better as we went along

I think this might also be wrong. According to the Lancet, measured for deaths in excess of the average, the UK is no worse than France, Spain, Italy and Germany or the USA. The story has always been that we had an horrendous death rate early on. But the Lancet figures suggest we were just overreporting our COVID deaths. Or maybe other countries were underreporting.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matt M
R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

“Some godforsaken place that the New York Times, in a separate report, was pleased to call “plague island” — i.e. the United Kingdom.”
It will never cease to amuse me how much the British trigger East Coast progressives. I would like to know what the cause of this obsession of theirs stems from.

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I have heard it said that there is a coterie of Brits including David Miliband (one time Labour MP, now charity boss) and Mark Thompson (ex-BBC boss, latterly ex-NYT boss) who congregate at the court of Hillary Clinton in upstate New York. They agitate against Brexit, Boris, the Tories and all things British and commission bitter op-eds to salve the pain of their curtailed careers.
When Tony Blair was in his pomp, Britain was very fashionable among East Coast progressives if I remember correctly.

Last edited 2 months ago by Matt M
Andrea Re
Andrea Re
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

That article is dated Dec 2020.
I am sure we can find plenty of examples of articles deriding this or that country over the years.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

You don’t find the comment distasteful?

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
2 months ago

The idea that China is still tying itself up in knots about Covid after two years, when we all know so much more about the virus, makes one think that the whole extraordinary worldwide reaction to it has, perhaps, been more idiocy than conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in no lockdown Sweden, excess deaths between January 2020 and July 2021 are now officially BELOW average. Strange but true apparently…

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
2 months ago

I have seen numerous articles about the re-imposition of a heightened “lockdown” in China, but I note that few commentators seem to mention what is probably the principal explanation for this, namely the relative ineffectiveness of Chinese vaccine. Put simply, the Chinese vaccine just doesn’t work as well as the vaccines available in e.g. Australia, the U.K. etc.
I have my own reservations about Western “Big Pharma” (for example, its ruthless hatchet job on alternative cheap and promising therapies such as Ivermectin based triple therapy), however it does appear that Western Big Pharma has been much more successful in providing western countries like the UK and Australia with (so-far, at least) quite effective vaccines which are preventing similar high rates of infection. Let us hope that we continue to stay ahead of the pack and avoid the need to resort to the re-imposition of harsh lock-downs.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 months ago

If you are criticizing China you are also criticizing Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and sports teams around he world whose players are shod in Nike and its knock-offs, not to mention China’s useful idiots in the Democrat and Republican parties, the City in London, and Corporate America. This is not a winning strategy.