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Coronavirus alarm: Will it bring change in Chinese system?

Published : Monday, 30 March, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 120
Nazir Khan

As the Year of the Pig (2019) transitioned to the Year of the Rat (February 2020), the new deadly corona virus which surfaced in Wuhan (capital of Hubei province) has gripped the entire world in fear. Within a very short span of time the virus has spread across the globe and the worst affected countries are Italy and Iran and now the US. As the virus started to spread,  the Chinese authorities could not respond effectively, and the high cost of their impotence is now being borne by people in  many other countries of the world. The spread of this deadly virus has resulted in rapid isolation of People's Republic of China from the rest of the world. China which was famed for its reforms and futuristic vision for more than three decades is now being defamed for being responsible for the spread of Corona.
 
The root cause of its uncontrolled rapid spread is absence of accurate information about the virus due to the imposition of stern bans on the reporting of accurate information about the virus, which emboldened deception at every level of Chinese government. The situation in China worsened as bureaucrats throughout the system consciously shrugged off responsibility for this unfolding crisis. This attitude of the Chinese authorities resulted in mishandling of the situation and the crucial window of opportunity that could have used to stop the spread of virus was lost amidst all the commotion/confusion over the virus.

The political system in China, which should have had worked for the public good turned ethically bankrupt and abandoned the people to sufferings after the virus outbreak. It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The corona pandemic  has revealed the failure of Chinese governance. The fragile system of the state has been revealed as never before.

This viral outbreak, has been exacerbated by the behavior of the power-holders and it has turned into an international calamity. Everything is caught up in this struggle-China's ethical fabric, its politics, the society, as well as the economy. The situation is even more perilous than total war, for it is leaving the nation open to a kind of devastation that even foreign invaders could not do in the past.

The political life of the nation is in a state of complete collapse and the ethical core of the system has become hollow. The ultimate concern of Chinese political class today seems to preserve at all costs the dignity/position of its highest leader, the privileged position of the Communist Party and to ruthlessly hold on to power. Protecting the national status quo and the overall stability of society is a term that includes the deployment of paramilitary forces, police, local security officials, neighborhood committees, informal community spies, Internet police and censors, secret service agents and watchdogs to be ever vigilant and to maintain order and control over every aspect of society which is a part of China's "forever war" against its own citizens.

The bureaucratic apparatus that is responsible for the unfettered outbreak of the corona virus in Wuhan repeatedly hid or misrepresented the facts about the dire nature of the crisis. Their behaviour has reflected their complete lack of interest in the welfare and the lives of normal people but at the same time it has revealed their tireless support for the self-indulgent celebratory behaviour of their political leader.

The bureaucrats allowed the situation to deteriorate to such an extent that they were directly harming common people. Meanwhile, their focus was on policing the Internet and blocking the news of what is actually happening but still information has been getting out regardless of all the strict measures undertaken for controlling it. This has proved that even though the Chinese government  employed  the tactics of a police state, and the National Security Commission (the supreme policing agency created by Xi Jinping in November 2013) amasses ever greater powers, it could  never truly achieve its aims.

Regardless of how good they are at controlling the Internet, they could not  keep all 1.4 billion mouths in China shut. The last seven decades of the People's Republic of China has taught the people repeated lessons about the hazards of totalitarian government and this time around, the corona virus has proved the point once more and that too, in a most undeniable fashion.
The bureaucratic and governance system of China is now fully on display. The mess they have made in Hubei Province, and the grotesque posturing of the incompetence involved in dealing with the corona virus has further highlighted the problem.

In what should be a "post-leader era," China has instead a "Core Leader system" and it is one that is undermining the very mechanisms of state. Despite all the talk one hears about modern governance, the reality is that the administrative apparatus is increasingly mired in what can only be termed inoperability. The day-to-day governance of China is in a state of terminal decay. The economic slowdown is now an undeniable reality, and all indications are that things will only get worse over the current year. Equally undeniable is the state of things including collapse in consumer confidence, widespread panic about the long-term security of private property, administrative and academic frustration and a general shutting down of society as a whole.

In recent times massive miscalculations have been made by China first, regarding the uprising in Hong Kong, then in forecasts about the elections in Taiwan and now the biggest miscalculation comes out to be regarding the outbreak/spread of Corona virus. The result is growth of a fundamental disaffection among masses all around the world towards the Chinese political and administrative system, following the uncontrolled spread of the virus to more than hundred countries. The whole world has witnessed the ugly reality of the polity that lurks behind this situation.

Censorship increases by the day, and the result is weakening those very things that can and should play a positive role in alerting society to critical issues of public concern. In response to the corona virus, for instance, at first the Chinese authorities shut down all hints of public disquiet through censorship, then they simply shut down entire cities and imposed ban on independent media and publishing. In view of the recent havoc unleashed by Corona virus and the way the whole system helped in its uncontrolled spread, it seems imperative now that China must take steps to bring transparency into the system and gain public confidence.

They now pursue their rule over the people via what it could be called  "big data totalitarianism" and "WeChat terror." Although the Communist Party has formulated its ideology in various guises over the decades, it has not fundamentally changed. Unlimited government budgets have funded technological developments that are turning China into a mega data totalitarian state and the people are already subjected to a 1984 style of total surveillance and control. This state of affairs has enabled what could be called "WeChat terrorism" which directly targets the country's vast online population.

 Through the taxes the masses are, in fact, funding a vast Internet police force dedicated to overseeing, supervising, and tracking everyone and all of the statements and actions they author. The Internet terrorism is by no means merely limited to personal WeChat accounts being suspended or shut down entirely, nor to the larger enterprise of banning entire WeChat groups [which are a vital way for individuals to debate issues of interest]. Everyone knows that the online terror may readily escape the virtual realm to become overtly physical, that is when the authorities use what they have learned online to send in the police in real-time. Widespread anxiety leads to relentless self-censorship; people are troubled by nagging fears about what inexplicable punishment may suddenly come to them. As a result, the potential for meaningful public discussion about the issues of the day, including the corona virus, is stifled.

In China today, the authorities have blocked off all possible roads that may imaginably lead to positive change. There is serious  doubt whether any form of peaceful transition might now even be conceivable. One can only hope that in the wake of the corona virus, the people of China will reconsider their situation and that this ancient land will awaken to its predicament.
In recent years China has increasingly acted imprudently and against its own best interests.

Furthermore, the "Open Door" has evidently opened just about as far as it is going to; the totalitarian impulses of the Extreme Leftists have led them to take a stand; they will not tolerate any kind of systemic evolution that could possibly lead to a peaceful transition and enable China finally to evolve away from authoritarianism and the one-party state. This is the reason, why China has repeatedly found itself at loggerheads with the modern global system.
An independent body should also be established by Chinese authorities to investigate the origins of the corona virus epidemic, to trace the resulting cover-up, identify the responsible parties, and analyze the systemic origins of the crisis.

The deplorable reality is evident and the countdown has started, the time to establish a meaningful constitutional order seems to have come. It should be recognized that the March 2018 revision of China's Constitution, which allowed Xi Jiping to stay in power beyond the limited term in office previously stipulated by law, opened the door to all manner of evil and things took an unexpected turn. Just as this stampede into the past began, systemic decay became increasingly evident, putting aside the issue of disgruntled popular sentiment.

 The bungled policies of China related both to Hong Kong and to Taiwan, as well as the disorderly fashion in which the Sino-American relationship has been unfolding. Added to all of that is an overall economic decline that eludes simple resolution as well as the real-time international isolation that China has been experiencing due to its increasingly aggressive foreign posture. All of these things are pointing at a systematic policy failure in the Peoples Republic of China.

Since the novel corona virus first emerged in late December and as of now  as per World Health Organisation data, more than 664,000 cases have been recorded in 199 countries and territories, killing over 30,800 people. The top three worst affected countries are Italy over 92,000  confirmed cases and  over 10,000 death cases, followed by Spain over 73,000 confirmed cases and  over 5,900 death cases and China over 81,000 confirmed cases and 3,300 deaths.





The only way for China to end it's global and historical isolation and become a meaningful participant in the global system, as well as to flourish on the path of national survival and prosperity, is to pursue a politics that embraces both constitutional democracy and fosters a true people's republic.



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